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This week we're celebrating our wonderful volunteers - about 450 of them at the Museum - as we join in the nationwide Volunteers' Week activities taking place from 1-7 June. As we usually do each year, we're holding a big party just for them in our Earth galleries and adjoining Deli Cafe, with lots of food, drink and entertainment planned, to say a huge thankyou and also to thank our volunteer managers.

 

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Last year's party celebrations for our volunteers and volunteer managers, held in the Museum's dramatic Earth galleries.

 

Ali Thomas, our Volunteers Project Manager, reminds us:

 

'Our brilliant volunteers are among the many treasures we hold at the Museum. They are not just a fluffy aside to what we do but are so integral to our work behind the scenes and to our future.

 

'Thank you to all our volunteers, who despite mostly being hidden away from public view, take part with such vibrancy, enthusiasm and dedication. This week's celebrations are in your honour.'

 

If you've visited the outdoor butterfly house this spring, you will have encountered several of the 45-strong group of friendly, informed volunteer staff who help guide the young and old alike through the colourful high-fliers of the Sensational Butterflies exhibition. They do such an amazing job, they've already received 100s of enthusiastic compliments (on feedback forms) since the exhibition opened in April.

butterfly-volunteers-atlas-moth.jpgOne of our much-appreciated Sensational Butterflies volunteers, Rosemary, making friends with a giant atlas moth in the butterfly house.

 

In the public galleries, our Learning volunteers continue to engage with visitors daily, and over the last 12 months have interacted with 119,825 people. Our Learning volunteer programme is now in its 9th successful year and you will see and talk with them throughout the Museum.

 

You can look in on another group of volunteers at work every Thursday in the Darwin Centre Cocoon's Specimen Prepartion Area. These volunteers are currently helping on the V Factor scientific project to collate and digitise our diatom collection. There is a new display of Indonesian coral fossils on show in the Museum's Dinosaur Way, which puts the spotlight on the previous V Factor project and volunteer input.

 

'We so enjoyed V Factor and are so thankful to the Museum for setting up this initiative and making it availalbe to young people such as Hannah, who has a very different style and needs more support than the average young person,' enthused one of the previous participant's mums.

 

fossil-coral-pics.jpgIndonesian coral fossils which V Factor volunteers helped to prepare for research. Some are on show in the Museum's Dinosaur Way.

 

We have 12 Museum volunteers nominated for the Kensington and Chelsea Volunteer Awards this year, so fingers crossed. We will report back on the Volunteers' Week celebrations and activities in our next volunteers' newsletter.

museum-volunteers-kc-awards.jpgMuseum volunteers with their awards at last year's Kensington and Chelsea Volunteer Awards ceremony.

 

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NaturalHistoryMuseum_058502_Corals_fish-250.jpgCoral reefs are one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. They are built by corals, bryozoans, sponges, crustaceans and molluscs and also provide a home to larger animals. So you can only imagine the variety of fossils we will have on display at Science Uncovered this Friday from our researchers' recent collecting spree in Indonesia.

 


Our Science Station will be located in an alcove of Central Hall (orange no. 7 on the map [PDF]) and will showcase the work of 11 early stage researchers as they collaborate on the Throughflow Project. Their aim is to find out why the coral reefs in South East Asia are the most diverse in the world and how corals have responded to climate change.We have an array of fossil corals as well as a fossil giant clam we are preparing especially for the event, and much more.

 

Like many of the Science Stations at the event you will have the chance to meet the Museum scientists who conduct research on and are responsible for the care of these amazing specimens. We can answer your questions (for example, some of you may be wondering what a bryozoan is from my earlier sentence) and you’ll also be able to play our game "Coral Match," be the first to identify a sample of fossil corals, or become a "Foram Hunter" and use a microscope to find the single celled organisms we use to date our fossil samples. So come along and get involved!

 

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What would a Giant Clam like this one look like after it became fossilised around 25 million years ago?
© Terry Dormer / The Natural History Museum, London

 

 

What is the Throughflow Project?

 

The Throughflow Project is named after the only marine current that connects the Pacific and the Indian oceans, the Indonesian Throughflow. Scientific evidence shows a sudden increase in coral diversity around 25 million years ago during the Miocene. It is estimated that this is also a time when most modern taxa evolved. We already know that this was as a time of tectonic activity in the area as well as global climate change but what we want to determine is the effect this had on the coral reefs at the time.

 

The research groups’ webpage, www.ipaeg.org, has more information about the science of the project and the blogs from the Throughflow scientists are well worth a read.

