Curating mayflies

Figure 1: These are what mayfly nymphs look like!

So my time in Creswell over, I’ve now returned to Manchester to begin my work with the Entomology (insects) department here.  Dmitri Logunov is the curator of Arthropods (an invertebrate having an exoskeleton, segmented body and jointed appendages: that’s arthropods not Dmitri) and Phil Rispin is the assistant curator of arthropods.  One of Dmitri’s predecessors at Manchester was Alan Brindle.

So my time in Creswell over, I’ve now returned to Manchester to begin my work with the Entomology department here. Dmitri Logunov is the curator of Arthropods (an invertebrate having an exoskeleton, segmented body and jointed appendages: that’s arthropods, not Dmitri) and Phil Rispin is the assistant curator of arthropods. One of Dmitri’s predecessors was Alan Brindle.

Alan, who was keeper of entomology between 1961 and 1982, was a prodigious collector of insects and associated families.  He also published many papers and described 240 new species of insect during his time at the museum.

One of the things Alan collected were mayflies (order: Ephemeroptera), so called because one of their number, Ephemera danica, is said to emerge at the same time as the Mayflowers (hawthorn) is in bloom.  They are also famous for their short lifespan as adults (some being as short as just a few hours).  Despite their ephemeral nature, mayflies as a group have been around for a long time (up to 300 million years).  They are also unique in that they have two adult forms; moulting once to leave the water and then again to mate (Buglife 2012)

The mayfly nymphs collected by Alan Brindle from streams and rivers in the north of England haven’t been put onto KE-EMu yet so that is part of the task that I am undertaking now.  I am also replacing the alcohol in the tubes (which hasn’t been done since they were collected in the 1970s!) and counting the number of specimens, leaving a record inside the tube.  Below is a picture of the fume cupboard were I’ll be carrying out the majority of my task (due to the alcohol; and not wanting to be drunk at work).

Figure 2: Mine (and the mayflies!) fume cupboard home for the next few weeks.

I look forward to blogging again soon when I’ve made more headway with my task.  In the meantime, I’ll leave you with Mary Ann Hoberman’s poem about mayflies:

Think how fast a year flies by
A month flies by
A week flies by
Think how fast a day flies by
A Mayfly’s life lasts but a day
A single day
To live and die
A single day
How fast it goes
The day
The Mayfly
Both of those.
A Mayfly flies a single day
The daylight dies and darkness grows
A single day
How fast it flies
A Mayfly’s life
How fast it goes.

References

 

Mary Ann Hoberman’s ‘the Mayfly’ available form the Poetry Foundation website at http://www.poetryfoundation.org/children/article/182334 [accessed 18.07.12]

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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.
This entry was posted in Trainee's diary and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Curating mayflies

  1. Dina Newton-Edwards says:

    A really interesting post, Andrew. It sounds as though you’re really enjoying your work.

  2. Robert says:

    Hi Andrew – interesting blog. How did you apply to become a trainee curator? It looks very fun. I want to be an entomology curator but I’m finding it hard where to start looking for traineeships. Any advice would be warmly welcome.

    • Hi Robert
      Thanks. The HLF funded traineeship is running again this year. It’s the best way of getting into natural history curation (minus the exorbitant fees for an MA!)
      I recommend keeping an eye out on Leceister Museums jobs desk (google it) as I’m sure it will be posted on here. In the meantime, also check out NatSCA (Natural Sciences Collections Association) who part fund the traineeship.
      Unfortunately, I’ve no idea when the traineeship will be advertised so keep your eyes peeled!
      All the best
      Andrew

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