Photo by Raul Cacho Oses via Unsplash
Carry on during COVID
Continuing research like RESPiRES during a global pandemic has many challenges. Across our institutions there has been limited access to laboratories, almost no opportunity for fieldwork and public engagement activities have either been postponed, cancelled or more often than not, made virtual. The Covid-19 pandemic hit right in the middle of the project, and has genuinely tested our resilience! For example, in the UK, we had completed most of the fieldwork, but the laboratory analyses were stalled. In Mexico City, only half of the ecological surveys could be completed and we are at the mercy of the seasons too! Meaning that if we want robust samples across wet and dry seasons, there are further complications. Perhaps you've been involved in the public engagement aspects? If so, you'll also know that these were completed online after start in person - thanks to everyone who took part in these and allowed us to continue with our work.
Of course, research is one thing, and life is another. Perhaps more than ever we are aware of the importance of family, relaxation, exercise and good health. Certainly, during this pandemic priorities have changed too, and even from a practical perspective children and loved ones take precedence. However, RESPiRES continues! And our approach has been to work within our means, and to be flexible in our approach. So, we'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support. Indeed, if you are an interested member of public, a participant in the project or a landowner or stakeholder of a site which we have visited and sampled, we will communicate our findings with you once we have them. Of course, you can always contact us in the meantime using our project email address firstname.lastname@example.org
With our best wishes, and in hope that you and your loved ones are well, the RESPiRES team.
Blue Spaces and YOU!
Following our work with communities in Bristol and Mexico City, we would like to learn more about how people in other places use and think about their local blue-spaces.
We would love you to take part in our survey by clicking on the link below. Thank you!
Participation in the Regional conference of the Ecosystem Service Partnership Latin America and the Caribbean
Participation in the Regional conference of the Ecosystem Service Partnership Latin America and the Caribbean
On November 26th 2020, as part of the outreach activities of the RESPiRES project, team members participated in the Third Regional Conference of the Ecosystem Service Partnership Latin America and the Caribbean (https://www.esplatinamerica2020.org/UI/Public/Default.aspx). Two presentations were made in the online session called “Integrating urban ecological infrastructure, the ecosystem services and urban planning”. The titles of the presentations were “Blue-spaces in Mexico City: quality, accessibility and ecosystem services” and “Values and perceptions towards urban blue-spaces and their ecosystem services in Mexico City”. These presentations showed an overview of the blue-spaces that are in Mexico City, their quality, accessibility and the nature’s contributions to people. For three blue-spaces in Mexico City, the plurality of values was analysed in depth. These values result from the relationship between users and blue-spaces (e.g. eudaimonic, identity, social cohesion and stewardship). Learning about the plurality of values and their effects on blue-space management helps to understand socio ecological resilience in urban blue-spaces. Presenting these results to scientists, professionals, members of organisations and public servants from the Latin American region and the Caribbean promotes a transdisciplinary discussion oriented to influence.
Macroinvertebrate analysis in Mexico City
The term macroinvertebrate refers to invertebrate animals that are bigger than 0.25mm in length. Macroinvertebrate communities are one of the most commonly used groups in the assessment of water quality, since they respond directly to natural and anthropogenic stress. Therefore, understanding which macroinvertebrates are present in a waterbody is a common way to investigate ecological questions, and it is one approach that the RESPiRES team is using to understand how healthy and resilient these ecosystems are. Macroinvertebrates play an important role in freshwater ecosystems by feeding on algae, coarse detritus, and fine particulate organic matter and by providing food for higher trophic levels. These animals show several functional characteristics: flow, drag or silt adaptations, respiration and locomotion techniques and feeding habits. These are important indicators of the state of an ecosystem and its potential resilience to further modifications.
In lotic (flowing water) systems, we recorded insects that are representative of healthy ecosystems, telling us important information about the water quality there. These animals belong to the Trichoptera, Ephemeroptera and Plecoptera orders, which present some water flow modifications (body modifications), different food preferences and others characteristics to attached to inorganic substrate.
Glossossoma sp (Trichoptera)
Baetis sp. (Ephemetoptera)
Amphinemura sp. (Plecoptera)
On the other hand, lentic (still water) systems showed a contrasting macroinvertebrate composition. This can be explained by the different features of still water including the characteristics of substrate and food. Coleoptera, Hemiptera and Odonata orders were abundant in lakes and their functional characteristics are specifics for these systems. Some of them swim because the extreme modification of the leg makes them unable to perch on plants, and others are climbers, lurking in vegetation or resting on stems of aquatic plants.