 

 

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Our (lucky) researchers during the fieldtrip to Indonesia

 

Funded by the Marie Curie Initial Training Network and the FP7 People Programme, the project involves collaborations between seven European organisations as well as partners from Indonesia. At the Natural History Museum the Marie Curie Fellows are Emanuela Di Martino and Nadia Santodomingo who work on Bryozoans and Corals respectively. Meanwhile I’m joining them in the process of washing and then curating three tons of fossil coral samples with another five tons being shipped form Indonesia as we speak. Just to put that into perspective the average weight of an African elephant is around 4.6 tons. These fossil corals will form an important part of our collections for future research, especially in regard to climate change studies.

 

So please come and visit us at Science Uncovered.
See you there

 

Lyndsey Douglas

Indian and Indo-Pacific Corals Project Officer

 

About Science Uncovered 2011:

 

Science Uncovered is a free event on Friday 23 September 2011 at the Natural History Museum.  All events and tours at Science Uncovered will be free but, due to time and space constraints, some will require you to book free tickets in advance.

To find out more visit Science Uncovered on the Museum’s website.

 

The Natural History Museum at Tring, Hertfordshire, will also be holding its own Science Uncovered event. Find out more about Science Uncovered in Tring.

 

Online community

 

To get involved before the night, visit our Science Uncovered online community where you can get previews of what’s happening and join in with discussions and debates.

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Following the amazing success of last year's event, we're gearing up for our second Science Uncovered festival on Friday 23 September.

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The Museum's Science Uncovered event celebrates European Researchers' Night in London, and we join over 300 other cities across Europe in our festivities.

 

This year looks set to be on a much grander and more impressive scale than in 2010. We're opening a lot more of the Museum on the night. The dazzling array of shows, discussion opportunities, behind-the-scenes tours and fun activities such as Crime Scene Live and Science Fight Club, will reveal just how varied and cutting-edge our scientific research is here.

 

To avoid disappointment through some activities being over-subscribed on the night, you can pre-book tickets in advance. The evening is free to attend and all the activiities are free. Even if you don't pre-book, there are lots of things to drop-in on and enjoy during the evening and some family activities that start in the late afternoon.

 

I asked Stephen Roberts, the Museum's Nature Live team manager, who's masterminding this science extravaganza to tell us more:

 

'This year's Science Uncovered is a mind-boggling realisation! There are hundreds of different opportunities for visitors to spend time with some of the world's greatest scientists who are coming out, for one night only, in the stunning setting of the Museum at night, and over a drink too.

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A star attraction at the Zoology Science Station in Fossil Way is sure to be the Tasmanian tiger cub specimen held in our collections. The above is a mounted adult specimen of the now extinct Tasmanian tiger.

'Two hundred of our own scientists are joined by over 100 other researchers from around London whose expertise ranges from mammoths to Mars, phytoplankton to philosophy and surgery to spiders. There is, quite literally, something for everybody.

 

'As well as the amazing objects coming out of the collections for the first time, like the now extinct Tasmanian tiger (pictured above) an unprecedented 92 tours will take visitors to some of our favourite places and spaces in and around the Museum.

 

'The word unmissable is bandied about in the media, but if ever there were a time to use it for something happening at the Museum, this is it!'

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Meteorites like Tamdakht above, which fell in Morocco 2008, are helping our scientists reveal the secrets of our solar system. The meteorite is on show at Science Uncovered's Space Station in the Museum's Red Zone.

Dr Michael Dixon, Director of the Natural History Museum says: 'We’re looking forward to welcoming even more people to this year’s event [about 7,000 visitors came in 2010], and inspiring them to take a fresh look at a subject they thought they already knew.'

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So with five bars open and over 150 activites to join, it should be a great night out.

 

Have a look at our website to find out what's on. And if you're nearer Hertfordshire than London, our Tring Museum is also joining us on the night with its own celebrations.

 

See what's on at Science Uncovered at the Natual History Museum, London

 

Find out what's on at Science Uncovered at the Tring Museum

 

Book online for Science Uncovered ticketed events

 

You can also join our Science Uncovered community online now to see what scientists are preparing to discuss on the night and for more news and views.

 

Right: One of the Museum tours at Science Uncovered takes visitors into our Conservation Unit, pictured here, where you'll see how we mend everything from broken bones to casts and books.

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Our After Hours: Science Uncovered festival is about to start in a few hours. Scientists are gathering their special specimens together in preparation for their shifts in the Central Hall's science stations and adjoining galleries.

