Category Archives: Insects & Spiders

Celebrating women in science

We celebrate the achievements of women, known and unknown, remembered and forgotten, who have forged the way for those of us in science today, and to give an opportunity for children: girls and boys, to choose role models in science – Princess Nisreen El-Hashemite, BSc MSc MD PhD

This coming 11 February is International Day of Women and Girls in Science and to celebrate we’re featuring some of the incredible scientists and staff involved in the scientific field across the Queensland Museum Network. Their hard work and excellent contributions often help inspire women and young girls who are interested in following a path in science. We delve into why they chose to get involved in science and what they’ve found most rewarding.

#goals #inspo

Marissa McNamara
Lab Manager and Collection Manager (marine for crustacea)

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I work with preserved crabs, prawns, lobsters and other amazing creatures from around Australia, and I get to see the incredible diversity and beauty of life every day. I also help members of the public identify crustaceans they find (often on the beach or the reef), and it’s fantastic to see what people discover. I feel like I learn something new every day! As an added bonus, for Halloween I get to dress up and show off our ‘creepiest’ looking specimens!

Rebekah Collins
Manager, SparkLab and Discovery Centre

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It is really rewarding to create experiences that support visitor learning, hearing people share their memories, stories and connections with the Museum and the Sciencentre, and seeing how much it means to them, especially those who later go on to study or be involved with science.

Joanne Wilkinson
Senior Fossil Preparator and Geosciences Volunteer Coordinator

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At age 9 I asked for a Chemistry set for Christmas. That’s when my love of litmus paper and the test tubes began. Many years later, combining my interest in fossils and my love of test tubes and laboratories, I find myself Senior Fossil Preparator at Queensland Museum. The most rewarding part of working in the fossil scientific community is the discovery of new sites and new species which add to fossil record of Australia and ultimately to the fossil record of the planet.

Susan Wright
Collection Manager, Terrestrial Environments (Entomology)

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The best part of my job as a Collection Manager is that I get to help a wide range of people, from scientists to artists, to conduct fascinating (sometimes bizarre) research regarding insects, our collections and the people that contribute to them. I learn something new every day.

Chae Swindell
Learning Officer, Future Makers

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The most rewarding part of my role is using our collections and research to develop resources that inspire and excite students, teachers and the community about science!

Christine Lambkin
Curator of Entomology

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I became an entomologist and evolutionary biologist because I am fascinated by the interaction between the incredible beauty and unbelievable diversity of insects, and our attempts to mathematically estimate the relationships between species based on morphology and genetics.

Rochelle Lawrence
Research Assistant and Honorary, Vertebrate Palaeontology

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I chose to get involved in science because of my fascination with the natural world, especially our unique fossil fauna and how they can help us better understand the present and impacts or future environmental change.

Kristen Spring
Collection Manager, Geosciences

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I got into science because although there is too much to discover in one lifetime, I was certainly determined to try!

Susan Turner
DAAD Professor and Honorary Research Fellow, Geosciences

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I got hooked at around eight years old by reading a book on dinosaurs – the joy of finding the right mentor led me into vertebrate palaeontology in my twenties. Five decades on I still get excited knowing I am the first person to see a new fossil specimen, and sometimes have the joy of identifying and naming it for posterity.

Jessica Worthington Wilmer 
Research Fellow and Molecular Identities Lab Manager

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I became a biologist (evolutionary geneticist) to better understand the world I live in and to use that knowledge to help save threatened and endangered species.

Carole J Burrow
Honorary Research Fellow

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The most rewarding aspect of my work in vertebrate palaeontology is working out new information about very old things (300 to 400 million year old fossils) to help our understanding of how the earliest back-boned animals with jaws are related to each other.

Amy Boulding
Head, Lifelong Learning 

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Amy (back) and Rebekah officially opening the doors to SparkLab

I originally got into science because I loved that I could ask lots of questions and go find the answers by getting my hands dirty and exploring the natural world. I’m super proud of now leading the Lifelong Learning team, and seeing all of the ways that my team create and facilitate those life-changing, enlightening, inspiring moments with people on all different themes and stories within the Museum.

Sue-Ann Watson
Senior Curator (Marine Invertebrates)

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Making new discoveries is the most rewarding part of science. Being the first to know something is really exciting.

Barbara Baehr
Arachnologist and “Australian Spider Lady”

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Barbara with her daughter

I chose to get involved in science because it’s great to be at the forefront of discoveries and I love to be a role model for my daughters.

Jessica Johnson 
Learning Officer, SparkLab, and Forensic Scientist

Jessica Johnson

I chose science when I held a real human brain in my hands and realised that this was a person, that 1.5kgs was everything that made someone them, and there’s nothing more rewarding then seeing the look on a child’s face when they understand something new and exciting about science.

Claire Chakrabarti
Learning Officer, SparkLab

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I was the child that always asked why and I chose to pursue a career in science as it provided the answers.

Susan Wightley 
Information Officer, Discovery Centre 

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I have always been fascinated by the huge variety of animals, the adaptations to their environment and how they interact with it and each other. I am in my dream job helping people understand and appreciate the complexity and awesomeness of the natural environment around them.

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Been missing our Discovery Centre critters?

