» APEM granted UK’s first bird survey accreditation

20 November, 2012

The United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) has granted the UK’s first accreditation for the identification and enumeration of birds from aerial photographs to APEM Ltd. The results of the analysis provide information on bird populations, which can form an integral part of environmental monitoring or impact assessment processes such as the siting of wind farms.

Janice Haines, Accreditation Manager, Environment at UKAS said. “The accreditation of aerial bird surveys was a new area for UKAS, so we enlisted a senior independent scientist to act as a technical expert and help set the parameters for the assessment. APEM’s successful completion of the assessment process demonstrates that accreditation is constantly evolving into new industry sectors and can help deliver confidence in a wide variety of innovative processes.”

Under the APEM system, tens of thousands of images can be captured in a single survey and every image has to be examined. A team of specially trained analysts count the number of birds in each image, identify the species and plot each bird’s exact location. This detailed process is made easier by bespoke software, developed in house by APEM, which automatically picks out likely birds in each image. Thousands of images per survey are then quality assured by the company’s most experienced analysts and also independently verified by experts from the British Trust for Ornithology, ensuring the highest possible standards of interpretation.

To date, APEM has carried out over 200 aerial bird surveys using its system and has worked on seven out of the nine Round Three offshore wind programme zones. This third round of offshore windfarm development was launched in 2008 by The Crown Estate, which manages most of the sea bed around the UK. It was much larger than the preceding rounds and allows for windfarms to be developed within certain offshore zones.

Accuracy is paramount and requires stringent quality control processes, as Stuart Clough, APEM’s Director of Remote Sensing, explains. “Our clients rely on us to supply data that is absolutely trustworthy. Being the first company in the UK to be granted this accreditation by UKAS demonstrates how seriously we take that responsibility.”

In addition to APEM’s image analysis techniques, the accreditation to ISO/IEC 17025:2005 (General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories) also covers the company’s training procedures, sampling methods, data control and management reviews amongst other key areas. APEM is also a UK laboratory for ecological analysis and holds UKAS accreditation for the identification and enumeration of macroinvertebrates, phytoplankton and diatoms in both fresh and marine waters.