Amgueddfa Blog: Ymgysylltu â'r Gymuned

Our Museum Garden June 2022

Sian Taylor-Jones, 24 Mehefin 2022

Our wonderful ‘Our Museum Garden’ volunteers have made a great start in the first 3 months of the project. We are on a mission to improve our museum grounds for biodiversity and the public. At the end of March we set about clearing the carpark and grounds of huge amounts of Irish Ivy (Hedera hibernica) and removing dead shrubs. It’s given us some great planting opportunities:

  • We have planted spring bulbs (for next year) under the trees as you drive into the carpark. There are snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) and a variety of different daffodils (Narcissus spp.) We also added some geraniums and ferns for some later interest.
  • We have started to develop a herb bed. This isn’t intended solely for human consumption – but to provide for the pollinators too. The ‘herb bed’ has been planted up with rosemary (Salvia Rosmarinus), lavender (Lavandula), marjoram (Origanum marjoram), thyme (Thymus vulgaris), chives (Allium schoenoprasum), borage (Borago officinalis), angelica (A. archangelica), fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) and chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). We have already seen lots of insect visitors to the patch.
  • There are the beginnings of plans for a small herbaceous border.

 

The volunteer group is also tasked with looking after the ‘Urban Meadow’. For the next few months, this patch of ground adjacent to Park Place will be alive with wildflowers and pollinators. We supported Plantlife’s ‘No Mow May’ campaign which encourages people to keep their lawns uncut to increase biodiversity. We surveyed the meadow at the end of the month and found a wide selection of grasses and 8 different flowers including bird’s foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) and creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens). We estimate at that time there were 4950 wildflowers within the space.

 

We will have an event running to celebrate National Meadows Day on Saturday July 2nd too. Come and join us, survey the meadow with us and make seed bombs to take away and start your own mini-meadow!  All the details you need are here: National Meadows Day | National Museum Wales

 

This project is funded by Welsh Government’s Landfill Disposals Tax Communities Scheme, administered by WCVA.

 

Nature Finds a Way

Alyson Edwards, 3 Mai 2022

The Recolonisation of Invertebrates on Restored Grassland:

I’m Alyson, a Professional Training Year placement year student from Cardiff University (School of Biosciences), currently working within the Entomology department at National Museum Cardiff under the supervision of Dr Michael R Wilson (researchgate.net). My interest in ecology, conservation and zoology ultimately led me here, and with no prior specialist knowledge in entomology (the study of insects) I jumped in at the deep end. Within a few months I was sampling in the field and identifying leaf- and planthopper species from Ffos-y-Fran (an open cast colliery site near Merthyr Tydfil). This  is currently undergoing the process of restoration so that it is converted from a colliery site to reseeded grassland.

Identifying and analysing over four years of invertebrate samples, involved looking at 195 samples.  This took a fair amount of time but allows the rate of recolonisation over a 5-year period, total species diversity, richness, and population dynamics within the fields across the years and seasons to be calculated. Leaf- and planthoppers (Hemiptera: Auchenorrhyncha) were chosen as models within this study as they are frequently common within grassland environments and can be used as an indicator of recolonisation progress on man-restored environments and ex-colliery spoil sites. Colliery sites are a common landscape visible across the UK, especially in the south Wales valleys. Their ecological importance and possible biodiversity are often overlooked, however work by Liam Olds (formerly Natural Talent apprentice at Amgueddfa Cymru), continues to highlight this through the Colliery Spoil Biodiversity Initiative (https://www.collieryspoil.com/about).

I am currently in the process of analysing this huge data set and creating a report to show the findings. However, in summary, the data has shown a trend of increasing diversity of hopper species within the field since it was reseeded. In total, 33 species were identified from the site – highlighting the ecological importance these habitats hold. Interestingly, grassland species generally uncommon to the area such as the planthopper Xanthodelphax flaveola and the leafhopper Anoscopus histrionicus, were abundant across the site leading to interesting discussion points as to why this environment encourages their colonisation. Other observations and discussions have also arisen from different wing-morphologies (shapes) seen in specimens of the same species. For example, the discovery of long-winged females of Doratura impudica, which are commonly a brachypterous species (short or rudimentary wings) encourages thought on arrival and colonisation methods of certain species, which could potentially help analyse other environments under recolonisation and ‘rewilding’ programmes. 

