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Reef Encounters: Dr. Mary Hagedorn

As part of International Year of the Reef, we spoke to Dr. Mary Hagedorn, Director of MarineGEO Hawaii and creator of the first genome repository for endangered coral species, who gave us a "call-to-arms about the future of our life on the planet".

What is your typical day?

My typical day often starts out in a boat where I am motoring over to the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology in their launch to my laboratory on Coconut Island. This marine laboratory is one of the best in the world for studying coral because we are surrounded by acres of coral reefs and have excellent tools for studying their biology.

A lot of my time is spent writing and talking to people to help fund my work but my summers are filled with field work where we collect coral in the Bay, bring them into our seawater tanks and then study their reproduction.

It can be exhilarating when everything goes as planned. However, it is often very tiring physically; it’s hard work and there are lots of long hours without a lot of sleep, as there are many, many long nights and early mornings involved in this type of endeavor.

  • Dr Mary Hagedorn, Dr. Hagedorn is the Director of MarineGEO Hawaii, a global near-shore long-term monitoring program, J Daniels
    Dr. Hagedorn is the Director of MarineGEO Hawaii, a global near-shore long-term monitoring program, J Daniels

When did you first know you wanted to work in this area, and how did you get into your work?

I started working on coral reef preservation as the result of an accident, on an expedition in the Amazon in 2002. This accident altered my view of safety for expeditions in such remote areas.

I was already working on the cryopreservation of fishes in the laboratory and decided that this same approach would be useful and needed for coral reefs in the future.

What inspires you in your work?

I am a futurist. I am always looking to the future to see how my science can make life better for people and animals.

When I first started my work, few people saw the value or need for banking coral. Today’s students see a direct connection to their lives, so I am inspired to continue by their interest and enthusiasm.

If 40 years from now, kids get to see a coral reef as a result of my work that is a great thing to contemplate and gives me a great sense of satisfaction.

  • Smithsonian MarineGEO, The Smithsonian Institute's MarineGEO on Coconut Island is also home  to the HawaiÊ»i Institute of Marine Biology., Smithsonian Institute
    The Smithsonian Institute's MarineGEO on Coconut Island is also home to the HawaiÊ»i Institute of Marine Biology., Smithsonian Institute

What would your message for the future of reefs be?

To me, the future of our reefs is really a call-to-arms about the future of our life on the planet.

We may think that saving species, especially marine species, is something that other people must figure out because the ocean seems so distant, vast and unapproachable. However, all our individual actions impact the Earth in some way. Even though we are one of a collective of billions of people on Earth, our footprints matter. So, I would urge all people who love the ocean for any reason take responsibility for our own actions and impacts.

A critical first step is starting to imagine how these impacts will affect future generations.

I try to imagine what life on Earth will be like without coral reefs. Will we have fish? Will more people be hungry because there are fewer fish? Will our oceans be less able to produce oxygen because reefs are degraded? I see all these scenes very clearly.

It does not mean that it will happen, but it drives me to move forward with my work. My feeling is that unless we can band together in a moral imperative across nations, we will not be able to save our reefs.

What’s your favourite creature on the reef, and why?

Although this may sound odd, one of my favorite creatures on the reef is the sea urchin embryo. They are amazingly beautiful and fascinating.

They develop eight arms as they grow and swim around like unearthly underwater starships. From there they develop into some of the most essential creatures on the reefs - herbivores. These keep the reefs from being overrun by algae. Sea urchins will be some of the most important components to keep reefs intact for the future, and it all starts with these beautiful little spaceships.

  • Sea Urchin Larva, Sea urchin larvae develop eight arms as they grow and swim around like unearthly underwater starships, Elizabeth Lenz
    Sea urchin larvae develop eight arms as they grow and swim around like unearthly underwater starships, Elizabeth Lenz

What’s the oddest thing you’ve seen at sea?

I can’t imagine anything in nature being odd.

What’s the next big thing for your work?

Coral have some of the most restricted reproduction on the planet. Most coral spawn once a year for 45 mins each of two nights. This is a very short time window to figure out how to collect and preserve them. Unfortunately, bleaching is now becoming more common on most reefs, and this stress is damaging coral reproduction.

