Oct 17

Large numbers of British children are missing out on engaging with nature, according to a new study.

Red squirrel image

Red squirrel

First of its kind

The ground-breaking study, led by the RSPB, marks the first time that connectivity between children and nature has been studied in the UK. Following 3 years of research, the project concluded that only 21% of children between the ages of 8 and 12 were ‘connected to nature’ at a level which is considered to be both realistic and achievable for all young people.

The report stems from growing concerns over the distinct lack of contact with and experience of nature among modern children, which some have argued is having a negative impact on their education, health and behaviour. In addition, this disconnection is viewed as being a very real threat to the future of UK wildlife.

Horse chestnut image

Horse chestnuts in autumn

Connecting to nature

Around 1,200 children from across the UK took part in the study, which was based on a specially developed questionnaire. Analysis of the results revealed several statistically significant differences in children’s connection to nature across the UK, including between boys and girls, and between urban and rural homes.

This report is ground-breaking,” said Rebekah Stackhouse, Education and Youth Programmes Manager for RSPB Scotland. “It’s widely accepted that today’s children have less contact with nature than ever before.  But until now, there has been no robust scientific attempt to measure and track connection to nature among children across the whole of the UK, which means the problem hasn’t been given the attention it deserves.”

Scotland come out top in the regional comparisons, with 27% of children in the country being found to have a particular level of connection to the natural world, while children in Wales had the lowest score across the UK, with just 13% achieving the basic level of exposure to nature.

Perhaps surprisingly, the study revealed that the average score was higher for London than the rest of England and that, overall, urban children were slightly more connected to nature than those living in rural areas.

European starling image

European starling flock in flight

Gender differences

Interestingly, this latest research found that girls were more likely than boys to be exposed to nature and wildlife. While only 16% of boys were at or above the ‘realistic and achievable’ target, 27% of girls were found to be at the same level.

We need to understand these differences,” said Sue Armstrong-Brown, Head of Conservation Policy at the RSPB. “Whether boys and girls are scoring differently on different questions, are girls more empathetic to nature than boys, for instance? We need to analyse the data to find that out.”

Positive impacts

The aim of the study was to create a baseline against which connectivity of children to nature in the UK can be measured and monitored, so that recommendations can be made to governments and local authorities on ways in which this can be increased. In turn, it is hoped that children will reap many benefits from a higher level of interaction with the natural world, including positive impacts on education, physical health, emotional wellbeing and social skills.

To further underline the importance of engaging young people with wildlife, the RSPB has signed up to The Wild Network, a unique and pioneering collaboration between organisations which is working to reverse the trend of children losing touch with their natural surroundings and is encouraging them to play outdoors.

Hedgehog image

Hedgehog

Influential attitudes

The RSPB says that some adults perceive nature to be dangerous or dirty, and that these attitudes could be having a significant effect by holding children back.

There is definitely an attitude out there, in some cases, that nature is not perceived as interesting or engaging. In some cases it is perceived as a dirty or unsafe thing, and that’s an attitude that won’t help a young person climb a tree,” said Armstrong-Brown.

In addition to the benefits reaped by young people, Armstrong-Brown believes that an improvement in the engagement of young people with wildlife is a vital component in ensuring the future of nature conservation in the UK, saying, “If we can grow a generation of children that have a connection to nature and do feel a sense of oneness with it, we then have the force for the future that can save nature and stop us living in a world where nature is declining.”

Read more on this story at BBC News – Just one in five children connected to nature, says study and RSPB News – Just one in five UK children ‘connected to nature’, groundbreaking study finds.

View photos and videos of UK species on ARKive.

Get connected with nature with ARKive’s fun educational activities.

 

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Text Author

Sep 20

Great Nature Project logoWhether this is your first visit to ARKive or you are an ARKive superfan, odds are you’ve come to see amazing imagery of the world’s wildlife from the tiny water flea to the massive megamouth shark. We believe that films and photos are an incredible way to get up close and personal with animals and plants from around the globe and so do our partners at National Geographic and the Great Nature Project.

ARKive has been named a Champion Partner for the Great Nature Project – a week-long, picture-based BioBlitz event taking place around the world from September 21-29, 2013. Together, we’re working to build the world’s largest online album of animal photos.

Photo of Northern Raccoon

To join in, snap a picture of a plant or animal in your neighborhood, and upload it to a photo sharing site like Flickr, Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, making sure to tag it #GreatNature and #ARKive. ARKive has its very own collection on the Great Nature Project website right alongside collections from National Geographic Explorer’s-in-Residence and celebrities like Jewel.

