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Suzanne Williams

Department of Life Sciences, NHM

Wednesday 30 April 11:00

 

Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)


The deep-sea accounts for approximately 60% of the Earth's surface, and yet little is known about its rich diversity. This fragile ecosystem is under threat from habitat destruction and over-exploitation from fishing and mining ventures. It is vital we learn more about the diversity of the deep-sea biota and their evolution before these habitats suffer further destruction.

 

Understanding their evolution involves answering significant questions such as how have deep sea organisms adapted to cope with the demanding nature of this extreme environment, where problems include high pressure, limited food resources, low light and the difficulty of producing and maintaining a protective shell.

 

http://www.nhm.ac.uk/resources-rx/images/1036/deep-sea-trochoid_125316_1.jpg

A new species of deep-sea trochid

 

I investigate the effects of three separate factors and their effects on diversification in two families of deep-sea gastropods: 1) global climate change, 2) tectonic events and 3) key innovations including the loss of eye function and changes in trophic level.

 

For more information on Suzanne's research, see her project pages.

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This March I taught a course on collections management at the University of Brasilia (UnB) in the capital of Brazil. The class included both undergraduate and postgraduate students studying Geology, Museology and Art, mainly at UnB. This is the third time that I have presented a similar course in Brazil with previous courses delivered at UnB and the Museu Goeldi in Belem.

 

After the course I asked the students 'what was the most important thing you learned?' To illustrate the course contents, a summary of their answers is included here. There is also a picture of some of the less friendly Brazilian inhabitants I encountered!

 

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Me with some of the class in the display area of the Museum of Geosciences at the University of Brasilia.

 

The course draws on examples from my 20 years of experience in managing microfossil collections, but the principles covered are relevant to the management of a wide range of natural history collections. Previous classes have included entomologists, botanists and zoologists. This time many of the course participants were museology undergraduate students wanting to find out about managing scientific collections.

 

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Just outside the Museum of Geosciences, University of Brasilia. This was my third visit to the university but it was the busiest and noisiest. It was Freshers Week so there were lots of noisy events including a student initiation just outside the window of the lecture theatre!

 

Rather than providing a dry summary of the course, I thought that I would precis/summarise some of the student feedback. I was also pleased to find that the students said I was understandable, delivered the course well and provided a good balance of lectures and practicals.

 

Some lessons learnt by the students:

  • Big and small museums face the same issues.
  • Curators must work hard to publicise and advocate their collections to maintain their relevance.
  • How to plan before acquiring objects for your collection.
  • Collections development and conservation plans are important.
  • Why it is important to try to register everything in your collection.
  • Thorough labelling and documentation is important because you don't know how a collection might be used in the future.
  • Data standards are important to help organise and manage a collection.
  • What the risks are for a collection and how they can be avoided.

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The class discussing collections development ideas.


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A trip to the UnB library to see the paper conservation unit.

 

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A visit to the geology collections with Dr Maria-Julia Chelini. The students affectionately call this basement corridor The Dungeon!

 

As ever I was looked after amazingly well by my hosts, including Maria-Julia Chelini at the Museum of Geosciences and her husband Ricardo Pinto. While I was not lecturing I was a guest at the beautiful country house of my old friend Dermeval do Carmo. There were also some less than friendly inhabitants that helped to make it a very interesting visit:

 

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My hosts called me to see this. I have tentatively identified it as a Brazilian wandering spider; aggressive and the world's most venomous spider according to Wikipedia. I am hoping someone will write and tell me I am wrong...

 

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The amazing view from the country house of Dr Dermeval do Carmo who invited me to give the course and looked after me so well during my visit.

 

 

Finally I would like to quote directly from feedback of one of the students Anna Maria Amorim de Oliveira who neatly summarises the benefits of providing courses like this and makes reference to the fact that it wasn't just me talking all the time. We had some really great discussions too!

