Newcastle University

On a Tuesday in mid-December 2017, six students from Newcastle University gathered with their supervisors to give a presentation on their year’s fieldwork to landowners and to specialists from Natural England and Northumberland National Park Authority.

The event was hosted at The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre as part of its role in driving education, research and information sharing. The topics ranged from sheep or goat tracking, cattle grazing, the parasitic mud snail, to vegetation monitoring and the use of a drone (UAV).

The students’ presentations were extremely well received, with the farmer and landowner able to see how the different years of research build up.  Topics such as the mud snail are especially relevant to upland farms where it is linked to the liver fluke.

collars on sheep

The event brought home the benefits of not only bringing such a diverse audience together, but also combining the topics into 1 day, to reach a wider conclusion.

The presentations included:

  • Sheep monitoring: livestock tracking with GPS collars and behavioural observations (Ruth Bell)
  • Vegetation monitoring (Steven Lipscombe)
  • The relationship between parasitic mud snails and pH (Tom Hutchinson)
  • Application of a UAV (drone) in mire quality assessment (Adam Rodgers)
  • College Valley Goats (Laura Melrose)
  • Small mammal distribution relative to habitat type and cattle (Joe Clements)

Four of the presentations had involved fieldwork at the Lampert Farm, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in the south-west of the National Park and also a working upland farm.  Some of the students had even stayed at The Sill YHA during their fieldwork.  Two of the presentations had involved research in the College Valley which is in the far north-west of the National Park.

Both the Lampert and the College Valley will be the focus of more student fieldwork in 2018; it is hoped to use cattle-tracking collars for example to monitor the grazing preferences on some newly flailed molinia areas.

Thanks as well go to Helen Adamson and Richard Bevan for encouraging the students and producing a high quality of work.

The two projects in the College Valley were financed through a bursary from the James Knott Foundation and two of the projects on the Lampert Farm also received an educational bursary from The Sill.