Amgueddfa Blog: Hanes Naturiol

Shwmae,


I am a Biology Undergraduate at Cardiff University and today I am just over two months into my professional training year placement within the Botany section, Department of Natural Sciences at the National Museum Wales. Plant life of all sorts has always delighted me, and when an opportunity to work in Wales’s largest herbaria arises, you grab it by both hands! So far, my experience has been nothing short of extraordinary. Working with and learning from a team of respected and experienced botanists has been the highlight of my stay so far, rivalled only by the history and scientific value that this department holds behind its doors.

 


The project I am working on involves studying the highly invasive annual plant Impatiens glandulifera,-Royle, or Himalayan Balsam as it is commonly known. Himalayan balsam, like so many other invasive plants found in Britain today was introduced by the Victorians as a botanical curiosity. First contained in botanical gardens, its high growth rate and reproductive output mean that now, it is found in almost every area of Britain. Himalayan balsam can reach heights of 3 metres and produce up to 2500 seeds per plant, often forming dense populations along river banks throughout the UK. Buoyant seed pods mean that seeds are easily transported in river systems, and seeds don’t have to germinate the following year after set, they have a two-year dormancy period whilst they wait for the right growth conditions. The life traits of Himalayan balsam mean that it has become incredibly invasive in the UK, with it being listed as a Schedule 9 plant in the Wildlife and Countryside Act; i.e. it is illegal to plant or otherwise cause it to grow in the wild.

 


My project involves studying specimens to see if any morphological traits have changed since its introduction into the UK in 1839, and looking at variation between populations of Himalayan balsam in the South Wales area. So far, much of my time has been spent conducting field work! I have been out collecting specimens of Himalayan balsam using a plant press. Specimens are randomly chosen from their habitat, mounted between a folded bit of thin paper called a ‘flimsy’, making sure that all leaves and flowers are flat and arranged in a way that their features can still be studied. Acid free card is placed between specimens and they are mounted into a plant press, straps are then wrapped around the plant press and pulled as tight as possible before it is placed in a specialist drying oven. After the specimens have been in the drying oven for between 5-7 days, they are then placed in a freezer for 4 days to kill any insects, bacteria or fungal spores that may have contaminated specimens.

 


After the drying and freezing process is over, specimens are ready to be examined and studied! So far, I have spent most of my time in the field collecting information such as number of seeds, flowers, height, colour of flowers, type of habitat, light levels, whether population is managed or not, etc. I plan to use this information to compare differences between sites where I. glandulifera is found in the South Wales area, and whether there are discrete differences between these populations. This will involve molecular work in the lab; potentially looking at differences in the number of ‘microsatellites’ between populations. ‘Microsatellites’ are repetitive DNA sequences and by directly comparing the number of repeats of microsatellites we can learn more about the diversity within and between local populations.

 


I am collecting a large data-set for I. glandulifera in the South Wales area, looking at different morphological characteristics of the plants, as well as collecting measurements from the habitat it was collected from. Measurements include light levels, tree cover, habitat type, whether the population was managed etc, with the ultimate goal of allowing me to see if these different habitat variables impacts how I. glandulifera grows. After I have collected specimens from different habitat types, their morphological characteristics can be analysed. This will involve imaging software to look at traits like leaf area, leaf width, leaf length, flower length, leaf shape, and microscopy work looking at stomatal density, size of ‘guard cells’ that make up a plant’s stomata and pollen structure (picture). Once I have collected measurements from I. glandulifera collected in 2017, I can then look at specimens of I. glandulifera in the herbarium collected in the 1900s to see if there has been a change in any of these morphological traits in the past 100 years. If there has been a change, what is happening, are the leaves larger or smaller? Are plants taller or shorter? Do they produce less or more flowers? These are the questions I am hoping to answer with my research, and in doing so produce some answers on how we can begin to tackle this unwelcome invader.

