Wild Staffs is funded by the University’s Sustain Staffs campaign which has made £50,000 available for projects which will help to make its campuses more environmentally friendly.
Students specialising in Ecology and Environmental Management are leading the venture which will provide a mixture of environmental benefits while enhancing the on-campus experience for the students, staff and the community.
Jasmine Barton, 28, from Biddulph used to work as a make-up artist before she decided to pursue her passion for the outdoors at university and hopes to design conservation projects when she graduates.
She said: “Returning as a mature student was quite a big step but I’m so glad that I did because this is exactly what I love to do. I want to do this as a living so Wild Staffs is a perfect placement for me. We are using a lot of ecological practices and theories, so it helps with the course as well.
“Everyone benefits from a bit of nature therapy and I think being outside does us the world of good. Hopefully this will invite more students to come outside and enjoy what nature has to offer specifically for wellbeing.”
Student Emily Baughn, 21, said: “Wild Staffs is about increasing biodiversity on campus and making it more animal friendly so that more wild species can use it.
“I’ve been involved in the planning process, helping with paperwork and placing orders then helping to actually plant it all and carry out the project. It’s amazing for our CVs when we graduate.”
Wild Staffs aims to increase biodiversity by replacing flat turf with wildflowers and more varied planting to support wildlife from bugs through to small mammals and birds. Existing green walls on campus will also be revived, and ‘online live footage’ of bird boxes will be introduced.
The team also plan to create a wildlife garden with a pond to enhance wildlife habitats and the wellbeing of students and staff. New plants, trees and hedges will help to create a green corridor across campus, linking up the University’s nature reserve to Hanley Park.
Course mate Michael Wild, 21, added: “It’s amazing getting hands on experience and to implement strategies that we’ve learned about on the course. A lot of carbon emissions are being produced so anything we can do to help reduce that is key. Knowing that this project is going to have a long-term effect on the environment and that we will be able to come back in ten years and see it all grown is great.”
The team have so far planted a new woodland area with native mixed species of trees and have put in hedgerows and shrubs which will help to capture pollution and attract more wildlife.
Dr Eleanor Atkins, a lecturer and researcher in urban ecology, said: “Over the last century, the UK has lost over 97% of its wildflower meadows, and in the last 40 years alone has lost 16% of hedgerows to removal and neglect. Urban areas are even more acutely affected, with isolated pockets of nature separated by large areas of built land, and infrastructure.
“If we can connect those together then species can move between them. For example, a bumblebee can only survive for 40 minutes without feeding so therefore we want to create stepping stones of wildflowers so they can move throughout the city and not get trapped.
“As a significant landowner within Shelton, the University has the ability to provide a large impact through its campus management and so we are really excited to be working on the Wild Staffs project.”