Ecosoc students check the moth trap daily to record the species they find in the walled garden.

Universities champion biodiversity in Cornwall

Students from the University of Exeter and Falmouth University have joined forces with the Tremough Campus Services Group (TCSG) to collaborate on the formation of a new Biodiversity Enhancement Plan for the Cornwall Campus.

The event is led by EcoSoc, the student society run by FXU, the combined students’ union for the two institutions, in collaboration with TCSG’s Carbon & Sustainability Manager, Karen Clowes.

TCSG is the partnership that delivers buildings, facilities and services on behalf of the two institutions in Cornwall.

The first stage of the project has been to invite academics and professional services staff to form a working group with the aim of maintaining and improving biodiversity across the campuses.  The University of Exeter’s Centre for Ecology and Conservation, new Environment and Sustainability Institute and Education Enhancement and Employability teams; University College Falmouth’s MA in Art & Environment; TCSG’s Estates & Development Services department; FXU; and Cornwall Council are all represented.

“A key part of this project is to create a central online database that allows us to record biodiversity on campus as well as produce an interactive map that charts habitats and how they change over time,” explains the University of Exeter’s Students as Change Agents Support Officer and co-chair of the working group, Finn Woodhill.  “This will not only enable staff, students and the local community to work together to build a complete picture, but will also provide students with a valuable resource for research projects and inspire more people to engage with our beautiful natural environment.”

“Although our campuses are already rich in biodiversity, it is really important for students, particularly in the Biosciences, to ensure that it is maintained and enhanced as the Cornwall Campus at Tremough, in particular, continues to be developed,” adds fellow co-chair, Ali North.  “Students want to study here because of its stunning setting and this project provides us with a great opportunity to work with the universities based here to ensure that the natural environment is preserved for future generations.”

Students from EcoSoc will play a leading role alongside TCSG’s Grounds Team, led by David Garwood, in implementing practical schemes around the campuses such as enhancing hedgerows, as well as freshwater and wildflower habitats.

One such scheme involves planting a wildflower meadow at the Cornwall Campus with the help of local school children next month.

“We are fortunate that we have a diverse range of habitats across our 100-acre estate at Tremough,” says David. “As University College Falmouth and the University of Exeter have developed the Campus, we have had the opportunity to assess the site for bats, badgers, lichen, dormice, otters and moths.  This has provided us with an invaluable amount of data to measure progress against and to help us maintain a healthy ecosystem as well as continually enhance it.”

As no new construction work has taken place at the Woodlane Campus in recent years, little data is available so this project will also enable EcoSoc to undertake its first ever audit of biodiversity at UCF’s Falmouth site in the coming weeks.

On Saturday 16 June, from 10am to 4pm, EcoSoc will also lead a BioBlitz at the Tremough Campus, with the help of leading naturalist and TV presenter, Nick Baker, a University of Exeter graduate.

“We hope that lots of local families will join us on the day and have fun identifying species with us,” adds student organiser, Roz Evans. “For further details, watch your local press!”

“The big idea is that we provide a Biodiversity Enhancement Plan for our campuses that is sustainable,” concludes Karen Clowes. “By working collaboratively with our partners, TCSG can add real value to the student experience by providing a single source of biodiversity data that can be continually updated, whilst embedding EcoSoc’s ideas into the future development of our campuses through our wider Environment and Sustainability strategy.”

Date: 1 June 2012