Biodiversity biobanks: an invaluable resource for the future

By Samantha Luciano

Biodiversity biobanks are less well known than their biomedical counterparts, but they represent an invaluable asset for meeting the global health and environmental challenges of our century. Whether they are home to animal, plant or micro-organism collections, these infrastructures contribute to research and development in many fields, including medical and veterinary treatments, breeding and reproduction, environment and conservation, agro-industry and biotechnology.

The major advantage of biodiversity biobanks is the variety of samples and taxa present in these collections: tissues, fluids, whole specimens, cell cultures, DNA or RNA from most of the vertebrate and invertebrate species on our planet.

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Highlighting Histories: Women in Exploration

A photograph of a statue of Gudrid-Thorbjarnardottir

Published by Leonie Biggenden on behalf of Learning Volunteer & Women in Science Tour Guide Joanna Tindall

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 second venture looks at three great and inspirational women explorers.

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Why does data management have a crucial role in a biodiversity collection?

a red squirrel eats a nut on the forest floor

Data management is a broad term. Here, Samantha Luciano, a second-year student of the MSc Biobanks & Complex Data Management of the Côte d’Azur University in France, talks about what it means in the context of a biodiversity collection. What is data? What is it used for? In what form(s) is it found? What do we do with it?

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Why biobanking is key to preserving biodiversity | Jacqueline Mackenzie-Dodds, Molecular Collections Facility Manager

Jackie Mackenzie-Dodds (in full cryo-gear!) decanting liquid nitrogen from the Molecular Collection Facility’s LN2 bulk tank. Copyright: The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London.

Although estimates of extinction rates vary significantly [1], anywhere from losing hundreds to hundreds of thousands of species each year, it is widely acknowledged that we are in the midst of a biodiversity crisis. Ensuring we deliver a wide range of conservation measures to protect species is key to halting this decline across all taxonomic groups. A growing area of research is focussing on biobanking as an effective way to deliver this. But what does this mean in practice, how does it work and why is it important?

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Legacies from letters | International Women’s Day 2022

As International Women’s Day drew closer, and with preparations for the move of millions of collections well underway, it got me thinking about the role women played in the original 1881 move of collections from the British Museum in Bloomsbury to the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, as well as their contributions to the early development of the collections and research.

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What does moving 28 million specimens actually mean? | Katy Hudson and Ellie Clark, Collections Move Team Leaders

Katy and Ellie collecting data on some of the 28 million specimens that will be on the move.

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?

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Specimens to Solutions: A Glimpse into Collections and Research | Kathryn Gibbons, Scientific Partnerships Manager

Many of us associate the Natural History Museum at South Kensington with Hope the Whale, Dippy the Diplodocus and other inspiring exhibitions and stories about the natural world – but did you know that behind the scenes of this iconic building there are 300 scientists and 200 postgraduate students publishing over 500 scientific papers annually? That there are leading laboratories with technical experts imaging, analysing and preserving life on earth? Or that we are working towards digitising all 80 million specimens housed in the museum’s invaluable collection stores (less than 1% of collections are on display) to further open them up for research?

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