WORK experience students would usually expect to make the tea.

But 17-year-old Athena Martin impressed staff at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History during her placement when she uncovered a priceless collection of butterflies.

The teenager, who goes to Wood Green School in Witney, was tasked with searching 3,340 drawers for specimens collected by Victorian natural historian Alfred Russel Wallace, who was made a Doctor of Civil Law in 1889 by Oxford University.

She said: “I spent two weeks and three days looking for the specimens. It felt really good to have found all of them as it took quite a long time and gave a sense of accomplishment at the end of it.”

The teenager, who hopes for a career in zoology, rediscovered more than 300 of Wallace’s finds by reading tiny, handwritten labels pinned beside each insect.

Among the specimens was a butterfly called Dismorphia collected by Wallace in the Amazon.

Most of his Amazon collection was lost at sea in a fire on his return journey in 1852. Before Miss Martin got to work, it was unknown how many of Wallace’s butterflies and which species remained.

Dr James Hogan, of the Hope Entomological Collections, said: “Athena has really produced some work of lasting benefit to the museum and it shows what can be achieved with hard work and, importantly, attention to detail.

“The rediscovered Amazonian specimen in particular is a significant find.”