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DISPLAYING POSTS FROM: Mar 2013 (11)

Twenty-one today

Author
by Robin Hirst
Publish date
28 March 2013
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Dr Robin Hirst joined the Museum in 1981 to manage the H V McKay Melbourne Planetarium. He was given the task of leading the development of the Exhibitions and Programs for Scienceworks. He is now Director of Collections, Research and Exhibitions at Museum Victoria.

The morning of 28 March 1992 was one the weary crew had worked towards for five years. We hoped that people would venture deep into the heart of industrial Spotswood to appreciate the new kid on the block, Scienceworks, our science and technology centre.

Scienceworks in construction Aerial view of construction site of Scienceworks, Spotswood, in 1991. (MM 122474)
Source: Museum Victoria

Building site Scienceworks building under construction, circa 1991. (MM 122505)
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The sight of long queues of excited families waiting for the doors to open made me feel both elated and apprehensive. This was the day we were to hand our creation to the public for their use and delight. This was the day for the locals to be admitted free of charge as a test run. When the doors opened that morning the crowd ran in. Like bargain hunters at a Myer sale, each vied to be the first at every exhibit.

With Boyce Pizzey, the Director of Science and Technology, we had conceived Scienceworks, designed the building, installed the exhibitions and planned how the place would operate. We spent many an hour in smoke-filled rooms challenging and being challenged. We crafted a new visitor-centric experience for families and school children. We thought it would work, but we didn’t know. It was so new and seemed so far from the city.

Geoff Harrison, Boyce Pizzey and Robin Hirst Left to right: Geoff Harrison, Project Manager, Boyce Pizzey and Robin Hirst at Scienceworks, 1991. The Pumping Station is visible in the background.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The night before, we had the official opening with still much left to do at the crack of dawn the next day to be ready for the public.

Man with bicycles Richard Glover installing a display of bicycles at Scienceworks in 1992. (MM 133542)
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Crowds at Scienceworks Two views of crowds in the Amphitheatre at Scienceworks on the opening day, 28 March 1992 (MM 135043, MM 133479)
Source: Museum Victoria

Girl in playground Playground, Scienceworks opening weekend, 28 March 1992.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The exhibits did suffer that day and many nocturnal emergency repairs were carried out. The crowds the day after were even bigger. In many ways Scienceworks has continued the way it began very much loved.

As Scienceworks turns 21 we can feel proud of what we gave birth to. Happy birthday.

Links:

Scienceworks Heritage Collection on Collections Online

In-Flight at the Royal Children’s Hospital

Author
by Alex
Publish date
25 March 2013
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Comments (0)

Alex Price is a Programs Officer at the Immigration Museum. She has a passion for Cultural Diversity education and Early Learning.

In celebration of Cultural Diversity Week, the Immigration Museum Education and Community Programs team took the In-Flight installation to the Royal Children’s Hospital on Tuesday 19 March 2013.

Originally part of the Another Country artist in residence series held at Immigration Museum, In-Flight is an installation conceived by Filipino-born and Brisbane-based artists Isabel and Alfredo Aquilizan.  The installation references a transitional place of leave-taking and homecoming and due to popular demand, it has continued to grow in the second floor foyer of the Immigration Museum.

group of people sitting around a table making planes from recycled material In-Flight at the Immigration Museum
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria

Visitors are invited to rummage through recycled plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, felt, string, icy-pole sticks and much more to gather materials to make a mini aeroplane. Once completed, the planes are taken home or added to the large overhead structure. Constructions range from conventional bi-planes to more creative interpretations of the most common form of transport used to immigrate today.

The Education Institute of the Royal Children’s Hospital invited the Immigration Museum to partner with them during Cultural Diversity Week by setting up a smaller scale version of the installation in their ‘Main Street.’ 

I assisted and spent a day at the hospital meeting families and encouraging them to participate. We brought two big containers of assorted materials, scissors, elastic and string but no stickytape or glue were allowed, in keeping with the original concept to encourage creative thinking.

children working on in-flight In-Flight at the Royal Children’s Hospital
Image: Alex Price

Children who created aeroplanes included those visiting outpatient clinics as well as long term patients who came down from the wards. Some spent over an hour making planes, assisted by their relatives who had come to visit, and the hospital teachers.  Five children from the Early Learning Centre also joined in and departed excitedly with their creations.

plane made from recycled material In-Flight at the Royal Children’s Hospital
Image: Alex Price

Visitors to the hospital were encouraged to also come along to the Immigration Museum and participate in the larger In- Flight installation, an ongoing and ever-changing activity.

