Category Archives: Life sciences

The WHO global partners meeting in Geneva and launch of the 4th WHO NTD report | Sustainability

Starting the Neglected Tropical Disease summit in Geneva this week gone, the World Health Organisation brought together its global partners for a meeting to launch the 4th WHO report on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). As an important player in the global effort to control and eliminate these debilitating diseases, the Museum has been following the meeting closely.

Photograph with a number of jars of preserved worms, and two dishes with worms within them in the centre. A pair of forceps lies on the table beside them for scale.

Soil-transmitted helminths in the Museum’s collection

The Museum has had a long history of researching NTDs, particularly those caused by worm infections and/or transmitted by insects. Today the Museum hosts DeWorm3, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a major project researching the control and elimination of soil-transmitted helminths, aka intestinal worms. Intestinal worms are the most common of NTDs. DeWorm3 and Museum NTD experts travelled to Geneva for the NTD summit and report on the meeting.

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The Pink pigeon: can genetic rescue save it from extinction?

by Camilla Ryan, NHM and Earlham Institute, University of East Anglia

Camilla is a PhD student studying “Genome wide analysis of drift and selection of drift and selection using historic and contemporary samples of the endangered Mauritius pink pigeon”.  Professor Ian Barnes from the Museum’s Earth Science department is a co-supervisor for her work.

Many people have never heard of the pink pigeon but almost everyone has heard of the Dodo – one of the most famous animals to have ever gone extinct.

Yet there are many similarities between the two birds; they are even related (by evolutionary standards). Both the pink pigeon and the Dodo come from the Island of Mauritius, both are species of pigeon and both have been severely impacted by the arrival of humans on Mauritius. There is one critical difference between the two: while the Dodo is extinct the pink pigeon is not … yet! Continue reading

Endorsing the Science International Open Data Accord | Digital Collections Programme

A growing number of museums are joining open data initiatives to publish their collection databases and digital reproductions online. The Museum has operated a policy of open by-default on our digital scientific collections.

Photograph of Vince Smith, Head of Informatics reading the Science International Data Accord

Vince Smith, Head of Informatics reading the Science International Data Accord

By signing the International Open Data Accord, the Museum recognises the opportunities and challenges of the data revolution and adopts a set of internationally recognised principles as our response to these.

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The story behind putting Geography into our collections | Digital Collections Programme

Guest blog by Liz Duffel, Georeferencing Digitiser

Most specimens within the Museum collection have locality information, showing where the specimen was found, on the accompanying label(s). When we are digitising our specimens, we can use that locality information for georeferencing – the process used to give the locality of a specimen geographical coordinates, so that it can be plotted on a map.

Data map with hotspots

A data portal visualisation showing the global distribution of the Museum’s zoological specimens with digital records

This is important because it allows for mapping and modelling, which underpins research on anything from species distributions and relationships, to environmental changes or targeting conservation practices.

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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.

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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.

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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