Introducing April Windle | Identification Trainers for the Future

Our next post for the Identification Trainers for the Future project introduces our third new trainee for this year (meet Alex and Steph in our earlier posts). April Windle found out about the project at the NBN conference in 2015 and applied for the final group of trainees. We were very impressed with her ‘bog in a box’ display at selection day in December looking at plant composition in restored and unrestored bogs in Exmoor.

Hi, my name’s April. Zoology graduate, nature lover and aspiring conservationist from Devon. To me, the UK’s natural environment is absolutely fascinating, whether it’s the overwhelming openness of the moors or the secluded nature of a wooded combe, every aspect of our British wildlife never fails to amaze me.

April Windle Picture (1)
April Windle

Having grown up in the South West, it’s difficult not to have an unrequited love for the countryside, and all the wildlife wonders that you can find there. On my doorstep, there has always been plenty to explore, and ample opportunities to see the most stunning array of biodiversity.

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Introducing Steph Skipp | Identification Trainers for the Future

In the second of our blog posts from our new trainees, Steph Skipp introduces herself. Steph started with us on the 6 March and has already demonstrated her fascination with entomology, and similarly to Katy from our first cohort, has a passion for Coleoptera particularly.

I have been interested in wildlife for as long as I can remember. However, I think it was while studying Ecology at the University of East Anglia that my curiosity really began to expand.

me looking ento
Steph Skipp

One sunny day at University, I decided to escape the computer screen and have lunch by the campus lake. Enjoying the sunshine and watching the rippling water’s surface, something drew my attention. It was small, bright blue and sparkling – sitting on a leaf like a raindrop… with legs.  A beetle!

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Results so far | Orchid Observers

The Orchid Observers project is closing at the end of July (so if you can help us out with the last few classifications then you have just a few days left!). We’d like to say a huge thank you to all of the volunteers who photographed orchids, identified photos online or transcribed and classified our museum specimens. Your time, expertise and enthusiasm is really valued, so thanks for being part of the Orchid Observers team.

Photo of a bee orchid flower with thank you in a speech bubble coming from a 'mouth'-like shape on the flower.
A big thank you to everyone who has volunteered to help us with the Orchid Observers citizen science project!

The project had two main research questions:

  1. Firstly, the climate science research: Are orchid flowering times being affected by climate change?
  2. Secondly, the social science research: How do volunteers interact and share ideas and knowledge with one another, within a project that combines both outdoor and online activities?

The second question was of particular interest to our funders, the Arts and Humanities Research Council. We are asking all Orchid Observers volunteers to answer a short survey to help us address the second question, so keep an eye out for that coming soon. Here I’ll update you on the science research outcomes and how we are analysing the data you’ve collected.

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Introducing Joe Beale | Identification Trainers for the Future

Following on from our last post where we said farewell to our first cohort of ID Trainers, our next few blogs from the Identification Trainers for the Future project will be introducing our new group of 5 trainees. They started on 1 March and have had a very busy first few weeks settling into their new roles. The first to introduce themselves is Joe Beale.

Growing up in south-east London, green spaces have always been my escape from busy city life. Since I was 7 years old I have been obsessed with wildlife and kept a wildlife diary, recording wildlife sightings and behaviour. This obsession about wildlife is still as strong as ever almost 30 years later, but it has evolved into involvement with various community groups and wildlife societies, a few publications and reports about wildlife, a local wildlife blog and even some natural history book illustrations.

Photo showing Joe in the far east standing in front of a waterfall beside two post boxes, one red and one green
Joe Beale is in our second cohort of ID Trainers for the Future.

I am interested in all aspects of natural history, but my main passion is birds and butterflies with increasing forays into other groups such as moths and flowering plants, as I try to learn more about the range of wildlife around me. Keeping records of wildlife is important to me. I send my records to the London Natural History Society (LNHS), Butterfly Conservation and others for their databases and annual reports. At a local level, I used many of these records when co-authoring The Birds of Greenwich Park 1996-2011, and I am in the process of updating and greatly expanding this for a second edition.

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A fond farewell | Identification Trainers for the Future

I can’t believe the last 12 months have flown by so quickly! Our first 5 trainees on the Identification Trainers for the Future project have now completed their traineeship with us and have been released into the wilds of the UK’s biodiversity sector, only now it’s with a whole host of new skills and a wealth of experience under their belts.

Photo showing the trainees standing as a group in a wood.
The first cohort of our Identification Trainers for the Future recently completed their programme of training and are now out in the wilds of the UK biodiversity sector. From left to right: Sally, Katy, Mike, Chloe and Anthony.