For example, last year we organised a field expedition to Mo'orea and the coral did not even spawn. This is both expensive and disheartening. As a result, we are initiating a new project to cryopreserve tiny fragments of coral, we call them micro-fragments.

If this is successful, we can work anywhere in the world at any time to help freeze coral. We are hoping that, once thawed, these tiny fragments of coral will quickly grow into mature coral in a few years that can reproduce.

Freezing micro-fragments will allow us to work more quickly, and train more people more broadly to help create these essential cryobanks. It is crucial to gather these frozen collections while the genetic diversity on the reefs is still broad.

Who’s your ‘reef hero’ – someone doing great work or advocacy for the future of reefs?

One of my heroes is Ken Nedimyer. Ken embodies the ethic of ‘going out and trying to help fix the world one person at a time’. He is an amazing person. His work on coral restoration using coral trees, and his inspiration to a generation of people working in the field, has helped turn around a major loss of coral coverage in the Caribbean.

Bird watching in London

David Darrell-Lambert has been working with the Horniman for years, leading the Dawn Chorus Walks. He has just published a new book about Bird Watching in London, so we caught up with him to find out more about his spots around the capital and how he got started.

When did you start bird watching? 

I started in the early 1980’s, my junior school teacher Ms Anderson took us on a trip to Rye House RSPB up the Lea Valley. The warden there explained to us that Coots (a type of water bird, all black bar a white bill with a white shield above it) have webbing between each section of their toes. They can then dive under the water to evade predators.

  • Coot in Hyde Park, Coot in Hyde Park, David Darrell-Lambert
    Coot in Hyde Park, David Darrell-Lambert

Moorhens (another type of water bird, black with white stripe down the side and a yellow and red bill, very smart) have long thin toes which they can use to pull themselves under the water and only leave their bill above the water, so they can breathe but the predator can’t get them. Well this just ignited my passion.

I dashed home from school and ask my dad to take me out every possible day to go birdwatching.  So by bus, tube and train we went off birdwatching across the capital and the UK.

What is your favourite spot to see birds in South London?

Oh, hard to choose there are so many. Clearly I have a massive fondness for the Gardens at Horniman. A lovely variety of trees, the big open slope and a great view north, I’ve seen so many lovely birds here and twice located Great Spotted Woodpeckers nest!

Crystal Palace Park is great too: lakes for ducks and gulls, mature trees for breeding birds, plus a massive vantage point to watch migrating birds flying over the capital. A bigger version than the Gardens at Horniman.  

What is your most unusual London bird spot?​ 

So many odd places to go!

Beddington Farmlands: it used to be a sewage farm for many years and then they started using it as rubbish tip and now unfortunately as an incinerator. Not happy about that!

It gets some amazing migrant birds there from a Citrine wagtails from Eastern Europe, to a Glaucous-winged Gull from the west coast of America. This year they had a Hoopoe which is European bird turn up in the spring.

  • Citrine wagtail, Citrine wagtail, David_Raju (Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0)
    Citrine wagtail, David_Raju (Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0)

It is used to hold the only Tree sparrow population left in the capital with fifty plus pairs but due to their habitat being destroyed they are down to a few pairs.  

What do you hope to see in the capital?

There is so much to see in the capital from Little or Tawny owls present in many parks and woods, to rare breeding birds such as Peregrines which are now doing very well in the capital.

Or even the specialised Black redstart, a small Robin like bird which the males are mostly black all over with a bright red tail which they shimmer! Most of the time I am happy to see almost anything in London, from discovering a new population of House sparrows somewhere, to listening to a Wren nesting next to bus stop or the fruity song of a Blackbird singing in the evening on a TV aerial.

  • Black redstart, A Black redstart, David Darrell-Lambert
    A Black redstart, David Darrell-Lambert

I really like finding a migrant bird, so in October I love to heard sharp thin zeep calls of Redwings migrating at night, which pile out of northern Europe and cross the capital heading south to escape to freezing northern winters.

What are ways we can help the capital’s bird population? 

Firstly, make your garden as wildlife friendly as you can or willing too.

