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DISPLAYING POSTS TAGGED: biodiversity (21)

John Abbot’s Lepidoptera

Author
by Hayley
Publish date
8 March 2013
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Comments (1)

The MV Library holds an important collection of 18th and 19th century scientific literature. Many of these books began as working tools for early museum curators studying the local fauna. Now, they form part of our rare book collection and are prized for their beauty and rarity.

The library's collection has an interesting history, forming from the amalgamation of two specialist collections from the National Museum of Victoria and Science Museum. Books have been purchased since the earliest days of the National Museum of Victoria, when the first director, Frederick McCoy, acquired important titles such as the entomological works of Maria Sybilla Merian.

While the library collection at MV is relatively small, it is also surprisingly unique. Library staff are currently working to identify titles unique to Australian libraries, a project which has exposed some real gems in the collection, such as John Abbot’s The Natural History of the Rarer Lepidopterous Insects of Georgia (1797).

Tab V, ‘American Brimstone Butterfly’ Tab V, ‘American Brimstone Butterfly’ via the Biodiversity Heritage Library

Abbot left his native England in 1773 for the colony of Virginia in North America, in order to procure specimens and make drawings of the local insects. Following the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War in 1775, Abbot moved to Georgia, where he spent the rest of his life recording the local insects and birds.

Tab XLIX, ‘Corn Emperor Moth’ Tab XLIX, ‘Corn Emperor Moth’ via the Biodiversity Heritage Library

Although he was a prolific natural history artist and well regarded in his lifetime, Abbot is not as well remembered as some of his contemporaries, who included famous naturalists such as John James Audubon. While he is thought to have created four to five thousand watercolours, most of them were unpublished or uncredited during his lifetime.

The Natural History of the Rarer Lepidopterous Insects of Georgia includes 104 hand-coloured plates by John Harris, after original artwork by John Abbot. It's an important early work to depict North American butterflies and moths, and has been appreciated by scientists and collectors alike for its accuracy as well as its beauty. The introduction was written by James Edward Smith, a founder of The Linnean Society of London.

While it is exciting to encounter rare material in our collection, it is also nice to be able to share it. Luckily, the work has been digitised and is now freely accessible through the Biodiversity Heritage Library, so have a browse online or download your own copy of this rare work!

References

Gilbert, P. & Hamilton, C., Entomology: A Guide to Information Sources, London & New York: Mansell, 1990.

Gilbert, P., John Abbot: Birds, Butterflies and Other Wonders, London: Merrell Holberton and Natural History Museum, 1998.

Job, Frank, “The Library of Museum Victoria” in Rasmussen, C. (ed.), A Museum for the People: A History of Museum Victoria and its Predecessors, 1854-2000, Carlton North, Vic.: Scribe Publications, 2001.

Rogers-Price, Vivian & Griffin, William W., "John Abbot: Pioneer-Naturalist of Georgia," Magazine Antiques (October 1983): 768-75.

Field team reaches Mount Sojol

Author
by Kevin Rowe
Publish date
20 February 2013
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Comments (0)

Kevin is our Senior Curator of Mammals. He investigates the systematics, evolution and conservation biology of mammals with a particular interest in rodents.

Greetings from the province of Sulawesi Tengah (Central Sulawesi). Last Friday 15 Feb, I flew from Jakarta to the city of Palu near the base of the northern peninsula of Sulawesi. I am accompanied by my colleague, Anang S. Achmadi, curator of mammals at Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense.

Man at airport Anang S. Achmadi prepares to board the flight from Jakarat to Palu.
Image: Kevin Rowe
Source: Museum Victoria
 

On Saturday, Anang and I hired a driver in Palu and drove 200 km up the west coast along the Trans-Sulawesi Highway to villages around Mount Sojol (3050 m) where we are seeking a suitable field camp. An ideal camp will be set in healthy forest, have access to water, and as much flat ground as possible (steep ridges do not make for the best trapping). Our objective is to find two camps, one at low elevation (<1000 m) and a second at high elevation (>1000 m). Different species live at different elevations so to maximise the diversity of species in our surveys we try to run two camps concurrently.

