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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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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Joseph Banks, the Banksian Herbarium and the Natural History Museum | Botany Collections

Sir Joseph Banks was an eminent eighteenth-century naturalist and explorer. His travels and scientific patronage enabled him to amass specimens from around the globe.

An avid botanist, his private herbarium was one of the founding collections of the Museum’s herbarium.

In a series of posts, the Museum’s botanical staff reflect on Banks’s herbarium, his approach to collecting, and the uses of his collection – both in his time and today. Continue reading “Joseph Banks, the Banksian Herbarium and the Natural History Museum | Botany Collections”

A million threatened species? Thirteen questions and answers

Prof. Andy Purvis

Coordinating Lead Author, IPBES Global Assessment and Life Sciences Research Leader at The Natural History Museum, London

@AndyPurvisNHM

The IPBES Global Assessment estimated that 1 million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction. It also documents how human actions have changed many aspects of nature and its contributions to people; but species threatened with extinction resonate with the media and the public in ways that degradation of habitats and alteration of rates of ecosystem processes perhaps don’t, so the figure was widely reported.

IPBES is the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, an independent intergovernmental body that was established in 2012 to strenthen links between science and policy to support conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, long-term human well-being, and sustainable development

Because only the Summary for Policymakers has so far been made available, it wasn’t clear where the figure of 1 million threatened species came from. Some journalists and researchers asked me, so I explained it to them, and will explain it again here. Some other writers, often with a long history of commenting critically on reports highlighting environmental concerns, instead railed against the Global Assessment in general and the figure of 1 million threatened species in particular. Given that these writers often advance empty or bogus arguments, I thought it would be also be useful to explain why these arguments are wrong.

I have therefore written this blog post in the form of thirteen questions and answers.

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The humble harbour porpoise | Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme

Bottlenose dolphin hitting a harbour porpoise out of the water in an attack

As part of the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP), we are often focused on the death of animal and can overlook the amazing lives of marine creatures before they sadly wash up along our coastlines. British waters are home to over 28 different species of whales, dolphins and porpoises, collectively known as cetaceans.

In the UK, the most numerous (and smallest) of these is the harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena). Unsurprisingly, these porpoises therefore make up the majority of strandings in the UK. 

WARNING: This blog contains photographs of dead stranded porpoises which you may find upsetting Continue reading “The humble harbour porpoise | Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme”

Stranded Sharks | Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme

Across the UK, many different creatures wash up on our shores. The Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP) is responsible for documenting stranded animals in the UK and retrieves a portion of those that strand for post-mortem examination every year. The main bulk of the project is made up of cetaceans – a group of marine mammals comprised of whales, dolphins and porpoises.

However, many people don’t realise the project also responds to strandings of sharks. Since 2007, the CSIP has recorded the stranding of basking sharks (Cetorhinus maximus) across the UK and more recently secured funding  to expand the research to other large-bodied sharks such as porbeagles (Lamna nasus), angel sharks (Squatina squatina) and blue sharks (Prionace glauca).

WARNING: This blog contains photographs of dead stranded sharks which you may find upsetting

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Autumn BioBlitz in the Wildlife Garden | Citizen science

Come and join Museum scientists, naturalists and other nature enthusiasts for a fun day of discovering wildlife in the heart of London!

The BioBlitz is back at the Natural History Museum on Thursday 25 October 2018. Head to the Wildlife Garden in the Orange Zone of the Museum and prepare to step into a world full of wildlife ready to be explored.

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Butterfly survey with Museum scientist Geoff Martin

A BioBlitz is a race against the clock to find and record as many living things as possible within a specific area over a set period of time. These observations, which you will help to gather, are then used for scientific research and environmental monitoring by our wildlife garden managers and are shared with scientists in the UK and abroad.

We discovered 12 species that had never been recorded in the Wildlife Garden before when we BioBlitzed in May half term – three spiders, seven flies, an aphid and a moth. It just shows that if you look carefully, there are new and exciting things to discover even in our own gardens! What will we find this time round?

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97 year old fin whale vertebrae uncovered in Devon sand dunes

The Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP) was recently called out to the stranding of a harbour porpoise, Phocoena phocoena, in Westward Ho! in north Devon. The porpoise was a suitable candidate to collect for post-mortem, and so plans were made for the strandings team to travel to pick it up.

As part of the trip to Westward Ho!, a ranger from Northam Burrows Country Park asked if the Museum was able to provide an identification on three whale vertebrae they had, to allow them to display the bones in their visitors centre. Little did anyone know the full story behind the vertebrae was about to be uncovered!

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The hunchbacked, small-headed, spider-killers | Curator of Diptera

For the past two days I have started, and finished recurating the British Acroceridae Collection. Wow, you must be thinking, that young Erica is fast! Recurating an entire family in two days; updating the nomenclature, bar coding and databasing the specimens, and then rehousing into modern museum standard unit trays. Well, a slight confession is that there are only three species found in the UK.

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