Research Buzzing in the North Haugh

beesThe Environment and Grounds teams have collaborated on a project to build a research apiary in the North Haugh. Professor David Evans, School of Biology, how has recently joined the University of St Andrews said “this is an outstanding resource to underpin our research on the virus diseases of honeybees which are responsible for high levels of colony losses every year. Bees dislike rain and strong winds, so keeping hives under cover means the colonies are a lot less disturbed when opened during bad weather.” He went on to add that “our studies depend on having bees available for as much of the year as possible. The sheltered environment of the ‘bee shed’ will help keep colonies active in early Spring and late Autumn.” Further details are available from the research group website http://www.evanslab.org.uk/bees/

 

 

Green Events not to miss this Freshers’ Week

Here are the highlights for all things sustainability-related in St Andrews during Freshers’ Week – don’t miss out!

Monday

The Big Green Fair (St Katherine’s Lawn behind Library, 11am-3pm) is an outdoor festival celebrating the environment, with live music and great local food. Find out more about what our eco-friendly societies are up to this year and how to get involved in their activities & projects.

The Big Giveaway with StAnd Re-Use (same time, Arts lecture theatre): Household items, kitchenware and stationery donated by previous students, all available for free! That’s right – FREE! Arrive early to avoid disappointment and don’t forget to bring a bag

Tuesday – Carbon Conversations, St Andrews Botanic Garden, 12pm – 1:30pm

Carbon Conversations is a free 6-session programme run in St Andrews which looks at individual carbon footprints and what can be done to reduce them, through interactive sessions which include games and group discussions as well as individual reflection. This taster session will introduce you to some of the activities so you can decide if it is for you, while enjoying lunch in the beautiful surroundings of the St Andrews Botanic Gardens. Bring a friend and pick up some great energy and money-saving tips!
Meet at the front gate at 12pm or find us either in the glassclass or learning den. Bring your lunch and we will have some to share

Wednesday – Sow, Grow and Eat at the University Community Garden, 2-4pm
Growing your own food is a skill for life. With the University now having 10 food growing spaces that are open to students, staff and local people it’s also a very popular part of life here. Find out more and get your hands dirty at this special session in the St Andrews University Community Garden where we will be harvesting crops and enjoying some food made from the garden’s produce. Drop in at any time during this session. (Edible Campus: Transition UStA event)IMG_1524

University Community Garden (opposite the Observatory on Buchanan Gardens)
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1145078895519158/

 

Thursday – Charitable and Volunteering Fair, Students’ Association, 11am onwards

Passionate about development and Fairtrade? Then come to our stall at the Charitable and Volunteering Fair and find out how you can get involved. This is an especially exciting time to do so as the town is celebrating its 10 year anniversary as a ‘Fairtrade Town’ and the University will also be celebrating its 10 year anniversay, in 2016. What are you waiting for?

Friday – Freshers’ Bike Sale, Agnes Blackadder Car Park, 10am onwards

Looking for a cheap, green and healthy way of getting  around town? Want to learn how to fix your bike? Then come along to our annual and extremely popular second hand bike sale!

This year Bikeworks will bring bikes, teaming up with St Andrews Bike Pool so you can learn to fix your new bike or bring along one you own already to ensure it’s in good working order.

We sell out very quickly so make sure to be early to avoid disappointment!

 

freshers bike sale

 

Guest Blog: Biodiversity Enhancement at the University of St Andrews

This week’s blog post comes to you from Nic Wells, one of Transition’s interns, as he introduces you to biodiversity at the University of St Andrews…

Biodiversity MapAs part of its sustainability policy, the University of St Andrews has committed itself to reducing its environmental impact through numerous practices, one of which is fostering and increasing biodiversity on its grounds. Under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) 2004 Act, the University is bound to promote biodiversity, and doing this will raise awareness of environmental issues within the university and the local community.

Why is biodiversity so important?

The biodiversity present on the earth make up ecosystems, and these ecosystems provide us with certain services. Some of these ecosystem perks are intangible like water and air purification, and some are concrete and economically useful, like timber production. Conserving biodiversity makes environmental and economic sense, and doing so can also provide aesthetic benefits to communities.

So, what types of biodiversity is the University working to preserve? How is it doing this?

Birds

bluetit

Birds are key ecological actors. Bird species maintain stable insect populations, increase genetic diversity through plant pollination and ensure forest survival through seed dispersal and plant pollination. Additionally, their migratory patterns and feeding habits have been crucial for environmental monitoring of climate change and pollutant levels (BirdLife International, 2015).

For many bird species that have been affected by habitat loss, nestboxes act as substitutes for the holes found in old trees (RSPB, 2014). Nestbox design – hole width and depth – varies according to the species it is intended to attract; for example, a small nest box could attract coal tits or tree sparrows, while an open-fronted nest box would attract robins or spotted flycatchers (British Trust for Ornithology, 2015). The University is in the process of installing small nest boxes, which are designed mainly to attract blue tits, but they will also provide homes for coal tits and great tits.

