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What's new at the Museum

2 Posts tagged with the international_biodiversity tag
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We recently staged the first of our new art-and-play events in the Museum's Darwin Centre. This series of free public events is being held over peak holiday periods and invites visitors to explore nature and Museum science in unusual, playful ways. The events are designed especially for these times when the Museum's central areas can get crowded, and they offer families something fun and active to get involved in.

 

For those of you who missed out on the first event, or who wondered what it was all about, here's a round-up from Sarah Punshon, the curator of the Darwin Centre Arts programme.

 

'Over the August Bank holiday weekend, the Darwin Centre was taken over by children in colourful head-dresses; puppet birds, moths and caterpillars; competitive nut-hunting, nest-building and jigsaw-racing; crafting and art for our topically-themed Nature Games Weekend.

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A family joins in the nest-building activity. Artists and scientists all helped to create about 16 different activities for our Nature Games Weekend.

'Each day more than 6,000 visitors found their way into the Darwin Centre, led through other parts of the Museum, and 100s of them joined in the games and actvities. It was a wonderful event to be involved in, free to all, and we're already planning our next extravaganza for the October half-term holidays.

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Out-flapping a beetle was one of the many challenges in the weekend's Insect Sports Day.

'The nature games were specially created for us by artists and scientists. There were games which involved making things, drawing things, identifying things, or pretending to be things – plus a challenge trail linking various natural history tasks from pond-dipping to beetle-classifying.

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Joining the giant caterpillars as they travel through galleries towards the Darwin Centre.

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The massive moth flies around the Darwin Centre after hatching at the end of the Pests game.

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A crafty young man creates his own unique beetle as part of The Ersatz Entomologist activity.

'The Orange Zone's Darwin Centre showcases the Museum’s cutting-edge science, and gives families a chance to see behind the scenes. The centre's airy atrium space, its lofty Cocoon building and outdoor Courtyard make it a perfect space to host such events. We wanted to get families interacting together and it really succeeded in doing this.

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Trying your hand at identifying species: A family takes part in the Quest challenge. 112 teams completed this task over the weekend.

'It wasn't just the children who took part either, there was lots of fantastic interaction between parents and their kids. Seeing mums and dads dressed up as termites, identifying bugs and making nests, really encouraged the youngsters to get involved. It created a friendly and supportive learning atmosphere, which is what we were hoping for.

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Outside in the Darwin Centre Courtyard competitors hunt down different 'samples', using their giant magnifying glasses.

'The Nature Games Weekend was the result of a creative collaboration with award-winning games design studio, Hide&Seek. Games designers were matched with scientists to help them develop their work. For example, lichenologist Holger Thues kindly spent time explaining the ways scientists use UV light to distinguish between different species of lichen – leading to an exciting game outside in the Courtyard called UV Detectives.

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Energetic young players go for it in the Ants vs Termites game.

'I'd like to thank all the Museum staff and volunteers who worked so hard at making the event brilliant fun for visitors, and also our artists and games designers, Andy Field, Josh Hadley, Kai-Oi Jay Yung, Simon Watt, Caroline Gardiner, Matthew Robins, and all at Hide&Seek.

 

'We all learned masses from this first event, hopefully our second one will be even better!  So look out for The Campsite, which will be happening over October half-term. Watch this space for more details...'

Enjoy a few more Nature Games Weekend pictures. Select images to enlarge them

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A young player racing to piece together The Puzzle of the Mysterious Creature

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Mum and son take part in the blindfold In Spirit challenge.

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Hunting for nuts in the Squirrels game

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Actor John Hinton calls on visitors to join the Quest for the Curious

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This family 'donated' themselves to our collection... and learned about the importance of labelling specimens correctly!


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They may be small and spotty, but ladybirds were certainly one of the most photographed and collected creatures on our Big (and blustery) Nature Day at the Museum. Actually, this may cause our scientists a bit of concern because many of the ones found were the invasive harlequin ladybirds, Harmonia axyridis.
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A selection of ladybird photos taken on Big Nature Day. Top row: All harlequin ladybirds, first is a larva. Bottom row: Left, an orange harlequin; middle and right, a 7-spot ladybird emerging from its pupa - its yellow colour turns to red in about 24 hours.

On the day hundreds of visitors, including many excited children and myself, joined in the Big Nature Count, a bioblitz of the Museum's Wildlife Garden. Researchers and volunteers were out and about with traps, nets and  cameras, conducting samples of wildlife in the 24-hour nature census. A  big malaise trap tent had been set up for flying insects, light traps  for moths and pitfall traps - little jars in the ground - to attract   ground beetles and slugs.

 

We were celebrating the International Day for Biological Diversity on 22 May. It was sure to be a busy event. With over 300 plant species in the garden there is a lot to attract a wide variety of insects.

Watch the Big Nature Day highlights in this video

The meeting point was the Base Camp tent outside on the Darwin Centre Courtyard, where groups could follow Big Nature Count guided tours with our Museum scientists. But many people simply made their own trails through the Wildlife Garden.

 

Inside the Base Camp tent, scientists sorted through the samples collected. There were lots of things to see, like a huge stag beetle that I even let run across my hand.

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Base Camp: Visitors and researchers sift through samples collected and get hands-on. Right: Investigating plant galls on a sycamore leaf, the red swellings are the plant's defensive response to attack from mites. Select all images to enlarge them

Out in the Wildlife Garden on our discovery trails, we stopped at various tables dotted around the meadows and ponds. Here, helpful experts suggested places to search. On the tables were displays of creatures and samples already collected. My favourite place was the pondlife table. I got rather attached to a shy toad.

 

Heading into the Darwin Centre atrium after our garden adventures, we had some of our photos printed and added to the Photo wall (below left). After that, it was off to the Specimen Roadshow (below right) to marvel at Ed Buller's flies and wasps, Sandy Knapp's vegetable extravaganza and some 'mucky' soil identification tests.

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Because of the gusty weather, there weren't many moths collected in the traps set the night before. And the

recent dry spell meant the worms decided to stay underground. Emma Sherlock who led the worm charming sessions said:

 

'There were lots of people, but not many worms sadly. Strangely the winning worm charming technique was the stamping while playing the tamborine... hmmm!'


big-nature-day-specimen-roadshow.jpgOur entomologists, however, were excited to discover an unusual fly in the day's bioblitz. The little drab wood soldier fly, hasn't been seen before in the Wildlife Garden. Read the news story about the unusual fly found in the Museum's garden bioblitz.

 

All in all, hundreds of plant and animal species were found in the Big Nature Count. Most of the creatures collected were set free after they had been recorded, but a few individual specimens will be kept in the Museum's collection because they are important for research. It will take a bit more time to identify everything and interpret the findings so we can understand more about our local wildlife, but we hope to have a final count shortly.

 

Look out for a video account of the day coming soon.


Find out more about the Wildlife Garden

 

Learn more about harlequin ladybirds


Get involved in British natural history

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Here's one of my favourite photos taken at the Big Nature Day of a flower beetle, Oedemera lurida, feeding on the pollen of an ox-eye daisy.