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Bye-bye butterflies

Posted by Rose Sep 24, 2009

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'We're on the move to Longleat'

 

This Sunday, 27 September, I will be very sad to see our beautiful butterflies start to flutter away from the Museum's front lawn as the Buttefly Jungle summer exhibition closes finally. It has been a great success this year many 1000s of visitors have enjoyed it. You've got three days left to get there! But if you miss it, you can always browse our website to remind yourselves of the beauty and variety of butterflies and drama of life in the jungle.

 

I popped in to the exhibition this week to say goodbye and to find out what will happen to the butterflies themselves and other creatures after the closure.

 

It looks like there will be about 800 to 900 live butterflies that need to be captured from the butterfly house. These will go to Longleat Safari Park. The safari park bought last year's butterfly house and have already claimed this year's collection. Pupae will go to The Magic of Life Butterfly House in Aberystwyth.

 

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Charlie on his favourite branch

 

Charlie, our popular iguana who starred in our earlier Darwin exhibition, is going to a new home in a permanent reptile display in Dunstable, so Charlie fans make sure you say your goodbyes at the Museum before Sunday. And have you ever wondered if Charlie is actually glued to the branch he always seems to sit on in his island display? I discovered he does move from the bottom upwards during the day, following the light. But you have to spend the whole day watching to glimpse him in full action.

 

Sumo, the 18-year--old Argentine horned frog, croaks off to Stapeley Water Gardens in Crewe. Other jungle creatures will return to Amey Zoo (a small exotic pets zoo in Hertfordshire) where they were originally loaned from, and the stick insects re-unite with their owner and Museum insect expert, Simon Dickson. And some of the slow-growing plants will be wintered for future events.


Let's hope we have another butterfly exhibition next year and lots of this year's stars join us again.

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Name a new species competition

Posted by Rose Sep 16, 2009
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The unnamed parasitic wasp is actually more elegant than its descriptive name suggests

 

To mark the opening of the new Darwin Centre, we have teamed up with the Times to offer people the chance to name a new species of parasitic wasp. The Ecuadorian wasp is 6cm long, ignoring the antennae (which is the way our scientists measure insect body length), and the specimens are in the Darwin Centre collections.


Find out more and how to enter the 'name the species of new wasp' competition online. The closing date for entries is 18 October 2009.

 

The genus name is not up for grabs as we know the wasp belongs to the genus Umanella (there was one previous species described from Costa Rica,  Umanella caerulea). Its just the species name that is available.


I don't think I can enter the compeition as it is not open to the staff at the Natural History Museum or the Times (wouldn't be fair to have any of our experts involved, I guess). But if I could, my suggestion would be... Umanella darwincentri.

 

Before you choose your species name, why not learn a bit about how our Museum experts go about naming species? For non-science bods, taxonomy is the scientific name for identifying and classifiying organisms. A lot of our Museum scientists spend time on taxonomic research.


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Museum spider expert, Jan Beccaloni, hands over Sarah to a slightly cautious Prince William

 

We've had amazing national and international coverage of the Darwin Centre's royal opening in the press and media, with more Darwin Centre features to come over the next few weeks. It was Prince William’s encounter with a Mexican red-knee tarantula called Sarah, in the centre's new Attenborough Studio, which seemed most popular in the headlines.

 

Here are some of my favourites so far:

 

ITV 10 O’Clock News

BBC News Online

BBC News Online video

The Daily Telegraph

US Post Today

Life Magazine online


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A beautiful butterfly dancer floats above the VIP guests during the celebrations

Some of us stayed in the office late on the royal opening night to get up-to-the-minute video footage of the royal celebrations and speeches on the website. And I put together a royal event highlights slideshow showing a few of the fantastic photos taken at the event.


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A day to remember

Posted by Rose Sep 15, 2009

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Prince William greets visitors in the Museum's Central Hall on his way to open the Darwin Centre

Rehearsals started early for those involved in yesterday's royal opening event for the Darwin Centre. In the cocoon building’s grand hallway, I managed to catch a run-through of the spectacular butterfly acrobatic dance scheduled for later on in the day, watch the elegant drinks tables receive their finishing touches and then collide with very large security policemen on my way back to the office. I was lucky to get a glimpse, as the event itself was only open to VIP guests and those involved in the celebrations. Later I put together this royal event highlights slideshow.