Never fear, they’re all still here and safely tucked away behind the scenes throughout the Discovery Centre’s renovation. Our staff continue to bring in the tasty eats they like best – bundles of fresh gum leaves for our stick insects, dried leaves for the giant cockroaches and even frozen rats for our green tree pythons. The baby scorpions, born in the museum, are thriving on a diet of tiny crickets.

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The museum’s display and research specimens need to be kept in a controlled climate so they do not deteriorate, meaning that the museum is constantly air conditioned. But our live animals require humidity and every morning their enclosures receive a fine spray of water to keep them happy and healthy.

The stick insects continue to lay eggs daily. These are sorted from the droppings and leaf fragments and placed into separate containers, and every morning there are new hatchling nymphs to care for.  The nymphs live in separate enclosures of gum leaves, away from the adults, to make them easier to look after and avoid ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water’ when there’s a change of foliage.

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It seems that some of the animals are making the most of their well-earned break from the constant public gaze. The cockroaches have given birth to live young, so the leaves in their enclosure are now resounding with the pitter-patter of tiny new feet!

Can the live animals still be seen? Yes, during our Daily Discoveries at 11.00am and 2.00pm we often bring some of them out to meet the public. You can even find out what’s on in advance if you call us on (07) 3840 7555. The schedule may be subject to change – but whatever is on – it’s always bound to be interesting!

Daily discoveries are coming to you

While the Discovery Centre is being renovated our most popular displays are still on show. Every day at 11.00am and 2.00pm our amazing Daily Discoveries will pop up anywhere! So keep an eye out for them these school holidays…

Get up close and personal with a stick insect! We have Goliath Stick Insects, among the largest insects in Australia, breeding here in the museum. There are also Children’s Stick Insects, which look like gum leaves, and bizarre Spiny Leaf Insects, with ragged leafy legs to resemble dead leaves. You will be amazed at how our stick insects have truly mastered the art of camouflage. You can even help us sort their eggs, and count the tiny nymphs that hatch out here every day.

Or maybe you prefer fossils? Fancy holding a Diprotodon tooth? That was the biggest marsupial that ever lived, a bit like a giant wombat, so it’s pretty impressive. Fossil bones of this animal turn up in many parts of Queensland. For that matter, how can you tell if a piece of rock is actually fossil bone? How are fossils formed? What’s a pseudofossil? You will find out the answers to these and much more.

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This month there will be some monkey business as we welcome Monkeys! A Primate Story, opening 29 September. This new exhibition lets you learn about our shared evolutionary history, and the weird and wonderful mammals that make up the primate family tree. We have some fascinating skulls to share as part of our Daily Discoveries, featuring our distant and not so distant relatives.  Did you know a tarsier has eyes so big they cannot move in their sockets? Or that male mandrill teeth are fearfully large and sharp to terrify their rivals? Subjects change regularly so always be prepared for something new.

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So where do you find us?  We display various objects on a mobile trolley so we get around. Ask our floor staff and they will be happy to point you in the right direction, or you can look for the Daily Discoveries banner on Levels 2 and 4. And make sure you bring your curiosity because there is plenty to learn in our Daily Discoveries!

‘Primate lineup’ – can you identify our distant and not so distant relatives from their replica primate skulls

24 – 28 September and 1 – 5 October

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Flying antennae

The helpful and knowledgeable staff of the Queensland Museum Network often assist members of the public with the identification of insect, animal, fossil and geological specimens. Our experts also answer questions about Queensland’s animals, rocks and fossils, people and history. In this section, we share some of these questions and answers with our readers.   

QUESTION:
I found this intriguing-looking insect in a sealed tank of tadpoles. Is it a cranefly and if so, how did it get there? Is that long extension from the head incredibly long antennae or its proboscis? I can’t see whether the point of attachment is the head or mouth!

Continue reading Flying antennae

Ask an expert

The helpful and knowledgeable staff of the Queensland Museum Network often assist members of the public with the identification of insect, animal, fossil and geological specimens. Our experts also answer questions about Queensland’s animals, rocks and fossils, people and history. In this new section, we share some of these questions and answers with our readers.

QUESTION:
Is it true that scorpions glow in the dark?

Continue reading Ask an expert

Dr Robert Raven tells the story of two great spider discoveries in Tasmania

The paruwi spider is a new genus, discovered & named by 13 year old Robert Beeton in north-west Tasmania. Photo courtesy of Bush Blitz

Queensland Museum arachnologist Dr Robert Raven travelled to the Central Highlands of Tasmania in February surveying spiders as part of a Bush Blitz survey. And it was during this survey that uncovered two new species of spiders in one night! Dr Raven tells the story of these great discoveries.

Continue reading Dr Robert Raven tells the story of two great spider discoveries in Tasmania

When is a bug not a bug?

By Dr Christine Lambkin

Did you know that during 2012-13, the Queensland Museum had nearly 13,000 enquiries through the Discovery Centre alone, that’s not including the number of people who contact staff directly. Of these enquiries, the highest numbers were for insects with nearly 3000. The next were reptiles with over 2000 enquiries. Based on this enormous number, the Queensland Museum decided to offer an Animal ID day as part of National Science Week Celebrations with a focus on these two groups.
Continue reading When is a bug not a bug?