Edinburgh Napier University

Category: Environment

Saving the Red Squirrel

Saving the Red Squirrel

Across the planet conservationists battle to save species from extinction due to habitat loss and invasive species. It’s no different here in Scotland with a successful breeding programme for our Scottish wildcats. And the successful re-introduction of the white-tailed sea eagle. The red squirrel is a native species which is under threat. And has sadly seen numbers decline due to different factors.  With reddish brown fur and tufted ears they are instantly recognisable. They were once found across the UK, but have disappeared from most of the country due to the introduction of grey squirrels and habitat loss. Now red squirrels are confined to Scotland, pockets of northern England and Wales and small islands off England’s south coast.

Causes of decline

This autumn if you see squirrels scurrying around in parks and gardens in Edinburgh looking for food to store. They are most likely grey squirrels which are not native to Scotland. Introduced to the UK from North America in Victorian times, the grey squirrel is larger than the red and can drive reds out of their habitat in a matter of years. In recent times they have also carried squirrelpox, which although harmless to themselves is fatal to reds which have no natural immunity.

Reds have also suffered decline due to habitat loss and fragmentation. Red squirrels need woodland to survive and can be found in coniferous, broadleaved and mixed woodland. When areas of forest are cut back to leave isolated pockets this leaves areas which are too small to support a thriving population. Squirrels rely on trees for food with their diet mainly made up of seeds and nuts. Pine seeds are a particular favourite, but they will also take hazelnuts, and the seeds of larch and spruce. Reds also use the trees for mating and raising their young.

To try to gain a widespread survey of the squirrel population, 2nd-8th October sees the Great Scottish Squirrel Survey which aims to collect data to improve understanding of how squirrel populations are changing over time and help direct conservation action.

Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels is an excellent website promoting awareness of the red squirrel and offering suggestions for activities such as Red Squirrel Rambles and puzzles, a map of sightings and news updates.

What can be done?

Campaign groups can put pressure on governments to reject planning applications for development in sensitive areas. They can also raise awareness through promotions such as The Great Scottish Squirrel Survey

Local landowners can seize the initiative and come to together to form their own projects such as Cairngorms Connect which aims to restore habitats and protect endangered wildlife.

You can put food out to encourage red squirrels if you live in an area with a population, and take part in citizen science projects such as The Great Scottish Squirrel Survey

If you would like to see red squirrels, but there aren’t any in your area you could try visiting RSPB reserve Loch Garten and Scottish Wildlife Trust Loch of the Lowes.     They both have red squirrel feeders so you are able to view the squirrels up close.

I was lucky enough to see a red squirrel in the woodlands at Scone Palace Gardens which has free entry in the winter months.

You can use Library Search to find books, e-books and articles on squirrels, conservation and ecology.

Read more Nature posts

Photo source Peasre O’Halloran

By Vivenne Hamilton



Bridges update


Following our blog last year on Scotland’s Bridges we thought we update you on the latest bridge news, although this bridge is not exclusively Scottish-it is shared with our English neighbours.

Historic Bridges

Another one of Scotland’s (and England’s) historic bridges hit the headlines recently when it was re-opened after a major re-fit. The Union Chain Bridge was the longest wrought iron suspension bridge in the world when it opened in 1820 and is the world’s oldest vehicle suspension bridge. Spanning the River Tweed, it connected Scotland and England and cut out a long detour either downstream to Berwick-upon-Tweed or upstream to Coldstream.

Designed by Captain (later Sir) Samuel Brown RN, who held patents for the design of the chains, he altered the tower and abutments on the suggestion of John Rennie. Construction began in 1819 and the bridge was completed in less than a year. The opening ceremony saw 700 spectators cross the bridge. Tolls were charged until 1855.

The Future

The recent renovations aren’t the first time the bridge has had major work carried out on it. It has been strengthened and refurbished several times with the bridge deck replaced in 1871 and 1974 and cables added in 1902.

As the years passed the bridge needed yet another refurbishment and in 2013 it was expected to close. However a campaign was started to raise funds to carry out the works needed. With funding from Historic England, Scottish Borders Council, Northumberland County Council Work and the National Lottery Heritage Fund work was started in October 2020, but due to the covid-19 pandemic there were delays. Now with all parts having been removed, checked, replaced or restored the bridge was finally opened again on 17th April 2023. This historic crossing is once again carrying vehicles and pedestrians.

Watch drone footage of the works-https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-south-scotland-65274771

Watch the first pedestrians and vehicles cross the newly opened bridge- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXeKnjGDGp0

You can find books and articles about bridges and engineering using Library Search




Read our previous post about bridges of Scotland here

By Vivienne Hamilton

photo source Bjorn Snelders 

World Penguin Day

World Penguin Day

Whether you find them adorable, funny, and loveable for their distinct characteristics, penguins are highly adaptable aquatic animals with impressive swimming abilities. Located around the southern hemisphere, species vary in size from just 30cm tall to just over 1 metre.

These flightless birds spend a staggering three quarters of their existence at sea and can dive to depths of around 200m, whilst emperor penguins can reach 500m. Their flippers act as paddles helping them manoeuvre through the water, as their plumage helps them stay afloat and warm by trapping air. The distinctive colour of penguins prevents them from being easily spotted by predators on land, in the air or underwater.

Edinburgh Zoo

Sit back, relax and take a short break to watch Penguins live on Edinburgh Zoo’s Penguin Live cam:


Life of the Penguin 

World Penguin Day coincides with the northern migration of Antarctica’s native Adelie penguins who migrate north for the harsh winter months for better access to food and return home for the summer months to build their nest and rear their young. However, the day has been adopted as a celebration of all species of penguin.

Due to overfishing, pollution of oceans by plastics, oil spills and global warming which is changing the Antarctic landscape, the statistics from the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) provides grim reading for the future of penguins, with 10 of the 17 species  considered endangered or vulnerable and another 3 from that group considered near threatened.

Interested in knowing more about the various penguin species? See the Penguins International | World Penguin Day: Penguin Conservation Status blog.

For a lighter look at more penguin facts and perhaps a trip down memory lane, click on the link below:

Penguin Facts: With Professor Pingun: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ePfY1CnGJo

You can read about other animal like for World Lion Day

or read more about Penguins 

photo source: Cornelius Ventures

By Mo Almas

International Day of Zero Waste

International Day of Zero Waste

On 14th December 2022 the UN proclaimed 30th of March as International Day of Zero Waste. To highlight and focus on encouraging individuals, governments, and organisations around the world to take a proactive stance in dealing with the reduction of waste products that are non-recyclable, and have a direct impact on the environment and ecosystems they are disposed in.

By prioritizing the idea of sustainability, we can reduce and one day completely eradicate the need for landfill sites, and the disposing of harmful chemicals and products into the air via incinerators or releasing products into water systems. This will in turn will reduce the impact we have on the environment.

Edinburgh Napier working towards zero waster

You can see how Edinburgh Napier University is working towards Environmental Sustainability and reducing waste by following this link: Reducing Waste (napier.ac.uk)

Or read about how our lab technician Lisa McMillan and technical assistant Jo Brown pioneered a new recycling initiative that has to date (December 2022) re-routed 3,000kg of plastic from general waste to dry mixed recycling. See more by using this link Lab Plastic Recycling Project (napier.ac.uk) or see the you tube video here Edinburgh Napier University | SAS | Lab Recycling? Yes, really! – YouTube

To find out more about International Day of Zero Waste visit the United Nations webpage International Day of Zero Waste at the following link:  Zero Waste Day | United Nations

You can find more environment-friendly posts like celebrating bike week 

Photo source: Ravin

by Mo Almas

RSPB Garden Birdwatch

RSPB Garden Birdwatch

This year we’re promoting the RSPB Garden Birdwatch in our relaxation spaces. The birdwatch has been running since 1979 and it’s very simple to take part in. All you need to do is count the maximum number of each type of bird you see in an hour either in your garden, from a balcony or in a park. Your results can be entered online. This year the birdwatch runs from 27-29 January. It’s a good way to take a break from your studies and you are contributing to a valuable citizen science project. The results are published later in the year and are useful for conservation projects and make interesting reading about the state of our garden birds.

“I think the most important quality in a birdwatcher is a willingness to stand quietly and see what comes. Our everyday lives obscure a truth about existence – that at the heart of everything there lies a stillness and a light.” – Lynn Thomson, Birding with Yeats: A Mother’s Memoir.