The University, with the help of a Postgraduate student, is planning to set up around 100 bird boxes throughout University grounds; these will be located in clusters in the arboretum, in the “secret garden” beside the Bute Building, in a space behind the Observatory, and in the Botanic Gardens. Their installation is part of a study that is designed to investigate the vocal communication patterns between blue tits when warning each other about incoming predators.

Bats

bat

Bats perform important ecological roles. Like birds, they pollinate flowers, disperse plant seeds and control insect populations. However, their contribution to wider ecosystem dynamics is threatened around the world due to losses of suitable habitat.

Bats typically prefer to roost in warm places during the summer and in cooler placers in the winter. During the summer, pregnant female bats form maternity roosts by congregating in a safe place to give birth. If they are disturbed during this period, they may abandon their young (Bat Conservation Trust, 2015). Bat boxes offer additional and alternative resting spaces for bats throughout the year. Like nestboxes, bat box characteristics such as size, location, construction materials and access are crucial to bat inhabitation and survival. For example, placing them close to freshwater, trees and hedgerows provides access to foraging areas (Bat Conservation Trust, 2015).

The University has just recently installed two bat boxes, one at David Russell Apartments and one at the Bute Building.

Wildflowers

flowers

Wildflower species have declined over the decades, mainly due to changes in land-use patterns. Wildflower meadows support higher levels of biodiversity and provide natural services, like pollination, biological pest control and insect conservation, which in turn benefit other fauna such as birds and bees (Haaland et al, 2011). Wildflower strips are relatively easy to establish and maintain. Wildflowers thrive in either seasonally waterlogged soil or areas with low soil fertility (Forestry Commission, 2015). The University is currently running a trial to observe the relationship between greater abundance of wildflowers and insect species levels at Albany Park.

Insects

insecthotel

The primary purpose of insect hotels, also called biodiversity towers, is to provide additional habitat space for small organisms, insects and other invertebrates. Often, the hotels are used during hibernation or breeding periods. They can be built from a variety of natural and/ or repurposed materials. The hotel stacks imitate natural features required by wildlife species like nooks, crannies and rotting tree trunks (Ulster Wildlife Trust). For example, dead wood provides habitat for beetles, centipedes, woodlice and spiders, and materials with holes act as shelter for solitary bees, which are crucial for pollination. The University currently “runs” two hotels: one in the Albany Park garden and one at the BMS (Biomedical Sciences) Building at the North Haugh, and it operates a biodiversity tower in the University Hall garden.

Check out this link to see what nest boxes, bat boxes and insect hotels look like.

Sources
Bat Conservation Trust (2015) ‘Bat roosts’ [online], available: http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/bat_roosts.html
BirdLife International (2015) ‘We value birds for many reasons’ [online], available: http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/sowb/introduction/INTRO4
The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) (2015) ‘Which birds use next boxes?’ [online], available: http://www.bto.org/about-birds/nnbw/nesting-birds
Forestry Commission (2015) ‘Wildflower meadow habitats’ [online], available: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/fr/urgc-7edjrg
Haaland, C., Naisbit, R.E. and Bersier, L. (2011) ‘Sown wildflower strips for insect conservation: a review’, Insect Conservation and Diversity, 4(1), 60-80.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) (2014) ‘Nestboxes for small birds’ [online], available: http://www.rspb.org.uk/makeahomeforwildlife/advice/helpingbirds/nestboxes/smallbirds/index.aspx
Ulster Wildlife Trust (Year unavailable) ‘Building an Insect Hotel Habitat’ [online], available: http://www.bbcwildlife.org.uk/sites/birmingham.live.wt.precedenthost.co.uk/files/Insect%20Hotel.pdf

A sneak peek at Green Week

preview(1)

With Green Week kicking off on 7th March, we’ve put together an easy guide to the week’s events, whether you’re into poetry or permaculture, ethical investment or eco-beer. Go get your green on!

If you want to…get your hands dirty

There are plenty of opportunities to get down and dirty during Green Week! Want to get into gardening but don’t know where to start? Uni Hall gardener, Charlotte Davis, will be running an “Introduction to Permaculture” session on Wednesday afternoon to get you all clued up. Or if you prefer sand to soil, get yourself down to next Sunday’s Beach Clean with the Marine Conservation Society to help keep West Sands beautiful.

Leave a lasting legacy in St Andrews by coming along to one of our tree planting sessions – taking place on Monday at DRA, on Tuesday in the Community Garden, and on Wednesday at Albany Park. If you prefer to eat the things you plant, help plant fruit trees as part of an edible walkway in Guardbridge, celebrate the creation of a new Edible Campus garden at Agnes Blackadder Hall, and get stuck into some vegetable seed sowing at Andrew Melville Hall. Full details of times and locations are available here.

