NatSCA Digital Digest – February 2023

Compiled by Glenn Roadley, NatSCA Committee Member, Curator of Natural Science at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery.

Welcome to the February edition of NatSCA Digital Digest.

A monthly blog series featuring the latest on where to go, what to see and do in the natural history sector including jobs, exhibitions, conferences, and training opportunities. We are keen to hear from you if you have any top tips and recommendations for our next Digest, please drop an email to

Sector News

NatSCA Conference

The NatSCA annual conference and AGM will be held at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery on Thursday 27th and Friday 28th April 2023. The focus this year is:

So how do we actually do all this? Hopeful futures and turning theory into practice for big issues in natural history collections.

This is the “How To…” conference for people working with natural history collections. The last few years have seen unprecedented changes in the expectations for what the museum sector can deliver. Global and local social and environmental issues have coincided to reinforce the needs of museums to consider their reinvention and relevance. Booking will open shortly, so keep an eye on our website and social media channels for updates.

SPNHC Conference

The 38th Annual Meeting of The Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections is being held in San Francisco, California 28 May – 2 June 2023. Full details here.

DiSSCo UK Community Event

The next DiSSCo UK event will be held on March 3rd, 14:30-16:30 via Microsoft Teams. Please save this date in your calendars! A general update on DiSSCo UK activities and future plans will be provided, and we will hear from our colleagues at Kew regarding their digitisation project, and will discuss the affiliation between natural science collections and the humanities sector. For details, contact Tara Wainwright (

Bursaries for People and Plants workshop 2 at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Friday March 10th 2023)

Applications are now open for 4 funded spaces at workshop 2 of the AHRC funded project ‘People and Plants: reactivating ethnobotanical collections as material archives of Indigenous ecological knowledge’.

Four bursaries of up to £225 each are available. This sum may be set against your travel costs or accommodation costs.


  • Only members of the Natural Science Collections Association and the Museum Ethnographers Group can apply for a bursary.
  • All successful applicants must provide a write up for the NatSCA or MEG blog.
  • Due the funds available, applications are limited to UK residents only.
  • Bursaries are only open to individual members.

To apply for a bursary please write no more than 500 words on how the workshop would be useful for your own personal or professional development, how this fits with your interests and what you might bring to the discussion.

Preference will be given to those lacking institutional support to attend workshops, early career museum professionals and students.

All bursaries are given at the discretion of the project team and the NatSCA and MEG committee. Applicants will be notified by February 20th if they have been successful and travel and accommodation will be booked by the project.

Applications should be sent to: Ali Clark by Friday February 17th at 5pm.

Details of the workshop: March 10th Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

This workshop will be run in partnership with the Department of Cultures and Languages, Birkbeck, University of London and Museu Goeldi, Brazil. Discussions will be centred around the ecological value of ethnobotanical collections, including a focus on the interaction of western botanical nomenclature and traditional knowledge which forms the basis of an existing British Academy Knowledge Frontiers project. The Richard Spruce collection (1849-1864) will be the basis of a case study for how culture, plants and environment in the northwest Amazon have changed over the last 160 years.

Speakers include: Luciana Martins (Birkbeck), Dagoberto Lima Azevedo (Tukano Indigenous Researcher), Claudia-Leonor Lopez Garces (Museu Paraense Emilio Goeldi) and Cinthya Lana (University of Gothenburg)

NatSCA Lunchtime Chats

The new lunchtime chats are for members only and run on the last Thursday of every month.

This series is supposed to be informal, no fancy equipment is needed, it will be put out over the NatSCA Zoom platform and there is no fixed format. There will be shaky walks through stores by mobile, demos, plain pieces to camera or traditional PowerPoints if that’s the best way to share images and info. For those who want to take part please email to put forward your idea; if a stable internet connection for what you want to achieve is tricky we can put up a pre-recorded video and then speakers can jump in at the end for the discussion.

