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National award for student wildlife champion 

A passionate student advocate for wildlife has been recognised with a national award. 

Lyndon Howson, who is in his final year studying for a degree in Zoology, has won the Mammal Champions award in recognition of his outstanding dedication and leadership in volunteering as project coordinator for the student-led project Hedgehog Friendly Campus Project at the University of Chester.    

It’s a week of success for Lyndon who has also been selected by Universities UK (UUK) to feature as one of its 100 Faces campaign which aims to champion and celebrate the positive impact of ‘first-in-the-family’ students and graduates in the UK. Lyndon has been highlighted in the category of Science and Healthcare Pioneers for his commitment to wildlife. 

To mark the 70th anniversary of the Mammal Society the new annual award has been launched to recognise those who give up their time and energy to work for a brighter future for British mammals.  

Lyndon, 27, from Grange-over-Sands, has been recognised for his outstanding dedication and leadership in volunteering as project coordinator for the student-led project Hedgehog Friendly Campus Project at the University.  

Over the past 18 months, Lyndon, alongside his fellow student project coordinator, has transformed the initiative from a small team of seven volunteers to an impressive force of over 170 individuals, who have registered their interest in helping hedgehogs. Hedgehog Friendly Campus is a national accreditation programme funded in part by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and delivered by Students Organising for Sustainability UK (SOS-UK). 

With support from staff in the Volunteering Team and the School of Natural Sciences, he has organised and facilitated various activities, such as camera trapping surveys, hedgehog tunnels, habitat management, and meadow planting, fostering an engaged and passionate community of volunteers.   

Lyndon’s efforts as a coordinator on the project have not only invigorated the volunteer base but have also resulted in a substantial increase in the hedgehog population on campus. The numbers grew from zero to eight, with three hoglets born last year. Beyond the University, Lyndon has tirelessly worked to expand the project’s reach, actively participating in events like Chester Zoo’s Wildlife Connections Festival, where he engaged with over 4,000 members of the public, spreading awareness about hedgehog conservation and offering valuable information through fact sheets.  

His commitment extends to educational forums, as evidenced by his talk at the HOBY (Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership) Youth Leadership Summit UK and a bug house building workshop, ensuring that knowledge and enthusiasm for hedgehog conservation spread further. Collaborating with Chester Zoo Network for Nature, Lyndon has broadened the scope of volunteer opportunities and consistently participates in habitat-enhancing initiatives in the surrounding area. He has also been instrumental in fostering a holistic approach to wildlife conservation, evident in the support provided to other species, such as badgers and a breeding pair of foxes. 

Beyond his work with wildlife, Lyndon has also spoken at Buckingham Palace about his journey with the Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) awards. His speech covered how he became a councillor in his hometown at the age of 20; his role with the Hedgehog Friendly Campus Project and how the DofE awards helped him focus during a battle with cancer. He found out he was in remission a week before receiving his invitation to speak at the DofE awards in May 2023. 

Lyndon said: “Being recognised by the Mammal Society, an organisation I’ve looked to for inspiration as I embark on my career in mammal conservation, is truly inspiring. This award will serve as a beacon of inspiration, as I continue with my dedication to mammal conservation efforts. 

“I’m also so pleased to be part of the UUK 100 Faces campaign. University has been an amazing experience for me in providing so many opportunities to grow and develop.” 

Jo Morison, Volunteer and Mentor Manager at the University of Chester, said: “Lyndon has been an incredibly motivated volunteer, since commencing his volunteering on the hedgehog project in 2022. Since then he has worked tirelessly to raise the profile of the project and generate opportunities to expand the scope of the project.  

“The Volunteering Team is really proud of his many achievements and winning this award really demonstrates his commitment to helping protect hedgehogs. Congratulations Lyndon!” 

Dr Krista McLennan, Head of the School of Natural Sciences, said:

“Lyndon is an exceptional student. He has worked tirelessly on the “Hedgehog friendly campus” campaign and been an outstanding advocate to this project and the University as a whole; he has worked alongside students in other departments to improve the campus environment; and been involved in initiatives with Chester Zoo, to give just a few examples. 

“I can safely say that Lyndon has gone above and beyond what would be expected of any student and he has clearly made the absolute most out of his experience with us. As a first-generation student myself, I personally understand the challenges and difficulties that come with this responsibility, and I wish I had been able to do even half the things that Lyndon has done whilst at university. He has shown outstanding commitment and determination to his studies and to the wider community. He is an inspiration to students and staff.” 

Matt Larsen-Daw, Chief Executive Officer of the Mammal Society, said:

“We are pleased to present Lyndon with the Mammal Champion Award, launched this year for our 70th anniversary, which invites the public to nominate those going the extra mile for mammals. Lyndon deserves recognition for his outstanding dedication and leadership in spearheading the Hedgehog Friendly Campus Project at his university. His advocacy goes beyond local efforts, as he has addressed global audiences, delivering a speech at Buckingham Palace emphasising the importance of hedgehog conservation.”

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