History of the British Myriapod & Isopod Group

British Isopod Survey

An account of the first 50 years of the Isopod Survey Scheme, founded in 1968, is given by Paul Harding (2018)  “per isopoda ad astra” - 50 years of isopod recording. 

This may be viewed or downloaded as a pdf - here.

The account below details the creation of the Myriapod Survey Schemes.  It is extracted from Millipede recording in Britain and Ireland by Paul T Harding in Lee, P. (2006).  Atlas of the Millipedes (Diplopoda) of Britain and Ireland.  Pensoft.


British Myriapod Survey

In April 1970, twelve myriapodologists met in North Devon “with the express purpose of looking for myriapods and talking about them” (Blower, 1972a) and the British Myriapod Group (BMG) was formed. Volume 1 of the new journal, the Bulletin of the British Myriapod Group, was published in April 1975.
The establishment of a British Myriapod Survey had been under discussion since 1969 and was developed jointly with the Isopod Survey Scheme of the British Isopoda Study Group (BISG). The separately organised surveys of millipedes, centipedes and woodlice used a single hierarchical habitat recording system on species-list record cards printed for BMG and BISG by the Biological Records Centre (BRC), the first habitat system to be used by any national species recording scheme. Colin Fairhurst had attended the meeting in Devon and was fundamental to the establishment of the survey, continuing as the national organiser for the millipede scheme, collating records and identifying specimens until about 1984, overlapping with his successor, Douglas Richardson.

British Myriapod Group

Following a second field meeting, at Kington, Herefordshire in 1971, BMG activities focussed on the individual recording schemes and no further meetings were held until April 1982. Following this meeting, Douglas Richardson produced the first BMG Newsletter. A small meeting hosted by the BRC in early April 1983 helped to plan a way forward with both myriapod schemes. It was also suggested that the Bulletin of the British Myriapod Group should be revived. Later in April 1983, a joint field meeting with BISG brought together the two groups and the three recording schemes, for the first time.
1985 marked a turning point for millipede recording from several perspectives, a new scheme organiser, a new record card, a new identification key, a regular BMG Newsletter and the revival of the BMG Bulletin.  [The British Isopod Study Group had its own independent BISG Newsletter]

Millipede Scheme organisers

Douglas Richardson, gradually took over as scheme organiser during 1984, a role that he occupied until April 1988. He was succeeded by Dick Jones who, despite ill health, continued as scheme organiser for 10 years. Paul Lee succeeded Dick Jones as scheme organiser in May 1998.

BMG Newsletter

Douglas Richardson initiated a Newsletter for the British Myriapod Group in 1983. By 1985, it had become an established mechanism for communicating news and information among the Group. The BRC continues to produce and mail-out copies to all members of the Group. The role of BMG Newsletter editor seems to follow that of organiser of the Millipede Scheme, passing to Dick Jones in 1988 and to Paul Lee in 1998. The last BMG Newsletter was No 32 (Spring 2000). Its successor, (following the merger of the two groups) the British Myriapod and Isopod Group Newsletter, also edited by Paul Lee, has produced twice a year since then.

New Millipede Synopsis

In 1985, the long-awaited Linnean Society Synopsis (Blower, 1985) was published. Covering 53 species and with excellent figures, it provided much needed impetus to millipede recording and has remained the standard work for the last 20 years.

Bulletin of the British Myriapod Group

Plans to revive the Bulletin of the British Myriapod Group were prompted by a passing remark at the BRC/BMG meeting in April 1983. A bookseller was reported as offering Volume 1 of the Bulletin at a grossly inflated price, as “the only Volume published”. Gordon Blower rose to this implied challenge and undertook to edit the Bulletin; Volume 2 was published in January 1985. Since then, the Bulletin has appeared almost annually, usually in time for the annual field meeting. Tony Barber joined Blower as joint editor for Volume 3 onwards, and Helen Read joined the editorial team from Volume 10 onwards. The change to Bulletin of the British Myriapod and Isopod Group from Volume 17 onwards has merely extended the taxonomic scope of the journal and Steve Gregory became an editor from 2006 onwards to help with this.  The Bulletin is self financing and, as BMIG is not a subscription society, is not linked to a membership fee.

Preliminary Atlas of Millipedes

Douglas Richardson and Paul Harding worked with other BMG members and staff at the BRC to publish a Preliminary Atlas of Millipedes (British Myriapod Group, 1988) including 10km square distribution maps for 47 species and updated vice-county tables. This Atlas did not include analyses of the habitat data from the scheme.

Annual field meetings

The success of the first combined BMG/BISG field meeting in 1983 led to a meeting being held each year, normally after Easter, somewhere in Britain or Ireland. Field meetings serve many purposes, but usually venues have been chosen to enable recording in hitherto under-worked areas. Summaries of species records from most field meetings have been published in the BMG Newsletter or the Bulletin. Three overseas expeditions, to Hungary, north-western Spain, and the Basque Country have also been organised.

British Myriapod and Isopod Group

Informal discussions, held over several years, resulted in the British Myriapod Group and the British Isopoda Study Group merging to form the British Myriapod and Isopod Group (BMIG). This merger was agreed in 2000 by those attending the annual field meeting at Saffron Walden. Within BMIG, the recording schemes, BMIG newsletter and the renamed Bulletin of the British Myriapod and Isopod Group are organised much as before.

2003 Conference

Following the recent deaths of two internationally respected British myriapodologists (Ted Eason (1915-99) (left) and Gordon Blower (1923-2001) (right), Helen Read organised a one-day international conference, hosted by BMIG and Manchester University, to celebrate their scientific and personal contributions. Papers from the conference were published in BMIG Bulletin 19 (2003).