Day Three: Botany

Figure 1: Here’s one I prepared earlier: laying out plant specimens for mounting. (Photographed with the permission of the Natural History Museum).

Day three at the Natural History Museum involved working with Jovita and Ranee in the Botany department.  They were only too happy to share their good practice and expertise with Kirsty and I.  Our first task undertaken involved laying out plant specimens, collected recently by Alex Monro from Costa Rica.  The specimens, like the member of the Malvaceae family shown above, were laid out in readiness for mounting by Felipe.  During this process, Ranee offered us some tips on plant identification.

Other activities undertaken include ‘laying in’, which is the filing of specimens in the filing cabinet (see below); and sorting plant specimens into family and genus ready for filing.

Figure 2: These are where the seed-plant specimens are now stored. State-of-the-art, temperature controlled (below 17 degrees celcius), and pest free; they are arranged geographically using the APG III classification system. (Photographed with the permission of the Natural History Museum).

Figure 3: and where they used to be stored…! (Photographed with the permission of the Natural History Museum).

The storage of specimens in the Darwin centre took a long time and a lot of people to implement; and still isn’t entirely complete!  Jovita is the manager of the Cryptogams (non-taxonomic name for a plant reproducing by spores); which include mosses, lichens and algae.  Though Cryptogams including fungi, the NHM does not have many of these (a Kew speciality); but instead they do have corals (originally classified as plants!) This part of the herbarium was housed in more ‘traditional’ cases; but contained many interesting examples such as the colourful seaweed (algae) below:

Figure 4: I don’t think you’d find this served at your local Chinese restaurant!

During our time preparing specimens for mounting we were exposed to one of the unique features of the Darwin centre which involve being exposed to visitors looking at your work.  This is with the intention of providing a link between visitors and the scientific research that goes on at the museum.

Figure 5: Here I am (you can see me!) on the ‘other side’ as it were; as a visitor looking in to where Kirsty and I were doing our mounting preperation work. (Photographed with the permission of the Natural History Museum).

I had a very rewarding and informative day in botany and am looking forward to an equally stimulating day in entomology tomorrow!

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About Trainee Curator

I will be writing a blog about the next twelve months spent as a trainee biological curator based at Manchester Museum.
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