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3 Posts tagged with the photography tag

This week, I and 11 other marine scientists will be heading off to the Norwegian fjords to look at the effects of climate change on marine life. This includes four members associated with the Museum who investigate bryozoans (also known as sea mats or moss animals).


We are aiming to photograph and collect samples of current marine Bryozoa to assess changes in the species composition of the Norwegian fauna in comparison with historical surveys from circa 1900-1920 and 1963 in the Bergen and Trondheim areas. The collections will be done by SCUBA diving in the cold clear waters of the Norwegian fjords.


We are investigating to see if the species biodiversity has changed in response to increases in sea water temperature. The team will also be surveying artifical structures to look at patterns of distribution of non-native and invasive bryozoan species in north European waters.


Cellaria webcopy.jpg

A colony of the bryozoan, Cellaria sinuosa growing on a rocky wall.


An electron microscope image showing the colony units.


The bryozoan research team consists of four members:


  • Mary Spencer Jones: Bryozoa and Entoprocta curator at the Museum
  • Dr Joanne Porter: Scientific Associate at the Museum/Heriot-Watt University Associate Professor
  • Sally Rouse: Heriot-Watt/Scottish Association of Marine Sciences PhD student and former Natural History Museum Encyclopedia of Life Rubenstein Fellow
  • Dr Piotr Kuklinski: Scientific Associate at the Museum/Institute of Oceanology Poland Associate Professor



The bryozoan research team: Mary Spencer Jones, Dr Joanne Porter, Sally Rouse and Dr Piotr Kuklinski.

The expedition kicks off on Saturday 28 June when the team join the research vessel MV Halton in Bergen and get all the equipment loaded on board. Joanne and I are making a visit to the bryozoan collection held at the Bergen Museum of Natural History prior to joining the cruise. Just time for a bit of final last minute packing before we head off on Thursday morning!


For more information on bryozoans, have a look at the Bryozoa of the British Isles Scratchpad website.


Mary Spencer Jones


Artist Chrystel Lebas and Museum biologist and botanist Kath Castillo are exploring the E J Salisbury collection at the Natural History Museum and Kew Gardens Archives. They hope to use Salisbury’s images of Scottish landscapes to reconstruct environmental change over the last 50 years.



Article in the New Scientist 11 June 1959, Courtesy of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew Library & Archives.


Chrystel and Kath began looking for clues that could reveal more about Salisbury’s research on ecology and botany through his methods of recording data, his travel journals and field notes. Delving into the 30 boxes of Salisbury’s documents has also revealed a small collection of hand written quotations, puns and limericks.


The Salisbury archive at Kew Gardens is currently in the condition in which it was received and will be fully conserved when resources allow.


img2.jpgMuseum biologist and botanist Kath Castillo and Artist Chrystel Lebas, researching the E J Salisbury collection at Kew Gardens. Photograph by Bergit Arends, project curator.


One of the notebooks found in Kew Library & Archives reveals a wealth of information including experimental data and research annotations on ecology. Courtesy of the Royal Botany Gardens Kew Library & Archives.


Funding from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation permitted Kath Castillo to join Chrystel on her research in Scotland. Kath, who joined the project in September 2013, provides the necessary scientific knowledge (botanical and ecological) that enables geographical and botanical determinations in the field, based on Salisbury’s recorded images in the same locations.

img4.jpgKath and Chrystel on fieldwork in Scotland, October 2013 (Photographs by Bergit Arends).


Kath and Chrystel began the research and comparative study in Rothiemurchus Estate, a privately owned Highland estate within the Strathspey, northeast of the river Spey, in theCairngorms National Park.



Kath and Chrystel comparing and searching for Salisbury’s locations from his landscape images in Rothiemurchus Estate. Photograph by Bergit Arends.


The project engages with environmental change, particularly in the Scottish landscape, and creates new understandings of the artistic and scientific gaze onto the natural environment and its representation. The project is supported by a grant from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundationand the University of the Arts London.



Kath holding one of E J Salisbury’s photographs against the Rothiemurchus landscape. Photograph by Bergit Arends.


Above left: Kath identifying a specimen. Right: Chrystel photographing ‘Vaccinium vitis-idaea on remains of pine bole in Rothiemurchus forest’. Bottom: Chrystel recording a view of the fens at twilight.

The Salisbury collection has, until recently, remained un-catalogued and undervalued. A collaborative approach to these materials is important as the plates represent an important piece of landscape and wildlife photographic history – UK natural history and photographic history knowledge and expertise will be essential to unlock the arts and science potential of this collection.


The images represent a unique record of landscapes that may have changed dramatically. They are an irreplaceable piece of the scientific information that may be used to investigate environmental change, either through natural processes or the hand of man.


Photographer and filmmaker Chrystel Lebas is working on a collaborative project to observe environmental change in the British landscape using the the Sir Edward James Salisbury Archive.


image-1.jpgChrystel photographed by Kath Castillo (Museum biologist and botanist) on their first research trip together in Culbin Forest in October 2013.


The Museum holds a beguiling collection of unexplored landscape images and field notes taken by British botanist and ecologist Sir Edward James Salisbury, who was Director of Kew Gardens from 1943 to 1956. The collection of over 1,400 works was orphaned – an anonymous assembly of Kodak boxes containing silver gelatine prints and photographic glass plates kept in two large cardboard boxes. The images record natural environments, capturing in particular botanical information in the United Kingdom and Ireland, to which specific annotations on the regions’ ecology were added.


Around two years ago photographer and filmmaker Chrystel Lebas was introduced to the collection by Bergit Arends (former Curator of Contempory Art at the Natural History Museum). Chrystel Lebas and Museum botanist Mark Spencer (Curator of the British and Irish Herbarium), began to trace this important collection, which was assembled in the first third of the 20th century.


image-2.jpgThe images include close-ups of plants and sometimes a foot appearing in the corner of the frame, presumably to indicate the scale of the specimen, or sometimes a subject, a woman standing amongst the forest trees.


Each of the boxes containing glass plates were scrutinised to look for clues that could indicate the author’s name or any information that could relocate the collection. And finally one day, and after a couple of months researching the collection, Chrystel found a glass plate negative with a handwritten name on it: E.J Salisbury, and of course this was the moment that made us realise that this particular collection was extremely valuable!


image-3.jpg‘Edward James Salisbury: Prophet and propagandist of botany’ New Scientist, 11 June 1959.



Chrystel began travelling to Scotland on her own, prior to the research being funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. She started her research in the field and recorded the landscapes.


The focus of this project is on the Scottish landscape through Salisbury’s images taken between 1925 to 1933 in the following areas:

  • Arrochar in Argyll and Bute
  • the Trossachs National park
  • the Rothiemurchus Estate, a privately owned Highland Estate within the Strathspey, northeast of the river Spey, in the Cairngorms National Park
  • Culbin Forest, which sits on the Moray Firth between Nairn and Findhorn


The research contributes to a comparative landscape and botanical study spanning nearly 90 years.