Who am I?
- Institution: Natural History Museum
- Role: Curator of Meteorites
What is your job?
I’m the curator of the meteorite collection which means I look after the specimens on behalf of the UK. So if anyone wants to use a piece of one of our meteorites (e.g. for research, exhibition or outreach), they discuss it with me. I’m responsible for developing the collection, such as by classifying newly found meteorites and managing our new acquisitions (like Winchcombe or the first UK-led Antarctic meteorite collection!), as well as conducting my own collections-based research. Curation also involves regular audit - constantly checking the state of specimens and ensuring their conservation – and of course, oodles of admin and documentation. Aside from all that, I also have the pleasure of sharing my enthusiasm for these amazing rocks with people through outreach.
How did you end up studying meteorites?
I first studied MSci Planetary Science at UCL because I knew I loved rocks and space, so it seemed a good mix of geology and astronomy. Eventually I wound up working in the galleries at the NHM and volunteering behind the scenes. Through a placement during my MA Museum Studies, I got to know the then meteorite curator, Debs Cassey. She was absolutely brilliant - she taught me the ropes and encouraged me to get back into science by applying for a PhD with the group. From there, I’ve developed my interest and expertise in curation and research.
What do you enjoy about your job?
I really appreciate the variety of curation – although it can be a bit manic with so many demands on your time, the wide-ranging responsibilities of the job mean there’s always something different or new going on. I also have unique access to one of the best collections of meteorites in the world, so one day I might decide to learn about a certain group of meteorites and I get to simply open the drawers and put a sample under the microscope (if I ever get the time!).
What is your favourite meteorite?
That’s an incredibly tough question for a meteorite curator. They are all my babies. So just for today, I’ll pick the aubrite meteorite, Bustee. It was seen to fall on 2nd December 1852 in Uttar Pradesh, India, and we have letters between the finder and the NHM curator at the time. Two new minerals, oldhamite and osbornite, were discovered in this single 1.5 kg meteorite. Aubrites are super cool because they have lots of unusual minerals (ones you don’t really find on Earth) that indicate a reducing environment, similar to the enstatite meteorites (they’re thought to have formed in the same region of space), but the aubrites are igneous, i.e. they’ve come from a parent asteroid that has undergone widespread melting and processing since it formed. Asteroid observations have been linked to analyses of the meteorite, and scientists think the aubrites might come from the near Earth asteroid, 3103 Eger.
What are your hobbies?
I’m a potter and a gardener in my home life. I love working with clay as the options are endless. I also love exploring woods and making mud pies with my toddler.