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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

European Science Foundation Exploratory Workshop

Chris Cleal, 26 November 2014

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.

Conference delegates

Storage of entomology collections in museums

Christian Baars, 25 November 2014

What is the best way to store insect collections? Recently an enquiry was posted on NHCOLL-L (electronic forum for the care and use of natural history collections) about the use of wood as a material for insect storage cabinets. The question was:

What kind of preservative should be used to treat some new storage cabinets made of eucalyptus wood, that would not harm the insect specimens stored inside them?

The post sparked a discussion about ideal insect storage. Below is a little summary of the factors to consider when planning storage for your entomology collection.

The ideal solution

The ideal solution for insect storage in most situations are metal cabinets, which are robust, relatively cheap, made with a high degree of consistency and can be made air tight (well, almost). This will protect the collection against insect infestations, airborne pollutants and humidity fluctuations (although not temperature fluctuations – cf. Szcepanowska et al. 2013.

Why use wood preservatives?

However, if you do need to use wood for the cabinets, you should consider the following concerns.

Usually, the reasons for treating wood with preservatives are either:

  • to make it more hard-wearing (in the case of wooden floors), or
  • to stop it being attacked by fungi or insects, or
  • to prevent it from greying when exposed to UV light.

Most of these issues are problems mainly in outdoor applications of wood, and there are a number of ways of dealing with these: wood can be varnished to make it protect it from physical impacts, stained to protect it from UV light, and pressure-treated or painted with insecticides and fungicides (ranging from highly toxic substances, such as pentachlorophenol, to less hazardous ones, such as borax).

Assuming the entomology store is dry, has a low relative humidity, clean and there is no problem with insect pests – which should all be the case to safeguard the collection, never mind the storage cabinets – there is really no reason why the cabinets need a finish at all. This applies to all woods – whether in a museum or in a domestic situation, wood used indoors should not require any treatment to protect it from fungal or insect infestations, or greying. Coming back to eucalyptus wood in particular: this has a naturally high content of polyphenols, which makes it naturally resistant to mould growth and insect attack, further negating the need to treat it.

There is one exception: if old cabinets are bought from another institution there is a danger that pest insects may be present already, which could introduce them into the new location. It is advisable therefore to check any old cabinets thoroughly before they are installed – better still, before they are transported to the new location. This then gives time to investigate appropriate treatment options, which are not restricted to chemical means; instead, the units may be frozen, heat-treated or treated in a nitrogen chamber. But that is an entirely different subject which shall be discussed in detail elsewhere.

Organic acid emissions

A further question was the issue of emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Wood naturally emits many different VOCs, including acetic and formic acids, which is a problem in many museum collections (e.g. causing Byne’s disease in Mollusca and egg collections, and enhancing pyrite decay in geological collections). There does not appear to be a problem with VOCs affecting insect specimens themselves, although organic acids frequently lead to pin corrosion in insect collections. Many wood preservatives may exacerbate the problem of VOC emissions from storage cabinets. As we always look for ways of lowering such airborne pollutants in museum stores and galleries there is another reason against the use of wood preservatives in entomology stores – actually, ANY museum stores.

What material to choose for the drawers? Experience has shown that plastic drawers have problems with static electricity charging, which attracts dust. Metal drawers can be heavy and unwieldy. Wooden drawers still appear to be very much the most practical way of storing insects. However, the type of wood used should not emit large amounts of VOCs, and the drawers should have well-fitting lids to keep out pests. If you wanted to use a locally sourced (sustainable and ethical) wood you might have to undertake a little research. Generally, hard woods are better than softwoods (drawers made from softwood can warp with time and often contain large amounts of resin), although many imported tropical woods used in days gone by are now controversial for environmental and social reasons. When researching the potential suitability of different wood types, try tracking down a comparative study of the VOC emissions of different local hardwoods, which would give you an indication of those high emission species to avoid in the construction of drawers.

Further guidance

The UK’s Natural Sciences Collections Association [http://www.natsca.org/] has published some guidance on the construction of insect storage units:

NHCOLL-L is a general purpose electronic forum for those with an interest in the care, management, computerization, conservation and use of natural history collections. Hosted by Yale University, NHCOLL-L is co-sponsored by the Society of the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC) and the Association for Systematic Collections (ASC, Natural History Collections Alliance).

Disclaimer: The links in this article are purely examples of potential pest management but by no means an endorsement of particular companies or organisations.