Notonecta sp. (Hemiptera)
Ischnura sp. (Odonata)
Cybister sp. (Coleoptera)
Participatory Video creation in Bristol
This July we hosted a screening of the videos that our Bristol participants created as part of our work on how local people perceive and value the blue-spaces around them. Over the winter, residents of Bristol living in our study areas were invited to take part in a series of workshops (in parallel with the Mexico team, described below) to learn about creating films using their smartphones, and this culminated in a virtual (thanks to Covid 19) screening event where the films were shown and discussed. The above is one of these films. Huge thanks to all our participants and to Knowle West Media Centre who partnered with us in this part of the project.
Above: the Magdalena river, one of the RESPiRES study site where the Rapid Assessment has been conducted. Below: volunteers and scientists walking to the assessment site.
Rapid Assessment training in Mexico City
The RESPiRES team in Mexico gave a short course in UAM-Cuajimalpa regarding the use of the RESPIRES rapid assessment tool for monitoring freshwater habitats. This tool is an online application to assess the quality of any man-made, artificial or natural pond, section of lake, stream, river, canal and drain, in any landscape (urban, rural, agricultural etc.) and season. Alongside physical habitat monitoring this rapid assessment considers the quality of habitat for society, particularly in relation to amenity and access.
Undergraduate students from UAM (Socioterritorial Studies and Biology) attended the course where a thorough explanation regarding the use of the tool was given. The training allowed their later participation in more than 50 assessments undertaken in different blue spaces in Mexico City between November 2019 and march 2020.
Part of the RESPiRES project includes the creation of digital tools such as this rapid assessment, in order to allow different groups of people to participate in monitoring blue spaces whilst still gathering accurate monitoring data.
Participatory Video Workshops in Mexico City
In Mexico City, a group of researchers and community members attended a week long workshop learning about a collaborative technique called Participatory Video. Twelve people attended including collaborators of the Mexican RESPiRES team, members of REDES association, and inhabitants of San Gregorio Atlapulco, Magdalena Atlitic and Canal Nacional communities. The workshop, facilitated by La Marabunta Filmadora (http://www.marabuntafilmadora.org/), aimed to train participants in the use of participatory audiovisual techniques. Also, the training promoted learning based on experience, developing trust and exchanging of ideas between peers. For RESPiRES project, the use of participatory methodologies is very important as it will help us to explore different people's perceptions, and will give voice to the multiple stakeholders. This will help us to understand the role that blue spaces have within cities’ socio-ecological resilience.
Participants learn about creating storyboards
Learning techniques for using audiovisual equipment
Two cyanobacteria species. Left: Filamentous cyanobacteria: Anabaena spp. x400 (this group has been almost entirely re-classified), Right. Colonial cyanobacteria: Microcystis aeruginosa x100.
Two Euglenoid species. Left: Euglena spp. x400. Right: Phacus spp. x400. These Euglenoid species are classified as part of the protists or protozoa group which means "pre-animal" or "animal-like". The Euglena species on the left has a characteristic 'S' shaped body, and swims vigorously by using a structure called a flagella to propel it.
Diatoms x1000. Left: Gomphonema spp. Right: Navicula spp.
Diatoms are a subgroup of algae and as a main characteristic is that their single cell bodies are rigid, and not soft like other algae groups, because their bodies have silica which forms a “shell of glass”.
Algae! What are they and why do we monitor them?
RESPiRES scientists delve into a microscopic world
Algae is the name given to a large diverse group of living organisms that grow mostly in water and, like plants, algae can produce oxygen through the process of photosynthesis. Some algae are very familiar to us, such as seaweeds, kelp and pond scum, because they can be seen by the naked eye. Other algae can be seen only through a microscope.
Algae are important. The oxygen produced provides suitable living conditions, and are an important food source for other organisms.
Algae are sensitive to chemical changes in water, and therefore understanding which algae are present can give us important information about the conditions and quality of the water.
In the RESPiRES project, we have been studying the algae found in blue spaces (rivers, lakes, ponds and streams) across Bristol. This involves looking at water samples under the microscope and identifying the algae present by their shape and features, as shown in these photos. This is very detailed complex work, and we are working from keys and databases to help with identification.
Once our analysis is complete, as well as understanding more about water quality, we will also be building up a picture of how resilient these blue spaces are. This feeds into the later phases of RESPiRES, when we will explore ways of increasing and monitoring resilience to protect important habitats in the future.
Please click here to read more about our work with algae
RESPiRES becomes a Hush City Ambassador
We are really excited to have become a Hush City Ambassador and to be using the Hush City app in our survey work of bluespaces in Bristol and Mexico City. Hush City is an interactive project inviting people to use their mobile phones to map the soundscape of their local city. As our cities become noisier places to live, more people are affected by noise pollution across the world. The Hush City app is helping researchers to identify, access and evaluate "everyday quiet areas" in their neighbourhoods. Check out the website now for more information and to explore the interactive map of places that have already been measured: www.opensourcesoundscapes.org/hush-city/
University of Huddersfield Human and Physical Geography pages
Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico