Friday, February 27, 2015

In the News: The Art of Science

Fig.1. This painting from the Lascaux caves may shed light on the coat patterns of ancient horse species. Image is public domain.

Ancient animals and unique scientific applications are the topics of this week’s #FollowFriday. Read to learn about surviving on an ice floe, the importance of horseshoe crabs, and how ancient mammal species lived and died.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Hiding in Plain Sight

In 2014, researchers at the California Academy of Sciences described 221 new species - only a portion of unique organisms that were discovered last year. Surprisingly, the majority of recently identified species are found in museum collections, not in the wild. Although many natural history museums struggle with a lack of money and curatorial staff, new technologies and a careful eye often reveal secrets hidden within specimen drawers. Researchers returning to the collections notice morphological differences or, increasingly, deviations within the organism's expected genome. With an average gap between novel species collection and identification of 21 years, there is still hope that discoveries can inform conservation efforts to protect habitats and ecosystems.

The following species are only the first to make headlines this year and they hail from natural history collections around the world:

Friday, February 20, 2015

In the News: Museums in Danger

Fig.1. The National Museum of Natural History's Entomology Department houses over 35 million specimens and offers a necessary tool for researchers (Credit: Chip Clark, Smithsonian NMNH)

Natural history collections are valued resources for conservation and research efforts, but they are turning into endangered species themselves. For this week's #FollowFriday, read about the future of natural history museums, an emerging respiratory disease, climate change problems, and more.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Secrets of the Deep

Fig.1. The National Ice Core Laboratory holds 17,000 meters of ice cores from Antarctica, Greenland, and North America. The typical tube contains a one meter ice core section (Credit: Eric Cravens, National Ice Core Lab, USGS)

During the early morning hours of July 16, 1945, an atomic bomb was detonated for the first time ever. This test, completed in a remote corner of New Mexico by scientists with the U.S. Army, marked a significant point in human history. One study contends that this date is the beginning of the Anthropocene, while others believe that the “Age of Humans” may stretch back to around 10,000 years ago with the advent of agriculture. A recent study, however, hopes that work with ice cores may help to inform this debate, as well as show how humans affect the world around them.

Friday, February 13, 2015

In the News: How to Ask for Blood

Fig.1. This blood sample can contribute to ongoing research, but would you give blood if you knew the type of research to which you might donate? (Credit: G.L. Kohuth). 

This week, we read about a marine murder mystery, live saving blood banks, and new ways to handle collections. Check out these stories and more for #FollowFriday.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Collection Spotlight: Schistosomiasis Collection at the Natural History Museum (SCAN)

Fig.1. Adult male and female Schistosoma parasite worms. The female is thinner and fits within the male (Photo courtesy of David Rollinson, NHM)

For our second article in the Collection Spotlight series, we spoke with Dr. David Rollinson and Dr. Aidan Emery. They are researchers at the Natural History Museum, London who work with the Schistosomiasis Collection at the Natural History Museum (SCAN). Here is what they had to say about this collection.

Friday, February 6, 2015

In the News: Under the Sea

Fig.1. This blue crab’s ancestors might have been food for Native Americans and early colonists in North America (Credit: Tonya Lane Rucker/ flickr)

Crabs, mollusks, deep-sea life, oh my! For this week’s #FollowFriday, the ocean takes the spotlight in scientific research. Read about new ways to approach archaeological sites, medical databases, and more:

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Secret Life of Bee Collections

Fig.1. Honey bee (Apis mellifera) collecting pollen (Credit: Jon Sullivan)

Last summer, all 45,000 bumblebees from the National Museum of Natural History’s entomology collections were digitized. This enormous project involved taking pictures of each specimen with their accompanying data and uploading this information into an online database. Collection digitization has become an increasingly popular method for both preserving sample information and offering greater accessibility - in this case, to one of the world’s largest bumblebee collections. With the unfortunate declines in bumblebee and honey bee populations, physical and digital collections offer an opportunity for conservation and research that might otherwise be impossible.