'For me the whole course was very relevant, because I think that any example of the Natural History Museum could be useful in another collection and it’s always amazing to have an opportunity to know more about other countries' experience, especially at one of the most important museums in the world. But in my opinion the first exercise about how to improve our museum was exciting, because it raised a very interesting discussion!'

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This week we have 15 new book additions, covering Zoology, General Natural History, Earth Sciences, Ornithology, Entomology and Botany. Download the PDF attached to the bottom of this blog to view this week's list.


If you wish to view these or any other items, please contact the library to arrange an appointment library@nhm.ac.uk or 020 7942 5460

 

The Library catalogue is available online and more information about the Library & Archives collections can be found via our website

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Open Water in Antarctic conservation

Posted by Conservators Apr 15, 2014

Author: Sue Bassett

Date: 09/04/2014

Temperature: -24 degrees C

Windspeed: None

Temperature with wind chill: -24 degrees C

Sunrise: 0905

Sunset: 1643

 

One of the highlights (so far) of this winter on the ice has been, without doubt, the opportunity to observe the effects of having open water in front of Scott Base. Usually a year-round frozen ice shelf, the open water has brought some spectacular sea mists and not just the usual populations of Weddell seals and Adelie penguins, but large numbers of killer whales and Emperor penguins (and even the occasional cruise ship!) … to literally right outside our windows. Beats television!

Morning sea mist.JPG

Morning sea mist

 

Cruise ship.JPG

A cruise ship takes advantage of the open water to take a closer look at Scott Base

 

 

Each day we have had the pleasure of watching a group of about 50 Emperors (all adolescent males, I'm told) huddle, fish, play, squawk, dive and scoot around (belly down) on the ice edge. And occasionally they'll take a long walk across the ice to what seems like nowhere in particular, usually in single file and in a very determined fashion, only to huddle for a while before returning again by foot or from beneath the ice through an open pool or crack. But, alas, as we head into our last fortnight of daylight before the austral winter darkness sets in, the sea now looks to have frozen over and, sadly for us (and perhaps also for them, as they may have been equally fascinated by the behaviours of Scott Base residents) the last of the Emperors have walked off … to somewhere else.

Emperors huddling.JPG

Huddling

 

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Off for a walk

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Author: Meg Absolon

Date: 02/04/2014

Temperature: -34 degrees celcius

Wind speed: 0 knots

Temperature with wind chill: -34 degrees celcius

Sunrise: 0926

Sunset: 1826

 

Oh the frustration of losing things. It's a bit late for the owner now but it's nice to have found his second sock. Of course it couldn't have been in the washing machine, and it wasn't under the bed. It was in fact under the floorboards of Discovery hut. Why and how did it get there is anyone's guess. The magical mystery of missing things may never be understood. Interestingly though, the sock was also under the floorboards with other objects including empty ration bags, twine and cordage, a dust-brush, sardine can and safety pin.

 

SECOND SOCK.jpg

Second sock

 

The objects were recovered from under the floor by the outgoing AHT summer team who were undertaking structural stabilisation work on the hut which involved lifting some of the floorboards. So how did these objects manage to find their way there? Of course we can only speculate but it's likely they were simply swept into a hole in the floor which had been created by the Ross Sea Party.

The empty ration bags are unmarked and so we can't ever know what meal they contributed to. One of the bags is still tied at the top and ripped open down the side. One appears to be covered in cocoa and white crystalline grains, perhaps sugar. Taste testing is not advised for obvious reasons. Others contain a soft waxy substance also of unknown identity. I'm curious as to what they actually contained and what the men were up to on the day they emptied those bags. The image below shows the ration bags drying after being washed to remove damaging acids and salts. All stains, soot and contents are retained as important historic information.

 

RATION BAGS DRYING.jpg

Ration bags drying

 

Another interesting part of the underfloor assemblage of objects is a beautifully retained length of twined rope with a particularly strong smell. The smell isn't altogether unpleasant but it's distinctive as you open the door to the workspace each morning. The smell is very similar to pine tar which was used to saturate hemp fibres for pre-prepared wooden ship caulking, which is likely the purpose of this rope.

