Dr John Hooper has been an integral part of the Queensland Museum Network and has made a significant contribution during his 27 years here, 14 of which he has been Head of the Biodiversity and Geosciences program. Having retired in June 2018, John leaves a lasting legacy not only to the Queensland Museum Network but to the broader scientific community.
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Written by: Letitia Murgha, Strategic Learning
This article continues the theme of early indigenous scientific knowledge which often centred around the collection of food. Most shell middens were created in ancient (pre-European contact) times and can provide valuable information about Aboriginal hunting and gathering practices.
For thousands of years, Aboriginal people caught and ate large numbers of shellfish species in and around the mangrove mud flats and coastal areas along the Queensland coast. Often they would cook the meat and use the shells for a number of different purposes, or dispose of the shells in large dump sites. These dump sites would normally be near where they were camped and eventually form what is called shell middens. Shell middens have provided important information and clues for researchers about the Aboriginal people and the environment they lived in. They tell the story of the Aboriginal peoples’ diet, food sources for that particular area, what species were available, the impact of biodiversity, environmental changes and marine ecosystems.
Different species of food sources found in shell middens include, mussels, oysters, clams, crabs, fish. These food sources were highly prized as today we know they contain valuable nutrients such as zinc, iron, calcium and vitamins such as A and B. These would have been hunted and gathered according to the seasons and particularly when they were in abundance. The Aboriginal people would have known when the oysters were at their fattest, the crabs were at their heaviest, the mussels in abundance from reading the seasonal signs around them. This practice is still used today by many Aboriginal people.
Some of the species found included Geloina coaxan (Mud Clam), Nerita balteata (Lined Nerida), Telescopium Telescopium (Telescope Mud Creeper. Most of the food sources were collected during low tide as that was the time they were exposed in the mud or sand or attached to rocks and branches of the mangrove trees.
Once they were collected they would have been immediately eaten and then discarded in a nearby heap eventually forming into a midden. The Aboriginal people also found uses for the shells and used them for cutting and slicing or decoration. Every year at the same time the shell midden would grow in size. In the Hinchinbrook area, between the North Queensland towns of Cardwell and Ingham shell middens sites have been found and from the research tells the story that it is a particular area that would have supported a large number of people. Whilst middens are found there, a number of fish traps have also been found which reinforces that the area was a valuable nutrient rich environment. All shell middens and fish traps today are protected sites. They are protected under the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003 and Torres Strait Islander Cultural heritage Act 2003. One area protected for artefact scatters, shell middens and fish traps is an area at Palm Island.
Whilst shell middens have survived over thousands of years they are exposed to threats. Threats include cyclones, (a shell midden at the Townsville Town Common was damaged by a cyclone), erosion from water and wind, vandalism and development.
Written by: Marcel Bruyn, Strategic Learning
Sustainability is a cross-curriculum priority of the Australian Curriculum. Sustainability addresses the ongoing capacity of Earth to maintain all life. The AC website states that: “Education for sustainability develops the knowledge, skills, values and world views necessary for people to act in ways that contribute to more sustainable patterns of living.”
In Science: “… students appreciate that science provides the basis for decision-making in many areas of society and that these decisions can impact on the Earth system. They understand the importance of using science to predict possible effects of human and other activity and to develop management plans or alternative technologies that minimise these effects.”
Many Australians live in coastal areas and occupy catchments which supply waterways that empty into the ocean. So there is a direct link between healthy waterways and healthy marine environments, and for much of Queensland that includes coral reef environments.
The catchment and/or marine environments are an ideal foci for a school sustainability program. Here are links to excellent educational programs and resources to support the implementation of a sustainability program in your school:
Organisations and educational programs
- Reef Guardian Schools – Great Barrier Marine Park Authority. The program encourages schools to commit to the protection and conservation of the world heritage listed Great Barrier Reef. The program helps to protect the Reef by promoting their ideas, initiatives and activities to communities to encourage all people to “do their bit to look after it!”. It focuses on: Curriculum offerings; Management of Resources; On-the-ground projects in your school and community and Education of the community. “
- ReefED: online resources and activities from GBRMPA.
- Australian Marine Environment Protection Association: AUSMEPA provides FREE educational resources on this website to help teachers plan and undertake a unit of work about key marine environmental issues, including climate change and storm water pollution.
- Reef Check Australia: The Reef IQ Educational Program includes courses and workshops that allow students to undertake simulated coral reef surveys in the classroom.
- Marine Education Society of Australasia.
- Ocean Life Education ‘Brings the Sea to You’ with fun marine education programs including live marine animals designed to inspire students of all ages to appreciate and take responsibility for the marine ecosystem.
- The Global Learning Centre is a not-for-profit community organisation dedicated to supporting education for justice, peace and sustainability.
- Healthy Waterways: An NGO that provides information and resources on water education in South East Queensland including: information, resources and games.
- The Up a Dry Gully Schools Program challenges primary and secondary students to explore and understand how water must be safe, secure and sustainable for our future.
- CSIRO: CarbonKids is an educational program that combines the latest in climate science with education in sustainability.
- CSIRO Education, North Queensland: Eco-enigma – An environmental case study where the class becomes a scientific team preparing an environmental impact report. By measuring heavy metal levels in fish, analysing silt in a river etc, students find out who is responsible for the environmental health problems of Sunny Valley.
- Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities: Australian water education resources.
- Sea World (Gold Coast): Excursions and education programs.
- Reef HQ Aquarium (Townsville): Age-specific, innovative curriculum-centred programs include interactive activities and investigation challenges, stimulating inquiring minds to discover all they can about the Reef.
- Brisbane City Council Environment Centres: Downfall Creek Bushland Centre and Boondall Wetlands Environment.
- Education Queensland Environmental Education Centres.
- Exhibitions and school programs at the Queensland Museum & Sciencentre and Museum of Tropical Queensland.
Many local governments have resources and staff to support sustainability education. For example:
- Brisbane City Council, includes Brisbane City Council’s environmental and cultural learning programs and Green Schools.
- Redland City Council: “IndigiScapes helps teachers design units of work so their students can achieve learning outcomes from a variety of curriculum areas. We provide interactive and challenging activities that guide students through an appreciation and understanding of local conservation issues and how they can protect their planet in the future.”
- Gold Coast City Council: School Watersaver Education Program which encourages students to work towards a sustainable water future.
Queensland Museum Resources
The museum has a rich repository of authoritative information and resources, including online content, interactive learning objects, games and school loan kits.
- Biodiscovery and the Great Barrier Reef: Biodiscovery is the quest for bioactive chemicals from living organisms. Investigate some of the factors affecting the survival of reef organisms and how human activities and climate change are having an impact on the reef.
- Backyard Explorer: An invertebrate biodiversity audit resource kit that can support biohealth assessment component of a sustainability program.
- The museum provides loan kits that support object-based learning. For example: Marine Life: Explore a variety of marine life and how they interact with their environment and each other. Investigate interactions between living things and suitability for a marine habitat.
Recycling and the Australian Curriculum
Teaching is characteristically a time poor occupation and no more so than in the modern classroom. In our efforts to deliver the entire curriculum (in a perfect classroom with well-behaved children who attend school nearly every day!), we need to be clever about maximising the potential of learning in each lesson. Specifically, we need to reduce the need for different activities to teach different subjects, reuse a context to build deeper understanding and rethink how we can better link classroom learning to real world situations. Recycling provides us with just such an opportunity.
Recycling can be used as a way of delivering several aspects of the Australian Curriculum for Science, Mathematics and English and for technology Essential Learnings for a number of year levels. In a nutshell, the recycling process fosters the understanding of the properties of materials, physical and chemical change, magnetism, measurement, labelling, human impact on the environment and other living things, systems, design and resources. The opportunities abound for inquiry and analytical processes and to see real world applications for the use and influence of science, maths and literacy.
Queensland Museum teachers have developed a new resource in conjunction with external recycling partners. Recycling can be incorporated into a number of year levels, so we have not provided unit/ lesson plans but have instead provided the relevant curriculum links and the resources such as images and investigations which can be linked with existing planning. The resource includes images of recycling plants and processes which are not easily accessible to teachers and students and some investigation and activity ideas. We are just waiting for a content check from SIMS and the new resource will become available. It will be located in our learning resources/ resources/Australian Curriculum suite but we will notify you when the link is active.
Queensland Museum and Sciencentre would like to thank SIMS Metal Recyclers, Brisbane City Council, Moreton Bay Regional Council Waste Services, Christopher Trotter (Artist) and Visy for their enthusiastic support of our recent Science of Recycling exhibit.
Written by: Maryanne Venables, Strategic Learning
The “Zoo Animals” went into the tin with the blue lid, while my “Farm Animals” went in the tin with the green lid. The animal kingdom, as I knew it, lived under my bed in Streets ice-cream tins. All were classified, according to contexts developed from the songs, books and experiences of a four-year old. Fast forward to 2012 and, as a Museum Educator, I am delighted to be sharing the topic of Animal Classification with the next generation of biologists, taxonomists or collectors.
Queensland Museum has re-launched Animal Classification into our range of school programs. Bookings are now being taken for Yr 3-7* classes to experience a value-added program to enrich your Museum visit
If the concept of Animal Classification makes you numb, let us please change your mind. School programs are delivered by the Museum Learning team, using real collections to elicit real experiences. This is a valuable option in an increasingly virtual world.
This program primarily responds to Science Understanding descriptors in Australian Curriculum: Science for Yrs 3 and 7, but also addresses Science as a Human Endeavour and Science Inquiry Skills for Yrs 3-7.
So how does classification apply to our lives? You don’t even need to be a collector to use it. We find classification systems everywhere – from libraries to supermarkets. Things that are in some way similar are arranged together for comprehension and convenience.
So how does animal classification apply to our lives? Animals are grouped as part of the process that describes or identifies them down to an individual species. This helps us effectively communicate information about them. Understanding characteristics of a particular species or group can affect our health and welfare, economic growth and ability to effectively manage the conservation of our wildlife.
Dr Karl Kruszelnicki has shared the virtues of the dung beetle since the CSIRO introduced several species to Australia in the late 1960s. The objective was to manage a bi-product of grazing and its impact on fly control (the bi-product that wasn’t destined for our taste buds or footwear). Selected species were introduced to a number of Australian climates and ecosystems resulting in a biological control success story. Our approx 350-400 species of native dung beetle evolved to mostly feed on the smaller, drier, fibrous dung pellets of marsupials.
Other examples of genus-specific relationships are applied in agriculture (both in pollination and pest management). According to the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Honeybees add an estimated $4 – 6 billion to Australian agricultural and horticultural industries, annually.
Further examples of identified animal groups have supported medical research. Studies of Tammar Wallaby and other marsupial forms of milk have provided medical researchers with a template for investigating antimicrobial compounds, potentially resistant to “superbugs”.
Examples of animals helping humans can be ‘reciprocated’ in conservation campaigns. Most Queenslanders are aware of the plight of the endangered Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat. Distribution once extended south to the Victorian border. By the 1980s, a drastically reduced population was reportedly (without the advanced surveying methods in use, today) around 35 wombats. A remnant population in Epping Forest National Park (South-West of Mackay, Queensland) was recognised as the last chance to protect this species. Since then, wombat numbers have been carefully monitored and protected, reaching around 138 today. In 2009, the colony was deemed at risk should an environmental disaster such as fire or flood affect the region. To mitigate this, the decision was made to establish a second breeding colony 600km south at Richard Underwood Nature Refuge (near St George, Queensland). Recent reports (May 2012) indicate this second population is stable with the current “snout count” at seven females, three males and three joeys in good condition.
A smaller cousin, the Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat has maintained a conservation status of ‘Least Concern’, although recent reports suggest it, too is affected by similar threats. These include reduced/replaced food plants and possibly toxins from introduced weeds. Relationships determined by the classification of animals can help us to make informed decisions. Are we prepared to learn from the past to determine the future?
* Please note: Secondary school, teachers can also select a Biodiversity and Classification program, which can be tailored to your unit of work by prior arrangement.