English

Rock collections in the UK are an asset worth millions of pounds. Many exploration companies drill into the Earth’s crust and extract cores for analysis – often at a cost of around £1,000 per meter of core. These provide the basic information before a commercial case for mining or extraction can be made and form part of the companies’ commercial archives.

Museums also look after collections and many hold large numbers of valuable geological samples. A common misconception is that rocks are stable, they do not decay or get eaten by pests. Which is why fossils, minerals and rocks surely must be easy to look after.

But think of minerals found in caves or mines: not just dark, but also cold and damp. Many hydrated minerals occur here, for example melanterite or halotrichite. Take them out of the mine, put them in a museum store where they are protected and well looked after – and they will dehydrate. Lose water molecules, decay, and are lost.

There are many similar examples. Depending on the mineral species they will take up or lose water molecules, recrystallize into something else, react with air pollutants or oxygen. A bewildering range of chemical processes can lead to the destruction of geological specimens. Fossils are affected, too: lovely pyritised ammonites turn to dust. Many specimens of scientific or historic importance can be lost in this way.

Museums do their best to halt the decay but are hampered in their efforts by many questions yet unanswered. What levels of indoor air pollutants are safe for geological collections and how good do our air filtration systems need to be? At what point do museum conservators need to deal with a specimen damaged by chemical reactions? How do we even monitor collections of tens of thousands of specimens for damage routinely?

These and many other related questions will be investigated in a new research project at National Museum Cardiff. A recent pilot study (manuscript in preparation) demonstrated the complexity of potentially damaging processes in a typical museum store that are thought of usually as benign. Further expertise in the form of academic and industrial partners is now sought to develop the potential for addressing elementary questions of appropriate storage of geological collections.

The knowledge generated by this project will be of wide-ranging interest to cultural institutions and industrial companies alike. Scientific specimens and commercial collections will be kept safe with the set of guidelines and standards which the project will develop. We will have the proper tools to enable us to care for our geological heritage appropriately - whether kept in museums or as commercial assets.

Find out more about Care of Collections at Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales here.

 

 

Towards the end of last year, staff members from the Amgueddfa Cymru took part in a research ‘Roadshow event’ held at Swansea University.   The event gave a chance to meet academics with shared research interests and discuss potential collaborations between our two institutions, and already the event seems to have nurtured some promising links.

At the event Teresa Darbyshire, our Senior Marine Invertebrate Curator, made contact with Dr. Rich Johnston who is co-director of Swansea University's brand new Advanced Imaging of Materials Centre (AIM), a £9M EPSRC/Welsh Government funded integrated scientific imaging facility for Wales. Following this contact, the opportunity arose for myself, Teresa and Dr. Jana Horak (Head of Mineralogy & Petrology) to visit the centre and see the facilities first hand.

To say we were a little overwhelmed by the centre would be quite an understatement. The centre offers state-of-the-art advanced imaging facilities including including transmission electron microscopy (TEM), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), Ion beam nanofabrication, X-ray Diffraction (XRD), X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS), Energy-Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (EDS), and micro and nano X-ray computed tomography (microCT). Not to mention a full suite of optical imaging and teaching microscopes.

AIM is primarily focused towards engineering and material science, and you may be wondering why they would be keen to collaborate with the Natural Sciences department here at the Museum. Well, part of their research is looking at the structures of biomaterials to learn how naturally occurring materials are formed, and with over 3 million specimens in our Natural Science collections we offer a huge reference library of material, along with the specialist knowledge of our curatorial staff, right on their doorstep. In return, we can benefit from access to their facilities to help us investigate our collections further for our own research and outreach needs, perhaps helping us to discover new species or identify historic conservation work that may have been undertaken on our specimens.

In fact, we are already utilising their MicroCT scanner to digitise a Whelk shell in order to produce a 3D printed replica in transparent material so that we may see how hermit crabs and a species of marine worm co-habit in these shells.  As you can see below, we’ve already digitally scanned the external of the shell here at the museum, but AIM’s MicroCT Scanner will enable us capture all the internal structures as well. We'll post the results when we get the scan back.

