Awe-inspiring museum collections thrill enthusiastic biologists
Following on from their expedition to Honduras, Biology pupils from Fifth Year to Sixth Form visited the Natural History Museum in London at the invitation of Dr Erica McAlister, the Senior Curator for invertebrates and internationally renowned Diptera (flies) expert.
The students were lucky enough to work with her during their week in the Cusuco National Park where she introduced them to techniques such as netting, kick sampling and using dissecting microscopes.
One of the tasks they were asked to complete was pinning flies and jewel wasps for further research and data entry at the museum after the summer.
Despite the early start, the biologists were enthusiastic and curious when it came to visiting the vast collection of specimens the museum houses, both publicly and in the private storage facilities.
They began their visit, after a brief look in the Library and Archive space, in the Diptera Laboratory where they saw their own pinned samples and learnt how these are going to be used – and any future uses that there may be in ongoing investigation.
They were then taken on a private tour through the reptile and amphibian collection, discussing the preserving techniques and the history behind how the specimens arrived at the museum.
An especially interesting sample for the pupils was a small anole lizard, similar to those that the Herpetology Team were investigating last summer, collected by special permit from the Cusuco National Park in 2015.
The final room they visited was one of the most awe-inspiring, with a selection of large fish and invertebrate samples, like a section of colossal squid and the jaw of a great white shark.
This room also contained a large assortment of samples brought back on the HMS Beagle and donated, or dissected, by Charles Darwin himself.
After thanking Erica for her time, the pupils spent the last hour walking around the public galleries before heading home.
In the upcoming weeks the pupils will be delivering a ‘Spotlight On…’ talk in the Library about their experiences.