Saturday afternoon we arrived in the villages west of Mount Sojol. We met with local elder Pak Waasire's son-in-law who arranged for a guide to take us into the forests that surround the mountain. On Sunday morning we met Sam, our guide, in the cacao plantations west of Mount Sojol. We hiked for three hours through cacao plantations and reached the last house at the end of trail in a thicket of ferns. Sam cut our way through ferns and we descended steeply into lowland rainforest. A hundred metres down the slope the rain began to fall and two of Sulawesi's crested black macaques, Macaca nigra, protested in the trees above us.

Men walking through Sulawesi forest Our guide, Sam, followed by Anang S. Achmadi and our driver, Aziz, start the hike towards the forests of Mount Sojol.
Image: Kevin Rowe
Source: Museum Victoria
 

We continued down the slope for another hour and reached a flat area at the confluence of the two large rivers of the valley. We stopped and ate lunch while the rain poured down and we sheltered under a rock. We left our lunch and followed the river down stream hiking through intact rainforest for an hour and a half before reaching cacao plantations. The forest here is spectacular, a rare example of lowland forest left on Sulawesi and there is ample room for a camp. However, we are uncertain about the location of a high camp. Sam suggests that an additional full days hike uphill will bring us to another camp. We returned to the village and bid farewell to Sam.

Two men at river crossing Stopping at a river crossing, Sam points out a Sulawesi hornbill, Pnelopides exarhatus, to Anang S. Achmadi.
Image: Kevin Rowe
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Before we can start our camp in Sojol we must wait for the arrival of the remainder of our team who just arrived in Jakarta on Saturday (16 Feb) from Australia, Canada and the USA. On Monday, they began the paperwork that we started last week with RISTEK, Imigrasi, Polri and Dalam Negeri. While we waited for their arrival, Anang and I drove another 250 km north to the town of Toli-Toli to scout the forests around Mount Dako (2240 m) on the north coast of Sulawesi just where the northern peninsula turns east. On Monday afternoon we arrived in Toli-Toli and continued north to Kecamatan Galang where we turned east towards the mountains. We followed the road to the end where we met two locals and arranged for a guide to take us up the trail the next morning. On Tuesday we hiked several hours into lowland forest and will post the results of our hike when we are next in contact.

Sulawesi rainforest River where we stopped for in lowland rainforest on the west slopes of Mount Sojol.
Image: Kevin Rowe
Source: Museum Victoria
 

We will decide which site is most suitable for our team before this weekend (23 Feb) when we will rendezvous with them in Palu. Together we will drive back up the coast and hike into our field camp for nearly 3 weeks of remote surveys. We will post more photos next week and you can track our movements on the Sulawesi Field Team Google map.


View Sulawesi Field Team in a larger map 

Preparing for Sulawesi fieldwork

Author
by Kevin Rowe
Publish date
13 February 2013
Comments
Comments (3)

Kevin is our Senior Curator of Mammals. He investigates the systematics, evolution and conservation biology of mammals with a particular interest in rodents.

Greetings from Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense (the national zoological museum of Indonesia) in the Indonesian province of Jawa Barat (West Java). This week my colleagues and I are preparing for our expedition to the island of Sulawesi. As always, I am hosted by my friend and collaborator, Anang S. Achmadi, curator of mammals at MZB.

In addition to packing gear, I need to visit several government offices this week to obtain travelling permits. On Monday, I reported to the Indonesian office of research permits, RISTEK, in Jakarta.

Kevin Rowe with RISTEK team in Jakarta Kevin C. Rowe (fifth from left) and Anang S. Achmadi (third from left) with the RISTEK team in their Jakarta office on Monday, 11 February.
Image: Jacob Esselstyn
Source: Museum Victoria
 

RISTEK is my official sponsor while I am in Indonesia and they approved my proposed research prior to my departure from Melbourne. On Monday RISTEK provided letters of support to take to Imigrasi (Immigration), Polri (National Police), and Dalam Negeri (Ministry of Home Affairs). Each of these offices will provide documents to allow our travel in Indonesia on research activities.

Man in office Anang S. Achmadi reviews the permit procedures at the Polri office in Jakarta.
Image: Kevin Rowe
Source: Museum Victoria
 

On Monday, we successfully submitted our paperwork at both Imigrasi and Polri (Polri PICS). This is my fourth trip to Indonesia for research and the improvement in efficiency over this time has been dramatic. Imigrasi and Polri have seen major renovations and the experience this year is remarkably stress free.

