Osteology was the order of the day on Thursday. I worked with Joanne Cooper and volunteer Mandy Holloway.
Jo first showed me the dermesterium, where colonies of flesh-eating beetles are kept. They strip down a specimen to its skeleton. The beetles were working hard on quite a large specimen when I was there.
They were also being filmed. Every 30 seconds a camera made a whirring click and photographed the beetles. Jo explained to me that this was for a 3D film that will soon be appearing on the NHM website.
Fresh out of the dermestarium were some macaw and wader skeletons that needed registering and incorporating into the collection. This was to be my task for the day.
First, the information with the specimen is recorded in the registration book and the specimen given a registration number. Then the number is written on each of the bones with non-fading ink.
Some of the bones were tiny, so required a steady hand!
The macaw bones were from captive birds. One of them was seized by Salisbury police! Sadly, lots of people still try to smuggle these beautiful birds illegally into the UK
Other information recorded about the specimens was whether or not tissue samples had been taken from them for DNA analysis and sometimes history about the specimen, including pet names people had given a familiar animal.
The finished specimens were then incorporated into the collection, ready for researchers to use.
As well as the Osetological collections, Jo is also in charge of curating the spirit collection. Apparently, spirit collections are the least used resource at Tring. Despite the rich DNA and anatomical content, most researchers prefer to use the skins. This surprised me as I thought they would be just as popular.
They are occasionally dissected by scientists, but as Jo said “we wouldn’t let a student dissect a kakapo.”
And so ends my blogging about my wonderful time at the NHM, Tring. All the bird staff were lovely and I’m so grateful they took the time to teach me amazing skills. Thank you! I hope to return soon!