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A Calm Visit to the Horniman

Want to find a quite and peaceful spot in our Museum? Engage Volunteer, Anahita Harding, has just the ticket. Here, she tells us her favourite calm spots and the best times to visit them. 

'Sometimes the Museum can feel quite busy and hectic but for those in the know, there are some places that are a bit quieter where you can get find some peace.

The Gardens are a lovely place to go when a quiet spot is needed but on a rainy day this isn’t always ideal. If you ever need a quiet spot to think and be calm, here are some indoor spaces I like to go to during my breaks.

Nature Base

If you want to see the harvest mice, come to the Nature Base in the morning, as this is the best time to see them running and climbing! The harvest mice are crepuscular, which means that they are most active in the mornings and in the evenings.

The quietest time tends to be in the morning when the Museum has just opened but the Nature Base can get busy during other times of the day.

  • A calm visit to the Horniman, The harvest mice in the Nature Base are best seen in the morning.
    The harvest mice in the Nature Base are best seen in the morning.

The Natural History Gallery balcony

The Natural History Gallery balcony has a variety of cases with interesting specimens in them. There is also a nice space here to read stories and books. A grand clock is near the staircase, and it gently chimes every fifteen minutes. It is called the Apostle Clock and was made during the 19th century in Germany.

Usually, the balcony is very quiet and is a nice space to learn while watching everyone in the gallery below. There is also a good view of the walrus!

  • A calm visit to the Horniman, The apostle clock is on the Natural History Gallery balcony
    The apostle clock is on the Natural History Gallery balcony

The Aquarium

Have you seen the jellyfish in the Aquarium? As you enter the Aquarium you will see a space lit up with a calming blue light, and jellyfish gently moving through their tank. It is lovely to watch them move. Above, you will see a large turtle hanging from the ceiling, can you find it? This is one of my favourite spots, and I hope you enjoy it too.'

  • A calm visit to the Horniman, Watching the jellyfish can be very calming
    Watching the jellyfish can be very calming

The Museum is at it's quietest after 2.30pm on weekdays during term time. 

Share your favourite peaceful spots from the Museum and Gardens with us using #horniman.

Find out more about volunteering at the Horniman

Saving Coral Reefs

Did you know we are doing ground-breaking coral research behind-the-scenes? Our Aquarium Curator, Jamie Craggs, tells us about the threat to coral reefs around the world and how we are working to solve it.

‘Coral reefs are incredibly diverse habitats. One square metre of coral reef contains as many different types of animals (genera) as a whole hectare of Amazon rainforest.

They also support millions of people through food security, coastal protection and income through tourism.

But coral reefs are under threat. Human activities like pollution, overfishing and climate change mean we are losing coral reefs at an alarming rate.

How do we stop this?

The only way to understand how to recover the coral reefs is to understand coral reproduction. We need to look at the way reefs naturally rebuild themselves, so that we can help the process.

In their natural habitat, most corals reproduce over one or two nights a year during a mass spawning event. All coral in one area spawn at once and the event is dependent on the right climatic conditions, temperature and phases of the moon. 

But once or twice a year is a very short time to study coral reproduction!

That’s where Project Coral comes in.

What is Project Coral?

Project Coral is a research project looking at coral reproduction led by the Horniman Museum and Gardens along with international partners. The main aims of Project Coral are:

1. To understand reproduction.
Coral have occasionally spawned in aquariums, but it has always been accidental. By understanding what makes coral tick in the wild, we have created a research system which mimics their natural environment. This allowed us to produce the first planned spawning event in an aquarium in 2013. We are now developing protocols so that corals can be spawned at different times of the year.

2. To share our knowledge.
If the research community has access to the same set up as ours then we could potentially be looking at far more spawning events every year then we currently have. This would give us more chance to study how coral reproduction will be affected by future ocean conditions as a result of climate change.

