Wildlife and Countryside deliver a phenomenal year of initiatives

As the academic year comes to a close, we would like to celebrate the fantastic year our Wildlife and Countryside department has had in 2022/23.

Catering to students with an interest in the natural world, environmental conservation and habitat management, the Wildlife and Countryside team at Bridgend College has led a superb array of initiatives over the past 10 months. Their efforts have provided a breadth of opportunities for students to get involved in, showcasing the full range of career options available in this field.

“I was amazed with how engaged the tutors were with each member of the group. Despite there being 15 of us on the course, I have always felt included in the conversation. I feel that the course tutors really helped to make an already intriguing course even better.”

Harvey Stanislaw, Wildlife and Countryside L3 student

The list of projects undertaken by Wildlife and Countryside this year is long and varied, including water vole monitoring, habitat conservation in Rhondda Cynon Taf, gorse clearance at the Parc Slip Nature Reserve, and the identification of the rare Violet Oil beetle on the College’s own Pencoed Campus.

Alongside these impactful activities, the team have taken part in numerous events and excursions, such as the Woodland Trust charity walk around the Four Waterfalls trail in the Brecon Beacons and a three-day camping experience at Cefn Garthenor Farm in Ceredigion.

Our students have displayed an outstanding level of enthusiasm, testament to their drive and engagement with the syllabus. 

With so many to choose from, here are two of our conservation highlights from this academic year:

Marsh Fritillary Butterfly

One of the most notable pieces of work that the department has undertaken this year is in regards to the Marsh Fritillary butterfly. An endangered species of butterfly within Europe, the species has declined by 79% across the UK since the 1970s, with populations now mainly restricted to the south and west of the UK.

Within Wales, conservation efforts are underway to monitor Marsh Fritillary populations and to better manage their existing habitats, the loss of marshy grasslands being a key factor behind its decline. 

The College has been working in partnership with the Initiative for Nature Conservation Cymru (INCC). They have been involved in the management and monitoring of Llantrisant Common since 2021, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), creating desirable habitats for the butterfly and maintaining plantings of suitable flora. 

Furthermore, the partnership has been instrumental in identifying a new area near Tonyrefail to develop into a suitable habitat for the species. Our Conservation Volunteers and the INCC have spent time replanting the site, creating another local haven for the Marsh Fritillary to thrive.

European Eel

European Eels are a ‘critically endangered’ species, as classified by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, having suffered a drastic decline in numbers since the 1990s due to over-farming. 

The project began after a team member from ‘A River for All’, an initiative run by South East Wales Rivers Trust (SEWRT), visited the College to speak to Wildlife and Countryside Level 3 students. They discussed the work they were doing with European eels and freshwater species within Wales, which encouraged the students to spearhead the College’s own efforts. ‘A River for All’ supplied not only the eels themselves but also the equipment needed to look after them.

From early May this year, the College raised 15 eels which allowed students to have a first-hand understanding of the different stages of the eel life cycle. The eels will be reintroduced to the wild to help increase native populations. 

“It’s fair to say that the vast majority, if not all, of Wildlife and Countryside students have had their course enriched by the experience.”

Harvey Stanislaw, Wildlife and Countryside L3 student, in reference to the European eels initiative

To learn more about our Wildlife and Countryside L3 course and about opportunities for progression within environmental conservation, check out our available courses.

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