The home of the Museum’s citizen science programme is its Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity, where we develop a series of surveys and activities that enable anyone in the UK to contribute to the Museum’s scientific research.
But the Centre has a wider purpose to support both new and experienced naturalists to develop their skills, meet like minded people and, together, develop new knowledge about the UK’s biodiversity (the diversity of it’s wildlife) and geodiversity (the diversity of it’s rocks, minerals and fossils).
The Centre provides workspaces, meeting rooms, microscopes, high specification photo stacking equipment (for photographing small specimens), books and identification guides to support people of all abilities to explore and study natural sciences in the UK. It’s free to book a visit and the Centre hosts over 1,000 visitors every year, ranging from individuals and groups to natural history societies.
The Angela Marmont Centre was opened in 2010, as part of the Darwin Centre at the Museum, and is a dedicated space for the study of UK biodiversity. In addition to the equipment described above, it also provides access to the UK biodiversity reference collection of plants and invertebrates.
The London Natural History Society (LNHS) houses its library here and visitors are welcome to peruse the shelves and use the books for reference. If you are a member of the LNHS you are also able to take the books out on loan.
Aside from offering a range of resources that support naturalists in their study of the natural world, the Centre has three main strands of work.
The first is biodiversity research, which includes the citizen science programme, which develops and delivers a variety of national projects that enable members of the public and amateur naturalists to actively contribute to the Museum’s scientific research by gathering, analysing and interpreting data or environmental samples. Through the programme we are able to collect large datasets with a huge geographic distribution that professional scientists could not collect alone. At the same time our programme facilitates the public’s engagement and dialogue with real science research.
The second major strand of the Centre’s offer is focused on information and engagement, to support people across the UK to connect with and better understand nature. As part of this strand, the Centre leads the Museum’s Identification and Advisory Service. If you have a natural history specimen from the UK, such as a plant, insect, bone, rock or fossil you can take a photograph and post it on our online ID forum where one of our Museum experts and several volunteers will endeavour to identify it for you.
Alternatively you can pay us a visit and bring your specimen to the Museum where we will help you to identify it. We identify over 5,000 natural history objects every year, covering both earth and life sciences.
The third strand of the Centre’s work is to deliver training in wildlife identification skills. This year saw the launch of our Heritage Lottery Funded Identification Trainers for the Future traineeship programme. We received funding from the HLF to train 15 individuals (five per year, for three years) in UK natural history identification skills, particularly focusing on difficult and understudied groups.
The trainees also learn education and public engagement skills, so that they can pass on their newly-acquired identification skills to other budding naturalists. This initiative catalyses a renewed effort to tackle the national gap in field and identification skills that threatens the UK’s future conservation and land management capacity.
In addition to those three strands above, the Museum is also a founding partner of the National Biodiversity Network (NBN) and the Centre supports the Network by managing the UK Species Inventory – a checklist of all known organisms in the UK. This database of species names powers many biological recording applications and online recording systems such as iRecord, iSpot and Indicia. The NBN Gateway collates and manages the UK’s vast quantity of biological records, making them accessible online.
The Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity is accessible to anyone with an interest in studying UK natural history so, if you would like to come and use our resources or gain access to the collection for the purposes of study, book a visit. Although you need to make a booking to come and use the Centre, our Identification and Advisory Service operates on a drop-in basis from 10.00 to 12.00 and from 14.00 to 16.00 on weekdays.