Posted by: DmitriLogunov | June 29, 2020

Star objects of our collection – Giant Japanese Spider Crab

Entomology Manchester

Spider_Crab_MM Fig. 1. The male of Giant Japanese Spider Crab, Macrocheira kaempferi, from the collection of the Manchester Museum. Donated by Dr J.H. Ashworth in January 19th, 1904 (accession no. G1016). © Manchester Museum.

The Giant Spider Crab, Macrocheira kaempferi (family Inachidae) (Fig. 1), is not only the largest crustacean but the largest living arthropod (i.e., an invertebrate animal with articulated legs) in the world. In Japan, the crab is known as “Taka-ashi-gani” which means “Tall-legged crab”. The body of these giants can be up to 37-40 cm long, 3.8 m in leg span and 19 kg in weight; the average leg span of the crabs caught by fishermen is 1-1.2 m. Males are larger than females, with larger claws and narrower body. See here and herefor more details about crab morphology.

Giant Spider Crabs live on the sandy and rocky seabed off the Pacific side of the Japanese islands (

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Posted by: DmitriLogunov | December 11, 2019

Creepy, Crawly and… Crunchy?

Entomology Manchester

Insects_as_Food A caterpillar (the witchery grub) of the Carpenter Moth, family Cossidae (left), and the Giant Water Bug (Belostoma sp.) (right) from the insect collections of the Manchester Museum.

The following story was prepared by Jamie Burnett, the third year undergraduate student of the University of Manchester, who spent few months in the Manchester Museum’s Entomology Department in 2019 helping us out as a volunteer.

In their book, “Man Eating Bugs”, Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio ask a Ugandan policeman named David to try some palm worms they have collected; he refuses vehemently, finding the idea off-putting. Faith then asks if he eats termites or grasshoppers, which he enthusiastically admits he does – “Yes, they are very good” (Menzel et al., 1998). Why is he perfectly happy to eat one type of insect, but another is repulsive to him? This is a useful example of how a person’s…

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Posted by: DmitriLogunov | December 10, 2019

Our visitors – flies and the effect of Yellow Rattle

Entomology Manchester

Daniel_Hall_10_2019 Daniel Hall working in the Manchester Museum’s Entomology Department (October 2019).

The Manchester Museum’s Entomology Department welcomes all kinds of visitors. Yet researchers represent the bulk of them. They not only use our collections for their scholarly, insect-related research, but also help with identifying and updating the nomenclature of our huge invertebrate collections. Here is a short report on one of the Masters students, Daniel Hall from the Manchester Metropolitan University, who spent a week in the department familiarizing himself with the British flies (Diptera).

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Recently I had the pleasure of spending a week working within the Entomology department at Manchester Museum, using the facilities and collections in research for my Masters dissertation project in Biological Recording at Manchester Metropolitan University. The project involves the identification of Diptera (true flies) specimens that were collected as part of an experimental study of the effect of Yellow Rattle, Rhinanthus minor L…

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Posted by: DmitriLogunov | May 14, 2019

Neither male, nor female

Entomology Manchester

Weaving through mazes of ancient-looking cabinets, the ever-present scent of mothballs permeating the air, one can only begin to comprehend the breadth and magnitude of the Museum of Manchester’s entomological collection of 2.5 million specimens. Much of it was donated or bequeathed from individual collections, and as such, allows a fascinating representation of the history of entomology around the world. By studying these collections, we can not only gain insight into the insects themselves, we can reveal peculiarities about the contexts in which they were collected. In today’s blog post, I would like to introduce you to a drawer of particular interest, originating from the collection of Mr. Joseph Sidebotham.

Image_01_Sidebotham Josef Sidebotham, the frontispiece from Grindon’s (1886) memoir

Joseph Sidebotham (1824 – 1885) was a Mancunian businessman with a broad range of interests including, but certainly not limited to, natural history (Cook, 2015). A member of numerous scientific…

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Posted by: Rachel | April 16, 2019

City Nature Challenge comes to Greater Manchester!

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This year the City Nature Challenge comes to Greater Manchester. This is a worldwide biological recording event, organised globally by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the California Academy of Sciences.

Between 26th and 29th April, over 150 cities worldwide will be competing to find and record urban wildlife. We will be pitting our wildlife spotting skills against the likes of San Francisco, Rome, Lima, Hong Kong, Liverpool and London.

