A final year project by recent Middlesex University Biosciences graduate Nathaniel Legall has been awarded the Linnean Society Undergraduate Prize.
Nathaniel, from Walthamstow in north-east London, carried out his study of the pygmy shrew (Sorex minutus) during the annual two-week university field trip to Lundy Island.
After writing up the findings for his dissertation, the Linnean Society has named Nathaniel's work a Project of Particular Merit in Evolutionary Biology.
"Off the back of my undergraduate project I've been offered a PhD studentship in molecular ecology at the University of Salford." - Nathaniel Legall
"I am overwhelmed to have received the Linnean Society award. It came as a total surprise because there were so many great projects by other students this year," said Nathaniel.
"The award gives me confidence to do a master's and continue pursuing a career in academic research."
His novel study used 'hair tubes' to non-invasively capture hairs from the shrews, which were then brought back to Middlesex for DNA profiling.
Results were compared against an internet database to establish genetic similarities with other pygmy shrews and used to assess whether the Lundy Island species is native to the island or a colony originally from the UK mainland.
Dr Steve Kett, Programme Leader of the BSc Biology degree at Middlesex, believes the project highlights the benefits of giving students the opportunity to work in novel environments and encouraging them to follow topics they find exciting.
"Lundy provides an excellent environment for the study of evolutionary biology and I think it is fair to say Nathaniel has made the best of his opportunity," he said.
"The degree at Middlesex University has prepared me really well for graduate life," added Nathaniel. "Off the back of my undergraduate project I've been offered a PhD studentship in molecular ecology at the University of Salford."
Before he begins his doctorate, however, Nathaniel plans to spend a year working at the London Wildlife Trust to broaden his conservation experience.
Photo: Nathaniel Legall and Dr Celia Bell, Head of Natural Sciences at Middlesex University.