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!
16 weeks to go...
Let me introduce myself, my name is Mar Mateo Belda, I’m a paper conservator and after working in different cultural institutions in Spain, Nicaragua, Cuba and the United States, I’ve got a traineeship at the National Museum of Wales.
The purpose of this traineeship is to carry out conservation of the 66 lithographs from the portfolio “Efforts and Ideals” in 1917 that will be exhibited at the beginning of August 2014 with the title “The Great War: Britain’s Efforts and Ideals”.
Let’s get the show on the road!
I’m sure that for most of you, paper conservation sounds like interesting and weird all at the same time and for that reason you need to watch this space to find out what it is and what I’m doing.
The first step we follow before carrying out the conservation treatments of the works is making a condition report to assess the conservation condition of each of them. The next step is to photograph them all to capture the initial condition of the prints.
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.
Collections Reviews in Wales
Collections reviews are a hot topic in museums these days, and for good reasons. Reviews form an integral part of collections management. Last October on this blog, I introduced a number of recent reviews of natural science collections. Now it’s time to talk about the Welsh Museums Federation’s approach.
The dry bit first: we developed a methodology that reflects the constraints of the project. And they are pretty tight: we needed to undertake 20 reviews with an average time allocation of two curator days each. This means getting an overview of holdings, assessing their significance, and identifying any collections needs in a single day. We adapted UCL’s significance toolkit rather than using the more recently published CyMAL assessment. We felt that this better reflected the questions we were asking and the constraints of the project. If you want to know more about the methodology, please get in touch with the 'Linking Collections' project manager.
‘Linking Collections’ was conceived because natural science collections up and down the country are, generally speaking, relatively neglected and in need of TLC. We have found that this really is the case. In some cases, specimens were lovingly repackaged in acid free tissue in good boxes – and then not checked for ten years because of lack of specialist curatorial expertise, sometimes with spectacular results. If you work in a museum you know all about this; you are likely to have seen things no mortal eye should ever have to witness.
Let’s focus on the review process itself. It’s quite simple really. A pre-review questionnaire sent to partner museums early last year collected information about scope and approximate size of collections. This then formed the basis for a decision on how many and which curators (reviewers) to send to each museum. Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales very kindly provided ‘Linking Collections’ with expertise in the form of specialist curators; the National Museum is now the only museum in Wales with specialist natural science curators.
The project manager acts as the match maker and organises the (review) dates. At the museum, each reviewer is
paired up with a local member of staff or a volunteer – in either case somebody who either already is, or will be in future, working with the natural science collection. In this way, the reviewer benefits from local knowledge of physical access to the collection. At the same time, the local staff/volunteers get hands-on training in object handling and a deep insight into their collection from the reviewer. This way of working not only speeds up the process of working through a collection; it also forms an important part of the training element of ‘Linking Collections’, as one of the main aims of the project is to improve the local understanding of natural science collections.
While the reviewer assesses the objects, the assistant fills in the EXCEL data matrix on a laptop. The data matrix asks for a definition of a ‘review unit’ as well as its size (a unit can be a single specimen or an entire cupboard full of specimens); information about provenance, the collector, collection date. We then record any information about local relevance and historic notes, as well as a simple indication of conservation state, documentation, quality of packaging and any potential health and safety issues. Then there is a block of columns with significance assessments, on a traffic-light-scale, regarding different levels of importance (local to international) and value (scientific, historic, educational, …). Finally, the reviewer also records an initial recommendation for potential use of the review unit.
The information we get from this assessment helps determine the potential of each collection. It will also enable to identify gaps in collections that could be addressed, in the future, through the museum’s collecting strategy. And because the approach is consistent between 20 museums it will be possible to compare these collections directly, and see how they complement each other, or whether there are similar problems affecting them. This last point is particularly important in the context of establishing the Distributed National Collection in Wales, which is what this project is all about.
Follow 'Linking Natural Science Collections in Wales' on Twitter @LinkinCollWales or Facebook.
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.
The countdown has started
Welcome to our blog. This is the first blog in our journey to opening the exhibition, Britain’s Efforts and Ideas: Prints of the First World War on 2 August 2014 at the National Museum Cardiff. The countdown has started.
The exhibition will bring together the works from the portfolio, The Great War: Britain’s Efforts and Ideals. commissioned by Wellington House, the propaganda Bureau that became the Ministry of Information. The prospectus described the series as …’a first attempt by a number of British artists, working in unison, to put on record some aspects of the activities called forth by the Great war, and ideals by which those activities were inspired.’ Artists of the day including Frank Brangwyn, Augustus John, William Rothenstein, Eric Kennington and C.R.W. Nevinson all contributed prints to the series. In 1919 the National Museum of Wales was donated a set by the government. We will be exhibiting these works as a group for the first time.
Over the next few months we plan to give you an insight into preparations for this show. Working together, conservators and curators will research and prepare all 66 prints for display. We will give you an insight into what happens to works when they go ‘to be conserved’, how we can investigate the fibres to identify the paper, what new research will reveal about the series and the public reaction when they went on display.
Mar Mateo, Beth McIntyre and Emily O’Reilly
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!