What’s happening with the Hedgehogs?

Guest article from School of Anthropology and Conservation student Katie Hargrave-Smith


What’s happening with the Hedgehogs?

The hedgehog, or the Western European Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) to be specific, is a national treasure for us in Britain. We have few wild charismatic mammals as we hunted many to extinction, or caused mass habitat loss. The hedgehog is Britain’s only spiny mammal, and once upon a time people were almost guaranteed to see a hedgehog in their garden in summer. Unfortunately, the hedgehog population has declined by up to 50% since 2000, and are now vulnerable to extinction.

This is largely due to human action. As we continue to change how we use land , we encroach on hedgehog habitat, and by walling our gardens have removed vital remaining habitat from them. They also create nests at ground level, so are vulnerable to grounds management. Furthermore, the defence mechanism of hedgehogs is to curl up into a ball, as their spines fend off predators trying to eat them. However, this defence mechanism is not so effective against humans, as cars often don’t think to drive slowly on roads where hedgehogs could be, or to check bonfires where the hogs might be nesting. And finally, there is not enough consideration given to hedgehogs when people decide to put out slug repellent or rat killer, and hedgehogs are often the unfortunate victim.

 

What can you do to help?

There are a number of things that everyone can do to help hedgehogs; some simply take seconds, while others require a small amount of effort (but it’s worth it to help protect this wonderful creature!) We have used ideas from both the British Hedgehog Preservation society and Hedgehog Street. Here are 10 things you can do, in order of ease:

1)      The Big Hedgehog Map

If you ever see a hedgehog, even if it has sadly died, it is incredibly important, and easy, to log it to the Big Hedgehog Map. This allows conservationists to follow hedgehog populations. It also helps highlight areas for action, such as on a road where hedgehogs are often being killed, a sign can be put up to warn people to drive carefully at night and be aware of hedgehogs. The map also allows you to backlog sightings, so if you saw a hedgehog a year ago and remember where, you can log it!

2)      Don’t litter

Although this one goes without saying, sometimes it is important to say it. Hedgehogs can easily get caught in litter and can also use it in their nests thinking its foliage. Why not make a point to pick up litter when you go out, and tell your friends/family why? Spreading awareness is always helpful.

3)      Check before you mow or strim

Always make a point to check for hedgehogs before you mow the lawn or do any strimming. If it’s not you who does these activities, make sure to mention it if you know someone else is about to.

4)      Make sure bonfires are hog-safe

Hedgehogs see logs stacked up and think of it as an ideal nesting spot, unaware of the danger of bonfires. As hedgehogs curl up when threatened, they sadly do not escape the flames. If you or someone you know is building a bonfire, make sure they know to either build it the day of the bonfire, or to move it the day of, as hedgehogs find nests at night. If you know that a public bonfire night is being organised (such as the annual Bonfire Night), why not contact the organisers to make sure they are being hedgehog safe?

5)      Stop using chemicals

Worms, beetles and other invertebrates make a tasty meal for hedgehogs, and repellents, insecticides and pesticides are all toxic for hedgehogs. These chemicals shouldn’t be necessary in a well-managed garden, but if you feel you have to use them, why not search for a hog-safe repellent? Such alternatives could include using coffee grounds, wool pellets, or slug tape (and there are more!)

6)      Put out food and water

Why not put out some food and water for hedgehogs to enjoy? They eat hedgehog food (the brands Spikes and Brambles are the only Hedgehog Friendly Campus approved brands), and meaty cat and dog food. Putting out a water dish is especially important for hedgehogs during dry spells. However, please don’t put out your pumpkin this halloween, it’s bad for hedgehogs!

7)      Call for help if you see a hedgehog during the day

Hedgehogs are nocturnal, so if you see one during the day it is probably unwell. If it seems like it is going somewhere with intention, or it is carrying leaves in it’s mouth for its nest, it could be okay, but if unsure call a local rescue service for advice.

8)      Create a wild corner

If you have a garden, why not allow a corner to grow naturally? They love brambles, hawthorn, wildflowers,  and nettles! This will create a great habitat for hedgehogs, from nesting areas and foliage, as well as lots of prey for them to eat! You can add branches to create structure.

9)      Make your pond hedgehog safe

Hedgehogs can swim! However, they cannot climb out of steep verges, so unless your pond has a bank, why not add a ramp to allow hedgehogs to climb out so that they don’t drown? You can add a ramp using wood, rocks or chicken mesh. Also, make sure that the water levels stay topped up.

