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The above date marks the sad passing of one of the Museum’s tiniest volunteers: In early February I discovered Beetah, my Carabus violaceous lying still on her coconut substrate, and to be honest, a little dried out.



My little pet worked hard in life to inspire the public with entomological wonder of what living gems can be found in local parks, let alone the wider world, so I think it’s only fair to take time and reflect on her life and service upon her passing.



Obituary: This Carabus violaceus specimen was collected live while Hillery Warner was taking a walk in Nonsuch Park with her 1 ½ year old son, Dominic on 29/08/2013. Dominic christened the specimen "Beetah" on the spot and it was kept as a family pet until its death of natural causes in early 2015, at which point it was brought to the Museum to join the collections on 11/02/2015. 


Beetah led a lavish life for a ground beetle, feasting on fish cakes and the finest chunks and jelly from packets of cat food. She apparently reproduced while in captivity and two of her offspring are also in the collection.  While not an official front of house Museum employee, Beetah wore her public-engagement-purple elytral margins with pride, inspiring visitors at Science Uncovered 2013 and 2014. She also acted as an entomological ambassador during National Insect Week, 2014 where she met artists and UK celebrity Jonathan Ross. While the lights have left the multifaceted ommatidia of her compound eyes, she may yet "see" another Science Uncovered as she continues her service to the Museum in death as she did in life, entering her new role as museum specimen.


I found my beetle back in 2013 in a park near my home while walking with my then 1 ½ year old son. As I keenly showed my son this lovely large black beetle with iridescent purple pronotal and elytral margins, he enthusiastically named it ‘Beetah’ and I detected some bonding going on, so I decided Beetah would live with us as a pet. I initially added a snail or two to her tank but soon discovered she was much happier to dine on my husband’s fish cakes. In fact, she ate so much fish cake that I noticed not long after that single meal that she had plumped up so much that her plural suture stretched enough that the underlying membrane was showing. I thought she was just fat.


Some time later there were a number, (at least 5), carabid larvae running around the tank (I’m sorry I called you fat, Beetah). How did this happen with just one beetle? In short, it didn’t, but insect reproduction is amazing and entomologists never pass up an opportunity to talk a bit about genitalia!



The christening of “Beetah”:   Almost as good as the whole Mofasa/baboon/Simba thing from that ’90’s movie.



Internal female genital structures of carabid species Badister amazonus (Erwin & Ball, 2011).

Female insects have an internal genital structure called a spermatheca.  Upon mating, sperm is stored in the spermatheca rather than going straight to the eggs for fertilization.  The release of sperm from the spermatheca is under hormonal control and so the female can wait until conditions are ideal for reproduction before releasing the sperm from this structure to fertilize her eggs.  This could mean waiting to find a suitable insect host for a parasitoid wasp, or finding enough fish cake to suitably supply the eggs with nourishment for pet Beetahs'.  Lady insects have quite a lot of control over this and scientists have reported carabids going for as long as 10 months without contact with males before ovipositing (Gilgado & Ortuño, 2012) and honey bees can store sperm for over 3 years (Gullan & Cranston, 2000).

While both mother and larvae enjoyed cat food, I noticed that the larvae were active and fed during the day while mum was nocturnal.  (I often described having a pet carabid like having a 6-legged carnivorous hamster due to the audible night time scrabbling sounds coming from her tank).  This division of activity surely reduces the likelihood of intraspecific predation in nature.  (Metamorphosis is a generally fantastic strategy to reduce intraspecific competition).  I won’t comment on what happened to the larvae.  Truthfully, I don’t know for sure (ref. 1).  I’ll just let the mystery be.


Not long after that exciting event, Beetah began her work as and Museum volunteer.  Her first public outreach event was Science Uncovered, 2013 where she assisted Dr. Eggleton and Dr. Inward in delighting the public with the wonders of soil associated invertebrates.  In 2014 she participated in both a second Science Uncovered and National Insect Week activities where she met artists and an English television and radio presenter named Jonathan Ross, among other visitors.

I did rather wonder if she might make it to a third Science Uncovered (alive) but alas, she saw her last sunsets in early 2015. So what did I do with the husk of my fallen friend?  Put the kettle on for her, of course.  One of the quickest ways to get a desiccated beetle specimen relaxed for mounting is to pop it into warm water (ref. 2.)  So after a few minutes of steeping a Beetah tea, I pulled her out of the hot water, wrapped her in moist tissue, and took her to work.



Steeping beetle tea prior to mounting.  These are Rothschild bequest beetles I prepared from our dried accession material.



Beetah all set on her mounting board.

Once at the Museum, I pinned and set Beetah with extra-special care - after all, a Beetah’s work doesn’t finish just because haemolymph stops pumping through her dorsal vessel (or “heart”- but insect circulatory systems are very different to vertebrates’.  See ‘Insect Circulation in Short, below).  Oh no, I fully expect her to continue public outreach duties long after death- no rest for the dead in entomology! Normally, I would tuck a specimen’s antennae a bit closer to its body to make them less vulnerable to breakage and save them best for taxonomic preservation and study, but Beetah is a common species, already identified and described long ago so setting her for a really attractive dorsal habitus with no limb overlap won out over supreme specimen protection.


Once set out nicely and (re)dried, it was time to label her up and database her.  We here at the Museum hope to digitize our entire collection.  With 80 million objects, this is no small ask so we’re coming up with snazzy ways to do this as efficiently as possible, but Beetah, being a single and super special specimen, I entered into our digital catalogue individually, manually, myself.  Her unique identifier is now and forever 1681080.  The data matrix attached to her pin jutting out clearly visible from above can be read by computers and smart phones to quickly access all her collection information.  The details of where and when she was collected are now digitally stored along with her species determination, (obituary), and where she’s kept in our cavernous labyrinth of cabinets so she can be easily retrieved for, oh, I don’t know maybe I will make her make an appearance for her third Science Uncovered in September….


P.S.- If my son asks any of you where Beetah is… she’s at the Museum.  Just leave it at that.

Insect Circulation in Short: One of the more basic zoological divisions in the animal kingdom is that of deuterostomes vs. protostomes.  These terms roughly translate to “second mouth” vs. “first mouth”.  When the first divot forms in the blob of cells that eventually grows into an animal, it is destined to either become a mouth, or a bottom.  Our cell-blob-divot becomes an used-food exit route, so we’re deuterostomes.  Insects’ divot becomes a mouth.  So right from the start insects couldn’t be much more different to us.



A rather useless diagram showing the end destination for the blastopore in both protostome and deuterostome blastocysts.


