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54 Posts tagged with the biodiversity tag
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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.

 

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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

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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

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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.

 

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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

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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.

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Wildlife Garden springs into action

Posted by Rose Mar 27, 2014

See what's bursting into life and who's out and about in the Museum's Wildlife Garden in our spring photo gallery below. Everyone who works behind the scenes in the Wildlife Garden team, including some very shaggy helpers, is busy getting the meadows, pathways, ponds, sheds and greenhouses ready for the garden's opening to the public once more, from 1 April.

 

It's also the time of year that the garden and its different habitats require special attention with all the new life in abundance. Frogs have been getting matey and mallards have been checking out the pond's moorhen island.

 

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The Museum's Wildlife Garden opens its gates to the public once again from 1 April with its first public event, Spring Widllife, on 5 April to herald the start of the Easter holidays.

 

The garden will be the focus of lots of fun and nature-filled activities, planned through the coming spring, summer and autumn seasons. And as usual we'll be hosting regular, free monthly weekend events starting with Spring Wildlife on Saturday 5 April.

 

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Pretty red crab apple blossom caught on camera a couple of weeks ago.

 

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Glowing cowslips appearing in the meadows.

 

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Our Greyface Dartmoor sheep, who usually visit from the Wetland Centre in the autumn, have been staying for a few days to graze down the meadow grass. It's the last chance to do this before wild flowers start coming up. By nipping the spring grass in the bud there will be more light for the flowers to come through.

 

mallards-bird-island-1500.jpgMallard visitors exploring the moorhen island lookout on the pond.

 

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Frogspawn was spotted in the garden's pond around 17 March.

 

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Wood anemones have recently come into flower.

 

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Violets on the hedge banks.

 

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Sweet-smelling gorse bushes in the early morning spring sunshine.

 

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White blackthorn blossom perks up the pathways.

 

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Behind the scenes in the garden's greenhouse, staff and volunteers have been preparing seedlings.

 

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The latest green roof in the garden atop the sheep shed was created last autumn. The sloping roof is planted with stonecrops and plants such as thrift, sea campion and sea lavender. More about green roofs coming later in the season.

 

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Alfred Russel Wallace the collector stands watch in front of the Wildlife Garden. His statue was unveiled here last November to commemorate his centenary.

 

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There's something about these two very different beasts: The enigmatic elephant with its swaying trunk and flapping ears atop those giant lumbering legs. And the endangered gharial with its cracked skin, eyes popping as it floats in the murky waters with its brood. Both fitting subjects, captured beautifully in unique portraits by this year's two grand title winning Wildlife Photographers of the Year. These images will take pride of place in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013 exhibition opening here at the Museum this Friday, 18 October.

 

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Essence of elephants portraying a herd gathered at a waterhole in Botswana’s Northern Tuli Game Reserve, has made Greg du Toit the 2013 Wildlife Photographer of the Year. To depict these gentle giants in this ghostly way, Greg used a slow shutter speed and wide-angle lens tilted up.

 

The two coveted prizes for the 2013 competition were awarded to Greg du Toit and 14-year-old Udayan Rao Pawar earlier this evening, 15 October, at the glittering awards ceremony held here at the Natural History Museum. The two winning images swayed the judges and beat nearly 43,000 other entries from 96 countries.

 

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Mother's little headful snapped by 14-year-old Udayan Rao Pawar depicts a mother gharial crocodilian crowned by her babies in the waters of India's threatened Chambal River. Competition judge Tui De Roy described the image as wonderfully playful and thought-provoking and the deserving 2013 Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

 

Both winning photographers are pictured below. They were among several other photographers and competition judges who gathered last night in readiness for the awards ceremony where the winners were announced.

 

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On location: Greg du Toit and Udayan Rao Pawar - this year's grand title winners.

 

'It was amazing and almost emotional to see young Udayan meet his hero, acclaimed wildlife photographer and competition judge Steve Winter,' says Gemma Ward, competition manager.

 

'I'm staggered by the standard of photography from the youngsters and how seriously they take their interest and how much nature and the camera means to them.

 

'And I'm also really impressed by the winner of the Eric Hosking Portfolio Award this year. This award highlights a sequence of images from a budding photographer between the ages of 18 and 26 years. It's an exceptionally strong portfolio of pictures and subjects from Canada's Connor Stefanison, with each one a stand-out.'

