May 23

With an office full of biologists it was only natural that given the opportunity to help out at the Bristol BioBlitz many of the ARKive team jumped at the chance to get their hands dirty and swap their computers for cameras and clipboards. BioBlitz is a national event, exploring and recording the biological diversity of an area against the clock, while getting people of all ages engaged and excited about the wonder of wildlife found so close to home.

The team of Wildscreen volunteers

The team of Wildscreen volunteers

There was an extraordinary variety of walks and events to get involved with, from bat spotting to bug hunting and pond dipping to fungal forays, and our volunteers helped with the lot – but what did being a volunteer actually involve?

Becky – Guide

Becky identifying freshwater invertebrates

Becky identifying freshwater invertebrates

I was one of the Guides for the day which involved helping out the Naturalists as they showed school children and members of the public around on various nature walks. I also had a go at pond dipping and identifying some species helping towards the BioBlitz grand total!

What was your BioBlitz highlight?

My BioBlitz highlight has got to be just the Naturalists in general! Their level of knowledge was just phenomenal yet they were approachable and incredibly entertaining! One of my favourite species, discovered while pond dipping, was the palmate newt, which I’ve never seen before.

Helen – Media Team

Helen with camera at the ready

Helen with camera at the ready

My job was to follow the groups going out and about around the grounds of Tyntesfield with a camera, to film or photograph the things they were finding. We wanted to document everything that was going on, what they were getting involved with and how much fun they were having! I was also involved with editing the film footage into the videos for the blog, and in writing blog posts to keep everyone up to date on the latest BioBlitz happenings.  

What was your BioBlitz highlight?

I got the chance to have my first ever play with the Sony Z1 camera which was very exciting! I filmed a group of school children out looking for nibbled hazelnuts in Truckle Woods. They wanted to find evidence of dormice and although we didn’t see any we came across all sorts of other exciting finds, such as the brilliantly named King Alfred’s cakes.

For a more detailed look at the role of a volunteer and to see what we got up to all weekend why not take a look at our film.

This year the Bristol BioBlitz took place at Tyntesfield from 9am on Friday 20th to 3pm Saturday 21st May. During this 30 hour stint the combined efforts of Guides, Stewards, Naturalists and the all important public led to the discovery of a record-breaking species total of 779! This included 121 notable species, (meaning that they have particular ecological significance), 25 that have never been recorded in North Somerset, and 15 species that have not been seen before in the whole of Avon – quite an achievement I hope you’ll agree.

For a full rundown of all the events of the Bristol BioBlitz, including many more videos and photographs, check out the Bristol BioBlitz blog.

Laura Sutherland, ARKive Media Researcher

May 4

Here at ARKive, we love teachers and there’s no better time to share the love than during National Teacher Appreciation Week, May 2-6, 2011. We recognize the pivotal role of teachers in the educational development of students around the world and strive to create resources, lesson plans and activities on ARKive Education to support educators in the classroom.

We’ve heard from teachers in nearly every subject from science and technology to history and art that regularly use ARKive in their curriculum and thought we’d highlight a few of our favorite experiences with some exceptional teachers around the US.

Learning in Washington, DC libraries

Learning in Washington, DC libraries with ARKiveWorking with local school teachers and librarians in Washington, DC, ARKive staff organized an event called “ARKive: Where Endangered Species Come Alive” where students participated in a variety of imagery-based activities to learn about endangered species conservation. A favorite of the younger students was the “Where’s its habitat?” activity where we provided a small snapshot of a species from ARKive in the center of an otherwise blank page and asked the students to finish drawing its habitat. The students definitely came up with some creative homes for their species!

 Math and measurements in Virginia

ARKive's Measurement Box activityWe love working with the teachers at Bailey’s Elementary School for the Arts and Sciences in Virginia to playtest different activities with students before we add them to ARKive Education. In the newly created (and still testing out) Measurement Box activity, we used a regular craft box and cut three holes in one side to feed through different lengths of string. Each length of string corresponded with the size of an animal on ARKive: the giant anteater, the wingspan of the wandering albatross and the American crocodile. To help put the size of these species into perspective, the teachers suggested the students lie on the floor, head to foot – it was quite a sight to see the length of a giant anteater in third graders! 

