This week, the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity officially opens its doors to the nature loving world – if you are reading this then that should include you!
So who are we, what are we about, and what can we do for you?
The Identification and Advisory Service (IAS) is a team of five museum experts and natural historians all with a subject specialism - we cover palaeontology (that’s the fossils and rocks), mineralogy (minerals) , Entomology (the insects), botany (the plants), Zoology (that’s everything else!) - but the most important thing is, we all have a passion for natural history, we love it, we can’t get enough of it, in fact every day something amazing comes through our doors, found by you! This week alone we have identified a dormouse nest, an oil beetle, the jaw bone of a lizard found in an owl pellet, and a slime mould - nice!
The museum has for many years run an identification service – where else would you turn if you suddenly found a strange bug in your bedroom, dug up a dinosaur bone, found a plant you had never seen before, saw the most amazing creature on holiday, with no idea of how to identify it – well, you would come to the Museum wouldn’t you?
For the first time, the Museum’s UK collections and supporting expertise can be accessed in one place and in a number of ways:
You can email firstname.lastname@example.org
You can call 020 7942 5045
You can drop in
Or you can join our online forums http://www.nhm.ac.uk/natureplus/community/identification
The centre for UK biodiversity acts as a gateway to the UK collections, and the experts that care for them. We are available to speak first hand to you about your natural history interests. We can identify your finds, or if we are unable to identify your specimen we know a scientist who can! Also, we can help you find out more about your special natural history interests, such as assisting you in using our reference collections and library.
Already we have had some amazing experiences and seen some very special things. We never know what might come through our doors, although sometimes we can predict it! For instance, there are some likely culprits that turn up every year, how about the Harlequin ladybird, hibernating in our homes in large numbers, causing you to call in with questions from do ladybirds bite (yes they do!) to what effect are they having on our native ladybirds?
Or, the hornets, those seem to terrorise so many of us, but are in fact far more placid than the common wasp!
Vespa crabro queen
Then there are the summer holidays, where you are out and about, maybe along the UK’s beautiful coastline, or even abroad, it’s amazing what gets washed up from the sea! For example, this was dredged up on the south coast:
Jaw bone of Aurochs, primitive cattle, Holocene c. 12,000 yrs old
Even if you have an interest in natural history, but you are unsure where to start, give us a call or drop us an email and we can give you some pointers, for example, there are hundreds of UK natural history societies, forums and recording groups, all happy to share their expertise and welcome you to their group.
The IAS’s new online natural history forum is an excellent place to start if you have found something that interests you or are curious about.
Here are a few examples:
We get many of these when people are digging around in their gardens:Upper molar of domestic cattle, found in back garden
Or these, which form from lumps of mudstone and limestone that have dried out forming shrinkage cracks:
Septarian nodule or ‘turtle stone’ found in Wales.
This was submitted for identification as a fossilized turtle, and you can see why!
Finally, why are we here? This might sound like an existential question but it’s an important one. Now more than ever, there is a necessity to research, record and conserve the natural organisms with which we (humans) co-habit. We have all heard about biodiversity loss and species decline, as well as the success stories of species recovery. All of this must be underpinned by a robust knowledge of our natural environment and the organisms that live within it. The diversity of life is a wonderful thing, worth conserving, and respecting, and we can’t do that unless, at a basic level, we know what things are, what they do, where to find them.
That’s where you come in to the picture.
The future’s bright – the future’s natural history.