Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

FLEUR FULCHER: Fleur's Internship Diary Week Three

Over, once again to the divine Ms F. She is spending the summer as an intern at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter. This is her story.......

This week started the same as the others, with more shell cleaning, this week it was some rather amazing looking Jamaican snail shells, some as small as 2mm across, thankfully all remained intact after my ministrations. We also got to watch as a whale skeleton was moved, so that parts of it could be cleaned and then put back. Apparently it is a Cuvier's Beaked Whale and shall be displayed when the museum re-opens.

The most fun part of the week, however, was Friday when we were checking the herbarium for pests; whilst vacuuming and checking we found many things, chunks of rock with 100 year old lichen on, huge dried mushrooms in old soap boxes, and lots of plant samples in old envelopes with Victorian stamps on. My fellow intern found a book-louse, a tiny little thing which enjoys munching on books and suchlike objects.

After finding this, the box it was in was quickly wrapped with polythene and parcel tape to be frozen, whilst this may seem mean to the louse, it is apparently a humane (louse-ane?) way of killing them. Museum pests are actually quite interesting and some are moderately cute even if they are in the wrong place, drugstore beetle is my current favourite.
Less charming are spiders, who, althought they don't eat the objects do leave poo all over them that is quite hard to clean off!!
This internship has made me love what I do even more than before, and I've learnt a huge amount.
Many museums require volunteers even if you haven't a related qualification, so why not get involved? You get to see many things that aren't visible to the public, and get a new view on how museums work.

Fleur's bosses at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum have been kind enough to allow her to write this blog, even though it is not usually their policy to allow such things. We would like to thank them for this, and to point out that all pictures of museum specimens are copyright to the RAMM


C-E B said...

I wonder what book lice ate before books were invented?


Anonymous said...

If you think this sort of thing is bad in a museum, spare a thought for those of us who work in biology research establishments.

Life in these sorts of places is a never-ending battle to keep the experimental subjects alive, happy, well and contained. Generally speaking, if you take a virulently pestiferous insect pest which in the wild happily takes on everything a modern farmer can throw at it and laughs and put said six-legged superman into a lab, it immediately turns into a delicate shrinking violet of a beastie which refuses point blank to even thrive unless conditions are *just* right, but yet remains just healthy enough to invade the greenhouse cubicle next door and make a right bloomin' problem for the person using it, who of course cannot resort to pesticides lest he hurt his own crop of pestiferous shrinking violets...

Believe me, I have experience of culturing one of the most damaging pests in UK agriculture in a lab, and although out in the wild they laugh at nerve poisons, giggle insanely at stupendous radiation levels (yes, someone has tried out nuclear radiation as a pest control technique; it mostly doesn't work at all) and refuse to die even in ferocious arctic winters, in the lab even a slight increase in the chlorine in the tapwater you're using to water the plants with can clobber the poor things.

That particular debacle cost me six weeks research time, and gave me a deep and abiding respect for the keepers of fish who do battle with this sort of thing daily. It also explained why there is an oft-quoted scientific paper which describes how to make artificial tap water, as written by a man who got extremely fed-up with the highly variable tap water quality of the city of Newcastle (or so my PhD supervisor, Rolo Perry told me...).