NSFDEB-NERC: Phylogenomics and sensory systems evolution in silkmoths and relatives

Lead Research Organisation: Natural History Museum
Department Name: Life Sciences


This study proposes to produce a comprehensive phylogeny of a model insect group, silkmoths and relatives (Bombycoidea) and use it to study the evolution of two principal sensory systems: vision and olfaction. The 5-year project will develop a US-UK Collaborative Partnership to cross pollinate PIs and students among 5 institutions to carry out the following objectives: 1) generate a 1000-taxon, 700-gene phylogeny of Bombycoidea to build a robust evolutionary framework; 2) quantify sensory morphology of 2 key organs (eye and antenna) that are central to insect vision and olfaction; and 3) reconstruct the evolutionary history of genes in the visual and olfactory transduction networks to test whether sensory morphology and selection on relevant genes changes between species that are active during the day or night.

Nearly all animals utilize vision or olfaction as a primary sensory system. It has been presumed that species' shifts between being active in light or dark environments drives sensory organ morphology and selection on relevant genes. However, this central hypothesis remains largely untested, because a comprehensive evolutionary framework and comparative data have been largely lacking. Bombycoidea are one of the most conspicuous groups of Lepidoptera. They provide an excellent opportunity to study how 2 potentially complementary sensory systems, vision and olfaction, have evolved at day/night transitions, because species in the group have distinct activity times, diverse eye and antennal morphologies and advanced sensory gene networks. The superfamily includes many model organisms (e.g. Bombyx mori, Manduca sexta) that serve pivotal roles in studies on genetics, physiology and development. They are also economically important and are frequently used as educational tools because of their large size, charisma, and ease in rearing. The availability of several whole-genome bombycoid sequences provides a unique opportunity to target sensory gene families that cannot be studied in many other invertebrate groups. Despite their central role in science and outreach, Bombycoidea still lacks a robust phylogeny. With our collaborative research teams in the US and UK, we will assemble the largest molecular dataset for this superfamily and construct a phylogeny of 1000 species. Our 700-gene anchored enrichment probe set has been designed and tested for both ethanol and recently-collected dry specimens, and can be applied broadly across the order with high success, thereby making this tool useful to the broader phylogenetics community.

The broader impacts have 3 goals: (1) Provide data and tools for the enhancement of science. The molecular data and the new phylogeny will open the door to extensive comparative character and gene-evolution analyses of a major model group within one of the largest diversifications of holometabolous insects. Our ODORS toolkit, designed to search for olfactory genes, is the first of its kind for non-model organisms, and will be extremely valuable to the scientific community. Data and results will be broadly disseminated to the scientific community via online aggregates and databases. (2) Promote interest and train students at all levels and diverse backgrounds. We will train 2 postdocs, 2 grad students, 11 undergrads, and dozens of school students. We will enhance scientific literacy in STEM programs by targeting minority students and by integrating younger students who are still developing concepts about the natural world. We will also conduct workshops on phylogenomics, imaging, and gene evolution. (3) Educate the broader community through museum-based outreach. We will: (a) Hold an annual 'Moth Sort' event at FLMNH; (b) Develop a museum exhibit focused on bombycoid diversity and sensory systems at UF, BYU and NHM; and (c) Create a "night at the museum" experience by opening the McGuire Center's Butterfly Rainforest at night to allow visitors with headlamps to see large bombycoid moths in flight.

Planned Impact

Research results will be communicated to the general academic community via publication of peer reviewed papers in international journals and presentations at international conferences (both posters and talks). Data collected during the course of the project will be made publicly available through the Natural History Museum (NHM) data portal and data depository (data.nhm.ac.uk) and other public databases as appropriate.

The NHM has a proactive Press Office that has considerable experience engaging with both the national and international media and coordinating publicity between multiple institutional press offices. Press Office staff will be able to assist drafting and release of press releases in conjunction with other investigators/institutions to coincide with publication of significant research results, thereby ensuring dissemination of the work to the widest possible public audience, both nationally and internationally. The PDRA will attend NHM and NERC-run Media Training courses to develop effective public engagement. With regard to public and educational outreach, NHM has a highly successful Visitor Experience, Learning and Outreach Department whose programmes will be able to deliver the results of this research to a wide variety of users, including both formal (National Curriculum, Key Stage 1-5) and informal learners, in a proven and effective manner.

