Science Festival 2019: An Entomologist, An Ornithologist, A Palaeontologist….

Ferran Sayol the ornithologist (above) and Juan D. Carillo the palaeontologist (below)

“I trust and believe that the time spent in this voyage … will produce its full worth in Natural History; and it appears to me the doing what little we can to increase the general stock of knowledge is as respectable an object of life, as one can in any likelihood pursue.” –Charles Darwin (1809-1882): Biologist, Geologist, Naturalist


On 4 April, during the Science Festival 2019, the Gothenburg Natural History Museum has turned the museum as a platform for interaction between researchers of life sciences and science enthusiasts or those who want to learn something new: chat over coffee with researchers (fika med forskare) unlike the lectures. An entomologist, an ornithologist, and a palaeontologist brought their scientific knowledge to the public domain by answering the questions of visitors and sharing interesting snippets of research from entomology (study of insects), ornithology (study of birds) and palaeontology (study of fossils).

The entomologist Charlotte Jonsson shared her scientific knowledge with visitors about the museum’s role as a resource in an international research infrastructure. She works with the museum’s scientific collections which are an important foundation in research on biodiversity today.

Natural History Museum in Gothenburg is located on the hill in Slottskogen. One can find ancient fossils, dinosaur skeletons, butterflies, the world’s largest mounted blue whale and the African elephant among other stuffed animals and birds.

Juan D. Carillo is a palaeontologist and an evolutionary biologist at the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Gothenburg. He studies fossil mammals as way to reconstruct what these animals looked like, their ecology and what the environment was like where they lived.

DO YOU KNOW: …. A rodent the size of a buffalo existed in South America earlier?! Juan’s research area focusses on fossils and biodiversity of fossils in relation to space and time. He is fascinated with fossils for they give clues to the past, and his field visits are in Venezuela and Colombia in South America. These are the two countries where little research has happened or fossils are unearthed and least explored.

DO YOU KNOW: ….the present day continent of South American was once a one big island! “There was no connection between North America and South America – the Panama,” Juan notes but were joined because of tectonic movement. Proof? American jaguar came from North America.

Ferran Sayol is an ornithologist. He is in Gothenburg as a short stay researcher: he will be moving to London once his assignment is completed at the University of Gothenburg. Have you ever heard about the Dodo? It was one of more than 500 species of extraordinary birds that once where flying (and running!) around us, but are now extinct. In his research, Ferran Sayol studies how the world looked like just before humans started to cause widespread extinctions, and which biological patterns have changed most since then. He says, “When they (didos) arrived to this island (Mauritius), then they lost the ability to fly because they had no predatory issues. Nobody was hunting them and so they stayed like that for millions of years. When the humans arrived, it was easy for them to catch (dodos) for they have forgotten how to fly, how to escape.” He scientific research throws light on conservation of endangered species and preserving them. For example, California candor (Gymnogyps californianus). It is the largest North American land bird which was brought back from extinction whose numbers only 22 in the 1980s.

The organizers Renée Göthberg, programansvarig, and, Charlotte Oskarsson, redaktör from the museum were present and interacted with the visitors and researchers. The Gothenburg Natural Historical Museum is one of the most child-friendly museums, and it is also trying to re-invent its relevance in unique ways such as fika med forskare.