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Ship Ahoy!

11 August 2009 by Lisa

Rain or shine, getting out on the River Mersey is always a fun trip and Curator of Botany, Geraldine Reid, has taken part in one of this year’s Mersey Ferry Discovery Cruises. Here she is to tell us more about them…


Woman looking through a microscope

Looking at plankton aboard a Mersey ferry. Image courtesy of Jennifer Welch.

Last Friday, with staff from the Clore Natural History Centre and aquarium, I took part in my first Mersey Ferry Discovery Cruise. It was with some trepidation of what to expect on the high seas of the Mersey that I ventured out. The day started over at Seacombe with us getting the plankton nets out and throwing them over the side of the ferry (attached to a long line) to get samples of the water so that we could demonstrate why the estuary is such a haven for birds. These are very fine nets which we pull through the water to catch the microscopic animals (zooplankton) and plants (phytoplankton) that it contains. These tiny organisms are indicators of the health of the estuary. Plankton essentially is anything that cannot swim against the current. Read more…

Bughouse welcomes bizarre newcomer!

20 July 2009 by Lisa

Bug House Demonstrator, Rebekah Beresford, tells us about the latest addition to the Bug House…


Well, this is my first post to the blog and through my future blog posts I hope to highlight some of the exciting things we do in the Bug House. My name is Rebekah, although I seem to have adopted the title ‘Beckie Bughouse’ somehow, and I’m the Bug House Demonstrator. I’ve been working for National Museums Liverpool for almost a year now and basically I love and wholly respect invertebrates of every kind.
Wandering Violin Mantis

The weird and wonderful Wandering Violin Mantis

So, may I present to you the Wandering Violin Mantis or Gongylus gonglodes. This awesome looking insect is our newest addition to the Bug House. We have eight of these funky little creatures and they’re one of the most bizarre looking out of all the mantids.

These insects are part of the order Mantodea and are characterized by their slender limbs and stocky upper body. As suggested by the name, this mantis looks somewhat like a violin with leaf like appendages protruding from the legs to aid camouflage and a leaf like head. They’re from Southern India and Sri Lanka and come in a variety of different shades of brown.

The wandering violin mantis is more of a ‘sit and wait’ species rather than a hunter but that’s not to say that they’re picky. These mantids are confident, ravenous feeders and will snatch a variety of flies and moths from the air, if the dare to fly close enough. Most mantids are solitary and have to be kept individually but these are unusually social. Given plenty of space they can be housed together in small groups of 8-10 and pose no threat to each other.  Read more…

Magnificent desolation

15 July 2009 by Lisa

Planetarium Operator, John Moran, gives us his thoughts on one of the most important anniversaries of the year…


On 20 July 2009 we will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of arguably the most momentous occasion in history, the moon landing by the crew of Apollo 11.

Lunar module on the moon

The lunar module on the moon’s surface. Image courtesy of NASA.

We are marking this occasion at World Museum Liverpool with the launch (no pun intended) of a brand new show in the Planetarium about the moon called ‘Magnificent Desolation’. The title of this new show was taken from the words of Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, one of the Apollo 11 astronauts, as he set foot on the moon after Neil Armstrong. When he surveyed the landscape he described it as “magnificent desolation”. Read more…

Bugs behind the scenes

8 April 2009 by Lisa

Man holding a case full of bees

Guy Knight shows us some bees

This week I got to look around the entomology lab at World Museum Liverpool, at one of the creepy crawly tours that are available to visitors during school holidays. Zoology curator, Guy Knight, took us around the lab so we could see some of the thousands of mounted specimens housed in the back of the museum.

He showed us a case full of crickets that were found in Liverpool after they hitch-hiked here on some bananas. Then there were questions from some of the eager smaller visitors on the tour – my favourite being; ‘What happens if they come back to life after you’ve killed them?’ Maybe they had been to the Ancient Egypt gallery beforehand and had learned about the afterlife! Bees were next on the agenda – we have around 10,000 bees in our collections apparently. We learned that there are 250 different kinds of bees, but wild bumblebees are getting rarer due to the countryside changing and there being less wild areas for bees to live in. Read more…

Spot the comet

6 February 2009 by Lisa

At the end of February, Earth will receive a visitor named Lulin. This is not an alien, but a comet that astronomers say may have never visited this corner of the solar system before and should be visible to the naked eye. Our resident expert in all things celestial, Planetarium Operator John Moran, is here to tell us how to spot it…


Constellation map

Stars in our eyes: Will you spot Comet Lulin?

If you were to scoop up a handful of snow, shape it into a rough spherical shape and add some dirt to it, you would basically be holding in your hand the ingredients that make up a comet. These mountain-sized dirty snowballs are some of the most intriguing objects there are in space. That’s why during February and beyond, millions of eyes will be eagerly looking towards the constellation Leo to try and catch a glimpse of Comet Lulin.

From roughly the 16th of the month, not only will we be able to see Comet Lulin with the naked eye but also within two degrees of it you will find the ringed planet Saturn. This should be a beautiful sight through binoculars, all you need to do is find it. Look for the constellation Ursa Major, often called The Plough, which most people are familiar with, then find the two pointers which show us the way to the Pole star. If you follow the pointers in the opposite direction of Polaris and continue until you come to the first big constellation, this will be Leo, identified by the back-to-front question mark. Look down and slightly to the left for the brightest object in this constellation, which at the moment is Saturn, and just below this will be Comet Lulin. As the days pass so the comet will start moving upwards and to the right.
 
