Ecology student helps select the best areas for improving habitat quality and quantity

Butterfly Conservation - Butterfly image

The Organisation

Butterfly Conservation (BC) works around Morecambe Bay, with its Lancashire and Cumbria Branches, to conserve some of the UK’s most threatened and declining butterfly and moth species. BC aims to monitor and to halt declines through targeted woodland and grassland management. The measures to conserve rare butterflies and moths are also helping conserve other threatened species as well as the habitats in which they live.

www.butterfly-conservation.org

The Challenge

The High Brown Fritillary and the Pearl-Bordered Fritillary butterflies have suffered considerable population decline in the last three decades due to habitat loss and degradation. The Morecambe Bay area is a stronghold for these two species in the UK and major habitat restoration work has been carried out by BC in recent years to attempt to reverse the decline. Monitoring the success of this work is crucial in order to prioritise areas in need of improvement.

Skills Sought

  • Habitat assessment
  • Fieldwork experience

    The Solution

    Hayley, a BSc Ecology student, performed a detailed assessment of the current availability and quality of habitat for the species as part of her LEC 301 Industry Dissertation Project. Hayley used both existing distribution and abundance data, and also collectedted additional data on habitat quality across the fragmented landscape. This information will be fed back into habitat management, and will help to inform site management plans. 

    Cost

    LEC301 Industry Dissertation Projects are free for businesses, but businesses are expected to cover any out of pocket expenses for the student, which is usually between £50-100, in some cases this cost is covered by other university funded projects.

    Impact

    The data collected will help to target management resources and bring maximum benefits to butterflies and other wildlife.  The information collected also forms a base line, from which other research can be compared in the future to show trends in habitat change. This also helps towards the overall aim of increasing their numbers in Lancashire and Cumbria as well as the UK more widely.

    Benefits to the charity

    • Charities operate on a tight budget and so extra resources are useful to conduct these studies
    • This information will help BC to select the best areas for increasing habitat both in quantity and quality

    Benefits to society

    • As important pollinators, butterflies play an intrinsic role in the life cycles of flowering plants
    • Butterflies are also key indicators which provide us with information on the quality of our climate, soil, rivers and biodiversity more widely

    Student Feedback

    "The best thing I did for the business was carrying out research that will hopefully be beneficial to understanding two similar species, where one is stable but the other is in decline." Hayley Prowse, BSc Ecology student.

    Company Feedback

    "We were delighted to work with Hayley, and the University. We are really keen to involve research groups in our work, and we find they get a lot of benefit from working on targeted research, outside, in often beautiful countryside. Our volunteers were also keen to give her as much background information and help as she needed. We hope Hayley enjoyed her research, working with some of the best wildlife and on some of the prettiest sites in the UK." Martin Wain, Conservation Officer, Butterfly Conservation.

    Future Plans

    We are very keen to continue with our partnership work with the University and look forward to several more years of butterfly and moth related projects.