Entohunt: Investigating insect biodiversity

Honey bee feeding on nectar

Our next event for young entomologists, aged 10-14, will be ‘Entohunt’ on 31 August 2022, 10am – 12pm at the Museum of Natural History in Oxford.

Entohunt is your chance to take a closer look at the wonderful world of insects on our doorstep. We’ll start by making pooters in the museum and then, weather permitting, test them out in University Parks and see what insects we can find. There will also be a chance to try out other entomological collection methods.

This event is free but booking is essential. Email us at hopelearning@oum.ox.ac.uk to book a place.

More than a Building

When it opened in 1860, the role of Oxford University’s Museum of Natural History was to bring together scientific studies from across the University. Since then it has assembled an incredible and internationally-significant collection of natural history specimens and archives, including the British insect collection, which spans almost the entire history of British entomology. However, the museum itself, as well as being a striking example of Victorian neo-Gothic architecture, is in my opinion as impressive and intriguing as the collection it houses.

In the video it was mentioned that there is an encyclopedia of plant carvings on top of the pillars. On your next visit can you spot any insects hidden amongst this foliage? Let us know, or show us in a photo, where you have spotted them in the comments below or in the Contact us section of the blog.

Insect Investigators Summer School – FULLY BOOKED

Discover the amazing world of beetles, bees and butterflies at our free Insect Investigators Summer School for 10 to 14 year olds; 10.00am – 3.00pm, 1st to 5th August 2022. THIS EVENT IS NOW FULLY BOOKED.

Through the week participants will get a sneaky peak behind the scenes at the museum and will explore some of Oxford University’s amazing outdoor spaces. Activities will include insect handling and pinning with entomologists in the museum, insect photography with a wildlife photographer, learning about how entomologists collect and study insects, and planning and conducting their own insect investigations.

If you would like to know more, or want to book a place, please get in touch using the Contact Us page, or email Rodger, Susie and Kate at hopelearning@oum.ox.ac.uk. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

Insect Investigators Summer School

Discover the amazing world of beetles, bees and butterflies at our free Insect Investigators Summer School for 10 to 14 year olds; 10.00am – 3.00pm, 1st to 5th August 2022.

Through the week participants will get a sneaky peak behind the scenes at the museum and will explore some of Oxford University’s amazing outdoor spaces. Activities will include insect handling and pinning with entomologists in the museum, insect photography with a wildlife photographer, learning about how entomologists collect and study insects, and planning and conducting their own insect investigations.

If you would like to know more, or want to book a place, please get in touch using the Contact Us page, or email Rodger, Susie and Kate at hopelearning@oum.ox.ac.uk. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

FREE workshops coming up in May and June

The Case of the Stolen Specimen

Irreplaceable insect specimens have been stolen from the Museum! Help us solve some insect-based clues to unmask the thief.  Explore behind-the-scenes at the Museum to learn about the importance of the entomology collection, and why it must be protected.

Here are all the details you need:

WHAT: FREE workshop – The Case of the Stolen Specimen

WHEN: Tuesday 31st May 2022 , 1pm to 3pm

WHERE: Museum of Natural History, Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PW

WHO: 10 to 14 year olds

Booking is essential, email hopelearning@oum.ox.ac.uk to secure your place.

Insect Field Craft

Celebrate National Insect Week by taking a closer look at the wonderful world of insects on our doorstep.

Come out and about with us to learn how to find insects outside. You’ll even get a chance to make and use an insect pooter. We will start by making our pooters in the Museum and then – weather permitting – will test them out in University Parks. There will also be a chance to try out other entomological collection methods.

Here are all the details you need:

WHAT: FREE workshop – Insect Field Craft

WHEN: Saturday 25th June 2022 , 10am to 12pm

WHERE: Museum of Natural History, Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PW

WHO: 10 to 14 year olds

Booking is essential, email hopelearning@oum.ox.ac.uk to secure your place.

Biodiversity: exploring the variety of life.

Biodiversity is an exhibition at the Museum of Natural History that explores biodiversity through the celebrated art of Kurt Jackson and reflections from reserchers at Oxford University.

What is biodiversity?

The word Biodiversity describes the variety of life. In any one place, the range of living things, including plants, animals, and bacteria, is called its biodiversity. It is used as a measure of how well or poorly natural life is coping with stresses like loss of habitat, pollution or climate change. The higher the number of different species, the greater the biodiversity. Biodiverse habitats are healthier because they can cope with change. When there are many different plants and animals, a change is unlikely to affect them all so many will survive.

Daddy Long Legs by Kurt Jackson

Because human activity has an impact on biodiversity we have a responsibility to look after the health of ecosystems. Each habitat has its own distinctive biodiversity, from the fields and forests, seas and streams, to the increasingly buit up places where we humans tend to live. Under the water, on a mountain, in your garden; what lives there?

What’s in the exhibition?

This exhibition shows artworks made by artist and environmentalist Kurt Jackson. The art was made in a number of different locations across the UK. Alongside it, there are displays of specimens from the Museum’s collection. These highlight the range of species found in landscapes across the UK. The artwork and museum specimens have been combined with responses from biodiversity researchers at the University of Oxford. How can we understand it? How can we protect it? What does it mean to us all?

British insects on display in the Biodiversity exhibition.

“Daily, during my time spent making art outdoors, I notice the life around me – the plants and animals that share these places with me.”

Kurt Jackson

Insects and biodiversity

Scientists measure biodiversity by looking at the abundance and distribution of species.

  • Abundance describes how numerous species are. Because they are interested in changes over time, scientists often measure relative abundance: how numerous species are compared to a point of time in the past.
  • Distribution describes how wide the area is over which species are found. Relative distribution compares this to a point in the past.

Both these measures are important. For example, having large numbers of many different species (high abundance) is good, but if they are restricted to a small area (low distribution) then they are vulnerable.

Change in relative abundance of 76 moth species. Defra 2019.

Rather than trying to measure the numbers of all the plants and animals in a habitat, scientists often monitor indicator species. These are particular plants and animals that tell us about the health of whole ecosystems. Insects can be indicator species. For example,in the UK, the Department for Environment, food and Rural Affairs (Defra) monitors 76 species of moth (as well as many other plant and animal species).

Visiting the exhibition

You can visit the Biodiversity exhibition in the Main Court of the Museum until 15 May. Entrance is free and there is no need to book

Selection of insects from the collections of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

If you would like to investigate biodiversity where you live, take a look at some of our suggestions and resources for Finding and Identifying Insects.

We’d love to hear about what you find!