Nature Volunteers

A new project has been launched in the Life and Environmental Sciences Department within the Faculty of Science and Technology at Bournemouth University.

The NatureVolunteers website links people interested in nature volunteering  with conservation organisations offering project opportunities that help nature.  Opportunities range from student placements to family fun and can be one-off or regular events. There are now over 100 projects to view and there will be lots more advertised soon. 

For more information visit the NatureVolunteers website: .Upcoming opportunities will be showcased on the News section on this website.

Ben Parker

PhD student at Bournemouth University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Life and Environmental Sciences

Microplastics, particles 1 µm-5 mm, are a relatively recent global stressor instigated by rapid human population growth and a consequent reliance on plastics. Particles originate from cosmetic products and the gradual breakdown of larger plastics and eventually reach water courses through surface runoff, wind dispersal and waste outflows. Microplastics are known to impact a range of aquatic organisms, impairing feeding, physiological and reproductive functions, with potentially detrimental consequences for biodiversity and conservation. Whilst many plastics pass through freshwaters, and then pass on to marine systems, the dynamics and consequences of freshwater microplastic are currently poorly understood. This FSBI funded project will therefore address existing knowledge gaps by quantifying the impacts of microplastics on focal freshwater fish and invertebrate taxa. Using novel field research (year 1) and laboratory experiments (years 2-3), I will investigate the individual and community impacts of microplastics on fish, including their disruptions to host-parasite systems. 

Supervisors: Demetra Andreou, Robert Britton, Iain Green

Research Links: LinkedIn, Twitter

BioBlitz Bournemouth

Hengistbury Head are delighted to present their 2019 BioBlitz event, the Great Wildlife Exploration.

Bioblitz 2019 event will be held in King’s Park, Bournemouth (BH7 7AF). It is an amazing opportunity for you to discover and connect with the wildlife right on your doorstep and unleash your inner scientist!

For the last 4 years we have held the Great Wildlife Exploration event at Hengistbury Head Local Nature Reserve, and it has given us a wonderful insight into the species we have on the reserve. However, we felt that it was time for a change, and that another green space deserved its time to shine!

King’s Park has a variety of habitats that have yet to be surveyed for wildlife. As a huge park in the Bournemouth area, the King’s Park Great Wildlife Exploration will give members of the public and experts alike a better understanding of local nature and increased familiarity with resident species.

Work alongside experts

Blitzers will work alongside experts within a 24-hour period (10am, 25th May to 10am, 26th May) to identify and record as many varied species of wildlife as can be found.

What’s happening


The Saturday will host the majority of our activities: join wildlife experts on fantastic guided walks; from moths to mammals, there will be something for everyone!

There will also be stalls hosted by a range of participating organisations with fun family activities on throughout the day.

This is a chance to explore your local park and search for wildlife using real scientific techniques.

We will also be running interactive workshops and craft tables.

You can ask the experts questions, create your own environment-themed masterpieces and spend some quality time out in nature.


Start the day with wildlife! Join us for a special 6am dawn chorus bird walk.

Full programme

Download our poster to explore the full programme.

Be part of something special

Your discoveries will contribute to the knowledge base on our local biodiversity!

No prior experience is needed, and all ages are welcome – but children aged 15 and below should be supervised by an adult.

For more information or to sneak a peek at our preparations, find us on Facebook and Instagram.

Source: Hengistbury Head

Lucile Crété

PhD student at Bournemouth University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Life and Environmental Sciences

The Omo-Turkana basin (Kenya/ Ethiopia) is a key reference region for human evolutionary studies, and provides a detailed record of vertebrate evolutionary patterns. Several aspects of hominins’ ecology and habitats can be investigated using fossils preserved here, as well as global climate and regional environmental processes that drove our evolution.

My research project aims at reconstructing prevailing vegetation conditions through time in the Omo-Turkana basin between 3.5 and 1.6 million years ago, by examining the dietary evidence of the fossil impala (genus Aepyceros) and springbok (genus Antidorcas), through stable isotopes, mesowear and microwear evidence. Changes in the diets of the studied species are expected to be informative about larger-scale habitat and vegetation changes, due to the high dietary adaptability of these abundant mixed-feeding antelopes. A key part of this project will also be to assess the links between modern antelope diets and vegetation cover of the present landscapes, which will be quantified via remote sensing techniques

Research links: Researchgate, Academia, Linkedin

Supervisors: Sally Reynolds, Ross Hill, Philip Hopley

Lindsay Biermann

PhD student at Bournemouth University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Life and Environmental Sciences

My project is researching human disturbance and its effects on wildlife populations. The majority of my study is concentrated on migratory wintering waterfowl, brent geese (Branta bernicla) ​and wigeon (Anas penelope), on the Exe Estuary in Devon and their responses to various human related activities that take place on the Estuary. The aim is to identify how different types of human disturbance effect these waterfowl and whether human disturbance in general is affecting waterfowl survival. This research is being conducted through the combination of field observations of disturbance events and through the use of individual based modeling. With the combination of these factors the hope is to be able to identify thresholds for human disturbance that waterfowl are capable of experiencing before there is a population level effect. Results from this can then help to inform management as well as provide insight into understanding the effects of human disturbance on other animals. 