 

Enjoy all 100 prize-winning photographs from the 18 award categories in the 2013 competition and find out more about the stories and people behind them in the 2013 gallery.

 

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Book tickets for the exhibition opening on 18 October

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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.

 

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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.)

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'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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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

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Stepping into our outdoor butterfly house has been one of the most popular summer sensations at the Museum. The hot, sunny days have helped to keep our tropical high-fliers active and abundant.

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The Sensational Butterflies exhibition closes this Sunday, 15 September. It's been a family favourite for visitors during the summer months.

 

Last weekend I visited the Sensational Butterflies exhibition once again and was lucky to catch a silk moth in all its splendour, newly emerged inside the hatchery, surrounded by bewitched youngsters. Among the luxurious undergrowth, hanging precariously from banana leaves, were little furry owl butterfly caterpillars and the zebra butterflies were everywhere.

 

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Leaving soon - the Sensational Butterflies house

 

Just today, Luke Brown, our butterfly house manager, told me that a new type of owl butterfly has appeared recently in the house for the first time. Look out for Caligo atreus (below left) on your visit. You can tell it from other owl butterflies by its vibrant colours.

 

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Highlghts of the exhibition in the heat of the summer included the monster Atlas moths and other almost-as-large moth pupae (below).

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You have until 17.30 on Sunday 15 September to get to Sensational Butterflies here at the Museum. After Sunday evening, all the butterflies will be going to another butterfly house (probably Longleat) and the house will be kept in storage for another year…

 

Until then, there's still time to enter our free prize draw to win a sleepover at the Museum and tweet your own butterfly and moth photos to @NHM_London to be pinned on our Sensational Butterflies Pinterest board.

 

Thanks to last month's Pinterest winner, Martin, whose fab photo was drawn from the Jul-Aug entries.

 

Once the butterflies leave, more wildlife will be coming soon to the Museum in the shape of the eagerly-anticipated Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013 exhibition, which opens on 18 October.

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Big Nature Day was a scorcher

Posted by Rose Jul 23, 2013

The weather was glorious for our annual Big Nature Day on Saturday 13 July. Over 4,000 visitors joined us to explore the best of British wildlife in and around the Museum, and soaking up the best of the British heatwave too.

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Examining insects and pond life at the outdoor displays in the sunny Wildlife Garden - among the most popular activites at this year's Big Nature Day. Select all images to enlarge them.
11 child-snake-close-up.jpgTiny hands get a close encounter with the smooth snake which was brought along by the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation group.

Lucy Robinson, the Museum's citizen science manager and worm charming aficionado, reports back with the day's highlights:

 

'The marquees and Wildlife Garden were packed with over 30 stands showcasing wildlife as diverse as dragonflies, ferns, snakes and insect-eating plants. The Spotty Dotty puppet show attracted lots of the younger visitors with ladybirds and insect friends.

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Left: The Spotty Dotty puppet show entertained the young ones and taught them about ladybirds and more. Right: Lucy reading out the worm charming rules before the teams got stuck in.

'Our worm-charming competition on the front lawn featured some fierce rivalry, but sadly no worms (who were sheltering deep underground from this hot weather!). Neither fork-twanging, stamping or even music could bring the worms to the surface. However, people could see and hold live worms at the Earthworm Society of Britain's stand in the marquee, so they didn't go away too disappointed.

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Worm charming competitions on the front lawn in full sway - participants could twang forks, stamp and make music.

 

'Some unusual and intriguing things the visiting nature groups brought included carnivorous plants from the South London Botanical Institute, a large metal hedgehog sculpture from the People's Trust for Endangered Species, and some live reptiles courtesy of the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation trust.

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The People's Trust for Endangered Species stand showed off a fabulous hedgehog sculpture and invited hedgehog mask-making.

'One of the challenges of organising the event was how to keep the reptiles cool on such a hot day – we had to freeze lots of ice packs and wrap them in fabric in their tanks to give the reptiles a cold area where they could cool off when not entertaining our visitors.

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Left: Discovering unexpected animals on the ladybird hunt. Right: Spider expert Tom Thomas from the British Naturalists Association leading the spider safari in the Wildlife Garden.

'Making pipe cleaner dragonflies with our dragonfly curator Ben was also really popular (they made over 400 dragonflies before they ran out of materials!). And the spider safari through the Wildlife Garden led by expert Tom Thomas from the British Naturalists Association, along with some fabulous face and body painting.attracted many fans.