There are two ways to get involved in this fun and friendly competition. You can take part independently using the iNaturalist app to record any wildlife you spot over that weekend. You could record the ladybirds living on your balcony, the birds in your local park or the mushrooms you’ve seen on a walk in the countryside. The app is available to download at www.inaturalist.org.

You can also get involved by joining us at one of the many wildlife recording events taking place that weekend in parks and greenspaces across Greater Manchester; held by some of the region’s leading conservation organisations.

On Thursday 25th April, Manchester Museum will be holding a pre-challenge evening celebrating urban wildlife. On Friday 26th recording events will be held at Moston Fairway, Sandilands Wood, Smithills Estate and University of Manchester campus. On Saturday 27th there will be recording events at Blackley Forest, Sandilands Woods, Smithills Estate, Alexandra Park and Whitworth Park. On Sunday 28th recording events will be held at Fletcher Moss Park and Dove Stone reservoir. Finally on Monday 29th recording events will be held at University of Manchester campus and Chorlton Ees.

Anyone is welcome to come along and have a go. More information on events taking place that weekend can be found by heading to www.eventbrite.org and searching for ‘Greater Manchester City Nature Challenge‘.

Anyone who joins in will be helping to make a difference, mapping where wildlife lives in the city. The information from this weekend will be added to the UK’s biodiversity database, becoming part of the data used to protect nature.

Stuart Fraser, Environmental Records Officer for Greater Manchester Local Records Centre (GMLRC) said: “Recording your nature sightings is a great way for anyone to contribute to conservation. GMLRC uses records to highlight important areas for wildlife in the region; we produce protected/priority species reports for ecological consultants on Planning Applications, and they can help identify sites to be considered by GM districts for regional SBI status (Sites of Biological Importance). Records also help owners and organisations manage land for all species, and track how climate change, habitat management and other changes affect biodiversity over time – locally and nationally, as our records feed into the national NBN database.”

Posted by: henrymcghie | January 2, 2019

Arts Council England’s ten-year strategy consultation

Arts Council England, which provides significant funding for English museums as well as many other types of organisation and institution, has a consultation open on how it should be directing its funding for the period 2020–30. I put in a submission, and thought some people might find it interesting to know how I responded.

Arts Council England has identified a number of key challenges, but overall it was not clear how these had been selected, or how they connected with the wider landscape (Political, Environmental, Sociological, Technical, Legal, Economic considerations, I prefer ‘environmental’ to have the first ‘e’, rather than economic).

ACE statement: Across the population there are significant differences in how ‘arts and culture’ are defined, understood and valued.

My answer: Even within the sector, people talk about ‘arts’, which many museums and museum workers feel excluded from. It’s unclear how ACE supports science and incorporates science into policy, funding and support.

ACE statement: The business models of publicly funded cultural organisations are often fragile and generally lack the flexibility to address future challenges and opportunities, especially those relating to operating within the digital economy and within an environment of declining public funding.

My answer: The presumption here is one of declining public funding. That paradigm absolutely needs to be challenged. The cultural sector should not simply be going along with declines in funding in one of the largest economies in the world. That decline in funding underlies many of the issues that are hinted at in the questions above. Participation, in society and in culture, is easier for some than others. Funding is required to ensure that those who are less able to access culture, for whatever reason, are encouraged and empowered to do so. You really need to challenge the presumption that culture and society exist within the economy, rather than the other way around. This is especially important in a cultural sector, where people are recognised as individuals and citizens, with a right to participate in culture (as is outlined in the Declaration of Human Rights), rather than a consumerist, capitalist starting point.

ACE statement: Many cultural organisations are retreating from innovation, risk-taking and sustained talent development.

My answer: There is less and less funding available. Outputs are directly proportionate to inputs.

When asked which of four changes I thought was the most important, I chose “Culture and creativity make a positive difference to society, to the economy and to people’s lives. This case must be made more effectively, and demonstrated through stronger evidence.”

My answer: The focus should be on supporting culture and creativity. ACE should provide funding, easily, and proportionately, but should acknowledge that there are responsibilities to support maintenance and care and access to existing collections, rather than being solely focussed on new directions. Culture and creativity will make the greatest difference when they provide cobenefits for local and global perspectives and agendas. The questions could be stronger by making reference to e.g. UDHR, Sustainable Development Goals, Paris Agreement. The consultation seems disconnected from real world issues and agendas that the UK is already signed up to, and that the cultural sector will be essential in enabling.