Other equally fundamental differences in development mean that while our nerve chord is in our back, insects’ are in their chests.  Our heart is in our chest. Insects’ “hearts” are in their backs.  But the location of an insect heart isn’t the only huge difference to our circulatory system.  Our blood carries nutrients and oxygen to cells, but insect blood only carries nutrients.  Our blood is closed into veins, arteries, and capillaries.  Insect blood washes more or less freely around the body cavity.  The insect “heart” is basically a tube with muscles and valves that takes in haemolymph from around the midgut of an insect where nutrients from digested food diffuses into the “blood” and then pumps it into the head where it’s released to freely wash over the all-important primary ganglion (brain) and then wishily washily work its way back to the tail end of the insect; feeding cells and picking up waste on its way.

Terms Badly Explained

Desiccated- Dried up.  Because scientists decided one word with 4 syllables is more efficient communication than two one-syllable words.
Dorsal habitus- The view normal to the lateral plane of the animals’ body.  Whatever that means.
Elytral- Of the elytra, which are the hard forewings of a beetle.
Haemolymph- Insect blood.  It’s not Haemoglobin because it doesn’t bother with oxygen-carrying globulin proteins.  There are exceptions- some larvae in oxygen deprived environments have proper haemoglobin but this is a badly explained term, not another blog topic.
Intraspecific- Within a species.  Interspecific would be between species.  Like interstates are roads that travel between states.  Intrastates would be roads that don’t cross state lines.  Like a roundabout in the middle of Kentucky.  I’m clearly an American.
Parasitoid- Like a parasite but much much more dark and disturbing.
Plural Suture- Where the top tough exoskeleton bits meet the bottom exoskeleton bits on the side of
an insect’s belly.  The side-seam.
Pronotal- Of the pronotum.  Which is the first notum.       (Which is the top part of the thorax.  The thorax is divided into three sections).
Spermatheca- a copulatory receptical.
Substrate- Stuff on the ground.  Dirt.  Leaves.  Gravel.  Bark.  Sand.  And such.


Ref 1. Two of the larvae joined the collection.
Ref 2. This works for any insect that isn’t overly hairy or scaly but is bad for DNA.


Erwin T, Ball G (2011) Badister Clairville, 1806: A new species and new continental record for the nominate subgenus in Amazonian Perú (Coleoptera, Carabidae, Licinini). ZooKeys 147: 399-417. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.147.2117

Gilgado, J. D., & Ortuño, V. M. (2012). Carabus (Oreocarabus) guadarramus La Ferte-Senectere, 1847 (Coleoptera, Carabidae): first instar larva and reflections on its biology and chorology. Animal biodiversity and conservation, 35(1), 13-21.

Gullan, P.J. & Cranston, P.S.. (2000) Insects: An Outline of Entomology, 2nd edition. Blackwell Science, 502 pp.


With the forthcoming opening of our Sensational Butterflies exhibition in April, and the digitisation of our collections progressing gradually and efficiently, I thought it would be welcoming and encouraging to post a 3D art video on butterflies.


The video, titled “Gone?”, was made by Graham Macfarlane and Elitsa Dimitrova of Elyarch, a small but well-established and creative digital company, based in London.


I met Graham and Elitsa during the last Science Uncovered evening at the Museum in September, when they approached the Lepidoptera forest station to admire our displays and to chat about flight in Lepidoptera. They were particularly curious to know how butterflies and moths hold their legs during flight.


Lepidoptera Station SU 2015.jpg

The Lepidoptera display during last year's Science Uncovered.


Flying Moths.jpg

How do lepidopterans hold their legs while flying?

Top Hummingbird hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) © Alessandro Giusti;

bottom Swallotail (Papilio machaon)© Lukas Jonaitis

“Difficult question!” I replied with a pondering smile. As a matter of fact I don’t think I had given the topic much consideration before then.


A few days later, after talking with some colleagues and having done a little research on the subject, I sent Graham and Elitsa an email saying that probably, in insects, the position of the legs during flight differs slightly according to groups.


Presumably, as in other insects, lepidopterans' legs hang more or less down under the body, and very likely their position changes according to the particular moment of flight, ie migration versus flying while feeding or moving short distances, or during courtships etc, and I suggested to look at images and slow motion videos of flying insects on the internet. 


A few weeks later they sent me the art video with thanks for the information I supplied, so I thought I'd share the video with you in case you haven’t seen it yet.





I really enjoyed the video; it's well-designed and captivating, even if the legs of the flying butterflies are probably not portrayed 100% correctly.


But let’s give the artists the benefit of poetic licence, and it shouldn’t matter after all, as long as the work entertains and stirs something in the viewer. Which I think “Gone?” does. 


Gone 1080p_00295.jpg

I like how the butterflies are taking off from an immobile position, as if they are all dormant inside a collection box, and a kind of imperceptible and secretive command suddenly wakes them up.


This makes me think of our collections, and how the digitisation projects currently taking place in our Museum are a sort of revival of our specimens and of all the useful data associated with them. A virtual awakening which makes our specimens more accessible.


But what I like most about the video is that it carries a nice message of hope, and it’s not just about butterflies, but also about any other organism we share our planet with: it’s an invitation for us all to reflect on the beauty, complexity and fragility of the natural world, and the responsibility each of us has to preserve it. A philosophy that is ingrained in the values of the Natural History Museum, as we have always aspired to promote the discovery, understanding, responsible use and enjoyment of the natural world.


Gone 1080p_00626.jpg

The vivid beams of light shining on the gliding butterflies and the shimmer created by the dislodged tiny scales of their wings give a wonderful sense of hope and awakening.


As the countdown to Science Uncovered 2014 begins, we have been busy behind the scenes thinking about how we talk about our science. How we make it interesting to YOU and how we can get YOU involved.


Making science accessible to all is one of our big challenges as a leading natural sciences organisation. With upwards of 80 million specimens (10 million of those are beetles!) we have a wealth of data that if only it were publicly mobilised would be even more relevant to the world at large, not just researchers in the natural sciences. Essentially we want to share our data; but, if I told you for our 10 million beetles we have just six curators, how is it even conceivable for us to make that data accessible?!


It took the creative mind of Ivvet Modinou the Museum's science communication manager and one of the leading people behind the Museum's participation in the EU's Researchers night to come up with a grand plan that would unite scientists and our visitors (YOU!) in making our data ever more accessible to the world at large. A few meetings later with Max Barclay (Coleoptera collections manager), Ben Scott (Data Portal Lead Architect) and Laurence Livermoore (digital analyst) the fledgling idea became reality.



Max with just a few beetles that we would love to be imaged!


laurenc ein colection.jpg

Laurence in the heady days of Hemiptera (true bug) research in the Coleoptera and Hemiptera  section before he moved over to the dark side...

Taking our Beetles and Bugs Flickr pages as a model the idea developed into something much more ambitious, and we want YOU to help us achieve this on the night! All you need is to turn up, be able to read and possess a smartphone or tablet – easy! Are you ready?


