Centre for Ecology and Conservation welcomes guests for 20th Anniversary Public Lecture

A world-leading research and education hub rooted in the Cornish landscape has marked its 20th anniversary with a celebratory public event.

The Centre for Ecology and Conservation was founded at the University of Exeter, Cornwall two decades ago to coincide with the opening of the Penryn campus.

In the years since, it has thrived and established itself as a beacon of expertise in fields including ecology, conservation, evolution, zoology, behaviour, microbiology and marine science.

At its 20th Anniversary Public Lecture, held at the Princess Pavilions in Falmouth, two of the CEC’s leading academics took to the stage to offer an audience of students, alumni and members of the public an insight into some of this expertise and how it draws upon Cornwall’s natural assets.

Dave Hodgson, Professor of Ecology and Head of the Department of Ecology and Conservation, focused his talk – ‘Cornwall and the Worldwide Web’ – on the history of the CEC and its impact through two very different local projects involving singing crickets and the Helford Local Marine Protected Area.

Professor Hodgson also paid tribute to the impact of the annual BioBlitz event run by students, which invites the community onto campus to find as many species of flora and fauna as possible in a single day – and at which last year, a new species of spider was discovered.

“The CEC is 20 years young,” he said. “And to have a department of that age ranked 12th in the world for the quality of its ecological research is mind-blowing.

“Our focus is on the global biodiversity crisis; we know that we can’t survive without nature. So, we teach and do research on how to conserve nature for future generations, and it’s for us to set up our graduates with the skills they need to take that message into whatever sector they end up in.”

The second session was delivered by Professor Alex Thornton and entitled ‘Clever Cornish Birds: how jackdaws adapt to live alongside us’. Showcasing the work of the Cornish Jackdaw Project, Professor Thornton talked about how the intelligence of jackdaws allows them to thrive alongside human populations by learning which people pose a threat, avoiding dangers and taking advantage of new opportunities.

“The development of the CEC is a success story for Cornwall itself,” added Professor Thornton. “It’s fitting therefore that we could share some of that celebration and pride with the community, and look ahead with confidence and anticipation as to what we might achieve together in the next two decades.”

The event was also part of the University of Exeter, Cornwall’s year-long programme of events celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Penryn campus.