With regard to formal learning, outcomes from this research will be incorporated into presentations, seminars and museum collections-based activities at all levels, including KS1-2, KS3-4 GCSE Biology and science students and KS5 A-level biological science students. We will also seek KS5 students for short-term (1-2 weeks) work experience placements to undertake collections-based projects related to the ongoing recuration of the bombycoid collections of the NHM.

More informal learning opportunities include incorporation of research results into the NHM's 'Nature Live' series of public interactions. These take place daily several times a week (twice daily at weekends and in UK school holidays), are of 30 minutes duration, and are themed around the NHM's exhibitions. They focus on aspects of NHM science output in an informal setting and allow the public direct access to scientists. Nature Live presentations are attended by diverse audiences, representing all socio-demographic groups in the UK, and international visitors to the NHM are also able to attend. The NHM also participates in the "Science Uncovered" event held in September, funded by the European Commission as part of the European Researchers' Night project and the results of the research will be incorporated into presentations and activities as appropriate. Progress and results will also be announced via the NHM's social media sites.

Such outreach activities at the NHM will be conducted by the PI and PDRA in conjunction with the NHM's team of professional science educators. With regard to training and personal development, the PDRA and UG students will be introduced to a wide range of public outreach events as participants and will be guided in these activities by the NHM Science Communication Team.

During the course of this project, the NHM will be running two relevant new exhibitions, "Colour and Vision" and "Life in the Dark". The objectives and results of the proposed research will be integrated into the content of both exhibitions. The NHM is also establishing new "pop-up" events in the galleries that allow further direct interaction between the public and scientists, including the "Lates" series targeting adult audiences, whic typically attract three to five thousand people in a single night. We will develop such an event in conjunction with staff from the NHM's Public Engagement Group themed to showcase the results and significance of the proposed research.

Members of the research team also write popular articles for publication in the NHM's members' magazines, "evolve" and "Wild World".


