When aspiring or working as an ecologist it is important to develop your skills and maintain your Continued Professional Development (CDP). Part of this professional development includes protected species surveying, which typically requires a licence in order to conduct some of the more invasive surveys needed by national policy, law and guidance.
Licences are managed and issued by your government body, mine being Natural England for example. Each protected species will typically have a conservation organisation associated with it that provides best practice guidelines and influences regulations. For bats, this is the Bat Conservation Trust. It is also worth being part of your relevant industry body, which in the UK is likely to be CIEEM – the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management. They are responsible for setting and promoting practice standards within the ecology and environmental realm.
A licence is not always required
Depending on the work you wish to undertake with bats, will depend on whether a licence is required or not. Of course, some bat work can still be carried out without the need to hold a licence of any kind. Surveys can be planned and bat detector activity surveys and emergence counts can be conducted by both volunteers and professionals without requiring a licence. A licence is only needed if there is a possibility of disturbing bats, by entering a roost for instance. It may also be that only one person of the team needs to hold a licence and not each individual.
Substantial hours in the field
Although I have done fairly minimal work with bats myself, I have conducted a number of dusk and dawn surveys over the past couple of years. To gain your bat licence you need to knock up substantial hours of surveying experience and training to adequately prove your competence. This means a lot of time spent out in the field as well as classroom study. Furthermore, it is expected that this time is varied in terms of the experience gained and the species of bat encountered.
Attend formal training and accompany a licence holder
The Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) and other providers such as BatTraining.co.uk, offer a range of training courses that can give you a good foundation for undertaking professional bat survey work and work towards a licence. It is also important that you try to accompany individuals on surveys who already hold the particular licence type you are interested in gaining (there are many bat licence variations).
After originally posting this blog I had some great feedback that I thought was perfect to include here. Richard Crompton, Founder and Co-Director of Wildwood Ecology Ltd, commented:
Putting in the hours is really the only secret. People who struggle to get training for anything are usually approaching it wrong in my experience; too often people ask to be trained, whereas asking to get involved, help out, or even ‘I’d love to learn more about that’ will be far more warmly received. Log your training and experience, and keep notebooks of all of your observations.”
Maintain a log book
As mentioned by Richard, I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to maintain your own personal logbook of all courses, reading, any bat group activities and other bat experiences. This will all help you remember all the things you have done, as it likely takes years to work towards a licence. I recommend logging your experience using the same format provided by the BCT:
Signatures may be hard to come by, but you can request a certificate of attendance from formal training which should be signed by the trainer. Keep these all in a safe place just in case.
You can also use a similar format to track other activities which will support your application as a member of CIEEM and also when progressing to chartered status. They have an online resource to track your training courses and hours in the field, but you can check this document produced by CIEEM as a brief overview and see their example log book on the last page (PDF).
‘Do as much as your brain and sanity will allow’
To wrap up this blog, I thought it would add another bit of advice provided by Steve Wadley, Ecologist and Aboriculturalist at BSG Ecology.
Pester everyone who has a bat licence to take you out with them when they go on anything even remotely related to bats, join 2 or 3 bat groups to get more experience, attend every lecture or presentation you can find, research bats on line as much as your brain and sanity will allow and then do formal training ( I highly recommend BLTC). This way, not only will you obtain a bat licence but you will be much better informed to make the right decisions regarding everything bats and therefore be a better consultant.
For me it was (and still is) live and breath bat conservation, we never ever stop learning.”
To find out more about bats and licencing requirements please visit the Bat Conservation Trust licencing section.