Archive by Author | Jade Cawthray

New Badges: Miniature Lives Magnified

To go alongside the launch of the new expedition group Miniature Lives Magnified, we have a whole new set of badges for you to collect.

Transcribe 5 microscope slides and earn the ‘5x zoom’ badge.


Transcribe 50 microscope slides for the ‘50x zoom’ badge.


And become a microscopy master by transcribing 150 microscope slides for the ‘150x zoom’ badge.



A big thanks to Jordan, from Zooniverse, for the artwork.  We hope you love them as much as we do.

Don’t forget to check your Field Book, to see what progress your making on collecting badges and transcribing specimens.

I’m challenging myself to get to the ’50x zoom’ badge today.

Jade (Natural History Museum, London).


New Expedition Group: Miniature Lives Magnified

Welcome to Miniature Lives Magnified!

Here at the Natural History Museum, London, we are so excited to bring you a brand new expedition group focusing on the transcription of microscope slides.

We have taken images of 100,000 microscope slides of a variety of insects, many of which are invisible to the naked eye.  We’ll be releasing the images of these insects in small batches.

Stethynium triclavatum LT

Our first expedition is called ‘The Killer Within: Wasps but not as you know them’ and focuses on a group of tiny wasps called Chalcids, pronounced ‘kal-cids’.  Just millimetres in length these wasps are parasitoids; they lay their eggs inside other insects and the emerging larvae eat their host inside out, growing and pupating until they are mature enough to burst out as adults.  

But the gruesome killing habits of Chalcids have an advantageous role in our food production systems.  Many of the host species of Chalcids are plant pests that have devastating impacts on agricultural and so Chalcids are used commercially as a biological control agent.

Perilampus aeneus Rossius 1790 - Perilampidae

Perilampus aeneus

Being sooooo tiny Chalcids are really hard to study, which means there are huge gaps in our knowledge about their ecology and behaviour.  We want to start unlocking some of that knowledge from our collections, which is why we have brought the slides to you the Notes from Nature community.

To get stuck into our first batch of microscope slides visit the ‘Magnified’ group, indicated by the microscope icon.

And do let us know what you think of the project in the ‘Magnified Help’ talk group.

We hope you enjoy the slides and we’ll see you in Talk.

Best wishes from Jade and the Natural History Museum team.

Volunteers visit Museum to participate in Notes from Nature

As we approach the transition to the new Notes from Nature platform, we are preparing to retire the ornithological registers from the project.  But before we do we are keen to get as much of the register transcribed as we can, so we have invited volunteers to the Natural History Museum, London, to give us a hand.

A day at the Museum Visiteering


Visiteering is the newest strand to the volunteer programme at the Natural History Museum, and offers one day volunteering opportunities.  Especially appropriate for people who can’t commit to volunteering over a longer period of time or who may only be in London for a couple of days, it provides the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to the Museum’s work through participating in a digital challenge.

Monday 16th May was our first Visiteering day transcribing the Hume collection.  6 volunteers joined myself and Ali Thomas (Volunteers Project Manager) for a day in our Specimen Preparation Area and were presented with the challenge of collectively transcribing 48 pages of the Hume bird register.  After an introduction about Hume and how to complete the transcription task, we all worked together to decipher the handwriting, using online tools to check the species and location names we were struggling to work out.  The volunteers joined us for lunch in the staff restaurant and got a chance to visit our British collections in the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity.


Six volunteers joined Jade Lauren Cawthray at the Natural History Museum, to help transcribe the Hume ornithological registers.

The ornithological registers are a particularly challenging task to complete because each page requires the transcription of a large volume of data and because the handwriting is difficult to decipher.  Progress was slow, but we managed to collectively complete 23 pages of the register.  With three more Visiteering days to go (20th, 23rd and 27th May), this puts us on target to complete a quarter of a register, by our last Visiteering day.


Hume’s ornithological register is a record of specimens collected by Allan Octavian Hume in the 1800s, and now housed at the Natural History Museum’s site at Tring.

Despite the difficulty of the challenge the volunteers reported that they enjoyed…

‘Investigating and decoding the handwriting and working as a team to transcribe the register.’

‘Researching something new and discovering a variety of bird species.’

‘Understanding the way the museum works.’


A meaningful contribution to science

Unlocking the data from these registers is of huge value to the Natural History Museum, as it increases scientists’ access to the ornithological data.

We currently have three registers on the Notes from Nature platform, each containing records of the ornithological collection of a man called Allan Octavian Hume.  Hume lived and worked in British India during the 1800s working in a number of senior government positions and having a significant impact on the judicial system, on reforming agriculture across India and founding the Indian National Congress, which played a key part in India gaining independence.  In his spare time Hume made an incredible contribution to the ornithology of the South Asian region, amassing a personal collection of 63,000 bird skins, 500 nests and 18,500 eggs.  These were donated to the British Museum of Natural History (now the Natural History Museum) in 1885.  (For a more detailed account on Hume see our blog A Special Collection of Bird Ledgers’ by Birds Collections Manager, Robert Prys-Jones.)


Pericrocotus brevirostris, Short-billed Minivets, shot by Hume in 1865.

For the past 130 years Hume’s collection has been an essential resource for all research into the taxonomy and distribution of birds across South Asia.  The Museum receives requests for data from this collection on a regular basis, but we are unable to answer some of these queries because we are unable to conduct data searches by location, date, or species.  By digitising the data from these registers, we will be able to respond to many more of these research queries and therefore better support international research into the birds of this region.

A big thank you to Emma, Mitra, Fjolla, Mersije, Sarah and Xiaoyue who gave their time on Monday and made a valuable contribution to the Museum.  We look forward to welcoming our next visiteers on Friday.

There are just a couple more weeks left for you to help us transcribe this important data.  Spare an hour and see what bird species you can find amongst the pages of the Hume register.

Many thanks, Jade (Natural History Museum, London) and NFN team.

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