31 March 2015,
Ecuador at last! Josemir Camara and I have now arrived in Quito, after a long dog-legging flight from Manaus up to Panama City and back down to Ecuador. While we arrange the logistics of our onward travels, we have a little time to explore some of the sights of the world’s highest capital city and to visit the insect collections at the museum of Quito’s Catholic University. The collections of museums around the World house a vast treasure-trove of knowledge and visits between curators of different museums can be significant in unlocking this knowledge for wider appreciation and usefulness.
Specialists such as myself and my Brazilian colleagues José Albertino Rafael and Josenir Câmara are able to provide insight into the significance of these collections, promote wider recognition of their value and significance as well as provide pointers to how their importance may be communicated to their own nationals. Of course we have a vested interest too - we get to see specimens of animals we have only ever dreamed of!
Sometimes we can arrange loans between our institutions to support our own research or to facilitate contact with others who have something to contribute to the understanding or interpretation of the collections. While it is certainly true that most of insect biodiversity has never been seen (or knowingly seen) by a human being, it is also true that a proportion of that unknown diversity is represented in museum collections and people like me and my Brazilian colleagues are in the very special situation of being able to recognize its importance.
30 March 2015,
A number of interesting objects have entered the industry & transport collections this month. Recently the museum purchased this Cambrian Railways Co. leather pouch for a single line tablet. The pouch would contain a tablet controlling the movement of trains. The driver must have possession of the tablet to proceed along the single line track. The Cambrian Railways were absorbed by the Great Western Railway on 1 January 1922, and this is an early example with a cane loop.
Over the last few months we have received a number of objects relating to the film 'Pride' and the 30th anniversary of the Miners’ Strike. This is a programme for a Sole Purpose Productions and the Rainbow Project production of ‘Pits and Perverts’ on tour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Miners’ Strike in 2014.
This paper serviette was produced to celebrate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Swansea on 17th – 19th July, 1920. Staying on the Royal Yacht; on the Monday they visited Talgarth Sanatorium and on the Sunday they attended a service at St. Mary’s parish church, Swansea. On Monday the King and Queen visited Hafod copper works which was owned by Vivian & Sons, and then Kings Dock tinplate works (owned by Baldwins Ltd.). Finally they laid the foundation stone of University College, Swansea.
The two images below form part of the museum's historic photography collections, and show the Royal Visit to Kings Dock tinplate works on 19th July 1920. In the first photograph Queen Mary (at centre) and King George V (towards the left) can be seen walking over railway lines at the tinplate works. The next photograph shows King George V entering the works.
This beautifully carved colliery official's yardstick (sorry, my photographs do not do it justice) was given to William Lewis on his retirement in 1881. William Lewis was Llwynypia Colliery official (overman), and was originally from Pontypool. The inscription reads - MR 1881 / WILLIAM LEWIS / OVERMAN / GLAMORGAN / VILLA / LLWYN / YPIA / NATIVE OF / PONTYPOOL / MONMOUTH / SHIRE / CRAFFUS FESURWR / FE GEYR TRWY GYNLLYN Y GWR / LAWN WAITH A BWYD Y WEITHWR / YR GLEW RHYDD NAWDD YR GLOWR SEF LEWIS
A yardstick (or Deputy’s stick) was carried by officials of the coal mines an aid in the process of testing for gas. Before about 1960 there was a hole at the top of the stick into which the deputy could fit the hook of his lamp in order to raise it into the roof to test for gas. This example has been adapted as a walking stick. About 6" has been cut off one end (removing the hole to raise the lamp) and a curved length of wood attached to form a new handle.
In the photograph below a colliery deputy can be seen with his yardstick, c.1900.