 


It has been a very exciting and enjoyable few months in the herbarium I have had opportunities that most people would only dream of, and each day I spend here I learn something new from the experienced curators I have surrounding me. The herbarium is something to be treasured, plant records frozen in time that contain a wealth of information just waiting to be discovered. And this resource is here for you to explore and enjoy too, just contact one of the herbarium team to make an appointment (https://museum.wales/curatorial/botany/staff/). Everything here fills me with sheer joy, and it is an absolute pleasure to wake up each day knowing that I am spending my time in such a wonderous place. I don’t look forward to leaving this gorgeous establishment, but I look forward to seeing what wonders this herbarium has in store for me, and what answers it can provide me on my path to stop invasive species here in Wales.

 

 

When Dr Christian Baars, the Senior Preventive Conservator at National Museum Cardiff, contacted me to ask me take part in his project, I’d never really thought about the work going on behind the scenes at a museum. I’d been on a tour I mean, beyond the ticket desk, café staff, security guards and perhaps cleaners if you’re there right to the end of the day. But have you ever thought about the work that goes into maintaining collections and displays? I doubt it.

Conserving the historic exhibits is one of the largest behind the scenes jobs. There are many things that can damage the artefacts, such as light, air pollution and moisture. But for a big collection of stuffed animals, such as in Cardiff, one of the big problems is pest insects. Lots of different insects, such as carpet beetles and clothes moths, like to eat dead animals. Dr Baars showed me some of the pinned insect collection, which are falling apart or disappearing because one of the beetles has got in to eat them.

We wanted to show the visitors that fighting these insects is a huge job and so we set about making a video that showed the damage the beetles can do. Luckily, Dr Baars had a dead mouse in the freezer (as you do!) which would do just the job. I added some beetle larvae to the dead mouse and left it in a box to be eaten. I used a time lapse camera to film the process of the mouse being devoured by the beetle larvae.  

The resulting video is on the right hand side of this page. Evidently, the mouse is getting progressively smaller as the larvae munch through its body. Now imagine this happening to the woolly mammoth, or the foxes, or any other amazing object at the museum. This is what museum conservators work hard to prevent and this is why we wanted to spread the word.

Once the video was finished, I showed it to museum visitors and asked people to tell me what they thought it was about. Most people had not heard about conservation in museums before nor about the damage insects may cause, even though some had experience with moths or similar insects at home. One visitor described it as fascinating. Another reminded me that “dead things always make good exhibits!” People certainly enjoyed the “gross factor” of a video of a decomposing mouse!

Yet the most important result for me was the finding that everyone wanted to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes at museums. Both adults and children understood the significance of the work. An adult visitor said “once it’s dead and in a case, you don’t really think about it about what happens after”, highlighting the need and the interest in what goes on to make a museum exhibit happen. And a younger visitor exclaimed “imagine you had a billion year old thing and it just got ate… I would very sad”. I couldn’t agree more.

While the purpose of this project was to educate museum visitors about pest management in museums, I think this experiment shows there is an enthusiasm for knowing more about the hard work of museum staff beyond those you see when you visit. In Cardiff visitors can come for free, but in a world where every institution is fighting for funding, we need to show the public that our work is vital and worth every penny. We showed that it is simple to raise awareness and that the work of conservators is worth an exhibit or two all of its own.

 

Charlotte @scicommchar undertook this project as part of a 'Learning Lab' placement while studying for a MSc degree in Science Communication at the University of the West of England. The University contact was Andy Ridgway, Senior Lecturer in Science Communication and Programme Leader MSc/PGCert in Science Communication, @AndyRidgway1. Many thanks also to Rhodri Viney, the National Museum's Digital Content Assistant, for help with producing the video.

Find out more about Care of Collections at Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales here and follow us on Twitter.

 

Heather Pardoe from the Botany Section, Natural Sciences, has been working with the Museum Shop to provide a beautiful selection of Christmas themed botanical images for you to view.

The Museum holds a collection of over 7000 superb botanical prints and drawings.  Principle Curator, Heather Pardoe, has handpicked a seasonal range of exquisite botanical illustrations in order to reflect the  range of illustrations in the collection. 

