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    Specimen of the Week 334: The Tapeworm (feat. the sheep brain)

    By Jack Ashby, on 16 March 2018

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is a guest edition by Front of House Volunteer and a UCL Masters student of Human Evolution and Behaviour, Adam Cogan.

    A sheep's brain disected to reveal a tapework cyst. LDUCZ-D60

    A sheep’s brain disected to reveal a large tapeworm cyst. LDUCZ-D60

    If by now 2018 is giving you a bit of a headache, then this week’s Specimen of the Week may make you feel a bit better! Today our guest (and host, I suppose) is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 333: The Coal Ball Slides

    By Tannis Davidson, on 9 March 2018

    D.M.S. Watson Coal ball slide

    D.M.S. Watson Coal ball slide

    In celebration of International Women’s Day and the 100 year anniversary of the first women having the right to vote in the UK, the Grant Museum is highlighting specimens in the collection related to women in natural history as well as showcasing female specimens and exploring topics such as gender in zoology.

    As part of UCL vote 100, this week’s Specimen of the Week blog focuses UCL alumna Marie Stopes – campaigner of women’s rights and pioneer of family planning. She is widely known for her controversial and influential book Married Love (1918) – a sex manual for women which popularised the taboo subject of birth control and for establishing (with her second husband Humphrey Verdon Roe) Britain’s first birth control clinic in 1921.

    Stopes’ first passion, however, was science and the Grant Museum is home to a group of specimens associated with Marie Stopes’ significant palaeobotany career… (more…)

    Doris Mackinnon: Investigating the microscopic

    By Hannah Cornish, on 8 March 2018

    Today is International Women’s Day, this year it is 100 years since the first group of women got the right to vote in the UK, and UCL is celebrating with a programme of events and exhibitions called Vote 100. What better time to share a story from the Grant Museum about one of the pioneering female academics who worked at UCL. I took this opportunity to investigate the woman behind one part of our collection. High on the balcony in the Grant Museum are a pair of ever so slightly dusty microscope slide cabinets containing around 400 slides. Each cabinet bears a little brass plaque that reads –

    The Doris Livingston Mackinnon Collection of Protozoa

    University College London

    Who was Doris Mackinnon, and why is her collection here? Protozoa are not animals, so they are an unusual inclusion in a zoology museum. It was all a bit of a mystery until I started digging into it, here’s what I found out.

    Photograph of Doris Mackinnon in her lab © University of Dundee Archive Services

    Photograph of Doris Mackinnon in her lab © University of Dundee Archive Services


    Specimen of the Week 332: African Jacana

    By Dean W Veall, on 2 March 2018

    Dear Specimen of the Week readers, Dean Veall here in what is my LAST EVER Specimen of the Week post. If I were to choose my favourite it would definitely be SOTW 199: Jar of… But, enough of the nostalgia. I am picking up the baton from Jack and Hannah and have chosen a specimen from our collection that explore stories of women in natural history, amazing female natural history  and the language of gender in zoology to help mark International Women’s Day on Thursday 8 March. This week I’ve chosen…


    Specimen of the Week 331: The Glanville Fritillary

    By Hannah Cornish, on 23 February 2018

    It is 100 years since the first women got the right to vote in the UK, and with international women’s day coming up UCL is celebrating with UCL vote 100. At the Grant Museum we are taking this opportunity to explore stories of women in natural history, amazing female specimens and the language of gender in zoology.

    This week’s specimen is rare in the UK, but common in the Grant Museum collection. Its connection to our theme is not to do with the species itself, but to do with the incredible woman who discovered it. Specimen of the week is….

    L1313 (second from top) and other specimens of Melitaea cinxia in the Grant Museum collection

    LDUCZ-L1313 (second from top) and other specimens of Melitaea cinxia the Glanville Fritillary in the Grant Museum collection


    Specimen of the Week 330: The taxidermy koala – The language of natural history

    By Jack Ashby, on 16 February 2018

    With generic terms like mankind and Homo sapiens (“wise man”), people of all genders are well aware that it is the masculine that has dominated the vocabulary of humanity. Not so in the animal kingdom.

