Reef Encounters: Dr. Laurie Raymundo
21 June 2018 | 12:00 am

Thu, 21st Jun 2018

As part of International Year of the Reef, we're speaking to people who work with coral reefs, from filmmakers to fish taxonomists. Dr. Laurie Raymundo is a Professor of Marine Biology at the University of Guam, she told us about saving coral reefs and seeing a humpback whale "poop". What is your typical day? I spend quite a bit of time in front of my computer writing and analyzing data and much of the rest of the time is spent in the water on my research projects. I also do a bit of teaching here and there and, of course, I spend time mentoring my students, either via meetings in my lab or out in the water, teaching them the skills they will need to accomplish their thesis projects around the world. When did you first know you wanted to work in this area, and how did you get into your work? When I was 11, I was snorkeling in the Philippines where I grew up, on Apo Island, before it was a Marine Protected Area. My father was diving at the time. Even though I’d been snorkeling since I was six, that particular day was absolutely mesmerising underwater. I was so caught up with what I was seeing that I ended up with the worst sunburn of my life but it was a pivotal event that I didn’t realise until much later would drive me to want to work in those systems for the rest of my life.What inspires you in your work? The innate beauty of coral reefs keeps me going. The wanton destruction that the human species casually subjects these systems to is a difficult reality to cope with. What would your message for the future of reefs be? We must reduce CO2 emissions on a global scale. While I suspect corals and reefs are more resilient than we give them credit for, we have already lost much. If we can make this global effort, it will have lasting positive repercussions on many systems, including our own. That is worth doing.What is your favourite creature on the reef, and why? Do you mean aside from corals? My favorite coral is Galaxea archelia, which I find particularly beautiful. Aside from corals, I’m really fond of cuttlefish of all kinds. They are so much fun to watch and play with because they are so intelligent and curious. They’re just seriously cool animals.What’s the oddest thing you’ve seen at sea? That’s a hard one. My students and I usually vie to see the coolest thing, which can sometimes be very odd. Among my favorites would be seeing a humpback whale poop alongside our boat. My daughter was three years old at the time we saw this, so that was a really big thing for her. Seeing guitarfish off Heron Island in Australia was also odd because guitarfish are odd.What’s the next big thing for your work? Climate change-induced coral bleaching has really devastated reefs in Micronesia, where I live and work now. My lab has begun focusing on coral propagation, culture, and restoration work for certain key species that we feel are vital to the future of Guam’s reefs. So, that is what I will continue to focus on into the foreseeable future. Who’s your ‘reef hero’ – someone doing great work or advocacy for the future of reefs? That’s a difficult one. There are so many great people doing incredible work. I think it would have to be the fisherman on the island of Gilutangan in the Philippines, who was head of their Bantay Dagat (Watchers of the Sea) organisation. These organisations are set up in coastal villages all throughout the country, for the purpose of protecting community-organized Marine Protected Areas. The fisherman told us stories about how, when the MPA was first being established, his wife would yell at him about why he was giving up fishing grounds when he had a family to feed, but he understood why they needed the MPA, why they needed to control their fishing and allow a part of the reef to be protected and unfished. He was thinking about his children, about tomorrow, about the fact that he could no longer catch big fish. A few years later, a local politician was trying to take over their MPA so he could build a resort on that island and push out the fishers and open the MPA. It was totally illegal, but he was more powerful than the fishers were. I don’t know what happened after that. I hope the fishermen won.

The Colour Wheel
19 June 2018 | 12:00 am

Tue, 19th Jun 2018

Inspired by Colour: The Rainbow Revealed, horticulturist Nick Gadd has devised a planting scheme to recreate a colour wheel using bedding plants in our Sunken Garden. We caught up with him to find out how. With nature offering so many colourful plants, how did you choose which ones to include? We had to choose plants to match particular tones of the colour wheel – the challenge is to achieve the right shade of yellow, not just any yellow for instance. We’ve also chosen plants with a long flowering season, or those that flower repeatedly.How did you cope with green? Are there green flowers? For the green and yellow-green segments we’re using two plants chosen for the colour of the foliage rather than their flowers – Carex comans ‘Phoenix Green’ and Solenostemon scutellarioides ‘Wizard Golden’. How many individual plants make up each slice? Because we’ve applied the colour wheel design on to a rectangular area the segments vary in size. The larger corner segments will take about 590 plants each, while we’ll only need around 340 plants in the smaller segments. It’s about 30 plants per square metre. How many of them were grown on site? We’ve had to grow the plants for the two green segments on site as they aren’t conventional bedding plants which means they’re not easily available commercially in the size and quantity we need. Will all the colours flower at the same time? When will the garden be at its best? There’ll be a good period when all the flowers will bloom simultaneously – roughly from the end of June once it has had a chance to establish itself and then throughout the summer. Some will flower sooner, so we’ll keep deadheading them to encourage more flowers while we wait for the other plants to ‘catch up’.Thank you to The Metropolitan Public Gardens Association for funding this display.

Refugee Week is turning 20
15 June 2018 | 12:00 am

Fri, 15th Jun 2018

Refugee Week is turning 20 and at the Horniman we're celebratingEvery year on the 20 June, people around the world celebrate World Refugee Day with a whole week of events meant to recognise the positive contributions of refugees and asylum seekers to our societies. In the UK, Refugee Week is a nationwide programme of arts, cultural and educational events that celebrate the contribution of refugees to the UK and encourages a better understanding between communities.  At the Horniman, we have a long tradition of working with refugee groups, schools, and our visitors to raise awareness about the problems facing refugees and this year is no different. On the 20 June, to mark the celebration World Refugee Day our volunteers will encourage general visitors to join the national Make Simple Acts campaign to help change the way we see refugees, and ourselves.Throughout the week school groups in our education centre we will also be shown "Exile in Colour", an exhibition of drawings and paintings produced by adults and children during therapeutic art sessions at Southwark Day Centre for Asylum Seekers and Barry House, a local hostel for asylum seekers and refugees, and "Where Do I Come From?", a patchwork tapestry created by visitors during our annual Crossing Borders event in March, a full day of workshops and art and craft activities delivered by local refugee organisations.

Jellyfish husbandry and coral fragging
7 June 2018 | 12:00 am

Thu, 7th Jun 2018

For volunteers week we spoke to our former Aquarium volunteer, Sophie, about how her experience has helped her forge her own career. My name is Sophie Palmer and I am a former volunteer at the Horniman Museum and Gardens. I spent a number of years volunteering once a week in the Aquarium working with Jamie Craggs the Aquarium Curator. When I started, Project Coral had not been set up but the Aquarium still housed an impressive coral display. On my first day, Jamie and James Robson, the former Deputy Curator, walked me through the various stages of jellyfish husbandry, which would become one of my duties over the next few years. I was also taught how to maintain various tanks and displays and specific feeding practices.In the early days of my volunteering, I was shown husbandry techniques of various animals including tree and dart frogs, giant clams, flamboyant cuttlefish, corals, and of course jellyfish. These practices required a variety of skills, such as maintaining habitats, observing animal behaviour, experimenting with different diets, reading research papers, counting eggs, and fragging (making cuttings of) coral for further growth and research. It was an exciting time to be working at the Aquarium. Project Coral was set up and as it started to build momentum and gain recognition, the Aquarium acquired sophisticated equipment to maintain the corals, and I was learning more about water chemistry and how the new equipment worked. Jem, one of the aquarists, showed me how to maintain the live food that was fed to the animals at the Aquarium. These included different types of algae, Artemia, and Mysis. Michelle Davis, the new Deputy Curator, started to involve me in jellyfish husbandry in more depth and suggested I attend a weekend workshop run at The Deep in Hull. This gave me the opportunity to learn more about breeding and maintaining jellyfish as well as networking with other jellyfish enthusiasts.In 2017, two new aquarists started at the aquarium - Chris, who has a strong background in pathology, and Chloe, who is now revamping the flamboyant cuttlefish breeding programme. Having Chris and Chloe there in the last few months of my time volunteering proved invaluable as I was able to shadow two extremely knowledgeable aquarists. I loved my time volunteering at the Aquarium. It helped me onto the path of a fantastic new career - I now work at an aquarium and seal sanctuary in Northern Ireland - and the team there are really enthusiastic and happy to teach. There is no lack of passion at this Aquarium and it makes all the hard work you put in worth the effort.


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