From Darwin To Dinosaurs: Edinburgh Welcomes World’s Natural History Experts
A network of international experts, unable to meet since 2019, will finally gather in Edinburgh next week to discuss how best to preserve and manage the world’s priceless natural history collections.
In the post pandemic world, awareness is higher than ever of the need to work in global partnerships, towards better understanding of our natural world and how to protect it against the ultimate threats of the biodiversity crisis and climate emergency. The annual conference of the Society for the Protection of Natural History Collections (SPNHC), co-hosted by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) and National Museums Scotland (NMS), was originally scheduled to happen in the capital in 2020, in celebration of the Garden’s 350th anniversary.
Covering subjects as diverse as how to send a dinosaur skull to international partners to protecting unique archives in a disaster, will now take place in the city from 5 – 10 June, with organisers welcoming 613 delegates from over 40 countries. Both an in-person and virtual event, 442 members will arrive in the city from countries including the USA, Denmark and Australia, with a further 171 expected to attend online.
Rob Cubey, Plant Records Officer at RBGE commented: “The world’s natural history collections range from plant specimens collected by Charles Darwin to fossils of our greatest dinosaurs. They play a vital role in our understanding of the natural world, including the environmental impacts of biodiversity loss and climate change and are a core element of advancing science.
“Finding effective ways to understand, conserve and manage these valuable resources is therefore crucially important and the conference will provide us with an invaluable opportunity to share information, new techniques and best practice with one another.”
Dr Nick Fraser, Keeper of Natural Sciences at National Museums Scotland, added: “We are delighted to be welcoming delegates from around the world to Edinburgh for this important conference.
“Our collections are a unique resource to help us better understand the world’s biodiversity past and present – in essence they are libraries of the natural world collected over centuries and covering millions of years, while the extensive and diverse geological collections speak to the incredible history of our planet and the processes that formed and continue to shape our planet. They are unique and invaluable reference points for scientists around the world. Working together and pooling our resources and knowledge, we can build a more complete picture of our natural heritage."
The diverse conference programme of over 400 talks, practical workshops and field trips brings together museums, research institutes, zoos and herbaria. Opening talks include RBGE’s Dr Greg Kenicer who will introduce the Folk Flora of Scotland and Professor Bhavani Narayanaswamy, an expert on microplastics in the world’s oceans from the University of the Highland and Islands (UHI).
Entitled Through the door and through the web: releasing the power of natural history collections onsite and online, this year’s theme reflects the increasing importance of operating both in the physical and virtual environments. Many of the sessions will focus on the use of technologies such as the digitisation of specimens. These techniques allow experts to share information more easily, further harmonising global research.
The delegates – many of whom will be visiting Scotland for the first time – will also have the chance to join field trips, with options including an exploration of the plants and habitats on Arthur’s Seat to a ghost tour and whisky sampling.
The main conference partner SPNHC, will this year be joined by two new partners, the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) and the Natural Sciences Collections Association (NatSCA).
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