Recently there have been a few additions to the F3UES research team up in Sheffield. Last summer we collected invertebrates from parks and gardens all across Bedford, Luton and Milton Keynes, which we’re now searching through in great detail. Over the winter months, we’ve been fortunate to have five students who’ve taken an interest in these samples and have done short research projects investigating what’s in them and why that might be, which has involved them mostly being glued to microscopes in Animal and Plant Sciences sifting through dirt and leaves to pick out the amazing array of creatures nestled there.
Three students, Jenny Slater, Ed Lim and Emily Gravestock, have recently completed their third year projects in which they investigated how well different public parks in Milton Keynes support invertebrate biodiversity and the functions they perform. They explored how different types of vegetation, for example woodlands and grasslands, and different plant species related to the invertebrates that were at the sites.
Since then, Dan Best has extended this work in his Masters project to compare invertebrates in grassland and woodland in public parks of different sizes across Milton Keynes, Bedford and Luton. He’s worked incredibly hard to identify what Order the many thousands of critters come from (Is it a spider? A woodlouse? Or a pseudoscorpion?). Now he’s looking a bit more carefully at which groups of beetles and flies are occurring in these sites so he can better understand what ecological functions are being performed at each site.
Finally, we’ve recently welcomed Luke Nelson into the lab and he will find out what bugs are living in people’s flower beds – literally exploring what biodiversity occurs on our doorsteps.
We’ve also been very fortunate in having David Gash and Clarissa Carvalho sorting some samples in order to become more familiar with the main invertebrate groups. We’re very grateful for their help.
Briony Norton (April 2014)