Research links: Linkedin

Supervisor: Professor Richard Stillman

Jack Dazley

MRes student at Bournemouth University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Life and Environmental Sciences 

Jack Dazley  is a Masters research student whose work is primarily focused on the feeding behaviour and biodiversity of ciliated protozoa; tiny single celled organisms less than a millimetre in size which can be found in a variety of habitats. His research aims to understand the mechanisms of prey selection by these organisms, with particular emphasis on diatoms; microscopic plants with a glass-like shell. Ciliates form a fundamental part of the microzooplankton in aquatic environments, providing food for larger zooplankton species (mesozooplankton) such as rotifers and copepods, and Jack’s research will incorporate microbial diversity into higher trophic level food webs of aquatic ecosystems.

Jack also has wider interests in biodiversity and conservation of both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, from megafauna to microbial species, and also in the paleoecology of extinct species and their ecosystems. Jack is heavily involved in public engagement in the faculty, having delivered guest lectures at BU, and has run stalls for several of BU’s public engagement events, including the festival of learning and the Bournemouth air festival.

Research Links: LinkedIn, ResearchGate, Twitter
Supervisor: Professor Genoveva Esteban

‘Sustainable’ fishing is harming the planet and something needs to be done

‘Sustainable’ fishing is causing major environmental problems according to new research published by Bournemouth University.

While fishing to sustainable targets as aspired to by the UK, EU and many other countries, prevents year on year decline of fish stocks, it still requires ecological devastation in terms of fish numbers (a removal of up to 80% of the initial level) to reach a population capable of producing maximum sustainable yield.

Changes caused to the ecology of the ocean from ‘sustainable’ fishing can have far reaching effects, including limiting the potential for the ocean to absorb greenhouse gasses. Hence, poor fishing practices can exacerbate climate change. 

The research, published in the journal Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, also provides a solution to the problem of overfishing.



Professor Rick Stafford, from the Department of Life and Environmental Sciences at Bournemouth University, says, “The key is to restrict offshore fishing. Generally, offshore fishing uses bigger boats, which can cause more environmental damage with their fishing techniques. Reducing, and maybe eventually eliminating, these boats will create big marine protected areas in the offshore Economic Exclusion Zones of countries and the high seas and allow fish stocks to grow again.”

The focus of fishing then falls on smaller-scale inshore (or artisanal) fishers, which often use less environmentally harmful techniques. They will also benefit from enhanced fish stocks as they ‘spill over’ from the protected offshore areas. While fewer fish would be caught overall, the local supply to coastal communities may increase. This would benefit many people who rely on fish, from struggling coastal economies in the UK through to ensuring protein from fish is readily available to these communities in the developing world.

Such a transition could be timely for the UK in post-Brexit negotiations, and especially beneficial for smaller fishing ports. However, there is a problem, which is the British palate.

Professor Stafford explains, “We don’t eat the fish we catch in the UK, and mainly rely on exports to France and Spain – for the maximum benefit of this approach, we need to change our tastes and eat more shellfish and flatfish. It’s a change which would hugely help the marine environment and coastal jobs and economy.”

The researchers also highlighted the need for more to be done to highlight the problem of over-fishing compared to, say, plastics in the ocean. The latter often gets more media coverage, but actually has less of an impact on the environment when compared to over-fishing.

Rick Stafford continued, “We all know the problems caused by ocean plastic on wildlife and the mess made to our coasts and beaches. To address the issue, many of us carry around refillable water bottles, coffee cups, try to avoid over packaged food, and may even participate in beach cleans, and these are important issues – but not necessarily the most immediate concerns when it comes to climate change and our oceans.”

In a new article in the journal Marine Policy, Rick and colleagues from University College London argue that this is environmental greenwashing, encouraged by large corporations and many governments, but ultimately distracting us from addressing the major environmental issues of climate change and biodiversity loss.

The actual environmental implications of plastic pollution are unknown, but many studies show little direct toxicity effect, and while plastic has been shown to result in death of seabirds, whales, fish and seals, there is little data on the population level effects of plastic on wildlife. This contrasts with the urgent need to address climate change and reduce biodiversity loss, which have been well established in recent international scientific reports.

Professor Stafford concluded, “In terms of reducing plastic pollution, there’s a huge emphasis on individual choices, such as refusing reusable coffee cups or plastic straws. There’s also a range of technological solutions, from the Ocean Cleanup project which is trying to ‘sieve’ plastic from the ocean directly, through to new plant-based plastic alternatives.

“These individual choices and technological ‘fixes’ are simply minor tweaks to a political and economic system which needs a major overhaul, and allow ‘business as usual’ to continue.

“We need to place environmental issues at the heart of our political and economic systems, and address overconsumption and overuse of natural resources as our number one priority – including over-fishing. Unless we do this, we can’t save the planet from plastics, biodiversity loss or climate change.”

Source: Bournemouth University

LISTEN: Inaugural lecture explores how primate behaviours are shaped by environment

Professor Amanda Korstjens is a behavioural ecologist, who studies animals in their natural environments. Her work has taken her around the world to places such as Indonesia, Côte d’Ivoire, Costa Rica and Uganda.

In her inaugural lecture, which took place at Bournemouth Natural Science Society (BNSS), she explored how monkey and ape behaviours are shaped by their environment. She also explained how human modifications to natural environments and climate change are affecting monkeys and apes globally, drawing on her research expertise and work in locations across the world.