On Tuesday, I moved to Bogor (about an hour south of Java) to work at the museum with Anang while Imigrasi and Polri process my paperwork. Here Anang and I inventoried our gear and reviewed specimens to help us with identifications in the field.

Kevin outside MZB, Jakarta Kevin in front of Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense.
Image: Kevin Rowe
Source: Museum Victoria

Kevin holding rat specimen Kevin examines a specimen of the spiny, lowland Sulawesi shrew-rat, Echiothrix centrosa, collected in 1975 and held in the Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense collection. The species has hardly been seen since, and is a primary target for the expedition.
Image: Anang Achmadi
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Wednesday I returned to Jakarta and collected my travelling documents from Imigrasi and Polri. I also visited Dalam Negeri to apply for my travelling permits from their office. By Friday, my paperwork should be complete and Anang and I will fly to the city of Palu in Sulawesi Tengah (central Sulawesi) where the next stage of our expedition begins.

The team are sending us daily GPS coordinates to let us track their progress on a Google map of the expedition.


View Sulawesi Field Team in a larger map 

MV scientists head back to Sulawesi

Author
by Kevin Rowe
Publish date
7 February 2013
Comments
Comments (3)

Kevin is our Senior Curator of Mammals. He investigates the systematics, evolution and conservation biology of mammals with a particular interest in rodents.

I'm about to depart on the next expedition to the high mountains of Sulawesi along with MV Ornithology Fellow Karen Rowe, and MV Collection Manager of Terrestrial Vertebrates Wayne Longmore. We'll be surveying birds, rodents, bats and shrews, in areas virtually unknown to science.

Anang Achmadi Kevin Rowe in montane forest on the island of Sulawesi.
Image: Kevin Rowe
Source: Museum Victoria

Karen Rowe Karen Rowe conducting fieldwork in lower montane forest on the island of Sulawesi.
Image: Peter Smissen
Source: Museum Victoria

Wayne Longmore N. Wayne Longmore with a Sulawesi Kingfisher (Ceyx fallax) in lowland rainforest.
Image: Kevin Rowe
Source: Museum Victoria
 

An evolutionary cross-roads between Australia and Asia, the Indonesian island of Sulawesi is home to mostly endemic species (those found nowhere else) and its mix of dense equatorial rainforest and mountain peaks of some 3,000 metres lends a profusion of life rarely seen worldwide.

Our primary target on the coming expedition is Mount Sojol on Sulawesi's northern peninsula. We know from observational bird surveys that vertebrate diversity is probably quite high, but there have been virtually no specimens collected from this part of Indonesia. Like many mountains on Sulawesi, only the local people really know what is there.

However, before we can start any surveys there's a lot to do. This week the team is packing equipment and supplies needed to collect and preserve specimens. On Saturday, I fly to Jakarta.

I'll spend my first week in Indonesia completing visa and permit paperwork with visits to several government offices. Between paperwork, I will prepare supplies and examine specimens with collaborators at Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense (the national zoological museum of Indonesia).

Once the paperwork is complete, I will fly to Palu, Sulawesi and will travel 200 km up the Trans-Sulawesi Highway to the village of Siboa. From Siboa, my collaborators and I will meet with local people including the village head, or kepala desa, to obtain their support and approval. With the help of local guides we will hike into the mountains where we will spend a week searching for suitable field camps. Karen, Wayne, and other collaborators from the USA will meet me in Palu after a week of completing their own paperwork in Jakarta. They will make the trek into the forest camp and begin the process of surveying the unique birds and mammals of Mount Sojol, Sulawesi.

In the sixth week, we will all return to Palu to share the results of the inventory with the Indonesian Department of Forestry before flying back to Jakarta. There we'll spend a final week packing specimens and obtaining permits to export the specimens to Australia where they will join the state collection at Museum Victoria.

The Sulawesi research trip is part of a multi-year project supported by the National Geographic Society, the Australian Pacific Science Foundation, the Ian Potter Foundation and the Hugh D T Williamson Foundation that includes key research partners Museum Victoria, the Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense (National Museum of Indonesia), the Field Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California, Berkeley, and McMaster University. The multi-national team comprises Canadian, American, Australian and Indonesian researchers.

The team's announcement that they had discovered a remarkable new rodent genus – an almost toothless, worm-eating rat, Paucidentomys vermidax – made international headlines last year.

