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Cambridge Conservation Forum: Bringing together a diverse group of conservationists

Dr Julia Grosse writes for the Cambridge Independent in the latest in our series with Cambridge Conservation Initiative.

Cambridge Conservation Forum (CCF) has been a focus for the local conservation community for more than 20 years.

It was established to connect the diverse community of conservation researchers and practitioners who are based in and around Cambridge, and is one of the founding partners of Cambridge Conservation Initiative.

Cambridge has urban foxes. Picture: Unsplash
Cambridge has urban foxes. Picture: Unsplash

CCF now has more than 70 member organisations, and the scope of their work extends locally, nationally and internationally. Its interests include species conservation, habitat restoration, environmental farming, community engagement, education and more.

Many of our members encourage the public to get involved in their work through volunteering and citizen science projects. With the summer holidays approaching, and hopefully lots of opportunities to get outside in nature, CCF members have many ways you can help our local wildlife, learn a bit more about it, and have fun at the same time.

Buglife, a charity dedicated to conservation, education and policy change to protect insects and other invertebrates, has launched the Bugs Matter survey. Insects underpin our natural world, pollinating our crops and feeding birds and other animals, and monitoring their numbers can help us to better understand what is happening in our environment.

Buglife need lots of people to take part in the survey this summer, and to share their observations to help understanding about our insect populations.

It’s really simple to take part and you can find out all you need to get involved in this vital work here.

Bats rely on healthy populations of insects. They are found in a range of different habitats around the UK but many people don’t realise that these fascinating flying mammals can often be quite easily observed in their local neighbourhood.

A brown long-eared bat in flight (Plecotus auritus). Picture: (c) Daniel Hargreaves/www.bats.org.uk
A brown long-eared bat in flight (Plecotus auritus). Picture: (c) Daniel Hargreaves/www.bats.org.uk

Another CCF member, the Bat Conservation Trust is the leading non-governmental organisation in the United Kingdom solely devoted to the conservation of bats and the landscapes on which they depend.

They run a beginner-level survey, the Sunset Survey, on which anybody can take part, even if you don’t have any previous bat knowledge. Simply watch from your window or garden from sunset for about an hour, or go for a walk to your local green space.

Look out for bats and any other nocturnal wildlife and note down what you see. You can download a survey form and species identification guide here, as well as enter your results online. You may be surprised what you discover! If you are lucky enough to have a bat detector and some basic bat ID skills then you can put these to good use by taking part in the Waterway Survey in August.

Water voles can be seen in streams around Cambridge. Picture: Unsplash
Water voles can be seen in streams around Cambridge. Picture: Unsplash

Cambridgeshire Mammal Group are interested in all our local mammals. They have started a major project – CambsMammalSpot - to better record the wild mammals in Cambridgeshire both for the Group itself and for the Mammal Society.

CambsMammalSpot is being undertaken jointly with the Wildlife Trust.

The aim is to collect data on mammal signs and sightings across the county to create a visual understanding of the population and diversity of the mammal species in Cambridgeshire, particularly to determine their IUCN’s Red List status. There is a distinct shortage of records in the county of where the wild mammals are located, which species we have, and how many of them we have – information needed to better conserve and enhance the environment for our wild mammals.

This hedgehog lives in a central Cambridge garden. Picture: Julia Grosse
This hedgehog lives in a central Cambridge garden. Picture: Julia Grosse

The group will be using two apps, MammalMapper and iRecord, to receive reports of wild mammals (alive and dead, native and non-native) however obtained - whether from sightings (of the animals themselves or from trail camera footage) or signs of the animals such as footprints or droppings.

Anyone can join in and both apps have training built-in; expertise in tracks and signs is not necessary!

A badger print. Picture: Cambridgeshire Mammal Group
A badger print. Picture: Cambridgeshire Mammal Group

All the records will be shared with the Mammal Society and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Environmental Records Centre.

You don’t have to see the animals themselves to take part in the survey- signs of their presence are just as valuable, such as the badger paw print and otter spraint (which smells of jasmine tea!) shown here.

Otter spraint. Picture: Cambridgeshire Mammal Group
Otter spraint. Picture: Cambridgeshire Mammal Group

You can find out about all CCF members here; many more of them including RSPB, British Trust for Ornithology and the Wildlife Trust have citizen science projects running at the moment. If you would like to keep up with what’s on in conservation in and around Cambridge, you can sign up to CCF’s newsletter here.

Read more from Cambridge Conservation Initiative

FairWildWeek: How to support wild harvesting fairly

Cambridge hears stories of conservation success that show there really are grounds for Earth Optimism

How Fauna & Flora International works on local solutions to the global environmental crisis

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