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The British Garden: Life and Death on your Lawn | ID Trainers for the Future

Our adventure on the Identification Trainers for the Future project has presented us with some amazing opportunities. One such opportunity was assisting in the filming of a BBC Four documentary – The British Garden: Life And Death On Your Lawn (if you are based in the UK, you may be able to catch it on BBC iPlayer if you are reading this shortly after publication).

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Filming for the BBC’s British Garden: Life and Death on your Lawn

Looking at garden wildlife over the course of a year the project spanned four seasons and compared three very different gardens, considering factors that promote a maximal level of biodiversity. The second cohort of ID trainers filmed in Summer, Autumn and Winter while we, the third cohort, assisted in filming the Spring phase of the documentary for a week in April and what a week it was!

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Sweet grows the green grass | UK Wildlife

While our visitors are being enchanted by large numbers of six-spot burnet moths on chalk downland and adjoining habitats in the Museum’s wildlife garden, less conspicuous species such as the Essex skipper butterfly (Thymelicus lineola) and garden grass veneer moth (Chrysoteuchia culmella) have been spotted flying low amongst meadow grasses and herbs. All three species rely on grasses at one or other stage of their life cycle. 

Photo showing the brown coloured moth at rest on a leaf. It's wings fold over its abdomen giving it a long, narrow shape.

Garden grass veneer moth (Chrysoteuchia culmella)

Frances Dismore tells us more about the importance of grasses: Last summer, on donning the Museum wildlife garden volunteers’ T-shirt with the words “talk to me” emblazoned on the back, I hadn’t anticipated the number of discussions about grasses I’d have with young visitors to the garden. I attribute this to the sheep. Children would stop to ask their names and our conversations inevitably turned to the evident relish the sheep took in grazing the chalk hill and meadows.

I would proffer the speculation that it was an especially charmed existence to have a job guzzling grass seven hours a day and suggested that surely the children would agree since they themselves probably tucked into a heaped plate of grasses every day of the week.

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Flying home: a volume of watercolours and its rather special 4,500 mile journey | Library and Archives

The scope of the Library collections at the Museum is truly international with many items already having travelled a significant distance to reach us. From the artworks of Cook’s Endeavour voyage, through to the Chinese illustrations of plants collected by John Reeves and the sixteen beautifully illustrated sketchbooks of Olivia Tonge detailing her travels in India, many of the items in our collections have undertaken and survived incredible journeys of their own just getting here.

Colour photo taken from above showing a bound manuscript volume sitting in a see through perspex book cradle. The book is sitting diagonally from bottom left to top right. The bottom left hand corner of the left face is out of the photo. Although not readable, it is clear that there is handwritten notes on the left hand page, at intervals from top to bottom. On the right hand page, in landscape, is a coloured watercolour of two small birds facing each other, sitting on a branch with leaves, only the outline is drawn in black. The bird on the left is crouched, has a light green breast, head, dark back and right wing. The left wing is not visible. The bird on the right hand side has an orange breast, dark head, back, left wing and tail. The right wing is not visible. There is a short piece of unreadable text directly underneath the image and another small drawing to the bottom right, but it is not clear what it is. To the right and underneath the perspex support, sitting on the flat cream surface, is an electronic temperature / humidity recorder. It is a small grey plastic box, with a digital display and short stubby aerial. To the left of it is come sort of small grey bowl.

Hodgson’s Birds of Nepal (Appendix 1-187) volume showing watercolour illustrations and accompanying manuscript notes

This is true of a special collection of bound volumes of watercolour illustrations of Nepalese animals that were presented to the Museum by their creator, Brian Houghton Hodgson (1800-1894) the naturalist, ethnologist and founder of the discipline of Himalaya Studies. This blog tells of a very special journey that one of the volumes recently made back to its place of origin. Continue reading

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09 Dippy about the whale | #NHM_Live

On 13 July 2017 the Museum unveiled Hope the blue whale, a spectacular 25-metre-long specimen suspended from the ceiling of the Museum’s central space, Hintze Hall.

Just after the BBC broadcast their Horizon documentary about the new installation, Dippy and the Whale, Richard Sabin, Principal Curator of Mammals, and Lorraine Cornish, Head of Conservation, joined host David Urry for a special #NHM_Live talking about the history, conservation and story behind Hope, direct from our new Whales: Beneath the surface exhibition.

If you are a resident of the UK and you missed Horizon: Dippy and the Whale, see it on BBC iPlayer: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08y3s55 until mid-August. If you are enjoying this #NHM_Live series please don’t forget to subscribe and leave us a review on iTunes.

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Horrors of the Green Ground cemetery | Human anthropology

Crania from the Green Ground on Portugal Street

Crania from the Green Ground on Portugal Street

A team of Natural History Museum anthropologists have been digitising and analysing a collection human remains from London in order to learn more about the lives and deaths of people who lived in the capital.

While studying bones from a post-medieval cemetery known as the ‘Green Ground’ on Portugal Street, we dug deeper into the history of this cemetery.

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11 Shark tales of the past and present | #NHM_Live

Sharks first evolved almost 200 million years before the dinosaurs and we’re still learning more about species past and present. Emma Bernard, Curator of Fossil Fish, joined Alistair Hendry to show off some of the Museum’s shark specimens, and to answer your questions. Find out just how huge a Megalodon tooth is, discover strange shark species and see some incredible fossil specimens including one where cartilaginous soft tissue has been preserved.

 

If you enjoyed this podcast please rate and review us in iTunes. To hear more about our fossil fish collection please follow @NHM_FossilFish on Twitter.

10 Meet the spiders | #NHM_Live

Jan Beccaloni, Curator of Arachnida was with host David Urry to show you some spidery specimens. From their ‘scary movement’ and the impacts of climate change on the species being found in Britain through to the dancing of the peacock spiders, Jan was on hand to answer questions about the world of web slingers during the latest #NHM_Live.

Having discovered spiders are amazing, not terrifying, next week we’ll be bringing out the (really) big fish with Emma Bernard, Curator of Fossil Fish, so join us on Facebook or Twitter at 12.30 BST on Thu 10 Aug for our next episode of #NHM_Live.

If you are enjoying #NHM_Live, please  leave us a review on iTunes because it really helps others to find the podcast.

P.S. Follow @NHM_Arachnida on Twitter for more about spiders and other arachnids.

The birth of a curious mind – Robert Hooke | Curator of Diptera

Today’s blog is in honour of the great microscopist Robert Hooke. Born on 18 July 1685 (which is actually the 28 July today due to the shift to the Gregorian calendar in Britain in 1752), Robert Hooke – although not as famous as some of his counterparts such as Sir Christopher Wren and Sir Isaac Newton – was to have a huge impact on the scientific community. He was a curious individual, always observing, noting, and drawing what he saw. This drive and curiosity resulted in this ‘caulkhead’ (native of the Isle of Wight, UK) producing in 1665 at the tender age of 30 years, one of my favorite books – ‘Micrographia or Some Physiological Descriptions of Minute Bodies Made by Magnifying Glasses with Observations and Inquiries thereupon’.

Photo showing the cover of Erica's copy of Micrographia

My very own copy of the great book Micrographia

Not the snappiest of subtitles, I concur, but contained within the pages of this book are some of the earliest but arguably still scientifically important drawings/diagrams of life as seen under a microscope.

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