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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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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Curator of Micropalaeontology | Diary of a Principal Curator April 2021

 

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.

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Curator of Micropalaeontology | Diary of a Principal Curator Feb 2021

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 February entry I cover working in the fabulous Minerals Gallery, helping my PhD student using a mobile phone down a microscope, Zoom fail during a talk to a local Geological Society, writing a digital strategy and finishing a paper about the assessment of the entire museum collection.

Minerals_gallery
A very empty looking Minerals Gallery
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Curator of Micropalaeontology | Diary of a Principal Curator Jan 2021

NHM_collections_footprint

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 January entry I cover the return to work after Christmas, home schooling, the return of Dippy, news of a possible move of the collection in my charge to Harwell and a rare trip into S Kensington.

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Lockdown introduces a new method for engaging with our collections | Curator of Micropaleontology

Nikon

2020 has been a difficult year and since March we have been working away from the collections in South Kensington. Learning new on-line communication skills has created opportunities for making our collections available to a wider audience.

Read on to find how using Microsoft Teams and a Nikon microscope we have remotely delivered access to our Micropalaeontology collections for the first time.

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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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‘Rock music’: a new take on the NHM Building Stone Collection |Curator of Petrology

The Natural History Museum Building Stone collection contains over 17,000 specimens and is one of the largest documented collections of its kind in the UK. It is particularly useful for matching stone in historical buildings during conservation work, but not only for that!

Often this collection causes an unconscious burst of inventiveness, and it features amazing pieces of art like this black stone from Derbyshire or this spectacular limestone. This time around it has inspired artist Charles Richard to collect the ‘sonic’ languages extracted from geological materials, a continuation of his master project at the Royal College of Art with a mission to create a series of digital box sets.

Continue reading to learn more about the building stone collection and Charles’ project.

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The Marsh Awards 2019 – Winners announced! | Earth Sciences

The Marsh Awards, run in partnership between the Marsh Christian Trust and the Natural History Museum, recognise unsung heroes who have made a major contribution to the promotion of palaeontology, mineralogy or earth sciences.

The winners in three categories – the Best Earth Sciences Book of the Year, Palaeontology, and Mineralogy – were celebrated at an awards ceremony at Museum on the 13 December 2019.

The winners were:

  • Marsh Award for the Best Earth Sciences Book of the Year:
    In the Footsteps of Darwin: Geoheritage, Geotourism and Geoconservation in the Galapagos Islands, Co-authors Daniel Kelley, Kevin Page, Diego Quiroga, Raul Salazar
  • Marsh Award in Mineralogy: Dr Jolyon Ralph
  • Marsh Award in Palaeontology: Dr David Penney

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