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.
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.
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.