If you want to…try something new

Get yourself along to Sunday’s Skillshare Extravaganza – try your hand at everything from photography to cooking, hen keeping to bike maintenance, and much, much more! All the sessions are completely free (including the tasty lunch!), and will be running from 10.30-4.30pm in the Cosmos Centre.

If you want to…shape a sustainable future for the University

Tuesday’s Transition Open Forum is the place for you to share your big ideas for our small town, creating a sustainable vision for the future of St Andrews.  If you’re curious to find out how the University’s money is managed, come along to meet the fund managers at “Investing for a better future” on Wednesday and find out how our £48 million of endowed gifts have been invested.

If you want to…work up a sweat

Sign your sports club up to Cycletricity – the most competitive event of Green Week! Watch as the teams battle it out to produce the most bicycle-powered electricity in 20 minutes. Not part of a sports club? No problem! There will be a give-it-a-go session between 12-1pm so anyone can hop on a bike and feel the burn!

If you want to…get creative

Feeling crafty? Beat the 5p bag charge, and upcycle a boring bag or decorate a 100% Fairtrade cotton tote bag with the help of CraftSoc this Saturday. Alternatively, head along to one of StAnza’s climate change themed poetry readings, or explore folklore stories in the surrounds of the Botanic Garden with environmental writer Mandy Haggith on Monday.

If you want to…get sustainably sloshed

Reward yourself after a hard day’s tree planting! Cosy up with a glass of wine on Monday night at Topping & Co to celebrate the launch of Joanna Blythman’s latest book “Swallow This”, an expose on the food processing industry. If the Brew Pub is more your scene, sample a socially responsible tipple (or two!) at our biodynamic and organic tasting on Tuesday, or join Transition from some green chat over local brews on Thursday.

____

Don’t forget to check out the Green Week website, Facebook, and Twitter (@GreenWeekStA) for the full event lineup and latest updates!

Environment Team Year in Review

Year in review

It’s been a busy old year for the Environment Team, so we thought we’d take this opportunity to reflect on what we’ve been up to over the last 12 months…

The year kicked off with new food waste regulations which came into force on 1st January, pushing our total recycling rate up to 73%! Once our food waste is collected, it goes on a rather interesting journey…click here to find out more about what happens to it after it leaves our kitchens.

nexus-r-shuttle-recycling-bin-signkitOne of many new food waste bins to pop up over the campus in 2014!

Once everyone returned for Semester 2 our first big event was Fairtrade Fortnight, with a whole host of activities planned to help raise awareness about trade issues including Fairtrade wine tasting, campaigning at local supermarkets, and a talk from a Nicaraguan coffee producer.

IMG_0608Fairtrade wine tasting in Fairtrade Fortnight.

Hot on the heels of Fairtrade Fortnight, 2014 saw the biggest Green Week yet with 35 events attracting over 750 participants – including the Principal! From tree planting to beach cleans, and swap shops to film screenings, there was plenty to keep us busy!

Green Week Pledge - PrincipalLouise Richardson pledges to make the University carbon neutral during her term of office.

This spring our five Transition interns surveyed various parts of the campus to record their levels of biodiversity. St Mary’s Quad and Andrew Melville pond were found to be particular hotspots for wildlife, so be sure to keep an eye out the next time you’re passing through!

Red Admiral (2)Red Admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta)

As students prepared to pack up and leave for the summer, StAndRe-Use were out collecting unwanted items and donations to pass onto students in September. Over a tonne of items were collected including household items, sports equipment, stationary, books, DVDs, thousands of clothes hangers, and a plethora of other weird and wonderful goods!

1907648_1412791679003714_120925503465276672_nJust a small selection of items collected by StAndRe-Use.

Estates was a hub of activity over the summer with three student interns joining the team to work on a number of projects. Find out what Dominyka, Daihachi, and Elena got up to in each of their respective blog posts.

There was also plenty to celebrate as the Museum of the University of St Andrews (MUSA) received a Gold Green Tourism Award for their commitment to environmental excellence and sustainability in practice. Read more about MUSA’s green efforts here.

P1060479MUSA – the latest recipient of a Gold Green Tourism Award.

As we welcomed new students to St Andrews in September, we also launched our updated Little Green Guide, and got to meet a lot of new faces at Transition’s Big Green Fair on a gloriously sunny day on St Katherine’s Lawn. The queue for the big StAndRe-Use giveaway snaked all the way round the library, and all 4,000 items disappeared within an hour, marking yet another successful event for the team!

1466148_761842487209824_2028672481353058614_nOur Freshers’ Week mural full of green pledges!

