Unknown Wales 2016 – The Biggest Yet!

Over 230 delegates joined us for this years Unknown Wales at the National Museum in Cardiff

Over 230 delegates joined us for this years Unknown Wales at the National Museum in Cardiff

A day to celebrate the lesser known wildlife of Wales

A brilliant partnership to celebrate Welsh wildlife

A brilliant partnership to celebrate Welsh wildlife

On Saturday 8th October the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, and the National Museum of Wales once again held ‘Unknown Wales’, a day of celebrating lesser known wildlife through a series of talks to showcase the variety of wildlife found in Wales. This was the 6th annual Unknown Wales and our most well attended, with over 230 people joining us to learn about a variety of wildlife; from limpets to pine martens.

The Conference started early this year, with the speakers and organisers being interviewed on BBC Radio Wales 'Science Cafe'. Listen again here.

The day kicked off with a brilliant talk from Kelvin Jones, BTO Cymru's engagement officer, who told us what the gardens of Wales have shown us over the past 20 years about our bird populations. Kelvin was keen to stress the importance of having a wildlife friendly garden, to provide lots of food and shelter for birds.

The next talk, by John Archer-Thomson, introduced us to his fascinating research on limpets and their response to the Sea Empress oil spill in Pembrokeshire. John explained that after 30 years of studying the limpet population, there were variations in the population that he could not have predicted, and which made him redefine what a ‘normal’ population might be.

After a short break, Lynne Boddy from Cardiff University gave an enlightening talk on the importance of fungi for the function of planet Earth. Lynne highlighted the vital roles of fungi in the environment, including their importance as nutrient recyclers, and how over 80 percent of plants are dependent on fungi to function.

Rob Parry, conservation manager at the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, then gave a presentation on a proposed project. Rob revealed how Marsh Fritillary butterflies in the Upper Ely landscape have been steadily declining for at least 20 years, and have now disappeared from large areas of their former range. The project planned to reinforce the Upper Ely population of Marsh Fritillary butterflies, but unfortunately has been unable to proceed because the application for a licence to carry out the work was denied. Rob explained why the project is crucial for the Marsh Fritillary in Wales, and why he believes that urgent action is now needed.

After lunch, Jenny MacPherson from the Vincent Wildlife Trust gave a talk on the Pine marten recovery project in Wales, which has been the first large scale carnivore restoration project in the UK. Jenny explained how 20 pine martens were captured from healthy populations in Scotland, and were then released in the large woodlands of mid-Wales. We were delighted that Jenny included video footage of Pine martens exploring and having fun in their new homes!

We then had a double act, with Mike Wilson and Liam Olds, both from the National Museum Wales, telling us about their work surveying the invertebrates of coal tips around South Wales. Colliery spoil tips are generally thought of as barren sites devoid of wildlife, but this has proved untrue. Liam and Mike revealed many of the species that they have found across South Wales are of conservation interest, and explained that colliery spoils are growing in importance as the landscape around these untouched areas is developing.

Our keynote speaker for the day was Mike Benton from the University of Bristol, talking about Dracoraptor; the new dinosaur found in South Wales, and what it has taught us about the early establishment of the Dinosaurs. Mike explained the theories on how dinosaurs came to dominate planet Earth, and gave an insight into how current research indicates that mass extinctions were important.

Thanks to all the speakers for a brilliant day of engaging presentations, and to the generous patron who has helped support the conference. We hope to continue Unknown Wales into the future, and to keep it as a free event so that everyone is able to learn about the wildlife and conservation work in Wales that doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves.

If you would like to support the work of the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales please visit our membership page here. If you were at the Unknown Wales event and would like to make a donation, or would like to provide feedback on the day, please email Lorna.

We look forward to seeing you at Unknown Wales 2017.