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.
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.
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
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?
The Animal Classification theme is supported by a range of Queensland Museum exhibitions and resources.
* 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.
Did your mum ever tell you to eat lots of carrots because they would help you to see better in the dark? Whilst carrots and other orange and yellow fruits and vegetables will help to prevent certain eye ailments, to see really well at night you actually need special eyes.
Like other nocturnal animals, Quentin the Quoll was able to find food and evade prey even on the darkest of nights. In fact before the disappearance of dinosaurs, most land mammals were nocturnal since dinosaurs were their main predators. Today there is more of a balance but animals such as owls, possums, gliders, many frogs, bats, wombats, koalas, phascogales, many wallabies and geckoes are but a few of the Australian animals that still use the cover of night to survive.
So how do nocturnal animals see so well in the dark?
Of course there are variations in eye features across different animals but scientists have discovered some common characteristics. The most obvious one is eye and pupil size. Some animals like owls, frogs and geckos have eyes that take up a much larger percentage of their skull compared with diurnal (daytime active) animals. Their large eyes and pupils give them large lenses and therefore bigger retinas so that they maximise the amount of ambient light they collect. However, larger eyes means reduced space for each eye to move within the skull, so these nocturnal animals have developed the ability to rotate their necks way past their shoulders to compensate.
As well as eye size, nocturnal animals have retinas which are filled with rods, the eye cells which detect low light levels. They often have few or no cones which are the eye cells responsible for detecting bright light and colour. Again this helps to maximise the amount of light being collected but as a result, nocturnal animals are thought to have little colour vision and things probably look blurry.
Consequently, nocturnal animals also rely on their senses of smell and hearing.
One final common characteristic in nocturnal eyes is a thick, reflective membrane directly beneath the retina. This membrane, called the tapetum lucidum, collects and resends light back to the retina a second time, giving the rods another chance to absorb the image information. This also explains why some nocturnal animals’ eyes seem to glow in the dark when a light is shined on them. Cats too have nocturnal glow in the dark eyes, which explains why they are such a threat to wildlife at night.
The purpose of this blog is two fold. Firstly, it is hoped that this information will support the delivery of the Australian Curriculum: Science. It is most directly linked to the Year 5 Science Understandings (Biological sciences — Living things have structural features and adaptations that help them to survive in their environment) and Science as a Human Endeavour (Use and influence — scientific knowledge is used to inform personal and community decisions). However, it is also a real life example of the Year 5 Science Understandings (Physical sciences — Light from a source forms shadows and can be absorbed, reflected and refracted) and will provide teacher background information for Science Understandings in Year 1(Earth and space sciences — Observable changes occur in the sky and landscape) and Year 3 (Biological sciences — Living things can be grouped on the basis of observable features…)
The second purpose is to make you aware of a new Queensland Museum digital resource called Squawks in the night. It is a slide show designed specifically for Early Years learners, with simple text that relates directly to the photos and a few animal calls. The resource is located on the Queensland Museum website via the following link.
2012 brings some new faces to Queensland Museum and Sciencentre (QM&S). At the Southbank campus, Quentin the Quoll is lending a paw to show one of the new teachers in residence a thing or two.
My name is Narinda Sandry and I am one of two new seconded teachers at QM&S. Having mainly taught 3-8 year olds, I have worked in State Schools, C&K settings, at Griffith University in Early Childhood and Science courses and on projects writing science curriculum materials for the Early Years. No doubt you can guess my passions are for science and the Early Years. In my role at the museum, I will strive to unlock the wonderful resources in particular for younger learners and those entrusted to teach them. The Australian Curriculum: Science (ASC) will be the key organising framework, with special exhibitions and science events incorporated where relevant.
Back to Quentin. Quentin is a Northern Tiger Quoll, an endangered species found only in some rainforests of North Queensland. Quolls are a carnivorous marsupial eating insects, small mammals, fruit and some birds. They are mostly nocturnal and are under threat because of habitat destruction, baiting by farmers, dogs, feral cats and road crossing at night.
Over the year, Quentin the Quoll and his friends will be featured as animals that students and teachers can identify with to heighten community awareness of the need to protect our unique wildlife. They will appear in some blogs, be ‘snapped’ discovering new and exciting experiences at various campuses and hopefully be able to visit some schools and Early Years classes. We hope to be able to include some of your experiences with Quentin and his friends in the Queensland Museum Talks Science blog too.
Many wonderful specimens like Quentin are available through Queensland Museum loans. Giving a character to a real specimen provides young learners with an opportunity to experience empathy and interpret the world through the eyes of an animal. Teachers can probe with questions like ‘how do you think Quentin might be feeling?’ or ‘what has Quentin learned?’ The character provides a point of reference to which learning can be attached and built up as a collective picture for example ‘remember when Quentin learned about or visited or saw? Remember what the external features of Quentin were? How can we use that knowledge now?’ Of course the character can be used across other curriculum areas too.