October was a particularly busy month for us with Transition hosting Scotland’s first Transition Roadshow event, welcoming fellow “transitioners” from across the country to network and share ideas. We also launched our Green Raisin Competition and were overwhelmed with the number of fantastic, sustainably-designed entries, as well as our achievement of making this year’s foam fight the first one to produce zero waste to landfill. On top of all that, the new carrier bag charge came into effect at the end of the month, and our biomass plant at Guardbridge received planning permission from Fife Council. Keep up to date with developments over at the Guardbridge Energy Centre site.

Rebecca Clark & Sarah Fenner - St Andrews themed MonopolyThe winners of our Green Raisin Competition.

November saw a new set of Environmental Facilitators “graduate” from our training course at an event attended by the Quaestor and Factor, Derek Watson. Our banana suit was also put to good use publicizing the university’s renewed Fairtrade status, along with the launch of our Fairtrade gift guide. Be sure to keep an eye out for news about Fairtrade Fortnight 2015 – can we manage to top the success of this year?

Environmental FacilitatorsEnvironmental Facilitators’ graduation event.

Finally, as the students all knuckled down for their exams and began to leave St Andrews to spend the holidays elsewhere, we launched our Winter Shutdown campaign to ensure we manage to save as much energy as possible over the break by switching off all electrical appliances and turning down the radiators. Our Environmental Facilitators helped spread this message to all our staff, as well as setting up food bank donation points across the campus, collecting over 150kg to donate to the St Andrews food bank to spread a little Christmas cheer.

Donated foodThe huge collection of food bank donations from our Environmental Facilitators.

All in all a pretty good year! We’ll be back blogging again in January, but until then…

Merry Christmas centred

Green Societies Guide

10458859_693481564069381_2113089142360349256_nIf you missed all the fun of the (Big Green) Fair on Monday, then don’t worry – there are still plenty of opportunities to meet the green societies and groups based in St Andrews. Check out our previous blog post for the full Freshers’ event line-up, or keep reading for our run-down of the different groups St Andrews has to offer – there really is something for everyone!

Animal Welfare Society

524962_147884018691164_2139361533_nThe Animal Welfare Society (AWSoc) are dedicated to the wellbeing and fair treatment of all animal kind. The society  campaigns against cruelty to animals and supports animal-friendly alternatives. The society also volunteers and fundraises for local shelters, and host regular documentary nights.

Check out their website and Facebook page to get involved.

Bike Pool Group

fd3c2f_8542d1b388d71c462639b8017a265d28.png_srz_1800_1200_85_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_png_srzThe Bike Pool are a community Group with a three-part program:
1. To operate as a skill share, primarily of bike repair and maintenance skills
2. To refurbish abandoned/donated bicycles so they can be put back into circulation in the local community
3. To promote cycling within our community as a healthy and sustainable form of transportation

Join their Facebook group to find out more information about the group and upcoming maintenance sessions.

Carbon Conversations

coffee-cup-image-300x212Carbon Conversations are a unique and inspiring series of 6 group discussions, and are cited as one of the top solutions to climate change. The sessions involve group activities, knowledge-building, idea-sharing and reflections, where participants will have the opportunity to explore climate change both practically and emotionally.

Sign up for a series of sessions here.

Edible Campus

1969157_366580283485024_996722225_nThe Edible Campus project aims to reinvigorate our skills, knowledge and interest in eating more locally whilst increasing the amount of food growing within the University grounds for the benefit of students, staff and the wider community. There are over 10 different Edible Campus food growing spaces across town, and everyone is welcome to get involved – whether you’re a keen gardener or have never planted anything before!

Check out the Edible Campus webpage, like their Facebook page or join the Facebook group for more info!

Environment Team (that’s us!)

1465925_609448629115878_1841238397_oWe manage issues affecting the University that relate to sustianable development, including carbon emissions, biodiversity, waste reduction, transportation and resource use. We use this blog to engage with students to provide information on upcoming events and opportunities to get involved in making St Andrews a more sustainable place to live, work, and study.

Join us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with events, and drop us an email (environment@st-andrews.ac.uk) or check out our website for practical information regarding sustainable travel, food, energy use, the local environment, and waste management.

Fairtrade Steering Group

FairtradeLogoWhiteThe Fairtrade Steering Group promotes the use of Fairtrade products across campus and works on Fairtrade initiatives. The group also organises events for Fairtrade Fortnight, which takes place in semester 2 with Fairtrade wine tasting, bake sales, talks, visits to local schools, and the ever-popular Fairtrade Cook-Off!

Like their Facebook page or email fairtrade@st-andrews.ac.uk to get involved!

Greenpeace St Andrews

profile_img1_greenpeaceGreenpeace exists because this fragile earth deserves a voice. It needs solutions. It needs change. It needs action. If you like a good project and a good cause, join Greenpeace. The group encourage you to join the action and the fun in any of their weekly meetings, street campaigns, actions or socials!

Find them on Facebook or Twitter to start getting involved.

OneWorld Society

50494_35775563516_9171_nOneWorld campaigns on human rights, poverty, and the environment as part of People and Planet (the largest UK student campaigning network). They also organise numerous events and run the VegBox scheme.

