Skip navigation
1 2 3 4 Previous Next

What's new at the Museum

53 Posts tagged with the biodiversity tag
0
Evolution-spread-evolve-700.jpg
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.

0

The year of the species

Posted by Rose Jan 8, 2010
yellow-bee-1000.jpg
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.

0

IYB-lots-people-600.jpg

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.

2010iyb-logo.jpg

 

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.

iyb-images-spread-600.jpg

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.

0
coral-reef
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.

pavan-sukhdev-400.jpg
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.

0

leaf-raking-300.jpg

Autumn in the Wildlife Garden is busy for everyone

It's your last chance to enjoy the beautiful autumn colours in the Museum’s Wildlife Garden, before it closes at the end of the day on Saturday 31 October. It re-opens in spring on 1 April 2010.

 

But although the garden gate may be closing, you are always welcome to ring our information desk if you want to visit during the winter months. The number is at the top of our Wildlife Garden page on the website.

 

For those who might not get the chance to come now, here’s a bit about what’s been going on in our garden this autumn.

 

Most recent sightings in the garden have included several common moths such as the large underwing moth and the brick moth, a determined fox who has often been seen stalking birds, shield bugs and a magnificent kestrel spotted swooping down for a quick snack mouse. Just today, a gorgeous goldfinch has appeared, so maybe we will see more of these lovely birds in the future.

 

By November the different shades of autumn are completely transforming the Wildlife Garden to a rich palette of yellow, orange, red, pink and brown.

toad-200.jpg

'Please leave us some leaves to hide in'

Leaf raking has been taking place since early October to keep the paths clear for visitors, and to protect the grassland. Fallen leaves are left in hedges and woodland to break down naturally – helped by invertebrates living in leaf litter – and to provide refuges for animals such as toads. Leaf-raking chores have been made easier thanks to a big infux of volunteers from the nearby Imperial College. At this time of year, about 12 people (most are part-time) help look after the garden during the week and another 12-15 assist on weekends once a month. At the moment there is much to do.

 

 

The butter-yellow lime leaves were the first to fall and these trees will be the first to stand unclad. The London plane trees towering high above the garden are now turning orange brown. Plane tree leaves are very leathery and unlike our native trees, take ages to break down, so our garden carers have to gently remove them from certain areas and shred them up for re-scattering. (Otherwise they’d smother other plants beneath.) It’s the beech leaves which turn that gorgeous rich toffee colour, while the field maple and hornbeam go golden yellow and rowan pink and red. The wonder and diversity of trees!

 

It has been a busy time for many of the garden’s animal residents too.

 

From early autumn, fruits and berries have been ripening and birds and small mammals start harvesting before the winter and seasonal food shortages begin. The earliest berries to mature were rowan – they don’t remain on the trees for long as birds swoop in on them to devour the orange-red juicy fruits. In the hedgerows, blackbirds have been feasting on dark blackberries and bluish-purple sloes.

 

Cracked shells are everywhere in evidence of hazel nuts and acorns collected by squirrels, wood mice and jays – some are stored and some are eaten.

As well as the general upkeep that autumn changes make necessary in the garden, the wildlife gardeners’ work during the early winter months includes feeding birds, checking nest boxes and making any necessary repairs to the moorhens’ island.


Thanks to the Wildlife Garden team for their updates. Follow the What's new blog for more updates on our winter activities in the garden.

1

Meet the sheep

Posted by Rose Oct 8, 2009
bee-lamb-400.jpg
Young Bee takes a break from her munch marathon in the Wildlife Garden

 

Since the sheep arrived in the Museum Wildlife Garden in August (see my first blog post 'It's sheep time'), I have wanted to meet them. Last week I did. Good thing too, because it looks like they may be leaving soon. Honey, Bella and Bee were busy grazing in the meadow by the pond and seemed a bit shy and preoccupied. But I got a good glimpse of their gorgeously shaggy, woolly coats up-close and witnessed just what voracious munchers they are. Apparently they graze most of the grassland areas including the chalk, meadow, large pond and and the orchard - which is roughly a quarter of the entire Wildlife Garden area - in about 5 weeks. With a little help recently from 2 moorhens so I'm told.

 

I learned from the garden's keeper that Bee, Bella's lamb, is nearly 5 months old and has been rather adventurous finding holes in the fencing and grazing in other areas she's not supposed to.

 

On my visit, I also spotted a sign that listed recent sightings in the garden. Some exciting ones, including a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a slow worm. And of course the foxes, spiders and dragonflies which are familiar in the Wildlife Garden at this time of year.

 

 

3sheep-400.jpg

Bee, Bella and Honey in the meadow by the Wildlife Garden pond

It was really good to enjoy a brief respite in the tranquil garden, admiring the reflections of the majestic Museum building in the pond's water, near the sheep. (Thanks Matt for accompanying me to take some photos.) You can catch the sheep in the garden if you hurry. And I recommend a last stroll around before the garden closes to the public on 31 October. See some of the highlights you might encounter in our Wildlife Garden slideshow.


I will keep you posted on what’s happening behind the scenes over the winter months. It’s a very busy time for the garden and its carers.

0

Bye-bye butterflies

Posted by Rose Sep 24, 2009

butterfly-500-2.jpg

'We're on the move to Longleat'

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

charlie-branch-400.jpg

Charlie on his favourite branch

 

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

 

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


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

0

cocoon-wall-projection-420.jpg

Atmospheric wall projection on the Cocoon tour

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

 

BBC  One O’clock News

BBC News online Day in pictures

Daily  Mail Online

Daily  Mirror

Daily  Telegraph

Guardian Online

Times  Online

New  Scientist online

 

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

 

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


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


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

1 2 3 4 Previous Next