New Quoll on the block!

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.

Quentin, a Northern Tiger Quoll
Quentin, a Northern Tiger Quoll. Photo courtesy of QM&S

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 narinda.sandry@qm.qld.gov.au or (07) 38407668 or of course via any one of our campuses if you prefer. Happy learning!

Classification with Year 7 (Australian Curriculum)

A couple of weeks ago I started working with a teacher at a local primary school. Her year 7 class had finished most of their science course for the year so we developed a short unit on classification that the students could investigate.

According to the Biological sciences strand in Year 7 of the Australian Science Curriculum, students need to consider that:

There are differences within and between groups of organisms; classification helps to organise this diversity.

The Elaborations state that students:

  • Consider the reasons for classifying such as identification and communication
  • Group a variety of organisms on the basis of similarities and differences in particular features
  • Use simple taxonomic keys e.g. dichotomous keys to identify, sort and name organisms.

We worked out a short teaching unit and this is attached.

Classification Unit Outline (PDF)

We discussed with the students the reasons for classification; the broad groupings of organisms (6 Kingdoms); and the five classes of Chordates (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.)

Students had a chance to examine the external coverings of some specimens such as bird feathers, mammalian fur, snake skin, crocodile skin, and fish skin. We discussed animals that had coverings different from most of their group. e.g. mammals that don’t have fur; fish that don’t have scales; birds that don’t have ‘wings’ and so on. Students also investigated other characteristics possessed by most members of theses classes.

Students examining animal coverings

The students completed some worksheets that were taken from the

Micro Marvels Teacher Resource Booklet (PDF)

Then in another session after morning tea, we discussed the levels of classification and how scientists use dichotomous keys to identify organisms. Students started looking at the invertebrate specimens in the Micro Marvels kit and used a dichotomous key from the booklet to classify the specimens into their major animal groups.

Students examining invertebrate specimens
Students examining more invertebrate specimens

The following week, I brought in 20 invertebrate specimens (numbered 1 – 20) and the students practised using the dichotomous key to classify them. Students learnt how these organisms are grouped on the basis of shared features and how they are different from other groups.

Invertebrate Specimens to classify

Teachers can collect their own specimens over the year and build up quite a collection. So next time you are at the beach, collect some of those shells and other flotsam that wash up on the shoreline. There could be molluscs, sea urchins, sponges, crabs etcetera. Make sure you dry them out well before putting them into a sealed container to preserve them.

To investigate classification at a more in-depth level, we watched some videos entitled Hints on Identifying Insects and Using an Interactive Key on our QM website. Then several orders of insects were examined. (A tray of 9-10 insect orders is provided in the Micro Marvels kit.) Students then had some background information to help them identify the unidentified insects in the trays that I brought in. (Unidentified insect trays can be borrowed from QM Loans or the teacher and the class may like to collect their own.)

The key that we used was the online interactive CSIRO Invertebrate Key.

To examine small features of insects such as the rostrum of bugs and halters on flies, the digital microscope in the Micro Marvels was used. Good quality hand lenses can also be used.

Halters on a fly
Rostrum (sucking tube) of an Assassin bug

Students can collect their own terrestrial invertebrate specimens. Some instructional videos on this are shown in the Collect Insects section of our Wild Backyards site.

Hopefully from this short teaching unit, students will have gained an appreciation for the beauty and diversity of life on Earth.

Sustainability Focus in new Australian Curricula

Sustainability is one of the three cross-curriculum priorities in the new Australian curricula. This topic can be incorporated quite easily into teaching units for the new Science, History, and English curricula that are to be implemented in 2012.

As stated in the Australian curriculum, ‘sustainability addresses the ongoing capacity of the Earth to maintain all life,’ and ‘Sustainable patterns of living meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.’

Two kits that can be borrowed from QM Loans that address this issue of sustainability are the Pests and Threats kit and the Sustainable Living kit.

Pests and Threats kit
Pests and Threats kit

The Pests and Threats kit looks at issues such as: loss of habitat; the effects of introduced species on local environments; land and sea pollution; global warming, etcetera. There is a Pests and Threats Teacher Resource Booklet that can be downloaded from the Learning Resources section of our QM website. Go to the bottom of the page and then navigate to the page where resources that start with a ‘P’ are grouped (as all resources are listed in alphabetical order). There is also an online resource titled Endangered Species. While it is based on an exhibition that is being renewed at QM South Bank, there are parts of the resource that can be done in a classroom setting without visiting the museum.

