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Falkland Islands Marine Bristleworms

Teresa Darbyshire, 19 January 2015

The Polychaetes of the Falkland Islands project has been running since 2011 with two highly successful field trips run so far. The project has been well supported with two Shackleton Scholarship Fund grants and support form the local environmental groups and institutes. So far, over 30 families of polychaetes have been identified from the samples and 2 new species have been described, with more on the way. The third field trip hopes to build on the success of the previous two, expanding the range of sampling sites and seeking new opportunities for collaborative project funding in the islands.


16.01.2015

After the usual gruelling 18 hour flight, I’m back out in the Falkland Islands again to continue expanding my range of sampling sites, maintain my contact with those out here and also investigate further project funding opportunities. This time my husband has travelled out with me to see what all the fuss is about and also to try and understand what it is I actually do (you can see his eyes glaze over when I try and explain things so maybe seeing first-hand will actually help!). He’s going to come out with me in the field, help me collect and generally be an extra person in those remote areas I end up in. I’m not sure he knows what he’s let himself in for but at least he may stop referring to my fieldwork as ‘rock pooling for adults’!

The weather hasn’t been kind to us initially, being very wet and windy, even beyond normal Falkland Islands standards! It is supposed to be summer here but it was only 5°C when we landed, cooler than the UK when we left, and the horizontal hail driven into us at hyper speed by the winds was no fun at all!

This was my first full day here and after finalizing all of the arrangements for the next two weeks, our first sampling was a short but harsh introduction to the kind of work I sometimes find myself doing. This was night sampling, attempting to collect the reproductive forms of certain polychaetes that come out at night, swimming free in the water to spawn and are attracted to bright lights. For this reason we found ourselves in a Stanley marina, on a pontoon at 11pm, in the rain, dangling an underwater torch into the water and sweeping a fine mesh net around it, collecting the many different small creatures that were attracted to it (see photo). It was too late to have a detailed look at our catch, so they went into the fridge to keep cool overnight until I could get to the lab for a look and I went to bed.


17.01.2015

The order of the day today was to have a look at what I had managed to catch in the marina last night. Most of what I had were small Crustacea and the smallest jellyfish I’ve ever seen (about 2mm wide) but there were 4 worms of the right kind of appearance, albeit a bit smaller than I would have expected (about 10 mm long). I’ve been allowed access to the Fisheries lab while I’m here and their camera microscope so I was able to take some photos of the little critters. Interesting as they were, unfortunately they were not what I was after, which was a bit disappointing. They were certainly reproductive stages of polychaetes but of a different group to the one I am after, although I haven’t determined which group yet. Still, better than nothing!

The weather has been better, being mostly dry, a bit warmer and marginally less windy. Fingers crossed for tomorrow’s weather, which is the first shore visit. It is an early start though, with a 6.30 am wake-up call, to get to Mare Harbour, about an hour and a half drive away. Hopefully something interesting will turn up!

Night sampling  in a Stanley marina for marine bristleworms, Falkland Islands

Snow fall and snow depth

Penny Tomkins, 16 January 2015

Hello Bulb Buddies, 

Thank you for sending in last weeks readings. The weather has definitely been getting colder – and some of you have even reported snow! For this reason I want to talk to you about how Meteorologists (weather scientists) measure snow. 

It is a lot trickier to measure the amount of snow that falls than it is to measure the amount of rain. This is because snow misbehaves! Snow is often blown by the wind into drifts, which causes some areas of deep snow and less snow in the areas around it. Because the snow fall is uneven the measurements from these places will be wrong! This is why we have to measure snow on flat surfaces, in the open and away from areas where drifts happen! Snow also likes to play games with Meteorologists who want to measure it, it melts into water and re-freezes into ice! This means that the snow measured on the ground isn’t always the same as the amount of snow that has fallen. Another problem is that new snow settles on old snow, so it is difficult to tell how much snow has fallen in one day from the snow that fell the day before! 

