Our hedgehog friendly campus

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Improving biodiversity is a key part of the University’s commitment to social responsibility and sustainability in the Strategy 2030. The Social Responsibility and Sustainability (SRS) and Estates Landscaping teams team are leading on a host of projects to protect and improve the biodiversity around Edinburgh.

One such project is the Hedgehog Friendly campus which has attracted staff and students alike. This February, the University was awarded a silver accreditation as a Hedgehog Friendly Campus. The project also helped to secure the Campus of the Future Award at the annual Green Gown Awards in recognition of its innovative work to improve biodiversity and climate adaptation, both on its campuses and in partnership with the City of Edinburgh Council. Here the SRS team share a bit more about the project.

Why hedgehogs?

Increasing habitat loss in rural areas means hedgehogs are moving into more built-up areas. Urban areas present the creatures with a host of challenges including road traffic, litter, poisoning and lack of access to food and water.

When we protect habitats for hedgehogs, we also protect them for a number of other species vital to our ecosystems. Our work as part of the Hedgehog Friendly Campus accreditation is just a part of our wider biodiversity strategy to address both biodiversity loss and climate change in Scotland. By maintaining and allowing a diversity of species in our green and blue spaces ensures the resilience of ecosystems.

How we’re protecting hedgehogs

The University’s working with partner organisations to educate staff, students, and the neighbouring community about hedgehog-friendly behaviour. Our landscape experts are creating habitats where the mammals can feed, shelter and breed.

Frances Ryan and Jonathan Long helping with a hedgehog survey.

Twenty volunteers underwent training to enable them to carry out hedgehog footprint surveys on the Easter Bush campus. Hog prints were found in three locations, as a result, cameras were set up in these locations to capture further evidence of their presence.

Hedgehog friendly activities have included:

  • Workshops to build hedgehog houses,
  • The creation of information leaflets that are available at Easter Bush and Pollock Halls,
  • The Landscape team taking part in training on what to do if they find a hedgehog, and
  • Raising awareness on social media using #HedgehogFriendlyUoE.

Meet one of our Hedgehog Champions

Frances Ryan is a Warden at Pollock Halls and has contributed to this project from its inception. She tells bulletin a bit more about her involvement.

“In 2018, I saw the Hedgehog Friendly Campus project had been advertised elsewhere. I knew hedgehog numbers have been declining across Britain and Ireland for some time and just thought the University of Edinburgh should do this! Having seen hedgehogs about on University sites previously, I thought it made sense for us to work to keep them.

“I contacted SRS and we started working together. Living and working at Pollock Halls, it seems a perfect opportunity to get students on board too. And we did! Our international students have not always seen hedgehogs before.

“Students supported the project by surveying hedgehogs, donating and building hedgehog homes. Our catering staff at the JMCC have also kept us informed about the hedgehogs they have seen late at night or early in the morning when they come into and leave work.”

How has the Pandemic affected your work on this project?

“Last Spring our plans were put partially on hold but not entirely. The benefit of living on site meant that those living on site could still survey and meet Covid-19 guidance. A Warden, James Jarvis and the Jarvis family helped to survey the hedgehogs here at Pollock Halls. We could survey as a group but not at the same time.

“Since September 2020, we have more students and staff who have agreed to be Hedgehog Champions! Jonathan Long from Estates has been amazing and really practical throughout all of this. It’s been a pleasure to know the staff who keep our grounds looking good and are undertaking active work for the benefit of biodiversity.

“During the pandemic I also managed to make contact with a local artist, Alice Druitt and we have been working with Alice since. Going forward, this will help to draw more attention to the needs of hedgehogs, other wildlife and to the project itself!”

How does it feel to get a silver award?

“It feels amazing to give something back to our wildlife! I had no idea that we had been nominated, so a very BIG surprise. We were already aiming to expand the work, but this certainly gives us a boost. It means a lot as I have really just volunteered my time on top of my normal duties for something that I think is important for us all as a society. I never expected anything as the work is rewarding enough but the award is certainly the icing on the cake!

“Next we’re aiming for gold – without a doubt! We plan to promote the project even more and get the message out there that what is good for hedgehogs has benefits for other wildlife. We’re looking to work with those who have gardens in Edinburgh too – as a University, we’re keen to support the local community. Biodiversity and hedgehogs do not just stop at boundaries.

“So, if you are reading this, want to know more about the project or have a garden in Edinburgh, do get in touch! If you would like to be a Hedgehog Champion and support the project in ways big and small, we would love to hear from you.”

How to get involved

If you want to support the efforts to protect biodiversity on campus, get in touch:  srs.department@ed.ac.uk.

This feature was adapted from the SRS blog the seed. You can read more about the Green Gown Awards here.