In a further selection, I selected “People from every background benefit from public investment in culture” as being particularly important.

My further explanation: There is very little between the range of answers above. As in my previous answer, ACE funding will make the biggest impact on the biggest number of people by addressing contemporary issues. For example, climate change will impact unfairly, so that the poorest and most disadvantaged, both within the UK and globally, will suffer the impacts most. By supporting adaptation and encouraging maximum global action to meet the challenge set out in the Paris Agreement, and to which the UK has signed up to, will ensure that ‘people from every background benefit from public investment in culture’.

In a section on the ACE challenge of “Creative R&D and talent development are flourishing… Arts Council England will invest in organisations that consistently identify, nurture and support creative talent and collections expertise.”

I answered: “This question has been the first mention of collections I have noticed. The questions are geared towards cultural experiences in a rather narrow sense, as the experiences of those visiting museums etc. The consultation could benefit from acknowledging that museums, culture and collections are many things to many people, and that the diverse usage of them is a key strength. Also, beneficiaries may be much wider, so may be e.g. beneficiaries of research carried out on museums and collections, contributions of collections data to e.g. nature conservation assessments and nature conservation policy/action. Again, if the presumption, as in previous questions, is of declining public funding, there needs to be a sense of reality about how R&D and talent are being developed and supported.”

ACE identified the following key challenge: “Cultural organisations are dynamic, focused on the future, and relevant… Cultural leaders will develop the skills and expertise to guide and govern enterprising and environmentally sustainable organisations.”

I answered: You could have benefited from reference to the Paris Agreement, Sustainable Development Goals here. The UK is a signatory to these, the cultural sector will be key to there having any chance of success. ACE really must step into a role of supporting these. They already exist and are a tremendous opportunity and challenge, yet this consultation seems unaware of them as a context.

ACE challenge: “England continues to increase its global reputation for the quality of its creative industries… Arts Council England will invest in an infrastructure of cultural buildings that are fit-for-purpose, and used collaboratively for the wider benefit of creative practitioners and audiences.”

My answer: These questions are predicated on growth, while earlier questions were predicated on reduced public funding. Those two are not sustainable [together]. Nor, indeed, is a model based on growth. The question should, to my mind, be framed in terms of purpose, as having a sustainable purpose and commitment to excellence will be the measures of a cultural sector. Focus on a cultural industry will only drive exclusion, and a market-driven approach that will sustain and increase barriers to access to cultural experiences.

ACE proposed to ‘Prioritise the proposed outcomes’

My answer: These outcomes are almost all internally focussed. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out a hugely ambitious programme to ensure that poverty is ended, there is zero hunger, there is a prosperous economy, climate change is held within 1.5 degrees, and biodiversity is protected, all by 2030. They are set out as an invitation and challenge for all sectors of society, everywhere, to participate. I really strongly encourage you to connect with the SDGs and Paris Agreement, I am rather surprised that they are not mentioned here.

Finally: Achieving the outcomes

I suggested: Be more attentive to external agendas as opportunities, and the context within which the cultural sector exists.

Provide challenge funding to promote e.g.work between nature conservation agencies and natural history museums.

Fund documentation as a form of digital access. There is abundant evidence that digital access enables use.

Focus on the SDGs and Paris Agreement.

Fund individuals and consortia, not necessarily institutions, as they are where change will come from.

Clarify support for e.g. museums, science

The Sustainable Development Goals were first signed up to, including by the UK, in 2015, 3 years ago; they have 11 years left to be achieved. ACE seems almost unaware of them. I put in a submission to the Environmental Audit Committee recently on the implementation of the SDGs in the UK. DCMS will not currently factor activity from ACE-funded organisations into the reporting. This is a missed opportunity. If ACE really wants people to participate in culture and society, the SDGs are the best agenda around to connect with. Climate change experts have said there is roughly 12 years to reverse global climate emissions. ACE should be supporting the rapid, deep transition that is required to meet this, the ultimate societal challenge.

