Dr Sophie Lund Rasmussen is a Postdoctoral Researcher with WildCRU, the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit in the Department of Biology at Oxford University, and works to improve the conservation of European hedgehogs through research and the collaboration with, and communication of research to, the public and people working with hedgehog rehabilitation.
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 understanding of the challenges hedgehogs face in the wild in order to improve the conservation initiatives directed at this species.
Dr Rasmussen has worked with scientific research on hedgehogs since 2011, where she volunteered at a wildlife rehabilitation centre in Denmark and decided the focus of her Master’s thesis in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation should be on hedgehog ecology. Dedication to her research on hedgehogs has earned her the nickname 'Dr Hedgehog' ('Dr Pindsvin' in Danish) in the media.
Dr Rasmussen's PhD project, The Danish Hedgehog Project (2016-2019), was carried out at the University of Southern Denmark and Naturama, and based on citizen science. Dr Rasmussen used the media to encourage volunteering citizens to collect dead hedgehogs for her research. There was an enormous support for the project, and with the participation of over 400 volunteers, she received 697 dead hedgehogs from all over Denmark. The 697 hedgehogs have now been necropsied and the samples from these hedgehogs have allowed her to investigate their general health, with research into their genetics and inbreeding, parasitology, age distribution, MRSA prevalence and dental health.
The current and planned future research based on these samples include studies of infectious diseases, cancer, the general composition of their 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. Dr Rasmussen has also recently investigated the effects and dangers of robotic lawn mowers on hedgehogs.
Dr Rasmussen hopes her research will provide an important and detailed insight into the general health and survival challenges of the hedgehogs, enabling improved 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.
- Hedgehog ecology and behaviour
- Hedgehog genetics
- Hedgehog conservation
- Hedgehog microbiomes
- Hedgehog parasites
- Wildlife rehabilitation
- Hedgehog diseases
Dr Sophie Lund Rasmussen's research has been featured 834 times in media all over the world since 2016. Coverage has included newspapers (online and in print), podcasts, radio interviews (live and pre-recorded), TV interviews (live and pre-recorded), TV shows, documentaries, and children’s programmes.