3. To help restore the coral reefs.
Once we have more opportunity to study coral we, along with the international scientific community, will have more of a chance to produce baby coral which can be used to reseed dying reefs.

4. To supplement the hobby trade.
If we get to a point where we can produce baby coral, we might also be able to produce them for the aquarium trade, a practise that will provide alternative sustainable income for people that rely on coral reefs.’

Read more about Project Coral.

You can help save the coral reefs by supporting Project Coral research.

Finding the real Dory

The latest Pixar movie, Finding Dory, is now showing in cinemas. We visited our Aquarium to find out more about the real fish that inspired the character Dory.

Dory may be her name in the film, but the actual scientific name for this fish is Paracanthurus hepatus. It has various different common names around the world, but here at the Horniman we call it the regal tang.

Regal tangs are a species of Indo-Pacific surgeonfish and our fish were given to us by one of the UKs leading sustainable-caught livestock suppliers. This species lives in our Fijian reef display and we also have some behind-the-scenes where our Aquarium keepers do their research.

Here are three facts you might not know about the regal tang fish:

They are not forgetful:
It is unlikely that the regal tang has a bad short-term memory, like Dory does in the film. There are no studies which prove fish have a ‘three-second memory’ – that is just a popular myth.

They can be cutting:
The regal tang are a type of ‘surgeonfish’. All surgeonfish, as their name suggests, possess razor-sharp retractable blades near their tail. These are sometimes used during territorial disputes in the wild.

They are really useful:
The regal tang feed on algae. This is very helpful in the wild and in our Aquarium because the algae could otherwise overgrow and smother the corals it grows on. The algae can also look unsightly in our Aquarium, so the regal tang helps keep this at bay.

  • Finding the real Dory, Coral reefs are the most diverse communities in our oceans
    Coral reefs are the most diverse communities in our oceans

Regal tang help keep coral reefs healthy, but these magnificent places are under threat from more than just algae.

One square meter of coral reef contains the same number of species as a hectare of amazon rainforest. Coral is a vital part of this habitat because it provides food and shelter for many species.

However, climate change and warming sea levels are causing a process called ‘coral bleaching’ where the algae (which give the coral its colour) die. This is affecting all biodiversity from tiny fish through to sharks.

Find out more about how you can be like a regal tang and help the coral by supporting the vital Project Coral research in our Aquarium.

Share your pictures of our Regal tang and other Aquarium creatures using the hashtag #LivingHorniman.

Summer Raffle

Win some fantastic prizes in our Summer Raffle. 

Tickets are just £1, or 6 for £5, and are available at the Horniman until 4 September 2016. Look out for ticket sellers at all Festival of Brasil events or visit the Ticket Desk.

The draw will take place on Friday 9 September.

All proceeds help support the work of the Horniman Museum and Gardens (Charity Registration Number 802725).

The prizes are:

Aquarium Tour

Join a curator for a fascinating behind-the-scenes tour of our much-loved aquarium.

The tour is for up to 5 visitors and available Monday – Friday. Prize must be taken up by 31 December 2016, dates subject to availability.
Find out more about the Aquarium.

Meet the Animals

An exclusive opportunity to meet the residents of our Animal Walk, including alpacas, goats, guinea pigs and chickens.

The tour is for up to 5 visitors and available Monday – Friday. Prize must be taken up by 31 December 2016, dates subject to availability.
Find out more about the Animal Walk.

Meal in the Café

Treat yourself with our delicious selection of hot and cold meals, amazing cakes and locally-sourced drinks.

Voucher for all food and drink up to £50. The voucher can be used any time during usual Café opening hours. Valid until 31 December 2016.
Find out more about the Café.

Tickets to Dinosaurs: Monster Families

Discover the world of dinosaurs and their young in our family-focused interactive exhibition. The winner will receive a free family ticket for two adults and two children, valid until 30 October 2016.
Find out more about Dinosaurs: Monster Families.

