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Join us for the global WeDigBio event and become a digital volunteer for the Museum | Miniature Lives Magnified

From 20-23 October, the Natural History Museum is taking part in the global WeDigBio event, which is all about digitising natural history collections around the world.

Insect with antennae, large eyes, wings and a multicoloured metallic body.

Just millimetres long, Chalcids, like this Perilampus aeneus are so small they are difficult to find and study. This means there are vast gaps in our knowledge and understanding of their ecology and behaviour.

Image of the WeDigBio logoIt will be a great opportunity to meet other natural history enthusiasts face-to-face (check out the event listing to find one near you, even if it isn’t here at the Museum), or engage with other volunteers online who will be helping us to transcribe specimen information, to set the data free!

Although our own hands-on Visiteering session during the WeDigBio event is now fully booked, you are welcome to register for the rest of our Visiteering scheme at any time.

The collection that we are profiling as part of WeDigBio focuses on a group of wasps called chalcids (pronounced ‘kal-sids’).

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Magnifying the miniature at Science Uncovered 2016 | Miniature Lives Magnified

On Friday 30 September the Miniature Lives Magnified team joined our colleagues in the halls of the Museum in South Kensington for our annual festival, Science Uncovered.

The theme for this year’s event for European Researchers’ Night was Hidden Worlds – a perfect opportunity to invite folks to give our online The Killer Within Expedition a go, and to show off our chalcid wasps!

Photo showing a box of tiny chalcid wasp specimens under a microscope with the screen of the computer behind (out of focus) showing the magnified specimens.

Miniature Lives Magnified at the Museum’s Science Uncovered event

It was wonderful to meet with such a wide range of visitors, from children coming straight from school with their families, to young adults enjoying a date night with a beer in hand, and of course the full range of ages as Museum-goers enjoyed the chance to chat with all our scientists and learn more about their work.

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What do fjords, climate change and our microfossil library have in common? | Curator of Micropalaeontology

Earlier this month one of our long term visitors Prof John Murray published a paper with Elisabeth Alve outlining the distribution of Foraminifera in NW European Fjords. The main purpose was to provide a baseline for assessing man’s impact on the environment.

Map Norway, N Sea, Greenland Sea

Map showing the Norwegian Coast, oceanic currents and biogeographic provinces. Murray & Alve Fig. 1. Reproduced with permission by Elsevier License 3958190505543.

Read on to hear how Prof Murray used our microfossil library and collections to support their observations and investigate other factors that could control the distribution of these important environmental indicators.

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Past legacy sheds light on the future | Digital collections


Small copper butterflies that have been digitised and rehoused as part of the project

The butterflies and moths amassed by avid collectors Dr EA Cockayne, Dr HBD Kettlewell and Lord Walter Rothschild make up the core of the Natural History Museum’s world famous collection of British and Irish Lepidoptera.

The Museum is digitising the lepidoptera collection and using the data to ask important scientific questions about the effects of environmental change. Dr Cockayne passion led him to form the Cockayne Trust for lepidoptera research, his legacy is funding the digitisation.

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Studying cobalt mineralisation of the Nkamouna deposit at Diamond Light Source | CoG3 Consortium

Dr Paul F. Schofield is leading the part of the CoG3 project that focuses on describing and characterising new ore types, with an aim of developing new ways of extracting cobalt (Co). He reports back on a visit to Diamond Light Source.

In early September the Museum CoG3 team met with Prof Fred Mosselmans, a fellow member of the CoG3 consortium from Diamond Light Source. The team hoped to use Diamond’s facilities to study how cobalt is incorporated into the minerals of the Nkamouna cobalt-nickel laterite deposit in Cameroon.

Aerial view Diamond Light Source

Aerial view of Diamond Light Source at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, Oxfordshire

The Diamond Light Source facility provides very intense, high-brightness beams of X-rays that are focused to produce powerful microscopes. Not only do these microscopes allow us to image the distribution of cobalt in natural materials with nanometre scale resolution, but they also enable us to measure how the cobalt atoms are actually bound into the atomic structure of their hosting minerals.

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Field trip to Zambia | CoG3 Consortium

The Central African copper belt is one of the world’s most important copper producing districts, with dozens of deposits spanning a 400km length through the Democratic Republic of Congo and northern Zambia. Of these copper deposits, a select few contain significant quantities of cobalt, which is produced as a by-product of the ore refining process.

Rock cores

Core laid out at Kalalushi Core Shed

In June 2016 a field trip was undertaken to Zambia in order to examine cobalt-rich ore from the copper belt. Dr Alex Webber, Research Fellow at the National Oceanography Centre at the University of Southampton and member of the COG3 Consortium reports from the field trip.

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Going digital! New crowdsourcing project launched | Miniature Lives Magnified

Be a digital volunteer for the Museum and help transcribe scientific data from microscope slides… We are so very excited to launch our latest citizen science project Miniature Lives Magnified.

As part of our Digital Collections Programme,  we have imaged 100,000 microscope slides of some of the world’s smallest insects and we need your help to unlock the data from the specimen labels, so that we can uncover more of nature’s secrets.

Rectangular glass microscope slide, with old handwritten labels.

Spot the wasp: we have 6,000 microscope slides of Chalcid wasps, that we would like you to help us to transcribe data from.

In partnership with our good friends from the online crowdsourcing platform Notes from Nature, today we launch our first collection called ‘The killer within: wasps but not as you know them’.

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