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DISPLAYING POSTS TAGGED: endangered species (2)

Australia’s biggest wildlife biobank

Author
by Alice
Publish date
27 June 2014
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We should all be giving each other a big round of high fives, as Museum Victoria has just been awarded a $500,000 Ian Potter Foundation 50th Anniversary Commemorative Grant for the development of Australia’s largest wildlife biobank! The new biobank—the animal equivalent of a seedbank—will enable us to store embryos, eggs and sperm from some of Australia’s most endangered animals. Based on super-cold liquid nitrogen, the biobank facility will store animal tissue samples at -150ºC, which is cold enough to preserve them for the long term.

Yellow-footed Antechinus Yellow-footed Antechinus captured for a blood sample then released.
Image: Museum Victoria
Source: Museum Victoria
 

  Dr Kevin Rowe sorting tissue samples in the field Dr Kevin Rowe sorting tissue samples in the field.
Image: Museum Victoria
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The proposed storage facilities sound like something straight out of Mr. Freeze’s lab: a custom-built airtight room equipped to house three liquid nitrogen dewar cryostorage vats, rather like giant vacuum flasks. Inside, vials containing tissue samples will be stored in the vapour above the liquid nitrogen. Kept in this manner, the samples will remain viable for more than 50 years.

  Staff at work in Laboratory. Staff at work in our Ancient DNA Laboratory.
Image: Museum Victoria
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Currently, our collection of over 40,000 tissue samples is limited to organs, skin, fur and feathers stored at -80ºC. These samples have been collected over the last 160 years and are priceless tools for scientific research into evolution, genetic relationships, species discrimination, and especially conservation. By enabling the long term storage of reproductive tissues, the newer, cooler biobank will enable us to realise the full potential of this collection and built on our ability to increase reproductive biology programs and genetic research.  

  Helena Gum Moth The apparent decline of Emperor Gum Moths and the closely related Helena Gum Moth have been a hot topic for scientists in recent years. Initiatives such as the biobank could largely benefit their survival.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Considering that our early natural history collectors could not have dreamed of the uses we would have found for their specimens over a century later; the Ian Potter Australian Wildlife Biobank offers new hope to endangered species, many of which may face extinction in the coming decades. With ever-increasing pressure from human impacts such as climate change and habitat loss on our native fauna, we envisage that the biobank will be a game changer for wildlife research, conservation and recovery. 

  Smoky Mouse The critically endangered Smoky Mouse is another native species that may benefit largely from this new technology.
Image: Museum Victoria
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The biobank is expected to be operating by late 2015.

Renaissance for rare plant

Author
by Andrew
Publish date
1 December 2011
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Exhibition horticulturalist Andrew Kuhlman is turning December's Bug of the Month into Plant of the Month. He is one of the Live Exhibits staff that tend the plants in the Forest Gallery and Milarri Garden.

The story of the Shiny Nematolepis, Nematolepis wilsonii, is about a humble plant experiencing a resurrection following the Black Saturday bushfires. The Shiny Nematolepis, a white-flowering shrub also affectionately known as 'Shiny Nem', is considered critically endangered.

There was a single population of 11 mature wild plants before February 2009 according to the Department of Sustainability and Environment. Since the 2009 bushfires over 200,000 seedlings have emerged in the Yarra Ranges. This means practically the entire known population of this plant existing in the wild can be traced back to a single event.

Nematolepis wilsonii plant A plant from the original population that was burnt out in the 2009 Black Saturday Bushfires.
Image: John Broomfield
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The other side to this story is about the cultivated populations of this species, one of which is growing in the Forest Gallery exhibition at Melbourne Museum. These plants are now some of the oldest of the species known to exist. They were grown in 2000 from cutting material sourced from the original population that was burnt out.

Man planting a plant Museum Victoria Exhibition Horticulturalist Brendan Fleming planting a cutting grown Shiny Nematolepis into the Forest Gallery exhibition.
Image: Andrew Kuhlmann
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The display of 'Shiny Nem' plants in the Forest Gallery exhibit is a great chance to get close to a very rare plant in a setting representing its natural habitat. It's also an opportunity to reflect on how close this plant was to disappearing forever and the benefits that having a second chance will bring.

Links:

National recovery plan for the Shiny Nematolepis (Nematolepis wilsonii)

Forest Gallery helps secure incinerated plant's future (2009)

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