Exploring biodiversity in the Amazon
Adrian Plant continues his fieldwork in the Amazon in collaboration with Jose Albertino Rafael and Josenir Camara from INPA (Brazil’s national Amazon research organisation) in Manaus.
So far two field-trips to remote corners of the Amazon have been successfully completed. The first was to Sao Gabriel da Cachoeira high up the Rio Negra not far from Brazil’s borders with Colombia and Venezuela and the second to a major tributary of the Amazon along the border with Peru at Benjamin Constant.
The forests of the Amazon Basin are flood forests; they become seasonally inundated by the flooded river and the waters bring with them many of the nutrients essential to the forests great productivity throughout the region. This year the forest remains unusually wet for the time of year which has caused a few practical problems for field entomology.- it is an acquired pleasure to slosh around in deep mud and water searching for new and interesting insects under a constant plague of biting mosquitoes. Yet, to an entomologist this is more or less a definition of “fun”!
The biodiversity is amazing of course and many of the insects seen and collected are undoubtedly new to science but will require much study in more comfortable surroundings after returning from the field. Meanwhile, Adrian will shortly be setting out on a third fieldtrip, this time to a little known area between the mouth of the Amazon river and French Guiana where many exciting discoveries will undeniably be made.
If you had been visiting London last week you would have noticed it was very smoggy, as if you were looking at everything through a dirty cloud! But what exactly is smog, and how is it different to fog?
What is fog?
Fog is a cloud on the ground! It is a natural part of the weather. It is lots of very tiny water droplets floating in the air. Fog helps plants by providing moisture and does not harm you if you breathe in.
What is smog?
Smog is a kind of air pollution. Smog is created when fog mixes with smoke and chemical fumes from cars and factories. Some of the chemicals in smog are toxic – this means poisonous! It is harmful to plants and animals and can be dangerous if breathed in.
The recent smog in London is a mixture of fog and pollution and a third ingredient – sand from the Sahara desert! The Sahara desert is a huge desert in Africa. Some of the desert sand is very, very small, like dust. Sometimes wind storms sweep up the dust and blow it thousands of miles to the UK. It’s amazing how far it travels!
Unfortunately, this mixture of fog and pollution and desert dust means that the London smog is not good for your lungs, and has made some people ill. Smog is one very good reason why we should all try to reduce air pollution!
So what can you do to help reduce air pollution?
Think about air pollution… What causes it? Can you think of 3 things you can do to reduce it? Why not talk about it in class and then click here to check your answers.
Your comments, my answers:
Glyncollen Primary School: Sorry we were late again. We had a busy week as we are going to Llangrannog. We have had great fun doing this investigation. We can't wait to find out who has won the competition. We are going to tell the year3 class about it as they will be doing it next year. Thank you Professor Plant. Yr. 4. Prof P: Hope you had fun at Llangrannog! I am so glad you have enjoyed the investigation Glyncollen. Thank you so much for taking part!
Ysgol Clocaenog: Pen wedi disgyn ffwrdd! Athro'r Ardd: Wedi colli ei ben!
Gladestry C.I.W. School: Although the flowers were open earlier in the week, they have closed up again at the drop in temperature. Prof P: I can tell that you have learnt a lot about your planrs Gladestry, well done!
Collecting Seaweeds in Ireland
By Kath Slade
The marine team are back from their fieldwork to West of Ireland with lots of specimens to sort through, including seaweeds. The timing of fieldwork was chosen to coincide with several very low tides, allowing us to sample species lower down the shore, which are less adapted to long periods out of water. We still had limited a time to sample around low water (approx. 2 hours).
The lower shore holds many of the red seaweeds, such as Sea Beech (Delesseria sanguinea), Fine-Veined Crinkle Weed (Cryptopleura ramosa) and Bonnemaison’s Hook Weed (Bonnemaisonia hamifera).
Immediately after collection, there was a fair amount of processing to do, as seaweeds don’t last long out of their natural habitat on the shore. Many were floated out in trays of seawater in order to spread all of the fronds (“leaves”) out, before being transferred and pressed onto conservation grade cotton paper. The specimens were stacked together, and between each layer we had blotting paper to soak up the water. The stacks of seaweed were then placed into large plant presses, just like those used for flower pressing. Each day the blotting paper was changed to remove as much water as possible. When we returned to the Museum, we placed the plant presses in drying machines to speed up the process and prevent the seaweeds from rotting.
