This blog is guest-written by Ameyalli Rios Vázquez from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, a collaborator with the Museum on the Big Seaweed Search Mexico project.
After an amazing two years, the Big Seaweed Search Mexico collaboration is coming to an end. Previous blogs about this project described how the team in Mexico designed and delivered an inspiring programme of activity, for young people from Sisal, Yucatán, and Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo to collaborate with professional researchers from Mexico and UK in this community science effort to monitor seaweed. The seeds we planted in the young people through this collaboration needed time and care to grow, but finally, they are bearing fruit.
In my last blog, the team had just arrived back from our final workshop for the Big Seaweed Search Mexico partnership and I reported on day one. On day two, we headed to the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) campus just outside Mérida to explore how we could expand our work in the region. This is a big motivation for me personally – that our work could have a positive impact on the lives of local communities, so I was really excited for that!
I’ve just got back to my desk after a brilliant trip to Mexico – the highlight of my working year already. What a treat to be able to travel for work and connect with amazing people doing similar work and with similar interests across the globe!
The team hosted an inspiring and informative workshop in Mérida, Mexico, to conclude our Big Seaweed Search Mexico collaboration. This has been a two year partnership that saw the UK Big Seaweed Search project adapted to address the issue of massive seaweed influxes on Mexican beaches.
Our ground-breaking partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS) is set to turbo-charge our community science programme. But what does this really mean and what’s changing? We sat down with Lucy Robinson (Citizen Science Manager) to ask all the important questions.
We believe that everyone should be able to experience the wonder of natural history and urban nature. That’s why accessibility and inclusivity have been at the core of the Urban Nature Project’s design from the start. Here, Harriet Fink (Learning and Volunteering Programme Manager), who co-chairs the Museum’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Action group, talks about how we’ve incorporated accessibility into our designs.
This week we’re excited to share that work has begun to make access to our gardens step-free. The cumbersome steps that lead out of the TfL tunnel near our Exhibition Road entrance are being removed and replaced with a wide ramp, to make entering the gardens smooth and easy.
The Urban Nature Project gives us a unique opportunity to transform our five-acre site in South Kensington into a welcoming, engaging, accessible and biologically diverse green space in the heart of London. These exciting new spaces will: tell the story of how life evolved on earth; give opportunities for people to explore nature; and will be used as living laboratories. The spaces and experiences are being designed to be enjoyed by all and to accommodate as wide range of people’s needs as possible. The plans for our new gardens, and the activities that will take place in them, have been developed in consultation with a number of access specialist organisations and disabled individuals who shared their expertise and experience to enable our gardens to be as welcoming as possible for everyone.
The ramp that will replace these steps, and which will in itself form part of an amazing new geological feature, is the first of many design aspects that will enhance access to our new gardens, there will also be:
step-free access from the street to our gardens for the first time
pathways wide enough for two wheelchair users to pass comfortably
raised ponds so wheelchair users can freely join our pond-dipping learning activities
state of the art ‘changing places’ accessible toilet facilities in our new Learning and Activity Centre
steps replaced by gentle slopes
benches and stopping places across our gardens
We’re taking a sensory approach to planting and interpretation – our new outdoor galleries will be designed to be touched, smelled and heard, as well as seen in all their glory. Interpretation will include tactile maps, audio descriptive guides and acoustic audio posts which will play the sounds of the environment captured through our scientific acoustic monitoring. Calm and contemplative spaces will also be created within our gardens for those that need a more restful space. Accessibility has been central to the plans and as a bonus we believe it will create a richer, more enjoyable experience, for everyone visiting our gardens, this week’s removal of the steps from the TfL tunnel marks an exciting first step in this vision becoming reality.
In this blog I want to tell you about the amazing work my colleague Ana is doing with our colleagues from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM): Ameyalli, Arely, Carmen and Erika.
For every community science programme we run at the Museum, we provide training and guidance to help people take part. This will be tailored according to the programme and audience. This means that training will sometimes be delivered in person, sometimes we produce written resources, and sometimes we develop video tutorials, for example.
In Mexico, our colleagues delivered training workshops in Sisal and Puerto Morelos in March and April respectively, and have recently returned from delivering workshops in the same locations, but in the rainy season.
I’m Jess Wardlaw, Community Science Programme Developer at the Museum. I’m excited to be working together with my Museum colleagues, Juliet Brodie, Lucy Robinson and Ana Benavides Lahnstein, on a new international partnership project funded by the British Academy’s Knowledge Frontiers programme.
Alongside partners at the University of Greenwich’s Natural Resources Institute (NRI) and the Escuela Nacional de Estudios Superiores (ENES) from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), in Merida, Mexico, we are excited to be taking our Big Seaweed Search community science project to new shorelines…Mexico’s Caribbean and Yucatán coasts, which are part of the Yucatán Peninsula!
Published by Leonie on behalf of Learning Volunteer Clare Green
When I was younger, going to the Natural History Museum with my family or on a school trip was always an exciting experience. Certain memories have stuck in my mind—having to be taken away, crying, from the animatronic T.rex because it was too scary, being fascinated at the size of the blue whale in the Whale Hall, or ascending with anticipation into the Earth through the escalator. These memories have remained with me into adulthood, eliciting a sense that I wouldn’t feel the same kind of excitement I had done when I was young.
How wrong I was! On my very first day as a Learning Volunteer, I realised that the excitement I’d felt as a kid was ready to bubble to the surface again.
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.
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…