Thursday, 30 May 2013

This is no rehearsal

Most of the stuff we need
The last week has been really busy but now everything's packed up and we're just waiting for the camper-van to arrive before setting off to Wychwood Festival!

Join our BioBlitz and get our
FSC campsite wildlife chart
Emma, Helen, Will, Alexe, Frazer, Hannah and Sarah D. will be there all weekend with fascinating foodwebs, beautiful bees and marvellous microbes. We'll be playing 'Whose poo" and "Magic mushrooms" and have a whole new set of displays and decorations for the stall. 

Our festival "Bioblitz" also starts tomorrow lunchtime, so we hope to see some species 'spots' from the festival site appearing on iSpot next week.

Do you know whose poo this is?
We'll be tweeting live over the weekend, so please follow us or search for #BESfest on Twitter. All being well, we'll post a blow-by-blow account on the blog on Monday - with lots of photos.

Wychwood - here we come!

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Perfect Day

The tent!
We couldn't have wished for a better day to do our stall test yesterday: Lashing rain, freezing cold and a strong wind that tested our tent-erecting skills and carried the gazebo (and us) several metres across the lawn until we came to a halt in front of the fire assembly point. Apart from that, and thanks to Frazer's infinite knowledge about gazebos, the set-up went pretty smoothly.

Helen is ready to swab
Once the roof was on and the tent firmly pegged to the ground, the stall was definitely the best place to be and we had everything in place and ready to go within an hour.
Filming 'whose poo'

Sarah & Will love 'whose poo'
We had set up in front of the catering hub on the Open University's main campus, so we had a few visitors despite the weather conditions and the bank holiday weekend ahead. We spent the first 1/2 hour being bossed around by an OU filming crew and doing little bits of 'action' for the camera. The final product should be pretty interesting!

Finally, we were free to wow the trickle of visitors with a live colony of bumblebees, our selection of animal poo and Matt's hand-crafted 'swab-throne'. 

The Associate Dean turned up - claiming to be looking for the Grateful Dead on the main stage - but was very happy to let us swab him (all in the name of science communication, of course), so we'll be posting a picture of the  microbial growth on his agar plate in a couple of days.

All in all, the final shopping list of 'missing kit' is quite short and we're really pleased with how things went. Now all we need to do is find enough space to dry out the tent in time for Wychwood festival next week!

P.S. We've got lots more photos to come, so keep an eye on our new photostream.
Many thanks to Luke Beaman from the Open University's Communications Team for the great group piks!

Happy Roadies!

Friday, 10 May 2013

The Full Bug

We kicked off our day at Imperial Festival with some tentative sunshine, tucked away in the beautiful Queen’s Lawn courtyard of Imperial College London. It was Alumni Reunion day, so there were already a few eager people popping their heads into our tent by 10.30am – a bit earlier than our predicted midday kick off! 
Matt started talking about bees
...and didn't stop!
As this was our first major outing, we brought with us a whole range of games to try, as well as some interesting things to look at and smell. From the infamous 'Whose Poos?' to mushroom sniffing, there was something for everyone. We even brought a hive of live bumblebees, which drew a huge crowd, with everyone wanting to spot the queen. 
Whose poos are these?
As predicted, 'Whose poos?' was a roaring success – we asked people to match the poo to picture of animals, which proved both totally irresistible and surprisingly challenging! It turns out most people have never considered what frog droppings look like before... and lots of people weren’t shy about picking it up. 
Jules in action
Around lunchtime, it started to rain properly, and that was when people REALLY started to pour in. We were also sharing the tent with some iguanas, cockroaches, locusts, giant millipedes, at least two boas, and many more beasties, as well as a man who was making comets, so it started to get a bit crowded. Luckily for us, it dried up quite quickly! 
One of our neighbours
The best part of the day was the amazing selection of questions people asked us. Lots of people were interested in which mushrooms are edible in the UK, why they smell the way they do, and what it’s like to be a bee. My personal favourite question was when someone asked about the insect on our stickers - the ‘roadbug’ on our logo is Anthocoris nemorum – you can tell by its long body. Sarah also explained that the quickest way to tell the difference between a beetle and a bug is the to look at the shape its wings make – if it’s a T shape (like a ladybird) then it’s a beetle, but if it’s an X or a Y, it’s a bug. 
Despite taking place in the middle of London, the first two species records were uploaded onto our iSpot page - many thanks Martin!

Holly with roadbug stickers
After an absolutely fantastic day, lots of hard work from the BES Roadies and a brilliant crowd, we packed up for some well-earned rest. We spoke to over 500 people in a single day at Imperial Festival, so who knows how many people we might have met by September? Our next tour date is Wychwood Festival, so if you’re there, come and say hello!

Holly Rogers - 8 May 2013