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Fantastic and original face painting was a hit with families as was zooming in on invertebrates.

'Visitors told us the best parts of the day were seeing the wildlife specimens and meeting all the different nature societies. Kids raved about being able to look through the microcopes, touch the snakes and make lots of things.'

 

Thanks Lucy. We were also told by our Wildlife Garden team that over 60 insect hotels were made by enthusiastic young visitors, using recycled plastic bottles which they filled with reeds from the Wildlife Garden pond.

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Other kids' favourites included the Amateur Enomologists' Society's New Guinea spiny stick insect, the chance to become the Museum's latest specimens on display (right), and dissecting owl pellets (below) with the London Natural History Society.

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And the Species Recovery Trust shone the spotlight on some of the UK's rarest species... starved wood sedge, pictured below.

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Roll on the next Big Nature Day in 2014.

 

Get more involved in the UK's nature activities and local wildlife that matters to you

 

Explore the Wildlife Garden this summer and go pond dipping

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Talking of butterflies

Posted by Rose Jun 7, 2013

Outside the Museum there are now about 700 free-flying tropical butterflies enjoying the exotic undergrowth of our Sensational Butterflies house. 'In 6 weeks there may be more than 1,000,' our butterfly house manager Luke Brown tells me excitedly, with news of the first zebra butterfly larvae appearing. These should metamorphose into 100s of adult butterflies over the next few weeks.

 

The enchanting yet fleeting stars of our butterfly show never cease to captivate us and this Sunday, Luke will be giving visitors to the Museum an extra flutter in his free talk in the Attenborough Studio. The half-hour talk, A House of Butterflies, runs at 12.30 and again at 14.30 on 9 June.

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Meet Heliconius charitonia commonly known as the zebra butterfly, and Luke Brown (below) commonly known as our butterfly house manager, in our butterfly house and find out more about both at our free talk this weekend. Close up zebra courtesy of Inzilbeth.

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Accompanied by colleague Kerry, Luke's talk will explore some of our most-loved species including his own personal favourite, the zebra butterfly, Heliconius charitonia (pictured above). He hopes to bring along some caterpillars, eggs and specimens (but no live butterflies as they might not like the lights in the studio) and talk a little about the history of the butterfly house and the exhbition itself.

 

The first butterfly house arrived here in 2008 and has become a regular spring-summer annual attraction at the Museum, following a brief absence last year. This year's exhibition which opened at the end of March has been the most successful to date.

 

A butterfly fan since he was a little boy, Luke asked for a greenhouse for his sixth Christmas and ended up running his own company, The Butterfly Gardener Ltd and putting on butterfly shows all over the world. He looks forward to the continued success of Sensational Butterflies and taking his passion further afield to places like the Middle East and Brazil, with a personal project planned for the south coast.

 

Drop into the talk if you can and especially if you're visiting the Sensational Butterflies exhibition. Go on your own butterfly trail through the Museum taking in the Cocoon building and the Wildlife Garden nearby.

 

Don't forget to send in any great photos of butterflies wherever you may snap them and from inside Sensational Butterflies to our Pinterest board for a chance to win some butterfly goodies.  My recent favourites are of the glasswing and butterfly shoes, and congratulations to last month's competition winner.

 

Find out about visiting Sensational Butterflies and tickets and other butterfly events

A House of Butterflies is on 9 June and Butterflies in Disguise is on 15 June

Check out The Butterfly Gardener website

 

Get help with identifiying butterflies and caterpillars

 

If you can't make it to the Museum for our free events, we also webcast some live. Look out for these talks next week: The World I Want and Extinct Ice Age Giants

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Are frogs on their last legs? Not if we and all the frog fans out there can help it. The Museum's Wildlife Garden joins the awareness action this weekend as the venue for the UK's Save the Frogs Day, hosted by the Froglife charity.

 

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'Help, I can't find my pond...' Save the Frogs Day is on Saturday 27 April, come along to our event in the Wildlife Garden or join in where you are. Image: Common frog, Rana temporaria, courtesy Silviu Petrovan.

