28 September 2016

A previously undiscovered population of endangered arctic foxes was spotted by students and staff at Bilborough College during a research expedition to Iceland.

Fifteen students and two staff members spotted the arctic foxes – which are a protected species – while working with the Arctic Fox Research Centre in Iceland.

Simon Holland, Geography teacher at Bilborough College who led the trip, said:

“In Iceland, arctic foxes are endangered because they are often killed as they can attack sheep. We were working with the Arctic Fox Research Centre and we were in trekking in North West Iceland on the edge of the stunning Hornstrandir Nature Reserve.

“We didn’t think we would see any arctic foxes there as that area is not protected and is relatively populated with holiday homes in many places but we found a den which no-one knew existed. No research had been carried out there before so this was a very exciting find.

“We were able to give the research centre this information using a GIS computer mapping system to show where we spotted the foxes and the centre will share that with universities in Iceland.

“It was also suggested that the information might lead to further research in future and other expeditions to the same area to build on the information. We weren’t expecting it at all but we saw foxes and cubs on several occasions.

“It was amazing, I think we saw five or six different foxes and one time the cubs were hanging off their mum’s back. We also had to collect samples of fox scat so it could be analysed in relation to the hormones in it and how they are affecting breeding patterns.”

As well as the six-day trek, students also crossed a glacial inlet at low tide and climbed the only glacier in Europe which is said to be expanding.

Mr Holland said:

“We took some measurements and we confirmed that the glacier appeared not to be depleting. Overall it was a fantastic trip and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it. The students have never done anything like this before, the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme is the only thing that comes close; they really wanted to challenge themselves.”

Student Michael Wilson, 18, of Basford, said:

“It’s difficult to put into words the experience gained from the two weeks spent in the exotic land of Iceland; simply amazing is all I can conclude. It was such a rollercoaster of emotion, and being in Hornstrandir, one of the most remote areas in Iceland, combined with the fact that our team for the most part was cut off from technology created an emotional and truly exciting journey. Overall the Iceland expedition has given me one of the most exciting experiences of my life so far, from climbing the glacier, to gathering real scientific data.”

The group also enjoyed an internal flight in Iceland and discovered that the President of Iceland was on the same plane.

Mr Holland said:

“There were 35 seats on the plane and we had 20 of them. At the end of the captain’s welcome we caught the word President and the cabin crew confirmed that he was on board.”

Bilborough Sixth Form College caters for students aged 16 to 19 years old, wanting to study AS and A-levels, BTEC or the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme in an academic, supportive and sociable environment.

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