 

CAULKING.jpg

Caulking

It's been an interesting week contemplating the discarded or lost objects under the hut and I wonder if the loss of that sock was ever of torment to its owner.

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This week we have 12 new book additions, covering Zoology, General Natural History, Earth Sciences, Ornithology, Entomology and Botany. Download the PDF attached to the bottom of this blog to view this week's list.


If you wish to view these or any other items, please contact the library to arrange an appointment library@nhm.ac.uk or 020 7942 5460

 

The Library catalogue is available online and more information about the Library & Archives collections can be found via our website

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The Palaeontographical Society – 8th Annual Address

 

Dr Richard Edmonds (Jurassic Coast Heritage Centre) - "The Jurassic Coast: fossils, history, value, and management".

 

Wednesday 16th April – 4 pm (following immediately from the AGM).

 

Flett Lecture Theatre, The Natural History Museum, London

 

Tea and coffee from 3:30 pm.

 

Free to attend – all welcome.

 

The Dorset and East Devon coast was designated as a World Heritage Site in 2001 on the grounds that it contains the most complete and continuous exposure of sedimentary rocks through the Mesozoic anywhere in the world. Those rocks record virtually one third of the evolution of life including the age of the reptiles. These interests are maintained by erosion which itself forms the third element of the Outstanding Universal Value of the Site, being superlative examples of coastal processes from spectacular landslides to a barrier beach and erosion along a concordant and discordant coast. The principle threat to the site is the construction of coastal defences and we support Natural England and work closely with coastal engineers to try to find pragmatic solutions where potential conflicts do arise.

 

The second area of work is the management of the fossil collecting interest along the coast. There is a long history of collecting and collectors have and continue to demonstrate their invaluable role in the recovery of fossils from the very process that exposes them, erosion. The fossils, particularly in West Dorset, are also a fabulous and sustainable resource to engage and excite the public in the Earth sciences and places such as the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre and Lyme Regis Museum run regular and extremely popular guided walks which are enthusing younger generations.

 

Our approach to collecting is based on the national guidance provided by Natural England, one of responsible collecting. We have developed that approach through the West Dorset fossil collecting code of conduct and also benefited from Heritage Lottery funded projects such as Collecting Cultures, which has helped enhance museum collections and secure specimens of great scientific importance. Our approach is not perfect and we do not claim that it is. The main issues is the acquisition of specimens of key scientific importance and this relates to funding, capacity within museums and differing ambitions between those parties involved and this will form the major part of the presentation.

 

http://www.palaeosoc.org/site/home/

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This week we have 10 new book additions, covering Zoology, General Natural History, Earth Sciences, Ornithology, Entomology and Botany. Download the PDF attached to the bottom of this blog to view this week's list.


If you wish to view these or any other items, please contact the library to arrange an appointment library@nhm.ac.uk or 020 7942 5460

 

The Library catalogue is available online and more information about the Library & Archives collections can be found via our website

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So this piece has come about because of my participation in Twitter's recent #MuseumWeek. This was a global series of twitter questions, answers, selfies, confessions, etc. about the work, specimens, collections and staff that reside in museums. As a consequence of I have been nominated to join in the '11 Museum Blogger Questions' by Emma-Louise Nicholls who wrote a fine blog piece herself, answering the same questions and then passed the challenge on to me to talk about my life in the Natural History Museum.

 

Right, I will get on and respond:

 

1) Who are you and what do you blog about?

 

I am one of the collection Managers at the Natural History Museum - I manage the team who are involved with the Diptera, Arachnida, Myriapoda and Siphonaptera collections and personally am responsible for part of the collection (the Larger Brachycera - big, chunky flies). We estimate that there are between 3 to 4 million specimens in the collection here but that is a conservative guess as there are many jars of unsorted material (volunteers anyone?).

