Blair

DISPLAYING POSTS BY: Blair (19)

Blair

Blair is one of the museum’s mariney types, currently gathering snippets of sub-surface information for the museum’s apps and website. A good day in Blair's office involves Frosty Fruits and animals with five arms.

Here’s looking at you

Author
by Blair
Publish date
23 May 2013
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There are round ones, black ones, orange ones, blue ones. Compound, stalked and spots. Some animals have two, others eight or perhaps 100. Eyes see amazing things and they’re amazing to look at.

I’ve spied many a curious eye looking back at me underwater. Here are 19 fishes, three octopuses, three squid, two rays, a scallop, a seahorse, a shark and a shrimp. Thirty-one belong to marine species, one lives in freshwater. See how many species you can recognise.

An array of marine animal eyes. An array of marine animal eyes.
Image: all photos by Julian Finn
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Find more information on the species behind the eyes on our Port Phillip Bay Marine Life website.

Editor's note: This will be Blair's last blog post (for now) as he's leaving the museum for other adventures. Now's a good moment to revisit his many posts, or you can just remember him as his colleagues choose to - wearing a silly hat and making anatomical models out of balloons.

Blair's ballon demonstration Blair demonstrating odd genitalia of the animal world using balloons at the Melbourne Museum SmartBar event, January 2013.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria

Sponge love

Author
by Blair
Publish date
14 February 2013
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Love is in the ocean not in the air this Valentine’s Day. Just ask this romantic heart-shaped sponge.

red sponge Heart-shaped sponge just below the surface at Flinders. And yes, that shape is the live animal, no Photoshop, just a quirky growth form.
Image: © John Gaskell

Imagine spending Valentine's Day dinner sifting through a mouthful of muddy silt. You're joined by several friends nearby to hug or hold hands with, but the only kiss on offer is from a fish that tries to eat you. And sex after dinner? Not tonight, unless you happen to be skilful enough to catch a comrade's passing sperm in the water. That's the life for many a sponge.

The photographer at the heart of the sponge image is John Gaskell. He’s a local diver, consultant and author of the popular local marine guide Beneath Our Bay. He also collaborates with Reef Watch to spread word on our interesting marine life. He caught this one at Flinders last week truly romancing the reef as it grows.

“Maybe the sponges are trying to tell us something,” Gaskell told Reef Watch, “reduce effluent or love our underwater reefs more”.

Keeping in the spirit of sponge love, Museum Victoria is producing Sponges, the next book in the science field guide series. Written by local expert Lisa Goudie, it celebrates not only sexual and asexual reproduction in sponges (Phylum Porifera), but also the diversity of species in Victorian waters and their amazing shapes and colours.

6 different sponges Diversity of shape and colour of sponges in Victorian waters.
Image: Mark Norman and Julian Finn
 

The non-love sponge information:

Household sponges were once made of skeletal remains of true sponges from the ocean, although modern times replace the natural form with synthetic products. Not all sponges are soft; some are prickly, crumbly or slimy. Most species are marine, but a few live in freshwater. Sponges are not colonies of individual animals, but rather collections of cells that have specialised functions. Fossils indicate that this animal group has existed for at least 600 million years. They are some of the longest-lived animals in the world, with individuals of a tropical species being estimated at age of 2000 years. Other species are short lived and die back each year.

Links:

 Museum Victoria Science books 

 Sponges on the Port Phillip Bay Marine Life website

Twelve twelve twelve

Author
by Blair
Publish date
12 December 2012
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Comments (12)

Everyone’s talking today about it being the 12th of December 2012. Or in brief, 12/12/12. You don’t have to be a mathematician, statistician or biometrician to like it when dates align into cool patterns.

pair of silver sandals Shoes for a 12/12 party! The donor, Christabel Mattingley, wore these at her wedding on 12 December 1953. (SH 940382)
Source: Museum Victoria
 

I discovered that we have a staff member with a birthday today. That probably doesn’t sound too special because if you remember anything from first year statistics at uni, you'll know it only takes a room of 20 or 30 people to have a pretty high chance of two of them having the same birthday (see the birthday problem on Wikipedia if you like probability theory).

Postcard showing men with telescope Gents from the Royal Society of Victoria setting up their 12" reflectro telescope at Cape York to observe the solar eclipse of 12 December 1871. This is one of ten postcards printed to mark the occasion. (MM 98903)
Source: Museum Victoria
 

But it gets better. The person whose birthday it is today here, is turning 12 plus 12 plus 12 years old. Now that is cool: turning 12+12+12 on the 12/12/12! I’m not sure whether or not this means the person will self-destruct with all those twelves. Whatever it means, today is the last time this century that the day, month and year will align in numbers, which seemed reason enough to write a blog post celebrating this auspicious date, and to publish it at exactly 12:12 PM. 

Cover of menu with picture of ancient ruin Cover of the lunch menu served on 12 December 1951 on board the MN Neptunia. The passengers feasted on soups, hot and cold mains, side dishes, dessert, fruit, cheese and coffee. (HT 1556)
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Gallery of the Grampians survey

Author
by Blair
Publish date
26 November 2012
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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

Secret diary of a field trip

Author
by Blair
Publish date
21 November 2012
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Comments (3)

Today I’m broadcasting from a sweet spot in the Grampians National Park, western Victoria. The museum is conducting a fauna survey with Parks Victoria here over the next two weeks. It’s spectacular countryside and this blog is the start of the stories from the trip that will involve over 60 museum staff and associates, including the Melbourne Herbarium and Field Naturalists Club of Victoria.

Here’s how the trip started and the first few days of excitement, diary style. Stay in touch for more updates, photos of critters, or leave us comments if you have questions. We will be in touch when the internet reception comes good again.

