The Last Year for OUNCS: A Roundup of 2021/2022

The last year (Trinity 21 – Trinity 22) for us at the Oxford University Nature Conservation Society has been eventful, to say the least! For those of you who don’t know (but I’m sure most of you do if you are reading this blog) – the OUNCS aims to promote and spread awareness of wildlife conservation within the University and the wider Oxford community. This has been done through talks, panel events, practical conservation work days, and getting involved with campaigns to promote biodiversity both locally and nationally. We had some great firsts for the society this year; the society has engaged in lots of new things across the university which we hope to continue going forward. 

Group photo from the OUNCS BioBlitz in Trinity 2022

In Trinity 2021, the previous Secretary (Ayla Webb) and I (Taras Bains) organised the society’s first-ever annual BioBlitz event at the Trap Grounds Local Wildlife Site in North Oxford. This was an event where we tried to record as many different species as possible in a given time period. Joined by experts from both the Departments of Plant Sciences and Zoology, the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, as well as local amateur naturalists, we were able to record around 230 species – a great success! We repeated the event last Trinity, beating the record of the year before both in the number of species recorded (90 more) and students attending the event (around 40 throughout the day). The full species list for both events can be found on our website. Let’s see what next year brings for the BioBlitz – do you think we will be able to beat the record again?

The new OUNCS logo

The start of last Michaelmas also came with a new rebranding of the society. We collectively thought that the logo was due for an update, so we released a new logo designed by the previous Social Media Officer Mia Clement. This was accompanied by a brand-new Instagram page (a first for the society) and a new website to go along with the rebrand (courtesy of Hannah King – the previous IT Officer). The website features photos taken by me, the previous Treasurer Phillip Fernandes, and society member ZhenHuan-Zhang Darwin. If you haven’t seen it, you can check it out using this link:

After a long break, we also brought back our regular practical conservation events thanks to our Practical Conservation Officer Jamie Walker. This has allowed society members the opportunity to help on a wide range of reserves across Oxford from coppicing to fen raking and clearance. With this came the securing of our first society sponsor BSG Ecology, whose funding has helped us reach more members of the student and Oxford community. 

Practical conservation activity done in January 2022 at Raleigh Park fens, clearing reed and building a dead hedge

Finally, we’ve also initiated a number of new campaigns for the society with the aim of further enhancing biodiversity across the university estate.

Our JCR motions campaign was launched earlier this year, with a number of freely available motions for students to use to make small but important biodiversity enhancements at their colleges. This included reducing the use of peat compost, installing bird feeders, and nurturing habitats for hedgehogs and insects. We have also collaborated with the UNEP Nature Positive Universities programme to make these available to higher education institutions across the world via their website. This led to a number of college JCRs implementing new biodiversity measures using these motions. 

We also launched our OUNCS urban biodiversity garden project last Hillary, a project jointly led by myself and Jamie. This is the first student-led biodiversity garden project on the entire University Estate and provides a great step forward in increasing wild spaces within and between the manicured lawns and gardens of the University. If successful, it can also act as a pilot project or springboard for further projects across the estate run by Environmental Sustainability and Parks. This project has been supported by Environmental Sustainability, especially Adam Bows (whose advice and organisation were of great help). 

Although I’ve not been able to discuss everything the society has done over the last year in this short blog, we hope to continue this trajectory and ensure that nature conservation is being brought to the top of local and global agendas. We believe that we are playing our small part in helping to make this happen, making conservation interesting and fun for society members along the way. Make sure to follow our social media channels and stay tuned to see what is in store for the Society this year! 

By Taras Bains (President of OUNCS: Trinity 2021-2022)


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