European Science Foundation Exploratory Workshop
Two weeks ago, Botany Curators at Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Cardiff welcomed scientists from across Europe, including Romania, Bulgaria, Germany and Spain. The visitors, who are all experts in the study of plant fossils and pollen analysis, spent two days discussing how best to study the changes that have occurred in plant diversity over the last 400 million years. These changes are important as they help scientists understand how vegetation has influenced climate and environmental change in the past. The meeting included 17 presentations discussing the vegetation from different geological time periods. The visitors also had the opportunity to go behind-the-scenes at National Museum Cardiff to see a selection of rare plant fossils from the David Davies Collection and pollen specimens from the Hyde Collection. This meeting was fully funded by an exclusive grant from the European Science Foundation. It is intended that the workshop will inspire a series of international collaborative projects that will maintain the Museum’s reputation as a centre of excellence in this field.
We produced a Storify Story based on Tweets made throughout the conference.
Every Monday curatorial staff from the Department of Natural Sciences at Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales highlight some of the fantastic mollusc specimens from our collections, on Twitter using the hashtag #MolluscMonday
The Molluscan collections at Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales number some 180,000 lots from many different collections which have been amalgamated into one systematic sequence.
The most historically important part of the collections is the Melvill-Tomlin collection which came to us in 1955 and contains over 1,000,000 specimens!
Want to find out more? Why not follow us on Twitter @CardiffCurator or @NatHistConserve or follow the hashtag #MolluscMonday to find out about this fascinating group of animals. Lots of people have been joining in so why not join in the fun!
We have compiled a collection of our favourite #MolluscMonday Tweets on Storify. We also do #BotanicMonday, #WormWedneday and #FossilFriday
The Adventures of Arthur the Arthropleura
In June this year the Natural Sciences Department received a rather special donation from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; a life size model of a giant millipede, Arthropleura, that would have lived in the Carboniferous Period, 300 million years ago. Arthropleura is the largest invertebrate (creepy-crawly) ever known to have lived on land, reaching up to 2.6 metres in length, but despite its monstrous proportions it is thought to have been a harmless herbivore.
The model was originally on display in Kew Garden’s Evolution House but when the space was dismantled in preparation for the HLF funded restoration of the Temperate House, it was no longer needed. So it was donated to Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, thanks to the generosity of Chris Mills, David Cook and Jonathan Farley at Kew.
The Arthropleura model was in need of some substantial conservation work when it arrived at AC-NMC. It had been on open display for many years in a glass house alongside living plants and was damaged and rusty. The humid display environment had caused the surface paint to flake away and several spiders and snails had taken up residence on the underside of the model!
The first job was to give the model a good wash with hot soapy water and remove the dirt and cobwebs! Then all the flaking paint was scrubbed off, the damaged areas on the legs and head were rebuilt with an epoxy putty and the surface textures recreated. The nuts and bolts of the removable antennae had rusted together, so the metal parts were replaced with new stainless steel threaded rods.
Once the repairs were complete the model was carefully painted with acrylics and then coated in a durable varnish, making it once again suitable for public display.
Some of the Natural Science staff had become rather attached to the impressive 1.5m long millipede model whilst it underwent conservation work in the lab and named it Arthur the Arthropleura! We also decided to have a bit of Halloween fun with Arthur… so he “escaped” and went on the run around the museum galleries! We posted pictures of his adventures on the @CardiffCurator Natural Sciences Twitter account and had a fantastic response from our followers. Arthur the Arthropleura is now a social media star and is a really wonderful addition to our collections!
Museum scientists pop up at Fairwater Library
Museum scientists were out and about during half-term week, when the I Spy…Nature pop-up museum paid a visit to Fairwater Library on 30th October. Curators from the Botany, Invertebrate Diversity and Palaeontology sections took along specimens from their collection areas to show the public, along with a microscope and quizzes to encourage them to look even closer.
Ingrid Jüttner challenged people to identify as many trees as they could, using beautiful displays of freshly-pressed leaves and fruits. This activity was a big hit with grown-ups, and it was very pleasing to see so many parents and grandparents encouraging children to learn more about these important plants, which bring our living spaces to life.
The library’s meeting room became temporary home to an impressive array of marine and mollusc specimens from the Invertebrate Diversity section. People were fascinated by the creatures on display, which evoked a range of reactions (including ‘they’re really gross!’) depending on how they felt about slugs and worms! Teresa Darbyshire showed some of the diversity of life found around our shores, with beautiful sea shells, lobster, starfish, and a pickled octopus and giant sea worm. Visitors tried their hands at identifying shells using a key, all good training for trips to the beach! Ben Rowson challenged people to identify mystery objects under the microscope, and introduced them to slug identification using his recently published book and life-like models.
Lucy McCobb showed visitors a range of fossils from different periods of the Earth’s history, ranging from an Ice Age mastodon tooth and horse’s leg bone, through Jurassic ammonites and ichthyosaur bones, to trilobites, which are among Wales’s oldest fossils. The ‘what’s in a name?’ quiz was popular with children, and asked them to use the meanings of scientific names to match up the name with the correct fossil.
This was I Spy..Nature's first venture into libraries, and showed that they have great potential as venues for taking the Museum’s collections and experts out into communities.
