Exploring Dormouse Ecology: Insights from the First Bitesize of 2024

Exploring Dormouse Ecology: Insights from the First Bitesize of 2024

Exploring Dormouse Ecology: Insights from the First Bitesize of 2024

Dormouse | 08 January 2024

In the inaugural Bitesize session of 2024, the GES ecology team delved into the rich insights gleaned from the 2023 Dormouse Conference and The People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) State of Britain's Dormice Report. Led by Jenny Passmore, Principal Ecologist, the session provided a comprehensive review and sparked engaging discussions among the team.

Summary of the Dormouse Conference:

The 2023 Dormouse Conference proved to be a treasure trove of knowledge sharing, offering a platform for experts to share their insights. Among the notable talks were:

  • The State of Britain's Dormice 2023 Report. Ian White from PTES provided a comprehensive overview of the report, offering a deep dive into the current state of dormice in Britain. 
  • Are dormice an endangered species in the UK? Ellie Scopes revealed the research and analysis that is likely to lead to dormice being moved up from ‘Vulnerable’ to ‘Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
  • Ecology and behaviour of the hazel dormouse prior to and during the hibernation period. Leo Gubert described some fascinating research into the tagging of dormice during the hibernation season, shining light on a phase of their life which has been poorly documented until now.
  • The drivers and consequences of daily torpor in hazel dormice during the active season. Charlotte Armitage described how increased rates of torpor during the active season reveal that a population is under stress. Records of torpid dormice, using the extensive dataset from the National Dormouse Monitoring Programme have been used to create a model which can predict how populations will fare with climate change. 
  • 30 years of dormice at Brampton Wood. Gwen Hitchcock talked us through a successful reintroduction programme in Cambridgeshire and how reintroductions can bring dormice back into counties that previously supported this species. 
  • What can hedgerows do for dormice in the face of climate change? Megan Gimber from PTES concluded the day with an enthusiastic call to arms to preserve, enhance and create more hedgerows which are a valuable habitat for dormice in themselves, as well as being essential for habitat connectivity.
  • Biodiversity Net Gain for Dormice: This talk explored the implications of Biodiversity Net Gain for dormice, shedding some light on the interconnectedness of conservation efforts.

Key Takeaways and Team Discussions:

During the Bitesize session, the team engaged in lively discussions as Jenny showcased key points raised in the above talks as well as further reflections on the below topics:

  • Monitoring Beyond Woodland Habitats: While woodland remains the primary habitat for dormice, the importance of monitoring dormice in scrub and hedgerow habitats was emphasized.
  • Unconventional Hibernation Nests: The discovery of hibernation nests in unexpected locations, such as cracks in trees, gorse bushes, bramble, leaf litter, and grass tussocks, sparked intrigue and discussion.
  • Evolving Monitoring Methods: The team pondered the effectiveness of traditional dormouse boxes, considering alternative methods like footprint tunnels, camera traps, and acoustic surveys.
  • Active Juvenile Dormice: The revelation that juvenile dormice often remain active and foraging during the hibernation period prompted contemplation on dormouse behavior.

Fostering Passion and Knowledge:

We feel that by attending conferences, courses, symposiums and encouraging attendees to host Bitesize sessions with the wider team, offering all levels of ecologists time to reflect, discuss, and cultivate a shared passion for ecological understanding and conservation. 

As GES continues to explore the intricate world of ecology we would like to thank Jenny for running the first Bitesize of 2024 and know that the team remains dedicated to fostering interest, knowledge, and a deep sense of stewardship for these endangered species.

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