A team of student conservationists from UWE Bristol were judged as one of the top five UK entries in reaching the finals of the Quarry Life Award, a prestigious international competition.
Organised by Heidelberg Cement, which operates in the UK as Hanson, the competition aims to raise the knowledge of the biological value of its quarry sites worldwide and contribute to enhancing it.
Over 390 entries were submitted from candidates in 22 countries.
Project at Whatley Quarry
The team of five undergraduate second and third year students on the Conservation Biology, Environmental Science and Integrated Wildlife Conservation programmes worked with their lecturer Dr Mark Steer, Somerset Wildlife Trust and Hanson UK to create a project proposal to analyse how habitat restoration works at Whatley Quarry near Frome, Somerset, are benefiting the local ecological network.
Led by second year Conservation Biologists Jessica Wise and Angeliki Savvantoglou, the team of Berglind Karlsdóttir, Olivia Reddy, Holly Dillon and Steve Powell were awarded a research grant of £475.
Jessica Wise said, “We’re all delighted to have made the final, we certainly didn’t expect it. It’s been great working on this project with the Somerset Wildlife Trust and Hanson UK.
“Over the summer we will be focusing our survey on the woodlands in and around Whatley Quarry in the Mendip Hills. Interestingly, 12% of the national greater horseshoe bat population are located in the Mendips, so we’ll be doing some surveys at night using bat detectors to monitor their presence. We'll also be using pitfall traps to look for woodland indicator invertebrate species and carrying out bird and botanical surveys.
“All of us in the team are passionate about ecology and the environment. It would be great to be one of the final prizewinners, but for us the main aim of the project is that at the end we’ll have produced a really useful resource of benefit to quarries nationwide.
“It’s also an excellent opportunity to apply the practical skills we’ve learnt in class to a real life project. We can’t wait to get started.”
They will now carry out the project over the summer before entering their final report in September. The best three projects in each national contest will be awarded prizes up to 5,000 Euros. In December 2014, the International Jury, including experts from the internationally recognised conservation organisations BirdLife International and the Jane Goodall Institute, will reward the best overall projects with awards up to 30,000 Euros.
Dr Steer impressed with team's efforts
Dr Mark Steer, Lecturer in Conservation Biology, said, “I’m delighted, but not surprised, that the team has reached the finals. They worked hard to put together a very strong project which is highly relevant given recent changes in national planning legislation. The experience and contacts that the students will gain from this project will be invaluable to them post-graduation.
“Quarries offer interesting opportunities for restoring wildlife-rich habitats around the world. It is great to see Hanson UK actively supporting research that will help to ensure that we make the most of some of these restoration opportunities.
“UWE Bristol is strongly committed to working in partnership with business to advance the health, sustainability and prosperity of our local region. I hope that this project sees the beginning of a long term partnership between UWE Bristol, Hanson UK and the Somerset Wildlife Trust to ensure that we can maintain and enhance the wildlife-rich habitats and natural beauty of the Mendip Hills in the long term.”
Benefits for habitat management
Lila Morris, Mendip Ecologist, Somerset Wildlife Trust, said, “Somerset Wildlife Trust is delighted to hear that the students’ project has made the UK final as they have lots of strong ideas and a fantastic amount of enthusiasm for getting started. Their assessment of the importance of habitat corridors, as identified by SWT’s ecological network map, in promoting movement of specialist species through the landscape around Whatley will be of real value to our work. The results from these surveys should certainly help to inform future habitat management and to target work to strengthen woodland ecological networks. We look forward to working with them and Hanson this summer.”
For more information on studying at UWE Bristol see: Department of Biological, Biomedical and Analytical Sciences.