First of its kind research programme comes to the Channel Islands

man adjusting malaise tent in field

A collaboration between the Pollinator Project and the University of Bristol has secured a near £1 million grant from the UK to study Channel Island pollinators.

woman in a wood

Dr Miranda Bane, who grew up on Guernsey, will be leading the work in Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney and Sark and will be looking at the abundance and diversity of pollinators across the islands.

The research is unique in studying what happens to the number and variety of pollinators in the real world as pesticide use reduces. It’s the first in the world to do this on an entire island and it will also showcase the Channel Islands for the first time as a world leader in this research area.

Miranda said: “I have always been inspired by the beautiful nature on our island. To be able to bring research expertise on pollinators back to the islands, to help protect and enhance our natural environment, has been my goal since choosing an academic career. It has taken almost 4 years, a lot of hard work and the invaluable support of so many people to secure this research grant. I am so grateful for all the support and so excited to be working on my dream project.”

Professor Jane Memmott from the University of Bristol is head of the UK research team who will regularly visit the islands. Professor Memmott said: “Islands can be viewed as microcosms of the world, large enough to be realistic, but small enough to be tractable for study. And I’m really excited to be working with a team on the Channel Islands for the next four years on pollinators and pesticides.”

The funding enables four years of research on pollinating insects across Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney, and Sark. It’s a long-term look at these beneficial insects including bees, butterflies, wasps, flies, beetles and moths and aims to answer questions about the impacts of pesticides on their numbers and will help support future conservation efforts.

Opportunities available in 2024

The money which is being provided by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) will create a number of on-island career opportunities from early next year including a full-time research technician post, annual research internships, a PhD position, and several Master’s degree study opportunities. It will also fund DNA analysis and testing for the presence of pesticides in pollinators through a world-class Canadian laboratory.

Work has been going on since 2019 in preparation with teams of citizen scientists led by Miranda collecting baseline data. In addition States Works have stopped using glyphosate and  the States of Guernsey’s 2022 restriction on the sale of glyphosate products have all contributed to a reduction in use.

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Meet Maddie: our Field Intern helping us research bumblebees DNA

girl kneeling at bench doing bumblebee fieldwork

My name is Madison Lucas, and this summer I am working with the Pollinator Project as their 2023 field assistant intern.

I graduated in 2022 from the University of Leeds with a master’s degree in Ecology and Conservation Biology. Growing up in Guernsey fostered my love for nature, and now that I’m back living on island, I’m keen to use my studies and contribute towards protecting our incredible island ecosystem.  

In my spare time, I am a self-taught naturalist. I’m currently in the process of compiling a personal pan-species list – a ‘compendium’ of sorts where I record every species I have seen. My interest in naturalism developed more during the pandemic, when the Pollinator Project sent out a leaflet showing all the butterfly species that breed in Guernsey. I learnt how to identify the butterflies using the leaflet and spent that summer attempting to see at least one individual of each species. The most most exciting sighting was seeing the Glanville Fritillary, a species I had been taught about at university, but never seen.

Now, I have come full circle, and have the privilege of working with the charity which contributed so greatly to the development of my passion for our environment! 

This summer I am conducting bee surveys across Guernsey and Sark. The DNA samples I collect will be used to monitor the density of bumblebee colonies on the islands, ultimately allowing the team at the Pollinator Project to determine the impact of pesticide use on our local bumblebees. Along the way, I’m hoping to find a few species that are stubbornly missing from my Guernsey list – namely the Vestal Cuckoo bumblebee, and the Early Bumblebee.

More than anything, it’s great to get back into what every ecologist loves the most – field work! 

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