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Title Evolution of body size and wing shape trade-offs in arsenurine silkmoths 
Description One of the key objectives in biological research is understanding how evolutionary processes have produced Earth's diversity. A critical step towards revealing these processes is an investigation of evolutionary tradeoffs - that is, the opposing pressures of multiple selective forces. For millennia, nocturnal moths have had to balance successful flight, as they search for mates or host plants, with evading bat predators. However, the potential for evolutionary trade-offs between wing shape and body size are poorly understood. In this study, we used phylogenomics and geometric morphometrics to examine the evolution of wing shape in the wild silkmoth subfamily Arsenurinae (Saturniidae) and evaluate potential evolutionary relationships between body size and wing shape. The phylogeny was inferred based on 782 loci from target capture data of 42 arsenurine species representing all 10 recognized genera. After detecting in our data one of the most vexing problems in phylogenetic inference - a region of a tree that possesses short branches and no "support" for relationships (i.e., a polytomy), we looked for hidden phylogenomic signal (i.e., inspecting differing phylogenetic inferences, alternative support values, quartets, and phylogenetic networks) to better illuminate the most probable generic relationships within the subfamily. We found there are putative evolutionary trade-offs between wing shape, body size, and the interaction of fore- and hindwing shape. Namely, body size tends to decrease with increasing hindwing length but increases as forewing shape becomes more complex. Additionally, the type of hindwing (i.e., tail or no tail) a lineage possesses has a significant effect on the complexity of forewing shape. We outline possible selective forces driving the complex hindwing shapes that make Arsenurinae, and silkmoths as a whole, so charismatic. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? Yes  
URL http://datadryad.org/stash/dataset/doi:10.5061/dryad.ffbg79crg
Title Global Bombycoidea Checklist 
Description This table provides a list of 12,159 taxon names for the Bombycoidea superfamily. It includes both valid and synonymous names, with their authorship and information, when known, about the current genus+name binomen being an original combination or not. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This database represents the first effort to synthesize the current taxonomic treatment of the entire superfamily Bombycoidea and as such forms the taxonomic and nomenclatural underpinning for the present project. However, its reach will be much greater than that as it will also form the taxonomic infrastructure for two other projects and ultimately will provide the means by which the taxonomy of the superfamily will be maintained and updated in the Barcode of Life Data Syatem (http://www.boldsystems.org/). 
URL https://doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.6.e22236.suppl1
Title Supplementary data for manuscript: The developmental gene disco regulates diel-niche evolution in adult moths 
Description Supporting Information for The developmental gene disco regulates diel-niche evolution in adult moths Authors: Yash Sondhi, Rebeccah L. Messcher, Anthony J. Bellantuano, Caroline G. Storer, Scott D. Cinel, R. Keating Godfrey, Deborah Glass, Ryan A. St Laurent, Chris A. Hamilton, Chandra Earl, Colin J. Brislawn, Ian J. Kitching, Seth M. Bybee, Jamie C. Theobald, Akito Y. Kawahara Supp_dataset_1: EdgeR: EdgeR sample metadata, analysis parameters (config files for RasFlow), differentially expressed gene sets, annotated DEG sets with Bombyx mori annotations for Anisota pellucida (Ap) and Dryocampa rubicunda (Dr). Overlapping genes between Anisota and Dryocampa. Analysis performed with de-novo assembly versions 5 for both species. Supp_dataset_2: DESeq2: DESeq2 sample metadata, analysis parameters (R script), differentially expressed gene sets, and annotated DEG sets with Bombyx mori annotations for Anisota pellucida (Ap) and Dryocampa rubicunda (Dr). Unique and overlapping genes between Anisota and Dryocampa. Analysis performed with de-novo assembly versions 5 for both species. Supp_dataset_3: Supporting_Table_Common_RNAseq: Overlapping genes for both analyses with a pivot table summary of the different unique Bombyx genes and the number of transcripts mapped to each. Supp_dataset_4: Gene_modules_WGCNA: WGCNA identified modules for Anisota and Dryocampa individual count data and combined modules along with annotations of the (grey60, tan, turquoise and blue) modules. Supp_dataset_5: GO_analyses: TopGO, ShinyGo and Revigo analyses Supp_dataset_6:Analyses_combined:All analyses results combined and annotated, with FC<0 and FC<2 for DEGs. Note to combine analyses fold change signs were switched for EdgeR changed. Supp_dataset_7: Overlap_common_genes_annotated_with_sequence: Overlapping transcripts annotated with sequences for both species and Bombyx mori. Note to combine analyses fold change signs were switched for EdgeR changed. Supp_dataset_8_EggNOG_annotations: EggNog annotations of the various sequences in dataset 7 and the GO terms used to query this dataset Supp_datatset_9: GO_lookup_genes: Genes recovered from the GO cross referencing with EggNOG annotations Supp_dataset_10: Genes of interest for which conservation and protein models were constructed Supp_dataset_11: Assembly_codes: 11a:List of moths and assembly codes used 11b: List of insects and assembly codes used for Orthofinder searches Supp_dataset_12_Alphafold_Bmor_models: Alphafold predicted models for Bombyx genes of interest Supp_dataset_13_Conservation analyses: Consurf predicted models and conservation analyses for insects and moths Supp_dataset_14_PyMOL: PyMOL files showcasing the overlapping protein structures 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2023 
Provided To Others? Yes  
URL https://figshare.com/articles/dataset/Supplementary_data_for_manuscript_The_developmental_gene_em_di...
Description Family Festival: Nature's Champions 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This family festival was funded by Pukka, who values environmental sustainability in their business philosophy and practice - and, sustainability is one of the keys in the Natural History Museum's mission statement. Therefore, this festival focused on biodiversity and interconnected ecosystems. The Festival was spread over two locations - the Wildlife Garden and the Orange Zone (DC Atrium and DC Learning Space) for six days in August. There were different kinds of naturalist activities for families and through a variety of playful activities and meaningful face-to-face interactions with NHM scientists, families increased their appreciation of the importance of biodiversity and took away many ideas and scientific techniques to explore plants and animals in interconnected ecosystems. The Learning strategy had the goal of providing learning activities for all audiences - adults, families and schools, with an aim to "challenge the way people think about the natural world - its past, present and future - prompting curiosity and fascination".

