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192 Posts authored by: Rose
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The salsify canopy. Ana Retamero's close-up of salsify seed-heads won the In Praise of Plants category in 2009.

There are 2 weeks left for photographers to enter the world's most prestigious wildlife photography competition, as the closing date is Monday 8 March 2010, 9.00am GMT. You can enter the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition online.

 

The competition attracts more and more worldwide interest and submissions. There were over 43,000 entries for the 2009 competition. Compare this to the very first 1964 competition with its 600 entries and 3 categories, and you'll realise just how phenomenal it's become.

 

The competition now has 18 categories. For photographers still wanting to enter, it's worth noting there is the new Wildlife Photojournalist of the Year award this year, which allows you to enter a sequence of pictures that tells a memorable story.

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There may also be less competition for categories like Urban Wildlife, which can include wild plants or animals in an urban or suburban environment, or In Praise of Plants, which can feature wild flowering and non-flowering plants or fungi. One of the most magical photographs from 2009 is the In Praise of Plants category winner. The salsify canopy, shown above, is an exquisite close-up image of a meadow of salsify seed-heads and a real stunner in the current exhibition. Read the news story about the last call for best wildlife photos 2010 and find out more about the competition.

Last chance to visit the 2009 exhibition

You've got until 11 April to visit the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009 exhibition in the Museum's Waterhouse Gallery. And one more chance to see the exhibition at our After Hours night on Friday 26 March. Last month's late-night exhibition, pictured above, was very popular, so make sure you book your tickets in advance. Click to enlarge image.

 

 


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Museum treasures will be revealed on the exclusive new Night Safari tour

When we announced the first Dino Snores sleepover event in January this year, many adults were understandably miffed that the only way you could join in was if you accompanied a group of children. (After all, it is a children’s event.)

 

But now there’s something new and exotic for adults and it’s called Night Safari. The first safari will take place on 8 March. Expect all the adventure and atmosphere of a real wildlife safari, but here in the comfort and splendour of our iconic Central Hall, not to mention a bar.

 

Night safaris won’t be all-nighters, they’ll start around 6.30pm and end at 10.30pm, and they promise some rare treats.

 

On arrival at the Museum, there will be an introductory talk and safari visitors can enjoy the bar before the tours start (drinks can’t be taken on the tours for obvious reasons). Groups of 25 visitors will then join our Night Safari guides for their tours around 7ish, starting at different points in Central Hall.

 

Tour groups will explore both the Central Hall ground floor, featuring a stop at Dippy, our famous Diplodocus skeleton (below), and the upper galleries, including Minerals, the Vault and the giant sequoia tree trunk at the very top of the balconies.

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On the tour, visitors will meet some of our leading scientists and researchers who’ll reveal and discuss their favourite, treasured specimens. Some of these ‘top five’ specimens are usually kept in our collections behind the scenes, so this is a really unique opportunity to get close to something extraordinary, with the expert on it at hand.

 

I’m told that at the March safari, one of the scientists' chosen specimens will be an awesome set of great white shark jaws and skin - presented by our well-known and respected fish curator, Ollie Crimmen.

 

To ease off the safari heat, there’s a 30-minute break in the middle of the tour. Tours finish around 9.45pm, so enough time for a last drink and chat before heading out from the Central Hall wildlife at 10.30, when the doors close.

 

If our Night Safaris are anything like the Dino Snores events, they are likely to sell out quickly, so book tickets online early. Night Safaris are planned for every 2 months on a Monday night and the next ones are confirmed for 10 May and 12 July.

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Let's stay together

Lovers’ day is reputedly named after one or more of the early Christian martyrs named Valentine – pretty apt, as we are all martyrs to the unstoppable Valentine’s Day marketing machine nowadays. But hey, let’s not get too cynical, it’s a day for remembering love, passion and friendship, which can’t be bad.

 

Times like these, it’s good to look to a different source for inspiration, and what better than the natural world to get you in the mood for love…

 

Cut to the chase. How do you show you’re attracted to someone? Play hard to get, nuzzle close, strut your best dance moves, or stick like glue? And what’s the best way to your heart? Tasty meal, gorgeous gift, or undivided attention?

 

Maybe the animals and our scientists can show us a thing or two at the Love in the Natural World event here at the Museum on Sunday. It promises to be a really enjoyable blind date experiment with nature. Come along to the Attenborough Studio and join us, it’s free. (There’s a late morning and early afternoon session.)