 

As well as the fun stuff like pond-dipping and decorating your own tropical frog models to take home, there will be lots to learn about ambiphians and their conservation at our event here on Saturday, 27 April.

museum-garden-pond-may2012.jpgThe Museum's large pond in its Wildlife Garden: Home to amphibians like the common frog, toad, and common newt, and many more aquatic animals. Enjoy some pond-dipping at our Save the Frogs Day event on Saturday.

 

If you can't make it to the Museum for Save the Frogs Day, here are some quick tips of how to help conservation wherever you are:

 

  • Listen to and share comedian John Shuttleworth’s Save the frog song
  • Tweet your froggy pics and support to #Savethefrogs
  • Don’t move frogs or frogspawn - particularly important at the moment when frogs are arriving in local ponds
  • Don’t release pet amphibians (or any other animals) into the wild
  • Report any dead or ill amphibians in your garden to Froglife
  • Add Water and dig a wildlife pond in your own garden
  • Make your gardening organic and chemical-free
  • Support amphibian conservation projects

 

With more than 5,800 species currently identified, frogs and toads are the most familiar and most abundant amphibians on the planet. But the sad fact is that UK populations of frogs are under threat from disease and habitat loss. They make up 32% of the already large fraction (one-third) of amphibian species that are threatened with extinction.

 

9780565092627-with-drop-shadow.jpgThe ranavirus disease and destruction of local ponds are among the causes for our frogs' decline. These factors can wipe out a local population in a short time (ranavirus is a disease that Froglife has been aware of since the 1980s and there is an ongoing research project with the Institute of Zoology to help stop the spread of the disease.)

 

If you want to immerse yourselves more in the amazing world of frogs and toads, the Museum's guide to Frogs and Toads by Chris Mattison is really comprehensive and beautifully illustrated (above and right).

 

Find out lots more about frog conservation on the Froglife website

 

What's the difference between frogs and toads

 

Learn about freshwater pond habitats

 

Identify your frog or amphibian find on our ID forum

 

Follow our Wildilfe Garden blog

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Where can you: create your own comet with a space expert or examine a large land snail back from extinction? Get close to rare cave art statuettes and Martian meteorites outside of their glass display cases? Look a fearsome Dracula fish in the face or marvel at a giant clam? Witness a blood spatter analysis by the police? Let a scorpion sit in the palm of your hand? Examine the insides of a mummified cat on a virtual autopsy table? Get inside the colon of a cow as a virtual vet? Take a tour of the largest natural history art library in the world? Or challenge a leading scientist on the latest discoveries about climate change as you sip on a cocktail? And all during a single night.

 

At our brilliant Science Uncovered festival from 16.00 to 23.00 on Friday 28 September, you can do every one of these things and more ... and also try to win your very own private sleepover here at the Museum.

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The Space Station where vistors can make comets and see the Tissint meteorite from Mars, and the Forests Station with its butterflies, beetles and moth displays are sure to attract the crowds at Science Uncovered. Select images to enlarge.

Stephen Roberts, Science Uncovered's co-ordinator, gives us a hint of this year's highlights:

 

'We have a little under two weeks to go until the biggest evening event in the Museum's fantastic yearly calendar - Science Uncovered. This year, in keeping with the summer theme of pushing limits and new records, we will see new science, new ways to take part and new specimens coming out – all for one night only in this unique festival of science, made free thanks to the EU.

 

'On the evening of Friday 28 September, more than 350 researchers will be in our galleries as part of European Researchers’ Night that takes place across 32 countries and gives us unprecedented access to world class research and the people who make it happen.

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Meeting a Dracula fish face to face - it may be tiny but it's huge for taxonomists - at the Evolution Station, and witnessing the police analyse a blood splatter at the Forensics Station will be other popular highlights.

'In a year that has seen science stories making such a splash it is terrific to have the chance to actually meet the people involved and get your hands on some of their work. From mini-mammoth remains discoverd in underground Cretan caves to amazing Martian meteorites and a live link to CERN's Large Hadron Collider control room or the chance to live-chat with researchers in Antarctica, there has never been a better time to meet the people at the cutting edge of discovery.

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At the Antarctica Station you can step inside a real polar tent and try out expedition equipment, and in the Attenborough Studio we video-link live to the control room of CERN's Large Hadron Collider.

'As well as the science and scientists, some of the most precious specimens from our collections will be brought out for this rare occasion, and there's the opportunity to delve behind the scenes into our collections on exclusive tours.