The overarching message of the Festival was "Exploring the diverse natural world is exciting and important for maintaining the interconnected ecosystem of which we are all part. Subsidiary messages were:
• Amazing Adaptation.
Organisms have developed sensory, behavioural and physical adaptations that enable them to find a way around, detect food, avoid predator, hunt and find a mate.
• Biodiversity and Environmental sustainability.
Maintaining biodiversity is really important to keep the planet healthy.
The incredible diversity of organisms that live in the wild are interconnected and are sensitive to environmental changes.
We have to be mindful of the potential impact of our own activities to ensure they continue to thrive.
• Science and Discovery.
Our museum scientists use a variety of techniques and technologies to study the world around us both in a field and a lab. This exciting process of discovery is ongoing - and, it helps our environment.

As a result, visitors would
1. Appreciate the importance of biodiversity and interconnected ecosystems;
2. Develop their understanding of how to explore and monitor wildlife and environment;
3. Take home excitement around exploring wildlife and outdoors.

NERC PI, Dr Ian Kitching, and NERC post-doc, Dr Deborah Glass, manned a science station in the Atrium of the Darwin Centre for two morning sessions of two hours each. Using drawers of specimens from the NHM's collections and an animated PowerPoint presentation, they explained their research into the origin of diurnality in hawkmoths and wild silkmoths, how they are using scanning electron microscopy and micro-CT scanning to study the eye and brain structure of these moths and how this will improve our understanding of the evolution and biology of these fascinating insects.

As a result, members of the public would have:
• Gained an understanding of the scientific research and curation work of the Museum.
• Be inspired by meeting Museum scientist and gained a wider understanding of scientific career paths.
• Be inspired by seeing the Museum's collection first-hand, by its scale and how it is used.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description Invited lecture, The Fourth Thailand Biodiversity BioBank Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The Thailand Biodiversity-Based Economy Development Office (BEDO) was established on July 17th 2007 with the goal of becoming an organization that supports the development of a biodiversity-based economy, which entails leveraging biodiversity for economic purposes in tandem with conserving natural resources in a sustainable manner. The Fourth Thailand Biodiversity BioBank Conference ("2018 International Forum on Community BioBank") took place in Bangkok of 12-15th September 2018 and focused on topics related to the exploration of the wealth of biodiversity stored in local communities. Conference sessions covered country policy, community biobank models, ASEAN biodiversity management from an ACB perspective and a panel discussion on "Community Biodiversity BioBank: Next Steps to Capacity Strengthening and Mutual Collaboration". The conference aimed at being a platform for exchanging updated knowledge, information and training related to biodiversity management in parallel with conservation and sustainable utilization of bioresources at the community level, in addition to providing experience and knowledge sharing in ASEAN and Regional Biodiversity Management.

An invited lecture was presented entitled "A framework for a UK pollinator specimen archive: linking collections and research" in collaboration with Prof. Graham Stone and Dr Damien Hicks (University of Edinburgh), Ms Jacqueline Mackenzie-Dodds and Prof. Alfried Vogler (NHM, London) and Dr Adam Vanbergen (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Edinburgh). The lecture abstract is as follows:

