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DISPLAYING POSTS TAGGED: forest gallery (9)

An empty bower

Author
by Jessie
Publish date
21 August 2014
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We farewell Jack, our resident Satin Bowerbird (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus), who died in the Forest Gallery this week.

Jack the Bowerbird Jack the adult male Satin Bowerbird
Image: Alan Henderson
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Since Melbourne Museum opened on 9 December 2000, Jack has been a big part of the Forest Gallery. His daily calling, mimicry, aerial acrobatics and dancing entertained and excited both staff and visitors and gave him the reputation of a great entertainer. He was upwards of seven years of age in 2000, meaning this Forest Gallery icon made it to 21 years old.

Up until autumn he was still taking it in turns with his enclosure mate Errol to dance in their bowers and practise courtship behaviours. As winter progressed we started to note that Jack had slowed down and was not as vocal in the mornings. We had discussions as a team as to whether it was time for retirement but decided that Jack had spent his life in the gallery and should end it there when the time came. His time finally arrived yesterday and it feels as if a chapter in the life of this long-term exhibition has also come to a close.

Jack had many interesting adventures in the gallery. He almost died in 2000 when he for some inexplicable reason flew into the empty creek tube that runs under the earth path. He would have drowned in the water at the bottom if Luke (our then Live Exhibits Manager) hadn't raced to his rescue. This year he was a part of an exhibition at MONA with a live feed from the Forest Galelry showing Jack and the other bowerbirds cavorting with a blue teapot. His wing feathers were clipped countless times to slow him down on his over-excited exploits to court a female.  He shared the gallery with number of females, but since 2004 he only had eyes for our resident female Britney. They produced over 20 offspring which are now held in institutions and private collections across Australia.

Bowerbird with blue objects Errol the Satin Bowerbird with Toby Ziegler's contribution to the cache of blue things in the Forest Gallery. This is a still image from the video feed going in to MONA.  

With the absence of Jack, a new era has begun in the Forest Gallery. Errol, our younger male, may become the dominant make of the population. With any luck, he will continue to entertain both staff and visitors. 

The art of the bowerbird

Author
by Patrick
Publish date
17 July 2013
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You might spy an unusual new installation in the Forest Gallery as part of The Red Queen exhibition showing at MONA, the Museum of New and Old Art in Tasmania. The installation by English artist Toby Ziegler, entitled My vegetable love; Cultural exchange, is in the shape of a Utah teapot fashioned from the same material used by male Satin Bowerbirds (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus) to make their bowers.

Bowerbird with blue objects Jack, the older male bowerbird, interacting with the teapot bower.
Image: Jon Augier / Toby Ziegler
Source: Museum Victoria and MONA
 

The theme of My Vegetable Love is the interaction between the natural world (the Forest Gallery’s bowerbirds) and the artificial world (a computer-generated teapot), with the object itself being a hybrid between the two. The main theme of The Red Queen is ‘Why do human beings make art?’, and this component investigates natural animal behaviours that appear, to us, artistic.

Two juvenile bowerbirds Juvenile bowerbirds are also intrigued by Toby Ziegler's teapot.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

It references a 3D mathematical model of a teapot created in 1975 at the University of Utah which has become a standard reference object in computer-generated imaging (CGI), and also as a regular in-joke in animated Hollywood movies. It appears somewhere in all Pixar movies and in the ‘Third Dimension’ episode of The Simpsons.

Utah teapot A modern render of the original CGI teapot created at the University of Utah by Martin Newell.
Image: Dhatfield
Source:  CC BY-SA 3.0
 

Juvenile and female Satin Bowerbirds are olive green, but males turn a deep blue upon maturity at about seven years of age. Jack, the oldest male Bowerbird, has lived in the Forest Gallery as an adult for 13 years. Errol turned completely blue earlier this year, after more than 12 months in transition from his juvenile plumage.

Errol the Satin Bowerbird Errol during his transformation from juvenile to adult plumage. His unusual patterning prompted many queries from puzzled visitors.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria
 

A new webcam streams live video of activity around the teapot into MONA and our website. One of Jack’s old bowers is also takes pride of place in the gallery at MONA. The teapot will remain in the Forest Gallery as part of the exhibition until 21 April 2014.

 

 

You'll need Windows Media Player to view this video feed. Get Media Player

Links:

MONA

Bowerbird Cam

'Birds face off for balance of bower in exhibit' in The Age, 19 Jun 2013

The eels are back

Author
by Patrick
Publish date
28 May 2013
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Last week the Live Exhibits team went into the field in search of eels and other fish to restock the pond in Milarri Garden.

catching fish at night Live Exhibits keeper Adam Elliott demonstrates the best technique for transferring freshwater animals from nets.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Last year the iconic Short-finned Eels (Anguilla australis) living in Milarri pond were moved to the Forest Gallery water system while we repaired and resealed the pond. Now Milarri pond is back in operation and ready for new inhabitants.

Short-finned Eel Short-finned Eel
Image: Rudie Kuiter
Source: Aquatic Photographics
 

Prior to the Milarri pond works, regular eel feeding sessions were very popular with museum visitors, giving our staff the opportunity to highlight the importance of eels as a traditional food source for local Aboriginal people. In western Victoria, kooyang (eel) were trapped using woven nets in sophisticated aquaculture systems by the Gunditjmara people for thousands of years – one of the featured installations of the upcoming First Peoples exhibition at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Melbourne Museum.

staff catching fish for Milarri pond Left: Maik Fiedel in deep water, checking his nets. Right: Melvin Nathan ensures the eels are well looked after in holding tubs.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

We collected the new eels west of Melbourne under permit, and we also caught other fish such as Tupong (Pseudaphritis urvilli), Flathead Gudgeon (Philypnodon grandiceps) and Common Jollytails (Galaxias maculatus) boost stocks in the Forest Gallery creek and pond system. These are just a few of the 50 or so species of freshwater fish found in Victorian waters.

Native Victorian fish Clockwise from left: Common Jollytail, Flathead Gudgeon, Tupong.
Image: Rudie Kuiter
Source: Aquatic Photographics
 

Freshwater invertebrates, particularly Glass Shrimp (Paratya australis) were also collected to kick start the food chain in Milarri pond. Yabbies (Cherax destructor) will soon walk across land from nearby ponds, and many other invertebrate species will fly in or colonise via new plantings or by adhering to waterbirds. Pacific Black Ducks (Anas superciliosa), Little Pied Cormorants (Microcarbo melanoleucos) and other birds will soon arrive under their own power.

fish in a bucket Young Jollytails and Glass Shrimp swim around under a Water Spider (Megadolomedes species).
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Musuem Victoria
 

At the end of the collection trip, animal keepers Chloe and Dave released the eels into their new home, where they will live under the care of Live Exhibit staff for many years.

Man releasing bucket of fish Dave Paddock releases the last of the eels into Milarri pond.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Fish destined for the Forest Gallery must be quarantined for three weeks in tanks set up behind the scenes to ensure no parasites or pathogens are introduced to our resident fish population.

Live Exhibits lab at night Dave sets up Tupong in quarantine some time after midnight in the Live Exhibits Lab.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

A range of fish species as well as Macquarie Turtles (Emydura macquarii) can be seen daily in the Forest Gallery at Melbourne Museum. Silver Perch (Bidyanus bidyanus) and eel feeding presentations will recommence at Milarri pond in September when the water starts to warm and the eels’ appetites return.

Milarri Garden and Milarri Walk are open every day of the year except Christmas Day and Good Friday. 

Get down and get fungi

Author
by Colin
Publish date
10 May 2013
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Comments (3)

After an extended summer, cool and wet weather starts to set in, resulting in a bloom of beauty for those who know where to look. I'm talking about fungi; those things that taste so good with butter on toast, form mould on your bread, and make your feet itch!

Wood Rotter toadstool Wood Rotter (Gymnopilus junonius)
Image: Colin Silvey
Source: Museum Victoria
 

In the past, fungi were classified as plants. But fungi differ from plants in that they do not possess the ability to generate their own food from the sun (photosynthesis), and must obtain their energy from other sources.

Colin Silvey Left: Mycena sp. (probably M.viscidocruenta). Right: Unidentified species.
Image: Two toadstool species in Forest Gallery
Source: Museum Victoria
 

So what do fungi "eat"? Some fungi are parasitic, and feed off other living things. Some fungi parasitise plants, while some other specialized types parasitise insects, spiders and other arthropods.

Caterpillars with parasitic fungi Caterpillars (Hepialidae) infected with different types of parasitic fungi. The caterpillar on the left has been consumed by Cordyceps gunnii.
Image: Colin Silvey
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Other types of fungi are saprophytic, meaning they obtain their energy and nutrients by breaking down dead plant and animal material. This is the reason you see many growing on old and rotten logs in the forest, amongst leaf litter and on animal dung.

Two fungus species in the Forest Gallery Left: Undescribed species. Right: Gymnopilus sp.
Image: Colin Silvey
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The fungi in these photos are referred to as macro-fungi, and belong to the phylum Basidiomycota. This group contains the well known mushrooms, toadstools and puffballs. Just last week I took these photos in our very own Forest Gallery and Milarri Garden. Many fungi spores find their way into the galleries by being transported by the wind and with soils and mulch brought in by horticultural staff. Some may even hitch a ride in on your shoes! Sometimes destructive fungus that we don't want in the galleries gets in by accident. Honey fungus (Armillaria spp.) is a parasitic fungus that attacks and kills living trees. The largest living organism in the world is a species of honey fungus called Armillaria solidipes and covers an area nearly eight and a half square kilometres! Honey fungus could ruin the Forest Gallery if left unchecked, so we constantly have to monitor the plants and soils to make sure it doesn't gain a foothold.

small red toadstool A slightly dried specimen of a Marasmius sp.
Image: Colin Silvey
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Fungi start life as tiny spores, and colonize their chosen substrate with small threads called hyphae.

Mycelium growing in leaf litter Mycelium of leaf litter fungus.
Image: Colin Silvey
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Hyphae form large masses of mycelium, which decompose dead materials using special enzymes and chemicals.

Two fungus species in the Forest Gallery Left: Stropharia sp. Right: Amanita sp.
Image: Colin Silvey
Source: Museum Victoria
 

When the fungus is ready to reproduce, if forms a fruit (mushroom!).

Two fungus species in the Forest Gallery Gymnopilus junonius at the rear, with a slightly eaten Rhodocollybia sp. in front. Right: Probably Agaricus sp.
Image: Colin Silvey
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Many animals like to eat fungi, including slugs and snails, insects, small mammals, and humans! Uneaten fungi decompose to a thick slime rapidly.

small white toadstool Lepiota sp.
Image: Colin Silvey
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Some fungi can be very toxic, and very hard to identify. You should never eat fungi that you can't correctly identify. There are many groups of fungi enthusiasts that conduct fungi collecting trips and provide help in the correct identification of edible species. The Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne run a database of fungi sightings called Fungimap, which is a great resource for people who enjoy the fungus among us. So, get out there and have some fun, guys! (Sorry.) 

Many thanks for identifications to Dr Teresa Lebel, National Herbarium of Victoria, Royal Botanical Gardens

Links and further reading:

Fuhrer, B. (2005). A field guide to Australian fungi. Bloomings Books, Melbourne.

Fungi at the Australian National Botanic Garden

Plants, algae and fungi of Victoria via Royal Botanic Garden

Field Naturalists Club of Victoria Fungi Group

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)

Melbourne Museum’s high prune

Author
by Patrick
Publish date
18 August 2011
Comments
Comments (1)

The Forest Gallery is one of the icons of Melbourne Museum – a cool temperate rainforest merging into drier eucalypt forest complete with creek, ponds and waterfall, all in the heart of a major city.

The gallery is dominated by large gum trees, wattles and southern beech, which have been growing consistently under the close supervision of Live Exhibits horticulturalists for more than 10 years. This is a ‘Forest in a Box’, a museum gallery in which the living trees must be strategically pruned on a regular basis in order to maintain the desired effect.

A view from above the fire poles. A view from above the fire poles at the northern end of the Forest Gallery, giving some idea of the height of the pruning operation.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Last week arborists from ArborCo visited the Forest Gallery for an annual prune of the larger trees. The arborists must scale remarkable heights to reach the crowns of the trees, even before they commence their work.

Crew Leader Andrew Caldecott prepares to climb a Southern Beech for the annual trim. Crew Leader Andrew Caldecott prepares to climb a Southern Beech for the annual trim.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Great attention is paid by the arborists to the health and safety of both themselves and the trees. Much of the preparation is done on the ground, and the pruning operation is planned weeks in advance. It must be done in such a way that preserves the natural shape of the tree and promotes growth in the right directions.

Arborist Joel Creech makes his way up a gum tree towards the upper canopy. Arborist Joel Creech makes his way up a gum tree towards the upper canopy.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

During their visit, the arborists also apply their skills to climbing one of the poles which houses the Forest Gallery’s wind gauge. The gauge is used to monitor wind speeds, and Museum staff will occasionally close the gallery temporarily if the wind becomes too strong.

Malachi Ewan at the top of a fire pole cleaning the wind gauge. Malachi Ewan at the top of a fire pole cleaning the wind gauge.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Branches removed by the arborists are recycled on site into mulch, to be used on gardens throughout the Museum. When suitably aged, some of the mulch will be returned to the Forest Gallery to sustain the trees from which it came.

Mulching the prunings Left: ArborCo’s Gary Lambert feeds a steady stream of branches through the chipper. | Right: Brendan Fleming from the Live Exhibits Unit begins moving mulch back onto gardens around the museum.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

During the pruning operation, some of the branches cut from the Forest Gallery are tested to monitor the long term health of the trees. Foliage samples taken from new growth in the upper parts of the canopy can tell much about the trees’ nutrient content. Dr Peter Hopmans from Timberlands Research collects samples and uses them, in conjunction with soil samples and trunk diameters, in an ongoing review of plant health.

Collecting foliage samples Dr Peter Hopmans from Timberlands Research collecting foliage samples, watched by Brendan Fleming and Customer Service Officer Veronica Barnett.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The Forest Gallery combines ancient geology and the power of water with living birds, reptiles, fish and frogs. It also exemplifies indigenous and European use and management of forests, and the role and impact of fire. But the heart of the forest is the giant trees that stand above all else, and ongoing management should ensure their existence for many years to come.

Links:

MV News: Forest gets a haircut

Pruning saves the Forest from the storm 

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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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