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Articles on Natural history

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Scientists have used author Henry David Thoreau’s notes to inform studies of climate change in eastern Massachusetts. Tom Stohlman/Flickr

By fact-checking Thoreau’s observations at Walden Pond, we showed how old diaries and specimens can inform modern research

Journals, museum collections and other historical sources can provide valuable data for modern ecological studies. But just because a source is old doesn’t make it useful.
Behind the scenes, natural history museums store biological samples from the field. Ryan Stephens

Museum specimens could help fight the next pandemic – why preserving collections is crucial to future scientific discoveries

Specimen preservation means researchers don’t need to reinvent the wheel each time they ask a new question, making it critical for the advancement of science. But many specimens are discarded or lost.
The smouldering ruins of a child’s bike lies amongst a property lost to bushfires in the Mid North Coast region of NSW last month. Darren Pateman/AAP

Friday essay: living with fire and facing our fears

Living in a bushfire-prone area means every decision - from plants to parking spots to holidays - is shaped by fire risk. We live and die by the advice we are given, and the advice we ignore.
With a lot not on display, museums may not even know all that’s in their vast holdings. AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Digitizing the vast ‘dark data’ in museum fossil collections

A tiny percentage of museums’ natural history holdings are on display. Very little of these vast archives is digitized and available online. But museums are working to change that.

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