Dr John Tweddle

Dr John Tweddle
  • Head of Angela Marmont Centre
  • Life Sciences department
  • Angela Marmont Centre
Natural History Museum
Cromwell Road


Employment History

2011-present    Head of Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity, Natural History Museum

2007-2011        OPAL Project Manager, Natural History Museum

2003-2007        Data Manager for National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary Project, 
                           Natural History Museum

2001-2003        Seed Information Database Coordinator, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew

1999-2000        Consultant Palynologist and Plant Macrofossil Analyst,
                           Archaeological Consultancy at the University of Sheffield (ARCUS)


1996-2000        PhD. The Department of Archaeology and Prehistory, University of Sheffield
                           Thesis: A high resolution palynological study of the Holocene vegetational 
                           development of Central Holderness, eastern Yorkshire, with particular emphasis
                           on the detection of prehistoric human activity

March 2000      MA Degree in Natural Sciences. Girton College, The University of Cambridge

1993-1996        BA Honours Degree in Natural Sciences. Girton College, 
                           The University of Cambridge Part One: First Class 
                           Part Two: Upper Second Class

Current role

An ecologist and palaeoecologist, I am Head of the Museum’s Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity (AMC). The AMC forms a hub for partnership-based UK natural history engagement, training and research, and provides a focus for the Museum’s citizen science programme.

The AMC team run a wide range of projects that collectively aim to further the study and understanding of the UK’s biodiversity and geodiversity. We work closely with the UK’s amateur-expert naturalist community and this is reflected in our mission to inspire and support the development of existing and future naturalists.

Projects range from citizen science surveys, to answering public identification enquiries, provision of wildlife identification resources and training, and research into critical aspects of the UK’s biodiversity. The AMC also acts as a free drop in resource centre where UK natural history enthusiasts of all abilities can further their interest by accessing UK reference collections, library materials, microscopes and expertise.

Fostering active involvement in UK biodiversity and geodiversity science and supporting the UK’s taxonomic and biological recording capability are key drivers for our work.

Prior to my current role I worked on the Big Lottery Funded OPAL citizen science programme and the UK Species Inventory – the UK’s master checklist of biodiversity and primary source of naming for national and global exchange of UK wildlife observation data.

I am a founding Steering Committee member for the Citizen Science Association and member of the British Ecological Society Citizen Science Special Interest Group.


Research interests

  • Citizen Science as a method for generating natural history awareness and understanding, including: the role and contribution of citizen scientists within science; innovative approaches for the collaborative generation and analysis of biodiversity data (including bioblitzes); the role of museums as foci for citizen science.
  • Tools and methods for species identification, biological recording and biodiversity data exchange.
  • Ecological interactions, landscape-change and anthropogenic land-use over Quaternary timescales.

Current projects

  • Leafsnap UK – a collaborative project with Columbia University, the University of Maryland and the Smithsonian Institution, Leafsnap UK is a free App for iPhone and iPad. As well as containing a guide to 156 commonly found UK tree species, the app uses technology similar to facial recognition software to help users identify tree species that they find (based on photos of leaves that users take). Data uploaded support botanical research. Funded by Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation
  • Synthesys-3Moving from physical to digital collections - aims to improve the quality of and increase access to digital collections and data within natural history institutions’ virtual collections. I am involved in a scoping project to identify optimal methods for crowdsourcing the digitisation and analysis of museum specimens. Funded by the EC
  • Decoding NAture – a unique partnership with the Cothill Educational Trust, this project immerses school pupils in the process of science research through a series of residential courses, workshops and school visits for pupils aged 8-16 from schools across England. As well as learning field survey and morphological identification techniques, pupils work with NHM scientists to produce voucher specimens and deliver DNA barcoding-based research on UK higher plants, lichens and algae.
  • Identification Trainers for the Future – this project will address a critical skills shortage by offering 15 year-long training placements to new entrants to the UK biodiversity sector. Training will focus on wildlife identification and recording skills. It will provide committed individuals with the necessary expertise to help document, monitor and understand changes in the distribution and abundance of species and habitats in the UK and pass on their expertise. It will also provide face-to-face identification training for up to 1,000 people, and create a wide range of identification training resources. External project partners include the Field Studies Council and National Biodiversity Network Trust. Funded by HLF.
  • Constructing Scientific Communities: Citizen Science in the 19th and 21st Centuries – Led by the University of Oxford and University of Leicester with partners including NHM, Royal Society and Royal College of Surgeons, this exciting project will bring together historical and literary research in the nineteenth century with contemporary scientific practice, looking at the ways in which patterns of popular communication and engagement in nineteenth-century science can offer models for current practice, with a focus on citizen science. Funded by AHRC.
  • Valuing the cultural benefits that coastal ecosystems provide to people using citizen science – Led by the University of Southampton (Felix Eigenbrod, Martin Solan, Jasmin Godbold), I will be co-supervising a PhD student to explore cultural ecosystem services using a citizen science approach. Funded through the NERC SPITFIRE Doctoral Training Programme.

Recent grants

  • 2014 Heritage Lottery Fund (Skills for the Future Programme). Identification Trainers for the Future (PI). 3.5 years.
  • 2013 Cothill Educational Trust. Tree School Phase 3 [Decoding NAture] (PI). 3 years.
  • 2013 Arts & Humanities Research Council. Constructing Scientific Communities: Citizen Science in the 19th and 21st Centuries. Led by University of Oxford (named partner and AMC lead). 2 years.
  • 2012 Big Lottery Fund (extension grant). OPAL/supporting amateur-expert naturalist communities (NHM Science lead). 12 months.