Unknown Wales 2014
Unknown Wales is a free annual public event organised by Amgueddfa Cymru’s Department of Natural Sciences in collaboration with the Wildlife Trust for South and West Wales, to highlight the natural history treasures found in Wales. It allows the museum to tell a wide general audience about the collaborative efforts that we are a party to, fighting to protect the wildlife and its habitats across the country.
This year’s meeting, held on the 11th October in the Reardon Smith Theatre at National Museum Cardiff, had an audience of nearly 250 people. They heard talks about bank voles, diatoms (by the museum’s Ingrid Jüttner), sand lizards, dung beetles, fossil forests and rare fish. The meeting was rounded off by Stephen Moss of the BBC Natural History Unit, talking about conservation activities in Wales, such as the success story of the recovery of the red kite.
As in previous years, the event has been sponsored by one of our very generous Patrons.
Biology Rocks! at National Museum Cardiff
Biology rocked at National Museum Cardiff on Saturday 11th October, when over 3000 visitors joined scientists from Amgueddfa Cymru, Cardiff University and the Society of Biology to celebrate National Biology Week and Earth Science Week.
Visitors got the opportunity to see some of the specimens from our collections that aren’t usually on display and to talk to Museum experts about their work. Specimens from the Marine and Mollusca collections provided inspiration for a mural depicting life in the seas around Wales, which became more colourful and populated throughout the day!
As part of the Geological Society’s ‘100 Great Geosites’ campaign, Museum geologists displayed rocks, fossils and minerals from our collections, as well as stunning images of some of the most beautiful and iconic landscapes in Wales. Members of the public were invited to vote for their favourite site in Wales, with the dinosaur footprints from Bendricks Rocks, near Barry, emerging as the clear favourite on the day.
To mark the recent arrival of two hives on our roof, staff from the Entomology and Botany Sections gave visitors the opportunity to take a closer look at bee specimens from our collections and to experience a ‘bee’s eye view’ of the world by playing a pollination game, collecting ‘pollen’ and ‘nectar’ from various flowers.
Scientists from Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences and School of Earth and Ocean Sciences put on a variety of displays and activities throughout the Museum. Among the many activities on offer, visitors could try their hand at organ transplant using a life-size Operation game, race maggots, work out how big a dinosaur was from its footprint, discover first-hand how fungi get their spots, and learn the importance of reporting road kill with the Splatter Project.
More I Spy Competition Winners
We were joined this Saturday by two more of our I Spy…Nature drawing competition winners and their families. The winners were shown around the mollusc (shell), marine invertebrate and vertebrate collections as part of their special behind the scenes tour by museum curators Katie Mortimer-Jones and Jennifer Gallichan. The visitors were able to select draws from the mollusc collections to look in and saw a Giant Clam and a cone shell known as Glory of the Seas (Conus gloriamaris), a once sort after shell found in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, to name but a few. Next onto the fluid store, where we keep our fluid preserved specimens such as marine bristleworms, starfish, crabs, lobsters and fish specimens. Lastly the tour finished up in the Vertebrate store where we keep some of the Museum’s taxidermy and skeleton specimens. After the tour, the winners were given their prizes of natural history goodies from the Museum Shop.
I Spy...Nature Drawing Competition
Visitors to our I Spy….Nature pop-up museum at the Capitol Shopping center over the summer were given the opportunity to enter a drawing competition, using our museum specimens as inspiration for their artwork. Nine winners were chosen in three age groups, winning Natural History prizes from the museum shop. As part of the prize, all winners were offered the opportunity to have a special tour behind the scenes at the museum. Several of the prizewinners have already been to visit us and the rest will be visiting us over the next few weeks. All of the winning entries can be viewed here.
Last Saturday 20th September we ran our annual Beachwatch event at Ogmore Beach in the Vale of Glamorgan. This was part of the national campaign run by the Marine Conservation Society encouraging communities to get out and about to care for their local shorelines. This is the 10th year that museum staff have been organising a Great British Beach Clean at this beach.
In the morning families took part in workshops with museum curators finding out about different types of seaweeds and animals in the strandline and in rock pools. There were fossil hunts where people discovered lots of fossilised bivalve shells and sily lilies (crinoids) in the rocks. Families also helped create our ‘Beach Museum’ making Landart, inspired by the works of artists like Richard Long.
After lunch the serious work began, museum staff and families scoured a 150m stretch of beach near to the slipway searching for rubbish. Sadly this wasn’t a challenge, we collected over 35kg of litter in an hour! Each piece of rubbish found was logged and all this data will be sent on to the Marine Conservation Society who will use it to find out where beach litter comes from and contribute to marine conservation. Over the last 10 years we have seen a change in the rubbish that we have collected on this beach. During initial cleans one of the greatest problems encountered were cotton bud sticks, however these have declined over the years. Sadly one of the greatest problems encountered this year was dog poo in plastic bags and hypodermic needles. Over 65 people took part in the day’s activities and we look forward to taking part in Beachwatch the same time next year.
I Spy...Nature Competition Winners
We ran an ‘I Spy…Nature’ drawing competition across the summer to celebrate our natural sciences pop-up museum and launch of a new exhibition at National Museum Cardiff. Our young visitors used some of the specimens from the museum collections as inspiration for their drawings. We had some fantastic entries and it was extremely difficult to choose the best nine drawings. However, after much deliberation we have chosen first, second and third places in 3 age categories (under 6, 6-9 and 10-13). The winners will be receiving natural history goodies from the museum shop. Many thanks to everyone who took part, we have really enjoyed seeing all of your wonderful drawings.