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330 Posts

Margaret Cawsey, Curator of Data, Australian National Wildlife Collection, CSIRO


Friday 4 July 11:00

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


Specimen-based collection records from museums and herbaria are often regarded as a more authoritative basis for research than observational assertions. Through the Atlas of Living Australia (, Australian collections have a centralised venue for sharing their biodiversity data on a large scale. *3.3 million collection records are brought together with a variety of tools that enable researchers to select, interrogate, map and analyse these data. Scientists are taking advantage of the increasing accessibility and large numbers of these records to enhance their research - illustrative examples are presented. Advantage also accrues to collections, in that the value of their data to researchers, policy-makers, environmental managers and the community at large is demonstrated by data download statistics. The Atlas also provides tools for researchers to communicate with curators, in effect permitting collections to crowd-source the expert identification of data errors, facilitating rapid correction.

(*3.1 million have locational coordinates)




More information on attending seminars at


Wednesday 2 July 11:00


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



Insects of Porton Down


Duncan Sivell, Curator of Diptera, NHM


Porton Down, in Wiltshire, is a wildlife-rich site that is, unsurprisingly, poorly collected.  We have been on several collecting trips to Porton Down and involved in training staff there in collecting and sorting insects. Here I present some preliminary results from the first two years of this collaboration.


Sampling insects from wild potatoes and tomatoes in Peru


Daniel Whitmore, Curator of Diptera, NHM

One of the goals of the NHM’s Crops Wild Relatives Initiative is to map and model the distributions of plant wild relatives and their potential insect pests, based on the digitisation of museum collections and on the collection of new data from the wild. In late February-early March 2014 I participated in one of the CWR field trips in Peru. We explored four valleys in the Lima and Ancash departments from sea level up to 4700 m, sampling from ca. 30 sites and 130 plants. In this talk I will present an overview of the habitats we visited, the plants we sampled from, the collecting methods used and some (very) preliminary results, as well as a few entomological highlights from the trip.


More information on attending seminars at


Sounds of Australia (ext).jpg


Nora Castañeda


International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)


Friday 27 June 11:00


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



Crop wild relatives (CWR) are increasingly used in breeding due to unique traits that are transferable thanks to their genetic closeness to cultivated species. Despite their importance, they are underrepresented in ex situ genebanks and threats such as land use and climate change may jeopardize their survival in their natural habitats. As part of the Project "Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change: Collecting, Protecting and Preparing the Crop Wild Relatives", we have prioritized taxa requiring urgent collection for ex situ conservation and mapped the distributions of near 1000 crop wild relatives, finding patterns of species richness globally.


More information on attending seminars at


Dr Mark Wilson – Professor of Natural Sciences and Geology, The College of Wooster, Ohio, USA


Earth Sciences Seminar Room


(Basement, WEB 05, the previous Mineralogy Seminar Room)


24th June - 4.00 pm


The rocks of the marine Callovian sections (around 164 million years old) in southern Israel give us a rare look at tropical invertebrate faunas in the Jurassic. The Matmor Formation in particular is rich in sponges, corals, bryozoans, molluscs, and echinoderms. In the past decade many new taxa have been described from the unit, allowing us to begin comparing temperate and tropical Jurassic communities. These fossils are abundant and well preserved in a detailed stratigraphic framework. They represent an important assemblage for studying the evolution and biogeography of Jurassic invertebrates.


More information on attending seminars at


Dr Jim Costa

Executive Director, Highlands Biological Station,  Highlands, NC, USA and

Professor of Biology, Western Carolina  University, Cullowhee, NC, USA


Wednesday 30th July 2014 16.30–17.30


Flett Events Theatre - Exhibition Road Entrance


All welcome!


Alfred Russel Wallace was the last of the great Victorian naturalists, and by the end of his long life in 1913 he was also one of the most famous scientists in the world, lauded by leading learned societies, British royalty and US Presidents alike. Against all odds—lacking wealth, formal education, social standing or connections—Wallace became the pre-eminent tropical naturalist of his day. He founded one entirely new discipline—evolutionary biogeography—and, with Darwin, co-founded another: evolutionary biology. Yet today Darwin's name is universally recognised, while Wallace is all but unknown.



