OPAL scientist's blog

The biggest gall ever?

Yesterday I spent the whole day in Harrogate helping run an OPAL / Yorkshire Naturalists Union course about how to put biological recods into Excel. Those of us new to biological recording went outside in the sunshine to do some species recording. Despite it being cold and damp, we saw lots of wildlife - the highlights were a nuthatch and this amazing gall...

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A ball on a stick

I had a nice disturbance from computer work this morning as a group of long-tailed tits landed on the tree outside our office window. These have got to be my favourite birds, they are so charismatic. The RSPB page about them describes them as a ball on a stick, as their tails are longer than their bodies. They moved too fast for me to get a photo, but the RSPB site has some drawings and audio clips of their distinctive calls.

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Banish the winter blues

I was at Anglers Country Park near Wakefield this week, delivering training to Countryside Rangers about the OPAL Air Survey , hoping to persuade them how wonderful lichens were. One of the Rangers, Sue, clearly didn't need much persuasion, she sent me a wonderful email after the session, saying "I've always liked lichens but don't know enough about them". Even better she sent me these fantastic photographs, which really cheered me up and helped banish those "it's cold, grey, sleeting, and still 1 week to go til Christmas" blues.

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Harvesting Complete

by Ed Tripp, University of Nottingham

All 514 seedlings have been harvested.

It took a good week or so to separate all the seedlings from the soil, dry them in an oven to remove the water, and then to weigh them.

It looks like the initial results are OK; there is some relationship between plant size and nitrogen deposition. However, there are still a great many factors that need to be included in the analysis which could explain the differences in plant size.

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Fungi

I've really got interested in fungi identification this year, inspired by a trip to the Cairngorms where the birch woods were full of boletus species. Boletus don't have gills like the mushrooms you buy in the shops, instead they have pores, which look like an array of tiny little tubes stacked together. Here's some photos taken by my friend Ellie at Skipwith Common near York who is also just getting into fungi ID: This specimen was the largest we'd ever seen and was more than a bit past it!

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Scientists on show at the Natural History Museum!

It's a really exciting time at the Natural History Museum at the moment - our brand new Darwin Centre has just opened!  It contains a new state-of-the-art eight storey high (and egg-shaped!) space to store our collections (aptly named 'the cocoon') and a series of new galleries where the public can look in at scientists at work - including me!  We were very excited to have Prince William and Sir David Attenborough here at the 'Grand Opening'!!

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