Cymraeg

I have been specialising in a group of marine bristleworms called magelonids for the last 17 years. Magelonids are known as shovelhead worms due to their distinctive spade-like heads that they use to dig in the soft sediments in which they live. Shovelhead worms have a world-wide distribution, generally living in shallow waters, although a few deep water species are known. I study the taxonomy of the group - a branch of science concerned with the classification of all living things, involving describing species, some which may be new to science. Principally I have worked on specimens from Europe, the Indian Ocean and the seas surrounding the Arabian Peninsula. However, more recently I have also been studying the behaviour of this fascinating group, investigating how they feed, burrow and move etc.

I was invited to colloborate with the University Museum of Bergen (UMB), Norway back in 2013 to work on shovelhead worms from Western Africa. The project, The Marine Invertebrates of Western Africa aims to investigate seabed samples from the West African continental shelf from Morocco to Angola. Very little is known about the shovelhead worms of this region, with only three species currently described, all from South Africa. Therefore I visited the lab at UMB to work with the team back in 2015 on MIWA material. The results from that trip were very exciting and approximately 20 different species of shovelhead worms were found in the material, many of which were likely to be new to science. Whilst work on these specimens carried on back at National Museum Cardiff, it was felt that it would be beneficial to re-vist Bergen to carry on the colloborative work. So consequently UMB invited me back to work with them once more this January. So for the last two weeks I have been studying more material from the region in order to find specimens for DNA analysis. DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) is found inside every cell of every living thing and is different in every individual. We can use DNA analysis to see the difference between very similar looking animals and thus we can see whether animals belong to the same or different species. We can then compare this information to what the species looks like (morphology). We have now selected 74 specimens which will be sent off for DNA sequencing and hopefully the results from that will come back shortly.

In the mean time work will begin on drawing, describing and imagining all the shovelhead worms from Western Africa. It is likely that there will be many new species within these samples, so we will need to decide on names for all of them and these will then be published in scientific papers. Once published this information will be used for example, by people monitoring the health of the seabed within this region.

To read more about the work on MIWA shovelhead worms click here 

 

 

Hi Bulb Buddies,

Thank you to those of you who have shared your photos, I’ve posted some of these to the right. It’s exciting that some of your plants have started sprouting. In my last Blog I asked whether you thought that the Crocus or Daffodil would flower first. Now I thought we could take a closer look at the plants themselves, to help us decipher which is which. I’ve attached photos of a young Crocus plant and Daffodils to the right, these are labelled so that you can tell which is which. What are the differences between these two plants?  

Can you tell whether your Daffodil, Crocus or both are sprouting? How tall are they? It’s interesting to compare the height of the two plants, and to see how much they grow each week.

Watch your plants closely so that you can record the date that your plant flowers, and it’s height on that day. You can then upload your flower record to the website. There’s a resource entitled ‘Keeping Flower Records’ under ‘Teaching Resources’ on the Spring Bulbs webpage: https://museum.wales/spring-bulbs/

Another resource that would be interesting to use now that you can see your plants are growing is  ‘Make your own mini-origami booklet’. This resource looks at the lifecycle of a bulb.

If you complete any of the activities from the website or create your own in class, please share them with us. It’s always interesting to see the work you are doing.

Thank you for sending in your weather updates. I’ve answered some of your comments below.

Your comments:

Comments about the weather:

Ysgol Pentrefoelas: Dim llawer o law a chynnes. Pawb yn ymarfer pel-droed at y twrnament ac felly yn gallu bod allan bob dydd. Llawer o blant wedi cael balaclafas capiau anifeiliaid i gadw eu pennau'n gynnes.

Athro’r Ardd: Gobeithio gwnaethoch yn dda yn y twrnamaint! Rwy’n hoffi meddwl am bawb rhedeg o gwmpas hefo capiau anifeiliaid gwahanol! Am anrhegion da i gael am Nadolig!

Arkholme CE Primary School: We had quite a wet week. It was fairly warm and some bulbs are sprouting from last year.