    Across UCL Culture we are celebrating the centenary of some women first getting the vote in the UK in a number of different ways. In the run up to International Women’s Day, here on the blog our Specimens of the Week will be exploring themes like women in natural history, female specimens, and – in this case – the language of natural history. This week’s Specimen of the Week is…

    Koalas are one of many Australian mammals that are named after a female attribute. Phascolarctos means "pouched bear". LDUCZ-Z65

    Koalas are one of many Australian mammals that are named after a characteristic that only females have. Their scientific name Phascolarctos means “pouched bear”. LDUCZ-Z65


    Specimen of the Week 329: Flamingo skull

    By Nadine Gabriel, on 9 February 2018

    Hello, it’s Nadine Gabriel with another Specimen of the Week. This is a skull of an American flamingo, one of the six species of flamingo and the only species that naturally inhabits North America. The fiery-coloured plumage of this long-legged bird is sure to brighten up the dark winter days, so read on to find out more…

    Skull of an American flamingo, Phoenicopterus ruber LDUCZ-Y147


    Specimen of the Week 328: Sawfish Rostrum

    By Nadine Gabriel, on 2 February 2018

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is a guest edition by Front of House Volunteer and UCL Student of History and Philosophy of Science, Leah Christian. Read on as she reveals that her Specimen of the Week is…


    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month January 2018

    By Mark Carnall, on 31 January 2018

    Welcome to January’s underwhelming fossil fish of the month. Normally in this introductory bit, before the jump, I try to do a bit about some topical event and then tentatively link it to this month’s fossil fish. Increasingly, this gets harder to do as topical events aren’t so much celebrity talent judging shows or how a politician struggles with eating a sandwich but is altogether more bleak and “Isn’t the world awful?” Ha, ha, ha, ha, here’s a fossil fish is a tough gig.

    Last week, the Doomsday Clock was moved two minutes to midnight, the closest the clock has been to Doomsday ever and as close as it was in 1953. In the summary of the setting of the clock for 2018 it’s not just the threat of nuclear war but cyber warfare and climate change which are reasons for the clock edging closer to midnight.

    But what are you gonna do about it? Kids have got to go to school tomorrow, bills have got to be paid and those selfies, by definition, won’t take themselves. There’s a paper thin wall between civilisation and anarchy when the distraction of the rat race changes to a basic fight for survival and we’re closer than ever to bursting through that wall. In post-apocalyptic movies and TV shows there’s often a protagonist who wakes from a coma to find the world changed. Society shattered. The slept through the apocalypse trope is so heavily used because when society collapses, when the rules go out of the window, it will be swift and brutally violent and deeply disturbing. Which might be too real for audiences. Especially these days. There won’t be a warning and before you know it, you’ll be throttling a friend or colleague to death for the last bag of skittles. It’ll likely be on a day that starts just like today.

    But until that happens, here’s another underwhelming fossil fish to idly pass the time. Tick. Tock. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 327: The Fancy Casts

    By Tannis Davidson, on 26 January 2018

    It’s that time of year when a very lucky specimen gets the research equivalent of the red-carpet treatment. Each January, students in UCL’s Collection Curatorship class (as part of their MA in Museum Studies) choose objects from across UCL’s collections to research in a practical project to introduce them to the core skills of a curator: to understand objects and how to research them.

    Last year’s natural history group successfully cracked the mystery of the wax models and were able to not only identify them in their own right (as a developmental series of the freshwater leech Hemiclepsis marginata) but also revealed their place in the history of embryology as a rare surviving series made to illustrate Charles Otis Whitman’s 19th century pioneering work on cell lineage.

    This year, the specimens chosen from the Grant Museum are a set of four beautifully-made painted plaster and ceramic casts which are unique in the Museum… (more…)