Archive for October 28th, 2011

British Waterways bat twaddle

October 28, 2011

It’s a familiar theme: wildlife surveys which are actually nothing more than PR puffs.

Here’s today’s latest on bats from the annual British Waterways wildlife survey.

I’m sure there’ll be people out there who say ‘it’s just a bit of fun’ or ‘it doesn’t matter, as long as wildlife gets attention. Don’t be such a boring git’.

But actually it does matter: it’s pretty close to lying; it misinforms people (does the Beeb know that?) and it’s certainly a poke in the eye for the thousands of people who take the trouble to join in with carefully organised surveys.

And its a bit of a con for the ordinary people who did it. Would they be amused if they found out that they survey they were told would tell us something about the state of wildlife was actually just a load of rubbish?

And just to reherse why surveys like this are meaningless: the numbers of people doing them year to year varies – so maybe the increase is just because more people were looking; and the times they do the surveys (very important in this case – given we’re talking about bats) are purely down to luck – so maybe this year more people went out in the nice warm evenings than last year and – lo and behold – they saw more bats; and the places surveyed are just places that are close to peoples home – so maybe these are all the worst most urban, most polluted canals with the fewest bats, whereas if people went out to some nice clean canals (well, of course that’s impossible), lets be realistic and say some polluted canal running through an old wood with lots of bat roosts, they’d see even more bats. Or maybe, and you couldn’t make this up, because this year the survey was focussing on bats (not like the previous year when it was bees) so people looked out more for bats.

For all these reasons – surveys like this with no attention to the design of the survey are junk.

Actually what the survey tells us is the 9% more people sent in records of seeing a bat than last year. And that means…..well, 9% more people sent in a record of seeing a bat.

And not that there are 9% more bats.