This time last year I applied for a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust travel fellowship to investigate hybridisation in wildcat populations across continental Europe. One year on, and several rounds of application forms and interviews later, and I am leaving on Sunday.
My project is called ‘Collaboration breeds success: solving hybridisation in Scottish wildcats’ and I received funding to spend six weeks travelling across the continent meeting with wildcat experts and researchers so that I can interview them about the drivers of hybridisation in their study populations. The rate of hybridisation varies across Europe with some populations showing significant levels (albeit nowhere near as high as in Scotland where we have 100% hybridisation) and others showing very little, despite wildcats sometimes living in close proximity to domestic cats.
The first leg of my travels includes Germany, Switzerland and France, and the second leg (in September/October) will include Spain, possibly Portugal (in my own time), Sicily and Hungary. Here’s a map showing the first leg of my travels. I have (had to) launch a ‘blog’ to accompany my travels, and if you would like to read it, it is here: http://wildcatkeri.home.blog/
Map showing some of the destinations in the first leg of my travels (Germany, Switzerland and France).
It contains more detail about my project and what I intend to do, and I plan to post updates of an extremely informative nature, accompanied by photos of the local wildcats and the places they live. And I will try my best not to brag about how fun it will be, because nobody wants to read that.
Finally, two things: I should stress that the blog is a personal one, and although SWA have generously allowed me to do this and are supporting me in my travels, the opinions expressed in my blog are my own. Secondly, the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust are now accepting applications for the next round of travel fellowships, and I would encourage anyone to apply. You never know – this time next year you too could be agonising over a blog and panicking over last-minute travel arrangements.