Another kit that is relevant is the Sustainable Living kit. This contains lots of objects from yester year and it is interesting to see if students know what these objects are and what they do. Students then can investigate the appliances and objects we have today that perform a similar function. An assessment of the energy input, water usage, and environmental effects of each can then be compared.

Sustainable Living kit

There are lots of support material that complement this kit and again these can be found in the Learning Resource section of our website – most begin with the letter ‘S’ so navigate to this page.

Some examples are:

  • Sustainable Futures – Energy Challenge
  • Sustainable Living actions survey
  • Sustainable Living knowledge survey
  • Sustainable Living objects
  • Sustainable living practices – teacher notes
  • Sustainable living practices – student notes
  • Sustainable living water usage
  • Sustainable Objects fact sheet
  • Take One Object

Other online resources that may assist with teaching the concept of Sustainability include:

  • Energy Usage – Past, Present and Future – Teacher notes and Student worksheets
  • Energy – Prehistoric Past and Sustainable Future
  • Energy-related Activities

Some of the above resources are listed in the Related QM Resources – Sustainable Living section of a mini-website we produced on Dinosaurs, Climate Change and Biodiversity.

Educational activities that utilise these kits and online resources should enable students to appreciate that all life is connected through ecosystems and to realise that human activity impacts on ecosystems and biosphere sustainability.

Behind the Scenes – the Lumiere Cinematographe

Colleagues in the QM Cultures and Histories program have been researching  information about some of the oldest cameras in the museum collection, held in storage ‘behind the scenes’. This prompted me to write about a fascinating piece of early technology: the Lumiere Cinematographe.

The Lumiere Cinematographe in the Queensland Museum collection was purchased by the Queensland Department of Agriculture to film Queensland life and landscapes. The official government photographer Frederick Charles Wills and his assistant, Henry William Mobsby traveled the state in order to capture life in the colony. The film was then displayed at the 1899 British Expo in London to encourage people to migrate to Queensland for a better life and to boost the population. By purchasing the camera the Queensland Government was the first government to use this new motion picture technology. You could even say it was the forbear to the present day Tourism Queensland.

The Lumiere brothers worked in their father’s photography business during the late 1800s.  At the time the business focused on still image film and cameras.  When their father retired in 1892 the brothers began to work on creating a movie camera. They patented their invention, the Cinématographe in February 1895, and displayed their first films to the public shortly after.  The first recorded images were three versions of the workers leaving the Lumiere factory. These movies are known as one horse, two horses and no horses due to the horse and carriage seen in the first two films.

Lumiere Cinematographe – Queensland Museum Collection

The camera not only took the images but was also able to process the film and be converted to a projector to display the processed film in a cinema. Each roll of film was 17 meters long and would contain 800 slides which allowed the camera to record between 40 and 50  seconds of moving images depending on the speed that the handle was cranked.  The ideal speed for the camera was 16 frames per second.  Currently movies are shown at 24 to 30 frames per second.

Lumiere Cinematographe, rear view with case open – Queenland Museum Collection

The movie camera was not a new invention in 1895, however the Lumiere brothers were the first to patent film perforations.  A film perforation is a punched hole on each side of the slide.  This allowed the camera to roll the film with much greater consistency and accuracy.  This technology is still used today, commonly with four rectangle holes next to each slide which creates the iconic image of film stock.

The films are able to be viewed through the National Film and Sound Archive website. Although all the films on this site are not of Queensland, it does contain many of the Queensland films produced using the camera in the museum collection.

In 1901 the Salvation Army’s Limelight Department, use several of the Lumiere Cinématographe cameras to film the Australian Federation parade and ceremony in Sydney.  The New South Wales government hoped that the movie would form a permanent record of the event, however only a small amount of footage has survived during the last century. Footage of The Parade and the Oath and Signing can now be seen on YouTube.

Unfortunately for the Lumiere Brothers they thought that “cinema was an invention without a future”. However, they turned their attention to the development of coloured film for still images and become a major producer of photographic equipment and supplies in Europe.

QM Loans kits and the Australian Curriculum

Recently, our seconded teachers finished producing and labelling some new kits and these are now available for borrowing through QM Loans.

These new kits are External Features and Micro Marvels. The first one is linked to Years 1 & 3, and the second one is targeted at Years 5 – 7 of the Biological Sciences strands of the Australian Science Curriculum.

