James borrell is a conservation scientist and science communicator, with a particular interest in how species adapt to changing climate.

Behind The Scenes At The Natural History Museum


Behind The Scenes At The Natural History Museum

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to get a glimpse at the insect collections, behind the scenes at the Natural History Museum, London.

I was following up the work of the 1973 West Africa and Sahara Expedition, led by Nigel Winser. The team traversed the Sahara in a pair of land rovers (twice), setting off from London, passing South through Morocco, Eastern Algeria, Niger and Nigeria before returning via Mali and Western Algeria.

Excitingly, a large part of the expedition was the collection of entomological specimens from across remote parts of the Sahara. On their return, these were deposited into the care of the Natural History Museum. It’s an expedition that I would one day be keen to repeat, so 40 Years later, I went to have a look!

Why repeat an expedition that has already done? Well, in ecology, repeating fieldwork many years later is incredibly useful allowing scientists to identify trends and changes in the environment. As a conservationist, it’s far more appealing for me in fact (and easier!) than trying to come up with a novel ‘first’, like being the fastest or youngest or tallest, or first person with a birthday in June and blue eyes…

Thank you very much to Martin Honey for kindly taking the time to show me around.

Oh, and the last photo isn’t from the Sahara collection (they would be rather out of place!), it’s just a splendid draw that caught my eye and I couldn’t resist including it.

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