Dutch students learn English from the Scots and help score cultural ecosystem services

15 Jun 2015

Two enterprising Dutch students contacted the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology requesting a one week placement as part of their schools drive to encourage students to experience English speaking working environments. The two students are interested in taking some form of science degree at university but with a year left at school have not yet decided on their area of specialisation.

Jan Dick, lead scientist in the Cairngorm case study, while keen to encourage young scientists, does not believe it is fair to give them a false impression of how exciting science can be; as Thomas A. Edison is often quoted "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration." -

Together with Chris Andrews, the Environmental Change Network Cairngorms site manager, a bespoke program was designed where by the students methodically scored the cultural ecosystem services in 701 geo-tagged photographs captured from the publically available images on the web platform Flickr.  Following a training session in which the students and Jan each independently scored the same 40 photographs and then compared scores and agreed discrepancies the students continued to analyse the remaining photographs. They averaged 100 in two hours which was much faster than anticipated; so having scored them all by Thursday they started to analyse the data. Initial analysis found that there were no significant difference between the boys assessment of the cultural value exhibited in the photograph but one had scored all the land use/land cover elements in the photographs (average 2.25) while the other had only scored what they considered the most obvious (average  1.52). Further analysis is underway.

On Wednesday they had a day off from the hard slog of viewing 100’s of beautiful images of the Glenlivet Estate  and visited the Environmental Change Network site near Feshiebridge, 5 miles south of Aviemore.  A site visit includes a tough 5km hike over 400m of ascent where  they learned about the long term monitoring work being undertaken and collected water and invertebrate samples as part of the routine monitoring.  At the end of the week the boys said “We really enjoyed this week, we learned a lot about the different aspects of science and also that it can be boring from time to time. Our trip to Cairngorms was therefore a very welcome variation. It is a shame that we here for only one week, we would really have liked to stay longer. Jan and Chris, thank you for this educative, and fun, week!”