Students from Oman at National Museum Cardiff
Two final year biology and crop protection students from Sultan Qaboos University, Oman have arrived at the National Museum Cardiff for 2 weeks on an internship to learn more about the identification of two groups of insects, flies and bugs and the techniques we use to study them. For Sara Mohamed Ahmed Al Ansari and Salma Saif Salmin Almabsli it is their first time outside of Oman. After the time here they will spend 2 weeks at the Natural History Museum, London to widen their knowledge of taxonomic techniques before returning to the warmth of Oman.
I Spy...Nature Exhibition is open
Saturday 19th July saw the official launch of the 'I Spy...Nature' Exhibition at National Museum Cardiff. The exhibition was officially opened by BBC wildlife presenter Dr Rhys Jones and many families were able to experience the exhibition first hand. Natural Science curators were also on hand showing a plethora of specimens from the Museum's Natural History Collections, including insects, marine invertebrates, fossils, fungi, plants, minerals and much more. The public helped to create fantastic modern and prehistoric scenes with beautifully coloured pictures.
Welsh Super Scientists
Ysgol Clocaenog in Denbighshire was awarded first place out of sixty nine Welsh schools taking part in the Museum's Spring Bulbs for Schools investigation this year.
The Super Scientists won a fun-packed trip to the National Slate Museum where they learnt about the Story of Slate, looked for mini-beasts and built giant nests in the quarry!
Professor Plant: “Ysgol Clogaenog did really well in the Spring Bulbs investigation and sent in the most weather data out of all the schools in Wales! This really was an achievement as schools are getting better and better at recording and sending their data. It was lovely to meet the Super Scientists from Ysgol Clocaenog, we had lots of fun building nests and pretending to be little birds! We also learnt lots about Slate and I especially enjoyed watching the slate splitting!”
If you would like to take part in this project next term please complete the on-line application form:
Flower Drawing Competition 2014
Congratulation to the winners of the Flower Drawing Competition 2014! Here are their excellent botanical illustrations.
- 1st: Abbey – Coppull Parish Church School
- 2nd: Louise – SS Philip and James CE Primary School (Pink 3)
- 3rd: Amelie – Stanford in the Vale CE Primary School
In this competition I was looking for botanical illustrations – these are pictures of plants drawn in a scientific way. This means I was looking for beautiful pictures but they also needed clear labels to show the different parts of the flower.
All of the drawing sent in were really fantastic, so I have put them all on our website for you to see! Well done to all of you.
Click here to view all the drawings.
Overcoming the Taxonomic Impediment in the Amazon
It is well known that the Amazon rainforests are amongst the most biodiverse places on the planet. However, much of this biodiversity remains completely unknown having never been formally described and with absolutely no knowledge of the ecological and other conditions required for its survival. This profound lack of scientific knowledge arises from what is called the Taxonomic Impediment - there simply are too few taxonomists (people who can identify and describe living things) to get to grips with the magnitude of biodiversity. The Taxonomic Impediment is a world-wide problem as taxonomists themselves have become endangered species and few, if any, countries now devote sufficient resources to biodiversity research. There are many unfortunate knock-ons from this fact; for example designing rational conservation strategies is difficult without knowledge of the animals and plants that live in an area and some knowledge of why. It is only taxonomists who can deliver this knowledge.
In the Brazilian Amazon the situation is improving with a major research institute Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia (INPA) now conducting extensive taxonomic research and training a new generation of taxonomists to lead in future biodiversity studies. One such trainee is Josenir Camara, a PhD student at INPA now spending 6 months as an intern at Amgueddfa Cymru under the tutelage of Dr Adrian Plant (Principle Curator, Entomology). Josenir’s research is describing the diversity of a group of aquatic flies (Hemerodromiinae). She has already discovered more than 50 new species, and using sophisticated cladistic techniques to understand more of their evolutionary relationships with related forms elsewhere in the world. The Museum’s extensive collections and taxonomic skills will be an invaluable aid to develop her research and the expertise and experience she develops will be lasting benefits she will take home to Brazil. A small but positive contribution to removing the Taxonomic Impediment in her own country.
Spring Bulb for Schools: Results 2005-2014
The ‘Spring Bulbs for Schools’ project allows 1000s of schools scientists to work with Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales to investigate and understand climate change.
Since October 2005, school scientists have been keeping weather records and noting when their flowers open, as part of a long-term study looking at the effects of temperature on spring bulbs.
Certificates have now been sent out to all the 4,075 pupils that completed the project this year.
See Professor Plant's reports or download the spreadsheet to study the trends for yourself!
- Make graphs & frequency charts or calculate the mean.
- See if the flowers opened late in schools that recorded cold weather.
See how temperature, sunshine and rainfall affect the average flowering dates.
Look for trends between different locations.
From Amazonian Rainforest to Welsh Rain!
Brazilian PhD student Josenir Camara is working with Dr Adrian Plant, Principle Curator of Entomology at Amgueddfa Cymru, on a three-year project to describe some of the diversity of Diptera (flies) inhabiting the rainforest of Brazil’s Amazon Basin. The two researchers have already made numerous collecting expeditions to remote parts of the Amazon, but now they are both back in Cardiff where Josenir will spend the next six months studying at the Museum. As a part of her research she will describe all the Amazonian species of a group of water-inhabiting flies known as Hemerodromia. She already has more than 50 species that are completely new to science and once these have been formally described, the next task is to construct an evolutionary tree showing how the Amazonian Hemerodromia have diversified in respect to Hemerodromia elsewhere in the world. This is where Amgueddfa Cymru comes in as our extensive collections will provide her with an invaluable resource she can use to compare how Amazonian species differ from others. By careful comparison of ‘characters’ of each species and using sophisticated computing methods, Josenir will construct a ‘phylogenetic tree’ to illustrate the sequence of evolutionary changes that have occurred. By comparing the evolutionary tree with the fossil record, geological and climatic history it is hoped that we start to learn more about the biogeography of the Amazon (biogeography is the study of how species and communities or organisms become distributed both geographically and through geologic time).
The following photographs are from the book, Twelve new designs of English butterflies, by Benjamin Wilkes [published in 1742]. This rare work consists solely of twelve engraved plates each depicting geometric arrangements of both butterflies and moths. Wilkes produced this profoundly beautiful work as member of the Aurelian Society. Aurelian is an archaic word for lepidopterist [one who is interested in butterflies]; the term is derived from aurelia, meaning chrysalis, and relates to the golden colour it may attain just before the butterfly emerges.
The Society of Aurelians [London], one of the oldest organized bodies of specialists in any branch of zoology. The group collected and documented insects from the 1690s but came to an abrupt end in March 1748. While members of the society were in a meeting in the Swan Tavern, a great fire broke out in Cornhill and enveloped them. All the members escaped, but their entire collection, library, and records were destroyed. This event was documented by Moses Harris in The Aurelian; or, Natural History of English Insects (1765). The loss disheartened the group so much that they never managed to regroup again…Aurelian societies were formed several times in Britain [most notable 1762 and 1801], but each time they collapsed.
…Benjamin Wilkes was an 18th-century artist and naturalist whose profession was 'painting of History Pieces and Portraits in Oil'. When a friend invited him to a meeting of the Aurelian Society, where he first saw specimens of butterflies and moths, he became convinced that nature would be his 'best instructor' as to colour and form in art. He began to study entomology spending his leisure time collecting, studying and drawing the images larvae, pupae and parasitic flies of Lepidoptera, assisted by the collector Mr Joseph Dandridge. Wilkes' own collection was kept 'against the Horn Tavern in Fleet Street' London 'Where any gentleman or lady' could see his collection of insects [Wikipedia].
Our holdings of other Aurelian books include:
The English Lepidoptera: or, the Aurelian's pocket companion: containing a catalogue of upward of four hundred moths and butterflies ... / Moses Harris 
The aurelian. a natural history of English moths and butterflies, together with the plants on which they feed. Also .../ Moses Harris 
English moths and butterflies… Benjamin Wilkes  This work ran to three editions of which the last, incorporating Linnaean nomenclature, was published in 1824
The British Aurelian: twelve new designs of British Butterflies and Directions for making a collection, with an essay by R.S. Wilkinson / Benjamin Wilkes, R.S. Wilkinson 
All photographs in this post taken by the author
The nest of Peregrine falcons in the clock tower appears to have failed, due to unknown causes sometime during the last week or so. However, after an absence of several days, both birds are showing renewed interest in the nest-site. Today has seen considerable activity with one bird visiting the nest several times and apparently busying itself tidying the interior while the other bird of the pair watched from close by. Although peregrines only have one brood each year, if the first brood is lost at an early stage they sometimes re-lay a second clutch, either in the original nest, or perhaps more often, at a nearby site. We now watch, wait and hope that a new clutch of eggs will be laid sometime in the near future and that these magnificent falcons will have more success the second time around.
It now looks that the breeding attempt by Peregrine Falcons in the clock tower has failed. All indications were that eggs were laid during late March and early April and if all had gone according to plan, they should have been hatching about now (eggs are usually incubated for 31-33 days). Unfortunately, no birds have been seen at the nest or perched nearby on the clock tower for several days now so it seems certain that the nest has been abandoned. We do not know why this breeding attempt has failed but the most likely cause is that the eggs have been eaten by predators, perhaps crows, ravens or gulls. Although peregrines only raise one brood each year it remains possible that the birds will make a second attempt to breed and we remain vigilant in case that happens.