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  • Archive for the 'Grant Museum of Zoology' Category

    Specimen of the Week: Week 155

    By Tannis M N Davidson, on 29 September 2014

    Specimen of the Week: Week Two Hello all. In anticipation of writing my first Specimen of the Week post, I wondered which specimen would ultimately receive the honour.  I wanted to highlight a specimen representative of my Canadian homeland such as a fossil from the Burgess Shale, but the curator (see SOTW 140) beat me to it.  Sadly, the Grant Museum has but one documented specimen from this phenomenally important fossil location. The Burgess Shale has famously yielded dozens of previously unknown 505 million year old fossil organisms such as the evocatively named Hallucingenia, five eyed Opaginia, and the fearsome-looking predator Anomalocaris

    As it turns out, I was able to find an interesting animal from the collection…one which might possibly be a living relative of Anomalocaris!

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is

      (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: September 2014

    By Mark Carnall, on 26 September 2014

    Welcome to this month’s underwhelming fossil fish of the month, a monthly romp through the uninspiring and underwhelming fossil fish collections here at the Grant Museum of Zoology (and every natural history museum). Normally this blog is a tongue in cheek reflection on the countless fossils that are ‘important for science’ that lay untouched in museums stores. This month however, I’m reporting on some serious science. Apologies to readers who hate that kind of thing.

    Last month a group of top palaeontologists, museum curators and members of the public put their minds together to answer one of the most pressing unanswered questions in science. Where are all the ghosts of animals? There seems to be a disproportionate number of white ladies, hanged criminals and wives of Henry the VIII who cling to this realm but where are the ghosts of all those millions of animals which have lived and died? Why aren’t the prairies teeming with the spectres of dinosaurs? Why isn’t the sea thick with the ectoplasmic apparitions of marine reptiles and fish? Where are the ghostly Carboniferous forests? One reason for this dearth of ghosts may be that it’s mostly humans who have unresolved business or revenge to enact upon the living, other organisms are more pragmatic about the violent nature of life and death. Another untested hypothesis is that you can only see ghosts of your own species.

    This is definitely an area ripe for research but there are no research departments in the UK looking at the issue of missing ghost animals. With this in mind I made an astonishing discovery whilst looking for this month’s underwhelming fossil fish my only wish was there was a month normally associated with the paranormal, mythological and spooky when it would be better to announce this discovery failing that here’s September’s Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month.

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    Specimen of the Week: Week 154

    By Dean W Veall, on 22 September 2014

    Scary Monkey Hello new readers, occasional fans and dedicated followers of Specimen of the Week. Dean Veall here. My other specimens here have been all about the underdog, the specimens that do not get much attention because they are of the invertebrate persuasion or are stuffed away in a drawer. But this week I am breaking away from this and going all out popular with a specimen that features heavily in our promotional material and one loved by our visitors, selling out, some might suggest. To those people I say no. No, I am staying true to my beliefs with this week’s specimen. This specimen although popular is very much a minority within our collection it’s  just one of only 73 taxidermy specimens we have in a collection of 68,000 and it is one that represents a group that has been terribly misunderstood taxonomically.

     This week’s Specimen of the Week is…

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    Ask a Curator day 2014

    By Meg J Dobson, on 16 September 2014

     

    On Wednesday 17th September UCL Museums will be taking part in the Ask A Curator Day event on twitter. This event is growing year on year, and at the time of writing, this week’s event has 520 museums taking part from 36 countries. We know that asking a question in a museum can sometimes feel intimidating, and that we curators can sometimes be hard to track down. There’s so much to do that we aren’t always the most available group of people (though we really do try).  We are taking part in the day as part of our commitment to make our collections as accessible as possible.

    Ask A Curator works like this.  Anyone in the world with a twitter account can tweet a question with the #AskACurator hashtag, and it will be answered by any of the institutions taking part. If you have a specific question for us you can tweet it directly to us @UCLMuseums and one of our staff will do their best to answer you. The Grant Museum of Zoology is taking part using @GrantMuseum, as is the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology on @PetrieMuseEgypt.

    In preparation for this I thought I would introduce you to our members of staff taking part…

    Jack Ashby – Jack is the Manager of the Grant Museum of Zoology. He is responsible for the strategic direction of the Museum, as well as managing the Museum’s resources. Much of his time is spent on creating opportunities for the public to engage with research going on at UCL. A zoologist by training with a particular interest in Australian mammals, he still spends as much time as he can in the field. He’ll be taking questions via @GrantMuseum throughout the day and from the @UCLMuseums account from 12 – 1 pm. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 153

    By Jack Ashby, on 16 September 2014

    Scary MonkeyAs a scientist, with Vulcan-like levelheadedness, my outlook on the natural world is totally free of emotion. My interactions with it are purely perfunctory, in order to amass and analyse cold data, motivated solely by the advancement of scientific understanding of solid facts. The world is only there to be databased. It is irrelevant whether facts are “interesting” or not, all that matters is if they are useful for detecting some larger pattern. Anyone who says otherwise is a panda-hugging sentimental fluff-monger…

    Wouldn’t it be weird if ecologists thought like that? On the one hand science is supposed to be independent of emotion, but on the other most of us are only in it because of our emotional attachment to the subject matter (animals and ecosystems).

