21 February 2015

Happy World Pangolin Day!

It's 21 February 2015 and you know what that means: World Pangolin Day!

And I bet you thought I was joking when I mentioned more than one natural history-themed date in February...

Chinese pangolin Manis pentadactyla at the Leipzig Zoo. 
[image in the public domain]

12 February 2015

Happy Darwin Day!

It's 12 February 2015, and that means it's Darwin Day - everyone's favourite natural history-themed date in February - and this year we're celebrating 206 years since the great naturalist and founder of modern evolutionary science was born in 1809.

Charles Darwin, 1878. [image in the public domain]

05 February 2015

'Footmarks On Stone,' or, Why This Blog Is Called Noah's Ravens

The year is 1802. In South Hadley, Massachusetts, a farmer called Pliny Moody discovers something strange in a slab of rock. Closer investigation seems to indicate that the unusual markings in the rock are footprints, with three narrow, spread-out toes, very similar to the footprints of birds.

The mysterious track-maker was referred to as 'Noah's Raven,' in reference to the first bird set out from the ark after the flood in the book of Genesis; presumably these footprints were thought to have been made by the raven, which flew 'back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth,' and, apparently, eventually came to land in western Massachusetts.

The 'Noah's Raven' specimen at the Beneski. [photograph by the author]

04 February 2015

Welcome To the Museum

Welcome to Noah's Ravens, the blog where I'll explore the collections of the Beneski Museum of Natural History, the natural history collection at Massachusetts's Amherst College. It is also my current place of employment; I'm a first-year student at Amherst and work shifts as a museum docent and tour guide. As a hopeful future palaeontologist, it's basically a dream job made real.

Here on Noah's Ravens, I intend to take a closer look at some of the specimens in the Beneski's rather extensive collections, which include giant mammals of the Pleistocene, one of the world's largest assemblages of dinosaur tracks, and a lot of oreodonts. Seriously, there are loads of oreodonts.

The author, with the skull of one of the aforementioned oreodonts. 

I'm going to look for stories behind the fossils, to catch a glimpse of their often-interesting human histories as well as their natural histories. There will likely be diversions from the Beneski Museum as well, and maybe even slight dips into my personal life (natural history-related dips, of course). I do hope you'll find this blog interesting, and — if you don't already — come to share my fascination with the specimens that call this museum home.

— M

(PS — Wondering about the blog title? That'll need a post of its own...)