 

So I blog about my professional life in and out of the Museum; the collections that I look after, the field trips I go on and all the other parts that make up an incredibly varied job! I sit at this desk below when i am not in the Darwin Centre Cocoon, or the lab responding to emails asking for flies that I will send off around the world.

 

DSCN2448.JPG

 

2) Which post on your blog did you have the most fun writing?

 

OK, so this is a hard one. It’s great writing about my field trips (e.g. Ethiopia or Tajikistan) as it helps me remember all of the fantastic things that I have seen and come across, as well as documenting some of the more interesting finds. However, in truth, writing the blogs about the specimens is what I really like. The one on Nemestrinidae was great because not only do I get to show off the specimens that usually remain hidden in closed cabinets but also I get to learn something along the way.

 

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One very beautiful fly

 

I spend ages checking the nomenclature, reading the publications associated with the material, imaging the specimens and so really get to know set parts of the collection. It’s a win/win situation. Although anytime I get to write about maggots is a bonus.

 

3) If you could nominate anyone to write a blog on the subject of your choice, who would you ask and what would it be on?

 

Dead or alive? Hmm, I think it would have to be Harold Oldroyd – a dipterist who worked in the Department many years ago. He worked on many groups of diptera and had an incrediable knowledge of both flies and the collections at the Museum.

 

Amongst his many achievements he wrote a book on the Natural History of Flies which is one of the most beautifully written books I have read - his language is charming and whimsical! - and it is the dipterists bible so I often refer to it.

 

book.jpg

The dipterist's bible

 

It would be great to read him waxing-lyrical about all the additions and changes that have occurred in the last 50 years since this book was published. I think his take on the different ways in which we can use technology to help describe new species from highly specialised microscopes to molecular techniques would be most insightful.

 

4) Why do you work in a museum?

 

Because it is the best place to work - simple. Where else would you get such an interesting, varied job! One minute I explaining the mating habits of flies to 200 people, the next I am holding on to the side of Peruvian mountains, and then I am recurating a collection containing specimens that were donated by Darwin. I am sampled flies from poo all over the world - there are not many people who get to put that on their CV!

 

5) If you could spend a year in a ‘job swap’ with someone at another museum, who would it be?

 

Hmmm. OK would I go for specimens or the curator. Oh, this is hard. Right if you forced me to chose just one - it would be with Torsten Dikow at the Smithsonian. I really like the group of flies called Asilidae (Robberflies - see below) and he is one of the leading experts in the field.

 

Ommatius discalis (3).jpg

 

He also manages the fly collection there and thanks to his interests in the Asilidae, the collection is mighty fine.

 

6) If time and money were not an issue, which museum in the world would you most like to visit?

 

Easy - I want to go and see the Entomology collection at the Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii. It is an enormous collection with some excellent dipterists looking after it (and a real expert on Bombyliidae - the beeflies), and it contains so many endemic species only found in Hawaii. The collection also has the added bonus of holding the bombyliid collections from other institutes including the Smithsonian. In fact maybe I should change my earlier answer and spend the year there instead. It does have the added advantage of being in Hawaii...

 

7) What’s the one thing in your average week at work that you look forward to doing the most?

 

Looking at flies. I do this job primarily for the love of the insects that I work on. Identifying specimens and knowing that this information will be used to help us understand pollination events, climate change, vector distributions, etc. is just a bonus to looking down the microscope at some of the most gorgeous specimens.

 

56563.jpg

See....gorgeous!

 

8) Please share a museum selfie.

 

OK, here's me and Daz....

 

me and daz.JPG

 

9) If you could sell something in your museum shop (that you don’t already), what would it be?

 

Either sweep nets, microscopes or Steve Marshall's book on flies. I have all of these and would be loathe to part with any. Maybe skittles [the sweet] would be good as well, for when I get mid-day cravings.

 

10) What is it about the people you have chosen to nominate next, that made you think they were a good choice?