This provides a ‘bird’s eye view’ of some of the illustrations that Botany holds behind the scenes; many are rarely on public display.

We have been working towards providing a series of collections for you to enjoy - we are currently focusing upon a spring collection. Watch this space for more news!

If you would like to see more of this beautiful Christmas collection, please follow the link below which will take you to the Print section of the online shop.  This will also provide you with the opportunity to purchase a reproduction of one of these beautiful images, as well as a wide range of other images from the Museum collections.

Online Shop

Don’t forget to follow the Shop blog and Natural Sciences blog for regular updates!

Nearing the four-month mark since I stepped into National Museum Wales for the first day of my Professional Training Year (PTY) placement from Cardiff University, my goal of achieving new experiences in the world of marine invertebrate research is definitely underway. This is now taking form in the way of the Magelonidae, the shovelhead worms, a family of polychaetes with many unanswered questions hovering around them in regards to their ecology, taxonomy and behaviour.

Through starting with live observations in the museum lab in July of Magelona alleni, a rather chunky species of magelonid, my project has developed into some exciting discoveries regarding not only the feeding of these amazing worms, but also how they poo, hence the title of the blog post! As boring as worm defecation sounds, this is not the case when you watch how these amazing animals decide to actually get rid of their dinner (there will be more about the details of this in my next blog post when we have finished working on this interesting behaviour).

These findings have led me down a road of using many new techniques to be able to present my work in a professional and scientific manner. This includes scientific drawing using a camera lucida attachment on a microscope, photography in the way of time-lapse captures, film and image stacking, image editing, reviewing relevant literature, statistical analysis, dissection and SEM (scanning electron microscopy) to name but a few.

In addition to these skills I have learnt much about day to day tasks the museum carries out, including learning methods of curation for an impressive collection of marine invertebrates, holding over 750,000 specimens and having the opportunity to partake in sampling trips to collect more animals for the further development of my project and other projects around the museum. I have also settled into the role of tank maintenance for not only the shovelhead worms, but also some of our resident anemones, hermit crabs, starfish, sea potatoes and prawns. I have even tried my hand at outreach on one of the museum’s stands during the evening event ‘After Dark at the Museum’ with Cardiff University, which saw nearly 2000 people (mainly families) enjoy a hands on experience.

One crucial advantage that I feel I have obtained over these last few months is that I am starting to enjoy a great appreciation for the diversity of life in our seas, from the very tiny, such as organisms like diatoms and foraminiferans to the impressively large, like the young humpback whale skeleton on display in the museum, which I get the pleasure of walking past most days. All in all, my experiences so far have been beyond valuable and who knows what the next few months of research here will bring.

Find out more about how I got on when I first started at the museum

Artist 'dwi, ac ar hyn o bryd dwi'n astudio gradd MA mewn dylunio a chrefft cyfoes. Fe ymwelais i â’r casgliad Molysga ar ôl darllen blog am strwythr mewnol cregyn ar wefan yr amgueddfa. Mi wnes gysylltiad rhwng strwythurau mewnol cregyn a sut y mae printwyr 3D yn gweithio ac yn creu siapiau. Ar y blog roedd rhif cyswllt ar gyfer Curadur Molysga, felly mi gysylltais â Harriet Wood, heb wybod beth i’w ddisgwyl.

Ffotograff o groestoriad o argraffiad 3D, sy'n dangod y strwythr mewnol
Strwythr mewnol argraffiad 3D © Matthew Day 2017

Pan esboniais fy ngwaith yn gyda prosthetau wrth Harriet, a’r cysylltiadau rhwng strwythr cregyn ac argraffu 3D, mi wahoddodd fi i ymweld â’r casgliadau, ac i fy nghyflwyno i’r person sy’n gyfrifol am sganio ac argraffu 3D yn yr amgueddfa.

