Supporting conservation work on the Purbeck Heaths
For over 10 years, Bournemouth University students have been working with the National Trust and RSPB on the Isle of Purbeck to monitor heathland habitats and support conservation efforts in the area.
The partnership began in 2010 with students helping with the annual deer survey and over the course of several summers, teams of students have carried out ecological surveys, gathering huge amounts of data about the flora, fauna and wildlife that call the local area home such as the mason wasp.
This year they have been investigating the trails left by large herbivores such as deer, cattle and ponies.
Species that move on bare ground are some of the most threatened species, including tiger beetles that hunt on bare ground, bees and wasps that dig nests there and rare plants. The students have been able to show that the big mammal grazers can create the ecological corridors that help these species move around the heathland landscape.
Helping our marine life recover from human caused damage
In 2019, university researchers installed 3D printed artificial reefs in Poole Bay, hoping to create homes for many types of marine life, and repair the damage caused by the loss of natural reefs.
The team is part of an Interreg Atlantic funded international research project called 3DPARE (3D Printing Artifical Reefs in the Atlantic) that is testing which concrete types, reef shapes, and specific features like overhangs and holes are most attractive to marine animals.
After only a few months the team noticed that the structures were being colonised by marine life. After eighteen months, 102 species we identified including keel worms, sea squirts, sponges, crabs, pollack, wrasse, gobies and mullet.
Last month, the Bournemouth researchers teamed up with Holderness Fishing Industry Group to release juvenile lobsters onto the reefs. Little is known about the preferred habitats of juvenile lobsters – it is hoped the research study will provide more information that will help their conservation.
Bringing Hengistbury Head’s history to life
PhD Student Hayden Scott-Pratt has been working with the Hengistbury Head Visitor Centre on a project to engage local people with the archaeology of the region through practical activities.
The project, Performing the Past, gave local people the chance to try out the crafts and materials used by their ancestors who lived on Hengistbury Head.
The generations of ancient people who lived on Hengistbury Head over the last 12,000 years practised a wide variety of crafts to survive and thrive on the headland.
The project was about ‘learning by doing’ and encouraged local people to join in with demonstrations and hands-on workshops about different ancient crafts.
It gave visitors the opportunity to experience what their ancestors experienced in the past, while also meeting new people, being outdoors and bringing the past alive again.
Uncovering our iron age past
Since 2009, teams of students and staff from the university’s Archaeology and Anthropology department have been surveying and excavating archaeological sites in the local area. Their aim has been to investigate the areas cultural footprint and examine how ancient Britons and Romans interacted.
An Early Bronze Age cemetery, a Later Bronze Age settlement, two areas of Early Iron Age settlement, a Late Iron Age burial ground and a Roman villa are amongst the sites they have excavated.
The project has featured in a number of radio and TV programmes including A History of Ancient Britain and Digging for Britain.
In 2015 the team carried out an excavation of a large iron age town which they named "Duropolis" after the Durotriges tribes who lived in our region. This discovery shed further light on life here before the Romans arrived.
Most recently, in September 2021, students discovered an Iron Age site consisting of round houses and storage pits in Winterborne Kingston, Dorset.
Excavation of the site took place in May and June this year, uncovering human and animal remains along with pottery and other items from their everyday lives.
The University team will continue to survey and scan the local area for further settlement activity that could reveal more secrets about life in pre-Roman Britain.
Revealing secrets from the bottom of the sea
Archaeologists and divers from Bournemouth University worked with the Marine Archaeology Sea Trust to excavate HMS Invincible – a 74-gun ship warship that sank in the Solent over 250 years ago.
During three years of excavation work, the team recovered significant finds such as swivel guns, a gun port lid, a mop and bucket and bottles – some with their contents still preserved.
In May of this year, the BU team found the missing piece of the puzzle when their divers discovered Invincible’s eleven-metre rudder, which had broken off from the rest of the ship and lay hidden in the sand sixty metres away.
The university’s Archaeology team have also uncovered England’s earliest known shipwreck – a medieval vessel from the 13th Century.
The ship has been named the ‘Mortar Wreck’ after the Purbeck stone mortars - large stones used in mills to grind flour - which were found amongst its cargo.
Other items found in the wreck include a cauldron used to cook food in and two Purbeck marble gravestone slabs in remarkably good condition.
Items of cargo will be on display at Poole Museum in 2024, allowing residents and visitors to see some of the incredible finds up close and hear the stories about how the wreck was discovered and excavated.