Author Archives: Giles Miller

About Giles Miller

Hi, I’m the Senior Curator and Collections Manager for Micropalaeontology, Petrology and Ores. I've been at the Museum since 1993 and blogging since 2011.

New book highlights archaeological and forensic applications of microfossils | Curator of Micropalaeontology

In June, a book was published highlighting the archaeological and forensic applications of micropalaeontology and a deeper understanding of human history. The Museum’s Tom Hill is one of the editors of this volume of papers, some of which feature contributions from museum staff and associates.

New_book_cover

Cover of a new book published in June by the Micropalaeontological Society on the application of micropalaeontology to archaeological and forensic studies.

Read on to find out how Museum scientists have provided evidence about the early human occupants of the British Isles, provenance materials used in ancient pottery and provided forensic evidence for drowning and murder. A brief review of other chapters in the book underlines the importance of the study of micropalaeontology.

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Sir David Attenborough unveils our latest acquisition | Curator of Petrology

A rare and intriguing example of sandstone known as a Gogotte, was generously donated to the Museum recently by Daniel Eskenazi and family in honour of Sir David Attenborough’s 90th birthday.

Gogotte_Eskenazi_Attenborough_Dixon

Daniel Eskenazi, Sir David Attenborough and Sir Michael Dixon at an event to celebrate the new donation. Photo © Dare & Hier Media Ltd / NHM London

Read on to find out more about how it formed, why we were presented it, why it is important and how we are using behind the scenes facilities to study it. Continue reading

The importance of being an unglamorous collection | Curator of Micropalaeontology

Most geological collections we hear about in the news are the prettiest, oldest, youngest, largest, smallest, rarest, most expensive or have some exciting story related to them that ties them to the evolution of our planet. Dinosaurs, human remains and meteorites are particularly popular. Over the last year we’ve embarked on a major curatorial project rehousing something that is the opposite – an unglamorous collection of bags of crushed rock.

Protective equipment

Curators Becky Smith, Helena Toman and Robin Hansen in protective equipment.

I’ll be explaining why the samples needed to be re-housed and most importantly why they are strategically important to the work of the Museum and needed to be kept for future reference. And also why we are all dressed up in protective equipment and why I had to learn to drive a fork lift truck! Continue reading

What do scientists do at conferences? | Curator of Micropalaeontology

The micropalaeontology team attended the annual conference of The Micropalaeontological Society in Lille last week. My wife thinks that conferences are just an excuse for drinking, but I keep telling her that this is only partly true.

Micropalaeo team

The Micropaleontology team at the TMS conference dinner at Dubuisson Brewery

Read on to find out what we were doing in Lille, besides drinking Belgian beer of course! Continue reading

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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Museum type specimens play a key role for future climate studies | Curator of Micropalaeontology

Elphidium williamsoni Haynes, 1973 is a foraminiferal species that has been used extensively in relative sea level and climate change studies, as it is characteristic of intertidal zones. Identifying this and other species of Elphidium has proven difficult because key morphological characteristics show a wide range of variation causing widespread confusion in determinations.

scanning electron micrscope image of foram

Scanning electron microscope image of the holotype of the foraminiferal species Elphidium williamsoni Haynes, 1973.

A study led by University of St Andrews PhD student Angela Roberts and recently published in the Journal PloSOne, has gone a long way to clearly define this important foraminiferal species. The study is based on measurements from Museum type specimens as well as genetic studies on contemporary material collected from the same location as the type specimens.

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Notes in the collections tell natural stories | Curator of Micropalaeontology

Earlier in the summer I tweeted a picture of a microfossil slide I made in 1997. On the back I had written that it was made while I was listening to England bowl Australia out for 118 in a cricket test match at Edgbaston, Birmingham.

slide with cricket annotation

A microfossil slide with a cricket-related annotation on the back.

The slide got me thinking about more important hidden notes I have found recently that relate to historical events and provide a context to the microfossil collection. This post examines evidence of a collector’s escape from a disintegrating ice floe, attempts to cover-up a major disagreement between two scientists and the sad end for a laboratory that led to my first job as a curator.

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