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Fossil Fish blog

3 Posts tagged with the collections tag
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During school holidays the Museum offers a small number of work experience placements for students to spend a week finding out more about working at the Museum. This can vary from helping with the Sensational Butterflies exhibition to helping researchers or curators like myself behind the scenes.

 

During the February half term this year I had two excellent students who came and helped me for the week in the Fossil Fish Section. Below James and Derek tell us what they got up to during the week here.

 

James Appleby

 

Getting a work experience placement at the Natural History Museum was great, to get another was a dream come true. However, this time rather than look for damage in the jaws of fossil fish (as I did in a previous placement), Derek and I worked on finding type specimens (those which represent a certain species) to be photographed. These specimens were discovered by Arthur Smith Woodward, a fossil fish specialist who was the focus of the Woodward150 symposium at the Museum on 21 May.

 

Of course, considering these were holotypes and very old we had to take extra care of them and make sure we did not damage them.

 

As well as some curatorial work, we also had a chance to help out in the Pleistocene (2.5 million years to 11,000 years) Fossil Mammal Collections, as well as have a look at some of the strange animals found in the Cephalopod (Squid, octopus, ammonites etc.) and Brachiopod Sections (and work out what a Brachiopod is, which I now know is a marine invertebrate with two shells which look different to each other, but both are symmetrical).

 

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Derek Oakly (L) and James Appleby (R) looking for type specimens described by Woodward in the Fossil Fish Section.

 

 

Dr. Zerina Johanson, a fossil fish researcher, showed us the fish that she has been working on. What were especially interesting were the exceptionally well preserved fossils from the Gogo Formation in Western Australia.

 

By the Thursday we had finished the work on Woodward’s fossils, so watched a Nature Live talk about fossil fish by Joe Keating in the afternoon.

 

The work experience at the Natural history Museum was great as it showed me what it is like to be a curator and what sorts of things we have behind the scenes. (James Appleby)

 

Derek Oakley

 

I was given the opportunity to work alongside James at the Natural History Museum for a week. Our main focus was to help contribute to the Woodward150 symposium on 21 May. We were able to go through his many fossilised fish specimens and notes that are not seen by normal members of the public, and it was great!

 

Alongside this we was able to experience different areas and collections behind the scenes, including a tour of the Brachiopod Collection. We also helped in the Fossil Mammal Section and gained a deeper understanding to some of the research that is conducted here. We were also able to help contribute to a Nature Live event, where we collected the many fossils to be shown and discussed with the public.

 

It was a fantastic experience at the Natural History Museum and although it was only one week, it will still be one that I am unlikely to forget in the future. (Derek Oakley)

 

Get involved

 

I would like to thank James and Derek for all their hard work during the week and I am sure they will go on to do great things in the future.

 

If you are interested in doing a work experience week with the Museum, have a look at our website. Places are limited and generally oversubscribed, but it will be a very worthwhile and rewarding experience.

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As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am lucky enough to participate in collection enhancing fieldwork. One place I have been to several times over the last year is Woodeaton Quarry near Oxford.

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A small part of the quarry

 

The quarry is disused and is a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) as it contains one of the best exposures of upper Bathonian (about 160-million-year-old) rocks in the UK. Because of this the site is of great palaeontological interest. The rocks represent a marine or marginal marine environment.

 

Many different fossils have been found there in the past, including shark teeth, brachiopods and dinosaurs! Over the next few years the quarry is due to be filled in, but part of the Bathonian rocks will remain exposed. Therefore it is important we take samples of the different rock layers and try to understand the geology better.

 

A team of Museum scientists and curators went to the quarry over a period of a couple of months to take lots of pictures, determine the geology and how each rock level changes, and to plan for a week long expedition to recover lots of fossils.

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Myself and Museum scientist Steve Stukins, having a closer look at the rock.

 

In June this year our team went to the quarry for a week to collect bulk samples (large bags of rock and sediment) to bring back to the Museum, sieve, wash away all the rock and have a closer look for fossils. Most of the fossils are tiny and need to be looked at under a microscope.

 

We had people from different disciplines looking for microfossils, pollen, small vertebrates and invertebrates. Unfortunately, on this occasion we did not find any large vertebrates but we certainly have lots of small and microscopic fossils!

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Myself and PhD student Simon Wills loading the van full of bulk samples

 

The infomation we find out will be given to Natural England so they can make infomation boards about the site. Several scientists connected with the Museum will publish results to help others in understanding this time period better. The fossils we find will form an important part of our palaeontology collections for scientists to use in the future and maybe if we are lucky we might even find a new species!

 

As the bulk samples are processed and we start identifying what we have recovered I will write another post to update everyone on our findings.

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Hi everyone,

 

Thanks for visiting my blog! My name is Emma Bernard and I am a Curator of Palaeobiology. I've worked in the Museum for nearly two years now, working in many sections including fossil mammals, but I am now based in the Fossil Fish Section.

 

My job involves looking after all the fossil fish and sharks in the Museum - around 80,000 specimens ranging from the Ordovician Period (about 485 million years ago) to the Pleistocene (about 12,000 years ago), which have been collected from all over the world.

 

We have lots of historically important specimens, many with interesting stories, some that were part of the founding collections of the Museum, and others which just look a bit odd. In further posts I will give more details about some of these amazing collections.


You can also follow the collections on Twitter @NHM_FossilFish and #FossilFriday, which is becoming more popular.

 

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Me with a Fossil Mammal display I curated at the Munich Show in 2012.


I hope to give you an insight into the wide variety of day-to-day projects and jobs I undertake in the Museum, and what life is really like as curator.

 

Part of my job involves looking after and providing information to visiting researchers, and answering enquiries which come in about the collection. I facilitate loans, assist with exhibitions, participate in collection-enhancing fieldwork and public events, such as the Lyme Regis Fossil Festival. I also do a lot of work in documenting the collection, so people know exactly what we have and from where.

 

 

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On fieldwork on the Isle of Skye, looking for Jurassic fossils.

 

Keep checking back to find out more about fossil fish and what I get up to!