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While you’re here at the Museum, have a peek around the dazzling Vault gallery and see which jewels can really impress.

 

On the theme of natural love and animal attraction, here are a few things to ponder:

  • apparently some of the most faithful animals are voles and penguins
  • the male deep-sea angler fish gets so attached to his female mate, his mouth literally fuses with her skin and their bloodstreams merge
  • how romantic snowdrops can be - for places to see them, try BBC Countryfile's 5 best snowdrop gardens or Valentine's Day Snowdrop Walk at Keswick
  • bonobos are the only non-human animal to indulge in pretty much every kind of sexual behaviour and orientation - l'll leave this to your imagination.

 

Easy Tiger

 

It’s also Chinese New Year on Sunday and the start of the Year of the Tiger. That Valentine's Day and Chinese New Year coincide is rare, and bodes well. It means the entire year is going to be filled with passion and great love.

 

tigers-mating.jpgThis is significant because the most critically endangered of all our tigers is the South Chinese (Amoy) tiger. There could be fewer than 30 left in the wild... The United Nations has put the tiger at the top of its list of 'most important’ endangered animals to be saved in 2010.


There was a recent heartening news story from the Telegraph about a very romantic couple of these tigers breeding on a South African reserve, called Tigerwoods and Madonna (pictured here in a loved-up state). The aim is to relocate them in China at some point. Tigerwoods has fathered 7 cubs so far. Long may you mate! Reportedly tigers only pair for a few days during mating, while the female is fertile. But in that time, if the male is unchallenged, they can mate up to 100 times. Blimey.

 

The main Chinese New Year celebrations in London’s Trafalgar Square are on 21 February, but there will be festivities starting this Sunday in Chinatown. Enjoy.

 

 

Picture: 'Tigerwoods mounting Madonna' © Save China's Tigers, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike

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Evolve magazine's latest issue features Douglas Palmer's new illustrated guide to evolution. © Peter Barrett

This month the second issue of Evolve, the Museum’s new full-colour magazine, hits the shelves. It’s now on sale (£3.50) in the Museum shop and online, where you can also subscribe to it annually.

 

old-lady-moth_400.jpgThe first issue of Evolve came out in October 2009 when it evolved from Nature First, the Museum’s Members-only magazine, and doubled its size to 72 pages. The extended format allows scope for bigger, more wide-ranging features, and more regulars updates about Museum events and our Wildlife Garden, science in the field, and the Forgotten Naturalists series. It's also packed with colour photos (like the one opposite of an old lady moth from our gardens outside).

 

Museum Members still receive Evolve free as part of their benefits package.

 

So how’s the new magazine doing?

 

I spoke to Helen Sturge, Evolve’s senior editor, to find out what feedback she’s had. The response has been amazingly enthusiastic, says Helen:

 

'It’s fast becoming a hit. I received a really positive welcome for Evolve’s first issue, with sales well above our projected figures. Letters and comments flooded in.

 

evolve2-cover-400.jpg‘Readers said they really enjoyed the amazing photography and variety of content. In particular, Philip Hoare’s feature on the whales of London received much praise, as did the article we ran on how research into the brain size of dwarfed mammals is helping us to understand more about a recent species of human discovered in 2003.

 

‘We also had letters from editors of other magazines congratulating us on our "wonderfully strong design" and "first-rate quality".'

 

Each issue takes around 4 months from commissioning articles to final design. Evolve is actually designed in-house by Steve Long in the Museum’s Design Studio (who many Museum staff will know).

 

Issue 2 (right) highlights include a kick-off to the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity with a feature about the rich tapestry of life around us, why it is so important and ways to join in. And an exclusive piece from the science writer and author of Evolution, Douglas Palmer, about how illustrating the fossil past helps us picture the history of life. It features wonderful images from the book's artist, Peter Barrett.

 

‘I would also recommend author Karolyn Shindler’s article as she follows in the footsteps of pioneering fossil-hunter Dorothea Bate, journeying to Majorca and the final resting place of a mouse-like goat, Myotragus; and don’t miss naturalist and presenter Nick Baker telling us why he is inspired by

the Natural History Museum,’ says Helen.