Mynd 'tu ôl i'r llen'

Fuaswn i fyth wedi gallu dychmygu ymweliad gystal. Fe gwrddais â Harriet wrth ddesg wybodaeth yr amgueddfa ac yna mynd ‘tu ôl i’r llen’, ble cedwir y casgliad. Roedd cerdded trwy’r amgueddfa i gyrraedd yr ardal ‘cefn tŷ’ yn braf a modern. Roedd yn f’atgoffa o bapur academaidd y darllenais cyn ymweld, o The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum: ‘How Digital Artist Engagement Can Function as and Open Innovation Model to Facilitate Audience Encounters with Museum Collections’ gan Sarah Younan a Haitham Eid. 

ffotograff yn dangos cwpwrdd mawr llawn droriau sbesimen
Rhai o'r archifau yn Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd © Matthew Day 2017

Mae gan ‘cefn tŷ’ yr amgueddfa naws arbennig – dyw’r cyhoedd ddim yn cael mentro yma heb drefnu o flaen llaw. Roedd yn fraint cael cerdded trwy stafelloedd yn llawn cregyn ‘mae pobl wedi eu casglu, ac wedi’u gwerthfawrogi am eu harddwch, dros y blynyddoedd. Beth oedd yn fwya diddorol imi oedd pa mor berffaith oedd y toriadau yn y cregyn. Roedd yn cregyn wedi’u torri yn edrych fel taw dyma oedd eu ffurf naturiol – roedd pob toriad yn gain iawn ac yn gweddu i siâp y gragen. Dyma beth oeddwn i eisiau ei weld.

Ffotograff du a gwyn yn dangos amrywiaeth o dafelli cregyn
Tafellau o gregyn yn Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd © Matthew Day 2017

Doedd gen i ddim geiriau i fynegi fy hun pan welais i’r casgliad yma o gregyn – yn enwedig gweld y darn o’r gragen na fyddwn ni’n cael ei weld fel arfer. Rodd yn gyffrous gweld y strwythr mewnol, am ei fod yn ychwanegu gwerth asthetig i’r cregyn. Roedden nhw’n fy atgoffa o waith cerflunio Barbara Hepworth, artist dwi’n ei hedmygu yn fawr.

Ffotograff du a gwyn yn dangos cragen siâp côn wedi'i dorri i ddangos strwythr troellog y gragen
© Matthew Day 2017

Rydym ni’n gweld cregyn ar y traeth drwy’r amser, a mae’n nhw’n fy nghyfareddu – yn enwedig cregyn wedi torri ble gellir gweld y tu fewn i’r gragen. Mae hwnnw fel arfer yn doriad amherffaith, yn wahanol iawn i’r toriadau bwriadol yn y casgliad, sydd wedi’u gwneud yn bwrpasol i ddangos ini beth sydd ar y tu fewn. Caf fy atynnu at ffurfiau naturiol sydd wedi eu siapio gan berson.  

Sganio 3D: Celf a Gwyddoniaeth

Cyn archwilio’r cregyn fy hyn, cynigiodd Harriet i fynd â fi i lawr i weld Jim Turner, a dyna ble buom ni’n trafod am rhan helaeth fy ymweliad, am fod ei waith mor ddiddorol.

Mae Jim yn gweithio mewn labordy sy’n defnyddio proses ffotograffig o’r enw ‘Stacio-z’ (neu EDF, ‘extended depth of field’), sy’n cael ei ddefnyddio yn aml mewn ffotograffeg facro a ffoto-microscopeg.

Ar hyn o bryd, mae'n creu archif o wrthrychau wedi’u sganio mewn 3D ar gyfer gwefan yr amgueddfa, ble all bobol ryngweithio gyda’r sganiau yn defnyddio cyfarpar VR – gan greu profiad hollol newydd i’r amgueddfa.

Gallais ddeall yn syth beth oedd Jim yn ei wneud o fy mhrofiad i. Esboniodd y broses a roedd nifer o elfennau technegol tebyg. Roedd yn bleser cael siarad gyda rhywun sy’n defnyddio sganio 3D mewn ffordd wahanol imi. Mae Jim yn defnyddio sganio 3D mewn ffordd dwi wedi ei weld mewn papurau academaidd. Er nad yw’n gwneud gwaith creadigol gyda’r cregyn, mae e dal yn rhoi gwrthrychau mewn cyd-destun newydd, ble all pobl ryngweithio â nhw yn defnyddio technoleg ddigidol fel cyfarpar VR neu ar y we trwy sketchfab.

