New student digs for Carlisle campus wildlife

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New university students are doing their bit to ensure they aren't the only ones settling in well at Carlisle's city campus.

First-year zoology students Sophie Gibson and Hannah Dover have been creating new features at the Fusehill Street site to encourage wildlife back to the area.

They have been digging a pond to attract amphibians, putting up bird feeding tables and building bird boxes.

One is large enough to house a tawny owl.

The students say they have even created a box for the university's resident hedgehog as part of their plan to "rewild" the campus.

"He doesn’t actually live in it at the moment but we are hoping he will move in soon," said Sophie Gibson, who is on the BSc Zoology course.

The two students came up with the idea to encourage wildlife back onto campus after finding out the site was once buzzing with life.

Hannah said: "We noticed that there were a lot of species seen 10 or 15 years ago that haven’t been seen since.

"There used to be buzzards and kestrels in the area but not now.

"We want to attract hedgehogs, squirrels and a lot of birds including tawny owls, bats and other small mammals."

Sophie added: "We wanted to build a pond to attract amphibians.

"They are a great species to monitor, especially for a lot of the degrees we have at the university, like zoology. It is good to get that first-hand experience with the animals and having a pond on site is a very easy way to do it."

Zoology lecturer Dr Mic Mayhew says the pond has a dual purpose.

Not only will it be a resource for students to help them conduct research and learn scientific names of species, it will also become a place where staff and students can relax.

"Building a pond is simply the most effective way to attract wildlife to an area," he said.

"I hope that this pond will provide students with a fantastic learning resource and act as a living laboratory they can use.

"They will learn field identification skills and once they have those skills they can conduct research, undertake projects and carry out experiments.

"So overall it should be a fantastic resource for students but also contribute to the well-being of all university students and staff."

The students set about building the pond and erected the boxes and tables in a day as part of an exercise to bring new students together during the recent Welcome Week.

The pond will take about nine months to bed-in after which it should teem with life.

Before it was used for education, the Fusehill Street site was best known as the city's maternity hospital.

Welcome Week saw a wide range of events take place to help new students settle into life at the University of Cumbria.

Around 1,500 new students have arrived at the University of Cumbria's sites in Carlisle, Ambleside, Lancaster and London this autumn.

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