 

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We've had some really fabulous coverage this morning and over the last few days. Tonight's event was even on the BBC homepage this morning! Have a look at some of the recent media online to catch a glimpse of the amazing adventures coming your way tonight and see why everyone's raving about it.

 

BBC Today programme online - Night in the museum in pictures


BBC News online - Inside UK forensic insects team

 

BBC Online video - How flies help homicide detectives

 

BBC Today programme - Tom Fielden's blog

 

To recap on the main attractions, we have 3 bars open including The Science Bar and Hendrick's Bar of Curious Concoctions, more than 50 scientists hosting different activities, 100s of star specimens, 26 exclusive Museum tours, 9 science stations, and the Natural History Roadshow. And Cocoon will be open.

 

Especially for families, at the start of the festival this afternoon, we have the Animal Vision show and pond-dipping in the Wildlife Garden. Have a look at the full list of What's on at Science Uncovered.

 

Remember you can download the Science Uncovered map and leaflet to find out where things are.

 

ah-science-zoom.jpgThe spirit of the Science Uncovered night continues online Here you can keep up to date with discussions, blogs, post pics and follow-up on the event, even if you didn't make it.

 

Science Uncovered is part of European Researchers' Night 2010.

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ah-science-zoom.jpgTonight's the big night. After Hours: Science Uncovered is about to happen.


‘Did you know you have sent me 185 emails in the last two days?’ asked Nigel Mullins, my invaluable operations manager yesterday as we went on our final operational walk through of the event. I’m not surprised to hear that as this has been an insanely busy week for those of us organising this huge public event. Some of us have given up on clean laundry, I’ve been living on biscuits for the past 2 days, and yesterday I didn't even managed a quick Hob Nob!

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This evening the Central Hall should be packed with visitors enjoying the science stations on either side and on their way to The Science Bar and other attractions at Science Uncovered

We’ve had endless operational meetings; sat in the Central Hall Café, thrashing out the best placings of the drinks dispensaries for the Science Bar and how best to get people in and out without tangling them up like bindweed. We held briefings and walkthroughs, sorted out how we are going to feed the 120+ staff working on the night (sandwiches and salads); and briefed our event security.

 

There have been endless discussions with our contractors, Event Concept, who are doing the ‘rigging’ of power cables from our Central Hall balconies to power up the Science Stations; and Blitz Communications who are putting together the laptops and monitors and plasmas and microscopes with and without cameras for the Science Stations so that our visitors can get really up close and personal with our science.

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Nigel has had a nightmare trying to track down microscopes, and we now know that compound microscopes can’t be had for love nor money in the whole of London. We've sorted out wifi access for our scientists, finalised all the signage, decided where exactly all the tours will be departing from; and not seen much of our homes for about two weeks!

 

I've finally completed the Operations Plan, which nearly killed me; refereed an argument between Event Concept and our signmakers over who is going to be rigging the Science Station signage tonight; sorted out our volunteers with their duties on the welcome desk and tour booking points; had complicated discussions about whether when you turn the lights off in Dinosaurs (for the torchlight tours), the animatronic dinosaurs stop working; written up an equipment spreadsheet for all our technical requirements and a furniture spreadsheet showing where exactly all the 6-foot tables (all 31 of them), the 3-foot tables and the chairs that we will be using for our Science Stations have to go.

 

I've pondered ridiculously long over the colour that the front of the Museum will be lit up tonight (light blood orange) and the colour of the tablecloths for the night (purple and dark lilac); written up the briefings for Front of House staff which were delivered this morning at the crack of 9.30am, a time I certainly did not make.

 

But now we are pretty much set to go, and as the event goes ‘live’ in a few hours, that is probably just as well.

 

We hope that you enjoy everything that After Hours: Science Uncovered has to offer. Our scientists are very much looking forward to the event, and so are we. It should be a great night out.

 

And remember you can follow all the conservations from the night, catch up on blogs, media coverage, and more online in our Science Uncovered community

 

Science Uncovered is part of the Europe-wide European Researchers' Night 2010.

 

Over and out

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Our winter After Hours begin on 29 October, but first, on Friday 24 September we are throwing open our doors until 22.00 for After Hours: Science Uncovered.

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Don't miss our biggest-ever after hours event on Friday 24 September as we join a Europe-wide festival

All across Europe, in over 200 cities, final preparations to kindred events that take place on that night are being made and harrowed-looking event managers (if we are anything to go by) will be crossing their fingers that all will go well.


