Conservation student undertakes butterfly surveying

February 2013

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(NOTE: This is an archived press release.)

A conservation student at Writtle College is leading butterfly surveying while volunteering at the historic Hatfield Forest.

Rachel Geller, who is in her final year of a BSc (Hons) Conservation and Environment (Biological Surveying), is looking for new butterfly - as well as dragonfly and reptile - surveying volunteers.

The 29-year-old from Sawbridgeworth, Herts, started volunteering for the National Trust at Hatfield Forest in 2011 to gain practical work experience in conservation and she has completed around 10 butterfly surveys.

She has other experience of surveying spiders, beetles and birds with the National Trust, small mammals, flowers, ponds, vegetation, fresh water invertebrates, dragonflies, bats and crayfish with Writtle College and professional tree surveying, occasionally being employed by Elizabeth Brown Tree Surveying to look at tree health, size and abundance.

Rachel said: "Butterfly surveying is vital for monitoring levels of species to avoid local declines in populations and local extinctions. It is not invasive, and no butterflies are disturbed or harmed – which is a practice I support for all species surveyed.

"Surveying offers a way to learn about different species, be able to identify them and observe which habitats they prefer - which is useful when learning about habitat management. It has provided an opportunity to talk to other like-minded people interested in nature.

"The course at Writtle College has been vital to gain a thorough understanding of ecology, species identification, habitat management and has underpinned values I have always held about respecting the natural habitat with science."

Butterfly surveys take about an hour and can only be completed between 10am and 3pm on days with good weather conditions. People sign up for a week and have to complete them at some point in that week.

Rachel went on a week-long course with Matthew Oates, a butterfly expert and conservation advisor with the National Trust, in the summer and will be sharing what she learnt there, and on her degree, with people interested in carrying out surveys.

She will be giving a presentation about the butterfly surveys, butterfly identification and how to do the survey on 4 March at 9.45/10am at Hatfield Forest Estate Office, Takeley, Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire, CM22 6NE. This is free and open to people with moderate identification skills.