Blogs

National Plant Monitoring Scheme course

Monitoring a linear plot along a stream. Photo: C Bell Last week I had the very great pleasure of visiting FSC Nettlecombe to sit in on a National Plant Monitoring Scheme (NPMS) training course. Firstly, Nettlecombe – what a place! The FSC centre at Nettlecombe is a beautiful Grade 1 listed 16th century manor house, nestled in a pretty Somerset valley, and it truly feels miles from anywhere. A brilliant place to forget about the rest of the world and concentrate on...a new, exciting, national citizen science plant monitoring scheme!

Invertebrate specialists and alcohol problems

Invertebrate specialists often require copious supplies of alcoholAs someone who studies invertebrates, I often find myself turning to the bottle. Whilst I would not recommend alcohol as part of a general approach to problem solving, I wouldn't be without it for preserving specimens. The animals I'm particularly interested in - spiders, harvestmen and, latterly, earthworms and springtails - are rather soft-bodied you see, and the accoutrements beloved of the coleopterist and dipterist - pins, plastazote, gum, card and the like - are of limited value to me; instead I require a copious supply of alcohol (and lots of little tubes).

Soil mesofauna - scratching the surface

'Flying saucer' mite with smaller phoresic mite.  Photo C.BellAnother weekend, another invertebrate training course! Last weekend I attended the four day Soil Mesofauna course, a Tom.bio-supported training course delivered by the country’s top experts in soil science, springtails and mites.

‘…Through the Action of Worms’

Last weekend Tom.bio welcomed the Earthworm Society of Britain to Preston Montford for their latest Field Meeting. A young and dynamic group, the ESB have done sterling work over the past few years to increase participation in the Earthworm Recording Scheme.

By biological recorders for biological recorders

NFBR bannerThe National Forum for Biological Recording (NFBR) is a membership organisation with the unique distinction that it represents, at a national level, the interests and work of biological recorders across all taxonomic groups. We think of ourselves as an independent voice for biological recorders in the UK. For an increasing number of biological recorders, the annual NFBR conference is a highlight of the social and professional development calendars. This year's conference - 'A Question of Ecology – Answers from Biological Recording' - promises to be one of the most exciting and best attended ever.

Save a Spider!

Pardosa amentata maleAccording to someone, somewhere, Saturday 14th March is 'Save a Spider Day'! A quick search on Google indicates that for others it is 'Non-smoking Day' and I dare say, if I looked hard enough, I could quickly fill my diary for tomorrow, what with avoiding cigarettes, saving spiders and everything else!

Behind the scenes at the museum

A tray of weevil specimens at the musem.  Photo: C BellLast week Tom.bio took a trip to visit the Entomology department at Liverpool’s World Museum. The trip, initiated by the FSC’s Invertebrate Challenge Project three years ago, has become something of an annual event. It’s a chance for local entomologists, including members of the Shropshire Spider Group and the Shropshire Entomology Group, to examine some of the museum’s impressive invertebrate collections.

New AIDGAP test version for 2015: The Mosquitoes (Culicidae) of Britain and Ireland

Mosquito.  Line drawing: Thom DallimoreFSC Publications have been working with Clare Strode and Thom Dallimore at Edge Hill University to develop a new AIDGAP guide to the mosquitoes of Great Britain and Ireland. This will be ready for AIDGAP testing from spring 2015.

Looking for a needle in a haystack…and finding it!

Bettisfield Moss.  Photo: C Bell

Last Friday I found myself crouched over a plastic sheet in the middle of a National Nature Reserve, squinting at Sphagnum. I’d joined an enthusiastic team of local spider experts, volunteers and Natural England staff at Fenn’s, Whixall and Bettisfield Mosses, a NNR spanning the English and Welsh border. Our mission: to search for the nationally rare spider species Glyphesis cottonae.

Winter trees: From AIDGAP test version to final book

Winter trees and the River Severn in flood.  Photo: Rich BurkmarThe accurate identification of specimens is an important part of many forms of biological fieldwork. Although popular groups, such as birds and butterflies, are well served with identification guides, other groups are relatively neglected. Back in the 1970s, the Field Studies Council initiated the AIDGAP project, to work towards producing identification materials for these negelected groups. In many cases, the difficulty lay in the absence of a simple and accurate key, and not in any insuperable taxonomic problems.

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