 

weevil-ring-400.jpgOne of my favourite pieces in the new issue is the article about 'Birds and people' by natural history writer and ornithologist, Jonathan Elphick. It’s a fascinating cultural look at the many ways birds affect and enrich our lives and art, with some extraordinary photos. For bird lovers, there’s a Birds and people project you can get involved in. In another excellent piece, I discovered how wonderful weevils could be (200 years ago someone even set one in a gold ring) and how to spot these beaky beetles.

 

Get hold of a copy of the new Evolve if you haven’t yet.

 

Helen and her team also put together our quarterly children’s magazine, Second Nature for Members.

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Dinosaurs by torch light

It was bound to be a success of course. Torch-lit tour of the Dinosaurs gallery, sleeping in Central Hall next to Dippy (our famous diplodocus skeleton), a bugs’ talk and the new Sony PlayStation game to try out. A child’s dream, come true.

 

The first Dino Snores in association with Sony PlayStation was a sell-out, pretty much as soon as it was announced before Christmas, and attracted lots of media attention. On Saturday 16 January, about 200 over-excited kids descended on the Museum to experience a real Night at the Museum, and find out exactly what goes on when the dinosaurs should be getting their shut-eye.

 

dino-snores-boy-costume.jpgLIke the boy pictured left, who really got into the dino spirit, Mack Pegram, aged 9, was one of the lucky children there, he loved it:

 

"It was very very very very very very very very fun! And brilliant because there were lots of fun activities to do and I liked sleeping in the Central Hall because you can look up and see the diplodocus. My favourite activity was the Bugs Bite Back because they talked about loads of cool bugs that were poisonous and venomous. I definitely would like to go again."

 

And did Dippy, the 26-metre-long diplodocus skeleton, twitch at all as the children slept alongside, I wondered?

 

Event organiser, Terry Lester, filled me in on the spooky stuff: "Three of us, Matt, Beth and me stayed awake the whole night and kept an eye on Central Hall while everyone was sleeping. At around 3.30am I was looking towards Dinosaur Way and saw a shadowy figure run from the Dinosaur gallery entrance across into Human Biology. We knew it wasn’t anyone from Central Hall, so Matt and I grabbed our torches and in our socks (shoes were removed beforehand so as not to wake the sleeping hoards) and dashed to investigate. Slightly spooked we searched the darkened galleries, but to no avail. Not a soul to be seen (well, not a living one anyhow). We checked with the Control Room and as agreed, they had not been patrolling the ground floor of the Waterhouse building. Figment of a sleep-deprived mind or something more other-worldly?"

 

Ooooh, weird...

 

The whole occasion was filled with memorable highlights, as Terry describes:


dino-snores-central-hall.jpg"Seeing the kids entering the museum with such evident excitement (parents sporting resigned looks on their faces), hearing the cheers during the welcome talk, the friendly rivalry between the groups, the screams (of excitement, not terror) from the Dinosaur Gallery during the torch lit trails and the clapping as the lights went out in Central Hall at bedtime were just a few of them.

 

"Erica McAlister and TV host Nick Baker, who did a talk about bugs - had never met before doing their show, Revenge of the Mini Beasts, but you’d never have thought it seeing them in action, they looked like they’d been working together for years. Couldn’t quite see which one was the side-kick, but I think Erica came off marginally as the one in charge."

 

"The kids' favourites were the stories about the aggressiveness of killer bees, scorpions and caterpillars," recalls Erica, "specimens of which Nick happened to have hidden in his sleeping bag!"

 

The next Dino Snores is on 13 February and there are more to come. Adults, don't despair, you can get in free accompanied by 5-6 children, but stay close, because dinsoaurs and bugs are about...

 

Read the news story about the first Dino Snores. See what Erica McAlister who presented the bugs show has to say in her blog post.

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The Ice Rink steams off

Posted by Rose Jan 20, 2010
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Snow on snow - an extra bit of magic this year

One of my favourite recollections of the Ice Rink this year was our snowy return to work in the first week of January and seeing our outdoor Ice Rink piled up with snow. The ice marshals were working furiously to, well, remove the ice and snow, on top of the ice and snow. Seemed ironic somehow.


But at the weekend, on 17 January, the Ice Rink closed, as it usually does in mid January. No more will we see skaters gliding by on our way in and out of the Museum. Bye bye festive season.

 

So what happens to the Ice Rink ice (all 150,000 litres of it)? Well it gets steamed.

 

ice-rink-dismantle2-500.jpgThe event's project manager, Sherri-Louise Rowe, explained the process: "The glycol - a syrupy kind of concoction used in anti-freeze - that usually goes through the chillers to freeze the ice on the rink, is redirected through the boiler truck, heating the pipes and therefore melting the ice. The melted ice then flows away in the drains under the gardens."