All the information you need can be found at Big Garden Birdwatch or scan the QR code on the posters in the relaxation spaces.

You can use Library Search to find books and articles on birds, conservation and citizen science which are in our collection.

By Vivienne Hamilton

Image by Marko from Pixabay

read more about the power of nature in our article  on “thriving in nature”

National Insect Week 2022

National Insect Week 2022

Love them or loathe them, insects are an important part of the earth’s ecosystem. Furthermore, they are a vital source of food for birds, fish and animals. In addition, they pollinate crops and plants and break down plant and animal matter. Over one million species of insects have been discovered and described, but it is estimated that there may be as many as 10 million species on earth. Scientists estimate that insects make up to 90% of all species of animals on the planet and more than half of all living things.

All insects have:

  1. Six legs.
  2. Three body sections (head, thorax and abdomen)
  3. Pair of antennae.
  4. Compound eyes.
  5. Most have wings.
  6. Three or four stage life cycle (egg, larva or nymphs, pupa and adult)

Insects can be found in every habitat on earth from hot deserts to snow-covered mountains, some such as termites and ants live in large colonies. Others, like the praying mantis and some bees and wasps, are solitary only coming together to mate.

Insects in trouble

It has been well documented in recent years that insects are under pressure due to loss of habitat, climate change and chemicals used in farming. It is estimated that every minute an area of rainforest the size of a football pitch is being cleared, displacing the insects that occupied it. In addition, Insects are also being killed by pesticides and herbicides designed to increase crop yields.

To reduce the impact scientists are trying to develop disease-resistant crops. This will lessen the need for harmful chemicals. Also farmers are being encouraged to develop wildlife strips to try to boost insect numbers.

Honey bees are also under threat from the varoa mite . It attaches to the body of the bee and sucks out fat bodies and also feeds on the larvae in bee hives. Moreover, these mites are a vector for at least five different debilitating bee viruses contributing to the current higher levels of bee losses worldwide.

How can you help this National Insect Week 2022?

You may think that there’s little you can do to help the insects’ plight, but there are some simple and cheap things you can try at home. Should you have a garden, you can leave a wild area where you don’t cut the grass, let weeds and nettles flourish and leave tree branches where they fall. This provides shelter and dedicated space for insects to thrive. Also, you can try planting flowers and shrubs which are good for insects in your flower beds or planters.

Don’t have a garden? You could plant up a window box with bee-friendly flowers such as cornflowers, cosmos and pot marigolds. These can be bought for a relatively small price.

Bug hotels are a fantastic way to provide shelter and a breeding spot for insects. They can be purchased at garden centres and online, but you may like to try making your own. There are several tutorials on YouTube and it’s a great way of recycling old materials and garden waste which you might have lying around.

Alternatively, you could take part in citizen science projects to help scientists better understand how insects are coping and if their populations are in decline or expanding.

Examples of citizen science projects are:

Counting insect splats- https://cdn.buglife.org.uk/2022/05/Bugs-Matter-2021-National-Report-Summary.pdf

Tell us about your bee hotel- https://saviourbees.co.uk/citizenscience/

Garden butterfly survey- https://gardenbutterflysurvey.org/

UK ladybird survey-https://www.coleoptera.org.uk/coccinellidae/home

A future food source?

In some countries, insects are seen as delicious snacks. Walk around a market in many parts of Asia and you will almost certainly come across fried grasshoppers and mealworms on the menu. This concept seems very alien to us in Scotland, but some scientists believe that there is a need for us to start using insects as a food source. The ever-increasing global population and events such as wars put pressure on food commodities. This can cause shortages, which if they were long-term, could mean that we must consider some more unusual sources to feed the world’s population.

Edinburgh Napier has lots of books and articles about insects available at Sighthill campus library and online. Use Library Search to find them.

By Vivienne Hamilton

Want to read some more nature-inspired articles? Why not read Vivienne’s post in Ospreys.

Photo by Elegance Nairobi on Unsplash

World Ocean Day Wednesday 8th of June 2022

World Ocean Day Wednesday 8th of June 2022

World Ocean Day was recognised by the United Nations in 2008. It advocates for protecting, restoring, and learning more about the blue planet. The ocean connects us all and we want to create a better and more sustainable future, as well as conserve marine ecosystems and life.

