Finding the small things that matter

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Curator of entomology (that's 'insects' in case you don't know) Guy Knight updates us on research the team is conducting in Cumbria. More on what they discover will follow over the summer, and more snaps can be found on our Flickr page.

Earlier this year, the Entomology Biodiversity Advisory Service at World Museum Liverpool was approached by the Cumbria Wildlife Trust to carry out a survey at Smardale Gill National Nature Reserve.

colour photo of a rural valley with a tent-like structure in the foreground and a viaduct in the background

Smardale Gill NNR. A Malaise trap for sampling flying insects against the impressive industrial architecture of Smardale Gill viaduct, part of the disused Darlington - Tebay railway line.

The Trust aims to provide easy access for visitors to enjoy not only the spectacular wilderness views at the Smardale but also its rich wildlife habitats which include flower-rich grassland, ancient woodland and an unspoilt river. To make sure that these habitats are properly looked after and fully appreciated it is important that the site managers have the most detailed information available on the animals and plants they support.

We worked with the Cumbria Wildlife Trust a few years ago sampling insects at three of their other reserves. This work resulted in records of over 1,500 different species, over 100 of these were rare, threatened or scarce and several hundred had never before been recorded from Cumbria. Over the next year we expect to have similar results at Smardale and are pleased to be working with the Trust again. We will be visiting the site throughout the summer months and posting photographs and updates as the survey work progresses.

Entomology’s Biodiversity Advisory Service supports people’s enjoyment of the natural environment. Work relies on a mix of existing staff, associate and volunteer identification and field survey skills and our research informs species conservation and general site management locally, nationally & internationally. It also reinforces the quality and relevance of our nationally important insect collections. In the last ten years over 40 technical reports & publications have been commissioned, over 100,000 specimens have been identified - including new species to science, Britain and Liverpool.