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UCL Culture Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Specimen of the Week: Week Twenty-One

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 5 March 2012

Scary Monkey; Specimen of the Week: Week Twenty-OneThere was evidently a lot of love in the Grant Museum over the half-term period as specimen adoptions went through the roof. The number of new adoptive parents numbered well into double figures. It was a particularly superb week for one particular primate, with three of our five specimens of the species now no longer orphans. To celebrate, they asked me to make them animal of the week. When I informed them that the blog was called Specimen of the week, they elected a representative. Such excellent teamwork skills for such a mini-mammal. So, by popular tiny primate demand, this week’s specimen of the week is: (more…)

Specimen of the Week: Week Twenty

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 27 February 2012

Scary Monkey Another Monday morning closer to March and the beautiful Spring I am looking forward to. I am not a winter person- give me 35 degrees in the shade any day. My house has been freezing over the winter period and I am getting tired of wearing 900 layers and walking around looking like the Michelin (wo)man. How I wish I lived in a warmer country! Another animal that is struggling in its habitat at the moment is long, blubbery and pink-ish.  This week’s specimen of the week is: (more…)

Specimen of the Week: Week Nineteen

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 20 February 2012

Scary MonkeyTomorrow is pancake day- hoorah!! I have grand plans of marmite pancakes for my starter, chilli con carne pancakes for my main course, and golden syrup and chocolate pancakes for pudding. Maybe I’ll have a cheese pancake course too? Mmmmm. Whilst salivating over tomorrow’s dinner I decided it only appropriate to choose a seasonally relevant specimen for the blog. This week’s specimen of the week is: (more…)

Specimen of the Week: Week Fifteen

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 23 January 2012

Scary Monkey: Week FourteenWe have discovered a wide range of animal groups thus far in our specimen of the week journey. Now I feel it is time for something big, furry and ferocious. The thing I like the most about these animals is that whilst they are clever, speedy, voracious, and formidable, they tend to prefer to just turn up and throw their weight around in order to get what they want. It’s not that they don’t have the skills, they just prefer not to use them. The specimen of the week this week is: (more…)

Specimen of the Week: Week Twelve

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 2 January 2012

Scary Monkey: Week TwelveWELCOME TO 2012! Happy New Year to one and all from everyone here at the Grant Museum. We are going to kick the year off with a request from one of our readers. This week’s specimen of the week, the first for the new year, is a mammal but it has large scales. This week’s specimen of the week is… (more…)

Specimen of the Week: Week Ten

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 19 December 2011

Scary MonkeyFreshly back from abroad (got in last night), and not just a little jet-lagged, I bring to you on this quite frankly-freezing-compared-to-Mexico morning a mammalian specimen of the week that was inspired by the beautiful jungles through which I have been trotting for the last two weeks. I hope you are already trying to guess what it is based upon the two surreptitious pieces of information I have just given you; geographical location and habitat. This week’s specimen of the week is… (more…)

Conservation in China? It’s hard to be hopeful

By Jack Ashby, on 14 December 2011

Last night I went to one of the Zoological Society of London’s (ZSL) excellent Wildlife Conservation Series. It was a series of short talks from conservation scientists working in China, under the heading “Conservation in China: Unique Challenges or Global Lessons?

Simply mentioning conservation and China in the same breath regularly causes people with an interest in the environment to raise their hackles. China is a land of staggering numbers; 1.3 billion people; 10 million square kilometres (and yet one of the highest population densities of any country); and only 23 Hainan gibbons. In a place where national parks are managed by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Construction, the human population is a huge sink for traded wildlife, however rare (for pets, food and Traditional Chinese Medicines) and with natural resources under so much stress from development, how can wildlife be expected to survive? Last night we were told that in the Great Leap Forward 10% of the country’s trees were felled in a month. (more…)

Should we only be conserving things that have a potential human benefit?

By Jack Ashby, on 13 December 2011

conserving cures displayI think we know what our visitors will think about this latest QRator question on the iPads, but maybe some non-natural history fans will have different opinions…

Conserving cures?

Should we only be conserving things that have a potential human benefit? (more…)

Specimen of the Week: Week Seven

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 28 November 2011

Scary MonkeyI am pretty excited about this week’s specimen as it is our first specimen suggestion that has come from a reader (who I don’t know personally.) (That is unless it’s someone I know acting under a pseudonym?) (But that’s probably improbable.)


It is an animal of Hollywood acclaim, is famed for its crazy antics, is thought by many to be the second most venomous vertebrate in the world, and two individuals of unknown species once saved the life of our museum assistant. The specimen of the week is… (more…)

Why I like cryptozoologists – an UnConventional view

By Jack Ashby, on 17 November 2011

Big Foot crossing I am very fond of cryptozoologists. I’m not one myself, but I think they are great. I spent Saturday at the Fortean Times’ annual symposium, UnConvention 2011. This is a weekend of talks about all things paranormal, organised by the magazine Fortean Times (The World of Strange Phenomena), but cryptozoology is the reason I went. Well, the reason I went is because two dear friends of the Grant Museum were speaking and I rarely get to see them. One is Richard Freeman, Zoological Director of the Centre for Fortean Zoology (the world’s largest professional cryptozoological organisation) and the other is Brian Regal, an academic historian of science interested in the relationship between science and pseudo-science and the history of Big Foot.

Cryptozoology, for those who don’t know, is the study of hidden animals, or cryptids. The bread and butter of it is animals unknown to science like yetis, sasquatch and Nessie; but also includes animals that are considered extinct, like thylacines; and animals beyond their normal ranges, like big cats on Dartmoor. (more…)