Some seaweeds are difficult to identify from external characters alone. For these species, small portions were collected and placed into silica gel. This dries the seaweed much quicker than pressing so that the DNA is better preserved enabling molecular work to be carried out at a later date. Others were preserved in formalin, which removes the colour of the seaweed but preserves the cell details and the seaweed’s 3D structure. Further identification work, will now be carried out back at the Museum.
All this preparation allows us preserve the seaweeds for future scientific studies. The specimens go into the Welsh National Herbarium (plant collections) at the Museum, and each provides evidence of what seaweeds are present at a particular locality at a particular time. The pressing process is so effective that specimens keep for hundreds of years.
Fieldwork in Co. Mayo - Update
The team are now back from the West Coast of Ireland and the trip has proven to be really successful. The team continued to sample around Corraun, near Achill Island, north Clew Bay for several days, although the weather did turn. They are now processing the samples collected back at National Museum Cardiff. The seaweed samples are carefully dried and pressed, bristleworm and shell specimens are removed from the formaldehyde fixative and then placed into alcohol, and the DNA samples are placed into the freezer. Once processed the specimens will become part of the Museum Collections, and will contribute greatly to the research of the Natural Sciences department.
TOP 10 garden birds
Hi bulb buddies!
Big Garden Birdwatch results
Which are the TOP 10 most common birds in your garden? Nearly half a million people helped the RSPB (Royal Society for Protection of Birds) with the Big Garden Birdwatch 2014. They counted over 7 million birds! Did you help? If not then maybe you can do some bird spotting and join the Big Garden Birdwatch next year? To find out which birds were in the TOP 10, click here.
Which schools have had their first flowers?
Trellech Primary School in Wales, and Britannia Community Primary School in England sent their first flower records. Well done and thank you to these schools!
One of my colleagues her at National Museum Cardiff sent me this photo of daffodils growing in her garden, can you see anything strange about them? The photo is a little fuzzy but if you look closely you will see that some of the stems have two or even three flowers! How unusual! Have you had any unusual plants?
Thank you to SS Philip and James CE Primary School for sending me this lovely photo of all their flowers, don’t they look wonderful? In the third photo you can see that they also had some unusual flowers - some of their daffodils did not fully open. This is very interesting, can you think of any reasons why they might not have opened? Did this happen to your flowers?
Would you like to see a funny photo of Daffodil man? Click here. His real name is James and he is wearing a suit of daffodils to raise money for charity! Well done daffodil man!
Your comments, my answers:
Prof P: I had lots and lots of comments from Dallas Road Community Primary School so I thought I would put them all on the blog this week, thank-you all for sending me your messages! Congratulations to all of you, even if your flower did not grow, was stepped on, got broken or died, you are ALL Super Scientists! Prof P.
Dallas Road Community Primary School:
I think it didn't open because the daffodil was hovering over it and so it didn't get enough sun and rain. :(
I think my daffodil was in the shade so it did not open.
Someone cut its head off
It didn't open because somebody stepped on it
Someone broke the bud off
Mine did not open!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
My Bulb disappeared
It was a bit floppy so we did not get chance to tie it up. But it is still open.
I am quiet sad my daffodils have not opened but they are growing so I will believe that soon they will and they are really tall.
My daffodil is growing very tall but it is a bit floppy.
My crocus is beautiful some of them are starting to die but still i'm happy because some are still growing and some have opened and some of them are fully beautiful i'm really happy about every crocus. My crocus's are quiet tall some are small as well
my crocus is really beautiful i have got another 3-4 crocuses opening i really enjoy seeing my plant grow.
My crocus has flowered well and is growing quite tall which is good and happy about it all.
I did not get a daffodil so it did not grow.
Daffodil has broke and I had to tie it up.
My plant head fell off. I haven't seen it since so I don't know if it has grown back.
My daffodil didnt open. I dont think mine had enough sunlight
Prof P: Culross Primary School sent me messages to tell me they had named their flowers, thanks Culross! Here are some of the names they gave their Daffodils and Crocuses: Danny, Dafty, Crocy, Abby, Croaky, Dave, Chris, Cassy, Ceeper, Bob, Jim.
On fieldwork in County Mayo
Six members of Natural Sciences staff are currently on fieldwork in Co. Mayo, Ireland. After attending the 2 day Porcupine Marine Natural History Conference at the Ryan Institute, National University of Ireland Galway they set off for Co. Mayo for 5 days of intertidal fieldwork. Their primary interests are in marine bristle worms (polychaetes), bivalve shells (molluscs) and seaweed.
