Mar 20

National Science and Engineering Week celebrated in the UK last week, was rather busy for ARKive’s STEM Ambassadors, with the team running a myriad of activities at 9 different schools throughout Bristol and Somerset.

To add to our hectic schedule, last week also saw the NEC in Birmingham host The Big Bang Fair 2012 – the largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths for young people in the UK. The fair is a chance for kids (and adults!) to get hands on with lots of practical and fun activities; from welding with chocolate, driving and commanding virtual tanks, controlling robots – and, of course, playing ARKive’s ‘Web of Wildlife’!

The Big Bang Fair 2012   The ARKive Team at The Big Bang Fair 2012

What were we doing?

We spent our time at The Big Bang talking to school children, college students, teachers, educators and a whole host of other organisations from the worlds of science, technology, engineering and maths. It was hard keeping track of exactly how many people we spoke to, but with nearly 50,000 people expected over the three days of the event, we imagine it was a lot!

Engaging the next generation

The Big Bang was a fantastic opportunity for us to enthuse some of the future scientists of tomorrow, and to teach them about how films and photographs are an invaluable tool in promoting appreciation of the natural world. We also had fun explaining all about ARKive and how it can be used in coursework, projects and in the classroom.

ARKive at The Big Bang Fair 2012      The Big Bang Fair 2012

We had an amazing response from all of the people we spoke to over the three days of the fair. Teachers were really interested to hear about our education resources, while kids and adults alike loved playing on the website, our Survival app, and our ‘Web of Wildlife’ activity.

ARKive’s next ‘superfan’?

No summary of ARKive’s time at The Big Bang Fair would be complete without mentioning one of our most enthusiastic young fans who, at just 6 years old, ran circles around the team at our own activities! Having unlocked and gained three stars for all of the characters on our Survival app, Arun eagerly proceeded to beat us at our own game and managed to complete all four food webs on our Web of Wildlife activity – in just 46 seconds!

ARKive at The Big Bang 2012      Arun with 'Survival' ARKive's Endangered animal app, The Big Bang Fair 2012

Our favourite quotes from The Big Bang Fair 2012…

“I don’t have a favourite species, I like them all! And you can’t really have one because new ones are being discovered all the time”.

School student

“I love ARKive; I use it all the time! I used it to teach reproduction to Year 7’s by using examples of external and internal fertilisation.”

Teacher – Shenley Brook End School (Milton Keynes)

We use ARKive as our go-to resource for looking up our ‘animal of the week’ for younger students”.

A Level Student – Rugby College

“I love ARKive, I follow you on twitter and Facebook and I have your app on my phone!”

Teacher – John Cabot Academy (Bristol)

Missed out on The Big Bang Fair this year? We’ll be back at London’s ExCeL centre in 2013 – we hope to see you there!

The ARKive STEM team

Mar 13

National Sceince and Engineering Week 2012 logo

With National Science and Engineering week officially upon us it is all go here in the ARKive office, and this year looks set to be our busiest (and best) NSEW yet!

We have 9 visits to schools scheduled over the next week and a half, from Bristol to Glastonbury, and Bath to Midsomer Norton, where we’ll be aiming to engage and inspire over 850 bright new minds!

Our STEM Ambassadors are busy putting the finishing touches to our new resources; including ‘The Power of Plastic’, a module examining the impact of human activity on the environment, and ‘Adaptation to Movement’ which explores how and why animals move and the extraordinary variety of ways in which they do so – and ties in neatly with this years NSEW theme ‘Our World in Motion’.

As if all that wasn’t enough, half of our STEM team will be travelling up to the NEC Birmingham for ‘The Big Bang Fair’ – the largest educational fair of its kind in the UK. Last year the event drew crowds of over 29,000 people during the three days, and this years event promises to be even larger. Our stand is in the ‘Go Global‘ Zone (GA13), so do please pop along and say hello if you’re attending the Big Bang later this week.