Ben explains, 'Live on the night we'll be showing the entire process of digitising specimens; from transcribing a label & crowd sourcing to data outputs via the Data Portal and visualisations.'


So how are we going to do this?

First we take a photo of the specimen which we upload to our Flickr site. After this a transcription app pulls the image from Flickr, and we ask any willing member of the public to transcribe the image. Once transcribed these data are added to our "Science Uncovered Transcriptions" data set. Then it's up to you to tweet about your good work!


You can even do it whilst having a beer! Don't worry if you're concerned about data accuracy, we've thought about that too.  Every specimen label will be transcribed multiple times, building up the level of accuracy and we will have our experienced team of digitisers and geo-referencers on hand to answer questions. After the event the dataset will be cleaned up by Ben, and then Max and Ben will work with the data to prepare it for entry in to our Museum database (imagine a database that has to cope with 80 million records!).


So this is very exciting and a new way of looking at and accessing our collection. The Coleoptera team have already come a long way with digitisation of specimens. Our beetles and bugs Flickr page has been online since 2012, has had well over a million visits, and has led to an unprecedented rise in interest in our collections as a result. Not only do we use it to highlight specimens of special note, like this one collected by Alfred Russel Wallace,


wallace specimen.jpg

Thaumastopeus agni (Wallace A.R., 1867) image taken by Helena Maratheftis.
Species was named after the collector, a Mr. Lamb, but Wallace translated his name into Latin.


but also to get specimens identified. Each year we receive upwards of 50,000 specimens into the collection from recent collecting trips such as this beetle collected by me and Max in Borneo in 2013.


white beetle.jpg

Lepidiota stigma (Fabricius, 1798) collected in Borneo - a beetle capable of producing the purest form of white colour known to science.

Image taken by Helena Maratheftis



Identifying these beetles can be a lengthy process so putting them up online allows a first look for researchers and taxonomists all over the world. If they see something they think is interesting we can then send those specimens out on loan; eventually they will be returned identified and quite often there will be a few new species too!


Darwinilus sedarisi Chatzimanolis, 2014 Staphylinidae: Holotype newly described from Charles Darwin's collection held in the Museum


Hillery Warner (beetler and top specimen mounter) was one of the pioneers of our Flickr site, and here she explains why we began this most ground-breaking of projects.


hillery bugs.jpg

Sometimes, beetles just aren't enough to keep Hillery busy; she has to dabble in the dark arts of Mantodea too...


"The Flickr project started off as a way to see if our unidentified material might be voluntarily identified by specialists around the world if we provided it online.  While we did have some success with this, the project quickly evolved into not only a fantastic public outreach outlet, but also a way of maximising the usefulness of our digital loans.


Scientists scattered across the globe need to see specimens in our collection in order to do their work- identifying, describing, and revising life on earth.  Sometimes they need to take a really close look at every detail of a specimen, which means they have to fly over to London, (which is expensive), or we need to actually put the insects in a box and post them out on loan.  But sometimes they just need "to see it".  This is when the very best option is to take a picture and send it.  Job done.  We call that a "digital loan". Before the Flickr site, we would email the attachment to the scientist who asked for it, and we were the only people to ever see it.  What a waste!  These people are working on cool stuff.  And you should get to see it, too.  So now, we put it out onto Flickr for you too!"


Since the inception of our Flickr site the Museum has began digitising collections on an even larger scale and now employs a team of people to image and transcribe. They work on dedicated projects; the most recent one for Coleoptera being the digitisation of 9000 specimens of beetles belonging to the family Chrysomelidae (the leaf beetles), of which many species are known to be economically important crop pests, as part of the Crop and Pest Wild Relatives Initiative.


Here's some of the digitisation team you will meet on the night,


From back to front: Gerardo Mazzetta, Peter Wing, Joanna Durant, Flavia Toloni, Sophie Ledger, Elisa Cane, Jasmin Perera and Lyndsey Douglas



A drawer from the Coleoptera collection of members of the leaf beetle genus Diabrotica - all imaged and label data transcribed by the digitiser team


So, we look forward to working with you on the night! Let's see how many specimens we can transcribe… and remember, we need you to help make this a success!


beetle nhm.jpg

Image taken by artist and photographer in residence to the Coleoptera section, Helena Maratheftis


Want to create your own earthquake? Extract some DNA from a strawberry, or try your hand at replicating Archaeopteryx feathers?

Our Nature Live team have been very busy coordinating many of the activities and displays for tonight. They guide us through some of the things you should not miss at our annual festival, celebrating European Researchers' Night. As usual, there's an energising, entertaining and enlightening mix of things to see and do and bars to socialise in. And the event is absolutely free.



Visitors admiring the giant jaws on show at last year's Science Uncovered paleontology science station. Select images to enlarge.


With over 350 scientists filling the Museum galleries to talk about their work, Science Uncovered on 26 September is your chance to meet researchers and hear about the latest discoveries first-hand. It's an evening filled with wonder, sure to amaze and inspire all who attend.


To help visitors this year, we've split the event's activities and displays into three themed areas around the Museum. So you can explore Origins and Evolution in the Red Zone, Biodiversity in the Green and Blue Zones, and Sustainability in the Orange Zone. In each of the zones, you can have a drink with scientists to chat more about these themes and any related questions.


Origins and Evolution in the Red Zone


Get the heads-up on early human habits and try some cave art in the Museum's Red Zone. Science Uncovered opens to the public from 15.00 on Friday 26 September.


In the Earth Hall galleries of the Red Zone, you can join Museum scientists to uncover hidden secrets of our ancestry. Learn about prehistoric life and have a go at cave painting. Assess the evidence and come to your own conclusion about whether ancient humans were cannibals. Learn how ice is used to tell us what life was like on early Earth. Mingle with the mammoths and discover how extinction has shaped life on Earth.


Star attractions: Boxgrove tibia and Archaeopteryx. Cave painting. Try replicating some Archaeopteryx feathers yourself!

Events in the Flett Theatre: 19.00 Professor Alice Robert's lecture on evolution. 20.30 Famelab sessions.


Biodiversity in the Green and Blue Zone


Get close to extraordinary specimens at the Corals station, a sneak preview of what's to come in our Coral Reefs exhibition opening next year.


In the Biodiversity Zone we're focusing on life in our forests and oceans, and also right on our doorsteps. Investigate rare corals and shells and discover what they tell us about our oceans - get a taste of what's to come in next year's Coral Reefs exhibition. Meet our butterfly curator Blanca Huertas and several beetle scientists who've braved wild terrains in pursuit of rare species and see their collections. Get your own specimens identified at the UK Biodiversity station. Scuttle up to the Hintze Hall balconies to help digitise our extensive beetle collection.