 Continent studies in Chicago

ARKive Geographic - Biodiversity around the World activityARKive staff had a blast playtesting the “ARKive Geographic: Biodiversity around the World” activity with students at Bouchet Math and Science Academy in Chicago, Illinois for a pilot project recently. With the help of teachers, we introduced important definitions of conservation such as the meaning of biodiversity, species, habitat and ecosystem and challenged the students to populate a world map of biodiversity on earth with small, colorful species fact cards. When teachers asked the students what was the most interesting species they learned about, the Tennent’s leaf-nosed lizard and the Japanese giant salamander were clear favorites.

We appreciate teachers across the country and the world who encourage students today to be the conservationists of tomorrow. Visit ARKive Education to see our current list of education resources, lesson plans and games and be sure to thank a teacher this week!

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

Apr 18

Students exploring the ARKive websiteSpending sunny afternoons after school exploring the local zoo and experiencing dozens of endangered species face-to-face all while playing with a smart phone doesn’t seem like the normal after-school program on the surface. However, students in Chicago, IL, USA are doing just that and more in a newly launched pilot program marking a unique collaboration between mobile learning initiatives and conservation education.

Biodiversity quest

Recently, the ARKive team traveled to Chicago, IL, USA to help kick-off the Biodiversity Quest program designed to challenge young people to create mobile experiences, also known as quests, at the Lincoln Park Zoo using iPhones and a popular scavenger hunt application, 7scenes. Through a partnership between ARKive, Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots and the Pearson Foundation’s New Learning Institute, this 10-week curriculum is designed to illustrate connections between Chicago youth and the endangered species of the world, both near and far.

The quests will each have a theme that leads other young visitors around the Zoo helping them draw connections between exhibits. For example, a group might design a quest that guides visitors to the exhibits of several species that share a Critically Endangered status because of common threats to their habitats. After completing the program, students will be able to explain what an endangered species is, discuss various threats to species populations around the globe, and gain an understanding of possible solutions to help protect endangered species, all while demonstrating a greater technical skill set gained through hands-on experience with mobile technologies.

Exploring the continents

The ARKive team led two after-school sessions about endangered species and the importance of biodiversity. Students learned about the unique plants and animals found on each continent using the newly created ‘ARKive Geographic: Biodiversity Around the World’ activity. Through this activity, the students enjoyed learning interesting facts about globally endangered species from across the globe. 

ARKive Geographic - Biodiversity Around the World

Students learning about endangered species through the ARKive Geographic - Biodiversity Around the World Activity

Additionally, ARKive staff taught students how to search ARKive by species category (mammal, bird, reptile, etc), by geography or by common name and demonstrated how to create a MyARKive scrapbook for organizing images and films to include in their Biodiversity Quests.

The Biodiversity Quest pilot program comes to an end in June with a culminating event at Lincoln Park Zoo where students will lead their friends and family members on the Quests they’ve created. We’re very excited to return this summer to experience all the hard work and dedication the students put into both their Quests and into learning about endangered species and their conservation.

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

Mar 29
Wildscreen is a STEM organisation – an organisation involved in science, technology, engineering or maths – and the ARKive project represents two of these, combining conservation science and internet technology to build awareness of the world’s endangered species.
ARKive STEM Ambassador presentation

