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
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.
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