Celebrating one year of science-led Thursday webinars

August 16, 2021

The First Thursday Club is a monthly scientific, specialist-led webinar that focuses on best practices relating to the natural environment and how these could affect RSK and external businesses. Created by RSK Biocensus, RSK’s ecological business, and organised by Jane Rigby, RSK Events Manager, the lunchtime webinar series has proved enormously popular and successful since its inception in August 2020. Now we are celebrating its first anniversary, it is an opportune time to recap the noteworthy sessions.

Beginning in early August, the inaugural session of the First Thursday Club looked at newts. Stephanie Wray, an RSK Biocensus director and the chair of CIEEM’s Strategic Policy Panel, spoke about new survey techniques using environmental DNA, understanding the new licensing policies for great crested newts and how to decide on the best approach for a worksite. Autumn and September heralded brighter skies, longer evenings and the interesting lives of badgers. Richard Delahay, an RSK Biocensus director and a professor of wildlife biology at the University of Exeter, offered insights into dealing with badgers on development sites: specifically, resolving conflicts between badgers and development schemes. This second First Thursday Club was well attended, and almost 200 people watched it subsequently on YouTube.

In October, Roberta Epps (RSK Biocensus) and Lorna Hurst (RSK carbon, climate and sustainability team) outlined how RSK helps its clients maximise their BREEAM successes. By November, the monthly Thursday webinars were becoming a staple event and were consistently well attended. Dr Peter Walker, an experienced aquatic ecologist, introduced the main issues concerning fish passage and outlined the processes that should be undertaken to address them. RSK Biocensus Director Mark Lang, Defra metric specialist, hosted December’s webinar: the fourth-most-attended First Thursday Club, which concerned achieving net gain on-site using Defra’s biodiversity metric. The live event was attended by almost 200 people, which ballooned considerably to almost 450 views on YouTube, the second-highest viewings to date. “It was an excellent webinar,” commented Lawrence Usherwood, from Usherwood Arboriculture, “and well-presented with easy-to-digest information”.

From January–March 2021, several First Thursday Club events concerned rewilding, biodiversity and bat mitigation. Rewilding is a crucial aspect of government plans to restore green spaces, including analysing the economics of biodiversity. According to Jon Davies, who leads RSK Wilding and hosted the webinar on rewilding, the government’s approach will “herald a big push towards rewilding Britain, following, as it does, the government’s November pledge of £40 million for restoring green spaces, and September’s commitment to restoring 30 per cent of Britain to nature by 2030”. Over the 45-minute webinar, Jon explained how RSK is perfecting its expertise in biodiversity, land management, habitat creation, carbon offsetting and natural capital assessment to help tackle biodiversity loss and climate change by rewilding.

In a corresponding webinar on biodiversity, Stephanie Wray from Nature Positive identified the goods and services provided by nature that businesses rely on. Specifically, Stephanie spoke about minimising business risks and reducing biodiversity footprint. By March 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic was fully established on the British mainland and bats were more newsworthy than ever before. Bat expert Paola Reason from RSK Biocensus, a fellow of the CIEEM and a member of various advisory groups, including Natural England’s bat expert panel and the CIEEM’s bat mitigation panel steering group, explained some of the attributes that make bats important and outlined how we can best protect them through building back greener. Not surprisingly, the webinar was very popular: Mark Wilson, from Costain, said that from an experienced practitioner’s viewpoint, the event was very informative. David Sargent, from JBA Consulting, agreed with Mark, “It was an excellent and engaging presentation. I really enjoyed it and learned a lot. It is great to hear from a pragmatic bat expert who is solution-focused and challenging the perceived wisdom.”

Over spring and summer 2021, several RSK specialists spoke about diverse topics, including offshore wind farm developments; crayfish; and how human activities can influence diseases emerging and spreading. The events have been attracting a large following on YouTube, which enables viewers to watch reruns conveniently. We are confident that the First Thursday Club will continue to produce engaging and well-informed content from our in-house specialists.

Click here for future RSK events; click here and scroll through past events to watch previous First Thursday Club webinars on YouTube.

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Ryan Dunderdale, Senior Surveyor at Central Alliance, providing technical support and on-site training to datum plate install teams down in Bristol.

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