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Hello- there’s been some interest in the museum world about finding out more about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how to connect with them, and how museums can contribute. This is great news as they are a tremendous opportunity, and there is a tremendous need to help them along. There was a great report done last year by UNESCO, which is really easy to use. It introduces the background to the SDGs, a super-ambitious agenda to create a world that integrates people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnerships, with a target date of 2030.  The SGD agenda is an open agenda: no-one needs to be invited to take part, and everyone has a role to play. Museums have some particular roles to play, as they reach large numbers of people, have unique resources, are used as the basis of research, and bring people and partners together. They occupy middle ground between the state and people’s lives, and can provide challenge and support to encourage and empower people to participate in creating the world they want.

ESD learning objectives

The 17 goals should be considered alongside one another: it’s not a good idea to cherry pick a small number of targets without considering the bigger picture. The SDG agenda really is a very beautiful and aspirational agenda that invites people to use their heads, hearts and hands to create a sustainable future.

Target 4.7 is a good starting point for museums: 4.7 By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non- violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.

I also really like target: 12.8 By 2030, ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature.

The UNESCO report has been very, very cleverly put together, as it recognises that people’s  engagement with topics is not like some kind of class that has a start and finish like a lesson. Rather, people’s ongoing engagement is a combination of cognitive (thinking), affective (feeling) and behavioural (doing) aspects, all operating together. This is the definition of engagement I prefer to use, as its success is defined by how activities support people’s ongoing engagement.

Anyone interested in how the SDGs could be implemented in museums, or anywhere else for that matter, should have a look at the report, as it really is very useful for planning educational activities linked to sustainability and the SDGs.

Good luck!

Henry

Hello,

Last year I sent out a survey to evaluate the nature conservation mission of UK museums: how they aim to support nature conservation, and manage their environmental impacts – both positive and negative. This was based on an expansion of a set of eight questions posed by Brian Miller and colleagues in an article published in 2004. The final report is available at this link:

Evaluating the nature conservation mission of museums FINAL

The report outlines what has been done – and what could be done – to contribute towards a future where people and nature flourish together. It aims to support a number of the Sustainable Development Goals. Anyone interested in this should get in touch with me at henry.mcghie@manchester.ac.uk.

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The report is intended to be useful for museum workers of all kinds, museum funders, policy makers, researchers and practitioners in related fields. As the report says, we need to ask the right questions in search of the solutions, and we need to work together to make them happen. The report is part of a suite of initiatives intended to help museums connect their work with constructive action towards environmental sustainability and climate action, called ‘Museum Partnerships for Future Earth’.

Fig_01

Key findings

What could be done …. and what has been done

The museum sector could support nature conservation and environmental sustainability by connecting with related policies and strategies at a sectoral and individual museum level, writing them into museum policy and strategy, and by championing this work from the top.

There is a strong feeling among museum workers that funders and the sector should incorporate nature conservation and environmental sustainability into the work of museums, but a similarly strong feeling that funders and the wider sector don’t currently recognise this role or its importance. Nevertheless, many museums, and many museum workers, connect their work with these subjects, and care strongly that they do so, promoting species conservation, climate change action and protecting endangered habitats. Museums with natural heritage collections play a particularly clear role in this area of work.

Realising the potential of museums requires a commitment of resources – financial and people – to engaging people with issues and action relating to nature conservation and environmental sustainability (for example through staffing, exhibitions, events for the public, activities for schools and community engagement) and to realise the potential of these collections for researchers.

More national and university museums commit funding dedicated to engaging people with nature conservation and environmental sustainability, when compared to local authority and trust/independent museums. Museums with natural heritage collections play a particularly key role in providing people with such opportunities, with opportunities to do more.

Collections relating to the natural world and people’s use of it are a key resource for museums, and for society. They not only document natural diversity, but are a creative tool for exploring ideas for a positive and sustainable future. They are an invaluable tool for public groups, policy makers and researchers seeking to understand natural diversity and the ways it is impacted by environmental change.

Huge numbers of preserved animals, plants, rocks, minerals and fossils are to be found in UK museums, amounting to something like 137 million individual specimens/objects. Most are to be found in national museums and the larger university museums. These are unique and irreplaceable, although they no doubt include some low quality material. These collections can support nature conservation and environmental sustainability, as can objects revealing people’s diverse relationships and interactions with nature, and the changing natural environment.

In order to be able to use collections effectively, museums need to have people skilled in environmental issues, who care about nature conservation, and who can communicate effectively with members of the public on such topics.