Did you know that the ocean covers over 70% of the planet? Also, 70% of the oxygen we breathe is produced by oceans?

It is home to most of the biodiversity and sadly due to pollution levels, coral reefs and marine life are diminishing. Therefore, as humans, we can take action to protect and understand our relationship with the ocean and its habitat.




But how can we help?

  • You can support the campaign, whether this is online, a physical event, or sharing information around the world! Here is how you can help below:
  • Use educational materials found on the website.
  • Connect with your local aquarium, and schools, and amplify the event through blogging (like this one for example), signage, podcasts, and social media!
  • If you feel brave, you could deliver presentations (interactive alongside the ocean creatures), or if you live near the oceans, you could even host a guided walk.
  • Organise competitions around writing articles, books, or poems on saving our oceans.
  • Get creative and upcycle any materials found on the beaches that contribute to ocean pollution. · Sign the petition Conservation Action Focus – World Ocean Day – World Ocean Day
  • Spread the word and access promotional resources to engage communities on social media.


Protect World Ocean Day Beach Scene

Protect World Ocean Day Beach Scene


The marine conservation society in Scotland has a responsibility to ban any damaged activity such as trawling and dredging. You can find more information https://www.mcsuk.org/about-us/where-we-work/our-focus-in-scotland/


There are also links on the library’s Box of Broadcasts to understand more about Oceans and the incredible creatures that live in them:

https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ondemand/index.php/prog/125AA041?bcast=127865111 https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ondemand/index.php/prog/118B147A?bcast=127040971

Search the library catalogue for books on Oceans.

Take action here 

What is COP-26? The Climate change Conference of Parties

COP26 Image

All eyes will be on Scotland this month as leaders from across the globe meet in Glasgow to attend COP-26: the climate change Conference of Parties. You may be wondering what the 26 stands for? Well, it’s the 26th annual summit since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) treaty was signed in 1994. So, that’s 27 years that we’ve been arguing about change while the world’s environment has been steadily deteriorating.

There is another significance to the number 26 – the Conference has 26 goals that it intends to achieve. The first is to secure global net-zero emissions by 2030 and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. We are currently not on target, and 2030 is only nine years away.

If you’re keen to find out what the other 25 goals are, you can read the official document here.

Of course, we’re conscious of the fact that we are the host nation for this crucial summit, and we wish our Glasgow friends and neighbours well. We know they’ll be fantastic hosts. We’re hopeful that harmony will prevail and that the leaders come to a unanimous agreement about how to save our (only) planet.  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is certainly determined that this will happen and pledged in a speech on October 25th that “Scotland is seeking to lead by example”. Read what she has to say here.

A bit closer to home, the COP26 Edinburgh Summit takes place on 3rd and 4th at the Dovecot Studios in Infirmary Street, with a range of speakers and business leaders discussing their climate visions for our own city.

And here at Edinburgh Napier, we are committed to achieving our own net-zero in carbon emissions. Read about our commitments here and be sure to hold our feet to the fire!

Read more on Climate Change using Librarysearch.napier.ac.uk and you can read more about Sustainability in Academic Libraries here.

By Lesley McRobb



Don’t waste the world!

You are just one step away from reducing your carbon footprint for World Environment Day on the 5th June 2021…

Every year, World Environment Day is celebrated to restore ecosystems and encourage action for the protection of the environment for future generations.

Wherever you are, you can change your habits and educate one another about environmental issues such as wildlife crime, pollution, and global warming. Here are just a few steps you can take now:


  • Recycling or going plastic free – marine mammals are killed every year by ingesting plastic. To help save our ecosystem, use a bag for life when doing your weekly shop, and swap plastic water bottles for steel ones!
  • Greener Travel – at Edinburgh Napier University, we highly encourage you to walk or cycle to our campuses. One of the benefits of this is that you can enjoy the picturesque views of Edinburgh along the cycle routes, parks and waterways.

Find out about the Cycling Friendly Campus Award at Merchiston campus:

  • Blogging- save paper by writing online instead!

Shopping – look out for the Fairtrade logo on packaging. Fairtrade supports sustainable production, fairness, equality, and improved working conditions for farmers. Learn more about Fairtrade in the link below:


Further resources:

World Environment Day

Center for Biological Diversity

By Jemma Lidgard

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