Star attractions: See huge and rare corals from our forthcoming exhibition. Extract DNA from strawberries and bananas. Play your part in digitising our collection by labelling a beetle image (Crowdsourcing the Collection station).

Event highlights: Join Nature Games between 18.00-22.00. Drop in to Soapbox Scientist rants between 18.00-22.00. Britain exhibition opens late, but book tickets to avoid disappointment.


Untitled-2.jpgstrawberry DNA.jpg

Play your part: Extract DNA from a strawberry at the Forests station. Help digitise our beetle collection with our app, find out what to do at the Crowdsourcing the Collection station located in the central Hintze Hall balconies.



Sustainability in the Orange Zone


One of the most beautiful exhibits at Science Uncovered, and not to be overlooked, is the intricate microfossil tree on display at the Climate Change station in the Sustainability Zone.

The Climate Change station is bound to be a focal point of this zone, highlighting the latest scientific thinking and research on this important subject. But insects make a big appearance too, from their role in food and forensics to the importance of pest and parasite research. And head to this zone for the Attenborough Studio talks, Spirit Collection Tours and the Wildlife Garden.


Star attractions: Create your own earthquake (British Geological Survey station). Seven metre-long tape worm (Parasites and Pests station). Exquisite microfossil tree created by Chinese scientist Zheng Shouyi from foraminiferal models (Climate Change station). Sip a scientifically inspired concoction (Cocktail Bar).

Event highlights: The Wildlife Garden - open until 21.00. Sampling Space talk in the Attenborough Studio at 19.00, with a live link to the Johnson Space Centre in Houston. Crime Scene Insects talk in the Attenborough Studio at 20.00.



This is, of course, a tiny taste of what to expect on the night. For the bigger picture, grab a map when you arrive or download it below or on our website. And don't forget to do the fun Stamped on Science trail, with the chance to win a year's Museum membership, and most importantly earn yourself (or the kids) a free LOLLIPOP!



Join the conversation with @NHM_London and the hashtag #SU2014.


As free events go one cannot expect more happenings than the annual Europe-wide celebration that is European Researchers' Night, and the Museum is just one of the 100s of institutions that once again will open its doors for an evening bonanza of science at Science Uncovered.



Science Uncovered, our annual celebration of science as part of European Researchers' Night, is fun, free and gets better every year.




4 Successful Years: as part of the European Commission Horizon 2020 programme, our Museum has successfully hosted 4 Science Uncovered evenings, one each September, with a total of more than 30,000 visitors attending so far!


Every year has been more popular than the previous, and with around 300 scientists taking part, our visitors have enjoyed activities as diverse as interactive science stations, debates, behind-the-scenes tours and science bars.


Science Uncovered 2013_27092013_0327.jpg

This year's Science Uncovered is on Friday 26 September and we are confident it will be another great success. You'll be welcome to join in from 15.00 and our aim is to enthusiastically entertain you until 22.30.


The event will be programmed according to the 3 main strategic themes of the Museum: Sustainability, Biodiversity and Origins & Evolution and there will be activities related to these themes in the Darwin Centre, Life and Earth public galleries respectively.


Because I was away at the time, I wasn't able to take part in last year's Science Uncovered but I will be there this year with some of my colleague curators, in one of the forest stations, so do drop by and say hello.


This is an opportunity not to be missed as we'll be taking with us some of our favourite specimens, usually jealously protected in our extensive state-of-the-art collections.


We would love to show and tell you about some of the work we do in our Museum and we'll endeavour to answer many of your questions. We'll be setting up some games to test your knowledge and stimulate your curiosity; of course there will be prizes too, but only if you are smart enough.


I really hope you'll be one of the thousands people who visit during the evening, joining in to celebrate biodiversity, knowledge and the importance of all inquisitive minds.


See you then.


The hour is fast approaching when we open our doors to the Museum's greatest show of the year on Friday, 27 September to mark the Europe-wide event of the year, European Resarchers' Night. Of course, Science Uncovered is much more than just a show, it gives visitors exclusive and extensive access to hundreds of scientists and our collections and research. But this year, in particular. there are some unmissable star attractions. A few are hot off the press.



Must-sees at Science Uncovered on 27 September include a beautifully-presented Archaeopteryx fossil and hologram on show at the Extinction Science Station from 16.00-22.00 in Fossil Way. Image courtesy of The Munich Show.


Following its sensation at the Munich Mineral Show - and thanks to a private collector - we are showcasing a rare Archaeopteryx fossil (thought to be the 11th known example of Archaeopteryx) at the Extinction Science Station throughout the evening. In addition to getting a glimpse of the fossil up close, a hologram brings the Archaeopteryx to life. Alan Hart, Museum Collection Manager, hails it as 'an amazing specimen, especially in the way it is presented. And the hologram reconstruction is a really innovative way of examining it.'





Watch the video of Archaeopteryx and its hologram unveiled at the Munich Mineral Show



Satisfy your app-etite for dinosaurs at Science Uncovered. Catch T. rex on the prowl in the Darwin Centre, using an iOS or Android device. A massive Stegasaurus can be stalked in the Central Hall.


Excitingly, we will also be joined by digital dinosaurs roaming the Museum around the Central Hall and Darwin Centre atrium. But to see the 3D animated dinosaurs, you'll need to download the free Aurasma app on an iOS or Android device. Then watch and listen as a realistic-looking dinosaur strides into view, using augmented reality. Museum volunteers will be on hand to help out if needed. Once you've found a dinosaur, you can take a photo of your friends with it and tweet it using the hashtag #SU2013.



We've just had news that the incredibly rare T. rex fossil (pictured above being unpacked in readiness), featuring in Dr Paul Barret's Dinosaur Extinction studio event at 17.00, will now make an appearance at the Extinction Science Station from 20.30-22.00. Remember, you'll need tickets for the free Attenborough Studio events, but they are on a first-come, first-served basis, so this is another way for you to see this incredible specimen if you don't make it to the talk.


Along with these big blasts from the past and other amazing highlights on the night, make sure you soak up some of the really cool and quirky stuff too.


Get more out of gin than you can imagine over at the Darwin Centre's Food station, use a seismometer to create your own earthquake at the Natural Environment station, examine sticky crime scene evidence (and we're not just talking blood samples) at the Forensics station, or peel away layers to see the intricate insides of specimens using the Insider Explorer Table and 3D Imaging unit in the Earth Hall. And much, much more all over the Museum.


Family-oriented activities kick off earlier in the day, so check the website for details.


food-soapbox-art.jpgThe ‘beautiful’ future of food: Soapbox Art speakers from the Royal College of Art divulge their creative culinary tactics.


