Category Archives: News

World-famous Wollemi Pines have been saved by firefighters

A good news story from the devastation caused by the bush fires – the only known native stand of the world-famous Wollemi Pines has been saved by firefighters. Queensland Museum Palaeobotanist Dr Andrew Rozefelds wishes to acknowledge the work done by the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service and NSW Rural Fire Service for responding effectively to help save this unique plant community.

Read The Sydney Morning Herald story Incredible, secret firefighting mission saves famous ‘dinosaur trees’.

The discovery of Wollemia in 1994, just 200 kms from Sydney in the Blue Mountains was unprecedented and this discovery of a previously unknown genus of conifers was completely unexpected. The Wollemi Pines are restricted to narrow canyons in the Blue Mountains and occur in one remote area of the Wollemi National Park.

The landscape in the Blue Mountains is highly dissected with the fire prone areas on the tops of the cliffs and ridge lines. These areas are dominated by Eucalyptus and other plants that have evolved in response to fire and can survive less intense fires. The wet gorges and canyons are relatively fire free. Fire in these communities is rare and the plant communities are dominated by temperate rainforest species.

Air photos of the landscape highlight the contrast between the grey-green of Eucalyptus woodlands with the bright green foliage of the rainforest occurring in the gorges and these gorges are the home to the critically endangered Wollemi Pines. It is not by chance that these trees survived in these canyons – being fire sensitive it is the only place in this landscape where they can survive due to protective landscape of steep cliffs and the wetter conditions in the gorges.

Wollemia is most closely related to the Kauri Pines (Agathis) that occur in the rainforest of North eastern Queensland. The origins of the Wollemi Pines can be traced back to the time of the dinosaurs and from the fossil pollen record we can trace the history of the Wollemia-Agathis lineage back 90 million years. While the fossil record offers up some tantalising clues, few fossils of Wollemia have been confidently identified, although the insights from molecular studies would suggest that the Wollemi Pines would have evolved some 70 million years ago.

The fossil record does show us that as the Australian continent has moved northwards it has slowly dried out, the wetter forests have retreated to fire free, often upland areas and these refugia remain the last hold outs for many species of rainforest animals and plants. Under the drought conditions experienced in eastern Australia and Tasmania in recent years we have seen rainforests burn. This “New Normal” is not a continuation of gradual change we have seen in the past – the scale and intensity of the fires in SE Australia has changed, and are likely to continue to become more severe as predicted in the Garnaut Climate Change Review in 2007. The impacts of these changes have severely felt by communities in Australia and extend beyond the environment to all areas of the economy as we have seen recently.

These new conditions pose unprecedented threats to the animals and plants in all fire-sensitive communities in Australia.  The protective vertical rampants that have in the past helped to protect the Wollemi Pines from fire may not be enough to protect this fragile community in the future. Without the intervention of the Parks and Rural Fires staff and volunteers this last population of this remarkable rainforest conifer, that is 70 million years in the making, may well have gone up in smoke. It is perhaps remarkable that it has survived so long.

Digi Youth Arts in Queensland Museum

Written by Alethea Beetson, Indigenous Engagement Coordinator, Queensland Museum  and Imelda Miller Curator, Cultures and Histories, Queensland Museum

All year Digi Youth Arts unsettle artists and mentors have been engaging, discovering, interacting, activating, calling out, evaluating, commenting, questioning and creating new artworks inside and outside Queensland Museum. As artists in residence, Digi Youth Arts have been focused on producing new works across six art forms – street art, theater, film, dance, visual art and music. This year alone, artists from four of these art forms have showcased new works developed in collaboration with industry mentors.

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Women in Science, Queensland Museum

Happy International Women’s Day! In the lead up to 8 March 2015,  Queensland Science have been busy celebrating International Women’s Day by shining the spotlight on women in science on their Facebook & Twitter pages and via the #womeninscience & #makeithappen hashtags. During the week a number of Queensland Museum scientists put their hand up to provide an insight into what inspired them to pursue a career in science and offer a few words of encouragement for all the young women and girls out there enthusiastic about science.
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Meet the Museum Teams of Tomorrow – Everyday Einstein student challenge

By Maryanne Venables

On Saturday 23 August, National Science Week may have been winding down, but here at Queensland Museum, we were cranking up!

Twenty one students from years 7-9 participated in a workshop called the Make your Museum student challenge. This (mutual) learning experience was generated in partnership with Queensland Academies as part of their Young Scholars program.
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71 new Australian Goblin spider species named by QM researcher

Written by: Dr Barbara Baehr, Research Scientist, Terrestrial Environments (Arachnida)

Minute goblin spiders with orange armour are widely distributed but hidden! Goblin spiders have a worldwide distribution but are most common in the tropics and subtropics. Goblin spiders are mega diverse however most of the species are short range endemics living in habitats ranging from forests to deserts. The name Goblin spiders was chosen only a few years ago because of their grotesque body shape. Most of the Goblin spiders are orange colored with an armored body.

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Understanding the diversity of the Great Barrier Reef – and why it’s important

Written by: Dr John Hooper, Head, Natural Environments

New species of life forms, ranging from bacteria even up to mammals, continue to be discovered across the world on a daily basis. This includes species that make up our Great Barrier Reef (GBR), one of seven natural wonders of the world. So while we may have a reasonably good idea about the numbers and different types (species) of corals and fishes that build and live in the GBR ecosystem, we know very little about the many, probably hundreds of thousands of other species living amongst them – even some very large species, but most very small.

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