Presenting ARKive as a STEM Ambassador

Our work with STEMNET
We first got involved in the STEMNET Ambassadors scheme in June 2010. STEMNET is a UK government-funded initiative, creating links between STEM-related organisations and schools, and inspiring young people to follow careers in STEM subjects. Teachers looking for guest speakers and workshops contact their local STEMNET coordinator, in our case the lovely Claire Dimond at Graphic Science, who then invites relevant STEM Ambassadors to run an activity or talk at the school. The sessions are provided free of charge and as a not-for-profit organisation with a focus on environmental education, it was a no-brainer for ARKive to participate.
To date, the ARKive team has run 28 workshops and talks in 12 schools around the Bristol and Bath area and 4 workshops with 2 schools in London. These have covered a wide range of topics including conservation, biodiversity, natural selection and evolution, penguins, minibeasts, adaptation, careers in wildlife media, animal communication and scientific communication. We also attended the Big Bang Fair in 2010 and 2011, a huge STEM-related science fair for young people, where we spoke to over 7,500 attendees. In February this year we increased our number of ARKive Ambassadors from 2 to 10; so you could say that we have been very busy!
ARKive workshop

6th Form students present in the "ARKive news" workshop

New ARKive teaching resources
The workshops have also been a great way of developing and testing new ARKive educational tools, which you can now find on our new-look teaching resources page. The teaching resources we have developed as part of our STEMNET work include modules on adaptation and sexual selection, and join our existing modules on conservation, food webs, classification and evolution. The ARKive Education pages will continually be updated as we develop new workshops and activities and we hope they become an invaluable free resource for science teachers.
ARKive adaptation species design

"Design a species" - part of the ARKive adaptation teaching resource

A brilliant opportunity
STEMNET has been an excellent opportunity for ARKive to reach young people face-to-face in our local area and around the UK and spread the conservation message. The response varies! For those that already have an interest, ARKive is a great source of extra information and depth to improve their understanding. For those with less interest, we hope that our enthusiasm and ARKive’s “WOW-factor” can plant a seed that will grow into an appreciation of the amazing species we share this planet with. Whichever the case, all we can do is keep passing on the message.
Visit the STEMNET website for more information on the UK STEMNET Ambassador scheme.
Email for more information on free ARKive workshops available in the Bristol and Bath area.
Charlie Whittaker, ARKive Media Researcher / STEMNET Ambassador
Mar 19

National Science and Engineering Week 2011 Logo

Now in its 18th year, the British Science Association’s National Science and Engineering Week (NSEW) is a UK wide celebration of the sciences, which aims to engage people of all ages with science and show how it can relate to everyday life.

The theme for NSEW this year was ‘communication’, so with this in mind we sent our team of intrepid STEM Ambassadors out into schools across Bristol to introduce ARKive and explore the many methods of communication employed by animals.

Communication: the imparting or exchanging of information’

Animals (and plants) communicate with members of their own species as well as with other species via a variety of means – visual, acoustic, physical and chemical. Courtship dances, as seen by the superb bird of paradise and warning colouration are methods of visual communication, while the red deer and the lion both utilise acoustic communication to exhibit their dominance and territoriality. After investigating how and why animals communicate we then challenged the pupils to write an Attenborough-style narration for video clips we provided, each showing an example of a species communicating. Once they had researched their species and crafted their script, the groups had to perform their pieces to the rest of the class.

Alongside our communication workshop we ran sessions tailored to suit the particular needs of the schools. When we were asked to plan a penguin themed lesson for a group of Year 2s we jumped at the chance to get creative – I think we enjoyed making penguin masks almost as much as the kids did!

Meadowbrook Primary School children with their penguin masks

Another class of penguins © Meadowbrook Primary School

Examining mini-beasts and their adaptations was also a big hit and our ‘Create your own mini-beast’ activity yielded some extraordinarily imaginative organisms, including an ocean-dwelling, toe-eating critter and a chameleon-inspired flying insect able to change colour to match the sky at all times – an awesome example of camouflage in action.

In total the ARKive STEM team have worked with over 600 children this week, and I think I speak for all of us when I say we definitely have a newfound respect for teachers! Our expanding team of fully-fledged STEM Ambassadors have now got the taste for teaching and are raring to go, so if there are any schools out there that like the sound of an ARKive-inspired lesson please do let us know!

Thanks to,

Meadowbrook Primary School, Bradley Stoke

Begbrook Primary School, Stapleton

Broadlands Secondary School, Keynsham

Kingsfield Secondary School, Kingwood

City Academy, Bristol

Laura Sutherland, ARKive Media Researcher


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