Don't forget to stop a while in the Lasting Impressions gallery (near the Birds gallery) to hear what Soapbox Art speakers have to say about their creative tactics for the future of food and where babies will come from.


Download a map online, or grab one when you arrive, to plan your exploration and entertainment for the evening. Keep an eye out for the scientists wearing 'talk to me' badges on your travels.


Download the Science Uncovered map listing all activities and locations [PDF]


Find out what's on at Science Uncovered


Countdown to Science Uncovered blogs


Read the recent news story about what scientists will be confronting at Science Uncovered


Can't make it to the event? Keep in touch with what happens on Twitter via @NHM_Live and #SU2013


I have always enjoyed taking part in Science Uncovered with its vibrant, interesting, exciting and revealing ambience.


As part of the European Researchers' Night, the Natural History Museum is one of the hundred institutions in 33 countries all over Europe to open its door for a night of discovery, learning and inspiration. The Museum's Science Uncovered for 2013 is here today, Friday the 27 September from 16.00 until Midnight, and it’s free!


Now, having said that, unfortunately I won’t take part in this year's event! I know this is very sad news for all my fans, or rather for all the fans of Lepidoptera, because they would have been the stars of the show, not me obviously!


Science-Uncovered-2-science-station-copyright-NHM.jpgThe Lepidoptera Station at last year's Science Uncovered.


But don’t despair! There will be lots of bugs on show, from large and shiny beetles to attractive and colourful butterflies and moths. Some of my entomology colleagues will be manning Science Stations so you can get up close to their favourite specimens and find out what they're working on.


Display_Drawers-png.jpgSome of the entomology display drawers you might be finding at this year's Science Uncovered.


One of the stations not to be missed is the iCollections projectdigitising the museum’s British and Irish Lepidoptera.


Let me tell you few things about this project and what you’ll find if you visit the station. The iCollections project is one of many digitisation activities currently undertaken by the Museum. The aim of the project is to make part of the vast entomology collections at our Museum more accessible to the public and to researchers.


POster Icollection.jpg

The iCollections project – digitising the museum’s British and Irish Lepidoptera.


Each specimen of British and Irish butterflies and moths from the Museum collections is currently being photographed, and the data on the label of each specimen is also photographed and transcribed. This is great news for curatorial and scientific purposes. In fact, once the specimens have been photographed they are re-housed into new drawers that will provide better conditions for many years to come.


The data from the specimens will also be extremely useful to examine the pattern of distribution of the species of British and Irish Lepidoptera, and how factors such as climate change and human impact through urbanization and intensive agriculture are affecting it. The data would also be valuable to assess the scale of the historical collections of the Museum.


Digitisers 1.jpg

Some of the digitisers at work.


Elisa.jpgOnce the specimens are digitised they are re-housed into new drawers.


The project started at the beginning of this year and so far the digitising team has managed to photograph more than 80,000 specimens and transcribe each of their labels.

Erebia drawer.jpgA drawer with specimens of Scotch Argus (Erebia aethiops), one of the 60 or so British species of butterflies currently being digitised.


Apparently it is a reliable and very productive team, digitising one specimen every 2.9 minutes!


So, tonight, at Science Uncovered, do pay the the iCollections project Station a visit. Meet Elisa, Gerardo, Jo, Lindsey and Sara, the digitisers. They’ll be happy to tell you more about this project, answer your questions, and since the process of capturing the data from the labels is rather interesting and complex, they will have some of these labels for visitors to have a go at transcribing and deciphering them! And there’ll be prizes to be won, if you are smart enough that is!


Meet the iCollections Project digitisers!


They will also have some drawers of their favourite species which have already been digitised. The digitising team will be located in the noisy Nature Games room (Marine Invertebrates Gallery), so listen out for our animal-themed buzzers!




Science Uncovered takes place today, Friday 27 September at the Natural History Museum, London. Join us from 4pm to midnight.


This week I celebrate 20 years at the Museum, and my diary has included preparing for a researchers' night highlighting museum science, Tweeting as part of #AskaCurator day and visiting a miniature steam railway.




Most of today has been spent preparing for Science Uncovered, our EU-funded researchers' night on Friday 27 September. The doors of the Museum will remain open after usual closing time and scientists like myself will be available to talk about our science, show specimens and chat. Presentations in the Nature Live Studio will also be held and it will be possible to book tours to areas of the Museum not normally open to the public.



This core from the Atlantic SW of Ireland represents the last major glacial period showing glacial dropstones from colder periods (left) and white sections composed almost entirely of warm water microfossils (right). The green packets and plastic sleeve maintain an oxygen free environment.


We are showing some deep sea cores taken from the Atlantic Shelf off SW Ireland through sediment that was deposited during the last glaciation. It's a great opportunity to show the key role micropalaeontology plays in quantifying and dating past climatic episodes. The core relates to periods when icebergs broke off glaciers and traversed the North Atlantic.




A major part of my job is dealing with enquiries about our microfossil collections and subsequently hosting visits or preparing loans. Two main collections are our most requested, the Challenger Foraminifera and the Blaschka glass models of radiolarians. Since three specimens from our Blaschka collections have been on display in our Treasures Gallery, we have had an increased number of enquiries and visitors to view the other 180 specimens that are not currently on display.



Image of one of our Blaschka glass radiolarian models that was widely retweeted during #AskACurator day.


Today we are showing the undisplayed Blaschka collection to an artist, last week it was a glassworker from Imperial College and later this week it is a photographer hoping to create a book of images from Blaschka collections across Europe.




I have spent virtually the whole day on Twitter monitoring questions and providing answers as part of #AskACurator day. Fellow curators from over 500 different museums and 35 different countries have been fielding questions over Twitter causing the hashtag to trend. At one stage it was globally the second most discussed subject on Twitter.


I answered questions like:


'Do you require a masters degree to become a curator?'

'Which museum, other than your own, inspired you recently?' (the Foraminiferal Sculpture Park in China)

'Which specimens in your collection give you goosebumps when you see them?' (Blaschka glass models

'What sparked your interest to become a curator?'

'Do you need to be an obsessive to be a curator?'

'Which specimen not currently on display would you like to see being displayed?' (100 year old microfossil Christmas card).


Many of the questions I was able to expand on using links to blog posts, particularly the one entitled 'How to become a curator'. I started to reply to the 'what is a curator?' question but could not cram 'someone who cares for a collection by enhancing its documentation and storage, maintains access to it by facilitating loans, visits and exhibits and promotes its relevance by engaging with potential users' into 140 characters.The day certainly showed what a varied job we all have, how passionate we are and that one day is never the same as another.