 

'And, of course, if you would rather get your hands dirty you could help build a comet, recreate cave art or extract your own DNA, to name but a few of the more practical aspects. Not least of which for a Friday night, we have a record breaking 7 bars and, by popular demand, our delicious Restaurant will be open till late.

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Homo sapiens and Neanderthal skulls alongside cave art figurines, rarely shown to the public, will be at the Human Origins Station, along with the researchers who more than anyone can answer the questions as to who we really are...

'Our Museum at Tring is also taking part with a fantastic Science Uncovered night in Hertfordshire, with the promise of curators giving us insights into how to prepare bird skins and skeleton specimens, shows of feather painting and natural history art illustration, and the chance to meet live creatures with keepers from Amey Zoo. Local beer and barbecue-style food are on the menu too. Check our Science Uncovered at Tring pages for more information.

 

'If you have ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of the Natural History Museum in South Kensington or at Tring this is the night to come along and see for yourself.'

 

Find out what's on at Science Uncovered in London

 

Download the Science Uncovered map to see where things are and to plan your evening in London

 

See what's on at Tring's Science Uncovered

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It's a week since we revealed most of the commended and specially commended photographs that will be among the 100 winning images in the 2012 Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition opening here at the Museum on 19 October.

 

I thought I'd share with you my pick of some of the amazing media coverage we've been getting for these incredible images, including the ones that show off the photographs - and the stories behind them - the most beautifully online:

 

BBC News online 5-minute interview with 2012 competition judge Roz Kidman-Cox with accompanying slideshow

 

Mail Online gallery of selected images

 

Guardian online preview in pictures

 

Stylist magazine online gallery

 

BBC World Service Mundo gallery

(If you speak Spanish, you'll enjoy this review even more.)

 

Two more of the 52 commended and specially commended images were released yesterday for exclusive features in the Times newspaper's Eureka magazine, one of which is this photograph of an awesome-looking green volcano.

volcano-1000-2.jpgThe great Maelifell by Hans Strand (Sweden), commended in the 2012 competition's Wildscapes category, captures the extinct Maelifell volcano that towers over Iceland's massive Myrdalsjökull Glacier. To get this aerial shot, the pilot flew much lower and closer than usual. The plane went so fast, says Hans, 'I managed only one single frame. It was like trying to shoot clay pigeons.' Select the images to enlarge them.

All the 52 commended and specially commended photographs can be viewed in our Commended slideshow preview on the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year website.

 

One of my favourites already is Evening rays by Swiss photographer Claudio Gazzaroli. It makes me feel happy and I want to be wading in that glorious shallow sea under the dramatic evening sky alongside the charismatic friendly-looking stingrays.

ray-1500.jpgEvening rays by Swiss photographer Claudio Gazzaroli is one of the commended images in the competition's Underwater Worlds category. 'There were about 75 of them [southern stingrays] undulating through the shallows,' says Claudio when he got this shot. 'Balancing the light was a problem... but keeping people out of the picture proved to be more of a challenge' he recalls. Snorkellers gather regularly in the waist-deep water of North Sound off the Grand Cayman island to meet these welcoming creatures.

Visit the website to find out more about the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition and the judges who selected the 100 winners from the 48,000 entries submitted this year.

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Our Wildlife Garden is the beesness

Posted by Rose Jul 26, 2012

'What bees hate is the three Ws,' says Luke Dixon, our garden's beehive manager. 'That's the Wet, Wind and Wintry weather!' ... 'Oh dear', I think to myself as I catch up with him on a recent visit to the Museum's Wildlife Garden.

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There are about 40,000 bees living in each of the Museum's Wildlife Garden hives. Select photos to enlarge.

'It's been a poor year across Britain for the bee populations because of the summer rains,' Luke continues, 'but, our bees in the Wildlife Garden have been doing fantastically so far.'

 

I discover that each of our two bee hives near the garden shed (n.b. in the private bit of the garden) is currently home to about 30,000 to 40,000 bees. I'm not sure how they manage to count them, mind! And the Bee Tree by the meadow is bursting with about 50,000 to 60,000 this summer.

 

You can watch what our most industrious garden inhabitants are up to right now on our live beecam.