Broad Haven Primary School: We hoped we would have snow. But we just had a really cold wind -Northerly- and a bit of sleet. The sea was very rough and the waves came over the road.

Darran Park Primary: The temperature has lowered throughout the week. There has been a little amount of rain.

YGG Tonyrefail: It wasn't very wet this week but it was quiet warm.

Stanford in the Vale Primary School: Hello, the mornings of this week have been very cold and icy. We have had a rainy week this week. bye,bye

Auchenlodment Primary School: It has been a very warm week even though it's January!

Broad Haven Primary School: A cloudy week until today it is very sunny but cold

Comments about the project:

Ysgol Bro Ogwr: Yr wythnos yma fe dorrodd y dyfais i gasglu dwr ar ddydd Iau pan ddaeth y glaw. Roedd split ynddo a mae'r athro wedi defnyddio duct tape i rhoi fe yn ol at ei gilydd. Fe all hyn olygu bod ein canlyniadau ni ddim yn hollol gywir.

Athro’r Ardd: Diolch am roi gwybod am y broblem. Da iawn i'ch athro am drwsio’r mesurydd glaw . Gadewch i mi wybod os ydych yn angen mesurydd glaw newydd.

Comments about your plants:

Ysgol Pennant: Maer bylbiau yn dechrau tyfu!

St Clare's Catholic Primary School: Some of our bulbs have started to shoot this week!

Ladygrove Park Primary School: nothing growing yet

Professor Plant: Don’t worry Bulb Buddies, I’m sure you will see something soon!

Garstang St. Thomas' CE Primary School: It was a really rainy week but it was quite warm outside. We have noticed some of our bulbs are growing because we can see pointy green shoots poking through the soil!

Arkholme CE Primary School: The bulbs in the pots are just starting to sprout and look healthy. We have just noticed that last years plants are also growing. As usual the days in January have been wet so we think that helped them to grow.

Henllys CIW Primary: Our biggest plant is a daffodil that is 2.5 cm tall.

One of the great things about being a museum curator is that I am always learning new things on the job. I have been a museum curator for 15 years.  In this time, my job has been to care for the mollusca collections but I have also now taken on the role of overseeing the care of the vertebrate collections. This has meant a whole raft of new things to learn and deal with, the least of which being that the animals all have backbones!

I was recently asked on behalf of the Sawfish Conservation Society (SCS) to investigate what sawfish rostra we have in our collections. So what is a sawfish? And what is a rostrum? Sawfish are incredible. They live in tropical and sub-tropical waters across the world. Also known as Carpenter sharks, they are in the same family as stingrays, electric rays and skates. Their characteristic feature is a long narrow nose extension called a rostrum which is lined with sharp teeth. These run down the length of the nose giving it the appearance of a saw.  To make this nose extension all the weirder, it is covered with electro sensitive pores that allow the sawfish to detect the smallest of movements on the sea floor. Little is known about the wild feeding strategies of sawfish, but it seems they skim the surface of the muddy sea floor looking for fish and crustacea, the way we might swish around a metal detector. The rostrum can be also be used to slash and impale anything that might be passing!

It is mostly due to this excellent nose that all sawfish species are listed as endangered or critically endangered. Seen as a curiosity, these sawfish rostra were prized by collectors. Overfishing and habitat destruction have had a devastating impact upon sawfish numbers, they have disappeared from at least 80-90% of the areas they once inhabited. They are now protected in a large number of countries making it illegal to harm them or trade in the removed saws.

The SCS has come up with a plan to help us better understand these amazing animals. They are partnering with researchers and institutes from around the world, which in the UK includes the Deep Aquarium and The Shark Trust, to launch the ‘See a Saw’ Citizen Science Sawfish Project.  Although the removal of saws has had a negative impact on their populations, researchers want to turn this negative into a positive. By using these saws to learn important information about them, they can then be used to conserve the remaining populations. They have the added bonus that the rostra are much easier to measure if the sawfish is not attached!