My colleague Steve has worked out that we had 65 new interactions (messages, favourites, retweets, new followers) during #AskACurator day yesterday as well as some more hits to this blog. However, I am saddened as I read a well known museums blog that says that the best way to reach a wide audience is to avoid niche subjects like micropalaeontology and links direct to my blog as an example. It starts me wondering if accumulating vast numbers of hits really show that a blog is successful?


A string of meetings are scheduled too; we are applying for funding for a major 3 year conservation project, the photographer arrives to discuss his project and we are finishing an application to hire a new PhD project studying traits of evolution. Microfossils are extremely useful as their fossil record is relatively complete compared to other fossil groups and collections can be made relatively easily across large geographical areas.




Earlier in the week I got to work to find two of my train mad, three year old son Pelham's Thomas the Tank Engine stickers on my socks. On Monday he is starting nursery school so today we are taking him and his younger sister Blossom to one of our favourite places, the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway in Kent. I feel that this family day is a suitable way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of my arrival at the Museum as a volunteer.




I am in Berlin - home of Checkpoint Charlie and the ex-Wall - at a Biodiversity networking meeting, talking with a totally new set of colleagues about how to connect the science we do with government policy in Europe and at home. Really interesting and has opened my eyes to a new world where nightshades are important (of course!), but where people and how they connect across cultures, languages and ways of working are even more important.


But while sitting in the talks and workshops, in the back of my mind I am thinking about Friday this week and the annual Science Uncovered event in London. Fortunately, I will be back in time.....  just.


This year, in addition to being part of the Food station with an array of potatoes, tomatoes, aubergines and their friends and relatives, I will be part of Science Fess Up - where a couple of us at a time will talk with people about what WE don't know about science. Challenging? You bet! Not because there is a lack of things to talk about, but just where to start, the depths of my ignorance about lots of things is so profound........ 



An array of eggplants in Avignon - all but the red one in the centre are members of the same species, Solanum melongena - the aubergine.


This event has been a great opportunity for me to reflect on just why I love science so much - and why I feel so lucky to be doing it as a daily job - it is a constant adventure, something new around every corner. So come along and let's talk about why its good not to know everything, and why exploring what you don't know is so exciting...oh and of course there will be lots of nightshades - thanks to new colleague Xavier Aubriot, who has just joined the team to study the nightshades of Asia - a big area where we know very little.


Part of the Food station will be a pile of however many different sorts of edible nightshades we have been able to find in the markets of London - we hope lots!! These crops are so much a part of our daily lives we often forget about their wild relatives that harbour important genetic diversity that will be key to improving agriculture in the face of environmental change - including that of our climate - that we know lies ahead. The taxonomic work we do here at the Museum into these species is key to unlocking this treasure trove.... come and hear about our latest ideas and adventures, and share what you think we should be thinking about!


See you there!


Science Uncovered takes place tomorrow, Friday 27 September at the Natural History Museum, London. Join us from 4pm to midnight.


It’s Science Uncovered time again beetlers! We can’t wait to show off our beetles to the thousands of you who will be visiting the Natural History Museum on the night. We'll be revealing specimens from our scientific collections hitherto never seen by the public before! Well, maybe on Monday at the TEDx event at the Royal Albert Hall we did reveal a few treasures, including specimens collected by Sir Joseph Banks and Charles Darwin, as seen below.



Lucia talking to the audience of TEDx ALbertopolis on Monday 23rd September.


lydtedweb.jpgLydia and Beulah spanning 250 years of Museum collections at TEDx Albertopolis.


Last year we met with about 8,500 of YOU – so that’s 8,500 more people that now love beetles, right? So, as converts, you may be coming back to see and learn some more about this most speciose and diverse of organisms or you may be a Science Uncovered virgin and no doubt will be heading straight to the beetles (found in the DCII Cocoon Atrium at the Forests Station).

This year the Coleoptera team will be displaying a variety of specimens, from the weird and wonderful to the beetles we simply cannot live without! Here’s what the team will be up to...

Max Barclay, Collections Manager and TEDx speaker
For Science Uncovered I will be talking about the diversity of beetles in the tropical forests of the world. I have spent almost a year of my life in field camps in various countries and continents, and have generally come back with thousands of specimens, including new species, for the collections of the Natural History Museum. I will explain how we preserve and mount specimens, and how collections we make today differ from those made by previous generations.


Crocker Range, Borneo - it's really hard work in the field...but, co-ordinating one's chair with one's butterfly net adds a certian sophistication.



The Museum encourages its staff to be respectful of and fully integrate with local cultures whilst on fieldwork. Here is Max demonstrating seemless cultural awareness by wearing a Llama print sweater in Peru.


I will also talk about the Cetoniine flower chafers collected and described by Alfred Russell Wallace in the Malay Archipelago, and how we recognise Wallace’s material from other contemporary specimens, as well as the similarities and differences between techniques used and the chafers collected in Borneo by Wallace in the 1860s, Bryant in the 1910s, and expeditions of ourselves and our colleagues in the 2000s.


Lydia Smith and Lucia Chmurova, Specimen Mounters and trainee acrobats
As part of the forest section at Science Uncovered this year we are going to have a table centred on the diversity of life that you may see and hear in tropical forests. Scientists at the Natural History Museum are regularly venturing out to remote locations around the world in search of new specimens for its ever expanding collection.


L&L acrobatic team on an undergraduate trip to Borneo with Plymouth University.


Maliau Basin, Borneo: Lucia injects some colour into an otherwise pedestrian flight interception trap


We will be displaying some of the traps used to catch insects (and most importantly beetles!) along with showing some specimens recently collected. We will also have a sound game where you can try your luck at guessing what noises go with what forest creatures. Good luck and we look forward to seeing you!


Hitoshi Takano, Scientific Associate and Museum Cricketer

Honey badgers, warthogs and Toto - yes, it can only be Africa! This year at Science Uncovered, I will be talking about the wondrous beetles of the African forests and showcasing some of the specimens collected on my recent fieldtrips as well as historic specimens collected on some of the greatest African expeditions led by explorers such as David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley.



Museum cricket team, The Archetypes (yes, really!). Hitoshi walking off, centre field, triumphant! Far right, Tom Simpson, Cricket Captain and one of the excellent team organising Science Uncovered for us this year.


Hanang_HT_Epic_Native_Tanzania_2012 (165).JPG

Mount Hanang, Tanzania: Jungle fever is a common problem amongst NHM staff. Prolonged amounts of time in isolated forest environments can lead to peculiar behaviour and an inability to socialise...but don't worry, he'll be fine on the night...


There are more dung beetle species in Africa than anywhere else in the world - find out why, how I collect them and come and look at some of the new species that have been discovered in the past few years!!


