Vertebrate Collections of the Institute of Biology, UNAM, Move to the New Building of the National Biodiversity Pavilion in Mexico City.

Written by Fernando A. Cervantes, Professor and Curator of Mammals, Department of Zoology, Instituto de Biología, UNAM.

Mexico is a megadiverse country and has 10% of the world’s species. The Institute of Biology of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (IBUNAM) houses the National Biological Collections (NBC), which contain the largest and most important representation of museum specimens of Mexican biodiversity in Mexico. These include 10 zoological collections, a herbarium, and a botanical garden (Zambrano and Reynoso, 2003). Among the highlights are the National Insect Collection (CNIN), with more than 3,000,000 specimens, the National Herbarium (MEXU), with more than 1,500,000 specimens, and the living collections of the Botanical Garden. They all collaborate in the elaboration of the national biological inventory and their specimens provide knowledge on the presence, distribution, and evolution of biological diversity (Cervantes et al. 2016).

   The NBC are located at the IBUNAM facilities in the Ciudad Universitaria campus, south of Mexico City, Mexico, where they have been for approximately 22 years now. However, the rapid growth in the number of specimens in each of the collections over the last few decades has meant that the space in which they are currently housed is no longer sufficient. At the same time, the number of academic personnel associated with the NBC, students, equipment, and materials have grown in parallel and demand the need for more space to allow for the proper functioning of the NBC.

In spite of these problems and in contrast to the worldwide trend to reduce support for biological collections (Yong 2016), Mexico continues to support the existence and work of biological collections in favour of biodiversity knowledge and conservation (Cervantes, 2016). For this reason, a new building has just been constructed to provide both additional spaces to properly house the NBC specimens and space for the growth of the NBC for years to come: the National Biodiversity Pavilion.

Figure 1. View of the National Biodiversity Pavilion, the new building of the Institute of Biology, National Autonomous University of Mexico, which will house not only the national biological collections of fish, amphibians and reptiles, birds and mammals but also a museum that will exhibit specimens of Mexican biodiversity from these collections (Photo by Victor H. Reynoso).

From the IBUNAM biological collections, this new space will house only the vertebrate collections (fish, amphibians and reptiles, birds, and mammals), the molecular biology and genomic sequencing laboratory, and the wood section of MEXU. On the other hand, the invertebrate collections (mites, arachnids, crustaceans, helminths, insects, and mollusks) will also benefit as they will occupy the space left by the vertebrate collections, which will allow for a significant expansion. At this moment, the National Reptile and Amphibian Collection has already finished moving to the new facilities of the Pavilion. Undoubtedly. The expansion of the facilities of IBUNAM’s national collections will allow them to work efficiently and continue contributing to the institutional objectives of supporting scientific research, teaching, and dissemination of culture.

In addition, this new building will also house a space destined to function as a museum where Mexican specimens of biodiversity from all the NBC will be exhibited (Fig. 2). The Pavilion has three floors, and 12 exhibition halls, including a digital library for all types of museum users, particularly students. The goal is to inspire children and young people to pursue degree programs related to biodiversity conservation and biology and showcase the country’s diversity. A unique space in Latin America, the Biodiversity Pavilion serves a dual role as both museum and research center in a 12,000-square-meter (129,000-square-foot) space. The coexistence and joint work of the NBC and the museum will allow for a wide range of flora, fauna, and mycobiota.

Fig. 2. Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) skeleton on display in the lobby of the National Biodiversity Pavilion of the Institute of Biology, National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico City (Photo by Yolanda Hortelano).

The Pavilion was built as a donation from the Slim Foundation of Mexico to IBUNAM with the purpose of strengthening the knowledge and conservation of Mexican biodiversity as well as promoting environmental education for the general public. The following show short videos in Spanish of the National Biodiversity Pavilion:

References

Cervantes, F. A. J. Vargas-Cuenca, and Y. Hortelano-Moncada. 2016. An overview of the Mammal Collection of Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Journal of Natural Science Collections 4:4-11.