So with this in mind, I met with Al Reeve and his volunteer Sharon Williams from the South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre (SEWBRec). Al is an avid elasmobranch enthusiast and it is through him that the enquiry first reached me. We set about photographing, measuring and counting the teeth of a whole series of rostra from the collections. It was an amazing experience to handle these specimens and to learn so much from Al about this group of animals. In the future, we may also be taking tissue samples from these rostra to send on to researchers for analysis. I quote Jeff Whitty, Founder and co-administrator of SCS to explain why:

"The data and tissue samples will be used in multiple international studies to further sawfish management and conservation. Sawfish have been suggested to be the most threatened shark or ray in the world and yet we know little about them, which makes conserving the remaining populations difficult. The morphometric data that you provided will help us improve our identification guides of sawfish and will provide us with a better understanding of the distributions of these species. The tissue samples from the rostra will be used by multiple genetic studies that are exploring the differences in the genetic diversity between historic and contemporary populations of various sawfish species. Information from these genetic studies will allow us to better understand if genetic diversity in current populations have declined or remained steady through the years and thus will inform managers if genetic health of a sawfish species or population is a topic of concern."

It is an unbelievably rewarding experience to know that this work can in a small way contribute to the conservation of this most endangered and enigmatic animal. We are often asked why we hold collections in museums. What good can come out of preserving animals? Why would we want to keep such a negative reminder of the wildlife that we have slaughtered on mass in our past? And we can answer that some good can come out of it. To conserve, to learn, to educate, to enthuse, and to help us do things better in the future. It is a great job that I am privileged to hold.

You can learn more about Sawfish by going on the Sawfish Conservation website. You can find out more about the Sawfish project and who else is involved here, or watch this video about measuring saws.

What interesting weather we’ve been having Bulb Buddies! A number of you commented on how warm December was, and you were right! Looking through our results from 2011 to 2016, we can see that December 2016 was the second warmest since the project began. Only December 2015 had higher temperatures! This month also saw the lowest rainfall since the project began, and average sunlight hours.

Why not work out your average readings for November and December and compare them to the average readings shown in the table?  

I have received a number of reports that shoots have begun to appear in your pots! Do you think that Crocus or Daffodils will appear first? Why not look through last year’s report and compare the average flowering dates for Crocus and Daffodils to help you decide which will flower first!

My bulbs have begun to grow too, I’ve attached photos of them to the right. Please share your photos with me so that I can post them in my next Blog.

 

Your comments:

 

A number of you have commented on how warm December and the first week of January were:

Ysgol Pentrefoelas: Pawb allan yn chwarae yn y cae drwy'r wythnos gan ei bod yn braf iawn ac awyr glir bob dydd. Pawb yn rhyfeddu wrth weld mynyddoedd Eryri i gyd efom copaon clir drwy'r wythnos. Tywydd anhygoel o braf.

Athro’r Ardd: Rwy’n falch i glywed oedd gen ti dywydd braf. Mae’n siŵr oedd o’n rhyfedd weld y mynyddoedd heb eira ym fis Rhagfur. O be rwy’n dallt, bydd yr eira yn ôl wythnos yma!

Auchenlodment Primary School: What a warm week for December!

Lawhead School: We had very little rain this week and it was quite sunny too.

Hudson Road Primary School: Lots of warm days but quite windy!

Trellech Primary School: It was a lot warmer this week compared to last week. We can’t wait for our bulbs to grow.

Broad Haven Primary School: This week has been warmer and we have had fog. We break up next week.

Darran Park Primary: The temperature has risen over the week. Not much rainfall this week, quite a dry week.

Boston West Academy: There was barely any rain this week and all of the other weeks did have a lot of rainfall. The temperatures are very weird because they were on and off.

Stanford in the Vale Primary School: Hello, this week it has been warm, amazing because it is getting closer to Christmas. Some of the bulbs have started to pop up. Merry Christmas from Stanford!

YGG Tonyrefail: It was quite a warm week for December.

Severn Primary: We are surprised the plants are beginning to come up because it was so cold last week. It was much, much warmer this week. We had misty rain which didn't seem to end up in the collecting jar.