Horniman Family Membership

Enjoy a year of fantastic benefits including free and unlimited entry to the Aquarium and our temporary exhibitions, and a 10% discount in our Shop.
Find out more about Membership.

Plus, five more winners will receive one of our famous cuddly walrus toys!

Terms and Conditions

1. Closing date 04/09/2016.
2. Entry is via tickets purchased at the Horniman Museum and Gardens only. Entrants must provide details of their chosen contact method. Please keep the ticket as proof of purchase.
3. The prize winners will be chosen at random from all valid entries received by the closing date. The decision is final and non-negotiable.
4. The winner of each prize will be notified by their chosen contact method by 12/09/2016. The winners must claim the prize within two weeks or they will be considered forfeited and another draw will take place.
5. Winners may be asked to provide a photograph or to be photographed and interviewed to provide a quote about winning in order to help promote future fundraising.
6. Entrants must be over 16 and resident in UK.
7. No cash alternative.
8. Prizes are non-transferable.
9. The Horniman Museum and Gardens reserves the right to substitute the prizes with a prize of similar value at its own discretion.
10. The Horniman Museum & Gardens reserves the right to withdraw or amend the raffle as necessary due to circumstances outside its control.
11. By entering the raffle, all entrants will be deemed to have accepted and agreed to be bound by these rules.
12. Employees of the Horniman Museum and Gardens, their agencies and other companies directly involved in the running of the raffle are not permitted to enter.
13. The competition is run by the Horniman Museum and Gardens, 100 London Road, London SE23 3PQ

We are committed to protecting your privacy in line with the Data Protection Act. The data you have supplied will be held securely. We will not share this information with any third party without your consent.

Thank you for supporting the Horniman.

Project Coral at Charterhouse Aquatics

On Saturday 14 November, Charterhouse Aquatics hosted a fundraising event at their showroom in Haggerston to raise awareness and support for the ground-breaking Project Coral.

A couple of years ago, the Horniman Aquarium became the first institution globally to purposefully reproduce broadcast coral in captivity. This significant achievement led to Project Coral, an innovative coral sexual reproductive research project, run by the Horniman Aquarium with international partners.

The current phase of the project is mirroring in the Horniman laboratory the conditions of the wild reefs, to predictably spawn broadcast coral. We do this using microprocessor technologies to explore the influences of the lunar cycle, diurnal changes, seasonal temperature changes, solar irradiation patterns and nutritional input on gamete (egg and sperm) production and release.

In time, the aim is to push the laboratory reef into a future environmental state. This will allow the team to investigate the effects of climate change on coral reproduction before it happens in the wild; and to understand what is needed to preserve this vital element of the world’s ecology and economy.

The Charterhouse Aquatics event was a great success in generating public awareness for Project Coral and raising vital funds. Customers, hobbyists and the general public met with Jamie and there were three fascinating presentations throughout the day and evening, a DJ spinning tunes, a raffle and a chance to see a stunning Project Coral tank display now on show at Charterhouse Aquatics.


An evening of coral

This week we hosted our exclusive Members’ Coral Reefs: Talk and Tour. A special event in partnership with the Natural History Museum which explored our recent collaboration on their exhibition, Coral Reefs: Secret Cities of the Sea.

Ken kicking the event off to a full house in Gallery Square

With half the Members from the NHM and half from the Horniman, Gallery Square buzzed with excitement about our mutual coral interest.

Our Members enjoying a private view of our popular aquarium

The evening gave Members a fascinating insight into coral reefs and the threats that face our marine life with interesting talks by NHM’s coral reefs expert, Ken Johnson, and Horniman Aquarium Curator Jamie Craggs.  

Ken gave a fascinating introduction to corals, which are in fact an animal, made up of thousands of tiny polyps. It was shocking to see the serious effect of coral bleaching and how that has completely changed the history of coral reefs.

