Results so far | Orchid Observers

The Orchid Observers project is closing at the end of July (so if you can help us out with the last few classifications then you have just a few days left!). We’d like to say a huge thank you to all of the volunteers who photographed orchids, identified photos online or transcribed and classified our museum specimens. Your time, expertise and enthusiasm is really valued, so thanks for being part of the Orchid Observers team.

Photo of a bee orchid flower with thank you in a speech bubble coming from a 'mouth'-like shape on the flower.
A big thank you to everyone who has volunteered to help us with the Orchid Observers citizen science project!

The project had two main research questions:

  1. Firstly, the climate science research: Are orchid flowering times being affected by climate change?
  2. Secondly, the social science research: How do volunteers interact and share ideas and knowledge with one another, within a project that combines both outdoor and online activities?

The second question was of particular interest to our funders, the Arts and Humanities Research Council. We are asking all Orchid Observers volunteers to answer a short survey to help us address the second question, so keep an eye out for that coming soon. Here I’ll update you on the science research outcomes and how we are analysing the data you’ve collected.

Continue reading “Results so far | Orchid Observers”

Fossil Festival on the Jurassic Coast | Earth sciences

by Chris Hughes, Earth Sciences, Natural History Museum

Every year in early May the Museum participates in the Fossil Festival at Lyme Regis, on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset.  It’s an event involving thousands of members of the public with an interest in the ancient marine fossils found in the rocks along the coast near Lyme. Museum scientists occupy a large marquee on the sea front and engage in a whole range of outreach activities. The idea is to enable everybody to meet scientists, to talk about real fossils and enjoy exploring the geology and natural history of this area.

lyme1
A wonderful view of Lyme Regis bathed in May sunshine – before the snow!

We headed down to Lyme Regis on the Tuesday before the Fossil Festival commenced. This allowed us a day to carry out some fieldwork in this world famous fossil locality before we led an outreach event at the Thomas Hardye School, in Dorset. On our field visit we had a look at some of the great fossil sites that are found all around Lyme. We decided to head out west toward the famous ammonite pavement at Monmouth beach. This was my first time in Lyme Regis and I was very excited because I had been told that these rocks were some of the best in the world for these fossils.

Continue reading “Fossil Festival on the Jurassic Coast | Earth sciences”

A visit to the UK’s synchrotron facility | CoG3 Consortium

Researcher Dr Agnieszka Dybowska describes a recent visit to Diamond Light Source, the UK’s national synchrotron science facility, during which the CoG3 team completed their first detailed spectroscopic analysis of laterite samples.

On Thursday 28 April we headed to Diamond Light Source in Oxfordshire, hoping to carry out atomic scale analysis of a sample from the Shevchenko laterite deposit in Kazakhstan – one of the samples we’re investigating as a potential new source of cobalt.

Diamond Light Source
The synchrotron building at Diamond Light Source, Oxfordshire

For some of us this was the first visit to a synchrotron facility, and definitely a great experience!

Continue reading “A visit to the UK’s synchrotron facility | CoG3 Consortium”

Get Digging! New Citizen Science Project Launched | Earthworm Watch

A brand new citizen science project from the Museum and Earthwatch Institute is inviting you to get digging to explore the underground world of earthworms. By taking part in Earthworm Watch, you’ll be contributing to world class research into soil health.

A smiling Lucy Robinson holding three earthworms in the palms of her hands, in a wildlife garden.
Lucy Robinson, Citizen Science Manager, getting hands on with earthworms in the Museum’s wildlife garden.

Taking part is easy. Choose your garden, a local park, allotment, school grounds or a nature reserve as your study site, grab a trowel and a free survey pack and you’re ready to go.

Continue reading “Get Digging! New Citizen Science Project Launched | Earthworm Watch”

Introducing Krisztina Fekete | Identification Trainers for the Future

In the second of our blog posts introducing our new trainees taking part in the Identification Trainers for the Future project, we meet Krisztina Fekete.

My name is Kriztina Fekete and I am a graduate ecologist, passionate naturalist, wildlife photographer and recorder.

Photo of Kristina standing to the side of country lane in a wood on a misty morning
Kristina Fekete, a graduate ecologist and the next of our ID Trainers for the Future to introduce themselves

I started my academic journey in conservation at Plumpton College studying Animal Science which was followed by an ecology degree at Brighton University. Over the last 6 years I have been involved in many conservation projects and surveys through volunteering for wonderful organisations such as the London Wildlife Trust (LWT), The Conservation Volunteers (TCV), Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) and Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BBCT). I have been working as a volunteer Urban Ranger at Greenwich Ecology Park through TCV for 2 years which meant carrying out a wide range of practical and educational roles.

Continue reading “Introducing Krisztina Fekete | Identification Trainers for the Future”

A fond farewell | Identification Trainers for the Future

I can’t believe the last 12 months have flown by so quickly! Our first 5 trainees on the Identification Trainers for the Future project have now completed their traineeship with us and have been released into the wilds of the UK’s biodiversity sector, only now it’s with a whole host of new skills and a wealth of experience under their belts.

