This weekend I was back at The Regent’s Park helping with their project Mission Invertebrate. This project is funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery and is investigating what invertebrates live in The Regent’s Park and how this relates to where the Park’s hedgehog population lives.
The project is a citizen science project – members of the public have been recruited to take soil cores, put in pitfall traps and count the number of slugs and snails in a set area. Myself and my colleague Anthony Roach were helping the volunteers identify the invertebrates collected in the pitfall traps. This involves picking each invertebrate out of each pot, identifying and counting them, and then putting them into a tub of alcohol to preserve them.
After what feels like ages (actually, 5 months is quite a long time!) I have finished my fieldwork, hurrah! I sampled soil and leaf-litter invertebrates, and microbes, in total of 38 sites in 6 different land-use types (deciduous forest, coniferous forest, heathland, pasture, cropland and urban areas) with the aim to compare how species differ between them.
For the last couple of months I have been doing fieldwork in the New Forest – a National Park in my home county of Hampshire. The New Forest was previously sampled by the Natural History Museum Soil Biodiversity Group during the New Forest Qualitative Inventory in 2010 and I have been revisiting some of the sites and also new ones. The aim of my sampling is to collect soil and leaf litter invertebrates, and soil cores for microbial analysis in six different land uses which correspond to those used in the PREDICTS project: mature secondary vegetation, immature secondary vegetation (heathland), plantation forest, grassland, cropland and urban areas.
This Throwback Thursday is from my trip to Scotland with the Dipterists Forum in September 2013, a wonderful week in the highlands collecting flies which I wrote up as a guest post for the Natural History Museum Curator of Diptera’s Blog.
Between handing in my MSc thesis and my viva voce, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to join Dipterists from the Natural History Museum on a collection trip to Scotland as part of the Dipterists Forum Autumn Field Meeting. Despite the daunting prospect of a long journey and sharing a cottage with people I barely knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for an intensive week studying flies which was also my first trip across the border.
This week’s Throwback Thursday is about the cabbage white butterflies I had on my London balcony back in August 2013 while I was studying for my MSc. This also formed the basis of an article in the Amateur Entomologist’s Society Bug Club Magazine.
It is true you do not have to go far to see wildlife, even in the midst of a big city. Invertebrate scholars are particularly fortunate in this regard as insects, arachnids etc. really are everywhere, in your home and even on you. Here in my student room in Earls Court, London I have a little balcony which I have used to grow salad and tomatoes.
I enjoy music, but until now had never been to a music festival, all those crowds of people, loud noise and camping was not something I thought I could cope with. However I was aware from talking to my colleagues at the University of Reading last year that festivals are not just about music, and often have stands and science activities run by universities and other institutions. This felt like something I would enjoy so I put it on my mental list of ‘things to do while studying for a PhD’. I was very excited to see a call from the Royal Society of Biology and British Ecological Society for volunteers to help run ecology themed activities and bioblitz (an event where you try to identify as many species as possible) at Latitude Festival in Suffolk.
I’ve been a bit lax with my blogging over the last few weeks as I have been busy writing and submitting my early stage assessment – a report of what I have done so far in my PhD and what I plan to do next. This will be followed up with a short viva from my panel – eek! So it was good to get a day out doing outreach at Imperial College Silwood Park a few days after submitting. Silwood Park is Imperial’s postgraduate campus near Ascot, Berkshire, with research and teaching in ecology, evolution, and conservation. One of my supervisors is based there, so I occasionally visit for meetings and eventually will be going there to extract and analyse microbial DNA from my soil samples.
I really enjoying learning how to identify wildlife, so not only do I spend time identifying soil invertebrates as part of my PhD project but I like to attend identification workshops and courses in my leisure time. On Saturday I was at a workshop organised by the British Entomological and Natural History Society (BENHS) learning how to identify land Heteroptera with Tristan Bantock and Jim Flanagan. Many people use the term ‘bug’ to refer to any invertebrate but in strict entomologist sense a bug is a member of the order Hemiptera. These are characterised by having a straw-like mouthparts (a rostrum) which they feed on fluids of various kinds, often plant sap but some on other insects and even blood.