 

 

Whilst there, we also had the chance to visit the Virtual Reality (VR) lab to see how digital models produced by microCT or our own 3D scanning facilities could be developed for outreach and learning in a virtual environment. We had the chance to "visit" a virtual museum and see digitised objects in this environment. Although a little disconcerting to start with, once we got familiar with the VR world it really did offer a unique way to visualise objects that otherwise may not be possible. In the future, this technology really could open up new ways for the public engage with our collections.

 

Helo Gyfeillion y Gwanwyn,

Mae nifer o ysgolion wedi cofnodi bod eu Cennin Pedr a Chrocws wedi cychwyn tyfu. Mae rhai ysgolion wedi nodi bod eu planhigion yn edrych yn agos at flodeuo. Fallu, mae'n amser da i drafod rhan nesaf y prosiect - cofnodion blodeuo! Mae adnodd ar y wefan Bylbiau Gwanwyn i Ysgolion o dan y teitl 'cadw cofnodion blodau'. Mae'r ddogfen hon yn dweud wrthych sut i gadw cofnodion blodau, pa offer sydd angen ei ddefnyddio a’r dulliau ar gyfer casglu gwybodaeth.

Oedd y pecyn adnoddau a anfonwyd i'ch ysgol yn fis Hydref yn cynnwys siart blodeuo Crocws a siart blodeuo Cennin Pedr.  Gallwch ddefnyddio'r rhain i gofnodi'r dyddiad mae eich blodau yn agor ac uchder eich planhigion ar y dyddiad hwn. Wedyn, gallwch rannu dyddiad blodeuo ac uchder eich planhigyn ar y dyddiad hwn i wefan Amgueddfa Cymru. Unwaith mae'r diwrnod blodeuo cyntaf wedi ei gofnodi ar gyfer eich ysgol, bydd blodyn yn ymddangos wrth ymyl eich ysgol ar y map ar wefan Amgueddfa Cymru.

Mae rhywfaint o ddryswch wedi bod ynghylch pryd i gofnodi dyddiad blodeuo ar-lein. Gallwch fonitro taldra eich planhigion bob wythnos a gadael i mi wybod yn yr adran ‘sylwadau’ wrth i chi gofnodi’r tywydd. Ond dim ond wedi i’r planhigyn flodeuo y dylech gofnodi ‘dyddiad blodeuo’ a thaldra’r planhigyn ar ddiwrnod blodeuo.

Mae rhywfaint o ddryswch wedi bod ynghylch pryd i gofnodi dyddiad blodeuo ar-lein. Gallwch fonitro taldra eich planhigion bob wythnos a gadael i mi wybod yn yr adran ‘sylwadau’ wrth i chi gofnodi’r tywydd. Ond dim ond wedi i’r planhigyn flodeuo y dylech gofnodi ‘dyddiad blodeuo’ a thaldra’r planhigyn ar ddiwrnod blodeuo.

Edrychwch ar y llun o Gennin Pedr yn Sain Ffagan. Cafodd y llun ei dynnu ar ddiwrnod oer, felly nid oedd y blodau wedi agor yn llawn. Ond, gallwch weld pa rai sydd wedi blodeuo trwy edrych yn ofalus. Os yw’r holl betalau i’w gweld yn glir yna mae’r planhigyn wedi blodeuo. Cyn blodeuo mae’r petalau yn cael eu gwarchod gan gasyn tynn.

Pan fydd y blodyn wedi aeddfedu, a’r tywydd yn ddigon cynnes, bydd y casyn yn dechrau agor. Gall hyn gymryd ychydig oriau neu rai dyddiau! Efallai y gallwch weld hyn yn digwydd, os wnewch chi wylio’r planhigion yn ofalus iawn! Pan fyddwch yn gallu gweld yr holl betalau a’r casyn wedi disgyn gallwch fesur taldra’r blodau a chofnodi hyn ar y wefan. Wedi i chi wneud hynny bydd blodyn yn ymddangos ar fap yn dangos lle mae eich ysgol.

Gallwch fesur uchder eich planhigion i weld pa mor sydyn mae nhw’n tyfu. Os yw’r planhigion yn dal yn fach gallwch eu mesur o dop y pridd. Ond, pan fyddwch yn mesur er mwyn cofnodi ar y wefan, dylech fesur o dop y pot blodau i bwynt uchaf y blodyn.

