Wild about campus

Posted by nm365 at May 12, 2020 01:14 PM |
The University of Leicester celebrated global sustainability success after being ranked 21st out of 766 universities in the world, in the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Ranking, placing it in the top 3%. Read on as Dr Sandra Lee, Social Impact Lead, tells us the story of how the University achieved this prestigious accolade.
Although there aren’t many humans left on campus, the University of Leicester is teeming with life.

We take the University of Leicester’s motto ‘so that they may have lifevery seriously. Renowned for our internationalism and multi-cultural communities, we are using these strengths to create and enhance physical space for the diversity of human and non-human life alike.

Ranking first for SDG 15: Life on Land in the THE Impact Ranking wasn't a surprise as over the past few years our academic experts, gardens and other Estates colleagues and students have teamed up to develop biodiversity initiatives for our 200 plus acres of land. Their plans have included making our estate more welcoming to as many species as possible through our multiple biodiversity policies, including our plant and pollinator policy which is full of ambitious targets.

Professor Sue Page, Chair of the Biodiversity Working Group at the University said: “To achieve first place in the Life on Land category is appropriate recognition of all the hard work put in the Social Impact Team, the Estates team, our students and external stakeholders.

“Once we eventually move back onto campus, we will need our green spaces more than ever. This recognition comes at absolutely the right time and hopefully will ensure that efforts to connect our campus with nature can continue.”

Our grounds and gardens team have helped to develop and deliver these targets as well as implement strategies to increasing wildflowers and make our sites more habitable for different species. Some of the actions for this include a reduction in mowing and reducing the use of weed killer which has now stopped completely during lockdownas Adam, Grounds and Gardens Manager, says: ‘’a weed is just a plant that’s in the wrong place’’.

One of our aims is to make 50% of our lawns mixed species ‘tapestry lawns’ by 2022 to attract more pollinators. Two tapestry lawns were planted on main campus in November 2019 and now look amazing.

Several student projects have also impacted our biodiversity policies. Researched topics include hedgerow management, native tree species, bat-friendly lighting and bird boxes. Many students have also got their hands dirty physically shaping our green spaces. Politics student Thomas Oliver spent his Saturdays developing a so-called forest garden, that a previous student had begun, on the corner of the Fielding Johnson lawn. We’re sure this space will be enjoyed by generations of students to come.

The Green Gown Awards recognise exceptional sustainability initiatives undertaken by universities and colleges. University of Leicester graduates have won the Research with Impact Student Award two years in a row. James Boyd - a mathematics graduate - won in 2019 for his project calculating carbon sequestration of University trees. In 2018, Hannah Sellers - a biological sciences graduate - won for her project looking at insect diversity on tree species. Both projects have left a legacy and shaped our policies and practices for the benefit of future generations.

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