OPAL funding

Earlier this year The Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) network announced that they had made grants available to UK natural history societies and recording schemes. OPAL are a multipartner organization that aims “to create and inspire a new generation of nature-lovers by getting people to explore, study, enjoy and protect their local environment.” They are funded by the Big Lottery Fund.

Traditionally funding has been very scarce for amateur entomologists so I was very keen to apply for some – despite the rather pesimistic grumblings I got from other entomologists. Coincidentally I had been experimenting with unit-tray drawers and could see that this was the way I should be keeping my expanding collection so I had an immediate project to be funded – to rehouse the Tachinid Recording Scheme’s collection into cabinets with drawers fitted-out for unit-trays.

I did some research and the choice was between modern, steel cabinets; hand-made wooden cabinets; or second-hand Hill’s units from ex-museum stock. In the end I went for the steel cabinets (new) fitted with recycled, ex-museum, hardwood drawers (from the NHM) with unit trays (new but also from the NHM). The steel cabinets are sealed units and should provide a really pest-proof primary barrier against museum/carpet beetle (Anthrenus), which is common in most houses, while the tried & trusted hardwood drawers will provide a secondary barrier. This should mean that I need to use the minimum of insecticides/chemicals against pests – something that I am keen to do because I have to breath the air around these cabinets on a daily basis!

There was a little problem with the minimum requirements that all applicants must meet, but Lucy Carter at OPAL was very helpful and made it very clear that we were the kind of organization that they wanted to support. So, after a little negociation, OPAL changed their rules to allow me to apply through another society that fulfilled their requirements – such as the Amateur Entomologist’s Society (AES). Dafydd Lewis (the AES Secretary) was very helpful and agreed to support my application so after a few evenings of work pulling together costings and writing out my application form we got the application in just in time to meet the July 31st deadline! I waited nervously until a few days ago when I received the message I had been waiting for from Lucy Carter to say that they had approved my grant for the full/maximum amount allowed – 2000 pounds!! This money will be suplimented by 650 pounds of my own money to form the project funding.

This was really great news and marks a quantum leap in the way the recording scheme will work from now on. Instead of storing all specimens in jumbled store boxes with all the attendant problems (bad organization & greater risk of damage/pests) we will store our main collection in state-of-the-art cabinets. Every species will be catalogued in a logical way and it will be easy to find anything I need for comparisson. At the moment the palearctic collection fills 11 non-standard (wide) drawers so in a standard cabinet I am expecting it to fill at least 15 drawers (with expansion space in each drawer) and the new cabinets will give me a total of 40 drawers. This sounds a lot of space but actually I am sure that I will fill this over the next 5-10 years because I receive at least 300 specimens from foreign donors every year.

So, although I haven’t received the money yet, I would still like to thank everyone at OPAL for their very generous grant and the AES for their support in the application process! 🙂


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