The Museum ‘homemade’ mobile field laboratory – Explore Your Archive Week | Library and Archives

Scientific expeditions have been regularly undertaken by the Museum since it opened its doors in 1881. These are often abroad and need to be planned well in advance, with supplies and equipment ordered and prepared, often on the Museum site. On many occasions staff can find themselves having to be creative and imaginative, especially when the terrain about to be experienced is likely to be extreme and the facilities limited.

Colour archival photograph showing a white truck in the mid-distance, parked in sparsely vegetated bushland next to a watering hole, with sand dunes rising from the horizon in the background
Museum field work in Namibia during the 1970s needed some special #AutoArchives facilities…

In the 1970s a group of Museum entomologists did just that, having acquired an ex-army lorry they were to transform it into a mobile field laboratory suitable for all their scientific research needs during a five month expedition through southern Africa. And thus, our Explore Your Archives Week stories continue…

Continue reading “The Museum ‘homemade’ mobile field laboratory – Explore Your Archive Week | Library and Archives”

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.

Continue reading “Studying cobalt mineralisation of the Nkamouna deposit at Diamond Light Source | CoG3 Consortium”

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.

Continue reading “Field trip to Zambia | CoG3 Consortium”

Sample collection from the Nkamouna Deposit in Cameroon | CoG3 Consortium

CoG3 project member and University of Manchester PhD student Sulaiman Mulroy reports back on a recent fieldwork trip to Cameroon in West Africa.

In June 2016 I travelled to Cameroon to collect samples from the Nkamouna laterite, one of a number of lateritic ore deposits formed on top of lenticular serpentinite rocks, which cover around 240km2 in the East of Cameroon.

Team members
Gideon, myself and Karrimo

 

In total the region hosts seven lateritic ore bodies, covering ~1250km2, though only two have been subjected to rigorous exploration: Nkamouna has proven and probable reserves of 54Mt at grades of 0.25% Co and 1.7% Ni, and further north, at Mada, 150Mt of inferred resources of similar grade are believed to be hosted in the laterite.

Continue reading “Sample collection from the Nkamouna Deposit in Cameroon | CoG3 Consortium”

Chasing sea snakes in Australia | Colour and Vision

To coincide with the opening of our Colour and Vision exhibition and #WorldSnakeDay, Museum researcher Dr Bruno Simões tells us about recent fieldwork he undertook in Australia to learn about vision in snakes.

As a vision biologist, I’m interested in how animal vision has evolved and how it functions. The dramatic impact living in an aquatic environment can have on visual systems led me to become particularly interested in sea snakes.

Olive sea snake swimming through a coral reef
Aipysurus laevis is a venomous sea snake found off the coast of Australia and other Indo-Pacific areas © Tchami, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Sea snakes are part of the family Elapidae, along with kraits, mambas, cobras and taipans. The family consists of more than 360 species, including some extremely venomous species that live in aquatic and terrestrial (land-based) habitats in Australasia, among other places.

Continue reading “Chasing sea snakes in Australia | Colour and Vision”

Fieldwork in Brazil | CoG3 Consortium

In April 2016 the CoG3 team travelled to Brazil to carry out fieldwork at the Piauí deposit. Researcher Dr Paul Schofield describes their trip:

Cobalt is a technology-enabling metal with numerous applications that are particularly essential to the ‘green agenda’. Despite cobalt being such a critical material, there is a very high risk associated with its supply.

Our project, CoG3: Geology, Geochemistry and Geomicrobiology of cobalt, aims to increase the security of the cobalt supply chain by:

  • identifying new, currently unused cobalt resources
  • developing new biotechnologies for effective extraction and processing of cobalt
Piauí deposit landscape
View from the top of the Piauí deposit

One resource with the potential for bioprocessing is limonitic laterite deposits, one of which is the Piauí nickel-cobalt laterite deposit in Brazil. Continue reading “Fieldwork in Brazil | CoG3 Consortium”

Native and non-native bluebells | Bluebell Survey

Sally Hyslop, one of the trainees on our Identification Trainers for the Future programme, gives an update on the results of our 9-year-long Bluebell Survey:

The arrival of bluebells each spring is an iconic sight. The floods of nodding colour characterise our ancient woodlands, support a commotion of insect life and make up an important part of Britain’s natural heritage. Our native bluebell species is widespread in Britain; in fact half of the world’s population is found here. But the introduction of non-native bluebells, planted in our parks and gardens, may be threatening our native species.

Bluebells are iconic to our woodlands. © Mike Waller
Bluebells are iconic to our woodlands. © Mike Waller

The introduced Spanish bluebell is deceptively similar to our native species, except for a few subtle differences in its features. It is broader in size, its petals flare out a little more, and the pollen is not white, but characteristically blue.

Spanish bluebells can breed freely with our native species, creating a hybrid plant with features from both species. Since the Bluebell Survey started in 2006, citizen scientists have been carefully identifying bluebells across Britain and recording the whereabouts of native, non-native and hybrid forms. This helps us to investigate these changes.

Continue reading “Native and non-native bluebells | Bluebell Survey”