At our Frome catchment sites the long grass has turned brittle and brown, where it has finished flowering but not been cut back. The hedges bordering the site are thinner now as the trees lose their remaining leaves; the bordering motorway can be seen (and heard). In late autumn there was a single field visit when ladybirds abounded as the new generation emerged to feed before the winter. Since then we have seen few insects other than flies and spiders.
In all the plots the vegetation has now been cut back as part of the annual maintenance. Cutting the plants revealed rabbit holes and vole tunnels, while at one site the evidence of moles is everywhere. Due to the equipment and markers in the plots, the plants all had to be cut down by hand with shears; our citizen scientist volunteers were invaluable in helping with this task! The plots have now been restrung and the various instruments and markers are much more visible (not to mention accessible!)
We have been visiting fortnightly now, wearing more and more layers of clothes each time. Since the autumn we have no longer been surveying for wildflowers and pollinators, instead focusing on the plant height measurements as part of our dataset on phenology. We will carry on going fortnightly right through the winter, documenting the changes in the plants below the mesocosms as we move into the spring.
At our sites in Sheffield the cold conditions were a drawback in carrying out some equipment maintenance, but were made up for by stunning winter sunsets.
Our citizen scientists also contributed their opinions and stories at our first Citizen Science Science-Storytelling workshop. They will be working with researchers to put their photos and stories together into ‘digital stories’ (such as these (http://dryproject.co.uk/resources/videos/)
Thanks to all the many people who contributed their time and energy to collecting data for the DRY Project during 2016. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
We will be restarting our citizen science fieldwork in January 2017; with several events in the planning for next year. If you are interested in coming along and finding out what it’s all about please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The blackberries are ripe on our Frenchay field site and the chirruping of crickets competes with the sounds of the neighbouring motorway. On a hot still August day, the quiet popping of vetch and tare seed pods fills the air. Spiderwebs of all sizes criss-cross the many paths in the waist-high vegetation and thistle seeds drift across in the breeze. Across the site many of the wildflowers and grasses have now gone to seed, but there are still flowering ragwort, vetches and grasses in patches.
The 15 mesocosms or rain-out shelters are bright in the August sun. The plants now brush the top of the shelters in many of the plots; in others the thistles form a bit of a barrier to searching for smaller plants. During weekly visits over the summer, our many citizen scientist volunteers have seen the site change little by little, from the first flowering of wildflowers and grasses, to the setting of seed. Insect species and abundance has also changed, from an abundance of soldier and flower beetles earlier in the year, to the endless susurration of crickets and grasshoppers now at the end of the summer.
We will carry on going out every week for a while yet, while plants are still flowering on our site. The autumn will bring biomass collection and lab work and the annual cutting of all the vegetation in the plots. We will continue to survey (albeit less frequently) during the winter and into 2017.
If you are interested in joining our team and witnessing for yourself how the site changes through the year, get in touch at email@example.com or see our facebook page: