5 minutes with Kristen Spring, Collection Manager, Geosciences

Today’s #CouchCurator is Collection Manager Geosciences Program, Kristen Spring who is sharing some of her favourite items from the Collection.

What is your favourite object/species in the collection and why?

My role involves looking after all of the 7 or so million items we have in the Collection, and therefore I really can’t play favourites! However, if I had to name that one specimen that can literally astound me every time I look at it, it would have to be the armoured dinosaur Kunbarrasaurus ieversi (previously known as Minmi). A sheep-sized ankylosaur dinosaur from the Cretaceous (approx. 105 million years ago), found near Richmond, Queensland in the late 1980’s. This dinosaur has amazing preservation and in fact is so well preserved that research on his gut contents was able to provide insight into what he recently ate.

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Minmi

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Do you have any interesting facts about your specialty area?

Being a geoscientist is a dream job for most – as a child it is hard not to be in awe of dinosaurs or other ancient forms of life, so the thought of being a palaeontologist is a common one for many. As you grow, you realise how complex the world really is, and that the ancient history of that complex world is written in the rocks. Through the geological record, we are able to study and piece together a past that we can only imagine. Therefore, I can honestly say that everything I do in my role is interesting. Managing the care of a highly important and amazing collection that will provide the answers to the questions of our ancient history is not something that many people in the world can say they do. I am truly fortunate to have the opportunity to do what I do, and the Queensland Museum Collection is one of the largest and most significant collections in the Southern Hemisphere which makes my job extremely unique.

Our smallest collections can’t be seen by the naked eye. Even though they are small, our microfossil collections of pollens tell a lot about our ancient history.

Our largest representatives include the giant Sauropods that roamed through the Queensland Cretaceous (approx. 98 million years ago). One such dinosaur Wintonotitan wattsi, was believed to be about 15-16m long and possibly 3m high to the hip.

Strangest thing would have to be the world’s oldest sperm, found right here in Queensland. 17 million year old giant sperm were found from tiny shrimp from the Riversleigh World Heritage Area in North West Queensland. The material, belonging to the State Collection was collected by the University of New South Wales and underwent study by researchers all over the world.

Possibly the largest Geoscience Collection in the southern hemisphere. We have over 7 million items including three very large, historically important collections including: the Queensland Museum Collection, the University of Queensland Collection and the Geological Survey of Queensland Collection. These collections are diverse and have their own unique history and style.

Most rare is tricky as many of our fossil specimens are one of a kind ie. Only one representative of that species. However rare certainly can describe our Meteorite Collection. We have quite a substantial collection of meteorites and each has a unique story. My favourite being the Tenham Meteorite Collection, which includes over 300 stones that fell to Earth in Central Queensland in 1879. Over 100 of those stones were deposited here at the Queensland Museum.

Most common is not always the least significant, and having bulk collections of certain fossil species or rock and mineral samples allows us to expand our knowledge in many ways. Whether we use these collections for unique analysis when new forms of testing are created, or to look at species variation and comparative taphonomy (how things are fossilised). Having additional samples where possible is always an important factor in expanding our scientific knowledge.

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What is your favourite thing about your role at the museum? Why?

I love that every single day is different – there is no normal. That means that every day is a new challenge, and that this is certainly one of the keys to keeping my passion alive.

Kristen Spring

What is your favourite gallery/exhibition at the museum (current or past) and why?

Historically – Dragons and Diprotodons. This was a display about megafauna, on level 4 at Queensland Museum. It was a display that as I child, I visited regularly. I dragged my parents through it time and time again. When I started at Queensland Museum in 1998, it was the first permanent exhibition I ever de-installed a few years later. I still remember it clearly though and it still remains my favourite.

Anything else you would like to add?

As a Collection Manager, you need to work closely with researchers, both from Queensland Museum and external institutions. Although your role does not specifically have a research focus, your knowledge and understanding of the collection is vital for their research. Your knowledge and understanding of the collection allows you to provide them with the information that they need to do the work they do. Your knowledge and understanding of the collection allows you to care for the material that will one day be published. Ultimately providing the world with another piece of the puzzle to our ancient history, and a possible insight into our future.

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