Telling the snail story

by Dr John Stanisic OAM ‘The Snail Whisperer’, Honorary Research Fellow, Queensland Museum

As Curator of Molluscs at Queensland Museum for 26 years, I spent most of my time collecting and documenting the land snails of Queensland. Over that time, more than 900 new species were discovered. Now as Honorary Research Fellow, I divide my time between research and telling the snail story in schools and to the public at large. My wife Lorelle, who is an Honorary Researcher at the museum and an ex-Deputy School Principal, plays a major part in giving these presentations.

World Science Festival Queensland (hosted by Queensland Museum) has provided a rare opportunity to showcase some of Australia’s native snail species. Snails are held in low esteem by the public, mainly due to a few introduced species eating plants in their backyards. Consequently, the snail story is about spreading information on the importance of our native snail species. These number more than 1500 Australia-wide and feed on fungi and biofilm. As such, they won’t eat your garden but play an important role in the decomposition process in our native forests.

On the other hand, children are fascinated by these slow and slimy creatures. The highlight of our school presentations is always the opening of the terraria and allowing the students to handle the live snails. Along the way, the kids learn some interesting facts about our native species and hopefully, develop a healthier appreciation of these invertebrates and their important role in the environment. Sometimes, we present students with a silver snail in exchange for relating a newly learned fact about our native snails.

John and Lorelle at the Chinchilla World Science Festival Queensland in 2021.

Thank you letters from students