Displaying our Earth science specimens

by Robin Hansen, Curator, Minerals and Gemstones, NHM Earth Sciences

​​As part of the Galley Enhancements​​ Programme to refresh the Museum’s Earth Galleries Ground Floor, we’ve been working on the specimens to improve the experience for visitors, improve collection visibility and update the science.

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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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Wildlife Garden Autumn BioBlitz – Species Review

collared earthstar mushroom

Continuing the blogs about the Autumn BioBlitz in the Museum’s wildlife garden, we would like to introduce you to more species found during the day! BioBlitzes are only one of the ways wildlife garden species are being recorded; biological recordings take place in the garden in many different ways all year round.

Read on to learn more about the autumn findings in the amazing wildlife garden including a species very rare to the UK and one which made it to a top 10 list!

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The mystery of the microfossil Christmas cards | Curator of Micropaleontology

At this time of year our famous microfossil Christmas card slides always get a lot of attention. An article in Smithsonian Magazine this week followed a very popular Tweet in early December and perhaps the most famous of the slides is about to be displayed in Museum’s Touring Treasures exhibition in Bahrain in early 2019.

Christmas card slide
Arthur Earland foraminiferal Christmas card slide sent to Edward Heron-Allen in 1921.

This year, three additional Christmas greeting slides were added to our collection as part of an exceptionally generous donation by the Quekett Microscopical Club. They returned Arthur Earland’s foraminiferal collection to its place alongside long term collaborator Edward Heron-Allen’s collection at the Museum by purchasing the collection from the estate of Brian Davidson and donating it to the Museum.

Read on to find out why most of this new acquisition can be considered upside-down, contains more evidence of the two scientists falling out and the mystery of the three “new” Christmas greeting slides.

Continue reading “The mystery of the microfossil Christmas cards | Curator of Micropaleontology”

Wildlife Garden Autumn BioBlitz – Pond Species Review Part 2

A Caddis Fly case

In the latest BioBlitz which took place in the Museum’s Wildlife Garden in October, we had a look in the garden’s pond to discover what kind of animals leave there! This is the second part of the blog where we share the results with you.

Continue reading  to find out more about the species found in the pond! Continue reading “Wildlife Garden Autumn BioBlitz – Pond Species Review Part 2”

The space missions looking to understand more about water in our Solar System | Planetary Science PhD Students

It is an incredibly exciting time to be studying asteroids – two incredible space missions are reaching the most exciting phases of their journeys! On the 27th June this year, the Japanese Space Agency mission ‘Hayabusa2’ arrived at the near Earth asteroid Ryugu, after travelling for three and a half years and travelling 3.2 billion kilometres. On the 3rd December the NASA mission OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) will arrive at the near Earth asteroid Bennu.

These two missions are ‘sample return’ missions, which means they will try and collect some material from the asteroids and then bring them back to Earth, so we can do detailed analyses, which would be impossible to do remotely.
Continue reading “The space missions looking to understand more about water in our Solar System | Planetary Science PhD Students”

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.

Bioblitz 30_05_18-70 compressed
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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17 Who’s afraid of the dark? | #NHM_Live

We step into the darkness with leading scientists from the Museum to explore some of nature’s most extreme sensory adaptations and have a close-up look at some sensational specimens.

Join David Urry and Museum ecologist Steph West, Senior Mammal Curator Louise Tomsett and Dr Robyn Grant, a physiology and behaviour expert from Manchester Metropolitan University. They will be talking about creatures that thrive at night.

We also meet Ken Greenway, Tower Hamlets’ resident ecologist, for a night-time walk in the cemetery on the lookout for some of the borough’s bats.

Want to get up close to some of the curious creatures featured? Find them in our Life in the Dark exhibition.

This recording was broadcast on 11 July 2018. If you enjoyed this podcast please subscribe, rate and review in iTunes. We will be live every month. Join us on 15 August and find out about modern day explorers and the depths to which they go to discover new frontiers.

16 What lies beneath? | #NHM_Live

Come with us to the depths of the Museum basement this month for an exclusive peek at the Tank Room and meet some of the 22 million specimens stored in alcohol (or spirit), including a Greenland shark and Stanley the sturgeon.

Join Museum curators Oliver Crimmen, James Maclaine and Jeff Streicher to discover why we preserve some collections in spirit and how scientists are using them to study life on Earth.

 

Find out more about the oceans at http://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/oceans

This recording of #NHM_Live was broadcast on 13 June 2018. If you enjoyed this podcast please subscribe, rate and review in iTunes. We will be live every month. Join us on 11 July and find out about the animals that thrive in darkness.

When poetry and BioBlitz collide… | Citizen Science

It’s BioBlitz,

The greatest hits,

Of nature amidst London’s bricks,

That’s BioBlitz…..

Yesterday and today, scientists and visitors are working together in the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Garden to record as many different plants, animals and fungi as possible.  If you’re visiting today, come and join us outside (near the Orange Zone) and get involved in guided walks and surveys, or grab a plastic pot and and identification guide and go bug hunting!

BioBlitzflowerlogoThese wildlife recording challenges are called BioBlitzes and we’ve run lots of them all over the UK over the past few years.  A couple of years ago, when I was working with my friend Maria from Greenspace Information for Greater London to run the Brompton Cemetery BioBlitz, she happened upon the Poetry Takeaway at the Roundhouse in Camden and had an amazing poet, Laurie Eaves, write a poem for her completely off the cuff, about BioBlitz.  It’s an awesome poem so I thought I’d share it here…enjoy!

BioBlitz

It’s BioBlitz,

The greatest hits,

Of nature amidst London’s bricks,

That’s BioBlitz.

It’s botanists,

And naturalists,

Who capture ants and plants on lists,

Continue reading “When poetry and BioBlitz collide… | Citizen Science”