Vol­un­teer: work­ing for na­ture

Longhorn beetle record­ing, UK

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Contents -

Katy Potts helps teach oth­ers how to iden­tify longhorn bee­tles

All over the world, devoted in­di­vid­u­als are do­ing their bit by vol­un­teer­ing to get in­volved with wildlife. Megan Shersby meets a woman who is shar­ing her love of longhorns. S I was taught about some of the UK’s more cryptic groups of wildlife. T

K

aty is cu­ra­to­rial as­sis­tant in the Coleoptera sec­tion of London’s Nat­u­ral His­tory Mu­seum (NHM), but her pas­sion for these crea­tures goes be­yond work­ing nine to five – she also spends her spare time man­ag­ing the Na­tional Longhorn Beetle Record­ing Scheme.

“I love ev­ery­thing about bee­tles, and longhorns are such an in­ter­est­ing and beau­ti­ful group, so tak­ing on the vol­un­teer role was a no-brainer,” she says.

Katy and fel­low en­to­mol­o­gist Wil Heeney were ap­proached to run the scheme by Martin Har­vey from the Bi­o­log­i­cal Records Cen­tre. Since it be­gan in 2016, the cit­i­zen-science project has re­ceived over 10,000 records from across the UK, in­clud­ing sight­ings of the invasive Asian longhorn beetle.

“Our fo­cus is to get peo­ple in­ter­ested in record­ing longhorn bee­tles, via iRecord, spread­sheets, pho­to­graphs or writ­ten records,” says Katy. Records aren’t just lim­ited to the present, as the scheme has also re­ceived data from mu­seum col­lec­tions, which al­lows for the species’ his­tor­i­cal dis­tri­bu­tion to be mapped.

Katy has al­ways been in­ter­ested in wildlife and in­sects, but the turn­ing point in her ca­reer came when she be­came a trainee on an Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Train­ers for the Fu­ture place­ment, run by the NHM, Field Stud­ies Coun­cil (FSC) and Na­tional Bio­di­ver­sity Net­work Trust be­tween 2014 and 2018. The legacy of the pro­gramme con­tin­ues.

“I was taught by spe­cial­ists about some of the UK’s more cryptic groups of wildlife, and trained in teach­ing so that I can pass these skills onto oth­ers in hope of ad­dress­ing the de­cline in tax­o­nomic and field bi­ol­ogy skills.” This led her to then teach a num­ber of cour­ses for the FSC and to lead a trip to Greece with Op­er­a­tion Wal­lacea, an en­vi­ron­men­tal re­search and con­ser­va­tion expedition or­gan­i­sa­tion.

If that wasn’t enough, Katy and Wil have also been run­ning work­shops, do­ing out­reach ac­tiv­i­ties and cre­at­ing a FSC fold-out iden­ti­fi­ca­tion chart, pub­lished in 2018. “We are proac­tive on so­cial me­dia to en­cour­age more peo­ple to love longhorns, and run a stall at nat­u­ral his­tory events. I love the mo­ment when you see chil­dren’s fas­ci­na­tion and cu­rios­ity light up, once they see an in­sect up close, and it ig­nites a fire within me.” FIND OUT MORE Na­tional Longhorn Beetle Record­ing Scheme: bit.ly/uk­beetlere­cord­ing

Katy is keen to share her grow­ing ex­per­tise in beetle iden­ti­fi­ca­tion.

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