Paucidentomys vermidax New genus and species, Paucidentomys vermidax
Image: Kevin Rowe
Source: Museum Victoria

Skull of P. vermidax Skull of new genus and species, Paucidentomys vermidax, the first rodent discovered with no molars.
Image: David Paul
Source: Museum Victoria
  

Gallery of the Grampians survey

Author
by Blair
Publish date
26 November 2012
Comments
Comments (10)

The Museum Victoria and Parks Victoria crew at the Grampians National Park in western Victoria have discovered some cool critters after the first six days of the intensive Grampians Bioscan survey. Why elaborate when I can just show you what I mean.

people hiking in mountains Museum Victoria and Parks Victoria crew walking through the stunning scenery of Grampians National Park.
Image: Heath Warwick
Source: Museum Victoria
 

We've come face-to-face with the cute and furry, like the Yellow-footed Antechinus, Antechinus flavipes. These small mammals look a little like mice but they are not closely related. They are carnivorous, eating insects and small lizards. Females rear young in pouches until the young outgrow the pouch and they climb onto her back for a while. Males fight during breeding season, neglect to eat, and die within twelve days after mating.

hand holding small mammal Yellow-footed Antechinus, Antechinus flavipes.
Image: David Paul
Source: Museum Victoria
 

There have been five frog encounters so far, including the endangered Growling Grass Frog, Litoria raniformis. The conservation genetics of this species is currently being studied by museum PhD student Claire Keely.

two green frogs Growling Grass Frog, Litoria raniformis. The female is the larger frog on the left, the male is on the right.
Image: David Paul
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Warm weather has given our researchers an opportunity to sample DNA from the local reptile populations. Here, a watchful Colin catches a Tiger Snake, Notechis scutatus, for a genetics project.

Man holding snake Colin with a captured Tiger Snake, Notechis scutatus.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

A friendly Stumpy-tail, Tiliqua rugosa, faced off with museum herpetologist Jo Sumner. These lizards give birth to live young, which is uncommon in reptiles since most lay eggs. Mating pairs usually follow one another around and maintain a life-long bond.

Woman holding lizard Jo holding a Stumpy-tail, Tiliqua rugosa.
Image: Steve Wright
Source: Museum Victoria
 

We saw Australia's smallest freshwater crayfish (Western Swamp Crayfish, Gramastacus insolitus, about 3 cm long) and one of the largest (Glenelg River Spiny Crayfish, Euastacus bispinosus, about 15cm long). Both species are listed as endangered on DSE's Advisory List of Threatened Invertebrate Fauna in Victoria.

two species of crayfish Left: Western Swamp Crayfish, Gramastacus insolitus. Right: Glenelg River Spiny Crayfish, Euastacus bispinosus.
Image: David Paul / Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria
 

And species that dramatically transform from larval stages into adults, for example the Dobsonfly, Archichauliodes guttiferus. The aquatic larval stage lives in the rocks on river beds while the adult flies around the plants along the river bank.

Larva and adult of insect Dobsonfly, Archichauliodes guttiferus. Left: aquatic larva Right: adult
Image: Blair Patullo / David Paul
Source: Museum Victoria
 

And saving my favourite until last – the "Jabba-the-hut" spider, more officially known as a Badge Huntsman, Neosparassus diana.

crouching spider Badge Huntsman, Neosparassus diana.
Image: Heath Warwick
Source: Museum Victoria
 

We've also recorded Wedge-tailed Eagles and Powerful Owls. Stand by for a report on week two! 

The survey is being conducted with help from Parks Victoria's rangers and aims to document wildlife in the Grampians area. It involves over 60 museum staff and associates, including the Melbourne Herbarium and Field Naturalists Club of Victoria, and concludes at the end of November 2012.

Links:

MV Field Guide to Victorian Fauna app

MV Blog: posts from the Wilsons Prom Bioscan, October 2011

Small mammals at Wilsons Prom

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
16 January 2012
Comments
Comments (0)

In October 2011, 50 scientists and volunteers performed a rapid biodiversity survey of Wilsons Promontory in partnership with Parks Victoria. In this video, Dr Karen Rowe and Dr Karen Roberts talk about the mammals of Wilsons Prom, particularly the small mammals: native rats and antechinus.

 

Watch this video with a transcript

Links:

Prom Bioscan

Paradise Valley

Historian at the Prom

Hunting for herpetiles

Crayfish climbing trees

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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.

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