As part of the International Year of the Reef (that’s this year, in case you hadn’t crossed paths with it yet) the Horniman Museum and Gardens is releasing a series of blogs that showcase and celebrate research taking place around the globe on coral reef conservation. There have been three installments so far, with the latest one here. FYI- the images in this blog series are STUNNING! The hashtag for Internal Year of the Reef is #IYOR2018.
It’s that wonderful day of the year again when men all over the world realise it’s International Women’s Day and subsequently Google ‘When is International Men’s Day?’. To celebrate the day, the Natural History Museum has published an article- The women watching over London’s natural history collections, to demonstrate the diversity of roles of their wonderful staff, covering 11 fabulous women in conservation, curation, and research.
With generic terms like mankind and Homo sapiens (“wise man”), people of all genders are well aware that it is the masculine that has dominated the vocabulary of humanity. Not so in the animal kingdom.
Across UCL Culture we are celebrating the centenary of some women first getting the vote in the UK in a number of different ways. In the run up to International Women’s Day, here on the blog our Specimens of the Week will be exploring themes like women in natural history, female specimens, and – in this case – the language of natural history. This week’s Specimen of the Week is…
Koalas are one of many Australian mammals that are named after a characteristic that only females have. Their scientific name Phascolarctos means “pouched bear”. LDUCZ-Z65. (C) UCL Grant Museum of Zoology
***The Taxidermy Koala***
I find it interesting to think about animals that are named after features that only one sex has. How would you feel if your species was defined by a characteristic that you yourself didn’t possess?* My own passion is the mammals of Australia. Unlike many other groups (for example there are entire groups of insects that can only be identified by studying male genitalia), for those animals which are named for sex-specific features, Australian mammals are almost** universally named after things that only appear in females.
Excited (botanical) chatter, the inexorable flashing of camera equipment, intrigued visitors gathering around our new gallery space; this was our Virtual Flora of Tullie Herbarium Project, funded by the Bill Pettit Memorial Award at the start of 2017.
The scope of the project, between 30th of May to 26th of September 2017, was to use a team of volunteers to begin photographing and cataloguing our (“ex”) University of Lancaster herbarium. This significant acquisition of 35,000 vascular plant sheets is a highly data rich and well-provenanced collection with invaluable information on the historical and contemporary distribution of species across the UK and beyond. Almost a third of the specimens were collected from Cumbria, much of it collected during a major 30 year survey of the flora of Cumbria; an exemplar model of field surveying which is aspired to by Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) recorders today. The survey work culminated in the team leader’s (Geoffrey Halliday) highly comprehensive publication of A Flora of Cumbria. No other herbarium has a comparable recent (1968+) collection of Cumbrian material. But despite the importance of this recent acquisition, none of these specimens were digitised.
Thanks to the Bill Pettit Memorial Award funding this was all about to change.
If you haven’t heard about the exciting discovery of a “spider-like” ancient creature from 100 million years ago, now is the time to check it out! Named Chimerarachne yingi, this little beauty has eight legs and a tail, and is exquisitely preserved. I only wish H. R. Giger had been around to see it. You can read more about the discovery here.
It’s day three of Operation Move Sue the T. rex over at the Field Museum. To follow this story, follow #SueOnTheMove.
What Shall I Attend?
The big item on everyone’s calendar is of course the NatSCA Conference 2018 – this year hosted in Leeds. Keep the dates 26th and 27th April free. I’m hoping people bring their live-tweeting A-game this year because I’m not able to go, so I need to live vicariously through you wonderful people. You can find more information on our website. Paper and poster submissions are now closed but you can still contribute; continue reading to the next section for more information.
I help promote information sharing and collaboration between NatSCA and closely allied subject specialist network the Geological Curators’ Group. These groups share core aims and, increasingly with loss of specialist curatorial posts, a membership. It’s exciting to explore how we can capitalise their individual strengths for the benefit of natural sciences collections and the people who work with them.
I work with a small team (Biology Curator Rhian Rowson and Geology Curator Deborah Hutchinson) to curate over one million natural sciences specimens of all shapes and sizes. As many a curator will recognise, this varies from high level strategic work to lifting, shifting, labelling and cleaning – a medley of activities to enable diverse access to and preserve these astonishing collections.
Medicinal plant on a page from Bristol’s earliest natural sciences collection – the Broughton herbarium, Bristol & Jamaica, 1779-90. (C) Bristol Culture.
Happy New Year, and welcome to the first Digital Digest of 2018. We have lots of news, conferences, and jobs to keep you entertained for the rest of the ‘working week’. Read on…
What Should I Read?
Palaeontologists have made public the discovery of a new giant bat found in New Zealand, and the media has gone mad for it. Its scientific name (Vulcanops jennyworthyae) was chosen to commemorate the Roman god of fire (specifically including that of volcanoes, making him rather relevant to New Zealand), as well as the hotel in the village in which it was found (also named after Vulcan – that is the Roman god, not Spock’s home planet), and the scientist who found the first fossils; Jenny Worthy.
If you’d like to know all about the Chair of the Geological Curators’ Group, Matthew Parkes, then a perusal of the new blog Six questions for a geological curator would be a good place to start.
The third blog article I’d like to recommend actually came out mid December but it has a lot of interesting points that are important for those working with natural history collections to consider, and so is worth another mention; Four ways natural history museums skew reality.
I have been the Secretary for the Society since 2014 and on the committee, since 2011. NatSCA and its membership have contributed significantly to my development as a curator and collection manager, so I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve the society in this capacity now.
Job title and institution
I am the Senior Curator in Charge for the Mammal Section at the Natural History Museum, London.
The Museum collection contains an estimated 500,000 mammal specimens and over 8,000 of those are type specimens. This makes it one of the largest and most comprehensive collections in the world.