After setting up a temporary laboratory the scientific team have spent the last two days visiting several shores in Clew Bay and Blacksod Bay — following in the footsteps of those who carried out the historic 'Clare Island Survey' in the early 1900s. Samples are being processed for both morphological and DNA work contributing to the Museum's collections and research programme. Many live animals and algae are being photographed. Today the team is setting off to Corraun, near Achill Island, north Clew Bay. They will be joined by Fiona Crouch of the Marine Biological Association UK, who has been extending her 'Shore Thing' community science programme to Ireland (as ShorTIE).
Further updates to come, but for up-to-date news follow us at https://twitter.com/CardiffCurator
The Spring Bulbs deadline has arrived! I would like to say a HUGE thank you for working so hard to get all your weather and flower records in to me on time.
Which schools have had their first flowers?
Balcurvie Primary School, Chatelherault Primary School, Glencairn Primary School, St. Blanes Primary School, St. Patrick's Primary School, Tynewater Primary School and Wormit Primary School in Scotland, and Brynhyfryd Junior School, Cleddau Reach VC Primary School, Coed-y-Lan Primary,St Athan Primary, St Mellons Church in Wales Primary School, Ysgol Bro Eirwg, Ysgol Iau Hen Golwyn and Ysgol Y Plas in Wales, have all seen their first flowers open. In England, Bleasdale CE Primary School, Combe Primary School, Cutteslowe Primary School and Flakefleet Primary School, all sent their first flower records.Well done and thank you to these schools!
Keep sending in your flower records!
As I said in my blog last week, if your plants have flowers but they have not opened yet, please keep watching them and send me your records when they open. They will not be in time to be in this year’s Spring Bulbs Report, but they will make next year’s report more accurate.
What if you didn’t have a flower?
Thank you to all the pupils who have sent me a record to say their plant did not flower, or that their flower did not open (you can do this by clicking ‘Didn’t open’ in the Flower Record). I know it can be a bit disappointing if your plant does not flower. But please don’t be sad! One thing that a Super Scientist must learn is that experiments don’t always work out the way we want them to! This does not mean that the experiment has failed. For a scientist it is JUST AS IMPORTANT to record when something does not happen, as when it does.
You will get a Super Scientist certificate and pencil if you worked hard and helped with the Super Scientist Investigation – whether your flower opened or not!
Wildflower Meadow at National Museum Cardiff
Here at National Museum Cardiff we are experimenting with growing a wildflower meadow. Do you have a wildflower meadow at your school? We have planted some seeds and bulbs and the first flowers to appear have been crocuses and daffodils! Here is a picture of them. It doesn’t look much like a meadow yet does it? But hopefully by the summer it will look very different. The muddy circle is where we have planted lots of red Poppies to remember the First World War. This year it is the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War and here at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, we will have events and exhibitions that tell the stories of the people of Wales during the War. Click here to find out more.
Your questions, my answers:
Dallas Road Community Primary School: Hi Proffeser Plant!! Prof P: Hi everyone at Dallas Road!
Pinfold Primary School: nearly all the bulbs have opened. The mystery bulbs are blooming very well. The crocus is growing purple flowers. Prof P: What were your mystery bulbs Pinfold?
Glyncollen Primary School: Hello Professor Plant, We're excited because our bulbs have now sprung and we can't wait to get our certificates. From, Year 4. Prof P: Congratulations Year 4! I look forward to sending them to you, you are Super Scientists!
Ysgol Terrig: Our Bulbs have opened and they are 15cm tall :). Prof P: Great measuring Ysgol Terrig.
Rougemont Junior School: What a warm a dry week Professor Plant, our crocuses are all blooming as are our daffodils. Prof P: All the colours look so lovely don’t they?
St. Ignatius Primary School: We have uploaded our weather records for this week but unfortunately our bulbs have not flowered just yet. We are disappointed as this is the last week and we can see them coming along but not as quick as we would have hoped. We will continue to keep an eye on them and let you know when they have flowered. Our teacher will need to do this next week as P7 are off to Kilbowie in Oban for an outward bound trip. Prof P: Please don’t be disappointed P7, your results are still really important, even if your flowers didn’t open by the deadline. Enjoy your trip it sounds like fun!