Ydych chi wedi cymharu uchder y blodau yn eich dosbarth? Oes yna wahaniaeth mawr yn uchder y planhigion a pha mor aeddfed ydyn nhw, neu ydyn nhw i gyd yn debyg? Beth am y planhigion sydd wedi’u plannu yn y ddaear? Yw’r rhain yn fwy na’r rhai mewn potiau? Pam hynny tybed? Gallwch ddweud beth ydych chi’n feddwl yn yr adran ‘sylwadau’ wrth i chi gofnodi’r tywydd yr wythnos hon!

Gyrrwch eich straeon a lluniau i’r blog blodau a dilynwch Athro’r Ardd ar Twitter!

Daliwch ati Gyfeillion y Gwanwyn!

Athro’r Ardd

 

Diolch am rannu newyddion am eich planhigion Cyfeillion y Gwanwyn:

 

Ysgol Deganwy: Most of the plants have started to grow.

Henllys CIW Primary: About all the bulbs have sprouted.

Ysgol Pentrefoelas: Dim glaw. Braf efo awyr goch bob nos a bob bore! Deilen 3 Cenin wedi dod i'r golwg yn y potiau. Wedi bod yn gynnes a phawb yn chwarae "British Buldogs" bob dydd heb gotiau!

Carnbroe Primary School: The week started off really cold and frosty but as the week went on the temperature rose and we had some rain. More shoots are beginning to bud. We are hoping that our bulbs will flower soon.

Arkholme CE Primary School: It has been wet and mild this week, and most of the bulbs have sprouted already. The crocus bulbs and daffodils have sprouted as well as the ones in the pots, and the ones in the ground have grown the quickest as well. Best wishes E and A.

Trellech Primary School: We have noticed that our bulbs have started to appear above the soil. We think it is because it has been a lot milder this week.

Trellech Primary School: We really enjoyed collecting the data.

Our Lady of Peace Primary School: I can't believe it is nearly over. We are enjoying it.

Auchenlodment Primary School: We have started to measure the shoots and are excited to see how they grow. 2 of the mystery bulbs have just started to sprout. No sign of the daffodils we planted in the ground.

Boston West Academy: This week we only have two more to start sprouting; it’s also been very cold and hot but also very wet. One of our mystery bulbs are nearly starting to flower☺!!!

St Robert's R.C Primary School: It's been a dry week this week. There a few signs of growing!

Ysgol Deganwy: Nearly all of the plants are growing.

Carnbroe Primary School: We didn't have lots of rain this week and it was very cold. Our bulbs are beginning to sprout.

Tonyrefail Primary School: On Tuesday we noticed 4 of our Daffodil plants have stated to push up through the soil. Yeay!

Garstang St. Thomas' CE Primary School: We've had some frosty mornings but our daffodils are still starting to appear through the soil. The ones in the garden are growing faster!

Henllys CIW Primary: It was pretty cold but no rain. Quite a few plants are growing!

St. Nicholas Primary School: The bulbs have sprouted.

Arkholme CE Primary School: This week has been dry and cold. We have been checking our bulbs all week but because of the cold they haven't grown much. Have a good week.

Ysgol Deganwy: The plants have started to grow and it's been super cold!

St Ronan's Primary School: Most of the daffodil in pots, are at least 2 to 3 cm.

From 6 to 10 February there will be a week long colouring-fest happening on social media.

Led by the New York Academy of Medicine Library, who first launched the campaign last year, libraries, archives, and museums around the world are sharing free colouring sheets based on materials in their collections. Users are invited to download and print the sheets and share their filled-in images on social media, using the hashtag #ColorOurCollections (because the campaign launched in America most institutions are using the American spelling of colour!). Last year, more than 210 libraries and cultural institutions participated.

So for this year we have put together a small colouring book based on a few of our favourite rare books from the Willoughby Gardner collection on early natural history.

Download the book here [PDF] –  and let us see your creative skills!

Post images of your coloured pages on social media with the hashtags #lliwioeincasgliadau or #colorourcollections and tag us in @Amgueddfa_Lib

And don’t forget to check out which other institutions around the world are taking part using the #colorourcollections hashtag or visiting the website of the New York Academy of Medicine

Happy colouring!!

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