Wow… was my last post really way back in September? It’s only four months ago, but it feels like at least a year. To say it has been busy would be a vast understatement! SO MANY ASSIGNMENTS.

October

At the end of September I set up Bristol Invertebrates (another neglected blog that I need to update), listing invertebrate related events, groups and societies in and around Bristol. It still has to pick up a bit, but I expect that to come when a) it gets warmer and b) I update it. I enjoyed the bounty of Autumn, making the most out of the many haw berries, apples and blackberries scavenged by making hedgerow ketchup, pies and cakes galore (including an amazing-if-I-may-say-so-myself spiced rum and apple cake).

I attended the Race Equality in Nature conference, organised by Bird Girl and held at UWE – took many notes and found it to be a really great conference, though I won’t say much about it here because time is short and I wouldn’t do it justice now, but check out her blog and give her a follow on Twitter, because she addresses many issues surrounding racial equality in the environment sector that are definitely worth looking into.

I went on a lovely walk with another student, checked out some fungi and saw a beautiful kingfisher. On my way home I found a badger skeleton, and because I’m probably a bit odd I collected the bones and fashioned a pendant out of one of the canine teeth (the canines were the only parts of the skull left with the rest of the bones).

We went on a fungi photography walk with UWE Wildlife and Environment Society – I can’t identify most of what we saw, but that’s on my to do list (‘learn more about fungi’!).

I have spent LOTS of time in and around Stoke Park since October, whn I started volunteering with Steve England as part of the Stoke Park Woodland Restoration project. This will likely (read: hopefully) be the subject of an entire blog post alone because we have done a *lot* and still have lots to do and learn, with an assignment for the module Conservation in Practice to come of it, but here are a few images of what we have done so far:

Another UWE Wildlife and Environment Society event: a bat walk, kindly led by Steve England. It was right at the time bats were starting to hibernate, but we were lucky to find some Daubenton’s.

[Still only in October at this point!] We had a very cold and soggy day in Exmouth for the module Conservation in Practice using a variety of survey methods, notably ‘capture, mark and release’, timed searches and quadrats, about which we had to write and present to the class.

I’ve made a huge effort to be more social, attending more events, birthday outings and even started doing aquafit (which is hilarious and great fun!). We had a small mammal trapping session at uni, which had the potential to be great fun but was, apparently for health and safety reasons, far less ‘hands on’ than it had been in Dartmoor last year and as a result, less fun. It was still interesting, but as a tactile learner it wasn’t as enjoyable or useful as it might have been.

Another surveying session saw us wandering around Stadium Field behind UWE, I’d really like to get soem camera traps out here because it’s a great little oasis in a sea of housing estates and industry. I also started helping out with the SU community garden, although I don’t get to sessions as often as I would like due to lectures being on at the same time.

I applied, was interviewed and accepted for a student vacation bursary project, basically helping PhD students out with their research over the summer. It’ll be an amazing chance to learn more about bats and I am really looking forward to it. If I am very lucky there will be a financial bursary for it too, which I am going to pile into learning to drive, passing my test and getting a car – three very necessary things for the future as an ecologist.

I was on the radio! Shepherds Way on BCfm. Talking about what I led me to where I am now, plans for the future and the state of the planet at the moment, with a focus on invertebrates. It was terrifying at first, but great fun and a wonderful experience – one I hope to repeat one day! Unfortunately the recordings aren’t kept for long, so it’s not on the website now.

Also helped a lecturer and some BZG employees sort through and identify some dung beetles trapped at Wild Place – yet another thing that I would like to do more of, but lectures are timetabled at the same time. There’s likely to be other opportunities though! Please excuse my rubbish ‘phone camera down the microscope eyepiece’ photos though!

Another UWE WES event! A behind the scenes stores tour at Bristol Museum, led by Rhian. Such an amazing treasure trove of history! I recommend going to one if you can. It’s a bit sobering to think that unless we sort out our act and fix the planet, one day this might be the only way we can see some of our beautiful wildlife.