Kilmaron Special School: We are using the findings of our daily temperature readings and rainfall as evidence in our SQA National 1 Measurement unit. Prof P: That is fantastic Kilmaron, I am so glad it is helping you with your qualification.
Stanford in the Vale Primary School: Thank you very much we really enjoyed it and are datherdils are blooming and are very healthy and strong through all of these conditions. Stanford in the vale gardening club. Prof P: I am so glad you enjoyed it Stanford, that makes me very happy!
St. Blanes Primary School: Hi Professor Plant, the start of the week felt much warmer. It's the first time we saw the temperature in double figures! Prof P: I hope you enjoyed the warm weather.
Gladestry C.I.W. School: it has grown well i'm a mum. Prof P: Congratulations! You must have looked after your baby bulb very well.
Chatelherault Primary School: Some of our plants are starting to bloom the daffodils are showing the most. The crocuses are still growing but not as much as the daffodils. Prof P: That is very interesting as crocuses usually flower before daffodils.
Ysgol Gynradd Cross Hands: Dyma ein blodyn cyntaf gan LM o Ysgol Gynradd Cross Hands. Mwy o haul plis!Prof P: Llongyfarchiadau LM o Ysgol Gynradd Cross Hands!
The Blessed Sacrament Catholic Primary School: my plant is just the same as the plant I got at my home it has grown twenty cm. Prof P: It’s wonderful to hear that you are growing flowers at home too, well done!
The Peregrines are back
The Peregrines are back on the City Hall Clock Tower. One bird seems to be spending most of the day hidden in the recesses of the nest (on the right hand side of the ledge underneath the clock face), suggesting that she may have started incubating eggs. This would imply a laying date a little earlier than we have seen in previous years. However, we are aware of another local pair of peregrines that are incubating eggs, so perhaps it is an early season this year. Museum Curator Adrian Plant has taken over the duties of the Peregrine Web-cam, and will be keeping an eye on them for us.
We will keep you posted on what happens.
Exploring Biodiversity in the Amazon
Adrian Plant (Principle Curator of Entomology) is about to set off on a trip exploring biodiversity in the Brazilian Amazon. This will be the second of three planned trips hosted by the premier Amazon research institute - Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia (INPA) based in Manaus and funded by Brazil’s Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico. Adrian has been collaborating with fellow Diptera (fly) specialist Dr José Albertino Rafael and PhD student Josenir Camara in understanding more about Amazonian species of an aquatic fly genus called Hemerodromia. The project intends to describe all of the many new species of this group of flies found in the Amazon Basin and will look at their evolutionary relationships with other related forms around the world. It is anticipated that the researchers will be able to learn much about the reasons why certain insects occur where they do by relating the findings to ecological, biogeographical and climatic data. The team will be in the field for one month, surveying areas in the central Amazon around Manaus and also some of the upper tributaries of the river in Ecuador. Following completion of this phase of the Project, Josenir will spend six months based in Cardiff using the Museum’s extensive collections to help advance her work.
Dr Adrian Plant
Professor Plant’s flowers have opened!
I am so excited because my flowers have finally opened! They are so pretty and make me smile every time I see them! My crocus opened on 16 March and was 90mm tall, my daffodil opened one day later and was 240mm tall. Here is a photo of them.
Thankyou very much Stanford Gardening Club from Stanford in the Vale CE Primary School in England for sending me a photo of your first daffodil! Would anyone else like to send me some photos of their plants? I will put them on the website too!
Which schools have had their first flowers?
Abronhill Primary School, Culross Primary School, and Glencairn Primary School in Scotland, and Christchurch CP School, Coleg Meirion Dwyfor, Gladestry C.I.W. School, Rogiet Primary School, Ysgol Clocaenog, Ysgol Gynradd Cross Hands, Ysgol Deganwy and Ysgol Santes Tudfulin Wales, have all seen their first flowers open. In England, Arkholme CE Primary School, Burscough Bridge Methodist School, Coppull Parish Primary School, Hillside Specialist School, John Cross CE Primary School, Pinfold Primary School, Scotforth St. Paul's CE Primary School, SS Philip and James CE Primary School, St Laurence CE Primary School and Woodplumpton St. Anne's Primary School all sent their first flower records. Well done to all these schools!
One more week to go…
There is only one more week to go before the Spring Bulbs project deadline. Please remember to send in your records by the 28 March.
What do you do if your flowers have not opened by the deadline?
Please keep sending in flower data! If your flowers have not opened and you would like to carry on with your investigation then please do! When they open you can still record the flowering date and plant height on our website.
I set a deadline because every year I write a special report that gives a summary of all the data sent in so far. I need to write the report in April. All records sent in before the deadline will be included in this year’s report. Records sent in after the deadline will be added to our database and will be included in next year’s report.
All the records that you send are very important. I promise you that all your data will be included in the project and will help the investigation to be more accurate in the future.
Have you seen any signs of spring while you have been out playing? On the weekend I saw a bumblebee, a ladybird and some little baby lambs! I looked in a pond but I didn’t see any frogspawn. Have you seen any frogspawn? What other signs of spring have you seen?
Would you like to be a Nature Detective? The Woodland Trust have lots of Fun Spring Activities for you to do, click here for how to spot the early signs of Spring. Click here for lots of other fun Spring ideas.
Your questions, my answers:
Ysgol Bro Eirwg: Roedd y mesurudd glaw yn llawn ar ddydd Llun gan ei fod wedi casglu'r holl law dros hanner tymor. Rydym ni yn gyffrous iawn bod rhai o'r bylbiau wedi dechrau agor. Rydym wedi sylwi bo'r bylbiau sy'n agor yn hwyrach llawer yn llai, oes rheswm am hyn? Athro’r Ardd: Rydw i’n falch iawn bod eich blodau chi yn agor Ysgol Bro Eirwg! Da iawn chi am arsylwi mor ofalus ar y planhigion a gofyn cwestiwn gwyddonol gwych. Yr ateb yw… dwi ddim yn siŵr!! Efallai bod rhai o’r bylbiau yn llai na’r lleill wrth gael eu plannu. Gallai hyn olygu eu bod nhw’n cymryd mwy o amser i flodeuo a’u bod nhw’n llai o faint. Oes gennych chi unrhyw syniadau i’w esbonio? Sut fyddech chi’n profi eich syniadau wrth dyfu rhagor o blanhigion y flwyddyn nesaf?
Raglan VC Primary: Our flowers are blooming now! The shoots are 85 cm tall! Prof P: Do you mean 85mm tall Raglan? An 85cm tall flower would be HUGE!
Glencairn Primary School: It was very foggy on Thursday night and Friday morning! Prof P: Great weather reporting. I love fog, it’s quite spooky isn’t it?
Hillside Specialist School: Our first flower opened. By K. Prof P: Well done K and everyone else at Hillside School.
Greyfriars RC Primary School: It was fun me and R. really enjoyed it. Prof P: Hooray!
SS Philip and James CE Primary: A lot of our crocus flowers had come out over the holidays! Prof P: Fantastic! A lot of people’s flowers opened during the holidays.
Pinfold Primary School: Mystery bulbs started opening on Monday. We think they're daffodils. Other bulbs are growing very well. Prof P: Great news Pinfold.
Ysgol Terrig: our bulbs are growing great they are now 7cm tall !!!!! Prof P: Fantastic news Ysgol Terrig!
Chatelherault Primary School: During the week it has been sunny and because of this our plants has started to blossom although the flowers are still closed. We have had a lot of spiders in our pots. Prof P: Oooh, how cool! I love spiders! Their webs are so beautiful and the way they make them is so clever.
Culross Primary School: We have been very busy in P5-7 recently with trips to Scottish Parliament and also the Foodbank with a collection we organised. Sorry for the lack of records for Tuesday and Thursday! Matt is the name of my daffodil and he was the first one to flower here at Culross PS. It has been quite warm here at Culross and we haven't had any snow, so the daffodils are now beginning to grow. O's crocus is called Coco and measures 50mm. Her’s is the first crocus to flower here at Culross. Well done to O.! Prof P: Wow you sound like you have had some really interesting school trips Culross Primary. Well done for collecting for the Foodbank. I love the names you have given to your plants!
Darran Park Primary: The first crocuses flowered on the 7th of march. Their colour is purple\violet. The bees have already started collecting the pollen and they are 6 cm tall. Some of the other crocus bulbs have only just started to sprout through the soil. Prof P: Great observations Darran Park, I like your description of the crocuses as purple/violet.
Arkholme CE Primary School: Sun shining at last it is doing the flowers a world of good they have come out to see it!!! Prof P: It is doing me the world of good too Arkholme!