Category Archives: Identify nature

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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Fossil Festival on the Jurassic Coast | Earth sciences

by Chris Hughes, Earth Sciences, Natural History Museum

Every year in early May the Museum participates in the Fossil Festival at Lyme Regis, on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset.  It’s an event involving thousands of members of the public with an interest in the ancient marine fossils found in the rocks along the coast near Lyme. Museum scientists occupy a large marquee on the sea front and engage in a whole range of outreach activities. The idea is to enable everybody to meet scientists, to talk about real fossils and enjoy exploring the geology and natural history of this area.

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A wonderful view of Lyme Regis bathed in May sunshine – before the snow!

We headed down to Lyme Regis on the Tuesday before the Fossil Festival commenced. This allowed us a day to carry out some fieldwork in this world famous fossil locality before we led an outreach event at the Thomas Hardye School, in Dorset. On our field visit we had a look at some of the great fossil sites that are found all around Lyme. We decided to head out west toward the famous ammonite pavement at Monmouth beach. This was my first time in Lyme Regis and I was very excited because I had been told that these rocks were some of the best in the world for these fossils.

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Introducing Krisztina Fekete | Identification Trainers for the Future

In the second of our blog posts introducing our new trainees taking part in the Identification Trainers for the Future project, we meet Krisztina Fekete.

My name is Kriztina Fekete and I am a graduate ecologist, passionate naturalist, wildlife photographer and recorder.

Photo of Kristina standing to the side of country lane in a wood on a misty morning

Kristina Fekete, a graduate ecologist and the next of our ID Trainers for the Future to introduce themselves

I started my academic journey in conservation at Plumpton College studying Animal Science which was followed by an ecology degree at Brighton University. Over the last 6 years I have been involved in many conservation projects and surveys through volunteering for wonderful organisations such as the London Wildlife Trust (LWT), The Conservation Volunteers (TCV), Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) and Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BBCT). I have been working as a volunteer Urban Ranger at Greenwich Ecology Park through TCV for 2 years which meant carrying out a wide range of practical and educational roles.

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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

What’s in a fly? Musca domestica – the greatest traveller of them all | Curator of Diptera

Within the Diptera section we are asked a lot about individual species of flies and so we thought we would put pen to paper (or key to board) and give some species descriptions of the more popular requests.

My co-author for this post, Nigel Wyatt, is the curator of all things bristly (including his own, he adds!) such as some of the most well known of all Diptera – the houseflies. Often seen as the greatest nuisance to humans and animals, this tenacious species has travelled with us all over the planet and enjoys all the creature comforts that we provide for it! Continue reading

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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