Over last weekend I attended the Mammal Society spring conference in Exeter. There were a lot of talks and events but I want to give a flavour of what I found most interesting.
The first talk was on how animals respond to daylight. It is more complex than being active either or night with lots of variation but the thing that struck me was the evidence on how artificial light can alter animal behaviour and make an area less suitable. This has the potential to affect how ecologists look at impacts from development and how we think about mitigation. It seems growing concerns about energy use and light pollution may help drive changes that also benefit wildlife and that new technology can help, for instance it is now possible for a single controller to turn street lights off and on as they are needed.
This was followed by two talks on pine martens in Ireland and Scotland. With so many species and habitats in danger it was great to hear that these beautiful creatures are a conservation success story with Irish populations holding their numbers and the Scottish pine marten’s expanding south from the highlands.
Next morning we returned to the subject of highland Scotland for Xavier Lambin’s talk on American mink. These invasive predators not only threaten many British species including the water vole but also commercial interests like fisheries and shooting estates but limiting their spread can be both difficult and expensive. By working with local volunteers the Scottish mink project was able to monitor mink across a much larger area than would otherwise have been possible and to target humane killing of mink to reduce the damage they cause.