Join the OneWorld Facebook group, or the VegBox group to find out more.

Saint Exchange

10460451_318878784943846_5836232256016066555_nSaint Exhange is a local trading scheme allowing people to trade locally in and around St Andrews. The scheme allows local residents to join for free and trade goods/skills/services using “Saints”.  By measuring trades using “Saints”, the scheme provides a service whereby members can share skills and talents that they enjoy and thus earn Saints, which they can spend them on the things that they want or need from other members.

To sign up, check out their website and Facebook page.

St Andrews Environmental Network (StAndEn)

10455322_738217186201162_6047836635977374219_nStAndEn is a community-led energy saving project, which aims to help you reduce CO2 emissions and cut household fuel bills through simple low cost steps. If you live in private rented accommodation, they can do a free home energy assessment and tell you how you can make savings.

For more information check out their website and Facebook page.

St AndRe-Use

10154342_1380538758895673_1145329313350358460_nSt AndRe-Use is a student organised reuse scheme in St Andrews. They collect, sort, and give away all donated items for free! St AndRe-Use set up donation points across campus during exam and graduation weeks. They save the environment, space and your sanity from the burden of too much stuff!

 To get involved check out their webpage, or join the Facebook group to start claiming and giving away items!

Sustainability Society

1047963_1474211176126570_1312490545_oThe Sustainability Society’s mission is to raise the awareness about sustainability issues amongst St Andrews students, and are dedicated to making St Andrews as sustainable as possible. The society undertakes academic, social, and practical activities to implement sustainability at all scales – from organising seminars to practical action.

Join in and find out more by visiting their Facebook page.

Transition University of St Andrews

466289_251323201618555_1429781240_oTransition University of St Andrews is part of a global movement responding to the threats of climate change and resource depletion. Transition works on practical projects that help communities become more self-sufficient, minimises environmental impacts, and strengthens community ties.

To get involved email transition@st-andrews.ac.uk or explore the many projects on their website and Facebook page.

Veg Soc

10177317_762903493729892_1990981121759130606_nDo you love to eat and cook veggie and vegan food? Then this is the society for you! Join them for veggie feasts, potlucks, parties, picnics, trips and more. Everyone is welcome – no politics, just food.

Join VegSoc on Facebook to keep up to date with their events.

Wildlife & Conservation Society

seal10Interested in wildlife and conservation? This society holds events such as presentations, documentary screenings, moth trapping, bat tracking, local conservation work, and more!

Go wild and find out more on Facebook.

Most of these groups will have a stall at the Freshers’ Fayre (Sunday 12th Sept, 10-4 in Venue 1) so if any take your fancy then head along to find out more, and sign up to start getting involved in creating a greener St Andrews!

Freshers Week 2014 – Green Event Line-Up

Freshers Welcome Facebook HeaderThere’s just a few short days to go until St Andrews will be full of new faces (and some more familiar ones) ready to embark on another year of studying and socialising. If you’re keen on getting involved with any of the “green” societies and groups in St Andrews then read on for the Environment Team’s top picks of environmental events happening across the town over the next week or so…

Friday 5th September

7.30 – 10pm – Bioblitz at St Andrews Botanic Garden

Saturday 6th September

10am – 4pm – Bioblitz at St Andrews Botanic Garden

Monday 8th September

11am – 3pm – Big Green Fair – St Katharine’s Lawn

11am – 12.30pm – St AndRe-Use Giveaway – Arts Lecture Theatre

2 – 3pm – Local Food Shop Walk, hosted by the One World Society – St Katharine’s Lawn

Tuesday 9th September

1 – 4pm – Sow, Grow, & Eat with Transition – Community Garden

Wednesday 10th September

10am – 12pm – Wild Food Walk – Sailing Club (East Sands)

12.30 – 4pm – Gardening Session & Pot Luck Lunch – Albany Park Community Garden

2 – 3pm – Pizza & Beer with BioSoc and WildSoc – Bell Pettigrew Museum

3 – 5pm – Carbon Conversations Taster Session – Old Union Diner

Thursday 11th September

11am – Rockpooling with WildSoc – West Sands

11am – 2pm – Charitable & Volunteering Fair – Venue 1

1pm – Saint Exchange Free Picnic – St Mary’s Quad Lawn

1 – 2.30pm – Veggie Pot Luck Picnic with VegSoc – Students’ Association Garden

6 – 8pm – Green Drinks Social with Transition – Old Union Diner

Friday 12th September

10.30am – Bike Sale – Agnes Blackadder Hall car park

12.30 – 2pm – One Pound Lunch with the One World Society – St John’s Garden

2.30 – 4pm – Edible Campus Tomato Session – St Andrews Botanic Garden

Sunday 14th September

10am – 4pm – Freshers’ Fair – Venue 1

The Environment Team will be getting stuck into the Big Green Fair with our “Green Pledge Mural”, dishing out cycle safety tips at the bike sale, and of course, will be on hand at the Environment table at the Freshers’ Fair to answer any questions. We can’t wait to welcome everyone back to St Andrews, and look forward to a green year ahead!

