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  • Fun with Minerals 2: Back in the Habit

    By Subhadra Das, on 15 September 2016

    UCL Earth Sciences student and veteran of UCL Geology Collections curation Nadine Gabriel returns with another guest blog relating her work with the mineral collection over the summer. It’s great to have her back and to demonstrate that collections management is clearly habit forming.

    Hello, it’s Nadine Gabriel again and I’ve been spending another summer working with UCL Geology Collections. Since the Rock Room will soon have another home, I’ve been removing minerals from display cabinets, auditing the collection and accessioning some new specimens. Once again I have seen thousands of minerals and one thing that always catches my eye is the wide variety of habits, so I thought this topic would make a great sequel to my first blog.

    A mineral habit is the shape of a single crystal or group of crystals. This is dependent on a mineral’s crystallographic system (the atomic arrangement of a crystal) and its growing conditions. The basic habit classification is defined by how well-formed a crystal is. A mineral is euhedral if all faces are well-developed, which means it grew in uncrowded, optimal conditions. However, if a mineral grew in unsuitable conditions, it becomes subhedral (some faces present) or anhedral (no faces). Below are the more specific habit classifications.

    First up is the massive habit which contains no visible crystal structures, but don’t assume that this doesn’t make them less eye catching! Many beautiful minerals such as deep blue lapis lazuli and vivid red (but poisonous) cinnabar have this habit.

    Minerals with cubic habit

    Cubic: pyrite, fluorite and galena (top). Hexagonal: quartz (middle left) and aragonite (middle right). Platy: biotite (bottom left) and talc (bottom right)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week 256: the pickled pigeon

    By Paolo W Viscardi, on 9 September 2016

    Happy Friday everybody! Today I have a slightly gross specimen of the week for you, in the form of this lovely

    LDUCZ-Y1713 Columba livia

    **pickled pigeon**

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Eighty years extinct: today is Thylacine Day

    By Jack Ashby, on 7 September 2016

    80 years ago today, on the 7th September 1936, the last known thylacine died. With it, an entire branch of the tree of life was cut off.

    The last living Thylacine in Beaumaris Zoo, 1933. (Image in the public domain, photographer unknown)

    Thylacines, or Tasmanian tigers, were the last surviving member of a family of wolf-like marsupials that once hunted across all of Australia – the mainland as well as Tasmania. Regular readers of this blog (particularly these annual Thylacine Day posts, which we celebrate in the Grant Museum every year) will be familiar with the thylacine’s story, so I won’t go into detail here.

    A very deliberate extinction

    In short, thylacines were accused by Tasmania’s powerful farming lobby of predating sheep, and thereby damaging one of the island state’s principal economies. As a result, in 1830, they established a bounty scheme to encourage people to exterminate them. This policy was later adopted by the government, who (under pressure from the farmers) opted to pay for the bounty scheme themselves from 1888 to 1909. Inevitably over those decades the world’s (then) largest surviving marsupial carnivore’s numbers plummeted. Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week 255: the cottonmouth head

    By Will J Richard, on 2 September 2016

    Hello! Will Richard here blogging away to bring you another specimen of the week. And this one is an excellent example of the classic head in a jar. Timeless.

    LDUCZ-X1336 preserved cottonmouth head

    LDUCZ-X1336 preserved cottonmouth head

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: August 2016

    By Mark Carnall, on 31 August 2016

    August is typically the month that people occupy themselves with science until the sports season begins again in the autumn. In fact the word summer comes from the Proto-Germanic sumur which roughly translates as ‘the season in which we do not occupy ourselves with sports but instead spend a lot of time doing science’* So with so many people doing science this summer, and who aren’t engaged in sport or watching or thinking about sport, I’m hoping that we can fulfil the mission of this blog post series. The humble mission of this monthly blog series featuring underwhelming fossil fish from the Grant Museum collection is:

    all I’m asking you to do is look at it, observe it, take some time to ponder upon it and perhaps tell a friend about it. Together we’ll increase the global fossil fishteracy one fossil fish at a time.

    Regular readers of this series will know that this isn’t sell-out science. There’s no record breakers here. All we have is a rather dull fossil fish to contemplate. Will we learn something? Probably not. Will it pass the time? Depends how fast you read I guess. So without further ado, loosen your belt of expectation and let’s see this month’s fragmented fossil fish. Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week 254 : Tailless Whip Scorpion

    By George W G Phillips, on 26 August 2016

    Hello again all! This Friday I present to you the spectacular and highly misunderstood tailless whip scorpion as my Specimen of the Week. I hope not only to describe some of its most interesting features, but also to slightly alleviate the concerns of any aspiring rain forest explorers out there who may be of an arachnophobic disposition: this one’s harmless. Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week 253 : Moroccan phosphate fossils

    By Tannis Davidson, on 19 August 2016

    LDUCZ-V1467 Moroccan phosphate fossil label

    LDUCZ-V1467 Moroccan phosphate fossil label

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is not one, but 48 individual specimens which make up a display box highlighting various fossil teeth from Morocco.  Display boxes of this sort are not uncommon as they are a visually appealing way to showcase numerous small specimens not to mention an entrepreneurial solution to add value to otherwise inexpensive individual fossils. The Grant Museum’s display box is a rather nice example of this type containing fossil teeth of 19 different species of fish and marine reptiles: Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week 252 – The babirusa skull

    By Paolo W Viscardi, on 12 August 2016

    Happy Friday everyone! This week I’ve chosen a specimen of the week that has been used as an icon for the Grant Museum of Zoology and which represents one of the weirder looking critters with which we share the world – a species so strange that it grows its teeth through its face and on the rare occasion, back into its own head. That’s right, it’s the…

    LDUCZ-Z111 Babyrousa babyrussa skull

    LDUCZ-Z111 Babyrousa babyrussa skull

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week 251: the electric eel

    By Will J Richard, on 5 August 2016

    Hello blog-folks. Will Richard here picking another favourite from the 68,000 options that make up the Grant Museum. And this time it’s a shocker. Literally.

    LDUCZ-V252 preserved electric eel

    LDUCZ-V252 preserved electric eel

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Why Pokémon Go is a gift to museums

    By Jack Ashby, on 2 August 2016

    Pidgeotto on the loose in the Tanks at Tate Modern (C) Jack Ashby

    Pidgeotto on the loose in the Tanks at Tate Modern
    (C) Jack Ashby

    As a museum person and member of UCL’s Digital Humanities team, I was recently asked to make a brief contribution to an article in The Guardian about the impact of Pokémon Go on museums. I argued that the new smartphone game has been a gift to the museum sector, and I thought I would expand on that here.

    Since it was released in the UK last month, Pokémon Go has been nothing short of a phenomenon. It is impossible to walk down a street and not spot people gazing at their screens as they try to catch digital creatures or stock up on supplies as they pass Pokéstops. It is the Pokéstop aspect of the game that I believe is the gift that museums have been given.

    The gift of Pokéstops

    Read the rest of this entry »