Curator: Industry & Transport
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27 March 2015,
I’m now in the enigmatic central Amazonian city of Manaus (of World Cup fame) situated where the white waters of the Rio Solimões converge with the inky black Rio Negro to form the Amazon proper. This is my third visit as part of a project in collaboration with my colleague José Albertino Rafael at the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia (INPA) and our PhD student Josenir Câmara. Our Project is describing the diversity of a particular group of flies in the Amazon using classical taxonomic approaches and relating it to Global evolutionary and biogeographic patterns using, for example, emerging molecular-genetic methodology. In order to do this we first have had to travel to remote areas of the Amazon, collecting flies to be brought back to the labs in Manaus and Cardiff - where the hard work really starts.
On previous visits we have surveyed remote areas on the Rio Negro close to Venezuela, way up the Solimões along the Colombian and Peruvian borders as well as downstream in Amapa State between the mouth of the great river and French Guiana. During this visit we intend to leave the Brazilian Amazon behind and explore fly diversity in some of the upper reaches of the Amazon Basin in Ecuador. We are all keyed up and excited by the imminent prospect of getting out into the forest again and trying to anticipate some of the discoveries we might make.
Of course, we cannot really know exactly what we are going to find but our past experiences suggest that much of what we discover will be completely new. That is one of the great delights of being an entomologist in the tropics as the diversity of insects is so vast and our knowledge so sparse that exciting discoveries are virtually inevitable. You would have to walk around the Amazon with your eyes and mind closed not to find something totally and often bewilderingly novel! But for the time being we must contain our excitement as we spend our time sorting the field equipment we will take with us, pouring over maps and satellite imagery and speculating about finds we might make. I can’t wait for our flight to Quito!
27 March 2015,
Hello Bulb Buddies!
Today is the last day of weather data collection and the deadline for entering all of your data onto the National Museum Wales website! If you are having any trouble then please email me or leave comments when entering your data and I will get back to you as soon as possible!
If you have entered all of your weather data and the first flowering dates for your school then you will be awarded Super Scientist certificates from National Museum Wales and the Edina Trust. These are awarded in recognition of the skills you have developed in completion of the Spring Bulbs for Schools project. I would like to thank you all for taking part.
Well I am sad that this year’s project is coming to an end I am excited to start digging into the data to see if there are any patterns and trends and to compare this year’s results to previous years! I will send my findings to your school and post the report online by mid-May!
I hope that you have all enjoyed the project. Now that your data capture is complete you can analyse your records and compare your findings to those of other schools using the Map section of the website. You can then compare this to previous years by looking at last year’s report. I wonder if you will be able to predict the findings of this year’s report?
Remember, there are plenty of ways to develop your science skills. If you have enjoyed this project you could continue keeping weather records and share your findings on the Met Office WOW website. There are also plenty of science experiments to be found on education sites like the MET Office and BBC Bitesize.
If your plants haven’t flowered yet then you will still need to enter your flowering date on the National Museum Wales website. If your plant hasn’t flowered by the end of term then you could take it home for the holidays and log the date online when it does flower. Be sure to take your user name and password home with you too so that you can access the website!
Some of you reported that your flowers didn’t grow. I’m sorry to hear this because I know it is disappointing when an experiment doesn’t go as planned. This doesn’t mean that the experiment wasn’t a success! It is just as important and interesting to document when things don’t happen as when they do. For this reason it is important that you still log your findings on the NMW website. To do this log onto the ‘flower records’ section of the website and select ‘did not flower’ from the menu.
Watch this space for announcements on which schools are awarded Super Scientist certificates and which win a class Nature Trip!!
Thank you for all your hard work Bulb Buddies,
Comments and responses:
The Blessed Sacrament Catholic Primary School: We made a bar chart of how high the crocus plants they are growing. Well they are tall. From F to professor plant. Prof P: Fantastic! Can you send me a picture of your graph? Keep up the good work Bulb Buddies.
Stanford in the Vale Gardening Club: Another week of recordings, we have had a mixture of sunny, cold and windy weather here, but still little rain! We became true scientists today watching the solar eclipse using buckets of water as a reflection. Our grounds are looking beautiful with the daffodils all in flower, swaying in the wind, and bright yellow in colour with the sun shining down on them! Pof P: What a lovely picture you paint of the daffodils! And what a fantastic way to have studied the eclipse! I didn’t think of using water, we were using a reflection method but with colanders and paper at the Museum. Keep up the good work Super Scientists.