Members also enjoyed one to one chats with curator Jamie and Ken from the Natural History Museum

Jamie complimented this talk well by reflecting on the exhibition collaboration, the amazing installation of the tank at the Natural History Museum and introduced Project Coral; an innovative coral sexual reproductive research project.

A behind the scenes look at our Mangrove display

After the talks, the Members had an exclusive behind the scenes tour of the Aquarium, an opportunity to look closer at the ground-breaking work of Horniman Project Coral.

You can find out more about Horniman Project Coral here 



Giant Jellies in the Horniman

If you've visited our Aquarium in the last week, you'll probably have noticed some of the animals in our jellyfish tank are a little different to usual. Aquarium Curator Jamie Craggs introduces us to these giant jellies and what they're doing at the Horniman.

Last week the Horniman's Aquarium team travelled to the south coast to collect a number of large Barrel Jellyfish, Rhizostoma octopus.

These impressive jellyfish have bloomed in number this year, probably due to a unseasonably large plankton population.

Like most jellyfish species the barrel jellyfish are short-lived, growing from just a few millimetres across at the beginning of the year to individuals that weigh 20 kilos or more by the summer.

This species is also known as the 'dustbin-lid jellyfish' due to its size. Compared to our resident Moon Jellyfish, they are giants. To give a sense of scale, the smaller jellyfish in these pictures are around the size of an adult's hand.

The Barrel Jellyfish population explodes for a few short months and then dies out during September and October.

These individuals will be used to start our breeding programme for this species, enabling us to culture the species behind the scenes for many years.

Be sure to visit our Aquarium over the next few weeks to see these giant jellies in the tank alongside our resident smaller species.

Shuk Kwan's favourite object

We asked Shuk Kwan, who works in our Marketing Department, about her favourite object in the museum - the seahorses.

Your question about what my favourite object is prompted me to think about the seahorses and why I liked them. I like the seahorses I think, because they are very beautiful, they obviously come in different shapes, sizes and colours when I look at them they seem so fragile and beautiful. I love the way their tale curls around and anchors them as well.

Also, I think it is because they resonates with a part of me that really likes fantasy, mythology and all that kind of stuff. When I was younger I used to read Roald Dahl; I was an avid book worm so I read Roald Dahl and David Eddings, even Enid Blyton. They were all fantastical authors; the sea horses are like mythical creatures to me. What I also like about them is that the males look after the eggs. I think that is really sweet actually, and they are also monogamous, so they have one mate for life and I just really like that about them.

Nowadays men would probably freak out about holding the eggs inside them and giving birth but, for the seahorses it’s so natural and actually it makes me respect them more.

How we count our fish

We recently finished our annual animal stock take or census to check how many creatures we have at present in the aquarium, and to check that our stock records match what is out there in reality. This is very important to run the aquarium, and we are obliged to do this census annually as terms of our zoo license.

If you are wondering how we count all these animals, it all depends on the animal!

It's a piece of cake to count creatures such as starfish and sea urchins because they stay still. It's also pretty easy to count the larger individual animals like the dogfish and frogs.

But what about the small fast moving fish? For these we use a bit of helpful modern technology - a digital camera. This allows us to take a picture of the display and then use that as a reference to count everything later in the office.

The Fijian Reef refurbished

Aquarium curators Jamie and James have been keeping a blog as they work on the redevelopment of the Aquarium's Fijian Reef display.

We are happy to say that the Fiji reef development is almost over. We have put out the majority of the corals and fish we have kept in quarantine and the display is now almost fully stocked, save for a few special new additions in the near future. The corals will need a long time to grow to look their best in the future.

If you have a close look at our Fijian Reef display, you can now see variety of creatures such as many kinds of colourful fish, corals and lots of different invertebrates like shrimps and urchins.

With all the different types of corals we display, you can't just put them all in at once in the same places. Each species has its own requirement and ways to grow. Some grow quickly (several centimetres per month), and others need a long time to grow (one centimetre per year), so we have to look after each in a specific way and decide the best time and place to put them back in the display.

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