Studying the recolonisation of hoppers at Ffos-y-Fran has allowed me to develop and gain numerous skills which I will take with me into my final year of university and beyond. Not only have I been able to improve on existing skills such as report writing and data analysis, but I’ve also had the opportunity to gain new skills such as invertebrate identification, mounting specimens and taxonomical drawing. I’ve also had the chance to use the Scanning Electron Microscopy and sputter coating, and I have also used the imaging equipment at National Museum Cardiff to create a ‘species guide’ of the 33 observed at Ffos-y-Fran to supplement the report and provide a visual aid. Within my first few months at the museum, I was also able to get involved in a data collection project run by Dr Alan Stewart (University of Sussex), analysing specimens within the Auchenorrhyncha collections to create spreadsheets for the eventual creation of species distribution maps as part of the UK Mapping scheme for this insect group. There are so many opportunities and experiences to be had within the museum!

My time with Amgueddfa Cymru has been amazing, conducting research and joining the Natural Sciences team, and has solidified my desire to pursue a career in research. I believe my placement has given me a great start for a future career with the skills I’ve gained and developed through my work on Ffos-y-Fran and my secondary research project. The second project I am currently working on in collaboration with Dr Mike Wilson will provide an up-to-date redescription and description of new species of Fijian spittlebugs with the aim of publication of my first peer-reviewed scientific paper. Watch this space to find out more on the latter project …. 

Taxonomy- A dying science?

Abbie Taylor, 29 Ebrill 2022

As a Biological Sciences student I am very familiar with the concept of classification and evolution, having been taught about it from primary school level. The idea of using a filing system to organise species became common place at secondary school level. Constantly reciting the Linnean system and its eight levels of taxa (domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species) for exams and coming up with rhymes and mnemonics to remember it in class. 

Due to this I was vaguely familiar with taxonomy, I knew what it was and why it was important, as I describe below. However, we never truly explored taxonomy in any great detail, especially in a modern context, and so I never thought about it as a career many still do today. That was until February of 2020 when I was searching for placement opportunities for my Professional Training Year as a part of my degree at Cardiff University, and I came across an opportunity to undertake at National Museum Cardiff exploring taxonomy. I now have a much greater understanding of taxonomy’s importance and unfortunately the crisis it might be facing.

What is taxonomy?

Taxonomy is the science of naming, describing and classifying species, including species new to science. It is the foundation stone of biological science. The first step in understanding how many species we have, where they live, and what they look like so others can identify them. For example, it can be an early indicator of evolution, and in seeing how the morphological characteristics of species may help in adapting and surviving in their environments. 

Why is taxonomy important?

To understand the great diversity of the world we must know what is in it, and so taxonomy is essential in beginning to describe distributions and habitats of species. This will help scientists determine for example, whether a species is under threat, or the presence of an invasive species that can threaten other species and as a result their ecosystem. Scientists need to know all of the species in an environment, all described in a standardised manner that can be understood by those from around the world no matter the language spoken. This is so that they can begin to understand how to help preserve biodiversity and help the planet. 

Taxonomy is essential in aiding communication between scientists by giving a species a binomial scientific name. Many species will have many differing common names, for example Puma concolor, also known as the puma, cougar, panther, mountain lion, catamount, etc. in fact, P. concolor has over 40 common names in English alone. A binomial name (often in Greek or Latin) reduces confusion by surpassing language barriers and avoiding differing common names.

Taxonomy is also the first step in identifying species that have the potential to help people, to that end, the species related to them which may possess similar qualities. 

Truthfully, it is not known how many species share the planet with us. The most commonly cited number is 8.7 million species, however, this number ranges from five to ten million species. Either way taxonomists have only identified and described around two million species. Unfortunately, there will be many species that become extinct before we even know they existed. Scientists are unable to determine the rate of species extinctions or truly understand changes in biodiversity on a global scale because of the frightfully little knowledge of the species we share the planet with.

Importance of taxonomists

As mentioned, I mostly knew taxonomy as science undertaken in the past and if I did think of it in a modern context it was through modern techniques such as DNA barcoding. As a career opportunity for new biologists, taxonomy barely crosses the mind. It has been suggested that funding in taxonomic research is also on the decline, and that traditional taxonomy is too slow in producing research papers. 

But while using DNA to aid in identifications and for evolutionary relationships is no doubt useful, it is dangerous to remove all of the other “old-fashioned” techniques used for looking into morphological characteristics. Techniques such as drawing, AutoMontage imaging, scanning electron microscopy, written descriptions from observations, notes on habitat and distribution to name but a few. DNA analysis should be used to supplement the more traditional techniques, not replace them. There have been numerous examples in papers of errors in conclusions being made due to scientists looking at species from only a genetic point of view but having misidentified the species. To that effect integrative taxonomy has recently become a popular choice. It includes multiple perspectives such as phylogeography, comparative morphology, population genetics, ecology, development, behaviour, etc., so as to create the best descriptions and knowledge of species. 