 

I am going to nominate my colleague Alessandro Guisti. He works on the more showbiz insects (butterflies and moths) but I dont hold that against him. There is always so much going on that sometimes the only way you can keep up with colleagues is to read about what they are doing via their blogs. He writes very well and you can really feel his passion for his subject matter.

 

The second is Richard Jones who, although he dosent work for a museum, did once spend some time working for one and I think would have an interesting slant on blogs

 

11) If you turned into a devious miscreant over night, which specimen in your museum would you steal and why?

 

Either one of the diamonds or one of the meteorites. I’m not daft though - not the biggest but one I can sell and then buy a tropical island and then carry on collecting flies. I wouldn’t take an insect as that wouldn’t be right…

 

OK nominated bloggers, it's your turn and here’s what you have to do:

 

Answer the 11 questions I have listed for you below (you can adapt them slightly to fit your blog if you wish).

 

Make sure you include the BEST BLOG image (see the top of this page) in your post, and link the blog back to me, or this blog post.

 

Think of who to nominate next, I’d recommend two or three though it is up to you, and either give them the same 11 questions or change them however you wish.

 

Your questions are;

 

1. Who are you and what do you blog about?

 

2. What blog piece did you enjoy writing the most?

 

3. What made you want to start a blog?

 

4. What is the best thing about working in a museum?

 

5. If time and money were not an issue, which museum in the world would you most like to visit?

 

6. What is your earliest museum memory?

 

7. If you could be the director of any museum, which one would it be and why?

 

8. Share a museum selfie?

 

9. If you could own a single object or specimen from a museum’s collections, which one would it be and why?

 

10. What is the most popular post on your blog?

 

11. What’s the oddest question you have received in relation to a blog post?

 

Good luck!

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This week I came across links to several versions of a story out of Manchester claiming a university professor had photographed fairies. Before you ask, no, the articles weren't published on the 1st, so I could rule out an April Fool. And John Hyatt, the photographer who captured the tiny creatures on camera, swore to the Manchester Evening News that his images were 'genuine and have not been altered in any way'. He told the newspaper:

The message to people is to approach them with an open mind. There are stranger things in life than fairies, and life grows everywhere

 

Here at the Museum our scientists know better than most about the weird and wonderful creatures nature can throw up. But while even the most rational among us might want to believe in the fantastical, we are, after all, members of a world-class scientific institution, and it is our practice - our obligation - to examine claims of new species rigorously.

 

So I took the evidence to Erica McAlister, our resident expert in small flying things (or Diptera, to use the technical term), for a professional analysis of these photographs of what are being called the Rossendale Fairies.

 

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John Hyatt's photographs of what he believes are fairies, taken in Whitaker Park in Rossendale, Lancashire, and published by the Manchester Evening News. The creatures have been dubbed the Rossendale Fairies, in a nod to the famous story of the Cottingley Fairies, first photographed in 1917, and championed by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

 

Prefacing her findings with a warning that 'I am basing all my fairy knowledge on Wikipedia, a publication that is not peer reviewed, and therefore some of what I present may be inaccurate', Erica said:

My first impression was they can’t be fairies as there is no wand. But that is like saying mosquitoes aren’t flies because they don’t look like your typical house fly, so I had to approach this more taxonomically.

 

Wiki states that: "Although in modern culture they are often depicted as young, sometimes winged, humanoids of small stature, (fairies) originally were depicted quite differently: tall, radiant, angelic beings or short, wizened trolls being two of the commonly mentioned forms. Diminutive fairies of one kind or another have been recorded for centuries, but occur alongside the human-sized beings; these have been depicted as ranging in size from very tiny up to the size of a human child".

 

So within the modern, highly evolved fairies (that is incredibly fast evolution from their original body form to the present, but this may be because they are magical) small size is normal and the habitat description (occurring alongside humans) would fit their locality.

 

And to further help with morphological identification Wiki states: "Wings, while common in Victorian and later artwork of fairies, are very rare in the folklore; even very small fairies flew with magic, sometimes flying on ragwort stems or the backs of birds. Nowadays, fairies are often depicted with ordinary insect wings or butterfly wings".

