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About 30-40% of the visitors to the Manchester Museum’s Entomology Department are art or design students and professionals, who come over to get inspired by the variety of insect shapes, colours and patterns, and to talk to the museum curatorial staff about what interests them. Museum’s curators are especially pleased when such visits result in something tangible, such as an installations, original ideas for contemporary product and/or jewellery design, and, of course, pure examples of fine art.

Here we are pleased to present an interview with Robin Gregson-Brown, a Lepidoptera artist as he calls himself, from Derbyshire (recorded 20th October 2016). At the age of 80 and in retirement, Robin has embarked a new career of poetic artist of nature. And what could be more beautiful nature’s beautiful creatures than moths and butterflies? Hardly anything! Robin is fascinated by Lepidoptera all his life and now started to satisfy his passion by painting them in mixed media.

In collaboration with the Derby Museum and the Manchester University Museum, he has produced a series of spellbinding images of endangered and extinct butterflies, which were displayed once in his personal exhibition at the Derby Museum (22nd May – 5th June 2016).

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Lets Get the Party Started – Dig the City Grow Wild! Parade.

Thursday 30th July 9:30 – 11:30 am

Got Green fingers? Wild about Wild flowers? Well come along and join the party, as we take a “
Meadow for a Walk” from Hulme Garden Centre into downtown Manchester.

Working with the City Council, National Trust and the National Wildflower Centre, Kew Gardens London are looking for
Fun loving Flower People to help carry flower pots, shake some seed packets  and join in the carnival  atmosphere of dancers and performers as we get ready for Dig the City 2015.  

Kew also need volunteers to help promote their Grow Wild! campaign for the duration of Dig the City (Monday 3rd – 7th August  10:30 – 4:30pm) so if you love gardening and nature, and can spare a few hours, you might be able to help us out (lunch,  t shirt and free seed pack provided!)


For more information, contact

Stephanie Lynch

stephgrowwilduk@gmail.com

Mobile: 07756344263

Manchester Project Coordinator for ‘A Tale of Two Cities’

https://www.growwilduk.com/content/england-flagship-site

@GrowTwoCities

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It is known that during the latest Pleistocene glaciations (2.59-0.01 Million years ago) the territory of Britain, as well as of Ireland and many other territories of the northern hemisphere, were covered by glacier and were uninhabitable for terrestrial fauna. During glaciations animals and birds either migrated southward or died out. Palaeontological and genetic evidence indicates that the majority of the contemporary fauna of Britain arrived from continental Europe dispersing across a land bridge that existed between Britain and mainland Europe during the short period after ice retreat and before it was submerged by rising sea level (ca. 0.45 Mya).

However, surprisingly, there are few British species that were able to survive the latest Ice Ages, for instance, the endemic Groundwater Shrimp (Niphargus glenniei; see on the photos below) currently known from cave ecosystems of Devon and Cornwall only. Another endemic species of the groundwater shrimps, restricted to Ireland, is Niphargus irlandicus. None of these species is known outside southern England and Ireland correspondingly.

Niphargus glenniei, the Groundwater shrimp that is adapted to live in subterranean environments. Shrimps are blind, lack pigmentation and have elongated appendages. Photo credit: Chris Proctor.

Niphargus glenniei, the Groundwater shrimp that is adapted to live in subterranean environments. Shrimps are blind, lack pigmentation and have elongated appendages. Photo credit: Chris Proctor.

As argued by McNerney et al. (2014), the most recent common ancestor of both species and all other Niphargus species (over 300 species distributed in cave ecosystems across Europe) was isolated approximately 87 Million years ago, i.e. during the late Cretaceous period (100–66 Mya). More importantly, that the two endemics (glenniei and irlandicus) should have been where they are now for at least 19.5 Mya and thus they have survived the entire Pleitocene period and many glaciations in the groundwater. This makes both groundwater shrimps the oldest known species of the British fauna.

This story is based on the paper by McNerney et al. (2014), The ancient Britons: groundwater fauna survived extreme climate change over tens of millions of years across NW Europe. Molecular Ecology, 23: 1153-1166; doi: 10.1111/mec.12664

 

 

 

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One of the aims of our field work in Iceland was to visit the areas with the native forest of Downy Birch (Betula pubescens). We’ve visited several places with the birch forest, for instance, the site in the southern shore of the Lake Myvatn and the forest along Logurinn fjord in eastern Iceland. In both places the forests were full of edible mushrooms, and I could not help myself and collected some, which then we cooked and eat together. Here are the photos or some of those edible mushrooms we encountered during our trip.

