Esmee Fairbairn acknowledgement

Delightful December: Woodland snails, travels and looking ahead

Happy New Year! Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!

Tricksy woodland snails

This month I’ve been trying to finish off another one of my projects with Gwent Wildlife Trust. Back in September 10 litres of leaf litter were collected from different areas of woodland at Silent Valley nature reserve. Each of these bags had to be dried out and then passed through different graded sieves. The material from every sieve layer then is picked through and all the snails removed. These often tiny snails are then identified to species level – a challenge when some are only a few millimetres at adult size! These small species would have been easy to miss in the field without collecting leaf litter.

Snails are picked out of the sieved leaf litter, sorted in to species groups and identified, then counted into tubes and labelled

Snails are picked out of the sieved leaf litter, sorted in to species groups and identified, then counted into tubes and labelled. Tiny shells are stored inside gelatin capsules inside the glass storage tubes.

Adding to the challenge, the samples contain lots of Glass Snail species (Oxychilidae) which can be quite tough to get to grips with! This is one of many times where having easy access to the National Museum Wales mollusc collection of over 180,000 lots is so useful, as I can use it to check my identifications. While reference books and ID guides can be extremely useful, they still can’t compete with seeing the actual thing!

On the road with the museum

In early December I joined several of the Natural Sciences curators from National Museum Wales on a visit to Swansea University as part of the “Research Roadshow”. This event was for museum and university staff to explore potential research collaborations and more ways they could work together in the future.It was a really interesting day, giving me insight to how both organisations work and an amazing opportunity to meet lots of fascinating people from different departments.

Keeper of Natural Sciences Richard Bevins introducing the museum's Natural Sciences research and collections.

Keeper of Natural Sciences Richard Bevins introducing the museum’s Natural Sciences research and collections.

Young naturalists unite

I was also delighted to write a blog post for “A Focus on Nature” as part of their Advent Series around the theme of the gift of inspiration. For me this focused on the inspiring taxonomists and identification experts I’ve met along the way to where I am now. You can read my post here. Make sure you take a look at the other members inspiring writing while you’re there. “A Focus on Nature” is a network for wildlife conservationists between the ages of 16-30, encompassing artists, scientists, photographers, ecotourism and many more aspects of the natural world.

Sharing and showcasing our talents

Making a bird box with the help of TCV Natural Networks buddy Delyth

Making a bird box with the help of TCV Natural Networks buddy Delyth

The week before Christmas it was time to head up to Glasgow and meet up with some of the other Natural Talent trainees as well as many Natural Networks trainees. For me this was doubly exciting as I had never been to Glasgow before. It was fantastic to visit this vibrant city!

On 15th of December we opened the doors at Maryhill Burgh Halls and welcomed placement providers, partner organisations, funders, volunteers, friends and the general public in to see for themselves what we have all been doing over the past year. This meant some exciting hands on activities and displays. I even had a go at making a bird box. Safe to say I won’t be winning any carpentry awards anytime soon, but it was lots of fun.

 

Everyone having a great time and joining in at the Natural Talent & Natural Networks showcase in Glasgow (Photos: Emma Straughan & Katey Whyte)

Volunteers, staff, trainees and visitors having a great time and joining in at the Natural Talent & Natural Networks showcase in Glasgow (Photos: Emma Straughan & Katey Whyte)

Bringing lots of mollusc information and fun to Glasgow

Bringing lots of mollusc information and fun to Glasgow

What’s next for the trainees?

This was a perfect time for a catch up with the other Natural Talent trainees, finding out how everyone’s placements have been and what they have in mind for the future. It was great to hear that Natural Talent trainee Lorna has just headed off to start a PhD, Eleanor has settled into her new job with the Woodland Trust, and Katey will be starting her PhD very soon. Rebecca, Ryan and myself will be continuing our placements until the end of February before heading on to other exciting ventures!

Rebecca and Katey at the showcase in Glasgow

Rebecca and Katey chatting about their traineeships at the showcase in Glasgow

Jolly January

During my fieldwork we’ve come across a few interesting species, some of which are proving tricky to identify using morphological characters. In January I’m excited to be starting work on DNA extractions so that we can try and match these to records in the gene bank to help confirm some of the less certain identifications we have. This includes that strange looking Leopard Slug found living in my valley.

I also still have several freshwater mollusc samples to pick through and identify to species, including many notoriously tricky tiny freshwater bivalves.

One of my freshwater samples sorted to species level with temporary labels

One of my freshwater samples sorted to species level with temporary labels

On the 21st January I will be speaking about my mollusc projects at the Gwent-Glamorgan Recorders Forum organised by local records centre SEWBReC. I’ll be joining an interesting range of talks.  Natural Talent alumni Liam Olds will also be talking about the Bee fauna of south wales coal tips. Free places to attend are available via SEWBReC!

Until next time!

Hwyl fawr am nawr!

Imogen Cavadino

Natural Talent Trainee: Non-Marine Molluscs

Don’t forget you can keep up to date with my daily antics on Twitter here or here.

A massive thank you to the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation for funding this amazing programme. Find out more about them here.

Also to Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales for hosting my placement. Be sure to drop in for a visit to the public collections when you’re in Cardiff!

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

Wow, where has time gone? We are now into January and close to what would be the end of my traineeship. Thankfully my traineeship has been extended into mid February now which is great and has given me the opportunity to do more exciting things.

My reports for Blenheim Palace and Woodwalton Fen are finished now with just final tweaks being made to the article for The Coleopterist which has been accepted. This is really rewarding and all the feedback I have has been positive. I am speaking about my work at Blenheim Palace at the Coleopterist Day next month which is a great honour.

My day to day tasks have gone back to lots of ID work. I have been looking at beetles collected at Windsor in malaise and interception traps in 1993 (before I was born!). This has been good training for me as I have been sorting the specimens into family groups and identifying the easier ones, referring beetles form the more difficult families to other specialists.

Myself exploring a Windsor veteran tree

Myself exploring a Windsor veteran tree

I am continuing my work on bees and wasps too, doing some identification work which will be checked with Stuart Roberts next month. Stuart is an expert on these groups and has had a huge influence on my career so I am grateful that I can use my training budget to go and visit him. Having a reliable reference collection is essential in order to reliably identify these species and was essential to me finding a new wasp for Buckinghamshire this year.

Dasypoda hirtipes, the pantaloons bee. I challenge anyone to not to go 'awwww' when they see this bee.

Dasypoda hirtipes, the pantaloon bee. I challenge anyone to not to go ‘awwww’ when they see this bee.

 

This next month of so will be full of more identification work, a days training workshop for Buglife and other exciting project work.