Big Butterfly Count 2014 – Diversity on your doorstep!

Every year, Butterfly Conservation carry out a nationwide survey – the “Big Butterfly Count” – of British butterfly species to monitor the populations of different species and assess the health of the environment.

Of course, they can’t do this alone, so people are encouraged to get outdoors and take just 15 minutes to look around themselves and note down which butterfly species they see, and to submit their results online.

We decided to do our bit and headed out into Albany Park Community Garden on our lunch break to see what we could spot…

IMG_1431

Thankfully the Big Butterfly Count provides a handy ID guide, so even the most inexperienced butterfly spotters can get involved!

IMG_1402

We counted eight green-veined white butterflies (Pieris napi) (above) and three large white butterflies (Pieris brassicae).

Determined to find more species, our web intern, Elena, carried out another survey at her house near Pittenweem and found an additional three species to those found in Albany Park:

Red Admiral (2)

Red Admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta)

Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock Butterflies

Small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) and Peacock (Inachis io) butterflies.

It’s amazing to see how much diversity you can find if you just take a few moments to stop and look for it! The survey is very quick and easy to complete, so why not do your own survey outside your workplace in your lunch break, or in your garden with the kids this weekend?

The Big Butterfly Count is logging sightings until 10th August, so what are you waiting for?! Get out there and discover the diversity waiting for you on your very own doorstep!

 

Spring Biodiversity Surveys

Image

IMG_7542

Spring is one of the best times conduct surveys and is a great excuse to get out and enjoy the new foliage!

Back in our December blog we discussed our plans for launching a new biodiversity surveying project for the Spring. Well, now that Spring’s upon us we have some reporting to do!

Our 5 Transition biodiversity interns have been working hard surveying multiple locations around the University grounds, trialing new Biodiversity Indexing methods for recording habitat diversity. Their reports have been coming in this week with some real gems of insight about the local wildlife that surrounds us right here in St Andrews!

IMG_7534

A giant snail? Fungal growth?… Nope! This is a solitary wasp’s nest discovered by biodiversity intern Alec Christie.

How do the surveys work?

The Biodiversity Index is a relatively new surveying method developed in by the University of Northampton. Intended for non-specialists, the Biodiversity Index provides a simple and straightforward way to measure the diversity if urban and semi-urban areas.

By focusing on habitat structures, areas sizes and leaf counts, the survey establishes a benchmark indexing ‘score’ for target areas. “The score is a snapshot of the natural environment at a specific location (and a specific point in time) and can be used as a benchmark to monitor and manage biodiversity improvement” (biodiversityindex.org).

Most recommendations for improving biodiversity are common-sense solutions to boosting habitat diversity. For example, recommendations from our several of our surveys include:

  • provide bird and bat boxes to encourage roosting, hibernating and breeding
  • when replanting, use native species if possible
  • link hedgerows to create corridors for small mammals, birds and other animals to travel between
  • reducing or eliminate mowing schemes where possible

We’ve found a high level of diversity in areas not usually associated with wild beasts & critters – St Mary’s Quad for example contains a relatively high level of habitat diversity despite being located in the centre of town! Check out the report for yourself here.

Moorhen (image by RSPB)

Moorhens were recorded at the Andrew Melville pond site (image from rspb.org.uk)

One of the best places for observing local biodiversity is at the pond and grassy area to the West of Andrew Melville Hall. A hidden hotspot for wildlife, and especially water fowl, located at the end of town, our volunteers discovered a host of interesting species including the hard-to-miss moorhen with red colouring on its beak and forehead.

If you have a chance why not do some biodiversity investigation yourself? If you find any interesting species, or take some great photos we’d love to hear from you! Email us at environment@st-andrews.ac.uk to get in touch.

For further resources about biodiversity at the University of St Andrews please visit our biodiversity webpages.

Consumer’s Guide to Ethical Food Certifications

It’s the third Sunday of the month: your turn to cook dinner – that’s fine because you’re not in charge of washing the dishes. As you meander through the store aisles, you remember that your flatmates are picky; John only eats “ethical” meat and Michael, organic produce. Fortunately there are certified products galore in the store, so now the only issue remaining is deciding which ones to purchase.