Milky Mushroom (Lactarius resimus), or ‘Груздь’ in Russian, is considered a delicacy in Russia and some other countries of Eastern Europe when pickled in salt.

Milky Mushroom (Lactarius resimus), or ‘Груздь’ in Russian, is considered a delicacy in Russia and some other countries of Eastern Europe when pickled in salt.

Slippery Jack (Suillus luteus), one of the most popular edible mushrooms; especially tasty when pickled.

Slippery Jack (Suillus luteus), one of the most popular edible mushrooms; especially tasty when pickled.

Woolly Milkcap (Lactarius torminosus).

Woolly Milkcap (Lactarius torminosus).

The Brown Birch Bolete (Leccinum scabrum) is typically used in soups and also commonly added as a component of mixed-mushroom dishes. Very delicious when fried with onion in soared-cream, as we did in Iceland.

The Brown Birch Bolete (Leccinum scabrum) is typically used in soups and also commonly added as a component of mixed-mushroom dishes. Very delicious when fried with onion in soared-cream, as we did in Iceland.

More information about each mushroom can be found online at the following links: Milky Mushroom (Lactarius resimus); Woolly Milkcap (Lactarius torminosus) or here; The Brown Birch Bolete (Leccinum scabrum) or here; and Slippery Jack (Suillus luteus) or here.

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While travelling from the Town of Stykkishólmur to the Town of Grundarfjördur (road No.54, along the northern coast of Snaefellsnes Peninsula), about half-way, we came across a road sign depicting a shark (see on photo). The information desk below this sign said that there the place Bjarnarhöfn is named after Björn Ketilsson from Norway who settled in here around 900AD and also that there is one of the oldest churches in Iceland built up in 1856-59. Being puzzled we immediately turned to the place and were not disappointed.

The road sing and the building of the Shark Museum at Bjarnarhöfn, Iceland

The road sign and the building of the Shark Museum at Bjarnarhöfn, Iceland

What we found there was one of the most eclectic Museums I’ve even seen, the Shark Museum. The Museum contains all sorts of objects related to every-day life of a small fishing farm in Iceland: anything one can image from the kitchen tools or a gramophone of the early 20th century to taxidermy of Icelandic variety of chickens and models of Viking or more recent fishing boats. However, the main story was about shark fishing and the production of shark meat. The guests of the Museum are met by the friendly curator and owner, known as the famous ‘Shark Man’ Hildibrandur of Bjarnarhöfn. Details of the shark fishing industry (mostly on the large local Greenland shark – Somniosus microcephalus) in Iceland were shown on a big screen, and all the kinds of relevant fishing equipment, from the shark-fishing boat to harpoons and fishing nets, were exhibited on the walls and display cases. Shark-liver oil was once an important export commodity for Iceland. The shark meat was cured with a particular fermentation process to make the notorious Icelandic delicacy known as hákarl (see also here).

The boat and equipment needed for fishing the Greenland shark; the Shark Museum at Bjarnarhöfn, Iceland.

The boat and equipment needed for fishing the Greenland shark; the Shark Museum at Bjarnarhöfn, Iceland.

A variety of museum objects reflecting an every-day life of a shark-fishing village in Iceland, plus something else; the Shark Museum at Bjarnarhöfn, Iceland.

A variety of museum objects reflecting an every-day life of a shark-fishing village in Iceland, plus something else; the Shark Museum at Bjarnarhöfn, Iceland.

We were able to visit the drying house where shark and fish meat is hung to dry for four to five months before use. Shark meat (hákarl) and dried fish (harðfiskur), as well as nice pieces of traditional Iceland knitting, could be purchased from the Museum. We also found out, the owner offers individual/personal guided tours of the Museum. Unfortunately, as he does not speak English, a personal tour was not an option for us.

Drying of shark and fish meet; the Shark Museum at Bjarnarhöfn, Iceland.