Plant native species such as hawthorn which are great for insects and then a great good source for our birds.  Put up feeders for birds, whether many or just a few, and remember to keep them full throughout the year and vary what you put in there. In my garden the House sparrows love the mixed seed whilst the Greenfinch and Goldfinch love the sunflower hearts.

  • Birds at a bird feeder, Birds at a bird feeder, Phil Burrows via Pixabay
    Birds at a bird feeder, Phil Burrows via Pixabay

Put out some water. You don’t have to build a pond, you can just put a bowl out or hanging bird bath which will used to wash in and drink from.  I have the last two and the other day a young Magpie sat right in the middle of the bowl for a wash!

If you want to do more then offer your free time to a local wildlife charity. You can join a working party to create or manage habitat, do some fundraising, help with their admin or just become a member. This means they will get more money, and the more money they get then the more work they can do.

What should we should stop doing?

Rubbish and plastic! Recycle as much as possible so we don’t have as much rubbish that gets buried or burnt, neither of which are good for the environment. Try to use less plastic - the less we use, the less will end up in our rubbish regardless if it is recycled or not.

Oh yes, and never feed birds bread. It is no good for them and can pollute the water too if throw in to a pond or a lake.

How would you recommend someone gets started with bird watching in London? 

There are so many ways possible but I would say these two options.

Firstly, join a guided walk, whether it is via somewhere like the Horniman, where I have lead many early morning walks, listening to the explosive dawn chorus. Or your local wildlife group who will also do walks, such as the London Natural History Society. They run many across the capital throughout the year.

  • Birds in the Horniman Gardens, Blackbird, David Darrell-Lambert
    Blackbird, David Darrell-Lambert

Secondly, go to one of our premier reserves in the capital such as the London Wetland Centre run by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Rainham Marshes run by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds or Walthamstow Wetlands run by the London Wildlife Trust. They will be able to tell you where you can see birds on their sites and at some you can hire binoculars for the day too. Some places even have guides position around their site so you can ask them what is about or what you can see in that area.  

Remember always to just have fun and enjoy the day.

David Darrell-Lambert is a Ornithological Consultant and author. Find out more about Birdwatching London.

Exploring Colour with Jaz

Our Gardens volunteer and Horniman Youth Panel member Jaz has let us know what he enjoys the most about our exhibition Colour: The Rainbow Revealed and he hopes you'll enjoy it too.

In July 2017 I started my Bronze Arts Award when I volunteered with Chocolate Films taking photographs of museum visitors during filming for the Wall of Voices in our new World Gallery.

Recently, I visited the Colour exhibition with the Horniman Youth Panel. I played the games, tried on the camouflage costumes, and sat in the Mood Room with my shoes off. I am sharing my favourite areas of the exhibition which made me feel calm. 

  • Jaz03, The colours in the room make me feel calm and excited, Jaz
    The colours in the room make me feel calm and excited, Jaz

  • Jaz02, I like doing this as it makes me feel calm and I like water, Jaz
    I like doing this as it makes me feel calm and I like water, Jaz

  • Jaz01, This is my favourite colour, Jaz
    This is my favourite colour, Jaz

  • Jaz04, I am standing between the coloured arches because it looks nice, Jaz
    I am standing between the coloured arches because it looks nice, Jaz

  • Jaz05, The red colour gave me blurry eyes, Jaz
    The red colour gave me blurry eyes, Jaz

  • Jaz06, The green colour reminds me of being in the garden, Jaz
    The green colour reminds me of being in the garden, Jaz

By showing what I like about the exhibition, I hope other people will want to visit – it’s both exciting and calming. Even though it’s mainly for children, the exhibition still makes a 23-year-old like myself feel calm. 

Stars of the Grasslands Garden

Our Grasslands Garden is now open to explore and our Gardener Damien has picked some of his favourite plants in the display. 

Regular visitors to the Gardens may have noticed that the central beds of our new Grasslands Gardens are bursting into life. 5,000 North American and South African perennials planted by the Gardens team last year are waking from their dormancy, and I thought I’d highlight a few of my favourites.

