Stepping Into The Genomics Age: A DNA Bank at World Museum, National Museums Liverpool.

By John-James Wilson, Curator of Vertebrate Zoology, World Museum, National Museums Liverpool.

From World Museum’s founding collection of study skins and taxidermy mounts bequeathed by the 13th Earl of Derby to the spirit-preserved amphibians collected by curator Malcolm Largen in the 1980s, World Museum’s Vertebrate Zoology collection has continued to expand and reflect the state-of-the-art in specimen preparation and storage.

As ethics around the sacrifice of animals for science have modernised, ‘traditional’ specimen types are no longer being prepared at the same rates, and growth of the collection has slowed abruptly. At the same time usage of the collection has diversified, including increases in requests for destructive sampling. In particular, the removal of small tissue samples, usually bird toe pad scrapes, is regularly requested for use in DNA extraction which produces a ‘pure’ DNA extract that can be used in a number of genomic investigations.

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NatSCA Digital Digest – October

Compiled by Lily Nadine Wilkes, NatSCA Volunteer.

Welcome to the October edition of NatSCA Digital Digest.

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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 really keen to hear more about museum re-openings, exhibition launches, virtual conferences and webinars, and new and interesting online content. If you have any top tips and recommendations for our next Digest please drop an email to blog@natsca.org.

Note from editor: Unfortunately this is the last of Lily’s posts as she had stepped down from her role as part of the Digest team. A huge thanks for all your contributions! If anyone is interested in taking up her position, drop me a line.

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What to Do

There are lots of fun Natural Science activities happening in October half term, like the Marine Day at the Great North Museum: Hancock. The National Museum of Scotland has lots of activities to do in October Half Term. This event at National Museums NI Ulster Folk Museum on the Naturalists Notebook looks fascinating.

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Persevering Through The Pandemic

Written by Paolo Viscardi, Curator of Zoology, National Museum of Ireland – Natural History.

Since Covid-19 hit the scene, time has not seemed to behave normally, with a Groundhog Dayesque sense of repetition that has eroded our patience and put our mental health to the test. For many people working with collections it has been a very difficult time, with projects being put on hold, contracts not being renewed, furlough and redeployment making normal work impossible and even the improvements seen in facilitation of working from home offering the thinnest and most tarnished of silver linings.

Dealing with leaks from the Dead Zoo roof

At the Dead Zoo in Dublin the pandemic has thrown up different challenges. With a leaking roof threatening the national collections, a project to safeguard them by undertaking a roof refurbishment was considered a priority and categorised as essential work. The first stage of this project was to remove two whales suspended from supports within the roofspace, which in turn required a substantial amount of preparation, given the crowded Victorian gallery space.

The 1st floor of the Dead Zoo, in all its crowded glory
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Extinct – A New Exhibition At The Manx Museum

Written by Laura McCoy, Curator of Natural History for Manx National Heritage.

Wednesday the 8th September saw the opening of the new temporary exhibition ‘Extinct’ at the Manx Museum on the Isle of Man, in partnership with Manx Wildlife Trust, which also coincided with the launch of the Red Data bird list published by Manx BirdLife. There are many species that have become locally extinct on the Isle of Man, particularly birds and plants, and this trend is not slowing down, with the Yellowhammer, once one of our most ubiquitous farmland birds, disappearing from our Island only in 2019. Some may ask how these absences impact our day-to-day lives, why this matters, but as we are becoming increasingly aware, the complexity and variety of our environment is what sustains us; if you knock out enough of the bricks the wall will come tumbling down. These disappearances are symptomatic of a grave state of affairs and islands are particularly sensitive to changes in management and climate. The more protected and supported our environment is, the better it is able to withstand and buffer us from the global shifts that are to come.

When Manx Wildlife Trust came to Manx National Heritage with the idea of this exhibition we were fully on board; learning about these stories of the Isle of Man’s countryside has been a journey, sometimes an upsetting one, but it has also been a call to arms. I had no idea that currently 29% of our current resident bird species, never mind the ones that are already gone, are red listed, and 41% are amber. An estimated forty five species of plant are extinct, seventy seven are red listed. We are still trying to compile what invertebrates and fungi we have, never mind assess what has been lost. 

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NatSCA Digital Digest – September

Compiled by Olivia Beavers, Assistant Curator of Natural Science at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery.

Welcome to the September 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 really keen to hear more about museum re-openings, exhibition launches, virtual conferences and webinars, and new and interesting online content. If you have any top tips and recommendations for our next Digest please drop an email to blog@natsca.org.

What to do

As we move into the new school year, The Grantham Climate Art Prize is calling for messages of hope from young people on climate change – ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow this November. This is an opportunity for young people aged 12-25 to raise awareness for our precious habitats and send a message of hope through designing a mural to go onto walls across the UK – and be in for a chance to win £250 cash!  The theme of this competition is Biodiversity Loss and Climate Change. Click here to learn more – entries by 24.09.21.

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