Worcester student launches major study into Malvern Hills ecosystem

Malvern Gazette: Dragos Hritulac (seated) and senior lecturer at the University of Worcester Dr Duncan Westbury Dragos Hritulac (seated) and senior lecturer at the University of Worcester Dr Duncan Westbury

A STUDENT at the University of Worcester has launched a major research project to help conserve wildlife living in the Malvern Hills.

Conservation ecology student Dragos Hritulac will use state-of-the-art technology to track creatures living in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) to help plan where new habitats could be created to ensure their survival.

The Malvern Hills – which was designated an AONB in 1959 – is home to a wide range of threatened species such as the lesser horseshoe bat, the dormouse and the bullfinch and contains habitats such as orchards, lowland meadows and woodland

But a range of changes over the years have isolated and fragmented the area, potentially damaging the ecosystem.

It is hoped Dragos’ project, which is being supervised by senior lecturer Dr Duncan Westbury and Robbie Austrums from the Institute of Science and the Environment, will be able to protect the many species living in the area from being driven out.

Dr Westbury said farmers and land owners are already encouraged to provide habitats for specific species.

“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,” he said.

“For example, the location of new woodlands and hedgerows might be proposed within the AONB to increase the abundance and dispersal of dormice.”

“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 to explore the connectivity between habitats for a number of key species and its dispersal capabilities.”

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

The Malvern Hills AONB Partnership and Worcestershire Wildlife Trust are also involved in the scheme and Dr Westbury said he was pleased to be working alongside the organisations.

“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,” he said.

For more information visit www.worcester.ac.uk.

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