South African study tour voted a massive hit by students

Eighteen of our Level 3 Diploma in Animal Management students were privileged to spend part of this summer studying and traveling within the Shamwari Game Reserve, in South Africa’s Eastern Cape.

This amazing two week opportunity, which opened our students’ eyes to the range of issues facing conservationists, was organised by our animal management department in partnership with gap year specialists Worldwide Experience.

Reaseheath students to raise funds for local cancer charity

Reaseheath College has named North West Cancer Research as its chosen charity of the year.

Students at the leading land-based college in Nantwich voted for the charity after learning of its commitment to supporting cancer research in the North West.

Members of Reaseheath’s Student Association plan to raise more than £15,000 for North West Cancer Research over the next 12 months by hosting a series of fundraising events. Already planned are several band nights, a staff versus students Tough Mudder challenge and a Halloween cellar tour.

The students will also support the charity in its awareness raising campaigns which run throughout the year, such as its #suncreamselfie campaign, which highlights sun safety and skin cancer symptoms.

The funds they raise will go towards potentially lifesaving research at universities in Liverpool, Lancaster and Bangor. Projects currently supported by North West Cancer Research include the improvement of skin cancer drug treatments and the use of proton beam therapies in the treatment of patients with head and neck cancers.

Student Association RAG (Raising and Giving) Chair Tom Allen, a BSc Wildlife Conservation and Ecology undergraduate, said: “Cancer is a horrible disease which unfortunately touches so many people. We all know someone close to us who has sadly been diagnosed with cancer, or lost a loved one to it.

“As a student group we have always been keen to support local causes and charities which make a real impact to our everyday lives. When we learned of the work which North West Cancer Research does to fund lifesaving research, we knew it was a charity we wanted to support. Knowing that the money we raise will help researchers who are based locally, and that this research could potentially help people on our doorstep, was really important to us.

“We are looking forward to raising money for the charity and doing our bit to support cancer research. It’s important that we do everything we can to help give more people a chance to survive cancer, which is why we hope to raise as much money as possible in the next year.”

Over the past 28 years, students and staff at Reaseheath College have raised more than £248,000 for local charities.

Bobby Magee, fundraising manager at North West Cancer Research, said: “We are proud to have been selected as Reaseheath College’s charity of the year. Support from community groups is crucial to our fundraising as it enables us to engage with the wider community and pledge more funding for research.

“Cancer will affect one in two of us during our lifetime. Today, thanks to research, half of all people diagnosed with cancer will survive. With the help of supporters like these students, we can help eliminate cancer and save more lives sooner.”

North West Cancer Research is the biggest independent funder of cancer research in the North West and has committed to funding more than £13 million worth of research over the next five years.

Header image caption: Members of Reaseheath’s Student Association let their hair down at this year’s RAG charity ball.



New lizard species identified by Reaseheath lecturer

Research by Reaseheath herpetologist Dr Simon Maddock has helped to formally identify a new species of Indian lizard, the Giri’s geckoella Cyrtodactylus (Geckoella) varadgiri.

A scientific paper containing a species description of the lizard, which was co-written by Simon, has been published today (Friday 23 September)  in the peer reviewed scientific journal Zootaxa following an in-depth examination by scientific experts.  A species description gives a clear description of a new species and explains how it differs from species which have been described previously.

Simon was a member of a collaborative research team from the UK, India and the USA to study the prominently patterned bent-toed gecko, which comes from Western and Central India. The lizard, which is 6cm – 7cm in total length, was named after esteemed Indian herpetologist Varad Giri in recognition of his contribution to Indian herpetology while he was a Curator at the Bombay Natural History Society.

The research, which was led by Ishan Agarwal of Villanova University, USA, used a combination of DNA and external characteristics to identify the new species. Although Giri’s geckoella has been documented for over 20 years, it was until now believed that the population belonged to the closely related forest spotted gecko (Geckoella collegalensis) from Southern India.

Giri’s geckoella is quite widely distributed and can be found from sea level around Mumbai up to approximately 350 m in deciduous forest, scrub and agricultural land. The species is active at night where it can be seen moving along the floor, during the day it retreats under rocks and logs. If disturbed, the lizard will make a defensive squealing call.

Simon, who is a Course Manager for our Level 3 Extended Diploma in Animal Management, completed his Level 3 National Diploma in Animal Management with us in 2007 before studying for a Masters Degree in Zoology at Bangor University, followed by a PhD jointly funded by London’s Natural History Museum and the University College London. He is currently a Research Associate of the Natural History Museum and is a world expert on the amphibians of the Seychelles.

Simon said: “The identification of this new species of lizard is extremely exciting and one of particular importance to the biodiversity of Central and Western India. It is likely that, over the coming years, more species belonging to this group of lizards will be discovered and described as new species.”

Simon has been involved in a number of key research projects and he has been a speaker at several global conferences. His published research can be found here.

Read more about this new species of Indian lizard here.

Chance to fund research of rare lizards

An exciting crowd funding opportunity has been launched to send two Reaseheath animal science lecturers to Ecuador to help in the study of two rare and endangered species of lizard, Riama yumborum and Riama oculata.