 

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Inspecting the Museum's hives

 

'Here in the Wildlife Garden, it's sheltered and because of our different habitats, there is a lot for the bees to forage on,' explains Luke. I can see exactly what he means. As Caroline, the garden's manager, leads me up the path to investigate the Bee Tree we pass a mass of pretty wild flowers in the meadow and later I notice the flourishing heather on the heathland.

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Irresistable wild flowers in the Wildlife Garden's meadows, one of the thriving habitats we cultivate.

The Bee Tree is certainly buzzing and full to almost bursting point with honey combs. It also appears that something has been trying to get into the honey treasure trove - sawdust on the bark's back door is a bit of a give-away. Caroline suspects a woodpecker.

 

For those who remember the 2010 Wildlife Garden honey, the news is they may collect honey from the bees in October, but it depends. 'We want to leave the bees some to eat in the winter months' says Luke, so we'll have to see.

 

Bee-Swarm-kevin-s-garden-1000.jpgThis amazing photo (left), taken by our Museum photograher, shows bees swarming in his garden. They sometimes do this in late Spring and, for the first time in the eight years that we've kept them, the bees of the Museum's hives did so in the Wildlife Garden last week! I asked Qais Zacharia, who also looks after the Museum's hives, why this occurs:

 

'This is slightly unusual for this late in the year, but could be due to the poor start to the summer. Swarms form when the colony becomes overcrowded; the queen leaves and approximately one third of the bees from the colony follow her in search of a new home. The remaining bees stay behind to rear a new, replacement queen.

 

'During the swarm tens of thousands of honeybees can take to the air and, despite appearances and terrible B-movies, they are not agressive (their principal focus is finding a new home). After leaving the old colony, the swarm will typically congregate on a nearby branch while scouts search for a suitable place to form their new colony, a process that can take as long as a few days.

 

'Experienced beekeepers are able to capture the swarm at this point - assuming it is within reach - by shaking the bees into a "nucleus box" before moving them into a new hive. However, we didn't manage to do this last week as the swarms were too high up in the trees and they must have made a new home elsewhere, which could be anywhere from somewhere close by to several miles away.

 

 

'At the old colony, the new queen will hatch after about a week and will venture out to mate with drones from colonies nearby before returning to lay eggs. A good sign that a queen has successfully mated is pollen being taken into the hive but, if mating wasn't successful, the colony will dwindle and eventually die off. This can be prevented in kept hives by swapping in a specially bred and mated queen for the unsuccessful original.'

 

If you're visiting the Museum in summer, drop into the Wildlife Garden. And look out for a 'living' bee sculpture by artist Tomàš Libertíny outside the Museum between 28 July and 5 August as part of the Exhibition Road Show.

 

Watch now on our live beecam

 

Enjoy our Wildlife in summer website

 

Find out about visiting the Wildlife Garden

 

Browse the Wildlife Garden highlights slideshow

 

Discover the habitats in the garden

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The sun shone, the worms were charmed, bugs counted, trees trailed, and ponds dipped while visitors were led a merry dance through the Museum and outdoor gardens by the Insect Parade for Big Nature Day last Sunday. Over 5,000 people came. It was a resounding success.

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Hundreds of excited children made bug hats and got their faces painted at the workshops in the Darwin Centre atrium to join the Insect Parade (above and below). The parade was led by the insect band on stilts who were dressed as a giant ladybird, earwig, leaf insect and beetle. They took the procession twice around the Museum, through the Central Hall under Dippy's tail, back into the Darwin Centre and out into the Courtyard for a final song.

 

The event was also abuzz with about 50 nature groups who had amazing displays in the indoor and outdoor marquees. Friends of the Earth had people dressing up as bees to raise awareness of the decline of bumblebees. The National Trust brought their shepherd’s caravan and did bark rubbing and a poplular log run challenge. The British Trust for Conservation Volunteers showed visitors how to make bird boxes and bug hotels to encourage wildlife into their gardens.

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Among the crowd you could often spot members of several Cub Scout packs who joined in the pond dipping and bug counting activities to earn their Cub Naturalist Activity badges.

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Read the news story about Big Nature Day and the Cub Scout resources

 

Enjoy some more highlights in pictures. Select images to enlarge them

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Insect carnival revelry

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The Friends of the Earth stand where you could dress up as a bee

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Getting a painted face

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Admiring bugs

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Leaf shaking for insects in the Wildlife Garden

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Worm charming in the Wildlife Garden

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Pond dipping

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Strumming ladybird

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Insect Carnival on the move

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Darwin Centre atrium workshops

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The peaceful shepherd's hut

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Our Big Nature Day on 27 May is a special kind of celebration and a brilliant day out for anyone who's interested in the natural world, whatever their age. It is the largest free event of its kind in the UK, and this year we've invited more than 50 nature groups from across the country to join us.

