Tag Archives: environment

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.

Sharing nature’s gems for World Wildlife Day

World Wildlife Day, held annually on 3 March, was created to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants. The day has now become the most important global annual event dedicated to wildlife. This year’s theme is “Life below water: for people and planet”. Oceans harbour a rich variety of communities and a wealth of strange and beautiful creatures, each with its own peculiar adaptations to underwater life. Right on our doorstep are two world-class marine hot spots – the unique waters of south-east Queensland, and of course, our iconic Great Barrier Reef.

To mark the occasion we are sharing some of our Wild State vector artwork and spoke to Queensland Museum Graphic Designer, Baden Philips, about his design. Baden said the most important thing when considering the artwork was that it reflects the Wild State gallery concept of the environment and the animal being equally as important as one another. With these rich and unique environments shrinking and vanishing, there is a significant threat to the animals who call it home, with many becoming endangered or even extinct.

WILD-STATE-Owen-Forest-Leaf-insect-(not-used)

Baden therefore wanted to create the artwork to be reminiscent of a jewellery advertisement, depicting the animals as rare jewels cushioned by a rich and luxurious landscape.  To achieve this jewel-like quality, Baden chose low poly imagery (a polygon mesh in 3D computer graphics that has a relatively small number of polygons) and used Adobe Illustrator to create the drawing on top of the original image. Most of the designs are highly detailed, with each one representing hours of careful work.

Read on for more information about the beautiful animals and habitats that make Queensland one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. 

The Arid Outback

WILD-STATE-Aaron-Outback

Scorching summer days, freezing cold winter nights and dry almost all year round. But despite these seemingly adverse conditions, it is not devoid of life. Many animals, from large kangaroos to tiny invertebrates, have developed remarkable adaptations that enable them to survive in this extreme environment with very little water. Some travel great distances to drink, others get moisture from the food they eat, and some can control their body heat and limit water loss.

The Bush

WILD-STATE-Owen-Forest

Much of Queensland is covered by open forests and woodlands, which have long been described as ‘The Bush’. This is a place of light and, even when the trees are at their densest, the tree tops are well-spaced and allow direct sunlight to flood the often grassy floor. Bush animals rely heavily on the trees and shrubs for food and shelter, with some animals and plants evolving co-dependent adaptations that enhance their survival. 

The Rainforest

WILD-STATE-Owen-Forest-Gecko-(not-used)

Lush, dense plant growth, plentiful rainfall and litter-strewn ground – rainforests are one of the richest habitats on Earth. They have a dense ‘closed’ tree canopy that blocks sunlight and shades a litter-strewn forest floor, creating a multitude of spaces for moisture dependent animals to live. 

WILD-STATE-Ryan-Forest

Southern Cassowaries are primarily found in lowland tropical rainforest, where conditions are hot and humid with frequent heavy rain. The Wet Tropics of North Queensland has 1,165 species in 6,300 square kilometres – more plant species than Finland, which is over 50 times its size. 

The Coast

WILD-STATE-Crystal

Many animals make the shore their permanent home despite challenging conditions such as deadly heat, little oxygen, pounding waves and, more significantly, our interference with this increasingly fragile junction of land and sea. Horn-eyed Ghost Crabs (Ocypode ceratophthalma) are fast running scavengers that are known to prey on baby turtles in tropical waters. 

The Ocean

WILD-STATE-Maureen

Oceans harbour a rich variety of communities and a wealth of strange and beautiful creatures, each with its own peculiar adaptations to underwater life. Right on our doorstep are two world-class marine hotspots – the unique waters of south-east Queensland, and of course, our iconic Great Barrier Reef.

Head to the World Wildlife Day website for more information on how you can get involved, and don’t forget to visit your native friends at Wild State during your next trip to the Museum!

Behind The Scenes – The Dolly Washer

Environmentally Friendly Washing Machine

The “Dolly” Washing Machine. Queensland Museum

Ever wondered how to reduce your impact on the environment and reduce your electricity bill as the same time?  Well look no further than the past!  Re-introducing the “Dolly Washer” from 1879.

 The “Dolly” washer features a central wooden spiked agitator in the wash bowl to help remove the most stubborn stains and ergonomic 3 gear reduction hand crank to allow easy rotation of the handle.

 The water recycler is located directly above the wash basin allowing you to remove all the excess water from your washed clothes and reuse it for the next load. We recommend washing whites before colours when using this reclaimer feature.

 The “Dolly” washer also has two handy fold away work benches on either side and comes fitted with wheels as standard, so you can wheel the washing machine out next to the clothes line and wash your clothes next to your environmentally friendly solar dryer. Once you have finished, use the handy tilt feature on the left hand side to empty the wash bowl and water your lawn at the same time (We advise using a low phosphorous detergent when using this feature). The environment will thank you every time you wash your clothes.

Built by Taylor and Wilson and dated 1879, this washing machine would have been state of the art at the time.  To wash clothes, water would have to be collected, (often in buckets by hand) and heated on a wood stove or over and open fire.  The hot water would then be bucketed into the wash trough. Clothes would be sorted not only into colours, but into levels of dirtiness.  As the water was used, and re-used again, the cleanest clothes would be washed first and the most soiled last. Each item would then be passed through the wringer to remove excess water before being hung on the line to dry.

Reflecting on the time and effort involved in using this washing machine makes me appreciate how little effort is required in washing clothes today, yet how much of a chore we still consider it to be. I cannot argue that the housekeepers and domestic helpers of the past had an easy job to do.

This behind the scenes artefact from QueenslandMuseum’s collection also highlights the nature of the progress made with technology,  our demand for helpful household appliances, and our dependence on the burning of fossil fuels to power the convenient tools we have created.

Have we as a society become too dependant on power and convenience through work/life pressure or just laziness? Is the constant push for the latest in technology and convenience also a push towards environmental degradation? I’m not suggesting that we all go back to hand washing our clothes but maybe we could find solutions to our current problems by looking into our past?

For more ideas and resources to teach science and technology in the classroom, and even looking for possible solutions to Global Warming and Climate Change visit QM Loans. Loans kits include, Early Queensland Living and Australian Inventions.