Beulah Garner, Curator and part-time Anneka Rice body double

Not only do I curate adult beetles, I also look after the grubs! Yes, that's right, for the first time ever we will be revealing some of the secrets of the beetle larvae collection. I can't promise it will be pretty but it will be interesting! I'll be talkng about beetle life cycles and the importance of beetles in forest ecosystems. One of the reasons why beetles are amongst the most successful organisms on the planet is because of their ability to inhabit more than one habitat in the course of their life cycles.



Crocker Range, Borneo: fieldwork is often carried out on very tight budgets, food was scarce; ate deep fried Cicada to stay alive...



Nourages Research Station, French Guiana: museum scientists are often deposited in inacessible habitats by request from the Queen; not all breaks for freedom are successful.


On display will be some horrors of the collection and the opportunity to perhaps discuss and sample what it will be like to live in a future where beetle larvae have become a staple food source (or entomophagy if you want to be precise about it)...go on, I dare you!


Chris Lyal, Coleoptera Researcher specialising in Weevils (Curculionidae) and champion games master

With the world in the throes of a biodiversity crisis, and the sixth extinction going on, Nations have agreed a Strategic Plan for Biodiversity. The first target is to increase understanding of biodiversity and steps we can take to conserve it and use it sustainably. That puts the responsibility for increasing this understanding fairly and squarely on people like us. Now, some scientists give lectures, illustrated with complex and rigorously-constructed graphs and diagrams. Others set out physical evidence on tables, expounding with great authority on the details of the natural world. Us – we’re going to play games.



Ecosystem collapse! (partially collapsed).


Thrill to Ecosystem Collapse! and try to predict when the complex structure will fall apart as one after another species is consigned to oblivion. Guess why the brazil nut tree is dependent on the bucket orchid! Try your luck at the Survival? game and see if you make it to species survival or go extinct. Match the threatened species in Domino Effect! Snakes and ladders as you’ve not played it before! For the more intellectual, there’s a trophic level card game (assuming we can understand the rules in time). All of this coupled with the chance to discuss some of the major issues facing the natural world (and us humans) with Museum staff and each other.



Here Chris tells us a joke:

'Why did the entomologists choose the rice weevil over the acorn weevil?'

'It was the lesser of two weevils'

IMG_7063.jpgJoana Cristovao, Chris's student and assistant games mistress!

Big Nature Day at the Museum: Joana with a... what's this? This is no beetle!


One last thought, things can get a bit out of hand late at night in the Museum, it's not just the scientists that like to come out and play once a year, it's the dinosaurs too...


We look forward to meeting you all on the night!


A wonderful and unique map, showing the routes of Wallace and Darwin's journeys and explaining how both men came to discover evolution by natural selection, has just been published by Operation Wallacea in association with the Wallace Memorial Fund. An image of the map is shown below and a larger version is attached as a PDF file (see the link at the bottom of this post).


The map is being distributed free of charge as a high quality A2 size (42 x 59.4 cm; 16.54 x 23.39 inches) poster to all secondary schools in the UK as well as a further 10,000 schools worldwide - a GREAT way of increasing awareness of Wallace.


An Indonesian language version of the poster will probably also be produced for distribution to schools in Indonesia. If you would like a physical copy of the English version of the poster at cost price then please email The price is £1 plus postage and packing.


I will also have a limited number of copies to give away at Science Uncovered on Friday 27 September between 17.30 and 18.30. Please come and find me at the Evolution Station in the Museum's Central Hall. Come early to avoid disappointment!



Wallace & Darwin - Voyages to Evolution Map.jpg

The map comparing Darwin's and Wallace's travels, which led to them independently formulating their theory of evolution by natural selection.


On Friday 27 September the doors of the Museum will remain open after usual closing time and scientists like me will be available to talk about our science, show specimens and chat at Science Uncovered, our EU funded Researchers' Night. Presentations in the Nature Live Studio will also be held and it will be possible to book tours to areas of the Museum not normally open to the public.


This year Tom, Steve and I are on the Climate Change table in Waterhouse Way demonstrating some deep sea cores taken from the Atlantic Shelf SW of Ireland. The cores were drilled through sediments representing the last ice age. Information on the distribution and composition of microfossils, allied with other scientific data, shows six 'Heinrich Events' through the last glaciation. These events are thought to relate to climate related cyclic episodes when icebergs broke off glaciers and traversed the North Atlantic.


Science Uncovered 2012 welcomed an incredible 8,523 visitors over the night who spoke to over 350 scientists. If it proves to be as successful as last year where we presented our microfossil zoo or 2011 when I was able to use a giant plasma screen to show some of my research then it promises to be an amazing night. Do come and join us if you can.



This core from the Atlantic SW of Ireland represents the last major glacial period showing glacial dropstones from colder periods (left) and white sections composed almost entirely of warm water microfossils (right). The green packets (far right) and plastic sleeve maintain an oxygen free environment and prevent mold growth on the core.


Eight days to go and the Museum is starting to buzz with excitement about the biggest event of the year in our busy calendar. Stephen Roberts, lead co-ordinator, gives us a warm welcome and introduction to this year's fabulous Science Uncovered. Put 27 September 2013 in your diaries now.


'Every single day that the Museum is open there are usually scientists and researchers on hand to talk with our visitors and friends. But Science Uncovered will see an amazing 400 scientists joining in a Friday night opening with a difference.



Above: Last year's Oceans Science Station was a jaw-dropping experience for many and beetlemania was rife at the Entomology Station. Both return for this year's Science Uncovered night on 27 September.  (With the beetles at the Forests Station this time.)


'Our event is one of hundreds taking place in more than 35 countries on European Researchers' Night, all made free by the EU, and we are pulling out all the stops for this celebration of science.


As well as meeting the people behind ground-breaking discoveries at this unique event, you'll see masses of amazing specimens from our collections, normally carefully stored behind the scenes. Some live creatures too.



The lower jaw of the first-ever T. rex skull discovered makes a rare appearance at Paul Barrett's Dinosaur Extinction talk at 17.00 (this talk is also BSL-interpreted.)


'Highlights not to be missed include the Dinosaur Extinction studio event revealng extremely rare T. rex remains that have never been on display anywhere in Europe before, and a piece of Mars from our collections that you can explore its insides at the Space Station, just as our researchers do.


These are two among hundreds of other amazing objects that could help answer big questions about life and indeed the solar system.



Cave art and live creatures: among the many tactile experiences coming your way on the night.


'From creating your own cave art to linking-live with NASA scientists, or presenting your own weather forecast, touring our rare books library or trying our science-inspired cocktail - check out what's on at Science Uncovered on or website and download the map showing you where everything is happening.


'Or just come along and see what takes your fancy on the night. Have a think about the questions or puzzles you've always wanted to quizz a scientist about. There are even Science Fess Up tell-all sessions going on in the Central Hall if you're game enough. And you can tweet your photos and comments using #SU2013.



