I thought the best way to start this blog is to introduce myself, so I am Daisy, I am currently studying Animal Conservation Science at the University of Cumbria with a sandwich placement year.
I have always had a love for being outdoors and understanding how everything fits together and how it all works. However, as I grew older it became obvious that things weren’t looking good for the natural world, so I choose a path in conservation rather than zoology. I want to try and contribute to mending and preventing the damage that has happened to nature and to stop further damage into the future.
As well as a love for the outdoors I am also very interested in art, museums and the naturalists that came before me. In particular I am interested in where all of these things merge together, how conservation and museums link, how art was used as a scientific tool for 100s of years, and how all of this informs the future of conservation.
In my second year I had to decide if I wanted to do a placement year and I came to the decision that I would only do something that I thought was perfect for me. So, I emailed Tullie house (I only emailed Tullie I didn’t have a backup) and asked them if they wanted a placement student, and if they did want a placement, why I was the perfect person! I was very lucky that they did want me, so we created a placement within their organisation – they had never had one before.
My placement is split between Tullie house and CBDC, three days at Tullie house and two at the CBDC, a bit about both below:
Tullie House Museum and art gallery, has an incredible natural history collection that focusses on the species of Cumbria. This collection is unique compared to other natural history collections as it mainly just represents the area, unlike other museums that tend to have a collection of Type specimens or a variety of different species from around the world. The reason Tullie tries to just stick to Cumbria has a lot to do with its history and mentality of what a collection is, but also, they want the collection to be a resource to researchers and to represent the variation in species.
Brief over-view of the collection:
Skins– The skins collection contains about 3000 specimens from a huge range of Cumbrian species. There are only a handful of gaps in the whole collection, but most species are represented by several if not 10s of individuals.
Mounts– the mounts collection is extensive with around 1500 different pieces from birds to large mammals to some more exotic things. A cool area of the mounts, which is quite unique, is a selection of cased mounts that depict a habitat from Cumbria with a species that you would find in that habitat, these where created by an early curator (name date). They now offer an insight into the changes that have occurred, and you can soon see species that where once common that no longer can be found.
Entomology– The entomology collection has over 100,000 specimens representing most British insect orders. This collection is impressive to see and was created using local naturalist personal collections, combining them to create one large collection for the museum that is used a lot for research.
Herbarium– The museum holds a medium size herbarium collection with around 24,000 individual specimens, with a large proportion collected here in Cumbria, some from as early as 1872.
Geology– The geology collection is incredible and very large and, as it is not really my area, I am looking forward to learning and understanding more about what it tells us. Once again, this collection is mainly collected in Cumbria and shows how the landscape changes over time. This collection also has lots of different examples of fossils which is cool.
Spirit specimens– the collection also holds a small number of specimens preserved in different spirits held in glass jars.
This collection is constantly growing either with more data or with physical specimens from old taxidermy someone wants to get rid of to field collections of insects that are then pinned. It even grows through the public finding dead wildlife and bringing it in and gifting it to the museum to either be just pure data, skin or a mount.
The curator who focuses on the Natural History Department is Simon Jackson who cares for the collection as well as completing other museum curator duties such as exhibitions, public engagement and research.
Cumbrian Biodiversity Data Centre (CBDC)
The CBDC is the data centre that houses all the biological records for Cumbria, these are collected often by volunteers who collect data in the field on a large variety of things many having their own specialism. This information is then collated and sorted by the data centre then stored, this can then be accessed and used by a wide variety of people either for private or public gain.
The CBDC began in 1902, when it was part of Tullie house. It was the first of its kind however and has been collecting data longer than any other biological data centre that you now find in the UK. The CBDC partially separated from Tullie house in 2011 and functioned as a stand-alone data centre with access to the collections housed at Tullie house. Though today they are becoming more and more combined and together offer a great picture of natural history and biodiversity in Cumbria looking at the past present and future.
So now you know a bit more about me and the organisation that my placement involves you can more easily follow me and what I am up to. My plan for this blog is to post a combination of updates and then focussed information on different subjects all relating to conservation and curation.