    Normally on this blog I take the chance to rave about the animals that amaze and excite me. This week I’m going to highlight one that I utterly despise*.

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 152

    By Mark Carnall, on 8 September 2014

    Scary Monkey As you may have gathered, we’re fans of science fiction here at UCL Museums, from the Institute of Archaeology Keeper preparing for the zombie apocalypse, to the Petrie Museum attending LonCon and own film nights which often feature radioactive monsters, giant ants and stop motion dinosaurs. This week’s specimen of the week is straight out of science fiction. So strap into your power loader, politely request alien lifeforms to stay away from young children whilst comparing them to a female dog and read on.

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Happy 78th Thylacine Day: Remember the little guys

    By Jack Ashby, on 7 September 2014

    Today, in Australia, is National Threatened Species Day, but far more importantly. to Grant Museumers, it’s Thylacine Day. Both of these events commemorate the ludicrously avoidable death of the last known thylacine - modern times’ largest marsupial carnivore – on 7th September 1936. Today, for the first time, I am actually in Australia for 7th September, so in this year’s annual Thylacine Day post I’d like to explore what it is about Australian mammals that makes me go all nerdy – the shear diversity of tiny things, that on the whole people have no idea about. (For more on the thylacine, including why we celebate it so hard at the Grant, look through previous Thylacine Day posts on this blog).

    The area of zoology I am most passionate about is Australian mammals, and as a result I spend 8-10 weeks each year over here trapping animals for conservation NGOs and university research programmes. As far as I’m concerned, although there are just 378 mammal species in Australia, it’s the best fauna there is. You only have to go 50km and you might find a whole new set of mammals. Australia has a lot of things going for it, but I will shout you down if you argue that any of them outshine the wildlife and ecosystems. The thing is so few people here, or elsewhere, have ever heard of most of them. Sure, people know that kangaroos and wallabies exist – they are the national icon, but go into any business and ask what kind of wallaby is chewing on its lawn and you’ll probably get a blank response. There are 45 species of Australian kangaroo and wallaby (excluding bettongs and pottoroos). People’s lofts and gardens are pested by possums (nearly always one species – the brushtail), but there are 25 different kinds. Once you get beyond these, koalas, wombats, dingoes, platypuses, echidnas and “bandicoots” (11 species), the rest of the Australian mammalian fauna, I fear, goes largely unloved.

    I’m not whinging about the fact that people don’t see tiny mammals and instantly know what it is. I just want to take the time to give them a shout-out.
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    Specimen of the Week:Week 151

    By Mark Carnall, on 1 September 2014

    Scary monkey I’m taking up the mantle this week and I’m a sucker for puns relating to my specimen choice in this opening paragraph. The first time I discovered specimens of this week’s species was on the black sands of the North Island of New Zealand. Thousands of these were washed up along the coast, their bright white remains contrasting highly against the volcanic beach OH LOOK AT THAT I’M A FIELDWORK BORE.

    Before I regale you about my gap yahr (spent volunteering in a museum and working various part time jobs) let us move swiftly on to revealing this week’s specimen of the week.

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is….

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    State of the Union! Natural History Museums 2014

    By Mark Carnall, on 29 August 2014

    Reposting of an article I wrote for the NatSCA website in my capacity on the #NatureData Coordinating Committee, summarising the ‘State of the Union’ for natural history museums following the SPNHC 2014 conference.

    At the end of June was a rather special event; the coming together of three subject specialist networks (SSN), the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC), the Natural Sciences Collections Association (NatSCA) and the Geological Curators’ Group (GCG) hosted by Amgueddfa Cymru National Museum Wales. Between them, these three networks represent a sizeable chunk of curators, conservators, directors and educators who work in and with natural history museums and collections. Each SSN has yearly meetings but a syzygy rarely happens.

    The full conference was a six day affair packed with field trips, stores tours, talks, workshops, demos, poster sessions and discussions attended by over 250 delegates from almost as many natural history institutions. This provided a great opportunity to catch up and meet friends, facilitated the catharsis in sharing frustrations unique to natural history museums and offered a rare chance to establish a sense of ‘the state of the union’ in natural history museums across Europe, North America and elsewhere.

    You can read the rest of this entry over at the NatSCA website at this link.

    Mark Carnall is the Curator of the Grant Museum of Zoology

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: August 2014

    By Mark Carnall, on 29 August 2014

    Welcome welcome to this month’s Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month. The mission of this blog series is to temporarily shine the spotlight on underwhelming fossil fish specimens from the Grant Museum collection. It’s not that the Grant Museum collection is particularly underwhelming, most fossil collections are made up of huge archives of fragmentary, broken and not-particularly-impressive material that have had their heyday in scientific research and are now just taking up space. This month, I’m taking a leaf out of singer-songwriter, actor, record producer, businessman, and philanthropist, Justin Timberlake’s book and I’m bringing SexyBack with this month’s fossil fish. Combing the drawers for suitable specimens this one stopped me in my tracks and got me blushing.

    This specimen is bringing sexy back. The other underwhelming fossil fish of the months don’t know how to act. Warning, this month may not be suitable for those who are of a nervous disposition.

    Take ‘em to the bridge.

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