Two years have slipped by quickly and now our Research and Collections staff are treating us to the second edition of Ignite, a series of five-minute presentations about what they do at the Museum and why they do it.

Ignite is “a geek event” in over 100 cities worldwide. The format allows each speaker 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds whether the presenter is ready or not.
In early November, our Museum staff and Board of Trustee members were given a sneak preview of “Ignite2”. There were some familiar faces back at the podium; others were newbie ignitors.

A sign that says IGNITE – Danger: Science in progress, with a pinned insect and part of a man’s face behind it.
In the Ignite format, speakers are limited to 5 minutes, 20 slides, and 15 seconds per slide. Image: Martin Lipman © Canadian Museum of Nature; © Canadian Museum of Nature

Memorable moments at the 2012 Ignite included Kieran Shepherd, who curates our fossil collection, throwing stuffed dinosaurs and Babybel® cheese at the audience (and if you attend our public Ignite on November 26, you’ll find out why).

You learn something new each time at Ignite. I didn’t know, for example, that scientists could take such liberties and have such fun in the naming of new species. Entomologist Dr. Bob Anderson enlightened us with a few examples of this. Spongiforma squarepantsii is a mushroom. Whoever named this must have kids at home watching SpongeBob SquarePants. You won’t find Gelae donut, Gelae belae, Gelae rol served at your local coffee shop; they are fungus beetles. And Vini vidivici is a species of parrot that went extinct 700-1300 years ago. Who knows…maybe Julius Caesar had one as a pet!

Conquered lorikeet extinct parrot.
Vini_vidivici – I came, I saw, I went extinct. The conquered lorikeet is a species of parrot that went extinct 700-1300 years ago. Image: FunkMonk (Michael B. H.) © FunkMonk (Michael B. H.), used under licence (Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0).

Botany curator Jennifer Doubt picked up where she left off two years ago. Having so cleverly explained the virtues of flat plants in the first Ignite iteration, she has moved on to the “cracked, crusty and twisted” residents of our National Herbarium. Cracked refers to the natural glass home of microscopic algae, and to glass vials because that’s where you’ll find microscopic plants in our collections. Crusty refers to crustose lichens. And lichens are cool because they can be—not only very pretty—but also sensitive environmental indicators. Then we have Twisted, which refers to the “incredible, death-defying plants” known as mosses.

Ignite is a great way to get behind-the-scenes snippets of our Research and Collections. I’ve mentioned only a few of the cool presentations that will be offered on November 26 (beginning at 7:00 PM), but there are 11 in total.

Find out why ichthyologist Noel Alfonso thinks flatfishes are THE most amazing and wondrous of all the fishes. Hear Dr. Jeff Saarela, our new Director of the Centre for Arctic Knowledge & Exploration, talk about his summer fieldwork along the Coppermine River in Nunavut. Join mineralogist Dr. Paula Piilonen for her journeys to Cambodia looking for zircon, a mineral that occurs in every type of rock on earth and is used in jewellery (although Paula is really after the crystals, not the gems). Catch palaeontologist Jordan Mallon’s talk “Breaking Badlands”— the title being a fun spin on the hugely popular AMC series.

A male curator at the podium.
Fossil collection curator Kieran Shepherd throws dinosaur toys and Babybel cheese to the audience. Image: © Canadian Museum of Nature

The Ignite motto is “Enlighten us, but make it quick”, so the official part of the evening takes 55 minutes. Then there will be light refreshments served in our Stone Wall Gallery and a chance to mingle/chat with the speakers.

To RSVP to this FREE event, please email Seating is limited, so don’t delay. Simultaneous translation will be available.