Radio Gaga

When Jennie Dennett of BBC Radio Cumbria heard that we were taking Cumbrian dung beetles to Glastonbury, she immediately got in touch to find out more and invited us to give an interview at their studios in Carlisle. Our activity “How Gross is Your Festival Kit” gave her an idea – drawing presenter Mike Zeller away from the studio under the pretence of a meeting, a member of the studio team took sneaky swabs of his kit and posted them to us at the Lancaster Environment Centre. We duly plated them out and incubated them to see what’s population the BBC Radio Cumbria studio.

On Friday, we arrived at the studio with some nasty-looking growths on agar plates, which we were able to produce on cue when Mike asked us about the activity.


BBC Radio Cumbria videoed the whole thing and have posted it on Facebook here.

Mike’s bacteria are now on show in our newly opened Hall of Shame. Thanks to the BBC Radio Cumbria team for making it happen!

We think it went pretty well – despite an initial fraught 20 minutes of being lost in the Carlisle one-way system during morning rush-hour.

Been Away Too Long

After a long winter break, we finally took some of our festival activities out for a road-test at Lancaster University’s Community Day on 6th May.
It all went down a treat. Visitors had a lot of fun playing our “pick a pollinator” fishing game, identifying animal poo, discovering the magical smells of mushrooms, and hitting our “soil strengthometer” as hard as they possibly could.
We received around 800 visitors during the 6 hours at Lancaster Square, so we were really relieved to have plenty of help from some very excellent PhD Students – many thanks to Rosanne, James, Kasia, and Thomas.
We had to make do with a bog-standard gazebo, as our new stall is still in the works. But at least now it has a door.
All in all it was a great day and good preparation for our next event… roll on Glasto 2017!

Standing in the doorway

Doing something creative is a nice way to balance intense research work, so @panemma has really enjoyed designing a brand new stall – this first draft is very much in keeping with this year’s woodland theme.

We also had a fun coffee-break making a model to see what it would look like in the field (although note the complete absence of mud).

Not a bad start, now all we need is a door…


New-look stall being inaugurated by King Henry VIII in a 2017 Roadie T-Shirt

My Name Is…

Many visitors to our Glasto stall last year stopped to take a closer look at one of our posters because it featured a picture of Frank Zappa.  We’re not the only music fans who also happen to do research – lots of scientists have named organisms after their favourite musicians.
During the last few weeks, there’ve been two new additions to the Biological Hall of Fame that we’re particularly pleased about: First, a new species of shrimp has been named after Pink Floyd (Synalpheus pinkfloydi) – it’s pink, it’s loud and the scientists who named it are all ‘Floyd fans. And now a new species of ant has been named after Radiohead (Sericomyrmex radioheadi) to acknowledge their efforts in raising awareness for climate change – as well as their music.

Definitely our kind of news.


We’ll have more on this kind of thing on our website soon, but if you want to browse through a full list of weird and wonderful species names, take a look at this website on the “Curiosities of Biological Nomenclature”.

Home in the Woods

We’ve teamed up with Wytham Woods, Oxfordshire, to create an entirely new theme for our stall: “the hidden wonders of woodlands”. We’re pretty excited about this, because Wytham Woods are one of the most researched areas of woodland in the world, the woods are really beautiful, and some of us are lucky enough to work there.


Bluebell carpet at Wytham Woods (photo by L. Lopez-Sangil)

The actual site included within Wytham Woods (390ha) contains a variety of habitats including ancient semi-natural woodland, plantations, calcareous grasslands, a mire, and several ponds. The woods are a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) because of their  exceptionally rich flora and fauna, with over 500 species of vascular plants and 800 species of butterflies and moths.

Since 1942, Oxford University has maintained the use of the woods for education and research, and ensured that the natural beauty of the woods can be enjoyed by the inhabitants of Oxford.

For the last 18 years, scientists have been monitoring climate change at Wytham, and there is also over 60 years of  work on birds and over 30 years of research on badgers.

If that weren’t enough, Wytham Woods have frequently featured in the “Inspector Morse” detective novels by Colin Dexter…





Coming soon

… to a festival near you. We’ve got lots of exciting new things lined up for 2017, so watch this space and keep your fingers crossed that it won’t get this muddy again: