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New online archive of Charles Elton’s field notes - including from Wytham Wood

Charles Sutherland Elton is credited with framing the basic principles of modern animal ecology and conducted much work at Wytham Woods, now an ECN site

Elton (1900-1991) was instrumental in the establishment of population and community ecology. Throughout his academic career at Oxford University Elton conducted a large body of work on small mammals and invertebrates based on long-term studies at the University’s Wytham estate.

Between 1942 and 1965 Elton recorded observations on his frequent visits to the Wytham woods in a series of notebooks. These constitute the Elton Archive which has now been made available online at the Oxford University Research Archive.

While the notebook records often just note species seen or collected, in other entries there are useful comments about the state or management of the Woods. For example an entry from November 1956 notes:

“The lateness of leaf-fall is quite remarkable. Probitts cannot remember a year like it and says beech mast is also late and continues to fall. The individual trees vary greatly, but there are some of practically all species with a lot of leaf. Beeches are in wonderful yellow and brown colours.

Osmaston says that all the old (and gorgeous low spreading and beautiful) beeches along the Singing Way (which is included in dedication agreement) will gradually be removed and replaced by groups of (mainly) other deciduous species. This policy needs some attention.”

Also in the archive are accounts of three Arctic expeditions that Elton made to Spitsbergen (now Svalbard) in the 1920s.

Elton’s field notes were transcribed and edited from 2013-14 by Caroline M. Pond (Emerita Professor of Comparative Anatomy, The Open University and honorary Senior Research Associate in Zoology, Oxford University) as a volunteer recruited by the Joint Museums Volunteer Service and supervised by Nigel Fisher (Wytham Woods), Darren Mann (Hope Entomological Collections) and Keith Kirby (Department of Plant Sciences).

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