Big Bang Logo

Do you know which sharks can be found lurking in British Seas? Or which tree has seeds known as helicopters? Well, come along to our stand to tell us the answer or to find out for yourself. We’ll be running another brand new activity at the Big Bang – ‘ARKive’s Web of Wildlife’. We need your help to build our four food webs – whether you fancy trying to assemble the British Woodland or the African Savannah there are lots of fascinating facts to learn along the way.

ARKive Media Researcher Becky helping create ARKive's Web of WildlifeARKive's Web of Wildlife - in the makingWe’ll also be testing your skills on ‘Survival’ – our awesome endangered species app – how long will you survive?

Whatever you’re doing to celebrate National Science and Engineering Week we hope you have a brilliant time – we certainly can’t wait to get stuck in. Let us know what you’re up to, whether it’s at school or with friends and family.

Why not enter our Creative Climate Change Challenge and combine your scientific and creative skills by coming up with a unique way to communicate the problem of climate change and inspire change.

National Science and Engineering week runs from the 9th -18th March. The Big Bang fair is taking place at the NEC, Birmingham from 15th-17th March. Search for events in your area on the British Science Association website.

Laura Sutherland, ARKive Education Officer

Dec 7

Picture of the Eye on Earth Summit logoNext week, the United Arab Emirates and ARKive’s principal sponsor, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) will welcome global leaders, innovators and decision-makers from across the world to the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), where they will address the issue of providing greater access to environmental and social data to all of those who need it.

What is Eye on Earth?

A global meeting held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, the Eye on Earth Summit and Exhibition will act to draw attention to the gap that exists between the need for better information about the environment and the efforts that are being made to address this issue.

Ensuring effective access to environmental and societal data is critical in making informed environmental decisions; however, much of this data is currently absent, inaccessible or hidden. This is particularly evident in developing countries that do not have the means to acquire or generate data to make informed decisions.

Delegates at the Summit will therefore ‘convene, converge and collaborate’ to strengthen existing efforts and inspire a search for unified, global solutions to the issues that are preventing this important data from being readily accessible.

Who will be attending?

The Summit will host approximately 750 invited delegates ranging from current and former heads of state to international academic organisations and scientists. A dynamic blend of prominent speakers from the worlds of business, government and environmental protection will be present, including Dr. Sylvia A. Earle, Dr. Jane Goodall DBE, Julia Marton-Lefèvre and President Bill Clinton.

Photo of Arabian oryx males fighting

Abu Dhabi hosts between 450 and 500 terrestrial plant species and close to half the world’s Arabian Oryx population

Running alongside the Summit will be the Eye on Earth Exhibition, which is open to the general public and will showcase the very best from around the world in the field of data access and analysis. Wildscreen’s ARKive project will be among the multi-media mix of informational and educational products on show at the Exhibition.

The Abu Dhabi Pavilion at the Eye on Earth Abu Dhabi 2011 Exhibition will showcase themes such as the Capital’s progress towards sustainable urban development

The Abu Dhabi Pavilion at the Eye on Earth Abu Dhabi 2011 Exhibition will showcase themes such as the Capital’s progress towards sustainable urban development

What will be the outcome of the Summit?

A key outcome of the Summit will be the adoption of the Eye on Earth Summit Declaration, which will provide input to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development being held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 2012 (Rio+20). Through this Declaration, attending ministers, representatives of government and other participants will commit to facilitate the work required to make quality data and information available to those who need it, especially in emerging economies. The public is invited to sign the declaration at the Exhibition.

The Eye on Earth Summit and Exhibition is taking place in Abu Dhabi, 12th – 15th December 2011.

The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) is supporting ARKive to audio-visually profile the great diversity of UAE wildlife, as well as the world’s most endangered species. We look forward to working with them next week at the Eye on Earth Summit and Exhibition.

Sep 13

wikipedia logoThe world’s 5th largest website, Wikipedia, wants to help improve the world’s knowledge of endangered species, and they have to come to ARKive for help.

