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News > Bilton Grange Society News > Charlotte Armitage (BG 00-04) Receives Doctorate in Biosciences

Charlotte Armitage (BG 00-04) Receives Doctorate in Biosciences

Charlotte Armitage (BG 00-04) has recently gained a Doctorate in Biosciences from the University of Exeter. She gave us an insight into the research she's been doing on hazel dormice in Britain: 

'In my research, I explored how hazel dormice in Britain use a survival strategy called 'daily torpor' and how this behaviour might change because of climate change. Daily torpor is like a deep sleep that helps conserve energy during tough times. I studied how factors such as ancient woodland, habitat connections, location, and climate affect how often dormice use torpor, and how this relates to their population size and reproduction.

My findings suggest that as the climate changes, dormice might use torpor less often in England and Wales, potentially leading to higher reproductive rates in dormice. But if there are too many climate extremes year on year, dormice might actually use torpor more, which could be risky for smaller populations living on the edge of their range. To protect these animals, we need conservation efforts focused on these edge areas to help them adapt to changing conditions.

I also looked at how well we can predict where dormice live, especially in unusual places like conifer forests on the outskirts of their habitat in North Wales. Our current models aren't particularly good at predicting this, so we need more information about what dormice eat in these forests to better protect them. I dug deeper into how dormice survive in these conifer forests by analyzing their diets. It turns out they can eat a narrower range of foods in these forests, relying heavily on insects. This study highlights the importance of having diverse plants and lots of insects in these areas to help dormice thrive.

Overall, this research helps us understand how dormice manage their energy, what kind of habitats they need, and what they eat. This knowledge is crucial for making smart conservation choices, especially with climate change putting more pressure on these animals living on the edge of their range.'

Written by Charlotte Armitage (BG 00-04)

Charlotte is a conservation ecologist, and she completed an MSc in Biodiversity and Conservation Management at the University of Oxford in 2014 where she developed an interest in mammal ecology, human-wildlife conflict, and citizen science. Since graduating she has worked on a number of different projects in the UK and abroad including carrying out monitoring and surveying of species in the tropics of Costa Rica and managing an NGO in Tanzania focusing on human-elephant conflict surrounding Ruaha National Park. Prior to starting her PhD she spent two and a half years working at the Woodland Trust as Citizen Science Officer on the Nature’s Calendar and Observatree projects.


Of course, there is a also a wonderful Lewis Carroll / Rugby School / Bilton Grange link to the dormouse. Lewis Carroll aka Charles Dodgson was a Rugbeian, and in 1973, Bilton Grange staged an outdoor production of Alice in Wonderland to mark the centenary of the school. See the link here, showing a cine film of the production from 1973.

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