environment

Graphene’s high-rise meadow

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Green roof on the roof terrace of the Graphene Institute

Back in June, perhaps some of the Graphene Week 2015 attendees spotted this little patch of wildness on the roof of the National Graphene Institute at the University of Manchester. This green roof was installed as the building was nearing completion in 2014 and is part of the commitment to improving the University’s campus as a habitat for wildlife. The University’s green roof policy can be found here, along with the other University policies about environmental sustainability.

Bee on Birdsfoot trefoil

Ahead of Graphene Week, the Biodiversity Working Group put together some information about pollinators, their requirements and the urban environment in order to have a sign in place for the delegates to read. This roof is particularly designed to attract bees, both wild bees and the honey bees from hives on roofs of the Manchester Museum and Whitworth Art Gallery.

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The roof was created with a ‘sedum and wildflower’ mat made up with 21 different species. The low-growing sedums are now most visible around the sloping edges of the meadow, and taller species seem to dominate towards the middle. However, perhaps that’s not true; the sedums may be just hidden by the taller growing plants.

Maiden pink flower

This summer, the Faculty of Life Sciences has arranged for a student to survey the roof to see how the plants are distributed.  The Biodiversity Working Group will be continuing to monitor the roof’s progress to see how the composition of plants changes from this baseline. Some plants are likely to thrive, some will struggle and other’s will arrive as seeds blow over the roof or fall off people’s clothing.

Ladybird pupa on Sedum reflexum
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Secrets of the Natural World. Thurs 11 Jun, 6-8pm

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Join us on for an evening in the Museum on Thursday 11th June to uncover secrets from the natural world.

Curiosity drives scientists to try to understand complexity in the natural world. Join us for an evening of science conversation with scientists from The University of Manchester, Richard Bardgett, Reinmar Hager, Jon Pittman and Giles Johnson. Each scientist will be on hand to share their passion for their research, with lightening talks and hands-on demonstrations of their work in understanding complex natural systems, both above and below ground.

“A Journey into the Underworld” will illustrate research around soil ecosystems and carbon cycling, using exhibits of soil profiles and their vast biological diversity. “Mother Knows Best” will illustrate work around the genetics of social behaviour in animals using live invertebrates and choice chambers. “A Clean Sweep” will examine the adaptations of plants to natural radiation and their use in bioremediation. Here visitors will be able to investigate bioremediation of natural radiation using Geiger counters in simulated scenarios. The “The Light Fantastic” will explore how plants respond to their environment, including changing climate, by extracting chlorophylls, measuring chlorophyll absorption spectra and photosynthesis.

This event is supported by the Natural Environment Research Council as part of their Summer of Science.

Book online at mcrmuseum.eventbrite.com or phone 0161 275 2648, free, adults.

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Easter Island Exhibition at Manchester Museum

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Ancient Worlds

Moai Hava and Sam in the World Museum in Liverpool Moai Hava and Sam in the World Museum in Liverpool

Since returning from the Ke EMu conference in Washington on Saturday I’ve been thinking about Manchester Museum’s next temporary exhibition which will be about the stone statues or moai of Rapa Nui or Easter Island. We are in the fortunate position of being able to borrow a statue called moai Hava from the British Museum, and a selection of supporting objects from the BM and other museums. The exhibition will draw upon the results of fieldwork on Easter Island undertaken by Professor Colin Richards of the University of Manchester’s Department of Archaeology. Our ‘Making Monuments on Rapa Nui: the Stone Statues of Easter Island’  exhibition will open in early April 2015 and run for four months in the Museum’s temporary exhibition gallery.

It is incredibly exciting to work with material from Easter Island, which must rank as some of the highest profile…

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Herbarium of the Icelandic Institute of Natural History (or Náttúrufræðistofnun Íslands)

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Getting excited about storage!
Getting excited about storage!

Today I was delighted to have the opportunity to meet Starri Heiðmarsson, the Head of Botany for the Icelandic Institute of Natural History. As well as looking after the herbarium (which is based in Akuyreri), Starri is a lichenologist who spoke to us about his interesting research focusing on seashore lichens.

Rock cut by roadworks highlighting lichen cover on weathered surfaces
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Earlier this year, I listened to the lichenologist Professor Nimis explaining the concept of nunataks to students of the University of Manchester in the Italian Alps  and it is incredible (and quite sobering) to find out that scientists in Iceland are able to study colonisation of emerging nunataks as the Icelandic glaciers retreat.

Poster title
Poster title

However, while in Iceland I am specifically looking at the consequences of introducing invasive species in fragile environments (and collecting specimens of the Nootka lupin as an extreme example) and so I took the opportunity to explore this story further in conversation with Starri.

Gratuitous shot of envelopes and labels!
Gratuitous shot of envelopes and labels!

 

 

Our green pledge at The Firs

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As part of our green pledge work in the museum five of us from the Collections team went  to The Firs (The University of Manchester’s experimental garden).

repotting economic plants at The Firs

Our job was re-potting the economic plants from a display in one of the greenhouses.  Above, Henry and David mixing compost in the potting shed.

Platycerium bifurcatum - staghorn fern

We explored the greenhouses while we were there, and came across this impressive staghorn fern (Platycerium bifurcatum).  Below, carnivorous plants Venus Flytrap and a sundew, and the cactus house.

Venus fly trap and sundew

the cactus house

Being away from the workplace and out in the sunshine (although it was very, very cold) made it a great morning’s work.  I enjoyed working with living plants, getting my hands dirty, and working with different people.   The Firs is a wonderful place to visit.

Botany volunteer Barbara Porter donated her rare fern collection to the Firs when she died.  It was good to see the bench dedicated to her.

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Lindsey and botany intern Alyssa repotting lemongrass plants.

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