Jessie

DISPLAYING POSTS BY: Jessie (4)

Jessie

Jessie Sinclair works in the Live Exhibits department as a keeper. Six-legged animals, anything happening in Bugs Alive! and seasonal changes in the Forest Gallery keep her enthused about her job.

The joy of spring in Milarri Garden

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by Jessie
Publish date
10 October 2014
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When was the last time you took a wander along the Milarri Walk? Many people say never; it’s one of the not-so-hidden gems at Melbourne Museum. This indigenous garden runs from the North Terrace (behind the Forest Gallery) through to Birrarung. In spring it is especially lovely with what our horticulturalists say is “too many flowers to mention." If you are lucky you may catch them working in the space to ask a question or two.

Chocolate Lily flower The Chocolate Lily (Arthtopodium strictum) is one of the many plants in full flower in Milarri Garden at the moment. Take the time to stop and have a smell – they smell like chocolate.
Image: Jessie Sinclair
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Another great feature at the moment is our impressive Pondi, otherwise known as Murray Cod (Maccullochella peelii). Pondi is an Indigenous name for this impressive animal. He can be spotted swimming in the upper area of Milarri Creek and is quite visible from the bridge. Pondi features in many Indigenous stories as the creator of the Murray River and the fish species found there. Although called a ‘cod’, they are not related to the northern hemisphere marine cod species. They are found in varied waters from clear flowing streams to billabongs in the Murray Darling Basin.

Murray Cod Pondi the resident Murray Cod (Maccullochella peelii) in the upper reaches of Milarri Creek.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

It is not just people who love this little hidden oasis in the museum but also the local wildlife. A Red Wattlebird (Anthochaera carunculata) has built a nest in the River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) overhanging the creek and with any luck will be raising chicks in the next few weeks. We also have regular visits from Crimson Rosellas, Lorikeets, Boobook Owls and Tawny Frogmouths who choose to forage and rest in the garden.

Tawny Frogmouth in a tree Many bird species take refuge at Melbourne Museum. This Tawny Frogmouth (Podargus strigoides) is a regular resident on the North Terrace.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

With the warmer weather many of our animals have come out and are getting hungry so we are regularly feeding the Short-Finned Eels, Silver Perch and Short Necked Turtles in the lower pond. You can catch this feeding and a talk occurring daily at 1.45. 

An empty bower

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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. 

Bug of the Month

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by Jessie
Publish date
1 August 2011
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The stars of the Bugs Alive! aquatic display Green Diving Beetles (Onychohydrus scutellaris) are remarkable for their ability to store air and dive underwater to hunt food and find mates. They are found Australia-wide and on warm nights are attracted to lights. Recently on the Gold Coast there was a report of thousands of these beetles coming into the lights on the foreshore and the ground around the lights was a black moving mass.

green diving beetle Adapted to a life in the water, Green Diving Beetles have streamlined bodies, paddle like hind legs with swimming hairs and an amazing ability to store pockets of air so they can dive under water for extended periods of time.
Image: Alan Henderson
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Although sometimes they can be locally common they are predators and tend to live in water bodies, like dams and lakes at densities that do not deplete prey numbers too much; once prey numbers get too low, these beetles fly to a new water body and establish themselves there.

Adults lay their eggs in the water where tiny predatory larvae hatch out. The larvae spend their entire larval stage in the water before digging into the muddy banks of ponds and pupating. Once mature, the adults can either hang out where they emerged or fly and disperse to other areas where the food source is more readily available.

Over the last 12 months in Victoria, like many parts of Australia, has had increased rainfall which allows the beetles to disperse and breed at a greater rate than over the last few years of drought. Live Exhibits staff are predicting a great summer for Green Diving Beetles and they may turn up a bit more often in the Melbourne metropolitan area. Live Exhibits staff will be heading out equipped with torches, nets and waders to see if we can hunt down these incredible animals.

Green Diving Beetles
Green Diving Beetles can be voracious feeders; here a group of them are feasting on a dead fish at the Melbourne Museum.
Image: Alan Henderson
Source: Museum Victoria
 

These beetles are active predators and scavengers and add a great degree of movement and colour to our Bugs Alive! display. As they forage they constantly return to the surface of the water to replenish their air supply which they hold under their elytra (wing covers). They eat other aquatic invertebrates and in the wild will sometimes attack vertebrates such as small fish and tadpoles.

Next time you are in Bugs Alive! check them out in the aquatic tank. They spend a fair bit of the day sitting motionless clinging onto foliage but once they get moving they can certainly swim fast.

Snail of a surprise

Author
by Jessie
Publish date
23 November 2010
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A couple of weeks ago, an ex staff member of the museum dropped off some interesting snails that could work well in Bugs Alive!, our display of invertebrates at the museum. Amongst the collection was a moderate sized land snail that looked remarkably like a Giant African Land Snail.

Giant African Land Snails are one of the biggest potential agricultural pests for Australia. In the 1970s they entered Australia and were found in Queensland. Australia managed to eradicate them from the environment this time, but the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) continue to be vigilant to stop them from getting across our border again. Although they originate from Africa they are now a pest species all over the world. Close to home they are found on Pacific islands where they have overrun some of the local land snails leading them to become endangered (as well as introducing carnivorous snails to eat the Giant African Land Snail but they enjoyed the taste of the local snails more – but that is another story...).

  Pygmipanda automata This moderate size land snail looked far too much like a Giant African Land Snail to not have checked out by the experts.
Image: Adnan Moussalli
Source: Museum Victoria
 

My story stems from the fact that on my desk turned up this interesting looking snail. I was immediately alerted to action to get this snail checked out. I left the Live Exhibits department and ventured up to Sciences where I spoke to Adnan, the resident snail expert of the museum. He was not only interested in this snail but also the bundle of other snails that came along with the package – including carnivorous snails who had eaten their house mates and a Snug – what looks like a cross between a snail and a slug.

Carnivorous Snail Hard to believe - but there are snails around that are carnivores. This snail came to us in en enclosure with two empty snail shells - it had a feast in transit.
Image: Adnan Moussalli
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Snug This amazing group of animals, which we have fondly called Snugs, have been kept in captivity by Live Exhibits for a number of years.
Image: Adnan Moussalli
Source: Museum Victoria
 

It did not take Adnan long to coax the snail out of its shell and confirm that it was just a very interesting local snail called Pygmipanda automata. It has now become a resident of the Melbourne Museum and we can use it for public programs and display. Australia is full of amazing snails that are so rarely seen by many people. Their tendency to venture out when it is dark and wet when we are all tucked up in bed means they are rarely spotted.  

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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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