Hartpury student posters inform and educate visitors on wading bird behaviour at Slimbridge WWT


Six scientific posters produced by Hartpury University students as part of a competition assignment, are on display at the Slimbridge Wetland Wildlife Trust (Slimbridge WWT). The posters aim to inform and educate visitors on the behaviour of wading birds.

The students carried out the assignment as part of the Behavioural Ecology module, a requirement of Hartpury’s BSc (Hons) Zoology and BSc (Hons) Animal Behaviour and Welfare. Projects like this provide an exciting opportunity for students to use their skills to educate and inform the public.

The study asked questions about the vigilant behaviours of Lapwings and Black-Tailed Godwits, making comparisons between the two and asking whether scanning behaviours (where a bird scans their surroundings for predators) vary according to their position within the flock (the ‘edge effect’).

The brief was to create posters that would communicate their findings to a wide audience while being scientifically accurate and using literature to back up their findings and evaluation. Data collection involved around three hours of behavioural observations of the wading birds at Slimbridge, resulting in a shared set of data that students then used to create their visuals.

Interestingly, students found very little variation in the behaviour of both species, despite previous studies concluding differences between those birds in the centre of the flock and those on the outside, known as the ‘edge effect’.

A total of eight posters were produced with four winners chosen by WWT Slimbridge. The two posters placed in 5th and 6th place have also been printed for display.

Lauren Blagden, Chloe Clarke, Natasha Vanhoutte and Charlotte Mullins were awarded prizes for their winning posters. Prizes included a cloth logo bag, a fluffy duck and keyring seal, a bird identification book, biscuits and a pen.

Dr Anthony Lowney, Lecturer in Zoology at Hartpury University, said: “We’d like to thank Slimbridge WWT for allowing us to carry out this exciting assignment and providing our students with an exciting opportunity to bring the Behavioural Ecology module to life.

“This kind of project provides an opportunity for students to translate their scientific knowledge and observations into real-world information that is easy to understand and interesting to the public. This is vital for so many areas of zoology and conservation.”

Earlier this year, international students from Canada were given the chance to benefit from a transfer agreement with Fleming College whereby graduates from the Ontario institution can enter the final year of the BSc (Hons) Zoology at Hartpury.

The BSc (Hons) Zoology programme proves a popular choice with those seeking employment within conservation and looking to protect animal species across the globe.

Hartpury University’s BSc (Hons) Animal Behaviour and Welfare degree provides students with an opportunity to study the biology behind behaviour while also considering ethical issues affecting domestic, exotic and wild species.

96% of Hartpury graduates are in employment or further study within 15 months (Graduate Outcomes Survey 2021). Real-world opportunities like this assignment help to increase students’ career prospects, an area in which Hartpury ranked third in the UK as voted for by students in the WhatUni Awards 2022.