ISLANDER SHARES SECRETS OF SCILLY'S NATURAL HISTORY

NATURAL HISTORY OF SCILLY

Natural History of Scilly (www.naturalhistoryofscilly.info) explores how the islands' rocks and wildlife came to be as we see them now. It contains a geological tour showing where to look for evidence of the natural processes that shaped the landscape and outlines reasons why Scilly's wildlife is special and how its unique collection of plants and animals arrived.

 

It also includes the history of the St Martin's ant as seen through its DNA sequence, as well as links to websites with 'citizen science' projects, identification charts and much more.

 

The site is the brainchild of Larissa Wakefield, who says she was inspired by her father's interest in natural history and by science lessons at Carn Thomas School.

 

She said: "My potter-father, the late Humfrey Wakefield, had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the natural history of the islands, much of it learned from local and visiting experts throughout his life from the 1920s to 2010. His pottery on the Garrison was like an information exchange hub, where people would bring their finds for identification and discuss the latest wildlife sightings."

 

Larissa's interest in natural history led her to study Natural Sciences at Cambridge and she went on to use DNA technologies in medical research.

 

She explained: "I live in Oxford, but am hugely grateful for my Scillonian upbringing. My father suggested I write about the geology of the islands. He put me in touch with two eminent geologists - Professor James Scourse, who researched Scilly's Ice Age geology, and Professor Bob Holdsworth, an expert on igneous rocks in Scilly - who contributed to the geology pages.

 

"My husband Stephen Kearsey suggested including a tour of key geological features and Les and Dave Knight kindly shared their wildlife expertise and photos."

 

She added of the St Martins ant: "In Scilly, at the pottery, we often discussed the origins of the Scilly shrew and other local species, pondering how and when they arrived in the islands. Looking in a DNA database recently, I found DNA sequences from the St Martin’s ant and from the same species living in other parts of Europe.

 

"I analysed the sequences to investigate the genealogy of these ants and was excited to discover evidence that unlike many other insects, the St Martin’s ant has been here in Scilly since the last Ice Age!"

A woman who was born and raised on Scilly has launched a website about the islands.

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