ARKive's Great Nature Project Collection

We’ll be curating our collection daily and add our favorite shots to the collection so check back often. Whether you’re exploring a park or a playground, join us in celebrating the wild world through imagery!

Liana Vitali, ARKive Education & Outreach Manager, Wildscreen USA

Aug 12
Photo of sessile oak tree in summer

Sessile oak tree in summer

With the summer holidays now well underway in many countries, it’s the perfect time for kids and adults alike to get outside and enjoy the wildlife around them. If you’re planning a trip to a nature reserve, beach or wild space near you, or simply enjoy spotting the creatures in your own garden, why not have a go at writing about what you find?

Here at ARKive we would love to hear all about your summer wildlife experiences, and now you can share them with us as part of ARKive’s Summer Stories!

Photo of red admiral on nettle

Red admiral on nettle

Your story can be about anything related to wildlife or the outdoors – why not tell us about a walk you’ve been on or an interesting animal or plant you’ve spotted? If you’re stuck for inspiration, here are a few ideas to start you off:

  • The Great Outdoors
  • In the Garden
  • On the Beach
  • Urban Wildlife
  • Under the Sea

Share your stories

If you’d like to take part, please email your story to us at arkive@wildscreen.org.uk, including your name and age, before the 1st September 2013. If you are under 16 years of age please make sure you get permission from your parent or guardian before sending in your stories.

We’ll be publishing our favourite stories here on the ARKive blog at the end of the summer. We look forward to reading about all your wildlife adventures!

Photo of common starfish in rockpool habitat

Common starfish in rockpool habitat

Try our fun summer activities!

Looking for more fun stuff to do with your kids over the summer? Why not check out our Fun Stuff pages for cool games, arty activities, quizzes and more!

And if you’ve had a go at one of our creative Animal Activities, we’d love to see photos of your creations – you can share them with us on Twitter, Flickr or Facebook.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Aug 8

There is much more to moths than you may have experienced when watching them repeatedly fly into your bathroom light at night. Britain has a whole host of incredible moths; some of which you may have seen before and mistaken for something else. Not only are moths impressive creatures in their own right but they also play a valuable role in ecosystems too – pollinating many plant species and being an important food source. Here in the ARKive office to celebrate Moth Night, an annual celebration of moth recording throughout Britain and Ireland, we have compiled a list of our top 10 favourite British moths.

Hummingbird hawkmoth

Hummingbird hawkmoth image

A remarkable insect, the hummingbird hawkmoth not only resembles the hummingbird in its appearance but also in its feeding behaviour, the way it flies and its unmistakable humming sound. Unlike many moths which lack mouthparts the hummingbird hawk-moth has a proboscis which it uses to suck nectar from plants. Scientists do not believe these moths evolved to look like hummingbirds as a defence mechanism but because that they both have similar demands and have therefore developed similar characteristics to fulfil those demands.

Sussex emerald moth

Sussex emerald moth image

A master of disguise, the Sussex emerald moth is almost indistinguishable against a backdrop of green. In Britain it is only found in two sites but it is present throughout Europe and the western edges of Asia. Adults are nocturnal and active between July and August, with the larvae beginning to appear towards the end of August. The larvae then enter a period of hibernation throughout the winter, re-emerging around the beginning of June the following year.

Death’s-head hawkmoth

Death’s-head hawkmoth image

The death’s-head hawkmoth has an impressive name for an impressive creature. Capable of raiding bee hives, the well adapted dead head hawk-moth has a thick cuticle to protect it from stings, is believed to have some resistance to the honey bee venom and its proboscis is short and pointed to easily pierce the walls of the honey cells. It also produces a high pitched squeak, which is thought to be a mimic of the sound made by the queen bee which causes the workers to freeze. Once it begins sucking up the honey though it has a limited time to escape because the honey clogs it up resulting it only being able to make a clicking sounds as opposed to the high pitched squeal for the next five or so hours.

Dark bordered beauty moth

Dark bordered beauty moth image

Found in a number of sites throughout the UK, the dark bordered beauty moth is actually only present between July and August despite its autumnal colourings. Interestingly larvae from different colonies around the UK will feed on different plants. For instance those found in Scotland mainly eat Short Aspen, whereas those found in England primarily eat Creeping Willow. From egg to adult they live for only about a year and around nine months of that is spent wintering as an egg.

Emperor moth

Emperor moth image

A fitting name for this magnificent creature, the emperor moth is a hardy insect despite its delicate and beautiful exterior, with adults surviving for a couple of months without ever eating. Male emperor moths spend their days flying around searching out a mate while females spend the days resting and waiting. Once impregnated, the females will wait until nightfall before setting out to search of suitable sites on which to lay their eggs. To increase the survival chances of their offspring the female will lay her eggs in multiple sites. Thankfully this beautiful animal is common throughout the whole of the British Isles.

