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.
What are microfossils and why should we care? Sometimes it can be difficult to make the case for a group of fossils which at their largest usually reach just 1mm (although some are actually much larger than this), but microfossils have and continue to play an incredibly important role in many areas of natural science research.
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.
Hello there, my name is Andrew. For the last few months, I have had the privilege to assist the Natural History Museum as a Curatorial Assistant, digitising the information of a group of fossil sponges, the lithistids, a polyphyletic group that does not share a common ancestor and, at this moment, is the object of numerous studies. I am also curating the specimens, re-boxing them with new acid-free trays and plastazote foam.
When I read in the news on Wednesday 9 March that the Shackleton Expedition’s ship, the Endurance, had been found I mentioned it to my manager, Senior Curator of Fossil Porifera Collection, Dr. Consuelo Sendino. She recalled that there were fossil sponge specimens gathered by Shackleton in the museum’s collections.
In 2021 the Museum revealed plans to relocate 28 million specimens (approximately a third of the collection) from our stores to a new, purpose-built science and digitisation centre, to ensure their safety and accessibility for future generations. This mammoth undertaking has been enabled through a £182m investment from the Government Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. So, with funding secured, how do you set about planning not only our largest ever collections’ move, but arguably one of the largest collections’ moves ever carried out worldwide?
In the light of a DCMS funding been awarded to The Natural History Museum, to tackle the poor performance of the biggest of the western range roof of the Waterhouse building, the NHM Petrology Collection and museum scientists have come to the project’s aid to address one of the first hitches that occurred.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 April entry, we are offered a large microfossil collection, I review a paper about left and right coiling microfossils, help prospective visitors to apply for funds, provide some images to help university remote teaching and have a virtual meeting with our new director.