Since 1890 the Booth Museum has supported a scientific approach to wildlife conservation and the environment.

The museum was founded by Edward Booth in 1874 and he used the accepted scientific practices of Victorian Britain. While some of these activities are now rightly considered unethical, and are often illegal, there is still much that can be learned from the work that was conducted at this time.

Research at the Booth Museum

Our methods have changed since Booth’s time to reflect current scientific best practice. Our collections and displays are of great value to education and awareness of natural science. The museum also contributes to modern research across a range of scientific disciplines.

Museum collections in general act as a repository for valuable scientific data. This can take the form of historic DNA, reference material for taxonomic studies or historic location and dates for different species. A few examples may illustrate this:

  • Studies of Gorilla skulls contributing to veterinary analyses of pathological conditions amongst living populations
  • Taxonomic research on South American butterflies including the describing of five new species from the Arthur Hall collections.
  • Herbarium studies of local flora published as the Sussex Plant Atlas.
  • The description of many fossil insects new to science discovered in 140 million year old rocks of the Weald
  • Local butterfly and moth collections, providing data to publications on their distribution in Sussex
  • Studies of DNA taken from birds of prey in the collections
  • The discovery of bones preserved in the collections which came from an armoured dinosaur new to Europe.
  • A study of egg clutch sizes through the 20th century to examine the effect of climate change on how early songbirds lay their eggs.

Current contributions to wildlife conservation

Natural science museum collections are also used in wildlife conservation. The scientific collections record where and when the specimen was collected. This allows it to be referenced in scientific studies such as determining the historic range of species.

The physical specimens preserve a snapshot of the environment in its tissues, such as the chemicals present in the environment at that time. Studies on museum specimens have been used to prove the effect DDT pesticides had on weakening the walls of peregrine eggs, increasing the failure of those broods. It ultimately lead to the ban of those pesticides in Europe.

The Booth Museum works in partnership with the South Downs National Park, Brighton & Hove and Lewes Downs Biosphere Project and the Sussex Wildlife Trust, with the research data being held in their Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre.

The museum has also assisted in advising and shaping conservation policies with the Brighton & Hove Local Authority, and regularly host the Brighton and Hove Wildlife Forum, a working group of local interest groups helping to manage and protect our natural green spaces.

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