Bring your sandwiches and a cuppa and we hope to see you on the day! All members will have received a link to join via Zoom (the same link works for all sessions) – if you haven’t, get in touch with

What to Do

Ulster Museum, Belfast is hosting a series of events and wildlife training workshops in February and March, including:
Riverfly Identification Training Course, 23-24 February.

The Irish Entomologists Conference, 24 March

The Northern Ireland launch of the BSBI Atlas on 15th March at Cultra Manor, 11h00. The 66th Irish Geological Research Meeting, 3-5 March.

Dr Michael J. Simms will present a series of geological talks:

Wednesday 22nd Feb, 19.00-20.00. Ulster Museum lecture theatre. From Crumlin to Chelyabinsk: Tales told by meteorites.

Friday 24th Feb, 19.00-20.00. Ulster Museum lecture theatre. A new view of the Giant’s Causeway.

Saturday 25th Feb, 10.30-12.30. Carrickfergus Museum and Civic Centre. Fun with fossils. (with Belfast Geologists’ Society)

Saturday 25thFeb, 15.00-21.00. Lough Neagh Discovery Centre. Rockets, Stars, Planets and Meteorites. (with Irish Astronomical Association).

There are also two popular interactive talks for the public coming up on 18 February for the Northern Ireland Science Festival:

  • Helen Barber-James and Andrew Kenny: Rivers – an insight into the mysterious life that lies beneath the waters; the place in space for freshwater macroinvertebrates
  • Bernard Picton and Robyn Donaghy: Digitising the marine sponge collection of the Ulster Museum – a galaxy of diversity seen under the microscope

And for an event you can visit from the comfort of your own office/kitchen, Cambridge University Museum of Zoology will be hosting “The Heroes and the hidden: searching the truth of who really collected for natural history museums” – Jack Ashby, University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge February 8th 7-8pm, online

Museums like ours contain specimens that belonged to scientific heroes such as Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, who developed the answers to the question of how species evolved. Their stories have been well told; however, they did not work alone. What’s often missing from the histories are the countless local and Indigenous experts who contributed so much to our understanding of the natural world, by collecting specimens for the likes of Darwin and Wallace.

To mark Wallace’s 200th birthday, the Museum of Zoology’s Assistant Director, Jack Ashby will share his research that tries to identify and celebrate the people who have so often been hidden in the accounts of how museum specimens were collected.

All are welcome. To register please visit

What to Read

We have two new NatSCA blogs to read this month. Violet Nicholls, Assistant Curator (Herbarium), Portsmouth Museums, writes about the amazing collectors and specimens examined as part of a two-year project working on the Guermonprez Herbarium called “Flora Explorer”, which is funded by the Headley Trust. Flora Explorer: Opening the Cabinets at Portsmouth Museums

Becky Desjardins, Senior Preparateur, Naturalis Biodiversity Center, details the new exhibits and interactives that can be seen in the brand new ‘Evolution’ hall – Naturalis’ New Hall of Evolution

And if you missed some of the great blogs written by our members and contributors last year, catch up with Jen Gallichan’s Top NatSCA Blogs of 2022.

Where to Work

National Museums Scotland is currently seeking an Assistant Curator, Fluid Collections. You will be responsible for assisting with the curation of the fluid preserved collections (Invertebrates and Vertebrates). This is international in scope and includes ~6,000,000 specimens. It is particularly strong in Crustacea, Polychaeta and Mollusca, especially from Northern Atlantic. There is a notable collection of Antarctic octopi. It also contains a significant collection of Reptilia. Important historical collections includes extensive material from the 1902-1904 Scotia expedition led by William Speirs Bruce and the 1872-1876 Challenger expedition. The collection is housed at the National Museums Collection Centre.

If you’re open to something further afield, The Natural History Museum, Abu Dhabi, is looking for Curators of Zoology, Geology, Marine Biology and Palaeontology as well as an Acquisitions Lead. Keep an eye our website for the latest listings.

Before You Go…

If you have any top tips and recommendations for our next Digest please drop an email to

Similarly, if you have something to say about a current topic, or perhaps you want to tell us what you’ve been working on, we welcome new blog articles so please drop Jen an email if you have anything you would like to submit.

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