In this lecture, Jim traces the independent development of Wallace's and Darwin's evolutionary insights, exploring the fascinating parallels, intersections and departures in their thinking. Drawing on Wallace's 'Species Notebook'  (the most important of Wallace's field notebooks kept during his southeast Asian explorations of the 1850s) he puts Wallace's thinking into a new light in relation to that of his more illustrious colleague. He also examines the ups and downs of Wallace's relationship with Darwin, and critically evaluates the misleading conspiracy theories that Wallace was wronged by Darwin and his circle over credit for the discovery of natural selection. Tracing the arc of Wallace's reputation from meteoric rise in the 19th century to virtual eclipse in the 20th, Costa restores Wallace to his proper place in the limelight with Darwin.


About Jim Costa

Jim’s research ranges from insect social behaviour to the history of evolutionary thinking. As a recent fellow-in-residence at the Berlin Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin, Germany, Jim completed two books about  Wallace. On the Organic Law of Change (Harvard, 2013) is an annotated transcription of the most important field notebook kept by Wallace during his explorations in southeast Asia, providing new insights into the development of Wallace's evolutionary thinking in the 1850s. In the companion volume Wallace, Darwin, and the Origin of Species (Harvard, 2014) Jim analyses Wallace's ideas and arguments about evolution in the notebook period in comparison with those of Darwin, and examines the relationship between these two giants of evolutionary biology.


The annual Wallace Lecture is organised by the NHM’s Wallace Correspondence Project -


Chris Yesson


Department of Life Sciences, NHM


Friday 13 June 11:00


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


Chris Yesson will be talking about his two concurrent research projects.  On first sight it may seem that examining the distribution of coastal seaweeds of the UK may not have much overlap with a study assessing the impact of trawling on benthic habitats on the continental shelf of west Greenland, but commonalities in approaches to spatial and imaging analysis means there is more overlap that just one researcher jumping between topics.


More information on attending seminars at


Ellie Adamson,   Department of Life Sciences, NHM


Wednesday 11 June 11:00


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



Freshwater habitats in tropical Asia are home to many interesting endemic freshwater fishes. Their diversification history is frequently explained in terms of eustacy and past river geomorphology.


This talk will discuss vicariant patterns in fishes across freshwater habitats from India to Wallace’s line, based on the distribution of their genetic diversity. In particular, I’ll focus on the biogeography of snakeheads and gouramis.


More information on attending seminars at


NHM Life Science Seminar


Björn Berning, Upper Austrian State Museums, Geoscientific Collections, Austria


Wednesday 28 May 11:00


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


In contrast to terrestrial faunas, the (historical) biogeography of marine invertebrates in oceanic islands has been thoroughly neglected and is almost entirely missing in biogeography textbooks. A joint effort to describe the diversity of marine faunas and the distribution of species has only recently been initiated (Census of Marine Life).


Findings on diverse biota from oceanic islands have led to a resurrection of the idea that dispersal plays powerful role of in generating large scale biogeographic patterns. In this talk, the marine natural history and (palae)oceanography of the Macaronesian islands and seamounts is summarised, with a focus on bryozoans as one of the most diverse groups among the marine benthos.


More information on attending seminars at


Ana Cristina Furtado Rebelo – University of the Azores, Department of Biology


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


20th May - 4.00 pm



Rhodoliths are the response of Coralline algae to unstable substrates; their calcified structures preserve well and may, after death, be incorporated into sediments, providing insights into geological processes. Despite being widely distributed, studies on the distribution and ecology of extant and fossil rhodoliths are few and, as a consequence, rhodoliths are still poorly understood.


The ongoing research in the Azores will provide more insight on why those islands are so different from others in Macaronesia with respect to rhodolith deposits in the geological record and the general lack of coastal rhodolith deposits today.


The comparison of type material in the Botany and Palaeobotany collections of the NHM with material from the Azores collection is expected to yield information on the Azorean rhodolith taxonomy identification, and will provide a model for palaeobiogeographic distribution. Such task needs the knowledge of the most advanced curatorial techniques and a profound taxonomic understanding of this specific algae group.


More information on attending seminars at


Jairo Patiño, Department of Biology, Ecology and Evolution, Liege University

Friday 9 May 11:00

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


Oceanic island biotas are typically characterized by high levels of endemism and a suite of specific life-history traits known as island syndromes. Low levels of genetic diversity and limited dispersal capacities of island lineages have driven the view that oceanic islands are evolutionary dead-ends.


Here, we demonstrate the role of oceanic islands as dynamic platforms for the assembly of entire continental biotas in organisms with high dispersal capacities, using bryophyte species as a model. Based on an Approximate Bayesian Computation framework, we show that the patterns of genetic variation were consistently more similar with those simulated under a scenario of de novo foundation of continental populations from insular ancestors than with those expected if islands would represent a sink or a refugium of continental biodiversity.