"Insects provide humanity with numerous and highly economically valuable ecosystem services, of which acting as pollinators of crop plants is one of the most important. However, insect pollinators face an increasing number of threats, including habitat degradation and loss, insecticides (particularly neonicotinoids) and other agrochemicals, parasites and diseases, competition from invasives species and climate change. The result has generally been a significant reduction in pollinator diversity, coupled with species range contractions and homogenization of pollinator communities.
In recent years, as public awareness of the problem has increased, schemes such as urban wildflower meadows and green corridors, joined-up habitat planning and restrictions in the availability and reductions in the use of garden insecticides have all aimed to improve pollinator habitats. Nevertheless, many important questions remain unanswered regarding pollinator biology and ecology.
The United Kingdom's "Insect Pollinators Initiative" (IPI), supported by the BBSRC, NERC, Wellcome Trust, Defra, the Scottish Government and the Living With Environmental Change Partnership, aspired "to promote innovative research aimed at understanding and mitigating the biological and environmental factors that adversely affect insect pollinators". Over five years, from 2011 to 2015, the IPI funded nine projects in ecosystem services, landscape ecology and diversity, bee disease, and pesticide use. Between them, these projects collected almost 50,000 specimens of flower-visiting insects. The human effort involved in collecting, sorting and identifying these specimens has been valued at UK£3 million, and they represent a significant resource for future research. But this immense resource was in danger of being lost for lack of forward planning regarding its preservation and maintenance. The collections were widely scattered among 12 institutions, leading to complex issues of access; storage conditions were often poor, so specimens were being lost to insect pests; and documentation standards were inconsistent.
With further support from the BBSRC, NERC, Wellcome Trust and Defra, we have processed the IPI specimens into a cryopreserved archive hosted by the Natural History Museum, London. We lay out the scientific case for a UK pollinator archive, highlighting the questions that we can ask using the population level accessions it will provide. We reflect on the challenges that we have overcome, and those that remain, in generation of the archive, and report on progress to date."

Other invited speakers included: Dr Marzalina Mansor (Senior Director, Forest Research Institute, Malaysia); Ms Jacqueline Mackenzie-Dodds and Mr Gavin Broad (NHM); Dr Kate Hardwick and Dr Tiziana Ulian (Millennium Seed Bank); Dr Stephen Eliott and Dr Dia Shannon (University of Chiang Mai); Dr Tashi Yangzome Dorji (National Biodiversity Centre, Bhutan); Mr Kinley Tshering Department of Forest and Park Services, Bhutan); and Ms Lilibeth de la Rosa Cabebe (ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity, Philippines).

The conference was divided into three parts: Community BioBanking Management and Models, parts 1 and 2; and ASEAN and Regional Biodiversity Management. The latter included presentations on the Bhutan experience of biodiversity management from an NBC perspective; biodiversity information management: cultivating a culture of information sharing in the ASEAN region; the Thailand Mega Project; and a value chain approach to biodiversity-based products as a means to improve livelihoods and conserve biodiversity. The conference concluded with a panel discussion that considered the next steps to capacity strengthening and mutual collaboration among the guest speakers. The most important outcome from a UK perspective was the drawing-up of an MOU between the Natural History Museum and BEDO for future close collaboration in developing biobanks, and discussions regarding the provision of training in pollinator collecting, identification, preservation and utilization.

