By Olivia Watts 13th July 2022

Fancy improving your invertebrate identification skills? If it’s a yes, then our BioLinks project has got you sorted! As well as proving heavily subsidised invertebrate courses, they also facilitate volunteer days. Read on to hear more from our very own BioLinks tutor, Gino Brignoli, who shares what the days are all about, what you can expect to get up to, and what you can gain from attending.

What is an Invertebrate Volunteer Identification Day?

Let’s look at how the Cambridge English Dictionary defines some of these keywords:

  • Invertebrates are animals with no spine.
  • A volunteer is ‘a person who does something, especially helping other people, willingly and without being forced or paid to do it’.
  • Identification (ID) is ‘the act of recognizing and naming someone or something’.

So, an Invertebrate Volunteer ID Day would be: A day which is spent recognising and naming different invertebrates by a group of willing and unpaid people. Although there is a bit more to it than that…

Wait a minute. Are you asking me to work for free?

Well, the answer is both yes and no.  

What we’re asking, is for you to become involved with what we are already doing; or to come and use our facilities to work on your own project or interests.  

We provide access to our lab facility, invertebrate specimens, entomological supplies, stereo microscopes, identification keys and publications, and a member of the BioLinks team. To literally sweeten the deal, there are also always copious amounts of biscuits, tea and coffee on standby.  

You can come for the full day or just a couple of hours, it’s entirely up to you. 

Okay, but what’s in it for me?

  • Access to our entomological library, equipment, supplies and a stereo microscope.
  • Support and guidance from a member of the FSC BioLinks project team.
  • Make a difference. Whether you’re helping us with one of our projects or developing your own skills, your contribution is really valuable to us and our project partners.
  • Meet people. A chance to meet like-minded people from a range of different disciplines.
  • Be part of a community.  A space where you can be part of something outside of work and your friends and family. Where you can geek out with other people who are interested in invertebrates.
  • Learn new skills, improve your invertebrate knowledge, and gain practical entomological experience.
  • Gain confidence. You can gain confidence by trying something new and build a real sense of achievement.
  • Take on a challenge. Challenge yourself to try something different, achieve personal goals, practise using your skills and discover hidden talents.
  • Have fun! Our volunteers have a great time, regardless of why they do it. 
  • Biscuits. Have we already mentioned the biscuits?

What projects are you currently working on?

At the moment, we’re working on the following projects in Bushy Park, London:

  • Checking and correcting leaf litter invertebrate samples from Winkler extractions for the Natural History Museum 
  • Setting, pinning, carding and labelling specimens for our teaching and reference collection
  • Preparing assorted specimens for some of our upcoming courses
  • Keying specimens collected on our courses to species

At Bishop’s Wood, Worcester, we’re working on the following projects:

  • Sorting and/or identifying mixed terrestrial and aquatic insect samples from our Field Recorder Day events
  • Producing a teaching collection of dragonfly and damselfly exuviae
  • Carding, pinning and setting specimens that other volunteers have identified

You do not need to have any experience to become involved with any of these projects. A member of the BioLinks team can provide training and supervision.

Who volunteers with you?

There are a number of people from all walks of life who come along to our Invertebrate ID Volunteering Days. Rarely more than ten people at a time to ensure that everyone has access to a microscope and desk space. Some people come to almost every session, while others come less regularly. We have people working on their own taxonomic groups such as flies, earthworms, beetles, ants, and centipedes, as well as those who like to try their hand at everything. It’s a very informal space where you can get to know other people interested in invertebrates and entomology and try out something different.

All our volunteers have to be over 18 to participate.

Where are the sessions held?

Join me, Gino, at Bushy Park in southwest London. You can find details of how to get to us here.
We also have days at Bishops Wood near Worcester with our tutor Rachel Davies. Access information can be found here.

Come join us in 2022!

Remember to book a slot via the BioLinks course and event listings if you would like to attend and we can make sure that you get access to a microscope. Also, if you are bringing your own specimens to work on and you need specific resources, please do email us in advance to ensure we have what you need – [email protected]

Bushy Park, London dates:

Wednesday 20th July
Tuesday 26th July
Thursday 4th August
Tuesday 16th August
Tuesday 30th August
Thursday 8th September
Tuesday 20th September
Thursday 29th September
Tuesday 18th October
Tuesday 25th October
Thursday 3rd November
Thursday 17th November – Earthworms
Friday 18th November – Earthworms
Wednesday 30th November

Bishops Wood, Worcestershire dates:

Wednesday 3rd August
Wednesday 17th August
Tuesday 13th September
Tuesday 27th September
Tuesday 4th October
Tuesday 18th October
Wednesday 26th October – Craneflies
Tuesday 1st November
Wednesday 9th November – Centipedes, Millipedes and Woodlice
Thursday 17th November
Wednesday 23rd November
Tuesday 29 November

If you have any other questions about getting involved in our volunteer days, please feel free to get in touch with our team at [email protected]