Oleander hawk-moth

Oleander hawk-moth image

This rare migrant species is a special visitor to the British Isles not always being recorded.  Whilst the adult is sometimes recorded in the British Isles, the larvae of the oleander hawk-moth has never been recorded in the British Isles. It is an elegant moth covered in fur with beautiful decoration on its wings and thorax.

Small lappet moth

Small lappet moth

The brilliantly camouflaged small lappet moth is sadly now believed to possibly be extinct in the British Isles, but is still doing well in mainland Europe. It would not be surprising though if it was just being missed due to its superb camouflage which allows it to blend in with rough bark and dead leaves. Not only are its colourings perfect for camouflage but the shape of its body and wings render it almost unrecognisable amongst its habitat.

Narrow-bordered bee hawk-moth

Narrow-bordered bee hawk-moth

You would be forgiven for mistaking the narrow-bordered bee hawk-moth for a bumblebee if it were to fly past you, especially as it even behaves like a bumblebee feeding on the nectar of flowers. Its resemblance to a bumblebee gives it added protection from predators as bees are not the choice diet of most predators. Only living for about a month between mid-May and mid-June, the larvae become pupae around the end of August and overwinter that way until emerging again as narrow-bordered bee hawk-moths.

Fiery clearwing moth

Fiery clearwing moth image

The rarest of the clearwing family, the fiery clearwing moth closely resembles a parasitic wasp. Like many other moths it uses this mimicry as a defence mechanism against predation. Unusually the males of this species are a little smaller than the females. The fiery clearwing moth is now restricted to the Kent coast with southern England marking the northernmost extent of their territory.

Scarce merveille du jour moth

Scarce merveille du jour moth image

Completing its life cycle within one year, the Scarce merveille du jour moth is very well adapted to blend in amongst lichen, as shown in the picture above. The larvae mainly eat oak before turning into pupae ready for winter. Found in deciduous woodland of south-eastern England and much of mainland Europe, the furthest extent of its range is parts of Sweden.

Do you love moths? Do you want to get involved in Moth Night? Find out about a public event happening near you here.

Max Sargent

Jun 11

Jenni Lacey from the Society of Biology explores inspiration for this year’s photography competition

The Society of Biology’s amateur photography competition is currently open for entries. This year’s topic is ‘Feeding Life’ which neatly compliments the recent World Environment Day theme of ‘Think.Eat.Save’. Food consumption and its global impact is at the forefront of current environmental research, policy decisions and the public’s mind as we’re encouraged to remain economical and thoughtful around our eating habits.

So, it seems timely to celebrate some of nature’s prudent and opportunistic feeders, who also offer a valuable lesson in self-control and a warning of the dangers of overeating.

Nature’s overeaters

The ornate horned frog (Ceratophrys ornata) at first glance is quite a comical character – with its large, wide mouth and rotund body, it seems harmless. They are not built for speed but instead lie in wait, conserving their energy and waiting to ambush passing prey. They are indiscriminate feeders and therein lies their talent: they make the most of their surroundings and their physique, thriving in the rainforests of Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. Surviving on a diet of insects, rodents, lizards and other frogs, they will pounce and attempt to swallow almost anything that passes.

Ornate horned frog eating mouse prey           Ornate horned frog eating worm

With a stark similarity to humans, their sedentary behaviour can result in problems; in environments where food is abundant their voracious appetite can cause them to overeat and become obese. They will keep eating as long as food is placed in their path. This is particularly the case when they are kept in captivity as pets, owners must carefully monitor their behaviour and tailor the amount of food they feed the frogs accordingly.

Humans don’t have the safeguard of a loving owner to oversee their diets so it is our own responsibility to consider our eating habits and help reduce the waste of food resources. Not only are we in danger of affecting our own health but we will rapidly exhaust food and energy supplies: global food production occupies 25% of all habitable land and is responsible for 70% of fresh water consumption, 80% of deforestation, and 30% of greenhouse gas emissions.

Get involved

The Society of Biology is seeking photographs that encapsulate the topic ‘Feeding Life’. The photograph could address a challenging issue like food security and waste, or malnutrition, obesity, and other diet-linked diseases. It could provide insight into the feeding behaviour of a plant or animal species including predators and parasites. Or it could illustrate how we are manipulating our diets using GM and other biological techniques. Whether illustrated on a global, organismal, cellular or molecular scale, the photograph should draw attention to the topic of food and biology in a unique and thought-provoking way.

If you wish to enter the Society of Biology photography competition visit its website for full details on how to enter.

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