What do you get when you mix mud, museums and minibeasts?

By Joanne Dempster
OPAL Community Scientist, Glasgow City of Science

Last month, we brought all these ingredients together to hold a weekend of citizen science workshops at the Glasgow Museums Resource Centre (GMRC), the first time we had run an event with the centre.

If you haven’t heard of it before, the GMRC houses 98% of all the Glasgow museums’ specimens and works. It’s open to the public (by booking tours) and they hold events throughout the year.

Boy pond dipping in water sample in bowlIt is also next to Dams to Darnley Country Park and the GMRC is keen to help visitors continue learning through exploring nearby attractions such as the park.

Throughout the event, the GRMC provided tours of their natural history collection which allowed visitors to see invertebrates that otherwise we wouldn’t have seen in mid-winter. 

People could try out the OPAL Water Survey with samples of pond water from Dams to Darnley, get muddy with the Soil Survey by testing different soils from the park and investigating worms, or learn about lichens by
comparing samples from Dams to Darnley with samples taken from Richmond Park in the city centre.

Child's arm touching soilFor the little ones there was an indoor garden, set up with different habitats and toy invertebrates, where they could hunt for minibeasts in various micro-habitats such as under stones, in leaf litter and under logs.

The cold weather also encouraged people to investigate our indoor citizen science lab, and many of them pledged to take part in their own surveys in the park.

Froglife also joined the event, running craft activities and teaching visitors about amphibians and reptiles in the UK.

After finishing up the event we went to return the pond samples to Dams to Darnley and met three of our participants exploring the park for new ponds to investigate. The family had told us that they’d never visited the park before and that the event had encouraged them to explore the park more.

Caddisfly larva in waterMany families said the same, with one mother commenting: “We are always saying to our children ‘Don’t touch!’ so it’s nice to go somewhere where touching and getting muddy is not only allowed but encouraged!”

Thanks to the success of the event, we are now planning to run more events with GMRC and we also have a series of activities planned at Dams to Darnley throughout the year.

Check out the OPAL Scotland event calendar on our south west Scotland page to find out more.