10) Link up your garden

Making sure there is a hedgehog sized hole in your fence allows the hedgehog to roam between gardens. A 13x13cm (5×5”) hole will allow a hedgehog through, but not most pets. Make sure you speak to your neighbours if you share the fence and use this as an opportunity to share what you know about hedgehogs! You might inspire them to make other holes in their fences and make their garden more hedgehog friendly.

 

What we are doing to make our campus hedgehog friendly

The University of Kent became part of the Hedgehog Friendly Campus scheme in 2019, and members of the university recently undertook a survey to find out if there are hedgehogs present on campus. Ten tunnels were strategically placed around campus in which any small animals could walk through, over a strip of non-toxic ink and leave footprints on the other side.

As well as this, the university carries out regular litter picks around campus, including the woods on the site, and the Landscape and Grounds management team have had sessions to educate them on what to do if they find an injured hedgehog, how to check for them if they are about to strim and what risks there may be on campus for resident hedgehogs. Thanks to these efforts, the University of Kent has been awarded the Bronze award by the Hedgehog Friendly Campus Scheme and is looking to work towards the silver award.

If you’d like to get involved, please email Emily Mason from the Sustainability Team at sustainability@kent.ac.uk

Inspired by nature

Guest blog by Rebecca Smith, Sustainability Champions for Kent Business School.

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Understanding the potential for nature to inspire ideas was the topic of the first Business Start-Up Journey Ideas Hack bootcamp.

Using the Canterbury campus as a living lab, students went into the ancient woodland of Brotherhood Wood, near to the Sibson building, to explore how nature can inspire solutions to problems in the human world, using this problem solving as the basis for starting to develop business ideas.

The bootcamp began with an overview from the University’s Sustainability Coordinator, Emily Mason, on the biodiversity crisis facing the planet. She explained how careful management of the University’s natural capital was trying to counter it. Then, using the woods as their inspiration, students were set the task of developing an idea which would either tackle the issue of biodiversity or of improving mental health.

Ideas included a woodland adoption programme and classrooms based in the woods to promote a closer connection to nature.

In the afternoon, students took part in a further interactive workshop in the Sibson building, generating ideas based on understanding of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and looking at the subject of biomimicry. Biomimicry uses the solutions which animals, plants, and microbes have found to help solve problems in the human world.

They were led through a rapid idea generation session by the ASPIRE’s Innovator in Residence, Jo Pullen, and ASPIRE Project Officer, Rebecca Smith.

The bootcamp on Saturday 24 October followed a successful launch event with a keynote speech by entrepreneur, Mick Jackson, who founded of the multi-million pound global company, Wildhearts. Mick talked about the purpose of ‘business for good’ and the importance of finding your ‘why’.

The Business Start-Up Journey programme is a mix of interactive workshops, mainly online in Teams, real life bootcamps and one-to-one support. Students are guided through the process of starting a business, from finding, developing and testing an idea to creating financial and marketing plans and pitching for investment. The programme, which is philanthropically supported, ends with a pitching competition where student entrepreneurs can win £1000 to help start their business.

Sustainable Development Goals – Canterbury Campus Trail (coming soon)

The Sustainable Development Goals (also known as the Global Goals or SDGs) are 17 goals that outline a vision for a sustainable world by 2030. The 17 goals and underlying targets were created and signed by 193 countries at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in 2015.

The goals seek to finish the job that was started by the Millennium Goals which ran from 2000 to 2015 and brought 850,000,000 people out of extreme poverty and yet saw carbon emissions increase by 9,850,000 kilotons.

The University of Kent has signed the SDG Education Accord that commits us to embedding all 17 goals into our operations, teaching and research. As part this we would like all staff and students to become familiar with the goals by getting out and about across campus and discovering all 17.

Launching in autumn 2020 a new trail around campus showcases each of the 17 goals whilst leading you across central campus and to the Kent Community Oasis Garden.

The trail starts with SDG 1: No Poverty, which aims to eradicate extreme poverty and reduce overall poverty by 50% by 2030. You will find this post on central campus near the Library.

The trail ends with SDG 17: Partnerships, which you will find at the Kent Community Oasis Garden, our flagship community partnership project at the Canterbury campus where food growing is used as a way of meeting new people, reducing stress, learning new skills and getting some fresh air.

Please check back once the trail has been installed for more information and a map of all the posts.

