Photograph of part of Darwin's Beetle Box showing many different types of British beetle pinned to a pale backdrop

Zoology Live! 2022 Making Collections

In the Zoology Live! livestream on June 21 we explore museum collections, what they can tell us about animals of the past and how this helps us to understand animals today:

The collections at the Museum are of vital importance to our understanding of biodiversity, but we would not go out and collect in the way naturalists did over 100 years ago.

Making a collection can be very rewarding, and build appreciation and knowledge on a topic. But how can you collect and record wildlife in a way that is sustainable and ethical today? How can you make it easier to find your records once you have made them? And what can these collections tell us? Read on for top tips of some of the collections you might like to try making. Why not share them with us to include on our Community Gallery?

Keep a Wildlife Journal

Roz Wade, Senior Learning and Engagement Coordinator, writes:

Wildlife is all around. I live and work in a city, but see and hear birds, insects and other animals every day. I find keeping a wildlife journal a wonderful way to remind myself of how lucky we are to be surrounded by nature, and keep that connection with the world around me. I first started during the first Covid lockdown as a way of connecting with nature for my own wellbeing. I know carry on off and on with a little A6 journal with plain pages (I like to make sketches as well as write notes) that I can carry with me and jot down what I see no matter where I am. I may not have the time to complete it every day, but I think making a note of the sky, song and nature spots brings me joy and something to look back on too. Here are the first three journal pages from this year’s 30 Days Wild (complete with scrawling handwriting!):

One simple thing to include is a sketch of the sky – blue with white fluffy clouds, grey and overcast, a brilliant crimson sunset, they have such an impact on my mood. I will sometimes take a snapshot of something that interests me on my phone if I don’t have the chance there and then to take out my journal, and include in my journal later in the day. For example, one morning I decided to take a photograph of every flower I saw on a walk from the University Library to Market Square, taking snapshots with my phone to sketch in my journal that evening.

Make a wildlife photo diary

Museum Volunteer Geoff Oliver writes:

I try to get out for a walk along the river at least once a week, and I take my camera to record what I see. I share any sightings on social media, Facebook and Instagram, and also my favourites on Flickr. Facebook has the feature were it reminds you about posts you made in previous years. I find this a useful reminder of what I saw in other years, and also what I might expect to see again today. Scrolling back through my posts reads like a pictorial wildlife diary of my walks.

You can find Geoff’s Flickr page here.

Museum Learning Assistant Sara Steele writes:

I love to create video compilations of the wildlife I see on holiday. It gives me something to watch back and is a way of showing off my nature-spotting skills to my friends and family, that doesn’t involve a slideshow. Putting the music that I listened to on the trip in the background adds to the experience and reminds me of the trip even more.

Take part in a Citizen Science project

Why not take your interest in recording nature to the next stage and take part in a citizen science project? Scientists and wildlife conservation organisations set up citizen science projects to gather data from a wider audience. Some examples you may be familiar with include the Big Garden Birdwatch run by the RSPB every January, the Garden Birdwatch Survey of the BTO running thoughout the year, and the Big Butterfly Count run by Butterfly Conservation every summer. One website that is collecting a wide range of wildlife data all year round is iRecord. Include a photograph and the data can be verified by an expert and used by local record centres to help inform understanding of habitats and conservation efforts. Here’s Matt Hayes back in 2020 explaining how it works:

We will be using iRecord at the BioBlitz taking part at the Cambridge University Botanic Garden from Friday 24 to Saturday 25 June. A BioBlitz is a 24 hour species count, and we would love for you to get involved. We have wildlife workshops and walks led by experts, and lots of opportunities for you to spot and record wildlife. Find out more and book your spaces now by checking out our BioBlitz blogpost today.

Photograph of part of Darwin's Beetle Box showing many different types of British beetle pinned to a pale backdrop
Darwin’s beetle box at the Museum. Darwin was fascinated by beetles and their diversity, and collected them from an early age. These beetles were collected when he was an undergraduate student at Cambridge.

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