What’s in our UK natural science collections and why does this matter? | Digital Collections Programme

A guest blog by Tara Wainwright

Botanical sheets from Kew ©RBG Kew

The UK holds hundreds of millions of natural history specimens of scientific importance. Exactly how many specimens and what those specimens are, is currently unknown. Unveiling the contents of the UK’s collections will open the door to further digitisation and unlock the full scientific potential of UK natural science collections.

Digitising, the process of converting physical information into a digital form, the UK’s natural science collection, opens up a unique and valuable national resource to the world and enable the UK to be part of current and future scientific collaborations to find solutions to the biggest challenges of our time.

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The Museum at sea | Darwin Tree of Life

One person leans over to collect seaweed on the beach with the sky above full of clouds

Adventuring to the west coast of Scotland in search of DNA

Laura Sivess, Research Assistant for the Darwin Tree of Life project, shares the experience of being on a Museum field trip.

The Natural History Museum (NHM) Darwin Tree of Life (DTOL) team recently returned from Millport, Scotland, where in just over four days we encountered over 150 species and took 266 tissue samples for whole genome sequencing!

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Can biofuels solve the planetary emergency we are facing? | PREDICTS biodiversity team

In this post, masters student Sophie Jane Tudge details her research into biofuels.

Carbon-neutral energy sounds like it is exactly what the world needs right now. With the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) almost upon us, more people than ever are asking how we can halt climate change to protect our planet and, ultimately, ourselves. The greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels have led to many countries, including the UK, to make commitments to shift over to renewable energy sources. But renewable energy does not always mean that it is good for the environment. Let’s take a look at one growing form of renewable energy: biofuels. 

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Angela Milner: a life in science

Museum palaeontologist Paul Barrett remembers his former colleague Angela Milner, who passed away earlier this month.

Dr Angela Milner (née Girven, b. 1947) was one of the most influential figures in the field of vertebrate palaeontology, with interests spanning 350 million years of Earth history. She spent most of her career at the Natural History Museum, London, joining its ranks as a curator in 1976 and rising through the organization to become Assistant Keeper of Palaeontology, a position that she held until retirement in 2009.

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Bringing conulariids to life | Earth Sciences Curator

Aperture of Conularia aff. cancellata from the Macrourus Limestone of Brandenburg (NHMUK PI CL 1325).

Conulariids are scyphozoans characterised by their pyramidal shapes, which have been found in more or less straight to weakly curved forms. More strongly curved periderms are more often to be found in long individuals (~15 cm +), as happens with recent scyphozoans, e.g. the polyps of Atorella, that are normally attached to the underside or the flank surfaces of a host and develop upwards as they grow longer.


Reconstruction of living conulariids. Courtesy of Enrique Sendino.

Werner was the first researcher to compare conulariids to coronates and believed the first conulariids were ancestors of coronates. His theory has been echoed in numerous papers by different researchers for over 50 years.

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Playing Top Trumps for Water Quality Month | Digital Collections Programme

We are currently digitising 75,000 freshwater insects belonging to three small orders. The presence of these groups can give us an idea about the water quality of the river they live in. As August is #WaterQualityMonth we thought this would be a great time shed some light on these orders of insects that you might not have heard much about before.

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Curator of Micropalaeontology | Diary of a Principal Curator May 2021

Nadine Gabriel

This year I’m writing a diary entry each month for a typical week in the life of a Principal Curator at the Natural History Museum. In the May entry, I receive a donation in the street outside the museum, we start a new project to put our digital collections on the map, become an Associate Editor for the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, watch myself give a conference presentation and facilitate the donation of my favourite rock type for the Urban Nature Project.

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