 

And lots of steam is produced as a result.


Three days after the meltdown, all you can see in this recent picture (left) is a little patch of stubborn ice.

 

The chillers were turned off yesterday. Today the pipe work under the rink was packed up.

 

Dismantling continues and the interior of the cafe bar is almost stripped. The outside chalets and catering huts have been taken down.

 

This year's Ice Rink was a really successful one and we had about 110,000 skaters who visited. It was made especially magical thanks to the exciting snow storms we experienced over the Christmas holidays.

 

Now it's time to replenish the Museum's front lawns for spring and to welcome the next outdoor exhibition.

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The year of the species

Posted by Rose Jan 8, 2010
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Bee happy this year. Bombus distinguendus © D Goulson

Get fit. Give up cigarettes and alcohol. No chocolate. Move... Resolutions, resolutions. How about sparing a thought for a species every day?


To celebrate the fact that 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity we're bringing you news each day of a different species that our Museum scientists feel important to draw to your attention.


So 365 days, 365 species.

 

From the tiniest algae and bacteria to powerful plants and mighty whales, each species is written about by a Museum scientist. A different species' fact-file will be published on our website and announced on the homepage each day. Some will features video clips too.

 

On New Year's Day we launched our Species of the Day online. We paid homage to the much-loved great yellow bumblebee whose survival here is under threat because of habitat changes and the loss of deep flowers. You can find out more about great yellow bumblebees and their conservation on the Bombus distinguendus species fact-file.

 

Our bumblebee expert Paul Williams explains, ‘Species of the day is a great opportunity for people to find out aboutsea-urchin-490.jpg what we can do to help valuable species that are facing challenges from man-made environmental change’.

 

But it's not just endangered species that will be featured. Some scientists have chosen species which are part of their research or that have particularly interesting or unusual behaviour, or because of their value to science or economic impact.

 

Read the Species of the Day news story and have a look at what we have featured online already on Species of the Day. Today’s little wonder is the strong-muscled sea urchin, Eucidaris metularis (shown right). Did you know that sea urchins have been around for the last 150 million years?


Watch out, there are some really bizarre and quirky organisms coming your way.

 

Species of the Day is part of our involvement in the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity in the UK. It also highlights the work of the Museum’s many scientists who work here behind the scenes.

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Our festive highlights

Posted by Rose Dec 18, 2009

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It’s snowing in London as I write this, and we’re all wondering if it’s going to be a white Christmas for a change...

 

Of course, the Museum in winter is always a festive place, whether there’s snow or not. So I thought it was a good idea to recommend a few especially festive reasons why it’s a great time to visit. You can also find more details about these suggestions on our Festive season web pages.

 

Twinkle, twinkle Look up at the canopy of twinkling Christmas lights in the tall palm trees as you come out of the underground subway tunnel exit towards the Museum, from South Kensington tube station. There are about 76,000 lights I read somewhere, and it really is an unmissable sight.

 

Skate on Join the skating fun, graceful or not, on the Ice Rink outside the Museum. If you’re not up for the action, there’s always the overlooking Café Bar and viewing platform, or you can just wonder around and grab a burger or ride the vintage carousel.

 

Dinosaur roar Once inside, the obvious place to head for with the kids is the Dinosaurs gallery and our moving T.rex (although one of my favourite bits are the film posters display featuring dinosaurs and the dino toys exhibit).

 

Scary and Spacey If the queue for Dinosaurs is mental, then I suggest heading off to Creepy Crawlies or the Earth galleries. The Earth galleries escalator leading up into a giant Earth globe (and higher earthy galleries) is another exciting experience with its huge inter-galactic wall on your left and  spacey Hendrix soundtrack (bet you didn't know it was Hendrix!)


Diamonds are forever The Vault gallery at the end of the historic Minerals gallery on the floor above the Central Hall is dazzling, and it's rather hidden.


Science fiction Go up in the glass lift to Cocoon in our new Darwin Centre and you'll embark on a futuristic trip into science and high-tech exploration. Play with the touch screens throughout to tour to have fun as explorers and scientists. Look out for the Planning a trip interactive game.


Polar chill out  Pop into the Attenborough Studio and watch the beautifully calming Wildscapes short film as you get immersed in arctic scenes and African plains.

