rich burkmar's blog

Molecular tools for curiosity-led natural history

The NFBR conference 2015 (photo Paula Lightfoot)Last week it was my great pleasure to attend the 2105 conference of the National Forum for Biological Recording which was jointly organised with the British Ecological Society's Macroecology Special Interest Group. In a wide-raging and memorable conference, which succeeded in bridging the gap between the academic and natural history ends of the biological recording world, one of the most interesting things for me was a workshop (and associated poster and presentation) on using molecular tools for biological recording.

Invertebrate specialists and alcohol problems

Invertebrate specialists often require copious supplies of alcoholAs someone who studies invertebrates, I often find myself turning to the bottle. Whilst I would not recommend alcohol as part of a general approach to problem solving, I wouldn't be without it for preserving specimens. The animals I'm particularly interested in - spiders, harvestmen and, latterly, earthworms and springtails - are rather soft-bodied you see, and the accoutrements beloved of the coleopterist and dipterist - pins, plastazote, gum, card and the like - are of limited value to me; instead I require a copious supply of alcohol (and lots of little tubes).

By biological recorders for biological recorders

NFBR bannerThe National Forum for Biological Recording (NFBR) is a membership organisation with the unique distinction that it represents, at a national level, the interests and work of biological recorders across all taxonomic groups. We think of ourselves as an independent voice for biological recorders in the UK. For an increasing number of biological recorders, the annual NFBR conference is a highlight of the social and professional development calendars. This year's conference - 'A Question of Ecology – Answers from Biological Recording' - promises to be one of the most exciting and best attended ever.

Save a Spider!

Pardosa amentata maleAccording to someone, somewhere, Saturday 14th March is 'Save a Spider Day'! A quick search on Google indicates that for others it is 'Non-smoking Day' and I dare say, if I looked hard enough, I could quickly fill my diary for tomorrow, what with avoiding cigarettes, saving spiders and everything else!

Invasive aliens and other bad language

Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera).  Photo: Charlie BellA growing amount of attention is being given to biodiversity loss resulting from the introduction of non-native species. Introduced species that do well, especially if they do so at the expense native flora or fauna, are frequently referred to as ‘invasive aliens’.

Some thoughts on DNA barcoding and biological recording

Wall (Lasiommata megera).  Photo: Rich BurkmarI recently took part in a really interesting email discussion with some other NFBR members (National Forum for Biological Recorders) prompted by the recent publication of a paper on metabarcoding. I think it's fair to say that many biological recorders are very cautious about the use of DNA barcoding as a tool for monitoring biodiversity. There is a perception that the development of DNA barcoding may threaten the traditional morphological identification skills of the biological recorder. I have a more optimistic outlook and the rest of this blog is derived from an email I contributed to the email discussion.

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