Photo showing the trainees standing as a group in a wood.
The first cohort of our Identification Trainers for the Future recently completed their programme of training and are now out in the wilds of the UK biodiversity sector. From left to right: Sally, Katy, Mike, Chloe and Anthony.

Before they left I caught up with each of them to find out what they have found most rewarding about their time with us and what they are going off to do next… Continue reading “A fond farewell | Identification Trainers for the Future”

‘Why is it important to study microorganisms?’ An interview with Dr Anne Jungblut | The Microverse

In the second of three podcasts produced by Science Communication students Olivia Philipps and Caroline Steel, we find out more from Dr Anne Jungblut about the results of The Microverse project, and why it’s important to study microorganisms.

In the podcasts, Olivia and Caroline pose questions asked by students from The Long Eaton School, Nottingham, and Prospect School, Reading, who participated in the project.

136 Askham Bryansmall
Students from Askham Bryan College, York, collecting samples for The Microverse project.

 

Produced by Olivia Philipps and Caroline Steel. With thanks to Long Eaton School and Prospect School for contributing questions. And thanks to Helen Steel for reading the questions on their behalf.

If you missed it, listen to the first podcast here and watch this space for the third and final podcast, where we’ll find out about the types of organisms found through the research.

‘Doesn’t it get a bit boring always looking down a microscope?’ An interview with Dr Anne Jungblut | The Microverse

To kick start our Citizen Science blog for 2016, Olivia Philipps and Caroline Steel, Science Communication students from Imperial College London, have produced a series of three podcasts interviewing Dr. Anne Jungblut, the lead researcher of The Microverse project.

In the podcasts, Olivia and Caroline pose questions asked by students from The Long Eaton School, Nottingham, and Prospect School, Reading, who participated in the project.

Photo showing Anne sitting collecting a water sample from beside a lake in Antarctica, with three penguins in the background
Anne Jungblut collecting microbial samples in Antarctica

In this first one we find out what inspired Anne to pursue a career in microbial research:

Produced by Olivia Philipps and Caroline Steel. With thanks to The Long Eaton School for contributing questions and Helen Steel for posing them to Anne on their behalf.

Watch this space for the second in this series of podcasts, where we’ll find out about the results of The Microverse project.

A crypt full of Rose’s lichens | Identification Trainers for the Future

In our next blog from the Identification Trainers for the Future trainees, Mike Waller gives you an insight into his curation placement. Mike has been working through lichen collections made by Francis Rose MBE. Rose (1921-2006) is perhaps best known for being the author of The Wildflower Key, for many the guide to British & Irish plants, however he was also an expert in lichens and bryophytes (mosses & liverworts) and much of his lichen collection is housed within the Museum’s cryptogamic herbarium, Mike’s work area for the last 3 months.

Deep within the dark, towering wooden cabinets of the cryptogamic collections, I’m tucked away at the end of a small corridor from where my seemingly endless journey has begun. The cryptogamic herbarium is also known as the Crypt in the Museum, but fortunately our crypt only contains the seedless plants and plant-like organisms such as mosses, lichens, ferns and fungi that are known as Cryptogams.

I’ve been tasked with preparing Francis Rose’s 5  years’ worth of Kent lichen specimens for incorporation into the main collection. With around 700 small packets containing lichen fragments from across 2 vice counties between 1965 and 1970, it’s far from simple.

Continue reading “A crypt full of Rose’s lichens | Identification Trainers for the Future”

Darwin, dragons and damsels | Identification Trainers for the Future

In 2009, I visited the Museum’s Darwin Centre for the first time. It had been a culmination of a pilgrimage to see as many exhibitions as possible that celebrated Charles Darwin’s bicentenary of his birth that year. Little did I realise that 6 years later, as a trainee on the Identification Trainers for the Future project, I’d be lucky enough to work in the Darwin Centre itself, re-curating some of the Museum’s 80 million specimens that form the world’s most important natural history collection.

Photograph of the Cocoon structure from below looking upwards
The Cocoon in the Darwin Centre, which opened in September 2009.

I watched with bated breath on the 14 September 2009 as Sir David Attenborough and Prince William opened the state of the art facility. It allows over 350 scientists and researchers to study zoology, botany and entomology collections to address some of the key challenges of the 21st century such as food security, biodiversity loss and disease. As Sir David Attenborough so eloquently put it:

Never has it been so important to understand the  diversity of life on earth and how it is changing, if we are to tackle many of the issues that humans face today … The Darwin Centre will inspire the next generation of naturalists and scientists through its combination of scientific expertise, specimens, public dialogue, film and interactive media. It will enable all of us to explore the wonders of our world and investigate its secrets.

It was therefore a bit surreal when my curation placement actually took me to the 7th floor of the Darwin Centre in the Entomology Research and Curation Lab, where I have been asked to re-curate the Odonata of the UK. This order is split into Zygoptera (Damselflies) and Anisoptera (Dragonflies).

Continue reading “Darwin, dragons and damsels | Identification Trainers for the Future”