 

It was that reference to insect wings that gave Erica the breakthrough she was after in her quest to identify the creatures in Hyatt's photographs.

Hmmm, maybe they are not fairies at all, but rather insects. Small swarming winged insects… Small swarming flies… Small swarming midges such as chironomids.

 

 

When one compares the behaviour, size and general morphology of a midge versus a fairy there are similarities (convergent evolution), but I think that I will throw my professional credentials on the line and plump with the former. These tiny midges form mating swarms where the males will ‘dance’ around trying to attract the opposite sex. They have delicate wings and long legs which dangle down.

 

fairy.jpg

A classical depiction of a fairy, by 17th century artist Luis Ricardo Falero (left), and a chironomid, or non-biting midge, photographed by Glen Peterson (right).

 

So there we have it: one of the best minds in the study of small winged creatures has determined that these suspected fairies photographed by John Hyatt are in fact, most likely, midges. But Erica tempered her findings with the following statement:

There are many undescribed species on the planet and who knows what lies out there – we are still determining new species all the time, including large mammals. But as far as I know, no magical beings have turned up yet.

 

Personally, I’m holding out for a unicorn.

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Bartram - Sarracenia flava, yellow pitcher plant & Sarracenia purpurea, pitcher plant NHMPL 015930.jpg

 

By Judith Magee, Special Collections Curator

 

William Bartram (1739-1823) was the son of the Quaker farmer and nurseryman John Bartram (1699-1777), who established a botanical garden at his home in Kingsessing, some four miles from Philadelphia. For many years John traded packets of seed of American plants to customers all over Europe and was responsible for introducing up to a third of North American plants to Europe during his lifetime. William, like his father, became an excellent botanist and plant collector. He was also a very skilled artist and many of Bartram’s drawings portray the plants and animals in context, showing the inter-relationship and dependency between species and the habitat in which they lived; a depiction quite different from that of most natural history artists of the day.

 

Bartram - Evening primrose NHMPL 015966.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

Between the years 1773 –1777 William travelled through the Carolinas, Georgia and East and West Florida as far as the Mississippi River. He collected plants and seed, wrote a journal and completed drawings for his patron John Fothergill (1712-1780), a London physician. On his return to Philadelphia Bartram wrote his now famous work Travels through North & South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, published in 1791. The importance of this work is manifold, not least the influence it had on the Romantic poets of Europe. Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth are just two of the many poets who were influenced by Bartram’s book. The poetic imagery evoked in his writings and his rhapsodic language found its way into many well-known poems. Bartram viewed the earth as an organic whole, a living unity of diverse and interdependent life forms and it was this understanding of nature that also made him so attractive to the Romantic poets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bartram was also a significant influence in shaping science in America in the post-revolutionary era. The process of nation building and eradicating American dependence on Europe was reflected in the struggle for an American cultural and scientific identity. The study of naturBartram -Eastern diamondback rattlesnake NHMPL 015960.jpgal science was seen as a patriotic act in which Americans themselves were discovering their natural products, identifying, classifying, describing and naming these species, in short stamping American control over their subject. William Bartram was very conscious of this and during his lifetime gave inspiration and encouragement to a long list of young American scientists.

 

 

Today Bartram’s Travels remains in print and continues to be read by practitioners of all disciplines of natural history and the arts. A large portion of his book is devoted to describing the lifestyle and culture of the Native Americans of the region that he travelled through. His writings are amongst the very few that give first-hand knowledge of the subject. His own experiences during his travels led him to develop a great admiration of the Creek and Cherokee Nations lifestyle and particularly their relationship with nature.

 

 

The Bartram collection is made up of 68 drawings most of which were sent to John Fothergill between 1772 and 1776. Fothergill’s library, including all his artwork, was auctioned after his death in 1780. A number of lots were purchased by Sir Joseph Banks including the Bartram material and were given the Banks Mss. number of 23.

