Young biologists inspired by RAU experts’ Conservation masterclass

29 Mar 2018

Biology students from Archway School’s sixth-form in Stroud took part in a Biodiversity and Wildlife Conservation Masterclass led by our own Dr Ian Grange and Kelly Swallow.

The event began at the RAU’s Environment and Conservation site on the Miserden Estate, where the students were taken on a guided tour of the site.

Dr Grange explained some of the methods of wildlife conservation the RAU is employing and researching to improve biodiversity in rural areas, in particular the Cotswolds.

Young biologists inspired by RAU experts’ Conservation masterclass

Students were shown some of the work that RAU students have been doing on managing succession of woodland to create areas of Lowland Calcareous Grassland (limestone grassland) - an environment type which is incredibly rich in biodiversity.

They also looked at examples of creating nesting habitats for the regionally rare Willow Tits to encourage them to return to the area. Moving on they witnessed a bracken control experiment, assessing the most appropriate methods for controlling small conservation sites and the use of cutting and pulling treatments. 

Next was a conservation experiment evaluating the effects of seasonal grazing on plant diversity, specifically encouraging growth of cowslip and as a consequence, encouraging of the return of the Duke of Burgundy butterfly to the area as its main plant food is cowslip.

Dr Grange closed the session by discussing the fascinating evidence for the existence big cats in the local area before the group made its way to campus.

After a quick campus tour with the Student Ambassadors, and a delicious fish and chip lunch in the dining room, the Archway students went with Kelly Swallow across the road to Cirencester Park to continue the Masterclass.

Young biologists inspired by RAU experts’ Conservation masterclass

There they took part in a practical activity using quadrats to collect data on the ground coverage of plant species using a stratified sampling technique. Just before the weather turned the group returned to the classroom to calculate the biodiversity of the area using Simpsons Diversity Index in preparation for their upcoming A-level exams.

Joseph Bingle, Recruitment and Outreach officer at RAU said: “The feedback from the Archway students has been incredibly positive, with many showing great interest in what the University has to offer, not just terms of protecting the environment but also the broader student experience. There is already talk of the school making a return visit in the coming years.”