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Ecology and Conservation

Interactions between wildlife and agriculture, behavioural studies in wild and captive populations, species and habitat management, and plant-animal interactions are key themes of our Ecology and Conservation research at Askham Bryan College. Practical and sustainable management solutions for the conservation of plant and animal species underpins our research and our undergraduates work alongside our staff and other external professionals on a range of conservation-based research activities.

Our brand new Wildlife and Conservation park, a multi-million pound investment allows our students to engage in and conduct their own research in a wide range of captive conservation techniques and principles. The College is part of the Tansy Beetle Action Group (, and we currently are working alongside a range of external stakeholders  in the conservation of the nationally endangered tansy beetle (Chrysolina graminis). A tansy ark, the first of its kind for this species, was established at the College in 2012, and is now home to a thriving C. graminis population. 

Current Research

Source to sea: A microplastics story (ongoing project)

This project builds on a student’s previous dissertation, looking at Microplastics in the River Foss. Our research staff have surveyed the River Dearne from source above Denby Dale to its confluence into the River Don at Denaby Main.

The River Dearne was selected as this is a fairly short river (51km) and flows through many areas of open access. The river flows through the post-industrial landscape of the Barnsley Coal Field. Access along the river is provided from the Dearne Way footpath, Yorkshire Sculpture Park and many over bridges.

Microplastics are small plastic elements, these are now being discovered in the marine environment, including isolated areas such as the Arctic and Mariana Trench. It is believed that these plastics are being transported to the sea through rivers.

Very little is known about the source of such micro plastics, this work aims to build up a picture through pinpointing the source and abundance of microplastics in one river. Using simple detection techniques.

The outputs from this project will be a “microplastics heat map of the river Dearne”, e-leaflet detailing the methodology and a journal article documenting the findings of the study.

In future further work could be undertaken by students on the conservation degrees to build up a picture over time of the change in abundance of microplastics in this river.

The Project Aims and Objectives:

  • To map the level of microplastics at different stages of the rivers’ journey.
  • To identify sources of microplastics in the River Dearne.
  • To raise awareness of microplastics and their consequences in general.


Askham Bryan College,
Askham Bryan,
YO23 3FR
01904 772277