The conference was attended by numerous delegates from Thailand and neighbouring countries and the conference provided them with networking opportunities and the chance to discuss collaborativeprojects with a wide range of specialists from the ASEAN region and beyond.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.bedo.or.th/bedo/event-content.php?id=913
Description Lecture to Year 2 undergraduates, University of Middlesex 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact On February 8th 2018, a lecture entitled "Sensory system evolution in silkmoths and their relatives" was given to an audience about 25 University of Middlesex, Department of Biology year 2 undergraduate students by NERC post-doc, Dr Deborah Glass. The lecture lasted two hours and used a PowerPoint presentation developed specially for the occasion. The lecture generated numerous incisive questions and requests for further information on the project. Project Partner Dr Martijn Timmermans asked for interest in developing Year 3 undergraduate projects in association with the NSF-NERC project and several responses were forthcoming, although none have yet been agreed.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
Description Metamorphosis: How insects transformed our world - Radio 4 interview 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Ian Kitching was interviewed by colleague, Dr Erica McAlister, for the BBC Radio 4 five-part series, Metamorphosis: How insects transformed our world, presented from March 1st to March 5th. His contribution was entitled "Mightty mouthparts" and concerned the feeding behaviour and evolutionary biolofy of hawkmoths (Sphingidae), one of the focal taxonomic groups of this NERC-funded project. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there have been no RAJAR figures collected. However, Adrian Washbourne of the BBC Radio Science Unit, has said that the average figure for the 13.45h slot of Radio 4, which will be representative of the listenership, suggest that across the week, the broadcast will have reached 2.6million listeners and 0.5million digital listeners, with a 50/50 male/female gender balance and comprising 78% ABC1 and 22%C2DE social categories. There were also contributions to the broadcast from Prof. Jim Endersby, historian of science at the University of Sussex, and Prof. Peter Adler, of Clemson University, South Carolina, USA.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000sql2
Description National Insect Week (Natural History Museum event) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact To celebrate National Insect Week, the Natural History Museum presented a series of events in its "Orange Zone", displaying some of the millions of specimens from the collections and inviting visitors to meet our researchers, take part in activities and find out exactly why insects are so fascinating. Members of the general public were encouraged to discover the extraordinary diversity of insects around world and why they are important to us. There were opportunities to meet Museum researchers and curators and explore stunning specimens from our collections. In addition to on-gallery displays, the public could join Museum staff in the Museum's Wildlife Garden to discover what insects could be found in ponds, and to hunt for flying insects in the meadow habitat. In this way, members of the general public could obtain direct, "hands-on" experience of real insect specimens, test their identification skills, and play the Museum's 'What bug are you?' game. The public were also invited to learn about careers in entomology at an "Insect Careers Fair" Nature Live talk in the Attenborough Studio.
During the day, over 250 members of the general public engaged in direct contact and discussion with the Lepidoptera team's display, which was the primary outlet for discussing the present project, and many others stopped to look and read the information provided. They learned about the roles that moths and butterflies play in the ecology of the planet and the international and interdisciplinary research that is undertaken at the Museum on these insects. We explained the "Phylogenomics and sensory systems evolution in silkmoths and relatives" project, giving the background and saying what we hope to learn as a result. All the general public who were directly engaged went away with a greater appreciation of the importance of such research and how it contributes to both our general understanding of the Earth's biosphere and the way in which it interfaces with their daily lives.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.nhm.ac.uk/events/national-insect-week.html
Description Natural History Museum "January Lates 2019" event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The Natural History Museum's "Lates" events are after-hours events held in the public galleries where the general public are invited to interact with Museum scientists in a series of exhibitions, talks, science demonstrations on the last Friday of every month. The January 2019 Lates event focused on the concept of animal intelligence, asking the questions, "Is intelligence an exclusively human concept? If not, how do we judge intelligence in the rest of the animal kingdom? And how important is it? The public were invited to meet scientists who are investigating the more extraordinary behaviours and interactions of creatures throughout the natural world, from termites to cuttlefish to chimpanzees.

The overarching key message was: "There is no one definition or model of intelligence, rather it is a complex, nuanced phenomenon and various facets of cognitive complexity are embodied by countless organisms with which we share our planet."

"The aim of the evening was to encourage visitors to:
- Reflect on what intelligence means to them
- Reflect on how they identify/assess intelligence, in both humans and the rest of the natural world
- Leave with a deeper consideration of how anthropocentric intelligence is - do we have a tendency to make humanity the measure of all things? Perhaps instead we should evaluate other species by what they are, and how their cognition is adapted to their specific circumstances
The intention is not for visitors to come away rating certain organisms as more or less intelligent than previously thought, rather to come away with a heightened appreciation and awareness of some of the remarkable adaptations and behaviours throughout the animal kingdom, from the tiny ant to our primate relatives. We want visitors to reflect on the different facets of intelligence - eg social, cooperative, flexible tool-use, communication - and to consider how much of their assessment of the 'extraordinary' has come from an anthropocentric place."

I showcased the work of the project in the Science Station entitled: "Bright Ideas" in Marine Fossil Way", under the following blurb on the NHM Lates website: "Moths are not often considered to be the most impressive insects, particularly in comparison to their beautiful day-flying relatives, the butterflies. But a number of moths show astonishing adaptations and behaviours. Some species of micro moth can detect a potential mate from an incredible distance of 10km, others emit ultrasonic clicks to blur a bat's sonar system and avoid being eaten. Meet moth researchers Ian Kitching and David Lees, and discover the surprising world of the humble moth."

