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Our mission is to discover more about invertebrates in London’s Royal Parks. By conducting scientific research projects in the parks, we can find out exactly what animals are there, and how they live. Once we know this, we can adapt our park management practices, creating and maintaining habitats to encourage invertebrates to flourish. Our findings will also make an important contribution to global invertebrate research.

However, there are two big issues we need to address before we try to learn about invertebrates in the Royal Parks:

  1. There are 40,000 species of British invertebrate – how should we choose what to study?
  2. The Royal Parks are huge, covering 5,000 acres of London – where do we start?

That is where you come in. Citizen Science is people-powered research. With your help, scientists are able to conduct research projects that would not be possible if they were working on their own. And the great news is that anyone can be a researcher. There are lots of ways to get involved - just sign up to one of our volunteer days to find out more! You don’t need to have any specialist knowledge, and all our volunteers receive training before they start.

There are two different Mission: Invertebrate Citizen Science Projects for 2017:

  1. Spiny Suppery Survey
  2. Ant-cient Grasslands

Check out the details below.

Spiny Supper Survey

The Regent’s Park is home to the only breeding population of hedgehogs in central London. We've been monitoring the hedgehogs in The Regent's Park since 2014 with the help of our 'Hedgehog Heroes'. Surprisingly, although lots of areas of the park look like great homes for a hedgehog, the animals have only been seen in a small number of places. We are interested to know whether this is linked to the invertebrates that make up the hedgehogs diet.

Hedgehogs eat lots of different things, from earthworms, slugs and snails, to beetles and insect larvae. We plan to survey different areas of the park to identify how many, and what type, of invertebrates are found there. This project aims to find out:

  1. Is there a difference in the distribution of grassland invertebrates across the park? Does this match with where the hedgehogs live?
  2. Do park management practices, such as using different types of mulch, have an effect on the invertebrate population?

Surveying will be conducted using soil corers, quadrats, and pitfall traps.

* Registration for this project is now closed*

Ant-cient Grasslands

Ant survey

Richmond Park is home to the yellow meadow ant; you can see the ant hills they create dotted all over the park grasslands. These hills only form if the ants are not disturbed by trampling, grazing, or land management practices. If allowed to develop freely, the ant hills can increase in size by up to 1 litre of soil each year. There are some in the park that we estimate to be at least 150 years old!

Because ant hill size is so closely linked to the land use, we can use them to age the grassland.

Richmond Park has a rich history dating back to the 17th century. Over the years, many things have changed. Hospitals and sports fields have come and gone. Land management practices have used different techniques for drainage, fertilization, and ploughing. We’re interested to know what impact all of these works have had on the ants that live here. This project aims to find out two things:

  1. How long have ants been living undisturbed in different parts of the park?
  2. What effect do different types of habitat (e.g. woodland, bog) within the park have on the size of ant colonies?

To answer these questions we will be collecting measurements of the volume and core temperature of ant hills in identified areas of interest. We will also be taking a look inside some of the ant hills to understand how their complex underground homes work.

Having a big team of volunteers means that we can cover a much larger section of the park, capturing data on as many areas as possible. Measuring ant hills is easy, and great fun for all the family.

* Registration for this project is now closed*