Team BEE-STEWARD take to the field
By Kathy Troke-Thomas
As British Summer Time officially ends we have been reflecting on the exciting fieldwork that has been underway across Cornish farmland this summer as part of the BEE-STEWARD project. BEE-STEWARD is a project that transforms the cutting-edge bee research at the Environment and Sustainability Institute (University of Exeter) into computer software that can help farmers and land advisors make decisions to help boost farmland for bees and business. We have been heading out to survey the farms in Cornwall’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) that are helping to create and test BEE-STEWARD. BEE-STEWARD will be free to use and will enable the user to visualise the impact of their land management options on bee colony growth and survival.
At the end of May we started our surveys and joined the wonderfully welcoming Joe and Jenny Dunstan who farm areas across Constantine and Mabe and farm a mix of livestock for beef (www.jennysbeef.co.uk), straw for animal bedding (www.facebook.com/cousinjackcornwall/) and Oilseed rape. We were treated to a tour by Joe and Jenny along with their son and two of their dogs, we tried our hardest to keep focused as new puppy Kora did her very best to distract us all from the task at hand.
It was a beautiful Cornish summer’s day and we were able to map out the farms habitats and features. Now we know what is growing and where we have been able to return over the summer to survey the wild flowers and bees in fields and margins across different types of fields. These surveys are providing useful information for the further development of the BEE-STEWARD model and for furthering our understanding of bumblebee relationships with the farming landscape.
We were joined by another two members of the team, Claire and Georgie are two of three photography students from the University of Falmouth who were helping document the project this summer. The students have taken photographs of the farming landscape, the farmers at work, the bees and the wider wildlife too, the photos here show a glimpse of their great work.
As summer marched on we have continued to gather information through farm surveys and have started our farmer focus groups. These provide the opportunity to consult with the farmers and land managers on ways to modify and adapt BEE-STEWARD to ensure that it is as easy as possible to operate and provides the user with really helpful and applicable information.
Kathy Troke-Thomas is a Laboratory and Teaching Assistant at the University of Exeter. Kathy has been working on stakeholder engagement and communications for the “Farms for AONBees” project, a collaboration between the Environment and Sustainability Institute and Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. She has a BSc in Conservation Biology and Ecology from the University of Exeter and is passionate about wildlife-friendly land management and conservation communication and outreach.