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University launches new nature trail

Staff and students at the University of Gloucestershire have developed a new digital nature trail for families to discover and explore bats, bees and much more at The Park campus in Cheltenham.

Using electronic devices such as a smart phone or tablet, visitors can access information from QR codes and NFC tags (small microchips which can transfer information to a smartphone) embedded around the site, which is a community nature reserve managed by the University and the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust (GWT).

The codes link to photos, texts, video and audio links providing information on wildlife at The Park, including commentary from biosciences academics and the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Stephen Marston.

The trail was designed by two Masters Students, Lianne Davies and Rachel Keating working with Dr Richard Rolfe, course leader for BSc degrees in Biology and Animal Biology.

Lianne, who is studying MSc Applied Ecology and Conservation, said: “Working on the nature trail was great. It was good to share my own knowledge of wildlife conservation through the information included on the nature trail, and engage the public in learning more about this beautiful site, and what we can all do to help British wildlife.”

Dr Rolfe organised the site’s first ever BioBlitz event in June, surveying as many species as possible in 24 hours, in collaboration with GWT and the Cheltenham Science Festival. Information gathered during the event has informed the construction of the new trail.

“It allowed members of the public to work with experts in identifying and recording wildlife on what was a beautiful couple of days in Cheltenham,” Dr Rolfe said. “It was lovely to see so many children and families involved with identifying and recording the wildlife. The trail allows the public to explore the range of wildlife on our Park Campus and to learn about how the site is managed for the benefit of wildlife.”

The BioBlitz saw the public working alongside staff, county recorders and local wildlife groups including Gloucestershire Amphibian and Reptile Group, Cotswold Fungus Group, Gloucestershire Naturalists Society, and Butterfly Conservation.

“We are delighted to see the improvements being made to the Park,” said Dr Gareth Parry of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, Head of Community Programmes at GWT.

“They are not only valuable for wildlife but a great way for students and members of the public to discover and learn about our native plants and animals.”