Tongwynlais Primary School: My daffodil has still not grown. I think it has died Prof P: I’m sorry to hear that your plant hasn’t grown. Thank you for logging the information on the website, it is very important to the investigation. You really are a Super Scientist.
Coleg Powys: Sorry I sent the first measurement incorrectly. I thought it was in cm. The second measurement I have submitted is the correct one. Prof P: Thank you for spotting the mistake and rectifying it. I will delete the first entry. You are not the only one to make this mistake and we will add measurement information to the data entry page for next year!
The Blessed Sacrament Catholic Primary School: All the crocus flowers opened this week except for mine! We have been busy measuring them. I hope mine will open soon, it is still quite small. Prof P: I’m glad to hear your plants have flowered and don’t worry I’m sure the last one won’t be long now!
Rivington Foundation Primary School: It was the highest its been on Wednesday and Thursday and on Friday we were on a school trip. Prof P: Wow Rivington Primary, your temperatures were high for Wednesday and Thursday! 30°c! Your thermometer must have been in direct sunlight and it must have been a very nice day! I hope you enjoyed the weather and your school trip.
Ysgol Clocaenog: Wedi cynhesu yma wythnos yma. Prof P: Helo Ysgol Clocaenog. Rwyf yn hapus i glywed bod y tywydd yn gwella!
Bickerstaffe CE Primary School: Daffodils in the pots have been a little later than the ones planted in the ground. We were surprised by this! We are going to select 2 pots that are at a similar stage and take one of them inside to see if it speeds up. We won't be able to keep the watering the same though - have you any suggestions? We thought about putting an 'umbrella' over the outdoor pot and not watering the one indoors? Professor P: Ooo this sounds like an exciting experiment Bickerstaffe Primary! Let me know how you get on and what your findings are! As for watering the plants, you really are thinking like Super Scientists by trying to keep all variables the same except for the one you are monitoring. This is very important to maintaining fair experiments. In this case, I wouldn’t worry about watering them exactly the same. You can keep them roughly the same by looking at how moist or dry the soil is in each pot and watering them accordingly. I think you will see a difference in the plants very quickly if your classroom is nice and warm!
The Blessed Sacrament Catholic Primary School: At last, my crocus finally flowered. It was the last one. From E. Prof P: I’m glad to hear all of your plants have flowered! Thank you for logging your flowering dates and heights.
Stanford in the Vale Primary School: Another dry week, since doing this very important investigation, we have noticed we have had very little rain this year. We would like to "Thank You" for allowing us to take part in this study, and we have really enjoyed finding out about the rain fall and taking daily temperature recordings, we spent a lovely afternoon eating ice-cream and drawing our daffodils ready to be judged! This week we have experienced sunshine, especially in the mornings, with winds picking up around lunch time! Stanford would like to wish you all a happy Easter. And we hope to take part in this investigation next year, as we are becoming experts in this field! Prof P: Hello Stanford in the Vale Primary, I should be thanking you for taking part in the project and for all your hard work! I’m glad to hear that you have enjoyed the project and that you will be applying for next year. I look forward to seeing your pictures if you are able to send them in, but the competition itself is not running this year! I will still post any pictures I receive on Twitter and on the Museum Blog. Happy Easter!
The Blessed Sacrament Catholic Primary School: Nearly all our daffodils have flowered now. There is just one bud showing but 2 do not seem to have buds. The mystery plants are growing really well. I think they are daffodils but they are smaller than our daffodils. A and F. Prof P: Hello Blessed Sacrament Catholic Primary. I’m glad to hear the mystery bulbs are growing, you are right, they are a different variety of daffodil! It’s strange that two of your daffodils don’t have buds. Could you send pictures to me? If these plants don’t flower then you can still log the details and height on the NMW website. But I’d wait a bit, they might surprise you!