 

Further reading:

 

Magee, Judith (2007) The art and science of William Bartram, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press in association with the Natural History Museum.

Bartram - Butorides virescens, green heron NHMPL 015917.jpgBartram - Dendroica magnolia (Wilson), magnolia warbler NHMPL 015964.jpg

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EARTH SCIENCES SEMINAR ROOM Tuesday 8th April - 4.00 pm

Javier Cuadros, Department of Earth Sciences, Natural History Museum, London

 

Confinement appears to be essential at the mineral-microbial interface and has an effect on both, microbial development and mineral formation. The role of confinement starts before life itself. Prebiotic molecules had to be concentrated from water or gas and "confined", possibly within clay interlayers, where they could react, be protected from adverse physical and chemical conditions, and perhaps also where specific reactions were catalysed.

 

Microorganisms frequently confine themselves within organic or inorganic walls for a number of reasons such as protection and feeding. They build exopolysaccharide capsules, burrow into mineral grains, etc. Close contact or confinement within mineral grains is arguably the habitat of the largest portion of existing microorganisms.

 

Microbial confinement has a feed-back effect on minerals. Microbes burrowing into mineral grains contribute to mineral weathering. Confined spaces inhabited by microorganisms, such as burrows, biofilms, exoskeletons of dead microbial algae, have chemical conditions different from the surrounding environment and impact mineral crystallization. For example, glauconite originates largely in connection to biological decay within marine shells.  Microbial activity can thus control to some extent the chemistry, mineralogy and formation rate of the neoformed phases. Clay minerals are obviously affected by microbially-mediated confinement of mineral-solution systems, as they are typically formed in the range of conditions in which these processes take place.

 

For additional details on attending this or other seminars see http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/seminars-events/index.htm

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School's out, British summer time has arrived, butterflies are released and the call of the dinosaurs booms loud. If you're coming to visit over the Easter holidays here are some tips to make your trip an even happier one.

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Sensational Butterflies opened last week with the release of hundreds of tropical butterflies into the polytunnel hothouse on the Museum's front lawn. Select images to enlarge.

1. Butterfly rush

Our Sensational Butterflies outdoor exhibition is always a hit with kids and adults alike. Pick up an identification chart to see which species you can spot and follow the activity stamp trail. Look out for the hatchery and feeding table. Dress for the tropics though, it's very humid inside because that's the way the butterflies like it! There's a buggy park outside.

2. Queue busting

There will be queues to get into the Museum in the school holidays, especially if it's raining. Arrive early, for opening time, or later in the afternoon, to avoid the longer waiting times. Britain exhibition ticketholders can use the Exhibition Road fast-track entrance. Inside you may also have to queue to get into the Dinosaurs gallery. To avoid the dino queue, book your free timed visit in advance online. Keep an eye on queuing times via @NHM_Visiting.

 

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Nature-inspired arts and crafts in the Investigate Centre and Crafty Coral Fun workshops.

3. Hands-on activities

We have heaps of free activities for all ages. Try our new Crafty Coral workshop or head to the popular Investigate centre in the basement, which has specimens you can touch, microscopes and more. The Earth Hall's Restless Surface gallery has lots of touch displays for busy hands and the Cocoon includes fun interactives and games. Keep an eye on what's on for kids at Easter for the latest.

3. Refreshments and toilets

In addition to the main eating areas, the smaller cafes in the Darwin Centre and  Central Hall are usually less busy. Bring your own refreshments and take advantage of our basement picnic area. If it's sunny, sit outside and enjoy the front lawn or Darwin Centre Courtyard. The front lawn also has a refreshments kiosk with tables and chairs, but bear in mind there are no outdoor toilets.