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Get bug-faced and hatted for the Insect Parades led by the insect band performing on stilts at our nature festival. Select images to enlarge them

One of the big excitements on Sunday is sure to be the Insect Parade led by the colourful insect band from the Museum's Darwin Centre atrium. In the morning and at lunchtime, children can drop into workshops with the street theatre company Emergeny Exit Arts to make bug-themed hats and then follow the parades - scheduled for 13.00 and 15.30 - through the Museum wearing their creations. Face painters are at hand to help kids look their buggy best.

 

Like last year, there will be marquees on the Courtyard and this is where you'll find most of the visiting nature group displays. 'It's really exciting to welcome so many voluntary nature groups across the country to the Museum - what a fantastic chance for our visitors to meet so many wildlife experts in one place,' says Lucy Carter from the OPAL citizen science project. Popular stands are bound to be The London Wildlife Trust's stag beetles and the Bat Conservation Trust's where they will be investigating bat poo!

 

Worm charming sessions take place under the Courtyard trees and several nature talks will be held in the Museum's Attenborough Studio. A Busy Bee Puppet Show workshop will entertain the little ones in the morning.

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Out in the Wildlife Garden you can get into pond-dipping, bug hunting, ladybird counting, leaf and nettle trailing, and more. We're interested in recording the species found in our garden, so scientists and volunteers will be around to help with finds and identification advice. We'll also be welcoming a group of cub scouts to the garden who are trying out their brand new Cub Scout Naturalist Activity Badge resource (the badge is pictured below).

 

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Over on the West Lawn, look out for the Bee aware display in the marquee and the National Trust's 'shepherd's hut'.

 

And remember, this is the national Be Nice to Nettles Week, so mind where you tread.

 

Big Nature Day celebrates the UN International Day of Biological Diversity and OPAL's nature activities and citizen science projects.

 

More details about Big Nature Day.

 

Find out which nature groups will be at Big Nature Day

 

 

 

Enjoy the video clip below of last year's Big Nature Day

 

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This week we heard the exciting news that last year's summer exhibition, Sexual Nature, has won the Museum + Heritage 2012 Award for best Temporary or Touring Exhibition. The team who conceived, produced and curated the exhibition were at the Awards Ceremony to celebrate. Among them was Mike Sarna, the Museum's Head of Exhibition Interpretation:

 

'Like everything the Natural History Museum does, the Sexual Nature exhibition helped to enthuse more people about the natural world. We are thrilled that the exhibition has been recognised for its excellence and we hope to build on that in the future with more eye-opening, thought-provoking exhibitions.

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Museum staff celebrate Sexual Nature's award for best Temporary Exhibition at the prestigious Museums + Heritage 2012 Awards ceremony at Earls Court on Wednesday 16 May.

'Over 100 specimens from the Museum’s scientific research collections provided the main basis for the displays. Cases were filled with colourful birds for attracting, antlers for battling and my favourite "love darts” that certain snails shoot at each other as a sort of foreplay. Film was also key to bringing these specimens to life and demonstrating their sexual behaviours. Watching the many birds of paradise dance and manipulate their feathers for females was so fascinating to watch.

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'We also included Isabella Rossellini’s humorous short Green Porno films. Of course museums are known for interactivity and I was delighted to see how many visitors smelt Jaguar spray, though those visitors might not be delighted with me.

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'But the exhibition was also about us - very special sexual animals. The exhibition concluded with a reflective interactive section about human sexual diversity. These displays were in effect curated by you through our Facebook page where we asked people provocative questions about what true love and sex meant to them.

 

'Sexual Nature’s prime objective was to attract new audiences to the Museum. With the exhibition we asked visitors to leave their pre-conceptions at the door and aimed to shift perceptions by delivering engaging science on a core Natural History Museum subject, evolution. We tackled evolution through one of its most important drivers, sexual selection, in a way that was fun, humorous and informative. The Museum is all about transformation and the exhibition was a wonderful catalyst for wider discussion, including our public programmes. The topic was one of our most retweeted topics, so we know you loved talking about it too.

