I’ve mentioned the MSc Summer project before. This time I want to go a bit more in depth into what I was actually doing. The project I chose had the title “Crustaceans at Attenborough Nature Reserve – the native, the alien and the invasive” and as a result I produced a booklet with 50 images and about 6000 words (as required by the university).
I chose this topic for several reasons: I was interested in working with Attenborough Nature Reserve, which was a mere 15 bike-minutes from my home in Beeston, Nottingham, and a beautiful place to spend time.
I had set my mind on doing something outdoors, at least partially, as I enjoy fieldwork and as this would allow me to use a broader range of photographic techniques then simply working with a microscope in a lab.
Also, when I first contacted the reserve and asked if I could do a project there, it was immediately suggested I could look at the life underneath the water surface. Attenborough is mostly famous for its rich birdlife and is a well-known haven for twitchers and birdwatchers and bird-photographers. However, the reserve largely comprises out of a variety of water-based habitats, such as flooded former gravel pits, reed beds, wet grasslands and marshes – thus being home to many more animal species then the birdlife which can be seen above the water surface. All this sounded like a very tempting project, however the initial suggestion of focussing on examining the variety of aquatic insects there, seemed to large a project for me to successfully bring to an end within the limited project time. Bachelor-projects on the identification of freshwater insects had shown me how vast the number of insect species in one little area can be and how finicky and fine the differences between the different species often are. Then the occurrence of invasive crustaceans was mentioned – wouldn’t that be a good topic? It was. I already knew that I enjoyed working with crustaceans. I had discovered this during my Bachelor thesis on “Chemical communication between invasive and native gammaridean species”. Under the supervision of Prof. Meyer and Alexander Schmidt-Drewello at the University Münster, I had spent a lot of time catching, haltering, and examining the behaviour of different species of gammarids. Returning to gammarids and having the chance to learn more on different species of crustaceans sounded like a great chance and thus the project was decided on.
The Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust kindly gave me permission to take samples at Attenborough Nature Reserve and therefore, when the summer project weeks started, I started my hunt for crustaceans. I had a list of the already known species at Attenborough and was hoping to at least one or two specimens of each of these. Using nets and waders my pond-dipping excursions went well and I soon had to relocate my work back to the lab in order to find out what the caught specimens were and to photograph them using different techniques.
Excitingly, at the end of my project I had found a total of 15 different crustacean species – more than I had expected. Ten of these species were native, whilst 5 originated from different countries. This count included Hemimysis anomala, which had not been recorded at the reserve before. Unluckily, this was mixed news for the reserve, as these pretty shrimp-like crustaceans are an alien species originating from the Black and Caspian seas, however their impact (if given) on the reserve is still unclear.
I’m not quite sure yet, whether I will be able to use the booklet in any other form then “simply” the MSc thesis. I am hoping to be able to use it to raise more awareness for the hidden but not less interesting aquatic wildlife in Nottinghamshire.
In any case, have a look at some of the crustaceans which can be found at Attenborough Nature Reserve below. I’ll be writing a bit more on how I took some of the images soon.
Thank you to Attenborough Nature Reserve, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust and The University of Nottingham for enabling this project.