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New Biodiversity Manager Ian Armstrong smiling in front of a pond

We’ve appointed a new Biodiversity Manager to further cement our position as one of the ‘greenest’ universities in the world.   

We were recently ranked joint 36th in the global Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2024 which assess universities against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

In the latest QS World University Rankings for Sustainability, we were placed 19th out of more than 1,400 global universities. 

And our Biodiversity Strategy won a Nature Positive category at the 2023 Green Gown Awards. 

We take seriously our responsibility towards our estate which includes high-quality woodland, grassland and wetland habitats. 

This is home to a vast array of wildlife, including roe deer, badgers, otters and over 100 species of bird. 

Decades of growth 

To ensure our flora and fauna continues to flourish, we recently appointed ecologist Ian Armstrong to lead on implementing our Biodiversity Strategy. 

Ian first joined us in 1990 and helped maintain our estate. 

In 1995 he left to study countryside management and went on to work for places including the local council and Natural England. 

After almost 30-years we’re delighted to welcome Ian back to Durham – and Ian is delighted to see that tiny saplings he planted in the early 1990s have now flourished into mature trees over 30ft tall. 

Putting nature first 

New Biodiversity Manager Ian Armstrong smiling leaning against a tree he planted in the 1990sIan said: “It’s great to be back – it feels like coming home in a way, but things are much better here now in terms of biodiversity than they were in the 1990s. 

“Back then, the key word was ‘pristine’. All the hedges were closely trimmed; pesticides were used, and the grass was cut daily during the cutting season. 

“Thankfully there’s been a cultural change and my ambition now is that Durham becomes as synonymous with sustainability as it is with education. 

“We already have an excellent Biodiversity Strategy in place and I’m excited to see what further improvements we can make across campus in the coming years.”   

Encouraging insects 

Part of Ian’s work is to ensure we’re meeting our Biodiversity Strategy targets, which include maintaining or increasing priority species’ populations. 

To aid this, we’re planting more native wildflowers across our estate as they encourage insects, which in turn attract more mammals and birds. 

This year we’ve reduced mowing regimes across much of our amenity grassland to encourage wildflowers. 

Orchids such as common spotted orchid, northern marsh orchid and bee orchid are already flowering in response to this change. 

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