 

'The Museums + Heritage Awards for Excellence celebrate best practice within museums, galleries and heritage visitor attractions and attract hundreds of entries from across the sector. Categories range from best permanent exhibition to innovation. The judges cited our amazing interpretation, our reaching out to new audiences and the bravery of the Museum to tackle a challenging topic. We are thrilled at its success and look forward to it's tour around the globe. If you missed the exhibition you might want to go to Paris in October for the opening of its international tour.'

 

The Temporary or Touring Exhibition Award category was hotly contended and we were up against strong competition including Derby Museums & Art Gallery's Down the Back of the Sofa, the Museum of London's Dickens and London and the National Army Museum's War Horse.

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Read the news story about Sexual Nature opening in February 2011

 

Museums + Heritage Awards for Excellence 2012

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While many of us here in the UK feast our eyes on an appetising array of food and cookery TV shows and our stomachs on pre-prepared foods, and as our kids are tempted by ever-more cunningly-named cereals from Kraves to Choc'n'Roll, it's hard to reconcile ourselves to the hard facts of food production and sustainability. Probably because we want this basic ingredient of life to remain a sensory object of our desires rather than an everyday concern.

 

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By 2050, to feed the estimated world population of 9 billion, we'll need an annual production of around 3 billion tonnes of cereal and 200 million tonnes of meat. Image © Ellen Goff

 

But for nearly 1 billion people - one in seven - there simply isn't this luxury as they do not have enough to eat each day. And many more suffer from malnutrition, despite the fact that every human being has a right to adequate food. (I sometimes wonder why some clever bod hasn't come up with a way to recycle and preserve unused food that's chucked out daily from our households, restaurants and workplaces, and which could be supplied somehow to hunger hotspots. Here in the UK we throw away an astonishing 7.2 million tonnes of consumable food and drink each year - enough to fill 4,200 Olympic-sized swimming pools!)

 

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that by 2050 we will need to increase agricultural production by 70 per cent to meet the food demands of a suggested 9.1 billion population (one that is about 34 per cent higher than that of today). But will there be enough land, water and genetic biodiversity to meet the demands?

 

The FAO also estimates that only about a dozen species of animals provide 90 per cent of animal protein we consume globally, and only four crop species give us half the plant-based colonies in our human diet. Conversely, the gene pool in plant and animal resources and natural ecosystems, which breeders need, is known to be diminishing. In the future we may be encouraged to be more vegetarian or reconsider genetically modified foods such as in vitro meat on our menu. Our breeders and farmers may be asked for alternatives to single crops and to re-evaluate the benefits of industrial as opposed to family farmng. As more people move to the cities, there may need to be more institutionalised plans in place for rural agriculture.

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Is there enough water for the crops of the future? Will the need for staple grain crops decline in an increasingly industrialised world?  These and other key concerns of food security and production will be  discussed tonight in our fourth Earth Debate at the Museum.

And how will factors like a much larger urban population and the associated rise in supermarket culture, climate change and biofuels impact on our food security? In what ways can we balance the uneven distribution of resources and the over-nutrition of developed, more industrialised societies with the malnutrition of poorer communities? How much of the problem is one of production rather than managing wastage and taking over more land? And what of population growth checks?

 

These paradoxes of food and our future food security are the subject tonight of our fourth and final Earth Debate to be webcast and hosted in the Museum's Attenborough Studio and we need your thoughts on the subject too. Stakeholders Forum for a sustainable future will feed - scuse the pun - the discussions on to the big Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in June.

 

On the panel are Sue Dibb, Executive Director of the Food Ethics Council, Barry Gardiner, MP and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Biodiversity, John Ingram, Food Security Leader at the Natural Environment Research Council and Camilla Toulmin, Director of the International Insititute for Environment and Development. The BBC's Richard Black will be chairing and, as with the previous debates, an invited audience and submissions via #earthdebates on Twitter will lead the questions to the panel.

 

Watch the Food security: how do we feed 9 billion people in 2050 debate live online at 19.00 BST tonight. If you can't tune into the webcast, we'll also be live-tweeting from @NHM_Live starting at approximately 18.50 or you can follow #earthdebates.

 

See the other debates online

 

Find out more about our Earth Debates

 

Read the Food and Agriculture Organisation's food security report


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