9 days to go – 10.30am. Meet and greet with Parks Victoria rangers to discuss schedules.

6 days to go – 3.30pm. Final planning meeting at Museum Victoria.

1 day to go – 10.27am. Purchase 1 FME-Sierra cable, 1 FME-SMA adaptor, 1 male SMA-female SMA plug (for remote internet access). To think that ten years ago the nearest communication on a trip like this would have been a telephone booth on a highway in the nearest town 50 kilometres away.

1 day to go – 11.23pm. Throw some survival stuff on the floor for packing in the morning.

collection of clothing, books,a camera and other camping equipment on the floor Last minute packing for the field trip.
Image: Blair Patullo
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Day 1 – 12.23pm. On route, traditional field trip greasy burger for lunch. Delish.

Day 1 – 4.14pm. Arrive at camping site, first wildlife sighted. A skink. I’m not a herpetologist so cannot tell the species.

Day 1 – 10.03pm. Mayhem in the mess hall. First collection has brought back scorpions. Look at the photo below to see how many scientists it takes to be amazed by a scorpion as it fluoresces under UV light! Similar scorpions live in backyards around Melbourne, occassionally entering houses. Usually the smaller scorpion species have more powerful stings because the larger species can overpower prey with their larger claws. The museum’s Live Exhibits catcher, Colin, said: “I haven’t been stung by this species, but a smaller one did get me once and that was a bit painful.”

Group of people gathered around a man holding a scorpion How many scientists does it take to watch a glowing scorpion?
Image: Blair Patullo
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Glowing scorpion being held in a hand This species glows under UV light from a torch. Why this happens is still a mystery.
Image: Heath Warwick
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Day 2 – 8.30am. Another safety briefing closely followed by research teams departing and dispersing to areas across the park. Mammal specialists are checking trap lines, bird observers are out with sound recording equipment, and a group is surveying snails.

Day 2 – 2.52pm. The divers get wet in a remote part of the MacKenzie River in the north-west of the park. Our Parks Victoria guide Ryan Duffy stops our vehicles by the roadside, seemingly in the middle of nowhere with no water in sight. We walk for about 100 metres into the forest, dodging the understory of bracken, wattle, and eucalypts still with trunks partly singed black from the 2006 fire. We arrive at a narrow section of the river and Ryan tells us that three platypus have been reported from here. There were no platypus today but the diving was amazing – freshwater sponges, crayfish, native fish and several species of nymphs and larvae were recorded.

Fish lying in the sand One of the locals: a freshwater gudgeon.
Image: Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Brown nymph on sand This little alien is a nymph that will grow into a dragonfly.
Image: Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Day 2 – 10.07pm. It's well dark now, but the second day isn't over. We're preparing for 30 degree temperatures tomorrow and the frog team just left to see who's calling-out tonight.

Closing thoughts for the day: this is definitely a place to check shoes for creepy crawlies in the morning before putting them on, and forget checking for redbacks under the toilet seat because the massive bull ants will bite before them.

Marine app out now

Author
by Blair
Publish date
16 November 2012
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Comments (1)

There’s something new and blue in the app stores called the Bunurong Marine National Park Field Guide. Jointly produced by Parks Victoria and the museum, the app is released to coincide with celebrations of the tenth anniversary of marine national parks in Victoria. Nearly 12% of the state’s waters are protected in parks, sanctuaries and reserves that are managed by Parks Victoria, including Bunurong Marine National Park, which  is located between Phillip Island and Wilsons Promontory.

Two fish swimming Meuschenia flavolineata, Yellowstripe Leatherjacket, Shack Bay, Bunurong Marine National Park.
Image: Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria

The Bunurong Marine National Park Field Guide is free to download and contains information on over 300 species of marine and coastal animals and plants, including stunning images, many of which were taken by Museum Victoria scientists whilst diving in the park. It also includes park information and activities that may interest visitors. Maps and a gallery of the location, marine life and habitats are provided.

Rocks and coastal ocean Eagles Nest intertidal rock platform, Bunurong Marine National Park.
Image: Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria

Bunurong Marine National Park covers more than 2,000 hectares and extends along six kilometres of coastline. Above the water magnificent rock formations form the shore, while below, seaweed reefs are so dense that the experience is like swimming over the top of a rainforest canopy. The park is popular for rock pooling, while its extensive underwater rocky reefs, seaweed beds and seagrass meadows are excellent for diving and snorkelling. People exploring the nearby coastline will also benefit from the app. Many of the species occur at places like San Remo, Cape Paterson, Andersons Inlet, Waratah Bay and Wilsons Promontory.

Seaweed growing on rock Seaweed Habitat At Eagle's Nest, Bunurong Marine National Park.
Image: Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria

If you’re lucky, your park experience may be as surprising as mine during the making of the app. Off Shack Bay I was head-butted by a Bluethroat Wrasse. Surely only in a marine park could a fish be so cheeky as if to say "nick off, this is my turf!"

a fish Notolabrus tetricus, Bluethroat Wrasse, Cape Paterson, Bunurong Marine National Park.
Image: Julian Finn
Source: Museum Victoria
 

We've reached another milestone with this app as it available for both iOS devices (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad mini, iPad) and for Android devices (phones and tablets). For those who have been waiting on Museum Victoria’s Field Guide to Victorian Fauna app to be released for Android – that’s our next project, so watch this space. And enjoy the Bunurong app in the meantime!

Bunurong Marine National Park Field Guide is built on Museum Victoria’s open source Genera code for producing field guides. The app can be downloaded free from the iTunes App Store for iDevices and Google PlayTM Store for Android.


Bunurong Field guide

Bunurong Field guide

Links:

MV Bunurong app support page 

Parks Victoria: Bunurong Marine National Park 

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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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