In this time of green consumerism, choosing between certain standards and labels really can be confusing. There are so many issues to consider: your health, the environment, workers’ rights and even animal rights. If you are someone who is interested in conserving biodiversity, hopefully this can shed some light on the labels that we see in Tesco Morrisons or Sainsburys, more specifically, the Rainforest Alliance, the Marine Stewardship Council, the Soil Association, Certified Humane and the Fairtrade Foundation.

rainforest alliance

The Rainforest Alliancehttp://www.rainforest-alliance.org

The Rainforest Alliance works to prevent deforestation and land degradation and to increase conservation around the world by training and educating land managers and entrepreneurs who produce food products such as bananas and tea. They also work with communities to conserve local biodiversity by establishing sustainable eco-tourism businesses (Rainforest Alliance 2014). In order to be certified, producers’ practices must meet certain criteria, some of which are “conserving local wildlife and water resources, minimizing soil erosion” and “protecting forests and reforesting where possible” (McAllister 2004). Rainforest Alliance Certified farms must follow the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) standards, which can be found at the bottom of this paragraph. Some of the criteria call for providing a natural habitat for endangered species, letting land lie fallow to improve soil health and planting vegetation barriers to minimize the impact of agrochemicals. It is important to note that only 80% of the total criteria must be met for certification and that some certified products might have been produced using pesticides (Standard Agriculture Network 2010).  Further, it allows products that have at least 30% of its ingredients Rainforest Alliance Certified to bear its seal, which has caused many consumers to criticize the organization and call for an increase the percentage of certified content (Rainforest Alliance 2014).  The SAN standards can be found here: http://www.sanstandards.org/userfiles/SAN-S-1-1_2%20Sustainable%20Agriculture%20Standard_docx(1).pdf

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) – http://www.msc.org/
MSC

The MSC encourages sustainable fishing practices to preserve marine life by proposing standards for fisheries to follow if they wish to be certified. Part of the standards require sustainable management of stock populations and that the fishery operations have as little impact as possible on the local environment. This can be done through effective waste management and by ensuring that none of the farmed species escape into the wild. This way, the species diversity and structures of nearby natural ecosystems are preserved. Additionally, the MSC prides itself on its products’ traceability, that is, the chain of custody that can allow consumers to see where their seafood came from and how it ended up on the store shelf. The MSC also encourages fishers to be more aware of bycatch and the effects of their fishing on non-target species. Sometimes, turtles or even dolphins are captured as bycatch when fishers lay out long fishing lines with many hooks, and these hooks can end in places such as albatross nests (Agnew et al 2006). Despite its good intentions, MSC has, at times, been found to act in ways that contradict its principles. In early 2013 National Public Radio published an article detailing that some seafood may be certified by the MSC, despite a lack of accord with MSC certification standards (Zwerdling and Williams 2013). Later in the year, a Nature article included scientist Jenifer Jacquet’s observation that the MSC’s scoring system is subjective and can be understood in ways that would easily allow fisheries to be granted the MSC seal of approval (Cressey 2013).

Soil assoc

Soil Associationhttp://www.soilassociation.org

The Soil Association is a British charity that campaigns for organic production of food, clothes and make-up. Unlike some of the other certification schemes, the Soil Association’s standards and requirements are more concrete and easier to locate. By producing goods organically, the Soil Association believes that the Earth’s health improves, as well as humans’ wellbeing. In order to conserve biodiversity, the Soil Association urges farmers to create wildlife corridors to link habitats by establishing hedgerows or field margins, and it prohibits genetically modified (GM) crops. Further, it maintains that any green waste must be checked for GM contamination. Green waste, along with crop rotations, is encouraged as it promotes nutrient recycling and improves soil health. For aquaculture operations, the Soil Association requires detailed management plans that include an analysis about the fishery’s impact on the local environment and how it will be implemented. Even though the Soil Association produces its goods organically, keep in mind that 5% of ingredients are allowed to be non-organic, probably because they are hard to grow organically (Soil Association 2013). Though some products are not grown organically, that does not necessarily mean that they were grown using pesticides. To further its mission of conserving biodiversity and improving environmental quality the Soil Association has introduced new projects, such as the Duchy Originals Future Farming Programme and Low Carbon Farming, to help farmers improve their productivity in an environmentally responsible manner. For more information on the Soil Association’s organic standards, browse through them here: http://soilassociation.org/organicstandards.

Certified humane

Certified Humanehttp://www.certifiedhumane.org

For people who shop for meat that has been raised ethically, Certified Humane can be their answer. Certified Humane concerns itself with animal welfare; certified farms provide plenty of space in which animals can move, unlike industrial farms where cows, pigs and chickens are crammed tightly into pens. If an animal product is labeled as Certified Humane, farmers have not used antibiotics and have allowed the animals to have access to space, food and water. Some animal activists might take issue with the fact that Certified Humane standards permit beak trimming, but in some cases it is done to prevent hens from violently pecking one another (Certified Humane 2013). Animals products labeled as Certified Humane were not necessarily were raised according to organic standards (Certified Humane 2013). Certified Humane focuses on ethical treatment of animals, while organic programs emphasize environmental health. It is also possible that some meats were raised ethically and/ or organically, but the producers could not afford to be certified. If you want to know more about how your meat is raised, it’s best to do research on the farm on that it came from or you can ask farmers if you buy meat directly from them at local farmers’ markets. Here are the label’s standards: http://www.certifiedhumane.org/index.php?page=standards.