I introduced the public to our work on micro-CT scanning of moth heads, explaining the differences in brain structure between silkmoths, which are primarily scent-oriented insects, and hawkmoths, which have a stronger visual component in their biology. The visitors were fascinated to hear about the complex behaviours of these moths in the realms of scent and sound, and went away with an increased understanding of how much else is going on in the world that we humans, as vision-focused organisms, are largely unaware of. Visitors ranged from KS2 school children to university researchers. All had numerous questions and discussion was non-stop for the three and a half hours of the event (18.00h to 21.30h, 25th January 2019). During this time, just over 2,300 people come through the museum's doors, and this figure does not include people who remained in the building after an earlier visit, so it was more than that in reality. Of these, I would estimate that I spoke to several hundred visitors directly, and many more stopped by the station.

Overall, this Lates was considered a huge success by the public engagement staff of the NHM, attracting more than the average number of visitors to such events.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://www.nhm.ac.uk/events/lates.html
Description Natural History Musuem Strategy Launch - January 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact For the launch of the Natural History Museum's new strategy, its Science Communication team developed a series of science communication activities for the public drawing on key themes and messages from the strategy and highlighting the Museum's response to the planetary emergency. These events offered visitors the opportunity to speak with our scientists face-to-face and discover how, using our collections and research, we're addressing the big challenges facing our planet today.

Overarching key message: From climate change and biodiversity loss, to pollution and dwindling natural resources research at the Natural History Museum is seeking solutions to some of the most urgent problems facing the planet today. The Museum combines its unique collections, cutting edge science and worldwide reach to speak up for nature.

Visitor outcomes:
The aim of the event was to encourage visitors to:
• Understand that urgent action is needed to tackle the ecological problems caused by human action.
• Understand the relevance of the Museum collections, both historic and modern, and how they help us better understand the world around us and how to best protect it.
• Understand that the Museum's scientists are actively tackling some of the biggest environmental threats facing our planet.
• Feel encouraged to find out more about changes they can make in their own lives to help combat environmental problems.

'Meet our scientists' zone - Pop-up science stations/activities
The Hintze Hall wonder bays were used to host pop up on-gallery activities with our scientists. Activities were a mix of traditional stands showcasing our collections and cutting-edge research and more interactive hands on activities.

Locations: Hintze Hall

Timings: Monday to Sunday:
Science station AM: 11.00-13.00
Science station PM: 13.30-15.30 [Dr Kitching manned one science station to discuss his work on moths, the projects in which he is involved, and how they are aiming to address aspects of the planetary emergency.]

Audience and reach: The audience reach was varied, including school children on their visit to the Museum, families, adults, and overseas visitors.
Each science station engaged an average of 200 people. We estimate an engagement of 3000 people throughout the week of activities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
Description Nature Live: "Unravelling the secret world of hawkmoths" 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The NHM's 'Nature Live' series of public interactions bring the results of Natural History Museum research to a broader public audience in an informal setting (the NHM's "Sir David Attenborough Studio") and allow the public direct access to scientists. These events take place daily several times a week (twice daily at weekends and in UK school holidays) and are of 30 minutes duration. Nature Live presentations are open without charge to all NHM visitors and are attended by diverse audiences, representing all socio-demographic groups in the UK, and international visitors to the NHM. "Unravelling the secret world of hawkmoths" is presented by PI Ian Kitching, together with a trained host from the NHM's Visitor Experience, Learning and Outreach Department. The format is semi-structured in that, following a general introduction to the Lepidoptera Collections of the Museum and hawkmoths in general, four different strands of hawkmoth biology and the research that has been undertaken on them are offered for the audience to select among as to which they wish to hear more about. The research being undertaken in the present project is one of those strands. Normally 2-3 of the strands are covered in the time available. Questions on any aspect of the content are encouraged at any point and are generally numerous. Often, members of the audience remain behind for a short time, when they can ask further questions or have a more in-depth discussion of aspects of the presentation. Audience sizes are dependent on numerous factors, including the day, school holidays and even the weather, but are generally in the range of 30 to 70. The age range of a typical audience can be from primary school children to retired adults. Audience members leave with an increased interest and understanding of the scientific research undertaken at the NHM, and many are repeat attendees to different Nature Live events.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018