Cervantes, F. A. 2016. Uso y mantenimiento de colecciones biológicas, IB, UNAM. Revista Digital Universitaria 17(12):1-12.

Yong, E. 2016. Funding Freeze Hits Natural History Museum Collections. The Atlantic, March 25

Zambrano, L, and V. H. Reynoso. 2003. National Collections of Mexico. Copeia, 4: 923-926.

NatSCA Digital Digest – May 2022

Compiled by Claire Dean, Curatorial Assistant at Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, Carlisle, and MA Preventive Conservation student at Northumbria University.

Welcome to the May 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. If you have any top tips and recommendations for our next Digest please drop an email to blog@natsca.org.

Sector News

The countdown is on to the SPNCH/NatSCA/BHL Conference 2022, which is being held in Edinburgh and online. Early Rate registration has now closed but a Late Rate registration fee is still available, with NatSCA members eligible for the Standard Member rate. The programme runs from Sunday 5th to Friday 10th June and is available to view here.

If your work involves (or if you are considering) citizen science, community science, or other forms of research collaborations with the public, you may be interested in joining the virtual C*Sci2022 conference, May 23-26th.  Registration is now open and the full programme is available here.

Brighton’s Booth Museum has received funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund for an exciting new project to create a modern diorama to reflect changes in UK wildlife since E.T. Booth’s death in 1890. The project will also involve improving their educational offers and increase audience participation. Due to run from 2022-2024, you can find out more about the project here.

The Cole Museum of Zoology has now reopened after their relocation to a new Health and Life Sciences building! See their Visit Us pages for the latest information.

Abstract submissions are open for Collections focus issue: Natural history collections come in from the cold (Arctic Collections in World Museums). Guest Editors: Consuelo Sendino & Svetlana Nikolaeva, Natural History Museum, London, are looking for articles and case studies of 15-25 pages, reviews and technical columns on Arctic natural history collections, fossil or recent, of any phylum, and geological samples kept in museums, universities, geological surveys, or other institutions. They’re aiming to show diversity and importance of these collections, to facilitate the accessibility of these specimens to researchers, and to provide guidance for policy makers to create new measures to protect and manage the Arctic seas, their biodiversity, and geodiversity. Authors should express their interest by submitting a 150-word abstract to the journal editor or guest editors by June 1, 2022. The deadline for the submission of final papers is August 1, 2022. Publication is anticipated for volume 19 with an issue date of 2023. For more information contact the journal editor, Juilee Decker, jdgsh@rit.edu, or the guest editors, Consuelo Sendino at c.sendinolara@nhm.ac.uk and Svetlana Nikolaeva at s.nikolaeva@nhm.ac.uk.

7th-15h May is GeoWeek! The aim is to promote ‘active geoscience’ via a nine-day ‘week’ of fieldwork activities. There’s a map of events taking place right across the UK here. Up here in Cumbria, Tullie House and a wide range of other museums and societies are putting on exciting geology activities for all. More info on this county-wide programme is available here.

Where to Visit

Butterflies Through Time: Using wildlife of the past to guide conservation of the future is on at University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge until 18th September 2022. This exhibition uses UK butterfly specimens to showcase the natural world and environmental change. It highlights the research that conservationists today are undertaking to reverse long-term declines, including people based in the Museum. An accompanying online resource details the population changes of all of Cambridgeshire’s butterfly species over the last 200 years. This work is supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund, run by the Museums Association. 

A Northumberland Menagerie involves new animal-themed exhibitions across four museums. You can discover stories of Northumberland’s animals – past and present, real, and imagined – through artist Bethan Maddock’s magical, paper-cut installations until Sunday 30th October 2022.

The Wellcome Collection’s Rooted Beings invites you to embark on a meditative reflection on the world of plants and fungi. The exhibition considers what we might learn from plant behaviour, and the impacts of colonial expeditions on the exploitation of natural resources and indigenous knowledges. While at the Barbican’s Our Time on Earth you can imagine sitting down to eat next to diners from other species, commuting through a rewilded city, over a bridge made of roots, and immerse yourself in the magnificent underground world of soil. Both are on until 29th August 2022.

