Highlighting Histories: Women in Science – Mary Mantell

Published by Leonie on behalf of Learning Volunteer & Women in Science Tour Guide Alex Holding

As a taster for the free NHM Women in Science Tours, Learning Volunteers will be sharing blogs on some pioneering women of science.  We can learn more about them, their work and share some information about the Museum’s displays and cutting-edge science.  Our first venture is Mary Mantell.

Mary Mantell was an active amateur fossil hunter in the nineteenth century. Arguably, she is less well known than her namesake Mary Anning.  Mantell’s reputation is also eclipsed by that of her husband Gideon Mantell, a medical doctor, renowned amateur geologist, and palaeontologist.

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City Nature Challenge 2022: Results and Highlights | Community Science

A round of applause for everyone that took part in City Nature Challenge this year! Between 29 April and 2 May, over 300 community scientists across London recorded a grand total of 4,436 observations of 1,087 species! You can view everybody’s findings in the iNaturalist project.  

Thanks are also due to the 338 naturalists in London and around the world that helped to identify the observations made during City Nature Challenge, validating over half of the observations in London to research grade records. With their quality assurance, these records can be used for the study of global urban biodiversity and conservation efforts. 

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Arabic and Persian plant names in the Codex Vindobonensis | Curator of Botany

The Codex Vindobonenis is a Byzantine compendium of pharmaceutical knowledge produced in around 512 C.E.. In this blog, Hanouf Al-Alawi and botany curator John Hunnex discuss their recent project examining the overlooked Arabic and Persian annotations on the plant descriptions included in the work.

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Why biobanking is key to preserving biodiversity | Jacqueline Mackenzie-Dodds, Molecular Collections Facility Manager

Jackie Mackenzie-Dodds (in full cryo-gear!) decanting liquid nitrogen from the Molecular Collection Facility’s LN2 bulk tank. Copyright: The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London.

Although estimates of extinction rates vary significantly [1], anywhere from losing hundreds to hundreds of thousands of species each year, it is widely acknowledged that we are in the midst of a biodiversity crisis. Ensuring we deliver a wide range of conservation measures to protect species is key to halting this decline across all taxonomic groups. A growing area of research is focussing on biobanking as an effective way to deliver this. But what does this mean in practice, how does it work and why is it important?

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Data in Action: British butterflies body size changes in response to climate change | Digital Collections Programme

Drawer of Silver-studded blue (Plebejus argus) butterflies from the Museum’s collection

A brand new scientific paper applies computer vision to over 125,000 of the Museum’s digitised Butterfly collection to understand how animals may respond to climate change.

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Ananse, Wisdom, and the World of Trees: Working in partnership with our local audiences  | Urban Nature Project

Pupils show off some of their creations

Connecting audiences with nature is at the heart of everything we do.  Thanks to money from National Lottery players, we are working on the Urban Nature Project to transform our gardens and visitor experiences at the NHM.

We have been connecting with our local community to help shape what goes into the new activities in the gardens, what stories of people, plants and animals should be shared, and how the activities should look and feel.

Lauren Hyams, the Museum’s Head of Urban Nature Project Activities tells us more about this work…

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Creating world-leading biologically diverse gardens at the Museum | Urban Nature Project

The Natural History Museum’s Urban Nature Project team have been working hard preparing for the landmark re-development of the Museum’s five-acre gardens into a welcoming, accessible and biologically diverse green space.  

Thanks to money from National Lottery players, we’ve made great strides in our plans for this exciting new space. The gardens will close to the public from July 2022 to allow major works to take place, but plenty has been going on behind the scenes to lay the groundwork and ensure sustainability and biodiversity are at the heart of these new gardens. Louise Simmons, Senior Project Manager working on the development of the new gardens tells us about some of the progress made to date… 

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Collecting the West and the NHM Petrology collection | Curator of Petrology

As part of “Collecting the West”, an Australian Research Council funded research project that is looking at what’s been collected from Western Australia and what these collections tell us about who Western Australians were, researchers Tiffany Shellam (History, Deakin University) and Alistair Paterson (Archaeology, University of Western Australia) studied the NHM petrology collection. One of the project partners is the British Museum, whose relationship to these early collections and shared history with the NHM is reflected in the catalogue code ‘B.M.’ seen on the specimens in these drawers.

Among the old wooden cabinets, storing historical specimens from around the world, they have encountered various early collections from the period 1818-1860.

The inspection of this collection of Western Australian specimens allowed the researchers to understand the reasons for collecting rock specimens and their findings were published in the article “A historical stratum of geological collections from Western Australia in the Natural History Museum, London” in the journal Studies in Western Australian History.

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