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Research to Benefit Some of the UK's Most Threatened Wildlife in the Malvern Hills

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A student at the University of Worcester is launching a major piece of research to help conserve important species in the Malvern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Ecology student, Dragos Hritulac, will use state-of-the-art technology to track different species living in the Malvern Hills and help plan where new habitats could be created to ensure their survival.

The Malvern Hills provide a home for an extensive number of threatened species, including the dormouse, bullfinch and lesser horseshoe bat, as well as habitats such as traditional orchards, lowland meadows and mixed deciduous woods.

Despite being designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1959, which affords some protection to species and habitats, there have been many changes which have led to the fragmentation of important habitats in the area.  In turn, this has resulted in biodiversity hotspots and the isolation of habitats, which is potentially damaging the entire ecosystem and leading to the long-term detriment of a species.

University of Worcester Senior Lecturer, Dr Duncan Westbury (pictured above with Dragos), who is supervising the research, along with Robbie Austrums, said: “Farmers and land owners are encouraged to provide habitats for target species in the area, but using our novel approach, the main aim of the project is to provide guidance on where such habitats should be located to facilitate the movement and expansion of species within the landscape. For example, the location of new woodlands and hedgerows might be proposed within the AONB to increase the abundance and dispersal of dormice.”

The Malvern Hills AONB Partnership and Worcestershire Wildlife Trust will be involved in the research as part of their ‘Making space for nature’ project.

Dr Westbury said “This is a very exciting project and presents a wonderful opportunity for one of our undergraduate students to be involved with such important research. Rather than tracking the actual movement of species within the area, Dragos will be using Geographical Informational Systems (GIS) to explore the connectivity between habitats for a number of key species and its dispersal capabilities.”

Dragos’ research is being funded by the University’s Vacation Research Assistant Scheme, which helps students with extracurricular work over the summer.

Dr Westbury said:  “The University of Worcester is strongly committed to supporting students through the Vacation Research Assistant Scheme and this project demonstrates an excellent collaboration between the University and local stakeholders, and provides another example of how the University is helping to improve the local environment.”