January 23, 2018, by Emma Rayner

SpiderLab is crowdfunding to open ‘Ye Olde Arachnarium’

The University of Nottingham’s spider research group, SpiderLab, has launched a crowdfunder to turn an old aquarium on campus into an ‘arachnarium’ where its expanding collection of spiders can be housed for research and public outreach.

Ye Olde Arachnarium will be an important new facility to help the SpiderLab scientists spin spider science into schools, university teaching and the public eye – but they need £2000 to make it happen. The online appeal has already raised over £500 but needs to reach the target by 18th March 2018.

The team has already moved its existing collection of live spiders and scorpions into the arachnarium in the School of Life Sciences but wants to expand the range of species and buy new tanks, spider ‘furniture’, posters and learning resources for outreach work.

Goliath Birdeater (Wikipedia CC)

Top of the wishlist is a specimen of the biggest spider in the world – the Goliath Bird Eating Tarantula – which can grow to a leg span of 30cm.

SpiderLab scientist Dr Sara Goodacre said: “Our champion species, the Fen Raft Spider, recently won a big public vote to have its genome mapped in the Sanger Institute’s 25 Genomes Project so it’s a great time for SpiderLab to be expanding physically on campus, increasing the scope of our research and also the work we do with schools and public science. People are fascinated by arachnids and we are confident we can raise enough money to create a bespoke arachnarium that will be an ideal home for our research subjects and visitors.”

One of SpiderLab’s junior researchers, Ella Deutsch, is studying for a PhD in predatory invertebrates and their interactions with agriculture.

Ella in the Arachnarium

Ella said: “We are really excited at the prospect of the new arachnarium and expanding our collection of these fascinating creatures. Apart from engaging the next generation of scientists, one of our main aims is to challenge public perceptions about spiders and to show how they can be really useful in scientific research. We are even hoping to arrange arachnaphobia workshops to help people overcome their fear of spiders.”

SpiderLab is already home to some impressive-looking arachnids, including ‘Peaches’ a Salmon-Pink Bird Eating Tarantula, ‘Fergus’ an Asian Forest Scorpion and ‘Mr Whippy’, a Tail-Less Whip Scorpion that was the inspiration for one of the Harry Potter creatures. The animals also need a steady supply of food – mostly live crickets which also need housing in their own special tanks in the arachnarium.

‘Fergus’ the scorpion

‘Mr Whippy’ the Tail-less Whip Spider

‘Peaches’ the pink tarantula

The new facility will also boost one of the team’s outreach projects, Spider School, which launched at a Derbyshire primary school last year. The new arachnarium will make it easier for SpiderLab to welcome school visits, and take the Spider School roadshow out to more schools in the East Midlands and beyond.

In return for a donation to the SpiderLab arachnarium fundraising page, the team is offering a range of exclusive rewards for taking part. More details can be found at: https://jumpstart.hubbub.net/p/yeoldearachnarium/

Here’s a clip of Mr Whippy, the arachnid that inspired a famous scene in Harry Potter’s Unforgiveable Curses class at Hogwarts.

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