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To celebrate International Women's Day and Women's History Month the Museum is sharing the stories of 27 inspirational women, alongside the animals they work with the most, during a temporary exhibition running until 10 May 2020.

Among the 27 stories on display will be that of the Director of the Museum, Professor of Evolutionary Biology, Rebecca Kilner and Research Fellow, Dr Emily Mitchell.

Professor Kilner has spent her academic career at the Department of Zoology in Cambridge, though fieldwork has taken her to Australia, New Zealand, and New York State as well as to the fens and woodlands around Cambridgeshire.

Professor Kilner said; ‘Research in my lab investigates how evolution works. We focus on burying beetles, Nicrophorus vespilloides, but the principles we discover could apply to any animal. Pairs of beetles breed upon the dead body of a mouse or songbird. They strip the corpse of fur or feathers, roll the flesh into a ball and then bury it in a shallow grave, where it becomes an edible nest for their young. Both parents then feed the larvae and defend them from attack. Burying beetles are common in the woods surrounding Cambridge but, we have discovered, they have evolved to be subtly different from one woodland to the next. We use experimental evolution in the lab to identify the conditions that have caused these natural populations to evolve in different ways.’  

Dr Emily Mitchell said; ‘My research focuses on some of the first animals that ever existed. These first animals are found during the Ediacaran time period, around 580 million years ago. I was totally unaware about Ediacaran organisms until I started my PhD, and immediately fell in love with them! For my research I am investigating the drivers for Ediacaran evolution, and how they give rise to the animals we see today. My chosen specimen is a cast of the first Pre-Cambrian specimen ever described - Charnia masoni. This fossil was first found by school girl, Tina Negus in the 1950s.’

Entry into the Museum is free, and the exhibition is displayed throughout the galleries. 


Professor R Kilner © University of Cambridge
Dr Emily Mitchell © University of Cambridge