Meteorologists have to take all these tricks the snow plays, and work around them to discover how much snow has fallen. They look at snow fall (the amount of snow that falls in one day) and snow depth (how deep the total snow level is, old snow and new snow). One way that Meteorologists measure snow fall is to use a piece of ply wood. They place the wood in an open location away from areas where snow drifts occur, and measure the snow on the board at 6hr intervals, clearing the snow from the board each time they measure it. This means they are only measuring the snow from that day, which will tell them how much snow has fallen on that day in that area! 

Snow fall can also be measured in its melted state, as water. This means that you can use your rain gauge to measure the water equivalent of snow fall! If you only get a bit of snow then it should melt in your rain gauge anyway. But if you get a lot of snow, take your rain gauge inside to the warm and wait for the snow to melt into water. Then measure the water in the same way as you have done each week and report this as rain fall in your weather logs. 

If you have snow and enough time for an extra experiment – why not have a go at measuring snow depth? To do this all you need is a ruler (also known as a snow stick!). Place the snow stick into the snow until it touches the surface underneath, and read the depth of the snow.You need to take these measurements from flat surfaces (benches work well) in open areas and away from snow drifts! You need to take at least three separate measurements to work out the average snow depth in your area. You work out the average measurement by adding the different readings together and dividing them by the number of measurements. So, if I measured the snow depth of three surfaces at 7cm, 9cm and 6cm, I would add these together (7+9+6 =22) and divide that by three, because there are three readings (22÷3=7.33). So 7.33 would be my average reading for snow depth on that date. 

Weather stations such as the MET Office have come up with new ways of measuring snow depth, using new technologies. The picture below shows one of the MET Offices snow stations. These use laser sensors to measure how deep the snow is on the flat surface placed below it. This means that Meteorologists can collect readings from all over the country at the push of a button – which is far more reliable and a lot easier than sending people out into the cold with snow sticks! The map below shows how many snow stations the MET office has and where these are, is there one close to you? 

This is what the METOffice’s Snow Depth sensors look like!

(MET Office website)

Map showing the MET Office’s Snow Depth sensors – is there one near you?

(Image courtesy of MET Office website)

If you have snow and measure the snow fall with your rain gauge or the snow depth with a snow stick, then please tell me in the ‘comments’ section when you are logging your weekly records! I would be very interested to know what the snow depth is compared to the snow fall collected in your rain gauge! 

Keep up the good work Bulb Buddies, 

Professor Plant

Baby Bulb is growing!!

Penny Tomkins, 9 January 2015

Welcome back Bulb Buddies,

I hope you enjoyed your holidays! How are your daffodils and crocuses? Before we broke-up for Christmas a number of schools had written to tell me that their daffodils and mystery bulbs had begun to show above the soil! How are yours getting along? You can update me on how much your plants have grown by adding to the ‘comment’ section when you send in your data. C from Ysgol Y Plas has been very good at this, informing me that “13 bulbs have started to show in pots and 3 in the garden”.  It’s always exciting when you see the first shoots begin to show!

Last year the first daffodil flowered on the 10th of February, although the average date for flowering was 12th March. So keep an eye on them – it won’t be long now! Remember to measure the height of your flowers on the day they bloom. We will then look at all the dates and heights recorded to find an average date and height and this will help us to spot any changing patterns when we compare our findings to those of previous and future years! 

(Picture courtesy of Doug Green’s Garden)

Stages of a Daffodil bulb growing

(Picture courtesy of Doug Green’s Garden)

Remember, flowers need sunlight, warmth and water to grow. Last year was the third warmest year since the project began in 2006, with an average temperature of 6.0°. 2013-2014 also saw the highest rainfall at 187mm, but was the second lowest year in terms of sunlight hours with an average of 69 hours. This meant that our plants bloomed earlier than they did in 2012-2013, which had been much colder with slightly less rain and less sunlight hours. What has the weather been like where you live? Do you think our flowers will bloom earlier or later than they did last year? 

I look forward to seeing your data this week! 

Keep up the good work Bulb Buddies, 

Professor Plant

Your comments, my answers:
 
Morningside Primary School: It was very cold and very very wet this week at Morningside! There was also a little bit of snow on the ground, that would have perhaps melted in our rain gauge!  Prof P: Snow, how exciting! You are right about the snow melting in the rain gauge. This is because the ground will have been colder than the plastic of the rain gauge, especially if there was already rain water in the gauge when the snow fell. Your rain gauge can be used to measure snow fall the same as rain fall, and I will talk more about this in my next blog!

Newport Primary School: On Tuesday 2nd Dec we moved the thermometer because we believed there wasn't enough variation in temperature being shown on the thermometer where it was positioned. It was in a slightly sheltered spot. When we moved it the recorded temperatures dropped considerably backing up our impressions. Prof P: Well done for spotting this Newport Primary! It’s surprising how much difference location can make to the readings. Ideally, your thermometer should be placed in an open, shaded area, to the North of the school and some distance from the building. This is because direct sunlight, shelter from the wind and heat reflected from surfaces or emitted from buildings can cause higher, inaccurate readings.

Glyncollen Primary School: Thank you for the new thermometer. We think one of our bulbs is starting to grow because the weather has been quite mild. We are going to be watching it carefully. Has this happened in any other school? Prof P: Hi Glyncollen Primary School, I’m glad the new thermometer arrived safely! Well done on noting how the weather has effected your plants. I have looked through your weather records and can see that the temperature only really dipped in your area in weeks 49 and 50. The rainfall early on after planting and the mild temperatures will definitely have helped your Baby Bulbs to grow! Some other schools have also reported seeing their first shoots, these include The Blessed Sacrament Catholic Primary School and Silverdale St. John's CE School.

Bickerstaffe CE Primary School: We have noticed that some daffodils planted some years ago have grown new leaves to a height of about 150mm. They are in a quite sheltered spot close to the school buildings, if we remember we will take a photo and send it. The children wonder if these bulbs may be a different type or have come from a different country. Prof P: Hi Bickerstaffe CE Primary School! It’s nice to hear that plants have started growing! These Daffodils are probably a different variety to the ones we are growing. There are many different types, and some have been known to flower as early as November! If you send me a photo once the daffodils have bloomed I will see if I can identify it for you!

Glencoats Primary School: Glencoats primary are enjoying looking after their bulbs. It will make our Eco garden nice and colourful. Thank you for choosing us to be part of this project. Prof P: Thank you for taking part in the project Glencoats Primary School. I would very much like to see a photo of the Eco garden once all the flowers have bloomed!

Worms for Wednesday

Katie Mortimer-Jones, 7 January 2015

Every week we tweet about worms! Yes, I know not everybody's favourite subject, but one which is both fascinating and important. Staff from the Natural Sciences Department at Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales have expertise in marine bristleworms (polychaetes), a diverse group of marine worms.

We decided that each Wednesday we would tweet a specimen from our collections, or something based on our research on this subject, from our Twitter account @CardiffCurator. Hence, #WormWednesday was born, to give these animals the prominence their wonderful diversity deserves. This followed on from other successful Twitter hashtags such as #FossilFriday and #TrilobiteTuesday. So, we have been doing this each week for just over a year. We have brought them together in one story for your pleasure. Here are all of the tweets from 2014 and the first few that we tweeted back in 2013 in our Storify Story

Mediterranean fireworm (Amphinomidae) from Gozo taken by Teresa Darbyshire

Twelve Days of Christmas

Katie Mortimer-Jones, 11 December 2014

For the last two years we have put together an advent calendar celebrating some of the beautiful specimens in our natural history collections at National Museum Cardiff. We have been tweeting these from the @CardiffCurator Twitter account each day and will continue throughout December. The specimens behind the first twelve doors have been inspired by the song ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’.

We have compiled a Storify story on our advent calendar, which can be viewed here.

Happy Christmas from @CardiffCurator

Three French Hens

Six Goose Barncales-a-laying

Ten bugs-a-leaping