V Factor and British Bryozoa
A unique collaboration, from October 2014 to August 2015
V Factor is an exciting volunteer initiative based at the Natural History Museum in London. It targets collection-based projects across our science departments, giving volunteers the chance to work alongside our experts and immerse themselves in real curation and research. At the same time, the volunteers enable scientists to undertake new projects and develop new ways of using the collections.
The current V Factor project involves the recycling and reuse of a scallop shell collection. It focuses on the animals in the phylum Bryozoa (moss animals) and the epifauna that has taken up residency on the shells.
What will volunteers do?
The Museum holds a collection of more than 300 buckets of scallop shells from a Heriot-Watt University horse mussel restoration project that started in Scotland in May 2012. The importance of the Bryozoa on them, as initial colonisers in the restoration process, had not been anticipated, but in practice this collection represents one of the largest known collections of British marine bryozoans and covers geographic regions where we have little previous knowledge of epifauna diversity.
Under the guidance of our specialist science staff – Mary Spencer Jones and Dr Joanne Porter (Heriot-Watt University), with support from Dr Piotr Kuklinski and Rob Cook (Heriot-Watt University) – volunteers will work together to curate, digitise and capture specimen data from the colonised shells.
Volunteers will help us reinforce basic standards in collection care and sort specimens into two key categories:
• high-quality specimens to be moved into permanent collections and added to the Museum database
• other specimens, which will be used as taxonomic and educational tools as follows:
-----Taxon crates for informed specialist groups, such as Seasearch and Wildlife Trusts
-----Biota in a Box for schools and the general public
These crates and boxes will create a unique scientific resource and educational tool that will promote the role of collections in current biodiversity issues. They will contain key environmental and ecological messages on British Bryozoa, and activities and experiments that can be carried out away from the Museum.
More information on the horse mussel restoration project.
Can I get involved?
All our volunteer places are now filled for this collaboration but we hope you'll come and see us in the Specimen Preparation Area (SPA).
I'm under 18 what can I do to find out more? You will soon be able to take a piece of our collection home today by picking up a Biota in a Box. This is a free loans service for groups of up to eight people. Boxes can be borrowed for up to three weeks so you can spot some British bryozoans, while exploring the impacts of ocean acidification.
Watch this space for information on how to borrow a Biota in a Box in due course.
We are in the Specimen Preparation Area (SPA) of the Darwin Centre on Thursdays (from October 2014 through to August 2015). You can talk to one of our Volunteer Leaders to find out more about British Bryozoa and see our current volunteers in action!