ARKive has teamed up with Wikimedia UK to hold a ‘Wiki Wildlife Editathon’ on Thursday 15 September in The Watershed Media Centre, Bristol, to offer hints and tips on improving existing Wikipedia species texts and to recruit more volunteer editors to help raise awareness of the world’s endangered species.

The ‘editathon’ aims to encourage many new and existing Wikipedia editors to take part in this special event to help improve Wikipedia’s text articles on endangered plants and animals, such as the intriguing indri and the magnificent manta ray. During the event, participants will use the ARKive website with its collection of over 13,800 multimedia species profiles to help with researching and writing the endangered species texts. Wildscreen’s team of ARKive Species Text Authors will also be on hand to give tips and advice to participants on writing about the wonderful diversity of life on Earth.

Indri photo

The Endangered indri is the largest of all the lemur species

Interactive and hands-on, the ‘editathon’ will also be an opportunity for people to gain a better understanding of Wiki and its growing community of editors.

The event will be split into two sessions, the first from 1.30pm to 5pm, with the second from 6pm to 9.30pm.  The second session will repeat the first. Anyone wishing to attend is asked to register their interest online:

Afternoon session (13:30 – 17:00)

Evening session (18:00 – 21:30)

For more information about the event please visit:

Aug 31

Late this summer, over 3,500 ecologists, biologists and conservationists descended upon Austin, Texas, USA, for the annual Ecological Society of America (ESA) conference. Attending, presenting and exhibiting at ESA is always a pleasure for ARKive staff as we often meet scientists who have imagery of species we’ve been searching for or are species experts of threatened species already on ARKive.

One such scientist is Hayley Gillespie, a recent university graduate who dedicated her thesis to the study of the Barton Springs salamander, a species local to Austin, TX. Hayley was happy to share with ARKive why she studies this amphibian and give a unique view on conservation from a species expert perspective.

  Barton Springs salamander photo  Barton springs salamander photo

What is the Barton Springs salamander?

The Barton Springs Salamander is a member of the genus Eurycea  and lives in the freshwater springs in downtown Austin, TX. Unlike many other salamander species, the Barton Springs salamander doesn’t experience metamorphosis and actually keeps its feathery gills and lives in an aquatic habitat its entire life. This characteristic probably evolved as the climate in central Texas started to become more hot and dry thousands of years ago. The springs where the salamanders live provide a good “refuge” from the hot, dry climate on land and the few salamanders that were able to stay in the water probably survived better than those that didn’t. One drawback: the Barton Springs Salamander cannot survive out of water any longer than you can hold your breath!

What are the conservation challenges?

According to Hayley, the Barton Springs Salamander faces many challenges and it’s amazing it is still here! Three of the four springs that make up Barton Springs have been dammed, turning their once stream-like habitat into an unsuitable pond-like habitat. The main Barton Springs Pool is actually a public swimming hole beloved by the citizens of Austin but unfortunately not very good for the salamanders that live there.

Barton Springs Pool in Austin, TX, USA

Barton Springs Pool in Austin, TX, USA

The Barton Springs Salamanders also need clean, plentiful water from the Edwards Aquifer to feed their springs which is constantly challenged by new development in and around the city. Combined with natural stresses like droughts (which are projected to become more frequent and severe with climate change), these challenges make life pretty difficult for Barton Springs Salamanders.

How can you help?

The best way to help protect this species is to ensure that there is abundant and clean water in the Edwards Aquifer well into the future. Local residents can choose to use less water so that groundwater is not pumped as heavily, and getting involved in influencing local and regional sustainable development issues can have a big impact. Additionally, the Save Our Springs (S.O.S.) Alliance is a local organization that advocates for aquifer protection and sustainable development in Austin.

In the end, Hayley sums it up quite nicely, “I think it’s important to simply know more about how we can help protect this unique piece of our natural heritage. After all, it lives right here with us, and no where else! That’s pretty neat.”

Neat indeed! Have you ever seen a Barton Springs salamander or learned about a threatened amphibian in your part of the world? Why not share your experience with us?

Liana Vitali, ARKive Science, Education and Outreach Officer, Wildscreen USA


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