A guide to student-friendly toiletries plastic reduction: blog post #4

Guest post by SDG Ambassador Julia Daly

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Welcome to the last blog post of this plastic reduction series. I’ve seen many undergrads already receiving their final results, and many postgrads, myself included, will soon be handing in (or have already handed in) our final dissertations. With this closure to the academic year, I will also be bringing this blog series to an end. But before I go, I would like to share two shampoo bar products that I have tried and loved. Shampoo bars that work for your particular hair type are, in my experience, the most difficult to find when it comes to plastic free alternatives, so I am THRILLED to have found two that both work.

Today’s focus are shampoo bars from two brands: Eco Warrior and Faith in Nature. Both are available from Holland and Barrett and Boots so very accessible. Eco Warrior are a British brand that make soap which is vegan, cruelty free and eco-friendly using recyclable packaging. Similarly, Faith in Nature are also UK based, cruelty free, vegan and reducing plastic use by using recyclable and recycled packaging. Eco Warrior are a purely soap bar company, whereas Faith in Nature provide a plethora of options: soap bars, liquid shampoo in fully recycled plastic bottles, the option of buying 5 litre or 20 litre bottles of liquid product to reduce plastic consumption and refill stations in stores across the country.

Eco Warrior – Shampoo Bar, Orange and Ginger Essential Oils, 100g for £4.00

A good size shampoo bar that lathered well when wet. As I’ve not had a great experience with shampoo bars in the past, I found that this one was the first to lather well and could be used by directly placing the bar onto my hair without leaving clumps of product behind. It does take a while to cover your entire head and get to the roots, I would say about twice as long as with liquid product. My hair didn’t need a lot of time to get used to the new product, perhaps a week or so, and after washing, my hair felt very clean and oil free. The only thing that wasn’t ideal about the product was that it seemed to half in size after every use, meaning that it only lasted about a month and a half. My hair, being thick and long probably expedited the use of the product so someone with thinner, shorter hair would definitely get a lot more use out of one bar.

Faith in Nature – Shampoo Bar, Coconut & Shea Butter, 85g on sale for £4.34, RRP £5.79

I have only just started using this shampoo bar but needed to include it in this post despite not giving it a full trial. Despite being a smaller bar, it doesn’t seem to use as much product per wash compared to the Eco Warrior bar implying it will last longer (picture shows new, unused bar on the left vs bar used for two washes on the right).

The thing I noticed which was consistent between bars is the necessary for patience to get enough product for a good lather. But once this is achieved, the result is squeaky clean. Both products weren’t particularly drying or moisturising, so you just achieve a neutral clean. Both bars had a pleasant, mild scent which does not linger in your hair once it is rinsed and dried which some people prefer. If you do like to have some scent to your hair or require extra moisturiser, I recommend following up with a conditioner but this is by no means necessary!

Shampoo is a product I personally use a lot of due to my hair length and type so it is great to find plastic free alternatives although they are not 100% perfect! These were definitely a step in the right direction and may work better for you than they do for me depending on your hair type.

Thus concludes my student friendly guide to plastic reduction series! I am so grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the Sustainability Kent blog as a Sustainability Development Goals Ambassador. Although I will no longer be a student in the very near future, I hope to continue sharing my personal plastic reduction journey perhaps through a newly created blog dedicated to plastic reduction. Thank you to everyone who has given me such wonderful feedback and I hope the series is helpful to students and non-students alike!

Disclaimer: All opinions are my own. I purchased these items with my own money, they are not a gift nor is this post sponsored.

Check out Eco Warrior and Faith in Nature below:

https://www.ecowarriorsoap.co.uk/

https://www.faithinnature.co.uk/

Meet John, the Energy Manager at the University of Kent

My name is John Kingsland and I work within the Estates Department in the Energy Manager role. This means that I have responsibility for managing energy and water use at the Canterbury and Medway sites with an overall aim of reducing the associated carbon dioxide emissions arising from their use.

To achieve this I look at everything from how and where from we purchase our utilities to making sure that our buildings and fittings use energy as efficiently as possible. I also work closely with my colleagues on the Sustainability team on promoting energy efficiency and educating people about the impacts of climate change. In the 5 years I have been in this role, I have noticed a huge shift in people’s attitudes towards climate change. More and more people are realising that reducing our emissions is everybody’s responsibility and not just one we can leave for others to sort out.

With two large and complex campuses and a mix of buildings from residential to commercial and laboratories, calculating our overall energy consumption and carbon footprint is an extremely laborious task. Luckily as an engineer, I’m a dab hand with a spreadsheet and enjoy the numbers side of my role!

Last year we achieved our long-term 10-year Carbon emission reduction target a year early. In 2010, we published a target to reduce our emission by 23% over the next decade. By August 2019 we had achieved a reduction in excess of 29% which is a fantastic achievement given the expansion of the campus over that period.

We are now looking towards the future, setting a new emissions reduction target and developing a new Carbon Management Plan for the University. This has been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic but we hope to be able to announce our new commitments very soon.

Work on carbon reduction in the future is likely to involve looking much more at renewable energy sources. Currently the University has six roof top mounted solar photovoltaic arrays, which have a combined peak output of 175kW. The amount of electricity produced exceeded 1% of the University’s electricity consumption for the first time this year. This might not sound like much, but the energy produced each year would be enough to power 50 UK households.

Looking at the medium to long-term, we are investigating the feasibility of wind turbines and a large photovoltaic array on the Canterbury site.

Although when they think about energy saving most people picture solar panels, wind turbines and electric vehicles, most of the work I do to reducing energy is not visible. Currently, works are being undertaken to improve the energy efficiency of the Central Boiler House. The works in the boiler house are linked to future works on the District Heating System (which provides heating to many of the buildings on campus from a central boiler house) with the overall aim of being able to reduce the flow temperature in the system reducing heat losses. This may also create the option to use alternative and more sustainable sources of heat for the district heating system longer term.

One of the main challenges we face as a University in reducing our carbon footprint is the age of our estate. A large proportion of our building date back to the 1960’s and 70’s and were not exactly designed with energy efficiency in mind. We also have buildings that are listed or sit within conservation areas that have their own restrictions on what we can do. Many of these buildings present very unique challenges, which must be considered individually and bespoke energy saving measures applied.

When we are considering energy saving projects we always look at the payback period. This is how long it will take to recoup the initial costs of the project through subsequent energy savings. Some measures such as installing low energy lightbulbs have a very short payback period (typically less than 1 year) whereas bigger projects with a larger initial outlay such as renewable energy installation, have much longer payback periods often measured in decades rather than years. In order to finance these large-scale projects I am looking at the potential for external funding and possible partnership working to develop projects.

What has changed in 35 years?

The original nature trail on the Canterbury campus was devised in 1985 and written by John Kesby and Ian Swingland. Here are the opening paragraphs from the original guide:

“The nature trail around the University’s 300 acre campus, with its magnificent hillside setting overlooking the Cathedral City of Canterbury and the valley of the Great Stour, has been devised for the benefit of its staff and students, members of the local community and of the thousands of people who visit us during the year, be they conference delegates or holiday makers.

The trail combines the opportunity for attractive walks around the grassy slopes, ponds and woodland of the campus with a challenge to discover how much you can see or hear of the abundant wildlife around us. This brochure will guide you to places where you can find nightingales, willow warblers, great spotted woodpeckers and even the occasional kingfisher, to observe damselflies or Essex skippers; to watch out for lizards, newts, three-spinned sticklebacks or voles; to identify parrot wax caps, prickly lettuce, bristly ox tongue or red goosefoot. We hope it will be enjoyed by those who have difficulty putting a name to even the most common flora and fauna. At the same time, we hope it will be of interest to knowledgeable naturalists and of value to parties from the schools of other groups of wildlife enthusiasts.”

Whilst the description of the campus overlooking the Cathedral may still ring true the list of species that could be seen on campus in 1985 would be much shorter today.

In order to map out what we have lost it is useful to fully understand what we had. Thankfully we have a few copies left of the 1985 guide with its detailed species lists. The Sustainability Team will be digitising all of this information so that it will be available to everyone so that as a community we can start to identify what we still have on campus, what is hard to find and what is gone.

Some trends of population decline go far beyond what we control on campus, however, there may be some species that are found locally that we may be able to encourage back through how we manage our campus and connect to habitats beyond our borders.

We would like students, staff and community members to help us with this undertaking by, in the first instance, recording what they spot. Big or small, common or rare we want to know what you have seen and where you have seen it. At the moment we are just asking people email their information into us at sustainability@kent.ac.uk and we will collate it all as a first step to building a clear picture of what we have on campus.

We are also working on rejuvenating the information about the nature trails and rerouting the original trail around some of the new buildings on campus that now block the original route.

If you are interested in this project and want to volunteer your time on this, please do get in touch.

Maximising our green space at Medway

The Medway campus has a patch of green space that is underused and not particularly relaxing to spend time in (it is next to a busy road). However, the Medway sustainability group
made up predominantly of champions from Student Services know it has great potential to be developed into a space that could provide an alternative to an otherwise urban environment.