BBC Radio Stoke enjoys a visit to Reaseheath Zoo

Spotlight on equine science graduate Natalie Harrison

Before enrolling at Reaseheath, Natalie Harrison ran her own business as a freelance groom but after working at a racehorse rehabilitation yard, her interest in equine rehabilitation and therapy blossomed.

Reaseheath herpetologist speaks at World Congress in China

Reaseheath herpetologist Simon Maddock was among international experts to speak at the 8th World Congress of Herpetology, held in China last month.

Simon, a former Reaseheath student who has now joined our lecturing staff, is recognised globally for his research on the ecology, conservation and evolution of Seychelles caecillians (legless amphibians), a subject he studied for his PhD. He was one of six invited speakers at the Caecilian Symposium, where he presented his findings on his speciality to an audience of fellow scientists from around the world. Other speakers included representatives from London’s Natural History Museum, the world leader in caecilian biology.

Simon, who is a Course Manager for our Level 3 Extended Diploma in Animal Management, was also able to spend time at the five day congress networking with fellow scientists, discussing potential global collaborations and learning about state-of-the-art research.  His congress registration fee was funded through Reaseheath’s Scholarly Activity Fund and he will use his experiences to help with the delivery of lectures and for running research projects for undergraduates and Further Education students.

He explained: “Taking part in these conferences gives you the chance to interact with world renowned biologists. Following my talk I received a lot of approaches from delegates keen to exchange ideas and form research partnerships, and these could greatly benefit our students as well as the species we are studying.”

Simon completed his Level 3 National Diploma in Animal Management with us in 2007 and went on to volunteer with the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust in India, where he helped to care for 600 captive crocodiles. He then completed a Masters degree in zoology at Bangor University before moving to London to study for his PhD, which was jointly funded by the Natural History Museum and the University College London.

He has previously given a talk about the evolution of Seychelles amphibians and snakes at similarly prestigious conferences including Evolution which was held in North Carolina, USA. His published research can be found here.

Simon was also the author of a top trending scientific article after identifying a new Australian species – a highly venomous snake called the Kimberley death adder.

He also discovered a new species of leaf litter lizard from the Ecuadorian Andes, the Yumbos riama lizard, after studying the country’s reptiles and amphibians.

Caption:  Simon and other international speakers at the Caecilian Symposium, which was part of the World Congress of Herpetology

Research may lead to better life for sun beetles

Research by a Reaseheath College lecturer may lead to improved welfare and living conditions for sun beetles (Pachnoda marginata peregrina).

HE Lecturer in Animal Management James Brereton has been investigating the requirements of the sun beetle, a species widely held in zoos and private collections. No previous detailed research has been carried out on the insects’ physical and social requirements or on the suitability of current enclosures for the species.

James began the project, which is still continuing, in September 2015 and is studying his own collection and another held at Reaseheath zoo. In the first five and a half months of the trial he completed 1135 observations which included counting the number of beetles in each zone of the enclosure and whether they preferred leaf litter, live plants, fake plants or logs.

The beetles were identified by individual markings made with nail varnish. He also looked at their food preferences and their response to natural changes in temperature and UV light.

James’ results suggest that the beetles significantly increase their use of higher enclosure areas in response to UV light and that their activity levels increase in response to higher temperatures. He also found that some survived for over 10 months when it was previously thought they only have a life expectancy of five months. His studies unearthed the fact that the beetles spend an average of 34% of their lives below ground, a fact not previously appreciated.

The implications are that sun beetles will be more active and of more interest to the public if they have basking light in their enclosure, and that providing UV light may increase animal welfare.

James has presented the results of his project and how these could affect best practice to over 200 professionals at the Association of British and Irish Wild Animal Keepers (ABWAK) annual conference and to over 80 specialists at the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) Research Conference. Some attendees were so interested in his findings that they are considering setting up their own research projects.

He is continuing to investigate the social behaviour and preferred food of this understudied species and has already found evidence that the beetles have individual characters and that they form social bonds. He is currently writing up the data and hopes to publish next year.

James is hoping that his research will help to change the public’s perception of sun beetles, as well as improving the care of captive collections.

He points out: “We know a lot about large mammals and birds but not a lot about smaller species, which can be equally fascinating. The more we learn about them, the more able we are to provide them with relevant accommodation and nutrition.

“Enclosure design has developed into a science and has become a key study area. There is a need for evidence-based enclosures which reflect the biological needs of their inhabitants. Hopefully my research will lead to improved enclosure design and better care for sun beetles in the future.”


Spolight on equine science graduate Charlotte Woolley

In 2014, Charlotte Woolley graduated with a First Class BSc (Hons) Equine Science degree and was awarded a prestigious internship to visit the Middleburg Agricultural Research and Extension (MARE) Center, part of the Virginia Tech State University, USA.

Spotlight on dairy technologist Melanie Leloup

A Quality Support Manager with Muller in Bridgwater, Somerset, Melanie was awarded the ‘best student’ accolade from National Skills Academy for Food and Drink when she graduated from our EDEN programme last year.