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Fossil Fish blog

2 Posts tagged with the mammal tag

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).


James and Derek.jpg

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.


On Friday 27 September the Museum will be holding Science Uncovered, part of the Europe-wide Researchers' Night.


Science Uncovered involves almost all the Museum's staff and volunteers talking to visitors about their job, recent research or their favourite specimens. If that isn't enough to tempt you, how about joining one of the Museum tours, or having a drink with a scientist to talk about their work, and maybe ending the night dancing under Dippy's tail with a DJ?


An evening with the fossil fish


On the night our team will be out in force...


Dr Zerina Johnanson will be talking about her work on fish specimens from the London Clay. These are beautifully three-dimensional specimens, which Zerina and her colleagues have been CT-scanning to reveal their internal structures so come along on to see inside these amazing fossils.


Chie Heath, one of our many fantastic volunteers, will be talking about the TLC she gives specimens (otherwise known as reboxing), which she carries out on the fossil fish collection.



Picture of the Holotype of Percostoma angustum, a bony fish from the London Clay of the Isle of Sheppey.


Do you know who Sir Arthur Smith Woodward is? Mike Smith, another member of our fantastic volunteer team will be talking about our upcoming symposium to celebrate Woodward's contributions to the palaeontology world, specifically involving fossil fish. Woodward joined the Museum when he was only 18 in 1892, and spent his entire career here.


fossil-fish-img2-woodward.jpgA rather serious looking Sir Arthur Smith Woodward.


Myself, Research Associate David Ward and volunteer David Baines will be talking about our experiences of fieldwork - why we went to Woodeaton Quarry to collect samples (see my last blog entry), the processes involved in sieving and acid-preparing specimens, and what we have found so far. Woodeaton has proved to be a great site and so far we have found an early dinosaur tooth, a very early mammal tooth, bits of crocodile and lots of microfossils.



One of our many Woodeaton samples being washed before we check for fossils.


PhD student Joe Keating from the University of Bristol will have several fossil fish specimens on show, and will be talking about the wide diversity of fish and how they evolved over time. You may have seen Joe at a past Nature Live event.



Joe Keating during his last Nature Live talk.


We will also have Dr Martha Richter talking about her work on fossil fish and Research Associate Sally Young talking about fossil eels.


There will be a member of the fossil fish team on a table in Marine Reptile Way (where all the Ichthyosaurs are displayed on the wall). So why not come along and say hi! It is a free event with lots to see and do. If you are unable to attehnd, keep up-to-date by following us on Twitter (@NHM_FossilFish) or follow the hashtag #SU2013 for updates across the whole Museum.


I'm now off to pack for my next fieldwork trip to Morocco! Keep checking back to hear all about it!