Saturday, 11 November 2017

Time to copy the Germans?

Recent publicity about the German Malaise Trap programme and the raw data it has created provides a lot of food for thought!

My last post showed how the UK dataset is highly open to modification by changing recorder practices. We are likely to get a lot more data on a sub-set of our fauna (most welcome), but unless we do something quite urgently we may lose track of a significant proportion of the fauna and end up with a politically weaker situation because the dataset is incomplete and can be chewed up by those vested interests who don't like the messages that the data convey.

I cannot see the UK Government ever funding long-term studies that are highly likely to expose even more weaknesses in their environmental policies, so it is down to the voluntary sector to take action. Could we ever get a network of Malaise Traps set up across the UK? Perhaps it is a long-shot but maybe this article is enough to get a few minds thinking about such a project?

Making it happen

It is one thing running Malaise Traps, and a very different matter if one is going to do something with the specimens collected. They have all got to be stored, and ideally something has to be done with them! Sorting Malaise Traps to Order is a major undertaking in its own right, but it might be possible using volunteers.

Sorting to Family is a rather bigger problem. Might we find volunteers? I don't know, but perhaps it is possible. Finding volunteers to extract particular families might be a possibility?

The logistics are frightening, so I take my hat off to the Germans. For the last couple of years I have been providing Axel Ssymank with a bit of help with proof-reading English abstracts for some of this work. He and his colleagues have done an amazing job and it is great to see some powerful messages emerging. I'd love to see something of a similar nature happening in the UK.

This sort of venture seems to me to require a collaborative project that involves all of the major entomological societies together with the Wildlife Trusts and perhaps others. Could it be pump-primed by a Heritage Lottery Fund project? I can certainly see a possible project, but is there an organisation that might take the lead?

Perhaps this is a step too far for volunteers? BUT, many societies need projects and long-term initiatives to give cohesion to their activities. Could this be one? In some ways, there might be parallels with 'Operation Wallacea' that looked at the fauna of Sulawesi in considerable detail and caused huge excitement at the time.

Any takers?

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