Key role for scientist in project to monitor wildlife degradation

THE University of Huddersfield is one of the partners of an innovative project that will build bespoke software which can monitor the degradation of wildlife habitats and has won major funding after being announced as one the winners of Ofwat’s inaugural £2 million Innovation in Water Challenge (IWC).

Dr Matthew Hill is an ecohydrologist and a Senior Lecturer in Geography from the University’s School of Applied Sciences. A specialist in aquatic environments, Dr Hill teaches on the University’s geography degree course and supervises students as they take part in conservation projects. He is one of a group of leading experts in their field who will be working with South East Water on the project entitled CatchmentLIFE.

The project has been awarded £197,000 and is one of 11 winners to win funding from a national initiative, run by The Water Services Regulation Authority known as Ofwat, which aims to improve freshwater habitats for native species.

“Activities such as habitat modification, abstraction, pollution and the presence of instream infrastructure such as weirs and dams, affect the freshwater habitats that species rely on in complex ways. From this project, through a consortium of experts and existing data, we will learn how different pressures impact freshwater wildlife, and aim to identify collaborative options to resolve issues at the root-cause.”

Dr Matthew Hill

CatchmentLIFE

CatchmentLIFE, is a bespoke software package which aims to make the scientific recording of habitats and wildlife easy for everyone to take part in including volunteers and has the potential to demonstrate the impacts of habitat degradation on a wider range of wildlife and ecological communities.

The computer programme will allow communities to get involved in reporting on the wildlife in their area which will support scientific experts by enabling the collection of large amounts of data on pressures facing freshwater wildlife.

Dr Hill’s role will be to provide scientific advice and expertise on a range of pressures, their impacts on freshwater species and the possible solutions.

Habitat degradation

“In the UK, the majority of fresh waterbodies are failing ecological targets, largely because of habitat degradation,” explained Dr Hill, who is also a researcher within the University’s Centre for Human and Physical Geography.

“Activities such as habitat modification, abstraction, pollution and the presence of instream infrastructure such as weirs and dams, affect the freshwater habitats that species rely on in complex ways.

“From this project, through a consortium of experts and existing data, we will learn how different pressures impact freshwater wildlife, and aim to identify collaborative options to resolve issues at the root-cause. In the longer term, CatchmentLIFE could be used as a national tool to improve the ecological condition of our waterways,” he added.


Innovation in Water Challenge

Run by Ofwat and Nesta Challenges, and supported by Arup and Isle Utilities, the IWC was the first competition this year within Ofwat’s £200 million Innovation Fund. It is part of the regulator’s goal to create an innovative and collaborative water sector that meets the evolving needs of customers, society and the environment in the years to come.

John Russell, Senior Director at Ofwat, said: “Innovation has the potential to drive a sea-change in the water sector and tackle some of the biggest challenges we are facing in society. Solutions such as this will make a real impact in the coming months and mark the beginning of a new wave of innovation in the sector.”

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