Research Maps Out Better Biodiversity

Research Maps Out Better Biodiversity

11 August 2015

Costain-sponsored research is set to help customers meet their biodiversity targets and significantly reduce the time needed to carry out projects’ Environmental Impact Assessments.

Former local authority GIS (Geographical Information Systems) technician Katie McCausland is now in the second year of a four-year Engineering Doctorate project at the University of Reading. She is looking at how GIS can be used to assess a large-scale construction project’s potential ecological and environmental impacts.

Katie, who has degrees in wildlife management and landscape ecology, explained: “GIS allows us to capture and store many different kinds of data, and then display this information on one map. Using data from sources such as Ordnance Survey, Natural England and the Environment Agency, Costain will be able to identify areas on a project that are environmentally sensitive and so need to be taken into consideration during planning. This could, for example, influence the route of a road, railway or pipeline, so helping to speed up the planning process.”

Major customers have already expressed interest in the work. Said Matt Blackwell, Costain’s Group Head of BIM (Building Information Modelling): “Clients are keen to find out how they can cut the time needed for Environmental Impact Assessments, and also meet their requirements for biodiversity offsetting - the work they must do to ensure that where a project causes unavoidable damage, new, bigger or better nature sites are created. We will be able to help customers get the maximum benefit from their biodiversity offsetting and so really benefit an area.”

Costain’s environmental team likes it too. Said Hannah Rich, Costain Environment and Sustainability Manager, Rail: “Katie’s work on biodiversity mapping has the potential to influence and inform construction projects, from feeding into feasibility studies and concept design to informing the construction and restoration processes, ensuring that impacts on the local environment are minimised and helping deliver a net positive gain in biodiversity.”

Geoff Griffiths, Director of Recruitment and Admissions at the Department of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Reading, said the University was “delighted to be a significant partner in this project with a large UK engineering solutions company working at the cutting-edge of computer-based tools for environmental evaluation and protection. It is anticipated that the output from the research will contribute significantly towards better planning and management of large infrastructure projects across the UK.”

Katie will be speaking about her work at the SER (Society of Ecological Restoration) 2015 World Conference on Ecological Restoration in Manchester this month.




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