People trained and skilled in nature conservation and environmental sustainability are mostly to be found in museums with natural heritage collections. However, many such collections are looked after by people not confident in nature conservation or environmental sustainability, and few museums (including those with natural heritage collections) specify an interest in these topics when recruiting.

Museums can support education around nature conservation and environmental sustainability at all levels, and for a wide range of interests.

Many museums, notably those with natural heritage collections, support college and university education. Many natural heritage museums also deliver such teaching.

Museums form the basis for a great deal of research that supports nature conservation and environmental sustainability, mostly undertaken by external researchers, nationally and worldwide.

UK museums, notably those with natural history collections, probably contribute to 1,000s of research publications each year. These are largely based on explorations of specimens preserved in their collections, exploring natural diversity and environmental change.

Museums use large amounts of resources and there are opportunities to contribute positively to nature conservation and environmental sustainability in the ways these are used, and in terms of how they use their green spaces (where they have any).

Many museums use their green spaces to provide space for nature, encouraging wildlife, and providing opportunities for the public to experience nature directly. Many museums have sought to reduce their environmental impacts, notably their water use, use of electricity and use of paper. Some other impacts, notably those relating to food and their impacts on habitats, remain to be reduced widely.

By working in partnership museums can create opportunities to engage the public with nature conservation research and action.

Museums have a wide range of partnerships with nature conservation organisations and researchers, supporting research, and providing opportunities to communicate research.

Museums exhibitions can connect large numbers of people with nature conservation and environmental sustainability.

Many museums exhibit nature conservation and environmental sustainability, but often as a relatively small part of their exhibition programme. Museums with natural heritage collections often have ongoing support for nature conservation as a key outcome of such exhibitions.

By modelling and communicating support for nature conservation and environmental sustainability, museums can help promote and support the wider adoption of such activities.

Few museums aim to model good behaviour in terms of nature conservation or environmental sustainability; even fewer aim to be leaders in this area.

The need for effective nature conservation, and to engage people effectively with nature conservation and environmental sustainability, is growing ever more important. Conservation efforts are not making sufficient headway to halt the ongoing loss of biodiversity. Climate action will need to accelerate in order to reduce the impacts of climate change, and to help people, species and habitats adapt to change where possible.

Much remains to be done to connect museums with nature conservation and environmental sustainability, in order to support these areas more effectively. This will require funding, expertise and, most importantly, the will to make this happen.

 

I hope you find the report useful.

 

Posted by: DmitriLogunov | May 11, 2018

Taxonomic Research and Collection Care

Entomology Manchester

When museum natural history collections are talked about, it is usually stressed upon how they are important for research (taxonomic, environmental and biodiversity, in particular), education and culture-related enquires (art, design, etc.) – e.g., see here. The following short video could also give you some ideas about the role of museum collections in taxonomic research (created by Jonathan Joseland, an undergraduate student at The University of Manchester, 2018).

However, much less is known about the importance of taxonomic research for collection care and development, particularly for the collections of such diverse groups as plants, molluscs, insects, crustaceans, and other arthropods. There are three main reasons why continuous taxonomic research on natural history collections is essential for their maintenance.

Fig_01 Fig. 1. A store box with undetermined specimens of ladybirds (Coccinellidae), one of some 300 store boxes with over 50,000 undetermined specimens of foreign beetles retained at the Manchester…

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Posted by: DmitriLogunov | May 11, 2018

Why do museums have natural history collections?

Entomology Manchester

Log_Fig_01_smal Fig. 1. View of an insect collection area in the Manchester Museum.

Natural history collections include specimens from the subject areas of zoology, botany, entomology, palaeontology and mineralogy (Fig. 1), as well as any documentation associated with them (e.g., card indexes of related museum collections, field notebooks, correspondence files, diaries, etc). Such collections exist not only in museums and herbaria, but also in botanical gardens, arboretums, zoos and aquaria. However, live animal or plant collections are outside the scope of this short essay. It is worth mentioning though that more than 70 known British zoos and aquaria house some 64,000 vertebrate species.

There are more than 200 public and private museums in the UK with natural history collections, 50 of them hold significant foreign material. Recent estimates suggest that the number of natural history specimens in British museums exceeds 100 million. Worldwide, there are more than three billion! Many of…

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