We aim to maximise the limited green space at the Medway campus by creating a quiet space for reflection that can be utilised by students, staff and the wellbeing team. As a group we have come up with a series of ideas and designs that utilise the campus’ small patch of woodland as a focal point for a wellbeing and art trail, incorporating music and natural sounds to break up the noise from the road. This will provide a unique space for alternative outdoor therapy for students accessing the University’s mental health services, and a space for all campus users to get away from it all.


We are now at the stage where we want to turn our ideas into a reality and are looking for students and staff to join our group to help us create a space that we can all benefit from.
We are looking for people who will bring new ideas into the group, are resourceful and are happy to volunteer their time on the site. At the moment we are on a break due to the Covid 19 pandemic, however if you would like to join the Medway Sustainability Group please email sustainability@kent.ac.uk and we will add you to our mailing list.

What is coppicing?

At the University of Kent we carry out coppicing across the Canterbury campus as part of our woodland management plans.
The practice of coppicing can be dated back to the Stone Age and is the traditional woodland management technique of repeatedly felling trees at the base and allowing them to regrow. On campus we usually wait around 15 years for a tree to regrow before we fell it again. We work on defined areas within our woodlands, coppicing one section each winter then moving onto the next section a year later. This means we end up with a very diverse range of ages in our trees across our three areas of woodland – Parkwood, Brotherhood wood and Bluebell blue.
Coppicing was traditionally done in order to provide a sustainable supply of timber, however this is not why we coppice at Kent. Our primary goal for coppicing is to improve the health of our trees and create additional benefits for other wildlife. Coppicing is a human intervention that somewhat simulates the act of retrenching (when trees naturally drop their branches to extend their life) which helps our trees live longer within our woodlands. By removing sections of canopy we are increasing the amount of light that can reach the woodland floor. This allows other species of vegetation that are dormant in the seed bank in the soil the chance to grow and increase the diversity of that area. This increase in vegetation increases the amount of habitat and forage opportunities for insects, birds and mammals.
When we coppice we do not clear fell the sections, instead we ensure that very mature trees are left in place, species such as oak and ask are left and we leave a proportion of ivy, holly and bramble to ensure there is cover and forage for other species. We also leave any newly emerging vegetation and any deadwood we find which is useful for insects.
Whilst coppicing we also take the opportunity to remove any invasive vegetation from the area and collect any litter we uncover.

Increasing recycling rates in the School of Biosciences

The Sustainability Champion for the School of Biosciences has led on a project that has seen recycling rates increase threefold. Alex Moore identified a problem in research labs where the layout of bins and lack of clear information meant that researchers were placing the majority of their recyclable waste into general waste bins (this waste goes to incineration with energy recovery).

On initial assessment 99% the waste in the general waste bins was recyclable. Due to the nature of the waste produced in a research lab and the lack of space Alex and colleagues from the Estates Department came up with a trial new waste scheme to test what would work for the lab users.

New small desktop bins were installed to help researchers with ease of correct disposal at their fingertips, without taking up precious desk space. The main lab bins were relabelled to ensure they were clear and to reflect how many recycling bins there should be to general waste bins. Clear communications through posters and labelling were designed to showcase the top ten lab recyclables that should be going into the green marked bins. All labelling was checked by the Safety, Health and Environment Unit to ensure that it was clear what to do with hazardous/contaminated waste.

The Kent Fungal Group were the test lab and the results after a month of trialling were extraordinary with recycling rates increasing threefold. Once the trial was successfully completed the project was rolled out throughout the School of Biosciences.

The Gulbenkian: Project Zero

Project Zero – The Gulbenkian have been on a mission to reduce all waste where possible from their café, theatre and cinema operations.  Since the start of Project Zero, headed up by Sustainability Champion Daniel Parsons, they have:

• Removed all single use plastic bottles in the café, saving an estimated 50000 plastic bottles since August 2018

• Switched to reusable plastic pint and half pint cups which has significantly reduced their single use plastic cup buying

• Partnered with ‘Too Good To Go’ and sold 626 magic bags. These are bags of food that would be thrown away and instead offer meals to customers at significantly reduced rates

• Sent all their milk bottle caps to a company that reuse the plastic, that’s about 300 caps a week

• Hosted a family day on climate change with thoughts, ideas and pledges shared on the ‘SustainabiliTree.’

The Sustainability Team at the Gulbenkian will be continuing Project Zero into the next academic year and will continue their focus on waste as well as looking at carbon.