Featured post

Fleas: their fans, feeding habits and the disease | Digital Collections Programme

Fleas are some of the oddest insects and sit in a strange position when it comes to how the public feel about them. Fleas are hated for their feeding activities and disease transmission whilst their aesthetics have long been admired thanks to mostly the works of Robert Hooke and his diagrams in Micrographia.

Photo showing an unfolded page insert with an illustration of a flea, in an edition of Micrographia

The illustration of a flea in Robert Hooke’s Micrographia

 

Hooke writes ‘the strength and beauty of this small creature, had it no other relation at all to man, would deserve a description’. Wonderfully phrased, this sentence sums up the feelings I have when looking at these small creatures.

Continue reading

Featured post

Automating mass-digitisation with Inselect | Digital Collections Programme

Natural history collections provide an enormous evidence base for scientific research on the natural world. We are working to digitise our collection and provide global, open access to this data via our Data Portal.

A full drawer image of Mayflies with the boundary boxes around each specimen

Tray of mayflies (Ephemeroptera) with bounding boxes from the Inselect programme

To digitise the collection we are developing digital capture flows that cater for a wide range of collection types. One of the applications we have developed is Inselect – a cross-platform, open source desktop PC application that automates the cropping of individual images of specimens from whole-drawer scans.

Continue reading

Featured post

Digitising lice and uncovering the Meinertzhagen mystery | Digital Collections Programme

We are in the process of digitising the Museum’s parasitic louse (Phthiraptera) collection, which consists of around 73,000 microscope slides. The collection is one of the largest – and the most taxonomically comprehensive – in the world.

A high resolution image showing two human lice (Pediculus humanus capitis) in detail.

Human lice specimens (Pediculus humanus capitis)

Lice are permanent ectoparasites, meaning they live on the outside of their bird and mammal hosts. They are highly host specific, with the majority of the ~5,000 louse species being unique to a particular host species of mammals and birds.

Continue reading

Featured post

Our butterfly and moth data takes flight! | Digital Collections Programme

Our previous blog post looked at preparing the Lepidoptera for digitisation. In this post, we will look at the second part of the digitisation process; the imaging and transcription that allows data to be set free and accessed by the global science audience on the Museum’s Data Portal.

Photo showing a DSLR camera on a mount, with a tray containing a pinned butterfly speciment beneath the lens. The butterfly and accompanying scale bar and labels is visible on a computer screen to the right.

The imaging equipment set up to digitise the Lepidoptera collection

Let’s find out what’s involved and why it’s leading to new ways of accessing and using the information in our collections. Continue reading

Featured post

Whale preparation: conserving the blue whale skeleton and planning articulation | Conservators

It has been several months since my last post looking at blue whale on the move but finally the long process of cleaning and conserving each individual bone has been successfully completed and the conservators are now just embarking on surface scanning the bones in high definition. Conservation can be an extremely slow process but it is worth the time and effort. During the past 9 months the team have cleaned and conserved over 220 individual bones. This equates to over 110m2 of whale bone surface area.

Photo showing a man kneeling inside a scale model of the Museum's Hintze Hall, manipulating part of the spine of the scale model of the whale hanging within it. The model is approximately the same size as the man.

Articulation of the blue whale using a 3D printed scale model

During this time we also planned the final position and articulation of the whale for its suspension in Hintze Hall so the armature design could commence.  This post outlines the conservation treatment and articulation planning phase of this project.

Continue reading

Featured post

Preparing Lepidoptera for Digitisation | Digital Collections Programme

We are working to digitise more than half a million British and Irish butterflies and moths. Our three year iCollections project started in 2013, and we have received additional funding from the Cockayne Trust to continue this digitisation work to September 2017.

Photograph from above of a drawer filled with vertical columns of the butterflies pinned to the base, with paper labels in the top and bottom left, and the bottom right.

Original drawer with Mullein (Cuculblia verbasci) specimens.

The mass digitisation of this collection has given Museum scientists the opportunity to study these specimens in new ways. In addition to research carried out in the Museum, digitisation also allows anyone around the world to see the specimens via the Data Portal. Continue reading

Featured post

The flies that use their eyes to fight for love… well, sex at least | Curator of Diptera

Before the Museum exhibition about Colour and Vision closes on 6 November, I thought I should write a piece about some of nature’s most amazing eyes (their patterns and shapes). I’m talking of course about those belonging to flies – the most enigmatic of all species on the planet – and specifically all the species referred to as stalk-eyed flies.

stalk-eyed-fly

Male stalk-eyed fly of the species Teleopsis dalmanni. The span from eye-to-eye is nearly as wide as the fly’s body is long © Rob Knell, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

My first experience of stalk-eyed flies came while I was carrying out fieldwork in Costa Rica over 10 years ago and it can probably go down as one of my favourite fieldwork moments. So what happened?

Continue reading

Roy Starkey wins first Marsh Award for Mineralogy

The first Marsh Award for Mineralogy was awarded to Roy Starkey in recognition of his huge contribution to the field of mineralogy.

Roy Starkey

Roy Starkey receiving the first March Award for Mineralogy

Continue reading

Palaeontology prize goes to Museum volunteer

The Marsh Award for Palaeontology was awarded to Dr William Blows in recognition of his huge contribution to the field of palaeontology.

Dr William Blows

Dr William Blows receiving the Marsh Award for Palaeontology

Continue reading

Beamtime at the Advanced Light Source | COG3 Consortium

In November, Laura Newsome, a Research Associate, and Sul Mulroy, a PhD student at the University of Manchester Geomicrobiology group, travelled to California for beamtime at the Advanced Light Source synchrotron at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

outside-advanced-light-source-berkeley

At the Advanced Light Source in Berkeley, California

Laura and Sul travelled to analyse samples generated from their work on the COG3 project. Sul reports from the visit.

Continue reading