My Guernsey Future – meeting the next generation of change-makers

aerial photo of fields

Maddie Lucas blogs about her involvement in My Guernsey Future where she met and inspired school pupils who are interested in climate change, policy, science and our work. 

female faceOn an unusually warm Thursday this October, I had the privilege of representing the Pollinator Project at My Guernsey Future, a networking and discussion which aimed to bring young people who are concerned about climate change together with island leaders who have the power to make change. 

 The event, hosted at Government House by the Lieutenant-Governor of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, opened with speeches from students.  The speakers and audience included pupils from primary schools, secondary, sixth form and colleges across the island. They expressed their concerns about the impacts of climate change on our island community, including sea level and temperature rise, more erratic weather events, and the knock-on effects this will have on our society.  

From my own reading, I know that coastal communities like Guernsey are on the climate change frontline, facing increasing flooding, temperature, and precipitation as well as a rise in sea level, wave heights, and accelerated erosion (Zsamboky et al., 2011). Couple this with the fact that research shows children born in 2020 will experience a two to sevenfold increase in climate-change induced extreme events compared with people born in 1960 (Thiery et al., 2021), and you can understand the younger generation’s worry about the world they will inherit. 

After the speeches, I was excited to have the opportunity to speak with some of the young people about the Pollinator Project’s work. I spoke to year six students about the importance of the ecosystem services our pollinating insects provide us with, for example, supporting the reproductive cycle of nearly 90% of flowering plants and pollinating our crops to provide us with food (Ollerton, 2011). I was incredibly pleased to see that the students were so passionate, well-informed, and eager to relay their own knowledge of pollinators!  

I also emphasised the ability of each person to support our pollinators through individual actions including planting native wildflower patches and pollinator-friendly plants in their gardens, reducing mowing, and getting rid of pesticides such as weed killer and bug spray. Cutting out insecticides directly helps our pollinators by limiting their exposure to the accumulation of harmful toxins, which can have both lethal and sublethal effects. For example, Neonicotinoid insecticides have been found to reduce bee memory and navigational skills, fertility, and disease resistance (Lewington, 2023). Planting pollinator-friendly plants, ending herbicide use, and reducing mowing all help to increase habitat connectivity and provide our pollinators with vital food sources to support declining populations. Habitat loss and degradation have been key drivers in pollinator population declines. With approximately 30% of Guernsey’s land cover being gardens, there is a huge opportunity for local people to make a difference. Making space for pollinators wherever possible is crucial to reverse these declines.  

The harmful impact of pesticides on pollinator populations is one of the issues that the Pollinator Project are proactively working to address. Dr Miranda Bane, co-director and science lead at the Pollinator Project has secured a Natural Environment Research Council grant with the University of Bristol to continue research in this area. I spoke with some of the older students about the opportunities this grant will bring to the Channel Islands over the next four years, including funding to continue the internship position I undertook this summer conducting bumblebee DNA surveys The survey data collected will be analysed to find out how Bufftailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) colony density across the islands is influenced by pesticide reduction, and to measure the presence of pesticides in our pollinators. There are also other opportunities soon to be announced, including master’s thesis projects and PhD opportunities 

The evening was thoroughly enjoyable, and Guernsey’s younger generation astounded me with the level of enthusiasm each student held about the protection and conservation of our islands. I left the event with a fierce sense of pride and no doubt in my mind that Guernsey’s future will be in safe hands. However, until the younger generation has the capability to enact change themselves, it is more vitally important than ever that we listen to their fears, use our voices, and encourage action now.  

With thanks to Lieutenant-Governor Richard Cripwell for kindly hosting, and to Mia Edgworth, one of 2022’s Lieutenant-Governor’s Cadets who organised the event. 

References 

Lewington, R. 2023. Pocket guide to the Bumblebees of Great Britain and Ireland. Bloomsbury Publishing. 

Ollerton, J., Winfree, R. and Tarrant, S., 2011. How many flowering plants are pollinated by animals?. Oikos, 120(3), pp.321-326. 