The earliest flowers have bloomed already but there is plenty more to come, with many of the species at their best in late summer. So do come along and visit.

Dodecatheon meadia, ‘shooting star’

I love Dodecatheons so my heart did a little somersault when I saw this on the list for the beds. Dodecatheon meadia is a spring-flowering, summer-dormant relative of the primrose from eastern North America. Its hanging purple flowers have strongly reflexed petals – so much so that they remind me of falling shuttlecocks. Its common name, more poetically, is 'shooting star'.

After germination Dodecatheon seedlings grow for a month or so before doing what, to the uninitiated, looks like dying. They’re actually entering dormancy, which is quite unusual for a plant at such an early stage of development. After spending summer and winter as tiny dormant buds in the soil, they then emerge again the next spring. The first flowers usually come in the third year from sowing.

Time to see in flower: April-May

  • Dodecatheon Meadia, C T Johansson (CC BY 3.0)
    , C T Johansson (CC BY 3.0)

Castilleja integra, ‘wholeleaf Indian paintbrush’

Another from North America, this time from the south-west. Also, a slight tease as it isn’t in the display just yet. The reason for this is it’s a hemiparasitic plant that draws most of its nutrition from the roots of other plants which is tricky to establish in cultivation.

We’re currently growing this in the nursery by allowing it to attach itself to pots of Canadian fleabane. The plan is to introduce some pots like this into the display this autumn. We would allow the roots time to make contact with other plants in the display, then remove the fleabane once the Castilleja has established on other host plants.

It usually parasitizes grasses in the wild, so we’re hoping this preference will help wean it off its current dependence on the fleabane once we plant out.

Time to see in flower: June-September

  • Catilleja integra, Wikicommons (in public domain)
    , Wikicommons (in public domain)

Echinacea pallida, ‘pale purple coneflower’

This is one of the real stars of the North American section of the display. Echinacea purpurea, along with its hybrids, is more familiar in UK gardens but Echinacea pallida is a wonderful, strong-growing plant with pale pink, drooping petals. Slugs and snails are a problem with Echinaceas while they’re young so checking the sides and bottoms of pots was a regular job when we were growing these. As you can imagine, a few thousand pots squeezed together provided plenty of hiding places for hungry critters.

Time to see in flower: June-July

  • Purple Coneflower, SEWilco (CC BY 3.0)
    , SEWilco (CC BY 3.0)

Cotyledon orbiculata var dactylopsis, 'pig's ear'

This fleshy-leafed succulent from South Africa was one of the few plants we propagated from cuttings rather than seed. A few people have mistaken this for an Aloe in the display, presumably because of the long, tapering, fleshy leaf. Cotyledon orbiculata’s usual leaf form is actually ovate like its close relative, the popular houseplant Crassula ovata, the Jade plant. They are quite different though and we have a breed with cylindrical leaves, hence its variety name: dactylopsis meaning ‘looking like a finger’.

Time to see in flower: July-September

  •  Pig's Ear, Noodle snacks (CC BY-SA 2.5)
    , Noodle snacks (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Bulbinellaeburniflora, 'Bleekkatstert'

This beautiful, fleshy-rooted plant with striking white flower spikes occurs in the Renosterveld and Fynbos plant communities in South Africa. It is listed as vulnerable in the wild, where its habitat is threatened by agriculture and livestock grazing.

We produced ours from seed but got satisfactory germination only at the second attempt. It germinates naturally as temperatures cool after the summer heat. Our initial summer sowing produced very little but an early autumn sowing a few months later, with warmth during the day but cooler nights, brought a good number of seedlings.

As well as Bulbinella eburniflora we are growing plants of its relatives Bulbinella latifolia and Bulbinella nutans. All are currently growing on the nursery standing ground and should be introduced to the display in autumn or spring, another incentive to keep coming back to see this dynamic, changing display.

Time to see in flower: July-August

  • 800px-Bulbinella_latifolia_var._doleritica_0zz, David Stang (CC BY-SA 4.0-
    , David Stang (CC BY-SA 4.0-

Around the World in 80 Objects

To celebrate the opening of our new World Gallery we're using our Twitter to take you "Around the World in 80 objects". 

Every day on our Twitter for 80 days we'll be posting a new object that you can see in our World Gallery as we navigate a route around the world.

We'll take you over mountains, deserts, and oceans, as we plot a course that shows the global span of our Anthropology collection.

Having started right here in England, so far we've moved south through Europe and will soon be crossing to Africa. From there we'll sweep across Asia, go island-hopping through Oceania, and traverse the Americas, before swinging back around to Lewisham via the Arctic.

So join us as we follow in the footsteps of Phileas Fogg and celebrate human creativity, imagination, and adaptability around the world.

For now, enjoy our recap of our journey over the past six days.

Day One - Great Exhibition Fan

Our journey began here in London, with this fan made in 1851 to celebrate the opening of the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park. The Great Exhibition was the first of a series of world fairs popular in the 19th century that inspired great minds including Charles Darwin and Charles Dickens.

Day Two - Napoleon's Pipe

A short hop over the English Chanel brought us to France to inspect a beautifully ornate pipe made of porcelain, silver, and amber that is said to have been smoked by Napoleon Bonaparte himself.

Day Three - Tree of Jesse

Crossing into the Alps of Switzerland, we shared this stunning carved ivory plaque depicting the Tree of Jesse.

Day Four - Snuff Box

Taking inspiration from the Grand Tour's of the past we moved down through Italy, inspecting this 19th century snuff box displaying some of Italy's most famous sights.

Day Five - Presepe

Presepi are a regular sight in Southern Italy at Christmastime. Presepi depict nativity scenes in miniature and often include humourous and ribald figures too, our Presepe includes some familiar faces.

Day Six - Mamuthones Costume

On to Sardinia, to inspect this Mamuthones costume. The Carnival of the Mamuthones dates back thousands of years and you can find out more in our new World Gallery.

World Gallery: Tattooed Memory

Temsuyanger Longkumer speaks to us about "Tattooed Memory", his incredible artwork that features in our new World Gallery in the Nagaland Encounter. 

Can you talk us through what 'Tattooed Memory' means to you?

Tattooed Memory is a memoir of growing up in a tribal community with a dual ethnicity.

My parents were from the Ao tribe in Nagaland. The Ao’s were among the first tribes in Nagaland to receive western education, which came along with Christianity.

After embracing Christianity my parents went on a missionary journey to the Konyak region, one of the most remote areas in Nagaland where they eventually settled and raised their family. My siblings and I were born and raised in the Konyak way of life, but we were also taught the ancestral customs of the Ao tribe through songs and stories.

The sculpture is a body cast I’ve made of myself. It displays a Konyak tribe’s facial tattoo and an Ao tribe’s Tsungkotepsü shawl. The tattoo and the shawl are both highly respected symbols of their respective tribes and something only great warriors and highly accomplished citizens are entitled to wear. When I was young I greatly admired the visuals and what they stood for and dreamt of one day achieving the same.

The sculpture also includes the landscapes I would explore as a child and a watchtower from where I would watch the world go by as part of the head. A memory-laden river takes the form of eyelashes which I have made from my own hair. They work their own down to meet the roots where it all began.

What do you find important to your creative process?

I find interactions of all kinds central to my creative process. Even the smallest conversation on a seemingly random issue can sometimes spark brilliant ideas. 

What mediums do you enjoy working in at the moment?

Currently, I’m enjoying working on a series which uses a multitude of mediums - painting, printmaking, and Claymation.

This group of works involves over-arching ideas relating to the human body as a microcosm of events in the universe. I am exploring the relationship between the microscopic world - the politics and diplomacy between neighbouring cells, the battles waged, fought, spread, repelled - to that of the external world outside of the skin.

What are the difficulties or challenges you encounter when creating artwork like this?

Apart from the technical difficulty of composing the varied materials into a coherent body, the main challenge in creating ‘Tattooed memory’ has been in finding a balance between an artistic interpretation and the darker side of the subject sometimes involved.

The practice of headhunting contributed largely to the exclusive rights to own the facial tattoo and the tsungkotepsü shawl, not to mention the influence it had on the vast array of artistic expressions in the forms of dance, songs, sculptures and architectural designs.

The new World Gallery has as a strapline, ‘what it means to be human’. What does being human mean to you?

Being human, to me, is to live and partake in life with empathy, to the best of one's ability, and the fact that we ask ourselves "what it means to be human" is what makes us human.

What is one thing you believe we all share as humans?

Possibility.

The Museum of Your Life

Our collections are made up of important objects, whether they are a rare example or a part of everyday life. With our World Gallery opening, we’ve been asking you to share your important objects with us.

What would go into the museum of your life?

What hold special memories that you couldn’t imagine parting with?

Here are some of your objects and stories.

This beautiful vase belonged to my grandmother and it was given to me after she passed away a few years ago. We had a shared love of the colour green...

She had 3 of these in the windowsill of her drawing room - purple, red and green. The sun would shine through each one reflecting the beautiful colours around the room. 

She knew the green was my favourite. This was one of her treasured objects and now it is mine. It reminds me of her every day.

A few days before my daughter was born, with my wife absolutely bossing early labour contractions, we ordered a Chinese takeaway thinking it may be the last we have as a family of two. This fortune was in my cookie.

I was scared and nervous for what was about to happen and this fortune felt comforting. I know they’re a bit naff but it felt like a sign. I keep it in my wallet to remind me of those days just before my life changed forever and I became a Dad.

They really calm me down. I think it’s their bird sound. It’s like a beat that you can do and they copy. It’s basically like I’m talking to them.

I remember hearing wood pigeons in school in Lower Sydenham Woods on a trip looking for other birds. My second favourite bird is a Peregrine Falcon – powerful and colourful, fast and smart.

I wear the bracelet every day, as it reminds me of my family and makes me feel connected to them. Last year me, my mum and my sister went on holiday together and we bought fabric bracelets to remind us of the trip – the fabric bracelets didn’t last long, so for Christmas my sister bought us all matching metal bracelets that we could all wear, and that would last.

My family live in the south west, and I don’t see them very often so the bracelet allows me to feel close to them. It holds happy memories of fun times together with my family!

Find out more about objects that are special to others in our World Gallery.

Family labels for the World Gallery

A group of ESOL learners (English for Speakers of Other Languages) and their families made labels for the World Gallery.

You will find pictures and questions in every continent to help you explore other cultures and remind you of your roots and traditions. 

How do you express your own culture?

What knowledge and skills do you pass to the next generation?

How do you relate to other people?

How do people show their power?

What makes a good leader?

Reef Encounters: Dr. Laurie Raymundo

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 analysing 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.

  • LJR UW by Cie, a photo taken of me by my son-in-law on Gabgab reef, Apra Harbor, Guam, watching a late afternoon spawning aggregation., Dr Laurie Raymundo
    a photo taken of me by my son-in-law on Gabgab reef, Apra Harbor, Guam, watching a late afternoon spawning aggregation., Dr Laurie Raymundo

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.

  • LJR, Taken in the Philippines, surveying for disease, Dr Laurie Raymundo
    Taken in the Philippines, surveying for disease, Dr Laurie Raymundo

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.

  • Galaxea_acrhelia, Galaxea archelia, CC BY 4.0: Michelle Jonker
    Galaxea archelia, CC BY 4.0: Michelle Jonker

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.

  • Giant_guitarfish_georgia, The Guitarfish (right) is a type of ray found in warm waters., CC BY-SA 2.0: John LaPierre
    The Guitarfish (right) is a type of ray found in warm waters., CC BY-SA 2.0: John LaPierre

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?

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-organised 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.

  • Methods_working on nursery, myself, students, and volunteers doing basic maintenance and assessment on nursery corals, Dr Laurie Raymundo
    myself, students, and volunteers doing basic maintenance and assessment on nursery corals, Dr Laurie Raymundo

The Colour Wheel

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.

  • Colour wheel planting june 2018 cchurcher (9), Connie Churcher
    , Connie Churcher

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’.

  • Colour wheel planting june 2018 cchurcher (4), Connie Churcher
    , Connie Churcher

Thank you to The Metropolitan Public Gardens Association for funding this display.

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