 

http://www.nhm.ac.uk/resources-www/visit-us/whats-on/temporary-exhibitions/swpy/2009/popup/14.jpgWild world Don’t miss the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition – it is full of gorgeous photos from the winers of the 2009 competition. And some that really capture the seasonal spirit, like the Ice Fox pictured here.

 

Reindeer story Take the kids to a storytelling puppet workshop like the one about Rudolph the reindeer on 30 December.

 

Become a scientist Drop in to our Investigate centre in the Museum basement to examine animal, plant and geological treasures like scientists do.

 

Festive talk Open the mind a bit and join the debate at one of our daytime Nature Live talks. There's a a good wintry one coming on New Year's eve about hunting meteorites on ice.

 

We've also got some ideas for things you can do online and in your area on our Wildlife in winter web pages.

 

And of course you can join in or start your own discussions on NaturePlus as well as reading our blogs.

 

Happy holidays and I'll catch up with you in the new year.
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Sleeping with dinosaurs

Posted by Rose Dec 11, 2009

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Zzzzz or Roarrr?

One of the Museum's most exciting events for children starts in January when our  monthly Saturday sleepovers are launched.

 

We adults are jealous, because you have to be 8 – 11 years old to attend, although an adult needs to accompany each group of children, so you can go along as a group leader and get in free. But you have to be responsible!


The first Dino Snores sleepover is on Saturday 16 January 2010 and is in association with Sony PlayStation who are giving kids the chance to try out their new game, which I'm told is fantastic.

 

Fun activities at your exclusive night at the Museum will also include a torch-lit tour of some of the galleries including Dinosaurs, a live show from TV presenter and naturalist Nick Baker and our own Museum insect expert, with art and crafty things to do too.


But the real fun will be finding out what really happens after dark in the Museum as you bed down in the shadow of our famous Diplodocus skeleton as midnight beckons…

 

Dino Snores sleepovers are planned for the middle of every month, so if you can’t make the first, there will be more to come.

 

Read our Dino Snores helpful questions and answers to find out more.

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There will be over 2,000 stunning wildlife prints for sale from tomorrow, Friday 4 December, in the foyer of the Museum's Flett Theatre (nearest entrance is Exhibition Road).

 

The print sale is on throughout the day during Museum opening hours until Sunday 6 December when it ends at closing time.

 

These are ex-display prints of winning images from previous Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibitions, from 1997 up to and including 2007, that have toured the world. They are on sale for the first time.

 

From breathtaking landscapes to personal animal portraits, like this cute stoat, you'll get the chance to buy a print from £30 unframed and £50 framed. Art and nature-lovers will be spoilt for choice.

 

What's so brilliant about this Ermine at home image (which you can buy at the sale) is the contrast of the curious little stoat's ermine coat against the granite and ochre wall behind. Read Swedish photographer Peter Lilja's description of how lucky he was to get the shot.

 

The annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition tours over 60 cities around the world each year. It is a spectacular celebration of the best wildlife photography and goes to museums, zoos, science centres and other venues. Check our website to find out when the 2009 and 2008 exhibitions may be on tour near you.

 

If you haven't already, visit the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009  exhibition currently showing at the Museum. You can buy gorgeous prints from this exhibition in the shop or order them online.

 

Go wild for Christmas.

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250 guests enjoyed the evening atmosphere in the Central Hall at the launch of the UK's International Year of Biodiversity

The International Year of Biodiversity starts officially in 2010, but here at the Museum we celebrated the launch of the UK's Year of Biodiversity on Wednesday evening, 25 November.

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We also launched our great new website for IYB-UK (as it's known to those working on it) which will bring together what you need to know about what's going on in the UK.


The Museum is coordinating all the IYB organisations and groups across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who are joining the biodiversity activities from now through next year. It's going to be a busy but inspiring time.

 

If you're new to the concept of 'biodiversity', have a look at our news article about the event, featuring a video interview with some of theliz-sharp.jpg speakers including Liz Bonnin (pictured here) who presented the BBC science show Bang Goes The Theory. Biodiversity is a word you'll hear lots about in the coming months.

 

When the United Nations declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity, they asked the world to celebrate the rich variety of life - biodiversity - all through next year. The sad fact is we may be losing species 1,000 times faster than the natural rate because of human activities. So we need to make 2010 count. That's why we've started early.