 

Back in the main Museum, as the time of arrival of His Royal Highness Prince William of Wales at the Museum approached - he was expected at 14.30 – crowds gathered in the Central Hall to greet him on his way into the Darwin Centre down Dinosaur Way. For once, our famous Diplodocus dinosaur skeleton, usually the centrepiece of the Central Hall, was upstaged. As the Prince made his way through the Central Hall, onlookers waved flags adorned with red butterflies and many right at the front got personal handshakes. Prince William also acknowledged all the visitors and Museum staff who filled the Central Hall's grand staircase and overlooking gallery walkways.

 

The main celebrations kicked off at around 14.45 in the Darwin Centre as the incredible butterfly dance commenced to entertain the guests. While the Prince enjoyed the Cocoon tour, meeting scientists and exploring exhibits, guests revelled in a fantastic show above their heads in the grand entrance hall. A striking caterpillar dancer climbed up to a giant white flower suspended from the Darwin Centre ceiling, later to emerge as a gorgeous red-and-white butterfly. After spreading its wings, the male butterfly flew across the crowd and joined a female butterfly dancer in a dramatic aerial dance together.

 

Prince William was also taken on a Cocoon tour and shown the Attenborough Studio venue where he was introduced to Sarah, a huge tarantula. Not sure how much he enjoyed this bit! He was also filmed talking to our Interactive Media manager, Melissa Shaw, in front of the Centre’s amazing Climate Change Wall with one of the children from Royal Marsden hospital.

 

Then it was time for the speeches. Sir David Attenborough joined Prince William and Museum director Mike Dixon in praise of the new Darwin Centre and its vital importance today. Amidst a shower of red butterfly confetti from the dizzy heights of the cocoon building, Prince William declared the Darwin Centre officially open. Guests stayed on till after 19.00 in the evening to continue the celebrations.You can watch video clips of the speeches and royal visit on our website.

 

“It was a fantastic day,” said Serena Palmer, our Front of House Visitor Services manager. “Everything went like clockwork. No disasters. And the feedback from guests was absolutely brilliant!”

 

Today, there’s been a steady flow of eager visitors enjoying the newly-opened Darwin Centre and momentarily we all breathe a sigh of relief it is finally now open to the public…

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Atmospheric wall projection on the Cocoon tour

Yesterday, Tuesday 8 September, was the big preview of the new Darwin Centre to the press and media. Throughout the day journalists and film crews were shown around the whole Darwin Centre and Cocoon experience for the first time. It was a busy day and we are already getting a fabulous response in the papers, magazines and on TV. Here's some of the brilliant coverage so far, following yesterday's media event:

 

BBC  One O’clock News

BBC News online Day in pictures

Daily  Mail Online

Daily  Mirror

Daily  Telegraph

Guardian Online

Times  Online

New  Scientist online

 

Among the press and media favourites were the cocoon itself – the breathtaking building really is the star of the show – and on the Cocoon tour, both the planning an expedition and the mosquito challenge interactive games attracted lots of attention.

 

Press visitors had the added bonus of getting a free NaturePlus card that uses barcode technology to save exhibit highlights to enjoy online and enjoyed the unique chance to come face-to-face with scientists at work preparing specimens and ask them questions. Down on the centre’s ground floor, the spectacular interactive Climate Change Wall added another wow factor. The wall's images and films featured a lot in last night’s ITV 10 o’clock news special on the Darwin Centre.


Take a look at the new and updated wide-look Visiting the Darwin Centre website for a sense of what the fuss is all about. It features some of the latest photos taken by our Museum photographers at our special preview events and reveals much more about the centre's main attractions for visitors. I’ve worked day and night recently (in fact the security staff had to throw me out over the weekend!) to get these web pages ready in time for yesterday’s media launch.


There’ll be more online updates to come, so keep re-visiting the Darwin Centre website. Next stop, Monday 14 September when Prince William and Sir  David Attenborough arrive for the VIP launch, the day before public opening on 15 September…