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Field work with Nature Live

3 Posts tagged with the moths tag
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At the field station on St. Mary’s I find Martin Honey, an entomologist who works on lepidoptera. He shows me his moth trap, which is a circular vessel filled with empty egg cartons with a glass lid and a large light bulb in the middle (in other words, it looks a bit like a big rice cooker with a light bulb sticking out of the top!).

moth-trap-600.jpgMartin's moth trap in a shady area at the field station. Awaiting winged nighttime visitors.

 

Martin tells me that when he switches on the bulb - which is mainly ultraviolet light - at night, the moths are attracted and once inside, they can rest on the egg cartons until he collects them in the morning. Martin keeps the trap in shady places so that the moths don’t get too hot in the sunlight. He shows me a few specimens that are inside and says he has just freed quite a lot so if I come back tomorrow he will keep some for me to draw.

 

Martin shows me a specimen that he has put to sleep with a special liquid. The moth’s wings are closed, and I ask how the wings are kept open as we see in the museum collections. This proves to be a good question...

 

In the field work room we find Martin's microscope and a few dozen moth specimens. He tells me that the wings are set by hand, and proceeds to show me how this is done. He carefully takes a moth specimen with forceps and places it under the microscope alongside some pins, which are so small they are almost invisible!

microscope-wing-setting-550.jpg

Moth specimens and pins at the microscope, ready for setting.

 

Martin looks down the microscope, controls the instrumental pins with forceps and begins to slowly open the wings… he arranges the legs at 45 degrees and makes sure the antennae are forward, then slowing impresses the pins into the foam to hold the posture that he has now created for the moth specimen. He makes it look effortless and I am inspired, it is really quite an artful practice.

 

Martin tells me he learned to set moth wings by hand at the Museum, and I am intrigued to hear more:

GA: Are all entomologists at the NHM expected to do this in their job description?

MH: Some people just cannot do this, it requires too much dexterity.

GA: So some scientists can do it, but are people employed just to do the setting, and in the past, has the NHM employed setting staff?

MH: Yes - there used to be a special room called the setting room in the NHM, and specially trained people just did that work. Now there are specialist setters in Prague, they are not scientists but mostly amateur entomologists. I may send the larger specimens there depending on their number and I might do some setting work when I retire, and challenge the Prague group!

live-specimens-550.jpgMartin gives me four live moth specimens found on St.Mary's. I will draw them and let them go afterwards.

 

Posted on behalf of Gemma Anderson, an artist and PhD researcher who accompanied Musuem scientists on a field work trip to the Isles of Scilly between 17 and 23 August 2013.

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Today we trekked back down the mountain to the first hut we stayed in on our trip, Casa Coca. It was a stunning walk, the weather changing all the time.

 

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(Click the images to see them full size)

 

And we stopped off half way to collect. We were told to be careful of a snake that had been seen on the route the day before. I didn’t see it but I did spot this strange mammal up a tree.

 

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We are now only a short walk from the entrance to the park and our lift back to INBIO. We are sleeping on mats on the floor surrounded by beastly horse flies.

 

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And amazing fireflies.

 

 

As a last supper (for this trip, rather than in the biblical sense) we have had some chicken so spirits are high! Equally, Casa Coca provided a new forum for moth spotting - our favorite evening past-time. They really are amazing!

 

Day 14 PIC 5.JPG

 

Tomorrow we leave the forest and drive back to INBIO. I wonder what it will be like back in the normal world?!

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I was just about to submit today’s blog when Holger rushed back from a walk to say he had seen a huge Tapir – maybe 1.2 metres tall. He said it caused the earth to vibrate! I ran down to the river to catch it crossing - have a look, it’s a bit shaky but I was very excited. It’s very rare to see a Tapir here so I am very chuffed with myself for catching it on film.

 

I also filmed the others’ reaction back at the hut.

 

 

(If you listen carefully you can hear Daniel, once the camera had swung away from the Tapir and was showing my feet on the computer screen, saying, ‘Wow, A Yeti!’)

 

The weather today was sunny and warm – a glorious day, so with my life in my hands, I ventured up a very rickety ladder on to the roof of the hut, which gave me a good view of the forest near by.

 

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(Click images to see them full size)

 

I spent the day with Holger, who is a lichenologist. He talked me through some of the things he has found so far on the trip and why lichens are such an amazing tool to understand an environment such as the one here in the Talamanca Mountains.

 

(My apologies for the low quality of the film but I had to make it smaller to be able to upload it - I'll see if I can update it to a higher resolution version later)

 

At night, once the generator has been turned off we our at the mercy of our head lamps.

 

We enter the world of things that flutter in the night. Beautiful and bizarre, I made a short clip from photos Alex took last night, after lights out.

 

 

And speaking of flutterers – I had a visitor to the laptop today.

 

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My keyboard must be pretty filthy and he/she spent a good 5 mins tasting it!

 

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Species of the day goes to Holger and joins up today’s themes nicely! It is a lichen in the genus Dictyonema (most probably D. sericeum)

 

 

Day 12 PIC 7.jpg

 

And it is species of the day because it could be confused (or vice versa) with one of the moths from last night. What amazing camouflage!

 

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Tomorrow, I am going to report on a day with the florwering plant team and attempt a tropical bioblitz.