Cool vibes and candid confessions at the Science Bar and Science Fess Up sessions...


'This exclusive interaction with our science and scientists is at the heart of Science Uncovered, but we also want you to have a great evening out in one of the most famous and historic venues in London.


'We've got a choice of 6 bars and the Restaurant open across the Museum's galleries offering delicious food and drink. As activities wind down from 22.00 you can chill out in the Science Bar which stays open with a DJ until midnight.



Nocturnal Creatures at the Natural History Museum in Tring, Hertfordshire will be part of their festivities


'Our sister Museum at Tring in Hertfordshire is also joining in the Science Uncovered festivities and will showcase its latest bird research, with a chance to catch the Nocturnal Creatures exhibition open after hours too (above).


'About 1,000,000 people across Europe are expected to join in on the night. We'd be delighted if for you to come and be one of those million yourself!'


Keep up to date with Science Uncovered on the website

Download the map and activity details

Read blogs by our scientists

Find out about booking for BSL activities


Next Friday, 27th of September, the Museum is once more opening its doors to the great and unwashed (oh sorry that is the staff...) for an afternoon and evening finding out what our scientists get up to behind the scenes. It is Science Uncovered 2013!


I’ll start the day in a relaxed fashion... I will be either hosting two or three Dinosnores shows for the kids of Kensington and Chelsea (up to 500 children...). I will be talking about the most venomous and poisonous insects, spiders and scorpions, and bringing out from the collection specimens to highlight these facts. 

Su-post-1.jpgThe bombardier beetle and its volitile behind...


There are always a lot of questions and faces being pulled, as well as some charging round as very angry bees…


Later on in the day we open our doors fully to the after-hours events and it is here that the chaos ensues. There will be hundreds of scientists of all forms and persuasions touting specimens that have rarely been brought out to the public. And amongst those will be me, with me maggots. 


There are stations dotted around the Museum with different themes e.g. Antarctica, Evolution, Space and the best one, Parasites and Pests. I was offered a station in the woods but decided that it was parasites that I wanted. I spend a lot of time discussing maggots one way or another and generally in a way that causes people to feel squeamish.


Su-post-img2.jpgThe maggots will be out in force at Science Uncovered.


But I thought that it was time to right a wrong. Many of these parasites and pests (the maggots are the dominant - and sometimes only - feeding stage of flies) are actually essential in limiting the effects of pest species as well as maintaining balance within an ecosystem.


So instead of just bringing out my maggots in skin, the jars of myasis flies and so on, I will bring out the adult flies and show everyone common species found in their gardens and talk about what their larvae do. An example is the wonderful Episyrphus balteatus, the marmalade hoverfly which is incredibly common throughout the UK.


Su-post-img3.jpgEpisyrphus balteatus, the marmalade hoverfly


I have just been collecting down in the Isles of Scilly and then I high tailed it up to the Cairngorms in the Scottish Highlands. And the marmalade hoverfly was common everywhere I went. This little beauty can crush pollen as an adult but it is the predatory nature of the larvae that I am interested in. These and many other species in this family feed on aphids! They love them! Can’t get enough of them!


science uncovered blog 4.JPG

Dipterists undercover in Scotland...


Then there are the aphid midges, Aphidoletes aphidimyza, who graze on over 70 species of aphid. The larvae are vicious little predators and can consume over 80 aphids a day!!


Predatory_midge.jpgPredatory aphid midges, Aphidoletes aphidimyza.



And let’s not forget the truly wonderful parasitic flies – the Tachinids, whose larvae live and eat inside many a troublesome insect. Chris Raper, who is one of the leading Tachinid experts, will also be there on the night representing the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity – I suspect that he will have a few drawers of flies too….


But I can’t help myself and so I will bring out some of the parasitoids that we would not necessarily approve of, as they kill solitary bees and other associated kin – the Acroceridae or hunchback flies. These are too cute to be real. And yet, they have the most fascinating larvae. These youngsters have two different body forms – one for high-tailing it into the nest and the second for lazing around, gorging themselves till it’s time for them to pupate!



The hunchback fly - cute are they not?


And have I said that there are bars? Always best to grab a scientist in their favoured environment – flies and wine…a winning combination.


On Friday 27 September the Museum will be holding Science Uncovered, part of the Europe-wide Researchers' Night.


Science Uncovered involves almost all the Museum's staff and volunteers talking to visitors about their job, recent research or their favourite specimens. If that isn't enough to tempt you, how about joining one of the Museum tours, or having a drink with a scientist to talk about their work, and maybe ending the night dancing under Dippy's tail with a DJ?


An evening with the fossil fish


On the night our team will be out in force...


Dr Zerina Johnanson will be talking about her work on fish specimens from the London Clay. These are beautifully three-dimensional specimens, which Zerina and her colleagues have been CT-scanning to reveal their internal structures so come along on to see inside these amazing fossils.


Chie Heath, one of our many fantastic volunteers, will be talking about the TLC she gives specimens (otherwise known as reboxing), which she carries out on the fossil fish collection.



Picture of the Holotype of Percostoma angustum, a bony fish from the London Clay of the Isle of Sheppey.


Do you know who Sir Arthur Smith Woodward is? Mike Smith, another member of our fantastic volunteer team will be talking about our upcoming symposium to celebrate Woodward's contributions to the palaeontology world, specifically involving fossil fish. Woodward joined the Museum when he was only 18 in 1892, and spent his entire career here.


fossil-fish-img2-woodward.jpgA rather serious looking Sir Arthur Smith Woodward.


Myself, Research Associate David Ward and volunteer David Baines will be talking about our experiences of fieldwork - why we went to Woodeaton Quarry to collect samples (see my last blog entry), the processes involved in sieving and acid-preparing specimens, and what we have found so far. Woodeaton has proved to be a great site and so far we have found an early dinosaur tooth, a very early mammal tooth, bits of crocodile and lots of microfossils.



One of our many Woodeaton samples being washed before we check for fossils.


PhD student Joe Keating from the University of Bristol will have several fossil fish specimens on show, and will be talking about the wide diversity of fish and how they evolved over time. You may have seen Joe at a past Nature Live event.



Joe Keating during his last Nature Live talk.


We will also have Dr Martha Richter talking about her work on fossil fish and Research Associate Sally Young talking about fossil eels.


There will be a member of the fossil fish team on a table in Marine Reptile Way (where all the Ichthyosaurs are displayed on the wall). So why not come along and say hi! It is a free event with lots to see and do. If you are unable to attehnd, keep up-to-date by following us on Twitter (@NHM_FossilFish) or follow the hashtag #SU2013 for updates across the whole Museum.


I'm now off to pack for my next fieldwork trip to Morocco! Keep checking back to hear all about it!