Students and university staff might not be the only inhabitants of the University of Cumbria’s Fusehill Street campus after a group of determined students made it their mission to attract once prolific wildlife species back to the site.
First year Zoology students got their hands dirty digging a pond to attract amphibians, erected bird feeding tables and bird boxes including one large enough for a tawny owl and even a box for the university’s resident hedgehog.
“He doesn’t actually live in it at the moment but we are hoping he will move in soon,” said Sophie Gibson, a first year Zoology BSc student and one of the students behind the idea of rewilding the university campus.
Sophie and Hannah Dover, also a first year Zoology BSc student, came up with the idea to encourage wildlife back onto campus after finding out the campus was once buzzing with life.
“We noticed that there were a lot of species seen 10 or 15 years ago that haven’t been seen since. There used to be buzzards and kestrels in the area but not now. We want to attract hedgehogs, squirrels and a lot of birds including tawny owls, bats and other small mammals”, said Hannah.
Sophie continued, “We wanted to build a pond to attract amphibians. They are a great species to monitor, especially for a lot of the degrees we have at the university, like Zoology. It’s good to get that first-hand experience with the animals and having a pond on site is a very easy way to do it”.
Dr Mic Mayhew, Lecturer BSc (Hons) Zoology explained that the pond had a dual purpose. Not only to provide a resource for students to help them conduct research and learn scientific names of species but also a place to relax and connect with nature.
“Building a pond is simply the most effective way to attract wildlife to an area”, he said. “I hope that this pond will provide students with a fantastic learning resource and act as a living laboratory they can use. They will learn field identification skills and once they have those skills they can conduct research, undertake projects and carry out experiments. So overall it should be a fantastic resource for students but also contribute to the well-being of all university students and staff.”
The students set about building the pond and erected the boxes and tables in a day as part of an exercise to bring new students together during welcome week. The pond will take about nine months to bed-in after which it should teem with life.