Month: August 2012

Internship at the Herbarium.

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Hello, my name is Nicole and over the past couple of months I’ve been an intern at the Manchester Museum Herbarium. In September I’ll be going into my second year of my Neuroscience degree at the University of Manchester and I had decided to keep my summer busy and productive by gaining some valuable work experience. I can’t think of a Life Science which differs so much to Neuroscience than that of Botany, but I feel it is important to be open-minded in education and plant science is not a subject I neither have nor will encounter much due to the nature of my course. 

I have been working here in the Herbarium for about 6 weeks now, thus nearing the end of my internship. I’ll be sad to leave, for it has been a fun and interesting experience working here and I have met some lovely people. It has been fascinating to see how the museum operates behind closed doors – something I would not have known without the internship.

Photograph of glass plate negative of what is thought to be Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester.

   

Photograph of a glass plate negative, of a man (in old-fashioned clothing) stood next to a tree.

I’ve been helping both Rachel and Lindsey with photographing objects/specimens, cleaning and repairing specimen boxes, and putting specimens away. Primarily, I have been sorting through and documenting the British Lichen and Foreign Lichen collections onto the museum database. I have been recording the location of where each lichen specimen (if stated) has been found; usually converting town/county name to vice county number with the British lichens, and to country code for the foreign lichens. My geographical knowledge has improved considerably.

Clean and repaired boxes!

Lichens are organisms formed through a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and a phototroph (an organism able to make its own food from sunlight) such as algae or cyanobacteria. Symbiosis is a mutual give-and-recieve relationship between two or more biological species. The fungus provides protection and shelter to the phototroph, which repays the favour by feeding nutrients to the fungus. I was surprised at how variable the lichens are in shape and size – from flat ‘plate-like’ discs to long fibrous hairs. Lichens are valuable to the environment as they help prevent desiccation, and are good indicators of air pollution.

British Lichen, Amygdalaria pelobotryon, found on Ben Loyal in Scotland.
Foreign Lichen, Alectoria jubata, found in Tyrol, Austria.
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The Museum Allotment in August

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It’s raining on the allotment volunteers again. Still, they’re a dedicated bunch and despite the drizzle, here they are this afternoon tidying up more nasturtiums, picking peas and finding hidden potatoes. We’ve now got some huge sunflowers planted up around the allotment courtesy of our friends at the Turing sunflower project at MOSI. This year Manchester mathematicians are hoping to study the spiral patterns visible in sunflower seedheads to see if the numbers match to the interesting Fibonnacci number sequence. Later in the Autumn we will be hosting sunflower spiral counting events. If you have  grown a sunflower this summer why not get involved with this huge science project?

Holey Horse Chestnuts

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When looking at the lovely photos Lorna took of the Whitworth Park bioblitz, I spotted that she’d caught something rather interesting in her pictures of horse chestnut leaves. When pictured against the light you can clearly see dark blobs surrounded by paler leaf tissue.

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This damage is caused by the horse chestnut leaf miner (Cameraria ohridella). The larvae of this moth live between the upper and lower surface of the leaf eating to create a mine which appears as the paler leaf tissue. These larvae then pupate inside the leaf before emerging as tiny moths. In these photos of the leaves in Whitworth Park, the pupae are at the centre of the darkest spot in the mine.

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After spotting these mines, I went back to the park to collect some leaves to show at the Museum’s ‘Nature Discovery’ Big Saturday and found huge swarms of these little moths all over the lower branches of the tree. Hopefully we will manage to collect some to add to the Museum’s entomology collection to match the damaged leaves that I’m preparing to add into the herbarium collection.

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This moth was originally discovered in Macedonia, and has worked it’s way across Europe (probably with help from people and their cars). It arrived in the UK in 2002 when it was first spotted causing damage to trees on Wimbedon Common. Ten years later and the moth seems to be thriving in Manchester too. I’m going to add our sighting of the infested tree in Whitworth Park to the data for the Conker Tree Science – Alien Moth Survey Mission. If you have a horse chestnut tree growing near you, you can add your tree to the survey too – whether or not the moths have managed to find it.

Congratulations Jamaica!

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To celebrate 50 years of Jamaican independence, as well as Jamaica being home to the fastest woman on the planet and the two fastest men, I thought I’d share some Jamaica-inspired illustrations and specimens.

This beautiful blue flower is the national flower of Jamaica -roughbark or common lignum-vitae (Guaiacum officinale). Now international trade in this species is prevented, but this tree was overexploited for centuries for both its very dense hard timber and for the medicinal resin it produces.

And this lovely illustration is of the flowers of the blue mahoe (Hibiscus elatus), the national tree of Jamaica. The blue refers to the interestingly coloured streaks in the timber which make it highly decorative for woodworking.