Students from Reaseheath’s Academy of Land and Environment are to help monitor re-introduced water voles at the National Trust’s Attingham Park in Shropshire.

National Trust environmental specialists are in the first stage of creating a wetland habitat suitable for the fast declining mammals and aim to reintroduce a captive bred population in summer 2022. The project is being funded by the Environment Agency, which is advising on how to create the best conditions for the voles.

Reaseheath has a long history of working in partnership with outside agencies and will involve Level 3 Advanced Technical Extended Diploma in Game and Wildlife Management students in researching and actively monitoring the area once the voles have settled in. Animal science undergraduates from University Centre Reaseheath may use the project as a research subject for their final dissertation, and diploma students from other countryside courses may also visit the project.

Once a common sight along the country’s waterways, water voles have disappeared from 94% of locations since the 1960s. Their decline is attributed to habitat loss, pollution and predation by non-native American mink.

The National Trust hopes to reverse this by creating suitable habitat through enhancing two parallel ditches and a pond on farmland within the Attingham estate. Dams and shelves are to be built along the water corridor to ensure the water remains at the correct depth for the voles. Only materials from the estate will be used in the construction, and soil removed from the reinstated ditches will be incorporated into the site.

Over the summer the ditches and pond will be re-planted with reeds and grasses to provide a food source for the voles and to support the birds, amphibians, mammals and insects that will also make the new habitat their home.

Dr Julia Casperd, a lecturer at Reaseheath’s Academy of Land and Environment, has been assisting with the project over the past year and will lead on linked activities which will provide practical skills for our Level 3 students and scholarly opportunities for our undergraduates.

She said: “This is an exciting opportunity for students across several academic levels to gain the proven industry skills and practical experience which employers require. In addition they will have the satisfaction of helping to secure the future of one of Britain’s favourite species, which at the moment is highly endangered.”

Reaseheath’s Academy of Land and Environment combines the expertise and resources from our Agriculture, Countryside and Horticulture departments, enabling students to learn skills which will help shape the future of farming, food production and sustainable environmental conservation.

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