Public outreach

I am passionate about raising awareness of UK biodiversity and increasing active involvement in its study, whether as a career, pastime or school activity. I am involved in the ongoing development of the Museum’s Science outreach and engagement activities, both on-site and throughout the UK, including through delivery of large-scale events such as Big Nature Day and BioBlitzes. I have given public talks and lectures at a wide range of venues and have experience of contributing to broadcast, electronic and printed media.


Robinson, L.D., Tweddle, J.C., Postles, M.C., West, S.E., & Sewell, J. (2013) Guide to running a BioBlitz. Natural History Museum, Bristol Natural History Consortium, University of York and Marine Biological Association. http://www.bnhc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/BioBlitz-Guide-2013.pdf

OPAL Community Environment Report: exploring nature together (2013). ISBN: 978-0-9574377-0-8. http://www.opalexplorenature.org/CEreport (contributor)

Tweddle, J.C., Robinson, L.D. Pocock, M.J. & Roy, H.E. (2012). Guide to citizen science: developing, implementing and evaluating citizen science to study biodiversity and the environment in the UK. Natural History Museum and NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology for UK-EOF. ISBN: 978-1-906698-37-9. http://www.ukeof.org.uk/resources/citizen-science-resources/

Roy, H.E., Pocock, M.J.O., Preston, C.D., Roy, D.B., Savage, J., Tweddle, J.C. & Robinson, L.D. (2012). Understanding Citizen Science & Environmental Monitoring. Final Report on behalf of UK-EOF. NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and Natural History Museum. http://www.ukeof.org.uk/resources/citizen-science-resources/

Tweddle, J.C. and Edwards, K.J. (2010). Pollen preservation zones as an interpretative tool in Holocene palynology. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, doi: 10.1016/j.revpalbo.2010.03.004

Tweddle, J.C. and Hussey, C. (2007). Compiling and managing the Taxon Dictionary for the Recorder software package. Ferrantia, 51, 67-79.

Rudd, M. and Tweddle, J. (2007). Greenspace Information for Greater London (GiGL). Newsletter of the London Natural History Society, 203, 3-5.

Moles, A.T., Ackerly, D.D., Tweddle, J.C., Dickie, J.B., Smith, R., Leishman, M.R., Mayfield, M.M., Pitman, A., Wood, J.T. and Westoby, M. (2007). Global patterns in seed size. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 16, 109-116. Published online 22/08/06. doi: 10.1111/j.1466-822X.2006.00259.x

Hussey, C., Wilkinson, S. and Tweddle, J. (2006). Delivering a name-server for biodiversity information. Data Science Journal, 5, 18-28. Available online at http://www.datasciencejournal.org/

Moles, A.T., Ackerly, D.D., Webb, C.O., Tweddle, J.C., Dickie, J.B. and Westoby, M. (2005). Response to comment on “A Brief History of Seed Size”. Science, 310, 783. Full text available online at http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/310/5749/783b.

Moles, A.T., Ackerly, D.D., Webb, C.O., Tweddle, J.C., Dickie, J.B., Pitman, A.J. and Westoby, M. (2005) Factors that shape seed mass evolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 102, 10540-10544.

Tweddle, J.C., Edwards, K.J. and Fieller, N.R.J. (2005). Multivariate statistical and other approaches for the separation of cereal from wild Poaceae pollen using a large Holocene dataset. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, 14, 15-30.

Moles, A.T., Ackerly, D.D., Webb, C.O., Tweddle, J.C., Dickie, J.B. and Westoby, M. (2005). A brief history of seed size. Science, 307, 576-580.

Tweddle, J.C. and Hussey, C. (2005). Mapping equivalences: the role of a name server in providing access to real-world biodiversity datasets. In Berendsohn, W.G. & Rissoné, A. (eds) Taxonomic Databases Working Group 2005 Annual Meeting, 11-18 September 2005, St Petersburg, Russia: Expanded Abstracts. Zoological Institute and the Botanical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, St Petersburg and the Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum, Berlin-Dahlem. 39.

Tweddle, J.C., Dickie, J.B., Baskin, C.C. and Baskin, J.M. (2003). Ecological aspects of seed desiccation tolerance. Journal of Ecology, 91, 294-304.

Bone, J., Turner, R. and Tweddle, J. (2003). The Millennium Seed Bank Project’s specimen and taxon databases. In Smith, R.D., Dickie, J.B., Linington, S.L., Pritchard, H.W. & Probert, R.J. (eds) Seed conservation: turning science into practice. Kew: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 327-336.

Tweddle, J.C., Turner, R.M., and Dickie, J.B. (2002-2003). Seed Information Database (releases 2.0-5.0) http://www.rbgkew.org.uk/data/sid.

Tweddle, J.C. (2001). Regional Vegetational History. In Bateman, M.D., Buckland, P.C., Frederick, C.D. & Whitehouse, N.J. (eds) The Quaternary of East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire. Field Guide. London: Quaternary Research Association. 35-46.

Fain, A., Hurst, G.D.D., Tweddle, J.C., Lachlan, R.F., Majerus, M.E.N. & Britt, D.P. (1995). Description and observations of two new species of Hemisarcoptidae from deutonymphs phoretic on Coccinellidae in Britain. International Journal of Acarology, 21, 99-106.