Drying of shark and fish meat; the Shark Museum at Bjarnarhöfn, Iceland.

One of the oldest wooden churches of Iceland built up in 1856-59; Bjarnarhöfn, Iceland.

One of the oldest wooden churches of Iceland built up in 1856-59; Bjarnarhöfn, Iceland.

We were more than impressed by the Shark Museum (and the old wooden church, see on photo below), as what we saw was a true authentic story of the life of an individual shark-fishing village told by those who have been involved in their family business for generations. I am sure that the content of this Museum sooner or later will become an essential part of a National Museum of Icelandic Culture and Lore, should such museum be ever organized in Iceland.

Dmitri Logunov (the Curator of Arthropods at the Manchester Museum) and the owner of the Shark Museum,  Hildibrandur of Bjarnarhöfn.

Dmitri Logunov (the Curator of Arthropods at the Manchester Museum) and the owner of the Shark Museum, Hildibrandur of Bjarnarhöfn.

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During the field trip to Iceland, we have visited many places of interests, including of course pebble-beaches on sea shores made of  grey, smooth basalt pebbles.

Grey basalt pebbles on the sea-shore of western Iceland (Londrangar, Snaefellsnes)

Grey basalt pebbles on the sea-shore of western Iceland (Londrangar, Snaefellsnes)

To my surprise, the same pebbles can be found on shelves of many gift- or craft-shops that are available virtually in every hamlet, village or town of Iceland. However, the pebbles in shops are nicely hand-painted, representing examples of mini-artworks, often naive but always touchy (see on the photos below). In one shop the painted pebbles were crafted as ladybirds of various shapes and colours (from yellow and green to the traditional red-coloured beetles).

Lovely ladybird crafted from pebble, NW Iceland.

Lovely ladybird crafted from pebble, NW Iceland.

I don’t know whether it is indeed a national Icelandic tradition to hand-paint pebbles, such craft is suitable to everyone, from children to enthusiastic adults, allowing everyone to become a master of own mini-masterpiece. Someone called this the ‘beach stone craft’; further instruction and inspiration of this craft can be found here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Han-painted pebbles with diverse wishes, craft festival at Hrafnagil near Akureyri, NW Iceland.

Hand-painted pebbles with diverse wishes, craft festival at Hrafnagil near Akureyri, NW Iceland.

A collection of artworks (=painted pebbles) produced by students of a local primary school on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Natural History Museum in Heimaey Island.

A collection of artworks (=painted pebbles) produced by students of a local primary school on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Natural History Museum in Heimaey Island.

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On the second day of our field trip to Iceland, we visited the interesting site lying in the southern municipality of Reykjavik, called Garðabær, which literally means ‘Garden Town’. We walked around the beautiful Lake Urridavatn surrounded by boggy meadows full of sedge, dwarf bushes (like blue berry) and cotton grass (see on the photo).

Boggy meadow with cotton grass (left) and the blue berry bush (right) near Lake Urridavatn in Iceland

Boggy meadow with cotton grass (left) and the blue berry bush (right) near Lake Urridavatn in Iceland

On the meadow side of the path to the lake we found a plastic cup thrown by someone a few days ago. Incidentally, the cup, which was partly filled with rain water, became a deadly trap to insects and spiders. Having inspected the content of the cup I found two specimens of crab spiders (Xysticus sp.; male and female), one specimen of the ground beetle (family Carabidae) and one harvestman (family Phalangiidae). So, the cup ‘worked’ exactly in the way as true pitfall traps (see also here) that are used by scientists for ecological surveys. A poor thinking or maybe carelessness of someone who threw this plastic cup away instead of dropping it into a waste bin resulted in some casualties of minibeasts. Throwing a plastic cup (or any unwanted plastic item) away is hardly seen as a great deal or an action causing any threat to wild life. However, my short and simple story seems to say otherwise. In simple words, it reminds us that recycling waste is essential to both natural environment and humans, minimizing an unnecessary risk of damage to the environment and helping out our planet be a better place to live in. More about recycling can be seen here and here.

The plastic cup that became a deadly trap to a number of minibeasts near Lake Urridavatn in Iceland. See also a short video below.

The plastic cup that became a deadly trap to a number of minibeasts near Lake Urridavatn in Iceland. See also a short video below.

 

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