Identification Trainers for the Future

The Identification Trainers for the Future project ran between 2014-2018 and was a response to the critical and growing shortage of wildlife identification and recording skills in the UK.

The project was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund Skills for the Future programme and run in partnership between the Museum, the National Biodiversity Network Trust and the Field Studies Council.

During this time, 15 trainees undertook paid one-year work-based training programmes with us. They developed their skills and experience in identification of some of the hardest to identify species groups in the UK, and also their scientific communication skills.

While the programme has now ended, their legacy continues. Not only have all our ex-trainees found relevant work or entered higher education as a direct result of their time with us, but the projects they developed while they were with us are still available for use and you can find them below. 

Our traineeship programme has also been the catalyst to develop further training programmes in UK natural history for the Museum. Details can be find on our training page.

We are currently writing a ‘lessons learnt’ document to share the learning we gained about running a traineeship project like this with the profession. Please check back on this page for the final document. If you would like to contact us before then about our findings, please email us.

All three teams of trainees in front of Hope the spectacular blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) in Hintze Hall

The trainees

Our first five trainees started in 2015, followed by our second set in 2016 and our third set in 2017. You can read about their progress on the blogs posts they made on both the NHM blog and the National Biodiversity Network blog

Public engagement was a major component of the traineeship and all three cohorts took part in the Museum's Nature Live shows, which have public audiances. You can watch on YouTube the trainees discussing the skills they were learning:

Identification resources by our trainees

During their time with us, the trainees produced a range of materials designed to help support naturalists in their own identification work:

  • The Hidden Forests - a documentary by Alex Mills.

Alex created a documentary on temperate rainforests in the UK. The documentary introduces target species of ferns, mosses and liverworts which are indicative of temperate rainforests in the UK and how to identify them. 

Upcoming Projects

Steph Skipp - Identification of British Soldier Beetles

Steph is planning to run a day long workshop  providing  guidance on the identification of British soldier beetles. Steph was inspired by solider beetles following her time spent on her curation placement with the Coleoptera team.

The workshop will include information on when and where it is best to record different species; soldier beetles are very seasonal and some of them are quite regional. She is also considering branching this out into a recording initiative, potentially with a website and a social media presence. Steph is keen for any guidance or ideas so please get in contact if you think you provide any assistance.

Laura Sivess - Multi-access Key to UK Ephemeroptera

Laura is building a multi-access key to the Ephemeroptera of the UK, starting with the larvae. Depending on time constraints she may also tackle the adults too but they are more difficult to ID and so this may be considered less useful/accessible due to the requirement of more specialist equipment.

The key will pull together features from existing keys and combine them in a new format in combination with images of the key features  which she  will be taking using  the photo stacker equipment in the AMC. Laura has decided to create a multi-access key because she thinks multi-access  keys have the potential to be more user friendly than dichotomous keys. 

Matthew Harrow - Discovering Populations of Salticella fasciata

Matt carried out surveys looking for the rare dune snail-killing fly Salticella fasciata along the South Wales coastline.

In order to complete the surveys he trained volunteers about the species, it’s biology and closely related species. He also provided volunteers with an introduction into surveying for species using a variety of methods and also of assessing habitats based on those findings.

Unfortunately the surveys did not find the target species as an adult. Matt did however collect plenty of other species including a county first with the tachinid: Macquartia dispar. He also collected snails harbouring dipteran larvae which he is currently rearing out. If you want to find out more about Matt’s findings please get in contact

April Windle - Beginner’s Guide to Lichens

Lichens are currently regarded as one of the more complicated and less accessible groups to study. Their dynamic biology, structural complexity and fluid taxonomy makes them a particularly difficult group of organisms to study.

To address this April will be publishing a freely available beginner’s resource, introducing people to the world of lichens. This step by step guide will take the user through the early stages of lichenology, providing opportunities to develop their knowledge, skillset and confidence.

The document will focus on lichen morphology, biology, ecology and chemistry, alongside a series of tailored activities to complement everything that has been learnt throughout the manual. Some activities will also be assisted by video demonstrations, which will be available via the Museum’s YouTube channel and other media interfaces.

Inspiring the next generation of UK wildlife experts

Identification Trainers for the Future was led by the Museum in partnership with:

Field Studies Council


The scheme was generously supported by:

Heritage Lottery Fund Skills for the Future programme


The centre offers a range of training to help build wildlife identification and recording skills in UK wildlife.

Species experts shortage

Find out more about the critical need for new species identification experts and how the Museum is helping.