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Science News

November 2014
1

What are the benefits of natural history museums working with local record centres?

 

Thursday 4 December 1430-1600 Flett Theatre, NHM.

 

Steve Hewitt, Curator of Natural Sciences, Tullie House Museum and Gallery

Teresa Frost, Manager Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre

 

The relationship between natural history museums and local records centres was once strong, complementing and supporting each other. The pooling of historical museum collections with contemporary data provided a valuable perspective on the country’s changing biodiversity. But in recent decades this important link has diminished.

 

Join this session to hear about the relationship between Tullie House Museum, Carlisle Natural History Society and the Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre (CBDC). Together they support each other to create a momentum for biodiversity study. As well as the management and dissemination of collections data through CBDC, the museum gains from relationships with external organisations engaging with the centre. What can we at the Natural History Museum learn from these and other benefits of a now rare arrangement?

 

Open to all.  The seminar is open to all Museum staff.  We welcome colleagues from other institutions.

 

If you would like to attend please email: julie.reynolds@nhm.ac.uk.

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Climate Confusion: Lessons and Pitfalls in the study of Climates Past

 

Professor John Lowe – Royal Holloway, University of London

 

Earth Sciences Seminar Room, (Basement, WEB 05, Mineralogy Seminar Room)

 

9th December - 4.00 pm

 

Accurate reconstruction of the timing and pattern of past climate variations is pivotal to a wide range of scientific studies.  Climate modellers may use the results to test the functioning and/or predictive capabilities of numerical climate simulations.  Earth scientists use them to assess the role of climate forcing on a range of earth surface processes, operating over very different timescales. Archaeologists have long considered the possible influence of climate on human evolution and dispersal.  Part of the remit of environmental science is to understand how climatic factors regulate processes of major societal significance, such as groundwater recharge, aridification and flood recurrence. 

 

These various studies all depend upon the availability of reliable climatic histories, and an understanding of how the global climate system works.  However, recent discoveries are increasingly pointing to a serious and pervasive problem in this regard, especially with regard to how we measure the global environmental response to abrupt climatic events (those that take place in less than one hundred years). 

 

In this talk I will endeavour to address, and to stimulate debate about, three things: (a) the nature of the problem, by referring to recent advances in our understanding of the history of global climate variability during the late Quaternary (the last c.150,000 years or so); (b) the promise that new approaches in geological dating offer for delivering more precise chronologies of past climatic variation;  and (c) the challenges that lie ahead, and that need to be met, before the stamp of climate change on the geo-archaeological record can be appraised with more assurance.

 

More information on attending seminars at http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/news-events/seminars/

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Life Science Seminar: The unique development of the fox tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis: a hopeful, but terrible monster

 

Uriel Koziol, Seccion Bioquimica y Biologia, Universidad de la Republica, Iguá, Uruguay & University of Würzburg, Germany

 

Wednesday 26 November 11:00,  Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)

 

 

The larva of the fox tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis causes a zoonotic disease called polycystic hydatidosis that is difficult to treat and almost impossible to cure. The reason why it is so dangerous is directly related to its unique morphology and development, that unlike most tapeworms, involves proliferative, tumour-like growth within the tissues of the host as well as asexual multiplication. In this talk, I will describe the unique development of E. multilocularis and our current efforts to elucidate its genetic underpinnings and evolutionary origins.

 


Echinococcus-multilocularis-adult.jpg

 

More information on attending seminars at http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/news-events/seminars/

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Rebecca Upson, UK Overseas Territories team, The Herbarium, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew

 

Friday 28 November 11:00  Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)

 

The Falkland Islands are predicted to experience a 3°C temperature rise in mean annual temperature over the coming century, six times the rate of warming over the last 100 years.

NaturalHistoryMuseum_PictureLibrary_055327_IA.jpgOur study is the first to investigate the likely vulnerability of a suite of range-restricted species whose distributions are associated with broad climatic trends across the archipelago. We had a particular focus on assessing the effectiveness of the current protected areas network and identifying refugia sites for those species at risk.

 

More information on attending seminars at http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/news-events/seminars/

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Dr Sarah Crowther, University of Manchester

 

Tuesday 18th November 1600h

 

Earth Sciences Seminar Room  (Basement, WEB 05)

 

 

The I-Xe chronometer provides a high resolution means of studying events that occurred during the formation of the Solar System and the subsequent reprocessing of material within the first ~150 Ma of Solar System history. Barwell seems to have sampled igneous clasts that formed early in the Solar System's history, and preserved the I-Xe system from this time. These clasts are igneous in nature, rather than chondritic. If they are relics from a previous generation of melted, differentiated planetesimals, it would support data that suggest there was an earlier generation of planetesimals that pre-date the formation of the chondrite parent bodies. Barwell also allows us the opportunity to investigate whether chondrules from this early period of Solar System history are also present.

 

NaturalHistoryMuseum_PictureLibrary_056606_IA.jpg


In this talk Sarah Crowther will discuss the background to this study, the I-Xe chronometer, the techniques and mass spectrometer used at The University of Manchester to determine I-Xe ages, and  recent analyses of Barwell.

 

More information on attending seminars at http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/news-events/seminars/

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Menno Schilthuizen, Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden, the Netherlands

 

Wednesday 19 November 11:00

 

Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)

 

 

As all taxonomists know, in many animal groups, the genitalia are the organs that differ most between species. Although this clearly means that genital evolution must be particularly rapid, the causes for their evolutionary diversification have only recently begun to be understood. I will show examples of various processes that may or may not drive male and female (and hermaphrodite) genital evolution, such as the lock-and-key hypothesis, cryptic female choice, sperm competition, and sexually antagonistic coevolution. A popular account of this field of research can be found in my recent book Nature's Nether Regions (Penguin, 2014).

 

More information on attending seminars at http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/news-events/seminars/

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Pavel Pecháček & David Stella,  Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic

 

Friday 21 November 11:00

 

Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)

 

 

brimstone NaturalHistoryMuseum_PictureLibrary_001964_IA.jpg

 

The males of the Brimstone butterfly (Gonepteryx rhamni) have ultraviolet patterns on the dorsal surfaces of their wings. Using geometric morphometrics, we have analysed correlations between environmental variables (climate, productivity) and shape variability of the ultraviolet pattern and the forewing in specimens of Palaearctic butterflies. Using principal component analysis (PCA) precipitation, temperature, latitude correlated with shape variation of the ultraviolet patterns across the Palaearctic region. We observed a systematic increase in the relative area of ultraviolet colouration with increasing temperature and precipitation and decreasing latitude. We conclude that the variation in shape of ultraviolet patterns on the forewings of male Brimstone butterflies is correlated with large-scale environmental factors.

 

 

More information on attending seminars at http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/news-events/seminars/

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Taxonomy and Phylogeny of the beetle family Prionoceridae (Coleoptera: Cleroidea) in the “Indo-Burma hotspot”

 

Michael Geiser, Department of Life Sciences, NHM


Wednesday 12 November 11:00


Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)


Eight years of study on one of the most neglected and poorly-known beetle families revealed a number of taxonomic novelties and, for the first time, shed some light on this group’s ecology and distribution. In the framework of a PhD thesis, the fauna of the Indochinese subregion (largely congruent with the more recently proposed “Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot”) was revised. Two new genera and a 23 new species were described, several more are awaiting description. A molecular phylogeny of the family supported the new genera and revealed a number of interesting patterns in biogeography and life-history of these poorly-known beetles.

 

More information on attending seminars at http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/news-events/seminars/