Rivington Foundation Primary School: We had our first 2 flowers flower today one in the ground and one in the pot but we still have a lot more to go though. We think it took such a long time to flower because we have so many trees blocking out some of the sunlight. Prof P: Hi Rivington Foundation Primary, if your plants haven’t flowered before the holidays please take them home with you and log their flowering dates on the NMW website. If the trees were shading your plants from the sun this will have had an effect on their growth. Well done for thinking about what effects the environment is having on your plants - you really are Super Scientists.
Ysgol Bro Eirwg: Bylbiau cudd! Rydyn ni'n credu mae cannin pedr bach sydd gennym ni! Prof P: Dda iawn Ysgol Eirwg. Maent yn amrywiaeth wahanol o gennin Pedr!
Coppull Parish Primary School: Yesterday we had strong winds. Unfortunately a wooden pallet blew onto our daffodil plot and damaged some of them before they flowered. Prof P: Hello Coppull Parish Primary. I’m sorry to hear that your plants have been damaged. If they don’t look like they will flower you can still log their heights on the Museum website and select ‘did not flower’ from the menu.
Ysgol Tal y Bont: At the end of the project we found 2 bulbs did not produce any flowers and 1 bulb produced a double flower. Prof P: Hi Ysgol Tal Y Bont. It’s interesting that some of your plants didn’t flower and exciting that one produced a double flower! Would you be able in send in pictures?
Our Lady of Peace Primary School: Thank you for letting us take the temperature and rainfall readings. We are going to miss doing it. Prof P: Hello Our Lady of the Peace Primary School. You can always apply to take part next year and continue developing the skills you have learnt from the project. You could also continue to take weather records and share them on the MET Office WOW website. Thank you for taking part and for all your hard work.
26 March 2015,
The days before Friday 20th March, had staff in the Department of Natural Sciences watching the weather forecast with great attention. Friday 20th March 2015 was a really special day as we had the opportunity in Cardiff, weather permitting, to see a partial eclipse of the Sun. This does not happen very often, the next one won’t be until 12th August 2026.
On the Thursday we had a great start to the celebration by hosting an evening of talks on eclipses at the Museum. These were given by Dr Chris North, Dr Rhodri Evans, Dr Mark Hannam, astronomers and physicists from Cardiff University; and we all felt much better informed as to what we knew about the sun, why an eclipse was occurring, and what eclipses tell us about gravity. Equally important was a talk by Jenni Millard, an undergraduate student but experienced astronomer, on how to view the sun safely. Having listened intently the audience were issued with free solar eclipse viewing glasses.
Friday morning and we were in luck, a perfect sunny morning and all that worry about the weather had paid off! By 8.00 a few people had already arrived outside the Museum, by 8.20 there were many more. At 8.22 we saw the first contact of the eclipse. For a short while the sun was almost obscured by the trees in the Gorsedd Gardens, but not for long. With colleagues from Cardiff University and the Institute of Physics we provided a range of methods to view the eclipse safely. These included a solar telescope that provided the greatest detail of the sun’s surface, pinhole viewers, ranging from boxes and tubes to simple card and paper, solar viewing boxes, colanders and eclipse glasses. Most visitors had noted the warnings about safe eye protection, only a few needed reminding that two pairs of sunglasses wouldn’t do the job!
Over the 126 minutes of the eclipse from first contact of the moon until we saw the entire sun once again, over 1000 people viewed the eclipse on the Museum steps with the viewing glasses provided. In total we estimate that over this period nearly 2000 people joined the event. At one point the queue disappeared round the corner of the Museum into Park Place almost to the University! However this was a great event with a fantastic atmosphere of participation and patient queuing.
For more astronomy linked events please see Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales What’s On pages, next one is on 18th April, and for education resources check out the Museum’s partnership Down2Earth Project web site
For more information on our Eclipse 2015 activities see our Storify Story.