Marie Clements, our communications officer, was at the event and told me about some of the things that are being planned for the future:

 

'There will be exhibitions, talks, artworks, citizen science experiments and festivals. People of all ages can get involved. They can join surveys, including dormice, farmyard birds, butterflies, hedgehogs and water. And fun activities like bat walks, bird-watching, honey and apple tasting, orchard visits and tree planting.'

 

Sounds like a 'biodiversity' of things to mark up in your calendar ahead! To guide you through, use our local IYB events search on our IYB-UK website. (Check back regularly as it is a work in progress.)

 

From farmers to charities, wildlife rangers to councils, schools and colleges to zoos, museums and botanic gardens, the UK has one of the strongest programmes in the world to celebrate IYB2010.

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Celebrate the biodiversity of life we have all around us

While we gear up our local and national celebrations, there will be big decisions and moves to be made on a global scale too. One of the key speakers at last night's launch was Ahmed Djoghlaf from the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), who heads the global campaign. He highlighted the pressing issue of biodiversity loss, describing how, ‘Climate change is emerging as one of the most significant drivers of biodiversity loss.'

 

It seems fitting that on the same night as our launch, President Obama announced he would attend the crucial Copenhagen Climate Summit which kicks off on 7 December. Some are pinning their hopes on the decisions made at this conference, others are less optimistic. See my previous blog post on the warnings from Pavan Sukhdev at our Annual Science Lecture about the world's disappearing coral reefs.

To explore the wider picture, visit our biodiversity web pages and the 2010 International Year of the Biodiversity website.

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A healthy and diverse hard coral reef before any signs of 'bleaching' from acidification

On the evening of 16 November at the Museum's Annual Science Lecture, to a gathering of about 400 listeners, speaker Pavan Sukhdev explained how the severe threat to the world’s coral reefs – on which half a billion people’s livelihoods depend – could be devastating. 'We tend to forget that carbon emissions are also destroying our tropical coral reefs,' he warned.

 

Governments worry about conservation measures costing money. But the big threat, Sukhdev argued, is that if we don't preserve nature it will make us poorer rather than richer. He called for a shift in our thinking, advising that we put a financial value on the services that ecosystems provide, rather than taking it for granted that these resources are free.

 

Sukhdev expressed concerns about the decisions that will be made at next month’s Copenhagen climate summit, if governments set carbon dioxide emissions levels. If these are set too high, then oceans will become too acidic for corals to form and we may lose them entirely.

 

Susan Vittery, our Nature online website manager was at the lecture and was suitably impressed: 'It was a really informative evening. Pavan Sukhdev is an incredibly charismatic speaker who explained complex economic and environmental issues in a really clear, succinct way that everyone could understand. Fascinating.'


Find out more about this inspiring lecture in our news story and video interview.

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Pavan Sukhdev
is a senior banker at Deutsche Bank and is leading the UN Environment Programme’s Green Economy initiative which includes The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity TEEB study.


Learn more about the extinction of our coral reefs and how oceans are affected by acidification.

 

There’s also more on our website about the rich biodiversity of life on our planet and what is being done to protect it in the run-up to the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity.

 

Watch out for the Museum’s Annual Science Lecture next autumn.

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Settling in for his book signing event

Yesterday, Sir David Attenborough spent about 3 hours with us at a book signing event in our Central Hall, much to the delight of 100s of fans.

 

You had to buy one of his books or a DVD from our Museum Shop to become the lucky owner of a ticket to the signing. This was mainly because his last signing event - where no tickets were issued - was so popular, poor Sir David ended up staying on many hours more than planned, to satisfy the 1000s who turned up on the day.

 

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Queuing up in Central Hall to get our books signed

I joined the queue with some work colleagues to get my newly-purchased copy of his book signed, and to shake the hand of one of the most respected people on the planet. When we arrived at the Central Hall just before 13.00 at the scheduled time for kick-off, it was packed. Visitors had been queuing since 11am in the morning, I heard. Patiently, we wound our way round our famous Central Hall Diplodocus skeleton, in what was to be a 2-hour wait to greet the great man.

 

It seemed Sir David, clad in a warm-looking maroon jumper (which I envied as it was a little draughty where we were queuing), was saying ‘hello’ to everyone and asking each ‘how are you?’ Snacking throughout on nuts - apparently he asked for nothing more - he must have signed over 600 books and DVDs.

 

After each person got their book/s signed, they turned and smiled happily.

