Month: November 2012

Ash dieback

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Ash dieback confirmed across the UK this week. 

We have several specimens of Ash tree (Fraxinus excelsior) in the herbarium at the Manchester Museum.  Above, a boxed ash leaf, twig, seeds and timber (no collector or date, was probably used for a gallery display or education).

Below, a herbarium sheet of Ash collected in Levenshulme, a area of Manchester, in 1863 by Charles Bailey:



And another from Fakenham, Norfolk, collected  in1862 by William Notcutt:


A couple good guides to Ash dieback by the Forestry Commission, and another by the Royal Horticultural Society.

The thermo lignum technique

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Some of the birds coming off the bird gallery this week are treated with the eco-friendly thermo lignum technique which uses warm air to eradicate pests.
Here are some photos of the stuffed birds being packed in cardboard boxes for treatment:

How to wrap an albatross

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Not botany, but sometimes I get to work with colleagues in zoology.  Currently at the Manchester Museum the Bird Gallery is being taken down, and its to be replaced by Nature’s Library in April 2013.  So all those birds coming off display have to be treated before they either a) go into storage or b) go back on display.

Many of the birds are to be frozen.  They have to be double wrapped in plastic, and the albatross was a two person job.  We took photos at each stage.

We needed scissors, tape, gloves and A LOT of plastic…

We filled any large gaps with tissue paper, to get rid of as many air holes as possible….

Then we wrap! First quite loosely to make sure its all covered….

Wrap it tighter, trying to exclude as much air as possible…. (with Andrew Lawton, Curatorial trainee)

We have to wrap each bird twice so we begin the process again!

Albatross done!

Lichen surveying in Etherow Country Park

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Recently I was lucky enough to be asked to a lichen identification and surveying day at the beautiful Etherow Country Park by Samuel Bolton of the Greater Manchester Ecology Unit.

Etherow Country Park

The aim of the event was to pilot a survey technique developed by Steve Price of the British Lichen Society to evaluate woodlands for lichen biodiversity. While there are suveys available which assess air quality by studing the lichens present, these are not quite right for answering the question of whether a woodland is particularly good hotspot for finding interesting lichens. This event was part of a larger project (run by the Greater Manchester Ecology Unit and funded by Natural England) which is seeking to develop methods which would produce informative surveys of woodland wildlife that can be conducted by volunteer groups(e.g. Friends of ….)  and do not require in depth specialist knowledge.

Training essentials

The day began with a very interesting talk by Steve Price and the opportunity to study some example of lichen species, including some from his personal herbarium. After that, we were set loose in the woods of the park to test out Steve’s new surveying technique. This centered on being able to recognise lichens with different forms of growth e.g. beard lichens, leafy lichens or shrubby lichens and assigning a score for each type based on an estimation of their abundance.

Beard lichen in the Herbarium

The trees we surveyed had an OK to good diversity of lichens present, but we only had time to survey near the lake and the carpark so I imagine the woodlands in the rest of the park may be even more interesting.

Lichens through a hand lens