St Robert's R.C Primary School: Not too cold for the start of the year.

 

Many of you have written to let me know that your plants have started to grow! Fantastic news Bulb Buddies!

Beulah School: Mae rhai o'n bylbiau wedi dechrau tyfu.

Pirnmill Primary School: 20th December 2016. We noticed that three of the daffodils planted in the open ground had shoots poking through the soil. Is this too early?

Professor Plant: Hi Pirnmill Primary. A few schools have reported that their flowers have begun to bud! Mine have just poked their heads out of the soil! They began to appear about this time last year, but this is earlier than preceding years. Well done for looking after them so well!

Auchenlodment Primary School: We started back at school on Thursday. Some of our bulbs have started to sprout, we are all very excited!

Broad Haven Primary School: A frosty start to the week on Tuesday. On Friday it rained all day. Green shoots are appearing.

 

Thank you for all the updates and feedback on the project:

St Paul's C.I.W. Primary: Hello Pr.plant we have had a good week one girl who is a rainfall child said she is having a good time but she is sad that after Christmas she is not going to be a rainfall child so can you stop Mr. Wilson from trying to do that thank you for all your help from K and A.

Professor Plant: Hi K and A. I’m glad to hear that you are enjoying the project! Please thank the rainfall child for all her hard work. Hopefully she will have another role taking readings or logging data! If she is really enjoying the project she could always take her own readings at home. The Met Office have a website where people can share readings they’ve taken: http://wow.metoffice.gov.uk/ Maybe Mr. Wilson would be able to help her the first few times she enters data!

Coppull Parish Primary School: We had a mini disaster this week. The folder with results in was left out overnight in the rain. Although every page was completely sodden, and the file had to be binned. The relevant information was rescued by a group of y5 children including R, M and L.

Professor Plant: Hi Coppull Parish, I’m sorry to hear you’ve had trouble! I’m glad you managed to rescue your readings, well done all! The term planner and other resources are all available on the website, so you can print out new copies if these were badly damaged: https://museum.wales/spring-bulbs/

Tonyrefail Primary School: We lost the rain gage for Monday Tuesday Wednesday sorry

Professor Plant: Not to worry Tonyrefail Primary, I’m glad it turned up! Thank you for letting me know.

Stanford in the Vale Primary School: Hello,Did you have a nice Christmas? Monday, Tuesday we were all off school so that’s why it said no record. It has been really icy in the mornings. Bye Bye.

Professor Plant: Hi Stanford in the Vale Primary. I had a lovely Christmas thank you, did you? Thank you for letting me know why there were missing readings. Keep up the good work!

 

Thank you for all the updates on the weather where you are:

Ysgol Pentrefoelas: Cawsom law mawr iawn Dydd Iau a dydd Gwener. Dymsa'r tro cyntaf inni fethu mynd ALLAN i chwarae y tymor yma!

Garstang St. Thomas' CE Primary School: It was cold and rainy on Tuesday and we stayed in at playtime.

Carnbroe Primary School: Monday was freezing and the ground was solid but the other days were mild and the soil in our plant pots was moist. No sign of our plants blooming.

Darran Park Primary: This week there was quite a lot of rain.

St Paul's C.I.W. Primary:  Hello pr.plant rainfall on Monday we put was 50 but 60 is the real number bi.

Barmston Village Primary School: We have had a big change in temperature this week and got very wet on Thursday!

Arkholme CE Primary School: It has been cold and a bit wet apart from Tuesday. Hopefully it will snow soon .we have enjoyed it.

 

Keep up the good work Bulb Buddies,

Professor Plant

Happy New Year!

I have previously been blogging about the artists Nils Norman, Fern Thomas and Imogen Higgins who have all been working on our new play area. This is still ongoing, but I hope to share some designs with you soon. Building on from these residencies around play, we have just advertised two new residency opportunities, one of which looks at how people navigate the site, and the other working more with schools and groups to create new creative workshops.

For information please see the brief, which can be found here:

http://museum.wales/takepart/artist-opportunities-stfagans/