Winged wonders in the Wildlife Garden | UK Wildlife

The warm, sunny days that alternate with the frequent, damp weather days this month release a burst of colourful insect activity for visitors to observe amongst the variety of habitats and flowering plants in the Museum’s garden. Joe Beale, who has recently joined the team, tells us more.

Late summer is a lively time in the Museum’s Wildlife Garden. On sunny days you may catch sight of some of our most impressive and colourful insects. Dragonflies that use the garden include the stunning green-striped southern hawker (Aeshna cyanaea), the impressive migrant hawker (Aeshna mixta) and the imperious Emperor dragonfly (Anax imperator).

Photo showing a dragonfly at rest on a spear of purple flowers, with a green, out of focus backdrop to the left and bottom and the out-of-focus wall and windows of the Museum in the background.

A migrant hawker dragonfly (Aeshna mixta) at rest in the wildlife garden. Photo © Joe Beale

They may buzz you to investigate, but tend to power up and down without stopping like little fighter planes, as they hunt flying insects around the meadow, hedgerows and ponds.

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Phase 2 update | Identification Trainers for the Future

Our trainees on the Identification Trainers for the Future project are now well into Phase 2 of their traineeship. Phase 2 is the section where our trainees spend much of their time developing their species identification skills, working with our curators through a series of specialist workshops, as well as helping out in the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity with everything from the Identification and Advisory Service, to getting out and about at events. In this first blog from Phase 2, Steph Skipp gives us an overview of how the first half of the traineeship has gone.

To begin our workshop phase, the ID Trainers had a crash course in lichens. April was in her element, having previously discovered the wonders of peatland lichens whilst working in Exmoor National Park. In contrast, I think the rest of us were taken aback by how interesting lichens actually are!

Flies - Laura

Getting to grips with Phase 2 of training

The wealth of colours and forms were very visually exciting, especially under a microscope. After a trip to Bookham Commons, we came back to the lab with some specimens.

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12 The mighty megafauna | #NHM_Live

Joining host Alastair Hendry for the latest episode of #NHM_Live was Pip Brewer, Curator of Fossil Mammals, who showed off some of the fossil mammal specimens in the Museum’s collections and answered as many questions as she could about the largest land animals since the dinosaurs to pound the ground, including the American Mastodon, Mylodon and more.

If you enjoyed this podcast please rate and review us in iTunes. To hear more about our collections, follow @NHM_London on Twitter.

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 British Garden: Life and Death on your Lawn | Identification 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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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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