A spectacular limestone that sparks creativity | Curator of Petrology

Specimens from the Museum petrology collection, known as Pietra paesina or “Ruin Marble” have inspired artist Julie Derbyshire to create unique works of art.

Pietra paesina Ruin marble
Pietra paesina specimen in one of the portholes in the Earth Galleries at The Natural History Museum, London.


Read on to find out more about Pietra paesina, how it formed, and how it inspired Julie’s artwork.

Continue reading “A spectacular limestone that sparks creativity | Curator of Petrology”

The island that disappeared – the fascinating story behind our specimens from Graham Island | Curator of Petrology

The NHM petrology collection holds more than 126,000 specimens of geological and historical importance. We take a look at some historically important volcanic rocks that illustrate the story of a diplomatic fight over an island that disappeared.

Volcanic specimens from Graham Island held in the NHM Petrology collection

Read on to find out more in this post by our Sicilian Petrology Curator Epi Vaccaro about how the island formed, why it disappeared and the international dispute that it caused. Continue reading “The island that disappeared – the fascinating story behind our specimens from Graham Island | Curator of Petrology”

Crowdsourcing our data in 2017 | Digital Collections Programme

The Digital Collections Programme has completed four crowdsourcing projects in 2017. We wanted to say a massive thank-you to the 2,000+ volunteers who together have helped us to capture data from over 15,000 specimens this year. You have made a significant contribution to Science.

1) collage for blog
Crowdsourcing our data in 2017

We can digitally image individual microscope slides at a rate of up to 1000 slides per day, but we still need help with capturing the label information on each slide. Transcription is an essential part of our digitisation process.

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Delving in to Dippy – using the Archives to research our favourite colleague | Library and Archives

For Explore Your Archive Week Jordan Risebury-Crisp, Internal Communications Officer at the Museum, recalls how the Hintze Hall redevelopment prompted his own adventure in to the Museum’s past.

The Museum has seen a number of changes in the last few years. In 2015 it was announced that the much beloved and iconic Diplodocus cast, affectionately called Dippy, was to be removed from his position in the Museum’s Hintze Hall where he had stood proudly on display, greeting visitors as they arrived at the Museum for over four decades.

Black and white photograph of the Hintze Hall, taken from the main staircase looking toward the main entrance. Four lines of glass display cabinets line the main floor leading from the stairs towards the entrance. The specimen nearest the photographer on the second row is an adult adult and is facing away towards the entrance.
View of Hintze Hall looking South towards the main entrance, 1919 (PH/3/1/1827)

Following Dippy’s departure the entire hall would then undergo a multi-million pound transformation, involving renovation, re-imagining of displays and bringing our Museum into the 21st century; a tough feat to accomplish considering the hall has been open to the public from 1881.

Continue reading “Delving in to Dippy – using the Archives to research our favourite colleague | Library and Archives”

What’s the difference between a moth and a butterfly? | Digital Collections Programme

We are currently digitising the Madagascan Lepidoptera collection, a project that has been supported by John Franks and the Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust.

madagascan drawers
A drawer of Madagascan type specimens

The specimens imaged are ‘Types’ – specimens from which the relevant species was named and described.

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Freshwater microbiology and climate change in the Canadian Arctic | Microbial Diversity

The Arctic is warming at rates more than twice the global average, and much larger changes are projected for high northern latitudes by the end of this century. In our project we study freshwater microbiology to identify sentinel microbiome properties of northern freshwater environments that can be used to improve surveillance of Arctic ecosystem health in the face of these increasing climate perturbations. The project is funded by funded by a UK-Canadian partnership bursary and in collaboration with researchers from Laval University and Centre for Northern Studies (CEN) – and is part of Sentinel North.

Panoramic photo showing the landscape. Various shrubs, trees and bushes are visible on a rocky ground in the foreground. A pool stretches from the middle to the bottom of the image to the right of the centre. A scattering of coniferous trees are present at the rear of the image.
Sub-Arctic taiga landscape with diverse freshwater ecosystems near Kuujjuarapik-Whapmagoostui, Nunavik, northern Quebec, Canada

Of particular importance are cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, as they are keystone primary producers, contributors of bioavailable nitrogen, drivers of food webs and carbon cycling in Arctic freshwater ecosystems. However, little is known about their biodiversity in the Canadian Arctic. I therefore, visited Canada this August to carry out field work and collect samples from freshwater environments such as lakes, ponds and streams to carry out DNA sequencing analysis of the freshwater microbiology.

Continue reading “Freshwater microbiology and climate change in the Canadian Arctic | Microbial Diversity”