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Linacre College's very own Dr Hedgehog

Monday 6th December 2021

Who doesn’t love hedgehogs? Well, at least I absolutely adore European hedgehogs! Therefore, I have decided that my goal in life is to improve the conservation of this fascinating and popular species through my research and the collaboration with, and communication of my research, to the public and the dedicated people working with hedgehog rehabilitation.

Unfortunately, scientific research from several European countries indicate that the population of European hedgehogs is in decline all over Europe. It is therefore essential to investigate the causes for the decline and enhance the understanding of the challenges hedgehogs face in the wild in order to improve the conservation initiatives directed at this species.

I have worked with scientific research on hedgehogs since 2011, where I volunteered at a wildlife rehabilitation centre in Denmark and decided the focus of my Master’s thesis in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation should be on hedgehog ecology. I have worked wholeheartedly on my research on hedgehogs ever since, and have even earned the nickname “Dr Hedgehog” (“Dr Pindsvin” in Danish) in the media.

My PhD project, “The Danish Hedgehog Project” (2016-2019), which I carried out at University of Southern Denmark and Naturama, was based on citizen science. I used the media to encourage volunteering citizens to collect dead hedgehogs for my research. There was an enormous support for the project, and with the participation of over 400 volunteers I received 697 dead hedgehogs from all over Denmark! The 697 hedgehogs have now been necropsied and the samples from these hedgehogs have allowed me to investigate their general health, with research into their genetics and inbreeding, parasitology, age distribution, MRSA prevalence and dental health.

As a Carlsberg Junior Research Fellow at Linacre College and the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) my work on the hedgehogs will continue. The current and planned future research include studies of infectious diseases, cancer, the general composition of hedgehog microbiomes (the collection of microorganisms including bacteria, archaea, and fungi living in and on the bodies of the hedgehogs), their food choice, and lastly, which poisons accumulate in the hedgehogs.

I have also recently investigated the effects and dangers of robotic lawnmowers on hedgehogs.

Hopefully, my research will provide an important and detailed insight into the general health and survival challenges of the hedgehogs, enabling us to improve the conservation of this fascinating species so that future generations will also be able to enjoy the unique nature experience of encountering a hedgehog in their garden.