 

'It was wonderful to see how much everyone looks up to him as a hero. He took away a large bag full of cards, poems and gifts brought for him by members of the public,' said Jeremy Ensor, the Museum's Head of Retail, who attended the event.

 

The event was one of five book signings Sir David Attenborough is doing in the UK to promote his new book, Life Stories, published last month. Yesterday alone, 100s of copies of Life Stories were sold.

 

While we queued, I leafed through my copy of Life Stories. It’s got a quirky personal style and follows Attenborough’s original radio series where he gave us his own insights into the natural world. He talks about his first pet, a salamander, and the creatures that first inspired him like flying dinosaurs and sloths.

 

I got drawn in to a chapter on ‘Collecting’ where Sir David discusses the maleness of collecting. Actually I’m not so sure about this, women may not get into stamps or fossils as much as men, but then wasn't the greatest fossil hunter a 19th-century woman? Mary Anning. And what about seashells, butterflies, china ornaments, plush toys, dolls, shoes… the things women are traditionally known to hoard. These days I'm sure there are many more women who collect things from nature too. It got me thinking and took my mind off the wait.


Ah well, back to life as they say. And the new series, Life, is currently showing on BBC, so catch it if you can

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Last night, while some of us were being swept away by the razzle-dazzle of bonfires and fireworks, the Museum was being swept away at the glittering BT Visit London Awards ceremony in London’s Westfield shopping centre. We collected not just one, but three coveted awards.


- Winner of the People’s Choice Evening Standard’s Best London for Free Experience

 

- Winner of the gold award for Marketing/PR Campaign of the Year for our brilliant Darwin exhibition campaign

 

- Winner of the silver award for Business Venue of the Year

 

Our Director of Public Engagement, Sharon Ament said, 'It is so good to see that we have, once again, been voted by the public as a firm favourite and the quality of our marketing and the Museum as a venue for events is recognised.'

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Museum representatives receiving our three awards last night

 

So thank you to all the visitors who voted us the Best London for Free Experience. We owe it all to you… and the dinosaurs. Keep on coming.


And of course, a really big thank you to Charles Darwin who has been with us every step of the way this year for his bicentenary celebrations, overseeing our exhibition and magnificent Darwin Centre building, and generally being the inspiration behind almost everything we do here.

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The marketing image that left its mark

This unforgettable image of the bearded man himself, finger on pursed lips, seen all over tube stations, bus stops, inside the Museum and adorning our very own eye-stopping Darwin exhibition website, will haunt many of us for some years to come.

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Dancing on ice at the Museum

Posted by Rose Nov 3, 2009
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Ice Age comes to the Museum, once again

In just one day’s time, on 5 November to be precise, we open our popular Ice Rink to visitors. Now in its fifth year, it has become a regular winter attraction at the Museum and in London.

 

Over the past weeks we’ve been noticing how things have changed outside on the East lawn where our Butterfly Jungle exhibition stood earlier in the summer. The changes seemed to speed up suddenly when the clocks went back.

 

We can now admire the twinkle of Christmas lights in the tall London plane trees lining the Ice Rink and Museum grounds in the evening on the way home after work.

 

Last week, the 25-foot Christmas tree was delivered and its lights and decorations were being put up on Friday afternoon. The outdoor catering units have arrived on site and are being set up.

 

Most importanty, on Friday, 150,000 litres (150 cubic metres) of water was poured into both the main 1,050-square-metre Ice Rink and the smaller 100-square-metre junior rink for younger skaters. This is about half the amount of water it takes to fill a standard swimming pool (10x25m). The water has now completely frozen over and the ice is receiving its final polish today.

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This year, the Ice Rink has a friendly new café bar which offers refreshments all through the day and stays open late for drinks at night. The fairground carousel returns for those who fancy a spin and if you just want to watch the action, there’s a great atmosphere on the viewing platform. Students can also take advantage of a special discount on Tuesdays which includes a free drink at the bar.

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'Even better than skating in Central Park' said the Evening Standard

If you need skating tips or want to see what's on offer at the Museum's Ice Rink, have a look at our Essential skating information pages on the website. We have a brilliant new video which shows you some highlights. So no excuses, everyone can be a dancing-on-ice star.

 

Rain, shine or snow, 'tis a magical sight to see the skaters gliding around the Ice Rink outdoors, against the backdrop of our historic Waterhouse building and gardens. I'm sure this year will be as successful and merry as the last.

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