Bushy Park Volunteer Days

What are Volunteer ID Days?

Identifying and recording invertebrates often involves the use of microscopes and identification books and keys, acquiring these can cost a lot of money. Our volunteer identification (ID) days are opportunities for people to come to our centres to use our lab facilities, microscopes, identification guides and other resources. 

These days are perfect for beginners to practice their identification skills, especially for those who don’t have access to microscopes or ID resources at home and for those wanting to get “into” a new group who can use the days as opportunities to test out the ID keys available first. Likewise, they’re proving to be useful for more experienced entomologists and recorders, who use the days as an opportunity to meet up with other recorders, to work on their own collections of specimens and also to make use of our resources. 

These informal events are free to attend, you can pop in and out as you wish and Keiron, the FSC BioLinks Project Manager, will be on hand if you need any guidance. 

Volunteer opportunities

Over the next coming volunteer days at Bushy Park, Keiron has a range of activities you can join in with. This include a variety of tasks for volunteers, ranging from those for invertebrate novices to those with specialist knowledge of an invertebrate group. Some examples of the current volunteer tasks include:        

    • Organising and labelling specimen tubes and pinned specimens
    • Sorting malaise and pitfall trap catches to invertebrate order level
    • Pinning bees collected on FSC BioLinks surveys
    • Pinning beetles collected on FSC BioLinks surveys
    • Identifying beetles to family level 
    • Identifying flies to family level 
    • Using the microscope camera to take pictures of invertebrate features
    • Helping to create resources for courses (e.g. beetle antennae cards)
    • Identifying any invertebrate group to species level 
    • Entering ID resources into the ID signpost
    • Entering project species records into iRecord

The full programme of Open Lab Days can be found in our training plans for the upcoming year: https://www.fscbiodiversity.uk/listof2020biolinksevents

Please email k.brown@field-studies-council.org if you would like to help with any of these activities. You don’t have to help with any of these activities if you wish, you are still more than welcome to bring in your own specimens and make use of our equipment and resources… and Keiron is always happy to verify any earthworm specimens that you want looked at! 

How can Volunteer ID Days help you?

We’ve received some fantastic feedback from some of our regular Bushy Park Open Lab Day go-ers, so hopefully their comments will highlight the ways in which these days can benefit your identification and recording skills:  

My first interest is - or was! - plants. I would have had trouble knowing where to start with invertebrates without Biolinks and the Open Lab Days. It's tough working on your own when you are a beginner. Volunteer Days are a great way to practice and develop identifying and recording skills with support from other people. Having access to microscopes and keys is essential, and the resources available are great. The best thing about these days is having someone there to ask if there is something you are not sure of, and getting a second opinion when you have an ID. It's also really useful to share ideas about equipment, methods, ID tips, resources, what photography techniques work best etc. Open Lab Days are a good opportunity for networking. I have made plans to get together with people who share the same interests so we can do some recording together. I've learned about groups and activities I might like to join, and how to navigate the recording process for the different invertebrate groups. The more Volunteer ID Days I do the more confident I become in getting out there and doing more recording.

 I am very fortunate to have a FSC BioLinks venue close to where I live and as well as being able to attend some of the formal training courses (which have been fantastic), I’ve been able to pop along to the Open Lab Days. I have been interested in identifying/recording invertebrates for a while now but I have found that the volunteer days have given me the opportunity (and a bit of a push) that I needed to get back into it. The facilities are great, especially the microscopes. Keiron has also collected a great range of keys and field guides and I found myself identifying specimens from groups that I wouldn’t normally try. It’s also great to sit in a room with other people who are all ‘giving it a go’, a second opinion is always helpful! I would recommend these days to others, especially if like me they just need a little push and a bit of incentive to dig out those specimens which may have been sitting in the cupboard for a while and finally get around to looking at them.”

"I had done a number of invertebrate identification courses with the FSC, but did not have a microscope at home, so I could not continue my practice outside the courses. I was aware of the volunteer days, but had always been a bit intimidated by them, as it sounded like something that was only for people more advanced than me. An unexpected benefit of the sessions for me was to gain a greater insight into other groups of invertebrates outside my own areas of focus. When I attended my first session I did not bring any samples of my own. I was given a tube of pitfall trap contents and asked to sort it to order level. Doing this helped me to broaden my knowledge. I had not even been aware of Mecoptera (scorpionflies) until I found one in a sample. One really great thing about the days is how friendly the other people attending are, and how willing they are to help. There is a wide range of levels of experience, and it is nice that now I am also able to help people with some of their problems. The reference library is also very useful - it allows me to “dip into” other groups to see if I am interested in them, without first having to spend large amounts of money on books. I would definitely recommend the volunteer ID days. If you are inexperienced, come along to get some microscope practice. If you already know what you are doing, come along and try something new, and also help others with the areas you do know well."

 Thank you to everyone that’s joined us for our open lab days so far and if you haven’t joined us yet, we hope to see you at one soon!