Pembroke Biodiversity Project Flourishes


Article written by Pembroke Student Barbara Francik (2020, MBiol Biology)

We are excited to share the success of the Pembroke College Biodiversity Project. Set up in 2021 by a team of undergraduate biologists, the project began with two unassuming and overgrown fields near the Pembroke sports ground, which turned out to be hidden gems of biodiversity potential. Since its initiation, the project has grown into a long-term, student-led biodiversity monitoring and enhancement initiative. It has three key aims: biodiversity conservation, research, and outreach.

With biodiversity facing a global crisis, it has been inspiring to see such great enthusiasm and engagement with the project across the Pembroke community, both from students and staff. The JCR have run a huge variety of initiatives, including bioblitz-type surveys of plants and insects, putting up camera traps, digging for earthworms, and establishing bird feeding stations. We have reached out across the university to academics and the sustainability team, and opened the project to the wider Oxford community. Our bird-ringing demonstrations have proven particularly popular. Despite the very early start times – birds do not respect human sleep schedules – we’ve had participants joining from across the JCR, MCR, staff and public. We have also run several outreach events, including most recently a nature drawing session, which resulted in some very interesting renditions of our local plants and animals.

We have ambitious plans for the future. Most of our work has so far focused on baseline data collection, but we are now moving towards actively restoring and creating habitats. In particular, we are keen to work on the riparian buffer, an area of wooded land along Hinksey Stream, which could provide an excellent refuge for water voles and grass snakes, both of which are protected in the UK. We also have several indicator species of lowland meadow, a UK priority habitat, including the Great burnet – a specialist on floodplains, which are rapidly declining. Nurturing these habitats will support scarce and threatened species.

We also want to open the site to student research, including Masters projects. We’ll be collecting and sharing long-term ecological data and we want to support students with their own project ideas. The site has already been dubbed Pembroke’s own “mini-Wytham Woods”.

Of course, community building and outreach will be absolutely fundamental to the project going forward. We want to ensure the entire Oxford community can get involved and enjoy the site, and we are particularly excited about the prospect of working with local nature groups and schools. There are also plans to refurbish the Pembroke sports building and turn it into a lively hub for the community, which will support both sports and biodiversity work. We hope to turn part of the building into a field lab, equipped with microscopes.

We want to build a strong sense of community around the project and we are really seeing that begin to flourish now. We believe the Pembroke Biodiversity Project is something which will be passed down and built upon by future generations of Pembroke students, and that it will be something that the entire Pembroke community can proudly build together.

The valuable work already carried out has been greatly supported by an initial generous seed-capital donation. If you would like to support us in any way, and help make the project sustainable long into the future, please do get in contact with We would be delighted to hear from you.

Collage of Photos of activities of the Biodiversity Project