External Features kit

Teacher Resource Booklets have been produced for these kits. They include activities and worksheets that show how the objects and specimens in the kit can be used to teach the relevant aspects of the Australian Science Curriculum. The Micro Marvels kit comes with a digital microscope and software.

Micro Marvels kit

The External Features Teacher Resource Booklet and the Micro Marvels Teacher Resource Booklet have now been uploaded on to the QM website and can be found in the Learning Resources section. Resources are listed alphabetically so scroll down to the bottom of the page and navigate through the pages until you get to the ‘E’ or ‘M’ section respectively.

There are lots of other wonderful kits produced by QM Loans that address relevant aspects of the Australian Curriculum: Science and the Australian Curriculum: History.

Curriculum-related materials are listed in the relevant categories on the QM Loans Catalogue Page.

One of our premium kits is the What’s on the Menu kit which contains specimens collected from South Stradbroke Island. Included are plant samples, insects, reptile parts, and study skins of birds and mammals.

Some objects form the What’s on the Menu kit

There are many activity cards and teachers can use these as the basis for group work within the class. Students are challenged to discover the adaptations possessed by each specimen, examine life cycles, develop food chains, and investigate how these species interact with each other and their environment.

What’s on the Menu information cards
Feeding relationship information on the back of the cards
Cicada information card
Back of Cicada card

With the school year winding down, now is an ideal time to review your borrowing needs for next year.

If your educational institution is already a member, then now may be the time to renew your membership. If you have not been a subscriber in the past, think about the advantages of borrowing kits, objects and specimens next year to enliven your Science and History classes.

Information about Subscription and rates can be found on our QM website.

Stranded Humpback Whale

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.

Stranded Humpback Whale, photo: J. Van Dyck

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.

Dr Steve Van Dyck, photo: R. Raven
Heather Janetzki, photo: R. Raven

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.

Stranded Humpback Whale, photo: Shona Hocknull

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.

Baleen, photo: S. Hocknull
Whale Retrieval, photo: R. Raven

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.

Whale Skeleton exposed, photo: M. Ekins

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.

Whale Retrieval, photo: M. Ekins

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.

To learn more about the work that Steve does visit his Biography Page and to learn about Heather’s job visit her Biography Page.

To learn about the feeding adaptations of marine mammals, including how baleen plates function, view the Marine Mammals video.

Proud Parents at QM

Last week some of our Giant Burrowing Cockroaches gave birth so we are proud parents here at Queensland Museum.

Giant Burrowing Cockroaches are insects classified in the Phylum Arthropoda, Order Blattodea. They are native to Australia and found mostly in tropical Queensland. As their name suggests, these insects burrow down into the soil, often to a depth of 1 metre, where they establish their home.

Inquiry Centre Support Officer, Anita Hughes is handling some of the adults in the image below and she has been ‘over the moon’ about our new acquisitions!

Anita Hughes with adult cockroaches
Baby cockroaches at the side

Males and females can be differentiated by the “scoop” on the head.  Males have this scoop but females don’t. Unlike other cockroaches, Giant Burrowing Cockroaches are wingless and ovoviviparous. This means that embryos develop inside eggs that are retained within the mother’s body until they are ready to hatch.

Adults and baby
Baby hiding under adults

In addition to the birth of these ‘babies’, one of the adults has just moulted. Many Arthropods, such as these cockroaches, shed their outer covering from time to time and this allows them to grow. Burrowing cockroaches shed their exoskeleton 12 to 13 times before reaching adult size. This covering is made up of chitin, a polysaccharide which functions a little bit like the protein keratin.

Exoskeletons assist with protection from pests and predators, support, feeding and reducing the amount of moisture lost by terrestrial organisms.

When the cockroach moults it appears pure white except for its eyes. By the next day, it has developed the normal brown colour of the species.

Newly moulted cockroach in centre
Cockroach in the process of moulting

Once the adult sheds its exoskeleton, it begins to consume the old ‘skin’. The exoskeleton is an important food source so newly moulted cockroaches and babies feed on this.

Moulted cockroach & baby
Feeding on the old exoskeleton

Cockroaches such as these perform an important role in consuming leaf litter, eucalypts in particular, and recycling the organic matter back into the ecosystem.

To learn more about these amazing animals, visit the Giant Burrowing Cockroaches section of our QM website.