Discover plants near you with the Plant Club BioBlitz!

Sometimes plants can be easy to miss. But when we take time to look a little closer, we see how exciting and important they really are!  

As part of the Museum’s Family Festival, the Citizen Science Team invite you to join the Plant Club virtual BioBlitz, to take a closer look at plants and discover which grow near you. Look closely at the shapes and textures of leaves and flowers and use the resources on our BioBlitz webpage to help you to tell different plants apart. 

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Recreating Wildlife Photographer of the Year online – part 1 – Introduction and technical approach

https://www.nhm.ac.uk/wpy

Introduction

I’ve been involved with the Wildlife Photographer of the Year brand for as long as I’ve been at the Natural History Museum, which let’s just say is a long time. I’m still very proud and privileged to work on such important and inspirational content.

This series of posts is about the recent re-platform of our ageing WPY microsite. I’ll start by setting the scene for how the project came about and then dive into some of the technical decisions. Later on I’ll talk about some of the site’s key features and what we’ve learnt with the tech and working towards a more modern API-driven web architecture. It’s been great having something so rewarding to work and focus on during these strange and difficult times in lock-down. 

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Museum collections used to show our oceans are more acidic than 140 years ago| Curator of Micropaleontology

This pre-lockdown publication from the Micropaleontology team at the Museum has received a lot of press and social media attention. CT scans of the calcareous shells of microscopic plankton called Foraminifera have shown that modern examples can be considerably thinner than their equivalents recovered by the ground breaking Challenger Expedition of the 1870s. We argue this thinning is due to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and subsequently more acidic oceans.

Read on to find out about the methods used and why this discovery is so significant for the future of our oceans and planet.

CT scans Foraminifera
CT scans of microscopic planktonic Foraminifera showing differences in wall thickness; historical specimens are on the bottom row and the warm colours indicate considerably thicker shells.

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Banks in Britain: the British plant collections of Joseph Banks | Botanical Collections

The private herbarium of the eminent eighteenth-century naturalist and explorer Sir Joseph Banks became one of the founding collections of the Natural History Museum’s herbarium following his death 200 years ago this year, in 1820.

The legacy of Banks’s voyages overseas – and particularly the Endeavour voyage with James Cook – has been well documented. This post, by Fred Rumsey, looks at the British specimens Banks collected, or was gifted, and considers the significance of those collections today.

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What we are doing to tackle racism and promote diversity and inclusion

I joined the NHM two years ago, passionate about the natural world and all its diversity, yet fearful for its future as a result of the catastrophic loss of species and their habitats due to human action. And the past two years have not been a disappointment. I have found a passionate community at the NHM highly committed to protecting and promoting diversity in nature – it’s at the heart of our vision of a world where people and planet thrive.

Yet, the vastly increased awareness raised through the Black Lives Matter movement following the brutal murder of George Floyd has highlighted the stark inequalities across our society. It’s been a wake-up call that we haven’t been focussed enough on diversity for people at our Museum. If we are truly ‘for people and planet’ then we need to be.

And that this has happened when we are in the midst of a global pandemic which is widening further the inequality gap, drives home the point even more starkly.

Museums are places for society to come together, reflect, debate and discuss, but they can only be so if they are inclusive of the society within which they sit. We have a lot of work to do in diversifying our workforce, audiences, and the way we understand and talk about our collection until that is true.

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Banks abroad: the botany of the voyages of Joseph Banks | Botany collections

In a recent blog post we looked at the contribution of the eminent eighteenth-century naturalist and explorer Sir Joseph Banks to the herbarium at the Natural History Museum. Banks died in 1820 – 200 years ago this year – at the age of 77. His private herbarium subsequently became one of the founding collections of the Natural History Museum’s General Herbarium of over 5 million specimens.

As a young man, Joseph Banks was a traveller. For seven years, from the age of 23, his travels took him across the globe, to all continents except Antarctica, and they established his reputation as a leading natural historian of the day. Collecting specimens was at the very core of what he was doing during those voyages undertaken during the late 1760s and early 1770s. Botanical specimens that he collected are today in the herbarium at the Natural History Museum .

In this post, we look at Banks’s botanizing during the voyages he made overseas – to Newfoundland and Labrador in 1766, on James Cook’s first Circumnavigation from 1768–71 and to Iceland in 1772 – and we consider the scientific significance today of the collections that he made.

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The pandemic is a pivotal moment to raise awareness of biodiversity loss

Biodiversity loss is low on the public agenda, but the pandemic could help us reassess our relationship with the natural world,  writes Clare Matterson, the Museum’s Director of Engagement.

A newfound appreciation for weeds in the cracks of city pavements, enjoying melodious birdsong in place of the booming traffic and marvelling at quiet clear blue skies have become daily lockdown news.

Amidst the tragedy of Covid-19, nature has thrived and as we have slowed down in lockdown its variety has caught our eye.

Today is International Day For Biological Diversity, created by the United Nations 27 years ago to raise awareness of biodiversity issues and celebrate that variety.

Since then scientists have warned us about the catastrophic loss of species and their habitat because of our actions.

We need that variety of life on earth for food, medicines and clean water, never mind a spiritual boost in tough times.

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Highlights from City Nature Challenge 2020 | Citizen Science

Speckled wood butterfly

What were your highlights from the City Nature Challenge this year? Although I missed taking part in a public BioBlitz at the Natural History Museum, I enjoyed my own mini BioBlitz in my little London garden – making 99 observations and managing to identify 80 different species. My favourite find was a tiny Bethylid wasp which was the first one I have ever seen. These wasps are just a few millimetres long and are known as ‘flat wasps’ because of their squashed appearance. They are parasitoids of beetle larvae or moth caterpillars.

Bethylidae wasp
The Bethylid wasp I found, too tiny to do justice with my camera. Photograph by VJ Burton.

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City Nature Challenge 2020 results | Citizen Science

Summary of UK City Nature Challenge 2020

Thank you from the citizen science team!

A big thank you to everyone who took part in the City Nature Challenge: London this year! Despite lockdown restrictions London exceeded last year’s records, making 5,732 nature observations between 24 – 27 April and identifying 1,069 species. The London team were particularly happy to see nearly twice as many people taking part this year – a total of 542 of observers. You can view all the observations made at the City Nature Challenge: London iNaturalist project page.

Results summary from City Nature Challenge: London 2020

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