The equipment you need for finding and recording molluscs breaks down into roughly two categories; that needed in the field (exact requirements depend heavily on the habitat being explored) and that needed for sorting, examining and storing the material at home. The Society maintains a reasonably comprehensive list of suppliers.

Field equipment

The essential items of field equipment include a range of bags and containers to carry specimens and habitat samples home, waterproof labels and a suitable pen (unless the containers can be written on directly), a notebook and pen or pencil, and a hand lens (for examining smaller habitats and specimens in the field).  Sieves are often taken into the field to allow quick selection or elimination of material of particular sizes. A camera is very useful to retain a general record of the site and also any unusual species or habitats  encountered. A map and/or GPS can help both to navigate larger sites and to accurately record the locations of records. A mobile phone brings obvious safety benefits but bear in mind that there may not always be a signal in more remote locations.  Field guides are useful - not just for molluscs, but for other taxa that may be important (e.g. seaweeds).

When working a marine shore, consider:

  • 1-2 buckets - for weed processing, rock scrubbing, sieving and carrying equipment and samples
  • Small (washing-up) brush -  'rock scrubbing' with a washing up brush is a good way to pick up cryptic species
  • Trowel - useful to have for exploring sediment
  • Hammer and/or small crowbar - useful on rocky shores, for example if boring species are encountered
  • Penknife to prise animals off rocks
  • Forceps and/or paintbrush for handling small specimens
  • Small torch for looking in caves and crevices
  • Garden fork - if working sandy or mixed shore
  • A ruler and/or measuring tape
  • Alcohol - for preserving weed sample concentrate if there is a long delay before the sample can be stabilised away from the shore.

When working a freshwater or terrestrial habitat, consider:

  • Forceps and/or paintbrush for handling small specimens
  • 1-2 buckets - for weed processing, sieving and carrying equipment and samples in freshwater habitats
  • Beating tray (or umbrella!) -  it can be very useful to have a large tray to shake vegetation over in order to pick up any species that fall out.
  • Small torch for looking in deep crevices
  • Alcohol for preserving specimens if there is likely to be a long delay before they can be examined back in the home/laboratory

Home/laboratory equipment

The equipment you will need depends on what you want to be able to do; but is likely to include a good binocular low-power microscope (indispensable for dealing with smaller species, and for detailed examination of small structures), equipment for cleaning and preserving specimens, petri dishes or sorting trays and fine paintbrushes or forceps for sorting and handling smaller material, a notebook and pencils or pens, callipers and other measuring equipment, a camera,  containers and labels for the specimens that you retain, and boxes or cabinets to keep them in, and reference books. 

  • Microscope - consider whether you want to be able to take photographs, and whether you need to be able to measure small specimens and structures, when using your microscope.  Small videomicroscopes have recently appeared on the market; at the moment image quality could be improved, but they are improving.
  • Boxes, cabinets, containers and labels - a collection will only retain its scientific value if the specimens and labels remain in good condition.  Think carefully about the materials you use for long-term storage; and remember that it is easy to leave material in "temporary" containers for longer than you intended.