An artist's impression of the Natural History Museum hi-tech garden

Natural History Museum designs high-tech gardens to model climate impact

Image credit: Natural History Museum

London's Natural History Museum is creating high-tech gardens full of sensors to look at how wildlife reacts to changes in climate and can be better protected in towns and cities.

The new Natural History Museum gardens are expected to allow researchers to look at the kind of life that makes these environments home to many wildlife species, from frogs to tiny microscopic organisms invisible to the human eye.

The gardens will be built on the five acres (two hectares) of grounds around the museum in South Kensington, west London, which have not been used for gardens or research before, according to Sky News. 

The gardens will tell the story of the evolution of life on Earth, taking people through palaeontology sciences as they move from east to west, according to the museum. The sit is also expected to reflect the modern day, focusing on what can be done to protect nature.

In addition, to its educational benefits, the sensors installed across the site will monitor conditions like temperature, humidity and sound, to better understand the impacts of climate change on local wildlife. 

"We're really trying to build as much information as we can around the richness of wildlife we have in our gardens so we can start to track how and why it's changing," said Dr John Tweddle, head of the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity at the Natural History Museum, "and then use that in a really positive way to help recover this nature in towns and cities, whether that's us or whether it's individuals and community groups."

The Museum has partnered with Amazon Web Services, to create a new data platform, the Data Ecosystem. The service is intended to help researchers build a deeper understanding of the UK’s urban biodiversity, including its composition, how it relates to environmental conditions, and how it responds to direct conservation action.

“Gaining access to a wide range of data is crucial for the museum’s scientists to build a better understanding of the UK’s urban biodiversity and help address the planetary emergency," said Darren Hardman, vice-president and general manager for the UK and Ireland at AWS. 

He added: “Cloud is an important enabler for this. For the first time, scientists will have a way to securely store and process research data using the Data Ecosystem, which can easily scale up as more and more data is collected over time.”

The facility will aim to build an increasingly detailed picture of the biodiversity in the museum’s gardens. Scientists will be able to study biodiversity data types, alongside environmental data such as soil and atmospheric chemistry or noise pollution, rapidly and accurately.

Tweddle added the museum's scientists are "excited" to have the opportunity to "be at the cutting edge of ecology within and around our own site by bringing together these different methods and starting to look at how we can analyse very big, very different datasets to really explore these patterns in nature, and then apply it for conservation and communicate that to people visiting".

Researchers hope to observe as wide a diversity of life as possible, including common frogs, toads and smooth newts in the ponds, azure damselflies, willow emerald damselflies, bluebells, and birds such as robins and goldfinches in the wooded areas.

Hundreds of pollinating insect and wildflower species in the meadow and chalk grassland, including up to 20 species of bumblebee, will also form part of the study.

The space will be part of a living gallery, which is set to open to the public towards the end of next year.

Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.

Recent articles