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.
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.
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.
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 →
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.
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.
In our next blog from the Identification Trainers for the Future trainees, Mike Waller gives you an insight into his curation placement. Mike has been working through lichen collections made by Francis Rose MBE. Rose (1921-2006) is perhaps best known for being the author of The Wildflower Key, for many the guide to British & Irish plants, however he was also an expert in lichens and bryophytes (mosses & liverworts) and much of his lichen collection is housed within the Museum’s cryptogamic herbarium, Mike’s work area for the last 3 months.
Deep within the dark, towering wooden cabinets of the cryptogamic collections, I’m tucked away at the end of a small corridor from where my seemingly endless journey has begun. The cryptogamic herbarium is also known as the Crypt in the Museum, but fortunately our crypt only contains the seedless plants and plant-like organisms such as mosses, lichens, ferns and fungi that are known as Cryptogams.
The ‘Crypt’ in the Museum, housing the cryptogamic herbarium
The ‘Crypt’ in the Museum, housing the cryptogamic herbarium
I’ve been tasked with preparing Francis Rose’s 5 years’ worth of Kent lichen specimens for incorporation into the main collection. With around 700 small packets containing lichen fragments from across 2 vice counties between 1965 and 1970, it’s far from simple.
Currently all five trainees from the Identification Trainers for the Future project are nestled away within various departments in the Museum on their curation placements. Here, we catch up with Katy Potts:
I have spent the past month in the Coleoptera department delving into the wonderful world of beetles. Part of my placement involves working on a project under the guidance of Max Barclay, Head of Coleoptera, assessing the beetle fauna on Bookham Common in Surrey.
Lindgren funnel traps in the oak woodland at Bookham Common
Early in the season I set up four Lindgren funnel traps in the oak woodland at Bookham Common and I have returned to each trap fortnightly to empty the traps. I can only describe this process as resembling Christmas; as I unlock the collecting pot underneath the funnel I am faced with an array of invertebrates, most importantly the beetles.
Curation is a key part of the Identification Trainers for the Future programme and over the past 2 months the trainees have been on placement in the Museum collections learning how best to preserve the historical and ecological information held within them. Following on from Anthony’s review of his time with the Odonata collections, Sally Hyslop brings us up to speed with her own project:
My curation placement is in the British and Irish Herbarium, working alongside Mark Spencer, the senior curator of this impressive catalogue of pressed plant specimens.
Working with plant presses for the British and Irish Herbarium
Each specimen in the herbarium holds information – whether it be from the DNA stored within the plants themselves waiting to be extracted and studied, or the historical annotations which depict the collection event itself. All specimens in the collection have a label describing the all-important who, what, where and when.
The date, location, name of the collector and the collector’s original identification is essential information which can further our scientific understanding.
In 2009, I visited the Museum’s Darwin Centre for the first time. It had been a culmination of a pilgrimage to see as many exhibitions as possible that celebrated Charles Darwin’s bicentenary of his birth that year. Little did I realise that 6 years later, as a trainee on the Identification Trainers for the Future project, I’d be lucky enough to work in the Darwin Centre itself, re-curating some of the Museum’s 80 million specimens that form the world’s most important natural history collection.
The Cocoon in the Darwin Centre, which opened in September 2009.
I watched with bated breath on the 14 September 2009 as Sir David Attenborough and Prince William opened the state of the art facility. It allows over 350 scientists and researchers to study zoology, botany and entomology collections to address some of the key challenges of the 21st century such as food security, biodiversity loss and disease. As Sir David Attenborough so eloquently put it:
Never has it been so important to understand the diversity of life on earth and how it is changing, if we are to tackle many of the issues that humans face today … The Darwin Centre will inspire the next generation of naturalists and scientists through its combination of scientific expertise, specimens, public dialogue, film and interactive media. It will enable all of us to explore the wonders of our world and investigate its secrets.
It was therefore a bit surreal when my curation placement actually took me to the 7th floor of the Darwin Centre in the Entomology Research and Curation Lab, where I have been asked to re-curate the Odonata of the UK. This order is split into Zygoptera (Damselflies) and Anisoptera (Dragonflies).