Nightsniffing: a field ecology of urban change

'Nightsniffing' is the brainchild of Cliff Hammett and investigates how we can best understand the processes that change the city in relation to all the beings that inhabit it.

It aims to create public bat walks that combine the exploration of hidden urban creatures with an interrogation of the systems and structures that shape the city. The latter is undertaken with a 'data sniffers', that hook up to the GLA planning authority database.

We went to Brunswick Park and other local greenspaces in the Denmark Hill area, to try and track down some late season's bats. Although we didn't find any bat activity we did find there had been a lot of planning applications in the vicinity including 'changes of use' and a reduction in social housing provision. 

It was interesting to see that a massive London plane tree had recently been granted a Tree Protection Order and was sporting a notice to that effect. Large trees are important features for bat navigation. One of the parklets had a well vegetated wildlife pond, which assists in the generation of insect food.


The data sniffers record GPS location, movement and ambient environmental data as well as planning applications within the last six years based on a suite of different perameters. It is a welcome addition to the traditional mode of bat walk, one where the participants consider environmental changes, the effect on its natural features and the choices we make.


Cliff will be running further walks in the spring at a variety of locations in London. The walks will be posted at nightsniffing.eventbrite.com in early 2020, and you can get in touch with Cliff at c.hammett@sussex.ac.uk."

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