The Importance of Identification

Another assignment for the MSc was the “Identification Project”. Each student was given 30 images of individuals of a natural group – I was given photos of UK butterflies.

We then had to identify and display the specimens with certain information as an infographic. For the identification we were encouraged to use different sources of knowledge – amongst others dichotomous keys, identification guides, comparison with museum specimens or even consultation of a specialist.

The aim of this exercise was to get us thinking about the importance of species identification when working within natural history, especially within the area of wildlife photography. The reason for this is that classifications and systematic groupings are an important fundament in natural history, as they enable overviews of complex biological relations and often facilitate scientific work. When wishing to use images of wildlife for scientific work, specimens on the photos should be identified and labelled with date and location where they were photographed so that scientific data can be won. Also, when trying to market photos via e.g. stock imaging, image banks most probably will require a complete description of the subject and will not accept the photo if this is missing.

Related to “my” natural group, I decided to photograph some UK butterflies and moths from the university’s collection for this post.

Cynthia cardui – Painted lady

Polyommatus icarus – Common blue. This species of butterfly shows sexual dimorphism, meaning that the males and female look different. Here, the males are on the left side, the females on the right side.*


Deilephila elpenor – Elephant hawk. This species shows that moths can be brightly coloured too.*


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