Three days of eight legs

Nuctenea umbratica.  C Bell Last week was a week of spiders. Spiders in the classroom, spiders in the field, spiders in the lab! It was all part of our spider training programme, which Tom.bio is running in conjunction with the Shropshire Spider Group.

Guest blog for Friends of the Earth

Four spot orb weaver Araneus quadratusTom.bio were recently asked to do a guest blog on spiders for Friends of the Earth. This is now live on their 'Green Blog' and will hopefully help convince more people that spiders should be admired, not feared! Many thanks to FoE for this opportunity.

NBN Youth Awards 2015

Children sampling freshwater invertebratesNominations needed for under 18s in the inaugural 2015 UK Awards for Biological Recording. Do you know a keen and committed young biological recorder who is under the age of 18? If so, why not nominate them for a UK Award? The awards recognise outstanding contributions to UK biological recording and being nominated could be a fantastic boost for a young naturalist.

Shropshire Earthworm Blitz 2015

Earthworms in hand.  Photo: M Noble Last weekend Tom.bio held the inaugural Shropshire Earthworm Blitz. This was designed as a follow-up to March’s Earthworm Society of Britain’s (ESB) field meeting, which we hosted here at Preston Montford. Read more...

On microscopy and the joy of SX

A microscope-heavy classroom at FSC Preston Montford!Ever noticed how so many microscopes seem to be called SX something or other? No? Maybe it's just the really sexy ones. Yes, I expect that's the technical reason for the SX moniker. According to the excellent website History of the Microscope, it is widely held that Dutch spectacle makers Hans & Zacharias Jansen (a father and son team) made the first optical microscope. But ask any biologist and they will tell you that it was the publication of Robert Hooke's Micrographia that made microscopy really sexy.

With a little help from my friends

Attendees on the 2015 Soil Mesofauna course.One of the things which Tom.bio is interested in is how people can be supported in the weeks, months and even years after they attend a training course. Attendees on biological identification courses typically spend a few very intensive days learning about a new species group, building new skills and making new contacts. But all too often once the course ends, that initial enthusiasm is lost because there’s no follow up mechanism or on-going support to encourage people to build on their new knowledge.

Uncertain, or just Confused? The joy of moth trapping

Elephant hawk mothI started moth trapping for the first time this spring, and consequently am writing this with all the fervour of a new convert. For anyone unfamiliar with moth trapping, it involves simultaneously annoying your neighbours, your partner and your friends! Let me explain…

Bashing the squares: the BBS and NPMS

NPMS survey plotLike many UK naturalists at this time of year, last weekend I was busy playing my part as a volunteer - a citizen scientist if you like - monitoring the UK's biodiversity. I was square bashing - continuing an annual ritual of participation in the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) and starting something new by surveying, for the first time, a square for the National Plant Monitoring Scheme (NPMS).

Coincidence mapping biological records

QGIS Conicidence mappingRight now the interest in QGIS amongst biological recorders and conservationists seems almost insatiable. Yesterday I was very pleased to deliver a day's workshop on QGIS and the Tom.bio QGIS plugin for members of Lancashire Wildlife Trust's (LWT) conservation team. The Trust's Red Squirrel Project Officer used the Tom.bio Biological Records tool to produce a couple of maps, from her own records, of Red and Grey Squirrels around the Sefton Coast. She asked me if there was a way to use the tool to make a coincidence map for the two species. Well I had to admit that there wasn't really. But I had a think about it and I realised that it would be very easy to modify the tool to make this possible. So today I published a new version of the QGIS Tom.bio plugin that enables this. This video explains how to use the tool and QGIS' styling features to create a coincidence map.

Kick sampling - a beginners' video guide

Part of Tom.bio's remit is to think about ways of overcoming barriers to biological sampling and recording. One of the things which may prevent people becoming recorders is a lack of familiarity with biological sampling techniques. Tom.bio is producing a series of short films, each focused on a particular sampling technique or aspect of biological identification or recording. The subject of the first of these films is kick sampling in rivers and streams.

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