Online Events

NatSCA’s monthly chats are held at 12:30pm GMT on the last Thursday of every month, the next being the 26th May 2022, are 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.

The next talk will be from Hannah Clarke, talking about the work she’s doing on the Marvellous Molluscs project using Bill Pettit Memorial Award funds. 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 – if you haven’t get in touch with membership@natsca.org.

You can find out more from the researchers featured in the Butterflies Through Time exhibition in a series of online talks. These are taking place every Wednesday at 7pm on Zoom for six weeks and will be made available afterwards online.

The next Habitat talk from the London Natural History Society on May 19th could be helpful if you want to brush up on your wetland species.

In online lecture, How to Love Animals, on 25th May, journalist Henry Mance will be asking why when so many of us consider ourselves animal-lovers, is our society bad at making life better for animals?

What To Read

Volume 10 of the Journal of Natural Science Collections landed in members’ inboxes in early April, have you had a chance to read it yet? Dig in for fascinating papers on decolonising collections, collections research, conservation, displays, and using collections.

The NatSCA blog also has an inspiring new post from Assistant Curator Hannah Clarke on the Marvellous Molluscs project at The University of Aberdeen’s Zoology Museum.

Curious about how to maximise your chances of becoming a fossil? Find out more in this intriguing BBC Future article.

Have you ever encountered a walking yew? This Guardian article is a great taster for Tony Hall’s new book from Kew Publishing – Great Trees of Britain and Ireland.

Where To Work

The Sedgwick Museum is looking for a Collections Assistant with some experience of collections management and/or collections migration to play a key role in the development of the Museum’s new Collections Research Centre. This post is fixed term for one year and the deadline is 14th May.

The Natural History Museum has a number of roles available, including a National Programmes Co-ordinator vacancy that has a deadline of 16th May.

Make sure you keep up-to-date with vacancies between bulletins by checking the NatSCA jobs page: https://www.natsca.org/jobs

Before You Go…

If you have any top tips and recommendations for our next Digest please drop an email to blog@natsca.org. 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.

Digital Digest – April 2022

Compiled by Milo Phillips, Assistant Curator of Entomology for Leeds Museums and Galleries.

Welcome to the April 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. If you have any top tips and recommendations for our next Digest please drop an email to blog@natsca.org.

Sector News

SPNHC / BHL / NatSCA Conference 2022

This summer will see the return of the physical NatSCA Conference – a partnership with the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections and the Biodiversity Heritage Library. Early Rate registration has now closed but a Late Rate registration fee is still available, with NatSCA members eligible for the Standard Member rate. The programme of events is now available to view.

NatSCA Lunchtime Chats

The new lunchtime chats are for members only and run on the last Thursday of every month. In our last session we heard from Mike Rutherford, Curator of Zoology and Anatomy at the Hunterian in Glasgow all about their investigation of a sperm whale that washed up in Thailand.

In this month’s talk we’ll be having a discussion about upcoming openings on the board of trustees for NatSCA (i.e. the committee), so please join us if you’d like to learn more about what we all do. There will be specific roles opening up so departing trustees will be explaining in more detail what those involve, but there will also be general positions available. Any NatSCA member is eligible to become a trustee; no previous experience or length of time as a member is a requirement, just an enthusiasm for supporting the work of the association. We welcome and encourage all applicants and we are particularly keen to receive nominations that help us represent the diversity of our membership, at trustee level.

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 training@natsca.org 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 membership@natsca.org.

Upcoming NFBR conference

The National Forum for Biological Recording has an upcoming conference for members to attend: ‘Curating the Past, Creating the Future: Legacies in Biological Recording’. It will take place Thursday 5th May – Saturday 7th May 2022 at Oxford University Museum of Natural History as well as online via Zoom. The conference costs £20 in person or £10 online. You can book your space here.

