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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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!
Natural Talent Trainee: Non-Marine Molluscs
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!