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Palaeontology Department Seminar


Quantifying Holocene sea-level change in the UK


Dr. Tom Hill

Department of Palaeontology, NHM


THURSDAY 15th March
Neil Chalmers Seminar Room, DC2,

16:00 - 17:00



When comparing mid twentieth century measurements of annual sea-level rise (c. 1.8mm/yr) to the current observed rate of c. 3.3mm/yr, there is clear evidence for rising sea levels in response to human-induced global warming. But as tide gauge records are only available for the last few centuries, how do we know such changes are indeed human-induced or in fact simply part of natural cycles of sea-level change that have prevailed for hundreds and thousands of years?


Biostratigraphic analyses of Holocene coastal sediments from around the UK offer one route through which the elevation of past sea level can be quantified. In southwest England, extensive sequences of interbedded estuarine silts and freshwater peats have accumulated within the Severn Estuary basin, suitable for sedimentary coring and subsequent laboratory analyses. Preserved in abundance are diatoms, unicellular microscopic algae that live in all subaqueous environments, requiring specific environmental conditions to survive. By analysing the diatom assemblages at different depths within the sediment cores and relating the species abundance and diversity encountered to those present along the contemporary Severn Estuary coastline, it was possible to quantify the palaeo-elevation at which the estuarine sediments were deposited, relative to past sea level. Such information yields an insight into the way sea level has changed during the last 10,000 yrs and complements other, more traditional techniques of sea-level reconstruction.




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Zoology Department Seminar


Parasites and Food Webs



Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara


TUESDAY 27th March,

Neil Chalmers Science Seminar Room (DC.LG16)

12:00 -13:00




Ecologists use food webs to help make sense of the complexity of the natural world and the food web has become the key conceptual framework for ecology. Recently, parasitologists have pointed out that parasites make up half of biodiversity, yet are almost never included in food webs.  Here, I will discuss how food webs affect parasites, how parasites affect predator-prey interactions, how parasites affect the complexity of food webs and finally what parasites can tell us about ecological complexity. I argue that most of what we have learned about food webs, and therefore ecology, is incomplete without a full consideration of parasites.



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Collection Management Seminar


Swop Shop: from one dinosaur to the next!   Museum Professionals skill and knowledge sharing


Rachel Mackay, Visitor Experience Manager, NHM and LMG Share London Representative
Nancy Groves, Editor, The Guardian’s Culture Professionals Network
Julie Reynolds, Blogger, London Museums Group


WEDNESDAY 21st March, Flett Lecture Theatre, NHM, South Kensington



Established in 2006, London Museums Group (LMG) is the representative group of all museums and the museum workforce in the Greater London area.  All individuals working in and for museums and related organisations in London, whether paid or unpaid, whether directly or as freelancers, can become members of the wider London Museums Group.

LMG consultation in the sector has proved a real hunger for a self-sustaining forum where museum professionals can share skills, knowledge and expertise.  London Museums Group’s Share London is an exciting new scheme that hopes to provide the answer. The scheme aims to support professional and personal development and make the excellent skills sharing that already goes on in the sector more accessible. We hope everyone involved – whether receiving support or giving it – will benefit from developing new skills and making new contacts.

Rachel Mackay, Share London’s Representative will introduce LMG and Share London and show how you can register offers of support and needs through the web site. Offers can be anything from stewarding at events or offering unused equipment to offering workshops, job shadowing and mentoring.

Judy Lindsay, Chair, of LMG published a blog on Share London for the new Cultural Professionals Network Guardian blog space: Museums sharing (with) a passion, and Nancy Groves the Editor will introduce this sharing network of creative professionals and give an insight into how museums can approach the culture journalists at the main Guardian newspaper.

To conclude, LMG Blogger in Residence Julie Reynolds and University of Manchester Professional Doctorate Museum Studies Student, will share human narratives of a skill sharing scheme that involved Louise Tomsett, Curator, Mammal Group, Zoology Department at the National History Museum and Milly Farrell, Curator, Odontological Collection at the Hunterian Museum [housed at the Royal College of Surgeons). Julie’s research focuses on the hidden knowledge around collections and human narratives and the talk will highlight the skills and knowledge shared, the benefits and challenges of the scheme through the curator’s voices and objects in their collections.

The seminar is open to all museum professionals.



Tea and coffee will be available in the seminar room lobby area after the talk.



Suggestions for seminar speakers are always most welcome. Please contact the organiser Clare Valentine (


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Zoology Department Seminar

Structural Weakening of Corralline Algae Skeleton in Response to Ocean Acidification


School of Earth Science, University of Bristol


TUESDAY 6th March,

Neil Chalmers Science Seminar Room (DC.LG16)

12:00 -13:00


Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have risen by over 100 µatm (from 280 µatm to 390 µatm) due to anthropogenic input. The ocean has absorbed about one-third of the anthropogenically derived CO2 which has resulted in a lowering of the carbonate saturation and a reduction of the average global surface ocean pH by almost 0.15 units, a process termed "ocean acidification". These chemical changes are suggested to have direct implications for physiological processes such as photosynthesis, calcification or internal pH regulation in a wide range of marine organisms. To test these effects on marine calcifiers living in high latitude, the coralline alga Lithothamnion glaciale was cultured for 3 months at different pCO2 concentrations. Here we show continued calcification of L. glaciale in undersaturated/high pCO2 conditions but with major changes in the ultrastructure leading to an increase in the total strain energy of nearly an order of magnitude and an uneven distribution of the stress inside the skeleton. This weakening of the structure is likely to reduce the ability of the alga to resist boring by predators and wave energy with severe consequences to the benthic community structure.



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