Comets originate in a vast region of space which borders our solar system called the Oort Cloud. As they swirl around, some smash into each other and like snooker balls on a table get fired off in a different direction and this starts their long cold journey into our solar system. As they near the sun the ice starts to melt and gas and vapour start streaming out through evaporation; this is how the tail forms, which clearly identifies a comet. Read more…

Darwin came back to life?

4 February 2009 by Lisa

Did we get a visit from Darwin himself today? Our Treasure House Theatre Coordinator, Jo Connor, gave us all the details to clear up the mystery…


Man with beard holding cushion with brown bird on it.

Darwin lives!: Paul Netterfield with the Oven Bird

You may have been forgiven for thinking you’d travelled back in time if you had been at the World Museum Liverpool atrium this morning, as you would have bumped into Mr Charles Darwin, aka Treasure House Theatre Demonstrator Paul Netterfield.

Paul was in role as the great naturalist complete with costume and beard to highlight the museum’s upcoming events to commemorate Darwin’s centenary year.

Our Mr Darwin greeted the press and visitors as they entered and pointed out his own specimen (now in our collections), an Oven Bird from the Straits of Magellan. The specimen is complete with hand written tags and is now in the Hidden Treasures Case in the museum’s atrium. Read more…

Star-gazing in the new year

30 December 2008 by Lisa

It’s new year’s eve tomorrow and we’ve got a host of new stars to look forward to in January 2009. No, I don’t mean the start of Celebrity Big Brother, I’m talking about the night sky and its numerous stars to spot over the next few weeks. Although, reading the mythological stories behind the constellations, you could be forgiven for thinking that they had come out of a celebrity gossip mag – plenty of betrayals and lost love. The Brad/Angelina/Jennifer debacle is nothing compared to this lot! Our Planetarium Co-ordinator and resident night sky expert, John Moran, has brought us January’s Nightwatch report about Orion the Hunter and Perseus the great Greek hero…


Night sky constellation map

Starry, starry night: Orion the Hunter, officially more interesting than Shilpa Shetty.

The true winter constellations are on show in January with the Hunter Orion dominating the mythological cast of characters. Orion was a boastful hunter who claimed he could hunt and kill any animal, but met his match with a lowly scorpion as he couldn’t penetrate its armour. Orion fled into the sea and as he was swimming away, Apollo tricked his sister Artemis, who was in love with Orion, into firing an arrow at the far away object swimming in the sea. The arrow hit its mark and when Artemis found out what she had done, she begged Zeus to place Orion among the stars for all eternity and placed the scorpion on the opposite side of the sky.

Another constellation on show this month is Perseus named after the handsome Greek hero who saved the life of Andromeda by defeating the evil sea monster Cetus. Perseus had just slain the Gorgon Medusa and was carrying her head back as a trophy, because even in death Medusa’s head was still capable of turning any creature that looked upon her into stone and this is how he defeated Cetus.

On the 4th of the month look out for the first meteor shower of 2009, the Quantadrids, which have a high rate of 60 meteors per hour. Look out also for the ringed planet Saturn, which you will find in the constellation Leo around 9pm onwards. Don’t forget that 2009 is the international year of astronomy, so there should be plenty of interesting things to do and see to keep your imagination fired over the coming year.   
Read more…

Fieldwork update

5 July 2007 by Lisa

Hello, I’d like to introduce myself! I’m Lisa Jones and I’m filling in for Dawn Carroll as E-PR Officer for National Museums Liverpool, while she is away on leave. This is my first blog post and I am bringing you an update about the entomology fieldwork at Smardale Gill, from Curator of Entomology, Guy Knight. There are lots of great photos of the team at work on Flickr and you can read on to find out more about his team’s latest findings…


Tom Mawdsley in the field

The team at work in Smardale Gill

Because of the awful weather during the past month, the visit to Smardale Gill NNR we had scheduled for June threatened to be a fairly miserable affair. Luckily the rain did hold off for most of the time and we even got a few sunny spells! This time we were accompanied by Tom Mawdsley, retired Curator of Diptera (flies) at National Museums Liverpool and Dr Jennifer Newton the county spider recorder for Cumbria. Much of the day was spent servicing and repairing traps which had been damaged by the weather and livestock but it was also a good opportunity to see some of the rare plants and butterflies already known from the reserve. Meanwhile, some specimens from the samples are being prepared for our collections, allowing us to make accurate identifications and providing a lasting record of the presence of these insects at the site for future researchers.
Read more…

Lassell’s telescope

19 July 2006 by Karen

a small JCB lifts a large green telescope onto the back of a flatbed truck

The telescope being carefully removed from the gallery.

It’s been a bit of a slow week news-wise in the web office, so I’m reduced to posting an interesting photo that was taken some weeks ago now. It’s a rather large telescope being permanently removed from what was then the Conservation Centre (now the National Conservation Centre). The telescope is a replica of one used by William Lassell, a Liverpool astronomer. The original was the first telescope mounted equatorially to allow tracking of the stars over long periods. Lassell is famous for having discovered several planetary satellites including Triton, moon of Neptune (1846) and Ariel and Umbriel, satellites of Uranus (1851). Read more…

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