After all, without taking the time to properly observe and describe a specimen you won’t truly know what the species looks like and how it uses its features to survive. How shall keys and field guides be properly constructed so that non-experts can identify species too? Without taxonomists how can the irreplaceable and valuable collections in our natural history museums be properly maintained and organised?

As I have experienced in my research on a relatively understudied family, mistakes have been made in identifications leading to false conclusions to be drawn, which has dangerous consequences for example in determining biodiversity. These false identifications may be enhanced by a purely DNA route into taxonomy. If taxonomy starts to die and fewer experts who truly understand a species exist who shall correct these mistakes and continue to document the rich biodiversity of the world?

 

Rydyn ni'n falch iawn o gyhoeddi ein bod wedi ennill Gwobr Buddsoddi mewn Gwirfoddolwyr am y trydydd tro.

Mae Buddsoddi mewn Gwirfoddolwyr yn wobr safon ansawdd ar gyfer Rheoli Gwirfoddolwyr.

Allen ni ddim bod wedi gwneud hyn heb waith caled ac ymroddiad ein staff a'n gwirfoddolwyr gwych. Diolch yn fawr!

Wedi cael cyfle i ddarllen yr adroddiadau asesu, yr uchafbwynt i ni oedd y sylw hwn...

"Dywedodd gwirfoddolwyr eu bod yn teimlo bod eu cyfraniad yn ystyrlon, a'u bod wedi mwynhau eu rolau. Roedd y rhan fwyaf o wirfoddolwyr yn dweud pa mor groesawgar oedd yr Amgueddfa. Dywedodd un gwirfoddolwr eu bod yn teimlo fel rhan o deulu."

Mae gwirfoddolwyr yn rhoi o'u hamser, sgiliau, arbenigedd a brwdfrydedd i Amgueddfa Cymru bob blwyddyn. Elusen ydym ni, ac mae eich cefnogaeth chi yn helpu i gyfoethogi a dod a safbwyntiau newydd i'n hamgueddfeydd cenedlaethol.

Os hoffech chi gymryd rhan, ewch i Cymryd Rhan | Amgueddfa Cymru (amgueddfa.cymru)

@WCVACymru

#BuddsoddiMewnGwirfoddolwyr

 

When human loss triggers an inhuman response

Angham Abdullah, Refugee Wales project researcher, 15 Rhagfyr 2021

Dr Angham Abdullah (Cardiff University) is a Research Associate on the Refugee Wales project. The opinions expressed here are the author’s own. 

We all heard the news about the 27 refugees who drowned trying to cross the English Channel in an inflatable dinghy on the 24th of November 2021. They included women, one of them pregnant, and children as well as young men. This was the biggest single loss of life in the Channel recorded since the International Organisation for Migration started collecting data in 2014.

Boris Johnson described the tragedy as “appalling”.  I was hoping to hear a more genuine response that reflected the tragic loss of peoples’ lives. Those victims had strong reasons to risk their lives in that way. To them, putting their lives at the mercy of the waves was more endurable than an endless cycle of wars, violence, poverty, and persecution back home. 

A few days after the tragedy, we heard responses from UK officials who, instead of empathising with the victims and looking at the real causes of such tragedies, pointed fingers at the smugglers and negotiated stricter asylum rules. And before the bodies of the 27 victims were transferred to their homelands for final burial, the Home Secretary produced an even more “appalling” response by issuing the Nationality and Borders Bill.  Clause 9 of the Nationality and Borders Bill gives the government the right to deprive naturalised British citizens of their citizenship without informing them. Because of this, around 6 million naturalised persons in the UK will live in fear of being stripped of their British nationalities. 

I couldn't stop thinking about the Syrian refugees I've interviewed for the Refugee Wales Project. Some of them have recently arrived in the UK, while others have been trying to make sense of their new life and rebuild their future and that of their children. When I asked them what getting British Citizenship meant to them, the overall response was “safety and a better future for the children”. I wondered how they would feel when they realised that the British Citizenship, they were working towards could be taken away “without any previous notice”.

I have spent years of waiting, uncertainty, anxiety as well as my life savings in return for the British citizenship which my children and I were recently granted. We thought that this citizenship would enable us at last to plan for our future. The thought that it could be revoked “at any moment” has left us feeling insecure and uncertain. Like the sea victims, very many of us who sought to mend our broken lives on "the safe shores of Britain" will see our faith in the UK further shattered.