Before they left I caught up with each of them to find out what they have found most rewarding about their time with us and what they are going off to do next… Continue reading “A fond farewell | Identification Trainers for the Future”

Building a key to the British Alexeter | Identification Trainers for the Future

In the final post of our short series on the curation placements of our Identification Trainers for the Future, Chloe Rose gives us an insight into the work she has been doing in the Hymenoptera department. The Hymenoptera include all bees, ants and wasps, but Chloe has been focussing her work on the parasitic wasps, of which there are a surprising number in the UK.

I have been spending the last 2 months of my traineeship in the Hymenoptera department with Dr Gavin Broad (Senior Curator of Hymenoptera, specialist in Braconidae and Ichneumonidae). Here I have been working on a genus known as Alexeter, a group of wasps which parasitise sawflies.

Photo showing Chloe picking up a specimen via its pin, using forceps
Chloe in the process of re-curating part of the Hymenoptera collection.

These wasps fall into the Mesoleiini tribe which is part of a large subfamily known as Ctenopelmatinae. There are around 6,000 known species of parasitic wasps in the UK, a staggering number which is a huge portion of our insect diversity. However, little is known about many of these groups and few of these species have well illustrated identification keys available, making the area of study considerably less accessible. This is why I am helping Gavin to construct an easy-to-use identification guide for this poorly understood group of wasps.

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If you go down to the beach today | Big Seaweed Search

This week HLF Identification Trainer of the Future, Anthony Roach, introduces us to the marvellous diversity of seaweeds on Britain’s shores and shows you how you can contribute to citizen science by recording them as part of the Big Seaweed Search.

Seaweeds are incredibly diverse and beautiful organisms. They are strong biological indicators of the health of our environment and play an important role in the marine and coastal environment, despite being perceived by some as drab, slimy, green and brown sludge hanging from the rocks or smelly dried husks that litter the high tide mark. The Museum’s seaweed researchers and staff at the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity are therefore encouraging everyone to learn more about seaweeds, to map their diversity and assess how they are responding to climate change through the Big Seaweed Search.

Photo of Anthony stood on rocky shore by the sea, holding a large, long, brown seaweed in two hands.
Anthony Roach searching for seaweeds, holding sugar kelp. © Holly Morgenroth.

I grew up near the coast in Devon and I certainly over-looked seaweeds when whiling away countless hours rock pooling. I would slip and slide my way over seaweed covered rocks in search of the jazzier or more colourful marine stars of the rock pool such as crabs, starfish, sea anemones and blennies. I have discovered however that there is so much more to seaweeds than at first meets the eye.

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Reaching the halfway point | Identification Trainers for the Future

Our initial cohort of ID Trainers for the Future are nearing the end of Phase 2 of their 12-month long traineeship – Chloe Rose provides an update on the work they’ve been doing so far:

Over the last six months you will have heard all about the vast array of workshops we’ve had delivered to us by the Museum’s experts, the beautiful parts of the country we’ve visited for field trips and the various different projects we’ve all been working on. It has been an action packed, whirlwind and we’ve all gained so much. But it’s now time to wrap things up as we head towards Phase 3 of the traineeship. This will mean the five of us going off on our separate ways for three months, to spend time with one of the Museum’s curation teams.

Photo of the ID Trainers walking to a fieldwork site
Setting out to perform Hymenoptera fieldwork

Here is where we will get the opportunity to refine our identification, fieldwork and curatorial skills to one particular species group. Between us we will be covering beetles, dragonflies, lichens and flowering plants. My project will involve working on the hymenoptera collections and looking at an understudied subfamily of parasitic wasps. I will be required to sort and describe the species and look to writing a comprehensive key for identification purposes. Watch this space for future updates on how our curation projects are going. For now, though, back to what we have been doing during August.

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At the Centre of Museum citizen science | Take Part

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).

Photo showing a lateral view of the bee
A brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humbles). The image has been taken using the photo-stacking equipment of the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiverisity

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.

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Taking inspiration from the field and from women artists | Identification Trainers for the Future

In the latest update from our Identification Trainers for the Future project, Sally Hyslop continues the story of the work our five trainees have performed thus far.

Trainee life in the Museum is often focused through a microscope and so, after many months of study, it was brilliant to refresh our zeal for the natural world this month with a field trip to the Dorset coast. We spent three days exploring dramatic cliffs and coastal heathlands: by day, putting our developing botany skills into practise, and by night, spotting bats and catching moths.

The trainees in the field in Dorset
The trainees in the field in Dorset

The Museum’s Fred Rumsey and Mark Spencer led us through heath and bog on a hunt for the elusive bog orchid, Hammarbya paludosa. By the end of the day we found 109 spikes of these miniscule and delicate, rare, green flowers. On top of this, we encountered blankets of dainty white beaked sedge, flowering bog asphodel and all three UK species of sticky, carnivorous sundews along with their two hybrids.

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