The theme this year is the legacies created by biological recording. From safeguarding historic specimen collections to dealing with personal photographs, they aim to cover various aspects of usefully preserving biological recording outputs for present and future generations. On Saturday 7th May there is a field trip to Wytham Woods, a species rich site which has been maintained and researched by Oxford University for 80 years. Find out more about the conference here, including the event programme.

Where to Visit

The National Museum of Scotland currently has a fascinating exhibition showcasing a bound copy of Audubon’s Birds of America and several original, unbound prints from the National Museums of Scotland’s Library collection. This is a great chance to learn about the making of the rarest and most renowned natural science books and the exhibition considers both Audubon’s complex and problematic story, as well as the conservation lessons we can learn from his unprecedented publication. The exhibition will run until May 8th this year, and tickets can be booked here.

There’s also still time to visit Titus: T. rex is King at Wollaton Hall in Nottingham. This exhibition hosts the first, real Tyrannosaurus rex to be displayed in England for over a century. Tickets and more information can be found here and the exhibit is set to run until the end of August this year.

What to Read

Cambridge University Library saw two notebooks, originally belonging to Charles Darwin, anonymously returned after more than 20 years after they were first reported missing. Read more about the work of Dr Jessica Gardner and Dr Katrina Dean and their work to recover and verify the notebooks here.

We have another wonderful NatSCA blog all about developing remote volunteering roles and promoting opportunities during and post-Covid, written by John-James Wilson, Curator of Vertebrate Zoology, World Museum, National Museums Liverpool. ‘Wikipedia, Museum Volunteers And The New Normal‘ is available to read here now.

If you prefer reading with your ears, there is an upcoming online talk from Sam Turvey, conservation biologist for the Institute of Zoology in London, all about how the historical animal collections at Bristol Museum are helping conservation efforts for critically endangered species. The talk is at 12pm on Thursday 21st April,. Registration is free and can be found here.

Where to Work

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew are looking for a Specimen Preparer (full time, permanent, £22,097). Closing date is Friday, 29th April at midnight. [https://careers.kew.org/vacancy/specimen-preparer-482106.html]

If you’re feeling brave and don’t mind the cold, the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust is recruiting a new seasonal team for their Port Lockroy base. Duties include caring for the historical collection at the museum, running the post office, and counting lots of Gentoo penguins. More info on the various roles can be found here.

Before You Go…

If you have any top tips and recommendations for our next Digest please drop an email to blog@natsca.org. 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.

Giving Collections An Extra Life – Making Video Games That Promote Collections Engagement (For Free)

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

(Note: this article includes interactive games. If they don’t work, your organisation may have blocked game websites through your network)

You might think that playing video games falls at the opposite end of the hobby-spectrum when compared to getting engaged with nature. But the immersion and creativity allowed often provides many of the same benefits, and nature is used as inspiration for many of the most popular video games. In this way video games can become a gateway to learning about nature in the real world – did you know that the highest grossing media franchise of all time (step aside, Marvel) started as a video game about collecting fictional animals to help a scientist with their biological recording project? You’ve probably heard of it. And the Animal Crossing franchise, a game series where a core activity involves collecting insects and fish to donate to the local museum, has sold over 70 million copies.

Games like Pokémon and Animal Crossing show that natural science collections are already on to a winner when it comes to subject matter and gaming. The collections are full of characters and stories, and games should be considered as another way to provide access to these.

The benefits of games are well-established (stress relief, improvement of memory and development of problem-solving skills are among the benefits often cited) and Learning Through Play is already a central part of how museums engage with their audiences. Many museums have used computer games to bring their interpretation to life (https://www.museumnext.com/article/how-can-games-in-museums-enhance-visitor-experience/).

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NatSCA Digital Digest – February 2022

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 really keen to hear more about what you are getting up to, exhibition launches, virtual conferences, training opportunities, 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.

Sector News

SPNHC / BHL / NatSCA Conference 2022

Next summer will see the return of the physical NatSCA Conference – a partnership with the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections and the Biodiversity Heritage Library. Early Rate registration is now open until April 8th (after which the Late Rate fee will apply), with NatSCA members eligible for the Standard Member rate.

Continue reading