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Tremough student maps the Marsh Fritillary

University of Exeter biology student Alice Kennedy is mapping the distribution of the Marsh Fritillary butterfly to help conservationists determine its future survival in the South West.

Alice, who is based on the University's Tremough Campus in Penryn, is focusing on four sites, including two near Bude. The same sites were studied by Dr Caroline Bullman, who now works for the charity Butterfly Conservation, in 1999, for the last major survey of the Marsh Fritillary. Alice is revisiting the sites to count butterflies, monitor land use and assess environmental conditions. By comparing the finds with those from eight years ago, she will assess the extent to which the Marsh Fritillary is in decline and will look at how changes in environmental conditions may be affecting the species.

The Marsh Fritillary has highly patterned pale yellowish-brown wings with orange-brown markings and brown spots. It is widespread in parts of southwest England and Wales, where it can be seen from late April to June, particularly in the damp, flower-rich habitats known as Culm grassland. The species has now disappeared from most other areas of Britain and is declining across Europe.

Alice, who is carrying out this study for her University of Exeter MSc degree in Conservation and Biodiversity said: "While many of the other students are travelling overseas for their research projects, I chose to stay here to study the Marsh Fritillary as this is one of the few places the species still exists. The way we use the land in the South West will determine its future survival or decline, so I hope this study will help us to find ways of protecting the species."

The lifestyle of this butterfly means that it needs a large number of nearby pockets of habitat to stop the species going locally extinct. "This is a unique chance to study exactly what it takes to maintain a butterfly species in our countryside," says University of Exeter biologist, Professor Richard Ffrench-Constant, who is one of Alice's supervisors at Tremough. "We need to make sure that these small pockets of culm are reconnected wherever possible and that alternative land uses, such as the planting of pine trees, are avoided."

Dr Caroline Bulman of Butterfly Conservation says: "Butterfly Conservation values the research that Alice is carrying out. Such in-depth study helps us base our conservation decisions on sound scientific evidence. The results will help us understand how the butterfly is responding to environmental changes, which means we can help conserve this threatened species."

Originally from Dublin and now living in Penryn, Alice is spending several weeks surveying two sites near Bude and two others in Somerset and on Dartmoor. She aims to complete her study by the end of the summer. It will then be passed onto Butterfly Conservation to help determine the future protection of this species.

The £100 million Tremough Campus is a Combined Universities in Cornwall initiative of which the University of Exeter and University College Falmouth are two of the founding partners. It has received investment from the European Union (Objective One), the South West Regional Development Agency, and the Higher Education Funding Council for England, with support from Cornwall County Council. Set in 70 acres of countryside, but close to the waterside towns of Penryn and Falmouth, the campus offers a lively student community. The University of Exeter now offers degrees in Biology, Cornish Studies, English, Geology, Geography, History, Law, Mining Engineering, Politics and Renewable Energy on its Tremough Campus, which has expanded rapidly as part of the Combined Universities in Cornwall initiative.

For further information please contact Sarah Hoyle, Press Officer, on 01392 262062 or email


Editor's notes:



Clare Morgan
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