Carcinus Develops New Protocols to Improve Survey Processes
Despite the restrictions on normal operations imposed by the current Covid-19 lockdown, staff at Carcinus are continuing to search for ways that enable us to advance our survey capability so that we can provide a better service to our clients. Since joining the company, Carcinus’ new marine and freshwater ecologist, Joshua Baker has been working to develop two new protocols, designed to be employed in combination with one another, that will facilitate this.
A common task for any ecologist conducting a marine phase I habitat survey is classifying habitats according to the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC)’s Marine Habitat Classification System. This is a standardised system of habitat classification for marine habitats found in the United Kingdom, with over 400 classifications that apply to the littoral and shallow subtidal zones. Traditionally, ecologists will capture photographs and record details about survey areas to assign classifications to approximate areas post-survey. The next stage is to load this information into a GIS and assign a symbology to the produced figures. This symbology is often not standardised, and the procedure creates several potential issues:
- It is very difficult to accurately map the extent of habitats based on point data alone and without taking a significant number of in field positioning measurements at very regular intervals on site.
- Without any standardised protocol for displaying the habitats within final deliverables, it is often difficult to visually compare two different areas, or the same areas over time.
- Records and field data are not validated against strict entry criteria.
- Errors in positioning are often not identified until the post-survey stage and cannot always be rectified without a repeat visit to site.
To address these issues, Carcinus have curated a standardised symbology for JNCC marine habitat classifications down to level 4, or individual biotope complexes. This symbology can be easily applied to any QGIS project layer (provided some criteria are met). It has been designed to be used in conjunction with the other protocol we have recently developed, which employs the open source software QField™ to enable improved GIS use in the field.
These protocols represent an ever-expanding survey capability provided by Carcinus Ltd., where we continually look to find unique solutions to our client’s needs. For several years, Carcinus have been a driving force in developing UAV solutions for intertidal survey requirements. These include the use of both fixed wing and multi-rotor UAVs to assist on foot surveys by providing aerial imagery prior to survey to improve targeting of survey locations or by producing a fully geo-referenced mosaic of a habitat to aid QA of field surveys. You can read more about our UAV capabilities here.
Matthew Crabb (Carcinus Ltd – Managing Director) is lead author for the JNCC’s Marine Monitoring Platform Guidelines on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). The JNCC UAV guidelines are now available to download from the JNCC website – Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for use in marine monitoring.
Carcinus Ltd. has long realised the potential that QField™, a fully open-source mobile GIS platform built using QGIS libraries, in streamlining the survey data collection process. We have developed and refined a protocol that requires just a small amount of work pre-survey, no more than the set up for a traditional project, but that allow our ecologists to collect all the same field data as before directly into a GIS project. By linking QField with a high-accuracy GNNS receiver, eliminating the inaccuracies associated with using a tablet or field computers inbuilt GPS.
Furthermore, Carcinus ecologists will be able to physically walk the boundaries of habitat zones in an area during an intertidal survey, record the suspected classification of the habitat and store georeferenced imagery, all within a GIS that is easily transferred to desktop software. This not only greatly reduces the total man-hours necessary to go from survey planning through to client delivery, but also removes the need to grapple with paper records during survey operations. We look forward to continuing to deploy this strategy during a number of planned intertidal walkovers and transect surveys in the coming months. We are extremely excited to put this protocol into action in the coming weeks.