Finally we are in November! Assignments start coming in thick and fast from here on, so I have far less time for fun things. We did some great survey sessions in Stoke Park using sweep nets, pitfall traps and tullgren funnels, some aquatic invertebrate surveys, plant and bird surveys, and I got some lovely specimens for my taxonomic collections assignment due in this April. Of course, there was lots more Stoke Park volunteering fun to be had!

I adopted three juvenile male harvest mice from an ecologist friend – they may be released this year, but they may have a permanent home with me if they have become too naturalised. They are, however, ridiculously sweet, so I don’t mind if they have to stay with me! They do not keep still, so they are not easy to photograph with my rubbish phone. But they are *teeeeeeny*. Have you watched a tiny harvest mouse chase it’s own tail? I have, and let me tell you it’s 100% the cutest thing I have ever seen.

I joined UWE’s Grounds Team as a student rep on their mission to join the Hedgehog Friendly Campus campaign, and I am pleased to say that as of January 2020 UWE has been awarded the bronze award as a hedgehog friendly campus! On to silver next!

I joined Steve on a wildlife walk he was running in Stoke Park, and had the opportunity to show everyone the rat-tailed maggots living in the anaerobic hoverfly lagoons in tree trunks – these are hoverfly larvae and they are amazing wee critters with long tails that are tubes they stick up to the surface of the water to suck oxygen down. This enables them to live in the oxygen deprived environment that other animals cannot, though the water doesn’t smell fantastic!

We started learning R and Rstudio, it’s fun but so, so confusing sometimes! As well as this, we began learning how to use GIS (Geographic Information System) and GIS mapping software.

I attended the first RETHINKERSPACE workshop, part of the RETHINK science communication project. It is because of this blog that I got involved with it and I wish I could dedicate more time to writing about it here, but perhaps at a later date I can dedicate more time to that.

December was dominated almost entirely by assignments, volunteering, stress, and kitchen appliances breaking down at inopportune moments (the washing machine, fridge and freezer in the space of two days thanks to a fuse blowing). UWE WES society held a Christmas charity pub quiz (organised and run by yours truly) and we raised £100 for Bristol Bat Rescue, which made me very happy indeed!

I did have an amusing moment at my partner’s gran’s house: I was tracking deer around her land, rounded a corner and came face to face with an equally surprised badger. In the split second of eyes-locked panic that we both had we were further shocked by a tawny owl sitting 6ft away next to us when he “woooooohooooooo”-ed loudly at us in indignation – at which point both badger and I turned tail and bumbled off at speed, and the owl flew away. This also made me very happy indeed!

My species conservation action plan assignment for Conservation in Practice was… a beast.

And in to January! And what a month this has been already. If I thought I had a lot of assignments before Christmas… ah bless, poor naive pre-semester two me! First, however, came the much awaited year two trip to Tenerife! This was so amazing! A self-guided rockpool poke by the hotel, vegetation surveys at Malpais De Guimar, a visit to to ITER – Instituto Tecnológico y de Energías Renovables (Institute of technology for renewable energy), vegetation surveys at Anaga cloud forest, a self-guided wander around Candelaria, a self-guided day spent at the Palmetum in Santa Cruz, reptile surveying in El Medano, and looking at the vegetation and geology of mount Teide, honing field note skills and poking bugs all the way. It was fantastic! Obviously below are the obligatory ‘holiday snaps’! It was such an amazing opportunity, and a great shame that sadly it looks like we were the last year to be able to go.

Getting back to the UK was fairly harsh, it’s freezing! Straight back into uni, assignments and volunteering – no rest for the wicked!

Finally, I attended a hedgelaying course on Yate Common, which was a fantastic addition to what I have learned at stoke park! The second part is in February, where I will be practicing this skill.

And that is where I will leave this somewhat epic saga! The next five months will continue to be dominated by volunteering, societies, assignments and exams and then it will be, finally, summer! Hopefully I will get around to updating before then!

Published by StudentEcologistBristol

I'm a mature student studying Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Science BSc (Hons) at the University of the West of England.

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