Fairtrade Foundation – http://www.fairtrade.org.ukFT

In a fashion similar to Certified Humane’s, the Fairtrade Foundation chooses not to focus on the environment but rather on farmers and workers in developing countries. It aims to tackle poverty by empowering producers and giving them the opportunity to be more actively involved in the global market. It still, however, has some rules for producers regarding the environment. It prohibits the use of GM crops, but it does not check for them (Fairtrade Foundation 2008). Buffer zones are required around bodies of water to reduce the risk of chemical contamination from pesticides, and farmers must report how they measure soil quality. The Fairtrade Foundation encourages farmers to be aware of local wildlife so that they do not hunt or collect threatened species or introduce invasive species to the area. Though it has taken some measures to protect the environment, the Fairtrade Foundation can do more. For example, with a stricter GM crop policy, local systems can support native species, which in turn can support farming productivity. If you are interested in Fairtrade and want to stay up-to-date on all things Fairtrade-related in St Andrews, like and follow the Fairtrade in St Andrews Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FairtradeInStAndrews.

So, why is biodiversity important? Biodiversity is the variety of life on earth. Without it, life would be bland, not to mention difficult. Can you imagine living without seeing different types of plants, animals and climates? All organisms – big or small – play a role in a complex network of ecosystem dynamics. While we may not be conscious of it, we are dependent on these ecosystems for the services and resources that they provide. They act as storm buffers, pollution filters, water purifiers and climate regulators. Sand dunes on beaches serve to lessen the impact of storms, which is why there has been a concerted effort to restore West Sands in the past few years. Medicines, cosmetics and some foods come from plant species found in select parts of the world. If biodiversity “hot spots” like the Amazon Rainforest continue to be degraded and destroyed, our favorite foods will disappear from our diets, and we risk losing valuable cultural knowledge that can better inform us about plant and animal species. When it comes to buying food, try to educate yourself about the food’s origin by finding out where and how it was produced. While it may not be immediately obvious, those labels, like the Rainforest Alliance frog on the tea boxes, remind us that our lifestyle choices affect other species and people somewhere else in the world.

Nicholas Wells, Transition biodiversity intern

http://www.transitionsta.org/Volunteers

Sources:
Agnew, D., Grieve, C. , Orr, P., Parkes, G. and Barker, N. (2006) Environmental benefits resulting from certification against MSC’s Principles & Criteria for Sustainable Fishing, London: MRAG UK Ltd and Marine Stewardship Council.
 Certified Humane (2013) ‘Beak Trimming’ [online], available: http://www.certifiedhumane.org/uploads/pdf/Fact%20Sheets/beak_trimming.pdf [accessed 4 Jan 2014].
 Certified Humane (2013) ‘Does Certified Humane mean organic?’ Frequently Asked Questions [online], available: http://www.certifiedhumane.org/uploads/Frequently%20Asked%20Questions%2011.5.13.pdf [accessed 5 Jan 2014].
 Cressey, D. (2013) ‘Eco-label seafood body attempts to convince critics’, Nature, 17 July, available: http://www.nature.com/news/eco-label-seafood-body-attempts-to-convince-critics-1.13409 [accessed 4 Jan 2014].
Fairtrade Foundation (2008) ‘Are Fairtrade Products Guaranteed to be GM Free?’ Q&A: Fairtrade Standards and Genetically Modified Organisms (GM) [online], available: http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/includes/documents/cm_docs/2011/f/fairtrade_gm_q_a_jan_08.pdf [accessed 6 Jan 2014].
McAllister, S. (2004) ‘Who is the fairest of them all?’ The Guardian, 24 Nov, available: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2004/nov/24/foodanddrink.shopping1 [accessed 3 Jan 2014].
Rainforest Alliance (2014) ‘How Does Rainforest Alliance Certified Compare to Fair Trade Certified?’ [online], available: http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/agriculture/faq-fairtrade [accessed 3 Jan 2014].
 Soil Association (2013) ‘Standards’ What is organic? [online], available: http://www.soilassociation.org/organicstandards [accessed 4 Jan 2014].
 Sustainable Agriculture Network. (2010) ‘Farm Standards’ [online], available: http://www.sanstandards.org/userfiles/SAN-S-1-1_2%20Sustainable%20Agriculture%20Standard_docx(1).pdf [accessed 3 Jan 2014].
 Zwerdling, D. and Williams, M. (2013) ‘Is Sustainable-Labeled Seafood Really Sustainable?’ NPR, 11 Feb, available: http://www.npr.org/2013/02/11/171376509/is-sustainable-labeled-seafood-really-sustainable [accessed 4 Jan 2014].