Monday, 22 October 2012

Hoverfly training courses

For the past few years Stuart Ball and I have been running regular training courses in hoverfly identification. This year we are booked to run courses at Bristol, Carlisle, London (Roehampton) and Northamptonshire. We have a couple of other tentative bookings but might conceivably manage to schedule a further course if it is wanted.

The package we offer makes it relatively simple for a local Wildlife Trust or voluntary group to organise. We provide the microscopes, specimens, projection equipment etc. All the local organiser has to do is to find a venue capable of comfortably seating 12 people at microscopes.

We do make a charge for the course, but this is essentially to cover basic costs - fuel, overnight accommodation and food, plus the handouts. Assuming a venue within a 400 mile radius of Peterborough we usually manage to do the complete package for between £300 and £350, which if split amongst twelve people is around £30 per head.

The course is an introduction, but we are pretty confident that the majority of the class will be tackling hoverflies quite competently by the end of the weekend. Our approach is based on preserved specimens so it makes it possible to teach during the winter. We have found this to be the most effective way of getting people started.

Occassionally we go back the following year and run a more detailed weekend where people bring the material they have collected and get help with ID. Of course we also have our own material so they can have a go at tricky species.

It is a shame but we have not maintained a register of who has done our courses. This means that we don't have any measure of how well the traoining has impacted on contributions to the Recording Scheme. But there have been several very notable additions to the recorder effort. This is great because we have been trying to extend coverage into areas that are otherwise poorly recorded.

We are also in the process of developing a course that refines our 'Introduction to Diptera'. We have always felt there was something missing and so we are trying to assemble enough material to focus attention on the Brachycera - including Dolis and Empids, but starting with a key to families to make sure participants understand where the families fit in.

Do let me know if you are interested in running a course in your area.

1 comment:

  1. I'd just like to recommend your course to anyone interested in learning more about this superb group. I attended a weekend course run at Loch Lomondside in September and I think I learned more in two days than I had in two years of trying to wade through books.

    Stuart and Roger were great educators and made the weekend enjoyable and catered to students with very different levels of experience. For instance, the level was pitched very well for a newcomer to microscopy like myself, although it made me realise there is so much still to learn.

    The introduction to the families was invaluable and I particularly enjoyed a brief spell outside netting what was about. I found it a great introduction to microscopy and am looking forward to getting stuck in next spring.

    David Fotheringham