5. Cool and quiet spaces

The corridor near the Dinosaurs and Mammals galleries can get crowded. Walk on to the Darwin Centre for the reflective Images of Nature gallery. It has a new Women artists exhibition and the amazing Inside Explorer Table which lets you examine micro-scans of a beefly and angler fish. Further on into the Darwin Centre, the Cocoon offers a lofty experience, with the elegant Courtyard and lovely Wildlife Garden beyond.

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Eggs in the Birds gallery. Ned the Neanderthal in our Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story exhibition.

6. Talking eggs and chocolate

Easter wouldn't be Easter without eggs and chocolate. Don't miss the Bird gallery's display of eggs and nests - the elephant bird egg is enormous - and the free talks with our experts about where chocolate comes from and why eggs, prehistoric and present, are so eggs-traordinary.

 

3. Meet ancient Britons

Our Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story exhibition opened in February to rave reviews amid news of the discovery of ancient human footprints on the Norfolk coast, dating back 800,000 years. Along with two incredibly lifelike models of a Neanderthal and Homo sapiens, this exhibition has surprising insights into our ancient ancestors, with rare archaelogical finds to marvel at. More suitable for adults and older children.

8. Gallery sensations

In January we opened Volcanoes and Earthquakes (formerly The Power Within) and this dramatic gallery is a must-see, not least because of the earthquake simulator. Hang on to little ones when the shaking in the earthquake room starts! The beautiful Treasures Cadogan Gallery, located in the upper mezannine of the Central Hall, contains 22 of our most treasured objects, including Guy the gorilla.

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Earthquake room in the Volcanoes and Earthquakes gallery. Tower of London Barbary lion skull in Treasures.

9. Tours and maps

Pick up the handheld Multimedia guide at the Central Hall's information desk. It doesn't cost much and will give you a great touchscreen tour of the Museum. Explorer backpacks are available at the Central Hall information desk with topic-related activity trails for under sevens. And the behind-the-scenes Spirit Collection Tour of our tank room is best for those who want something more weird and wonderful. Museum maps are available at both entrances.

10. Keep informed

Plan your visit - the Museum is a big place with much to discover. Check our website for what's on and refer to the useful Parent's Survival Guide and floor plans. Links below.

 

Happy holidays.

 

Useful links

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Author: Aline Leclercq

Date: 26/03/2014

Temperature: -25 degrees celcius

Wind Speed: 20 knots

Temperature with Wind Chill: -40 degrees celcius

Sunrise: 08.21

Sunset: 19.34

 

A paper conservator back in Spain, I arrived in the Antarctic knowing that the artefacts I would be working on for the Antarctic Heritage Trust would be very different to the European manuscripts I am used to.

Last week I had a very good example of the challenge that represents the conservation of a paper artefact here. Two wads of paper arrived on my bench in such bad condition that all the fragments of pages were stuck together. 

 

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Before treatment artefacts

 

The challenge that I was presented with was multiple; being able to understand its structure, identity, history and devise a conservation plan appropriate to the context of Scott's Discovery Hut, where the items were found. The paper was very fragile and the shape it arrived in was the result of degradation. Moreover, I had to make the correct decision about the presentation of the artefact after treatment, for its return to Discovery Hut.

 

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Aline treating the paper fragments

 

Sharing opinions and knowledge with my colleagues was very beneficial as well and together we made a decision. I discovered that the fragments were from two different newspapers, one unidentifiable and the other one from a British newspaper called 'The Review of Reviews' published in July 1893. Thanks to this information and the known history of Discovery Hut (built by Scott and his party in 1902 but where various expeditions also spent time), we decided to keep the artefact folded so as to not intervene with the shape in which it was found, but rather to access as much information contained within the pages themselves through the conservation treatment. 

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After treatment artefacts

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This week we have 14 new book additions, covering Zoology, General Natural History, Earth Sciences, Ornithology, Entomology and Botany. Download the PDF attached to the bottom of this blog to view this week's list.


If you wish to view these or any other items, please contact the library to arrange an appointment library@nhm.ac.uk or 020 7942 5460

 

The Library catalogue is available online and more information about the Library & Archives collections can be found via our website