The dominant pattern of continental colonization from islands reported here suggests that the Macaronesian archipelagos have played a key role as stepping-stones, transforming trans-continental migrants into new endemic species before they eventually ended their colonization road in a new continental environment.


For additional details on attending this or other seminars see


Paul Williams and Nadia Bystriakova, Department of Life Sciences, NHM


Wednesday 7 May 11:00


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



The region encompassing the Tibetan plateau and its fringing mountains above 3000 covers an area one third the size of Europe or the USA. Although still poorly known, it includes the greatest hotspot of diversity world-wide forr bumblebees, which are among the most important pollinators in temperate ecosystems. 


We describe variation in alpine bumblebee faunas across the plateau and identify three principal faunas.  The eastern and southern faunas in wetter habitats appear to be closer to equilibrium with climate factors, whereas some western faunas in more arid habitats appear further from equilibrium, at least with the measured climate factors.  We suggest that these western faunas may depend on highly localised factors for mitigating the measured aridity, particularly on streams with continuous summer melt water from permanent glaciers.  This identifies a likely new conservation threat to these major pollinators within this region, from climate change and the consequent loss of glaciers causing a sudden loss of habitat, that has not previously been of major concern for bumblebee conservation elsewhere.


For additional details on attending this or other seminars see


Stepping into Britain. The first human colonisation of northern Europe


Dr Nicholas Ashton – British Museum, Dep. Prehistory and Europe

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


29th April - 4.00 pm


Until 10 years it was thought that the earliest occupation of northern Europe dated to c. 500,000 years ago. Through the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain (AHOB) Project and Pathways into Britain Project, this date has been pushed back to over 800,000 years ago with new evidence from the Cromer Forest-bed Formation on the Norfolk coast.


This talk will discuss the new evidence in particular focussing on the fieldwork at Happisburgh and the recently discovered footprints from this site. This evidence will be discussed within a European context and how humans survived for the first time in cooler northern latitudes.


Flett Lecture Theatre, NHM


Thursday 8 May 14.30–16.00 (with training sessions in the morning and after the seminar)


As part of the annual Natural History Museum Pest Management Day, Robert Child  will give a talk about the new European Biocides Directive.


Robert Child has extensive experience as a professional research chemist and was the Head of conservation at the National Museum of Wales, Amguedddfa Cymru. He combines those with an expertise on the practical applications of  Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programmes in cultural institutions. His talk will give an overview of current IPM practices and the impact that the new biocides directive might have on this essential tool for collections preservation.



  • Robert Child (former Head of Conservation at the National Museum of Wales)


Training sessions by NHM IPM Co-ordinators (0900, 1100, 1730)

  • Armando Mendez, Special Collections Information Assistant
  • Suzanne Ryder, Collections Manager


Who should attend?

The seminar is open to all museum professionals. We also welcome colleagues from other institutions who would find the seminar of interest. There is no booking fee and only large parties need to notify the organiser for catering purposes. Tea and coffee will be available in the lobby area after the talk


What will I hear?

Update on new European Biocide Directive. If you are interested in attending the seminar or one of the hour long NHM internal training sessions (9.00, 11.00, and 17.30) where you will learn about Natural History Museum IPM please book a place by emailing:


Collections seminar flyer 08 May image.jpg

A woolly bear you wouldn’t want to find! Woolly bear is the common name of the larvae of the Varied Carpet Beetle – Anthrenus verbasci They eat dried insect specimens, bird and mammal skins, textiles (especially woollen ones) and the animal glue used in old book binding.

© The Trustees of The Natural History Museum




Suzanne Williams

Department of Life Sciences, NHM

Wednesday 30 April 11:00


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

The deep-sea accounts for approximately 60% of the Earth's surface, and yet little is known about its rich diversity. This fragile ecosystem is under threat from habitat destruction and over-exploitation from fishing and mining ventures. It is vital we learn more about the diversity of the deep-sea biota and their evolution before these habitats suffer further destruction.


Understanding their evolution involves answering significant questions such as how have deep sea organisms adapted to cope with the demanding nature of this extreme environment, where problems include high pressure, limited food resources, low light and the difficulty of producing and maintaining a protective shell.

A new species of deep-sea trochid


I investigate the effects of three separate factors and their effects on diversification in two families of deep-sea gastropods: 1) global climate change, 2) tectonic events and 3) key innovations including the loss of eye function and changes in trophic level.


For more information on Suzanne's research, see her project pages.

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