'Fel bod ar y traeth...'

Pan ddes i ‘nôl at y casgliad molysga, mi ges i amser i ymchwilio’r casgliad ar fy liwt fy hun a doedd dim pwysau arna i i frysio – felly ces gyfle i edrych yn graff ac archwilio’r cregyn. Roedd fel bod ar draeth a chael oriau i archwilio’r holl wrthrychau naturiol.

Ffotograff du a gwyn yn dangos cragen siâp côn wedi'i dorri i ddangos strwythr troellog y gragen
© Matthew Day 2017

Cafodd yr ymweliad effaith wych ar fy mhrosiect MA – a mawr yw’r diolch i Harriet a Jim am eu hamser. Trwy’r ymweliad, fe fagais hyder i gysylltu ag amgueddfeydd eraill, fel Amgueddfa Feddygol Worcester, ‘ble bues i’n gweithio gyda soced prosthetig o’u casgliad. Mi sganiais y soced, ac wedi fy ysbrydoli gan gasgliad molysga Harriet, mi greais gyfres o socedi prosthetic cerfluniol, wedi’u hysbrydoli gan strwythurau mewnol cregyn, oedd yn darlunio croestoriadau rhai o’r cregyn mwya atyniadol yn y casgliad.

'Cerflun ynddo'i hun': fy nghasgliad o gerflunwaith brosthetig

Ffotograffau cyfochrog yn dangos hosan brosthetic a thafell gragen. Mae'r hosan brosthetig wedi'i chynllunio i gynrychioli siâp mewnol y gragen
Prototeip cysyniadol o hosan brosthetig wedi'i ysbrydoli gan y casgliadau molysga yn Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd © Matthew Day 2017

ffotograff yn dangos hosan brosthetig gerfluniadol ddu gydag addurn melyn
Prototeip o hosan brosthetig gerfluniadol wedi'i ysbrydoli gan gasgliad Molysga Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd © Matthew Day 2017
ffotograff yn dangos hosan brosthetig gerfluniadol lwyd gydag addurn melyn
Hosan brosthetig wedi'i hargraffu mewn 3D a'i llifo, wedi'i ysbrydoli gan y casgliadau Molysga yn Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd © Matthew Day 2017

ffotograff yn dangos hosan brosthetig gerfluniadol gydag addurn mawr siâp cragen gron
Hosan brosthetic wedi'i hargraffu mewn 3D a'i lifo, wedi'i ysbrydoli gan gasgliad Molysga Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd © Matthew Day 2017

 

Be’ Nesa?

Mae fy ngwrs MA nawr ar ei anterth, a dwi’n edrych ymlaen at ddechrau’r prif fodiwl dros yr haf.

Ar gyfer y rhan olaf o’r cwrs, hoffwn i gymryd yr hyn dw i wedi ei archwilio a’i ymchwilio hyd yn hyn, a’i ddefnyddio i greu darn prosthetig a allai fod yn rywbeth all rhywun ei wisgo, ond sydd yn gerflun ynddo'i hun – a mae’r gwaith yn mynd yn dda.

darlun 3D o gynllun ar gyfer cynllun coes brosthetig, gydag addurniadau wedi'u hysbrydoli gan strwythr mewnol cregyn
Darlun cysyniadol o goes brosthetig gerfluniadol, wedi'i ysbrydoli gan gasgliad Molysga Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd © Matthew Day 2017

Hoffwn i greu rhywbeth wirioneddol syfrdanol yn defnyddio argraffu 3D, gan ymgorffori asthetig wedi’i ysbrydoli gan y casgliad cregyn a’i uno gyda’r cerflunwaith prosthetig a welwch yma ar y blog.

Gallwch weld mwy o fy ngwaith ar fy ngwefan: Matthew Day Sculpture