Thiery, W., Lange, S., Rogelj, J., Schleussner, C.F., Gudmundsson, L., Seneviratne, S.I., Andrijevic, M., Frieler, K., Emanuel, K., Geiger, T. and Bresch, D.N., 2021. Intergenerational inequities in exposure to climate extremes. Science, 374(6564), pp.158-160.   

Zsamboky, M., Fernández-Bilbao, A., Smith, D., Knight, J. and Allan, J., 2011. Impacts of climate change on disadvantaged UK coastal communities. Joseph Rowntree Foundation, pp.1-63. 

 

Intern blog: Being a field assistant

man in garden looking at insect tent

I’m Taliesin Valencia and I’m second-year environmental science student at the University of Stirling.

I had the chance to work with the Pollinator Project this summer, as a Field Assistant setting up a malaise trap in a fixed location, collecting samples from it each week, and then taking it down one month had elapsed.

I also helped Maddie Lucas in her field assistant intern role, where we surveyed eight total sample areas in Guernsey and another five in Sark. The purpose of these surveys was to take a small tarsal sample of Bombus terrestris, aka the Buff-tailed bumblebee, in a long-term project that will monitor the impacts of pesticide use across these two Channel Islands. This DNA sample will also enable us to determine how many unique bee colonies there are on the island. Our data is part of seven years of sampling data, which should correlate with the strides in the reduction of pesticide use that the Pollinator Project has achieved. Hopefully, we will see the buff-tail species population increase too!

I have always been interested in the environment around me; and from a young age I preferred non-fiction books about the different ecosystems and species inhabiting our planet. Throughout high school, this interest deepened when I began to study biology at a higher level. The inner workings of various ecosystems and how each species fits into a particular niche have always fascinated me.

The climate crisis and increasing awareness of our atmosphere led me to aim for an environmental science degree early in my academic career and I aspire to become an environmental consultant later in my career.

This experience with the Pollinator Project has been excellent, and I am very much looking forward to working with the charity again in the future.

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.

Latest news…

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! 

Latest news…

 

Pollinator Internships for 2024

woman crouching by field of flowers
Summer Internship Opportunities

• Do you care about protecting our island’s vital pollinating insects?
• Are you interested in learning valuable research, conservation, and
communication skills?
• Are you organised, enthusiastic and able to work flexibly?

The Pollinator Project are offering multiple fantastic summer internship opportunities. These would be an ideal opportunity for someone looking to gain experience working with a conservation charity.

There are 3 specific roles you can apply for:

1) Research Field Assistant, in partnership with the University of Bristol
o Learn advanced survey techniques and work alongside researchers
from the University of Bristol to carry out a bumblebee DNA survey on
Guernsey and Sark. Be part of a long-term, pan-island research project
monitoring the health of pollinator populations and the impact of
pesticides.

Read more

2) Ecology and Conservation Assistant
o Learn a variety of survey, research and natural history skills, working
with Pollinator Project team experts. This is an opportunity to
experience and support the diversity of work we do as a charity to help
pollinators on the Channel Islands. Take part in surveys, represent the
charity at events or get stuck into some data analysis – we can tailor this role to suit you.

Read more

3) Pollinator Content Creator
o Looking to use your skills for communication and creative media? Work
with our Pollinator Project Communications Leader to create a mini
comms project using social media, film, photography and any other
creative skills you can bring.

Read more

All roles will be supported by a mentor and the wider Pollinator Project team. Any
necessary training will be provided, though relevant experience is welcome. We
particularly invite applications from students or career switchers looking to enhance their CV. Please let us know if you have specific skills or ideas that you want to develop within an internship.

All interns will be awarded an ex-gratia payment of £500 on completion of their
internship. Reasonable local expenses will be covered.

How to Apply
Please email Dr Miranda Bane at miranda@pollinatorproject.gg with your CV and/or a cover letter stating which internship you are interested in and why you would be a good fit for the role.

Deadline for applications: Friday 14th June 2:00pm
Interviews will be online or via telephone the following week.