A butterfly not seen in England since 1976 has been brought back from the brink of extinction with help from a Kettering researcher.
In May 2018, chequered skipper butterflies were taken from Belgium and set free into a secret location in Rockingham Forest, near Corby.
The project, carried out by wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation in partnership with Forestry England, saw about 40 of the species relocated to Northamptonshire.
As part of the three-year project Jamie Wildman, a PhD researcher at the University of Northampton, has been focusing on the habitat requirements for chequered skipper, and monitoring the success of the reintroduction.
Repopulated in the county as part of the Back From the Brink initiative last year, it has been confirmed that the adults have bred successfully.
Conservationists hope the English-born skippers will start a new population of the butterfly as a result of then ambitious conservation project.
Jamie, who comes from Kettering, said: “My first involvement with the project was as part of the Butterfly Conservation/Zoological Society of London collection team on the inaugural trip to Belgium last year.
“We were tasked with bringing a founder population of chequered skippers back to Rockingham Forest.
“I started fieldwork once we returned to England with the butterflies, and camped nearby for nearly two weeks.
“I first learnt of the project a few years ago from Dr Robin Field, who co-developed the project, during a Wildlife Trust work party to restore habitat on nature reserves around Wicksteed Park’s Castle Field and water meadow.
“If I hadn’t decided to make that first step into conservation, I absolutely would not be where I am now.
“My switch from English to the sciences academically was essentially down to the leapfrogging of one passion by another.”
The 30-year-old is specialising in chequered skipper ecology and the plants/habitat associated with the butterfly for the benefit of his PhD research.
Jamie, who attended Hawthorn Primary School, Bishop Stopford School and Tresham College, added: “Collaborating with Butterfly Conservation on the reintroduction of the chequered skipper is an extraordinary privilege.
“In the company of the butterfly, despite the tranquil surrounds of Rockingham Forest, the air is always electric.
“Even when peacefully perched on a grass tip, each chequered skipper thrums with historical significance.
“I have found myself, on occasion, eye-to-compound eye with a butterfly positioned just so for hours, gazing at its every wing vein, tuft, spot, and scale.
“The only thing I can equate the experience to is staring at a priceless, centuries-old jewel behind a pane of glass in a museum – a golden-brown jewel, recurring.
“That the reintroduction has so far been a success naturally benefits my research greatly.
“I am delighted to have the opportunity to demystify the species’ behaviour and precisely define its habitat requirements to help ensure long-term presence in Northamptonshire.
“The chequered skipper is a magnificent butterfly, and I hope that, through the combined efforts of Back from the Brink and its delivery partners, it will one day become a regular feature of the Rockingham Forest landscape.”
The Back from the Brink project, made possible thanks to The National Lottery Heritage Fund and People’s Postcode Lottery, aims to save 20 species from extinction and benefit over 200 more through 19 projects that span England.
Such is Jamie’s passion for the environment he has not only been chosen as the Green Party Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Kettering, for the next General Election, but he will be running the Great North Run, his first competitive half marathon, this September in aid of Butterfly Conservation.
To sponsor Jamie please go to https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/JamieWildman