Stephen Roberts, our Nature Live Manager, who with his colleague Ivvet Modinou, has worked extremely hard on the event (along with the rest of the project team), and was responsible for bringing it to the Museum in the first place, says that London needs an event like this and the Museum must be the best place for it.

 

‘Over 4 million people come to the Museum every year and we have over 300 science staff but, until the opening of the Darwin Centre last year, relatively few of them get to see our scientists, let alone chat.

 

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'After Hours: Science Uncovered changes the balance when an astonishing 60 of our own scientists as well as others from across London have pulled out all the stops to join in a European festival of science called Researchers' Night. We have watched with interest as this initiative, now involving over  500,000 members of the public in Europe, has grown and this year we have thrown ourselves in lock, stock and barrel.'

 

At our event there are over 50 different activities going on, ranging from 30 minute tours and Nature Live events in the Attenborough Studio to our Natural History Roadshow and science stations covering an astounding breadth of our science and collections that you can pop by for a few moments. In The Science Bar you can discuss the hot science of the day, from climate change to life on Mars and everything inbetween or, if you like, just kick back and enjoy a drink and soak up the atmosphere.’

 

Jon Ablett, pictured left, is one of the several zoologists you can meet on the night. He'll be introducing us to The Giant Squid in his Nature Live talk.

 

You can also enjoy a glass of champagne or wine in our Red Bar in Fossil Way, and if you have an interesting specimen, or a story related to the natural world, you can go along to the Hendrick's Bar of Curious Concoctions in the Darwin Centre, and get a free gin and tonic!

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I also wanted to get a quote from my boss, the Director of Public Engagement, Sharon Ament, about what After Hours: Science Uncovered means to her. As things have been so madly busy here with the event, I ended up having to trail her with a notebook down in the lift as she left for the day. Here's what she said:

 

‘It’s fun, it’s insightful, it’s never been done before. Science is international, and this shows the effort that goes into high quality science in the European Union. After Hours: Science Uncovered will be exciting for everyone taking part in it, our scientists and our visitors. There is nothing like getting up close with science, and this is a brilliant opportunity to do just that.  It is great that we are participating in a Europe-wide event.  Imagine how across Europe, scientists will be engaging with over half a million people on the same night – it has been a fantastic opportunity for us to take part in this’.


It really has been a fantastic opportunity working on this After Hours, and we are looking forward to a feast of science and great craic with our visitors, as the Irish say.


I went to a seminar today when one of our research scientists, Dr Greg Edgecombe, talked with us about his field work in Greenland on Micrognathozoa. I am no scientist, and this was an area of science utterly unknown to me. But it was truly fascinating to learn something perfectly new – and I hope that those of you who come to After Hours: Science Uncovered, will experience something similar.

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Join our NaturePlus Science Uncovered community to follow more of the hot science discussions and read the latest blogs.

 

Find out more about the night's activities and scientists in our What's on blog

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We've had BBC TV crews here for over a year now, filming behind the scenes and interviewing our scientists and curators. Finally, the wonderful Museum of Life series will start next week on Thursday 18 March at 8pm on BBC Two.

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Museum of Life presenters in the Museum's Central Hall, left to right: Kate Bellingham, Chris van Tulleken, Jimmy Doherty, Mark Carwardine and Liz Bonnin

The BBC's website describes the Museum of Life documentary as 'a story of mysteries, dinosaurs, diamonds and audacious attempts to hold back extinction'. Viewers will get a real insight into some of the work our scientists do at this much-loved institution, as well as hear the stories of our most amazing natural history specimens.

 

Jimmy Doherty, from BBC's Jimmy's Farm, hosts the new series. In his youth, Jimmy was a volunteer here at the Museum and he is obviously thrilled to be involved in it. On Saturday Kitchen last weekend, he revealed what 'a corker' the new series is going to be and described it as 'full of jaw-dropping moments'.

 

We've just posted a video trailer on the Museum of Life website where you'll find lots more information about the series.

 

After each episode we'll also be running an online discussion forum here on NaturePlus for viewers to post questions to some of the Museum scientists featured in each episode. So watch this space for details.

 

Also during each episode we will be tweeting and to get the latest information live, make sure you are following us on Twitter at Natural History Museum on twitter.

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As an aside, a great news story has just come out today about how the filming of the Museum of Life series helped to solve the 120-year-old mystery of a gunned-down African goliath beetle specimen in our collection...

 

Read the news article about Who shot Goliath? Natural history mysteries revealed in new TV series.

 

Click to enlarge this x-ray image of the bird-sized goliath beetle, Goliathus goliatus, showing shotgun wounds.