I am very much looking forward to finding creative ways of connecting with Early Years students and teachers across Queensland. If you wish to talk with me about the museum and its efforts with regards to young learners, please do not hesitate to contact me on email@example.com or (07) 38407668 or of course via any one of our campuses if you prefer. Happy learning!
Recently an adult Humpback Whale beached itself on North Stradbroke Island, just 1 km south of the Main Beach Surf Life Saving Club. The cause of death is unknown though it may have been infection-related due to the snagging and embedding of a crab pot around the tail of the whale.
Under the Nature Conservation (Whales & Dolphins) Plan 1997, Queensland Museum is authorised to take, use and keep specimens of cetaceans if they are deemed to be significant. (Cetaceans are marine mammals such as whales, dolphins and porpoises.)
The 14.5 metre whale is a highly significant specimen. After many decades of attending whale strandings, it provided the first opportunity for QM staff to acquire an adult humpback skeleton and tissue samples.
Senior Curator of Vertebrates, Dr Steve Van Dyck, said the whale skeleton had the potential to form the centrepiece of an exhibition in the future, and also be used for research purposes.
Steve and Heather Janetzki (Collection Manager, Mammals and Birds) assembled a small team of QM staff and, with the assistance of University of Queensland Moreton Bay Research Station, DERM (Department of Environment and Resource Management) QPWS (Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service) staff, and representatives of the Quandamooka Land Council, they spent two days flensing and removing the skeleton for the State Collection. (Flensing refers to the removal of the outer blubber layer of whales.) Another day was taken to clean up the mountain of blubber and flesh that remained.
The operation began by removing the lower jaw, then cutting wide incisions into the blubber and muscle then winching these great chunks off the animal to provide access to the neck, in order to cut the muscle away from the bones. A crane was used to roll the skull over. Then when it was released from any remaining tissue, it was dragged into a skip and from here pulled onto a 4WD truck.
Although the whale had been pulled up the beach to the level of the dunes, there was concern among locals that blood and tissue would attract sharks to Stradbroke’s most popular surfing beach.
The rest of the skeleton was retrieved by flensing the blubber off and cutting the muscle from all the vertebrae, using a winch and mini-excavator to pull the ribs out and cart the flesh away for burial.
The skull and skeleton were transported across Moreton Bay to a paddock in Brisbane. From here the bones will be taken to the Museum and macerated in a large boiler for a few days, then dried out. The entire baleen sheets are being preserved. Some soft parts and contents of the digestive system were also collected for other researchers.
Dr Van Dyck said the resulting skeleton was superb, complete and in very good condition. He and Heather are grateful to Tim Powell for transporting the skull and skeleton (separately) to Brisbane, to Stradbroke Ferries for waiving the barge fees to allow Tim to do this, to Geoff Pettingill for his gentle and expert excavator skills, and to Christine Durbidge for the cake she baked.
Dr Jessica Worthington Wilmer is a research scientist in the Biodiversity and Geosciences program at Queensland Museum (QM). She’s also the Manager of QM’s Molecular Identities Laboratory and Frozen Tissue Collection.
Jessica gets to work on some really cool things!
She’s used genetics to look at the population structure of tiny little aquatic snails living in Artesian springs in Australian deserts; used DNA to determine the influence of incubation temperature on the sex of Brush-turkey chicks and embryos; and also identified new species of fabulous things like leaf-tailed geckos and sea anemones.
Currently Jessica is working on the landscape genetics of SE Queensland mammals (specifically koalas, northern brown bandicoots, yellow-footed antechinus, sugar and squirrel gliders) with collaborators at the University of Queensland and with four of SE Queensland’s super-councils.
In the image on the left Jessica is working over the Trans-illuminator gel documentation system, preparing samples for DNA testing.
Next year, the Molecular Identities Laboratory (MIL) at Queensland Museum will celebrate its 10th birthday. Since it was established in 2002, the lab has hosted research across a wide range of animal groups, always with the overarching aim of using DNA data to identify new and existing species. The primary work of MIL is species-level discrimination using DNA tools. However, sequence data is used further to explore the evolutionary inter-relationships among groups and species.
Note the A T G C letters in the DNA sequence data at the left. These represent the four nitrogen bases in the genetic code: namely adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine.
Later this year Jessica and colleague, Dr Kathryn Hall, will be presenting posters at the International Bar Coding of Life conference in Adelaide, showcasing the role that the QM and the MIL have played in several international bar coding collaborations.
You may also like to look at an online learning resource where DNA techniques were used to determine the life cycle of a parasite that infects the Sydney rock oyster. The resource is called Disease Detectives.
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