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Nature Live

September 8, 2009
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Museum-staff-in-the-Marine-.jpg

Today will go down in history. Not world history but this momentous day should at least figure as a footnote in the Museum’s vast annals. It’s the very last Nature Live event in the Marine Invertebrates Gallery. Obviously I’m excited about moving into the brand shiny new Attenborough Studio where there’ll be lots of new technology for us to break but having hosted events in MI for the last 3 years it’s the end of an era.

 

The last show was with Dr Shelley Cook who works in our entomology department and I think has probably been to nearly every country on my wish list. She looks for new viruses that are carried by mosquitoes and could potentially be passed on to other animals and maybe even humans.

 

We spoke about the importance of her science and mosquito diversity; did you know that there are some mosquitoes that are so specialised they only live in the water that collects in elephant footprints! We got some good questions; my favourite being ‘how fast do mosquitoes fly? Answer: we don’t know.

 

Then we get on to the ‘best’ bit…how you collect them. I suggest that maybe she offers herself up as a sacrifice; I seem to get bitten within the confines of the M25 so it shouldn’t be too difficult in a Thai jungle. But she can go one better. The ghostbuster pack. Yes, it looks just like something that was used by Bill Murray. It’s basically a 20kg mosquito vacuum that is worn as a backpack but when they spot some mossies they flip the switch and the fun begins. Call me evil but there must be some joy in collecting the insects that feasted on your flesh the previous evening. So once they have been collected up they are put on ice at minus 80C. Where you find those sorts of temperatures in a jungle is one of the wonders of modern science!