Links:

In-flight at the Immigration Museum

Kooyang diorama in First Peoples

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
22 March 2013
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Comments (3)

The Kooyang ('eels' in the Gunditjmara family of languages) section of the upcoming First Peoples exhibition will feature an eel trap in a diorama of Western District eel-farming practice. The trap, woven from puung'ort (spear grass) by Gunditjmara woman Jody-Ann Agnew, tells the story of one of the world’s oldest aquaculture systems.

eel model And this is what it's all about - eels. This is one of several eels created for the diorama.
Image: Benjamin Healley
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Museum designers, curators, photographers and preparators have worked closely with Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Corporation to capture a slice of the Western District, complete with animals, plants and terrain typical of this area. The models and specimens of eels and other wildlife created by Dean Smith and Kym Haines are dazzlingly true-to-life, including a leech that Kym modelled from the little sucker that hunted him down when Jody's mother, senior weaver Aunty Eileen Alberts, took museum staff to Tyrendarra!

Dean with fish models Preparator Dean Smith holding models of native fish that he made for the Kooyang diorama. One is an unfinished cast, the other is fully painted.
Image: Benjamin Healley
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Steven Sparrey and Brendon Taylor are recreating the volcanic boulders of the Tyrendarra lava flow thrown out by Budj Bim (Mt Eccles) thousands of years ago. Gunditjmara people used these rocks to create an ingenious network of ponds, channels and dams to farm the eels. Aunty Eileen and Jody will oversee the final stages of the diorama construction.

Brendan Taylor working Preparator Brendan Taylor working on replicating the rocky terrain of the Western District.
Image: Benjamin Healley
Source: Museum Victoria
 

First Peoples opens at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Melbourne Museum on 7 September 2013.

Links:

Media News: Taking the eel-path to a shared history

Video: Lake Condah, Gunditjmara Country

More on the Monarch

Author
by Patrick
Publish date
20 March 2013
Comments
Comments (3)

The Wanderer Butterfly, or Monarch, is probably the most recognisable butterfly in the world. It populates children's books and is the classical species used to illustrate insect life cycles. The Children's Museum at Melbourne Museum has housed enormous replicas of the Wanderer caterpillar, pupa and adult for the last 13 years.

Butterfly models in museum The giant butterfly, pupa and caterpillar in the Children's Gallery at Melbourne Museum.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Wanderer caterpillars feed on plants known as milkweeds. In Australia these include plants introduced from Africa and South America, such as Asclepias and Gomphocarpus. One of the most common is the Swan Plant (Gomphocarpus fruticosa), which may have been accidentally introduced as part of the regular trade between Australia and South Africa, or deliberately introduced for the 'silk cotton' to assist in hat making. This species is considered a noxious weed in some parts of Australia, and its abundance has been dramatically reduced by weed control programs, leading to a concurrent reduction in Wanderer populations around Melbourne.

Caterpillars feeding Caterpillars feeding on the Swan Palnt, Gomphocarpus fruticosa.
Source: Patrick Honan
 

Milkweeds contain poisons called cardiac glycosides which are absorbed by the caterpillars and used for their own defences. These poisons affect the hearts of vertebrates such as birds, inducing vomiting at half the lethal dose. Wanderers advertise the fact that they are poisonous to eat with contrasting patterns of yellow and black in the caterpillar, and orange and black in the adult. The chemicals are concentrated in the tips of the wings of adults, so any bird venturing a taste will cop a full dose and leave the butterfly alone.

Wing of butterfly. The warning colours on the hindwing of a Wanderer Butterfly. The black spot is the 'sex gland' of a male.
Source: Patrick Honan
 

The caterpillars themselves also become victims of their own food plants. Studies in the USA show that up to 30 per cent of very young caterpillars become glued to the leaves of milkweeds by latex in the sticky sap. And when its first bite ingests an unusually high quantity of cardiac glycosides, a newly-hatched caterpillar may become seized for ten minutes or more in a state of catalepsis before recovering.

Caterpillar feeding A late-instar caterpillar addressing the milky sap of Asclepias rotundifolia.
Source: Patrick Honan
 

Despite this, some birds such as Pied Currawongs (Strepera graculina) and Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes (Coracina novaehollandiae) seem to be able to feed on Wanderers with impunity. The caterpillars are also attacked by a tachinid fly (Winthemia neowinthemoides), whose larvae feed on caterpillars from the inside, slowly killing them. In some areas, particularly coastal NSW and Queensland, these parasites account for 80-100 per cent of Wanderer larvae.

mating butterflies A male Wanderer overpowers the female (left) before flying off together and resting for several hours whilst mating (right).
Source: Patrick Honan
 

Mating by Wanderer Butterflies can be an aggressive experience. Males patrol patches of host plants, awaiting females. When females appear they are chased with great vigour by the males, often spiralling high into the air. Eventually the male may overpower her with the assistance of pheromones that cause her wing muscles to seize, forcing her to the ground where he mates with her. In Australia, breeding may occur year-round in the northern parts of the Wanderers' range, but in southern areas thousands of adults cluster together in trees after mating to see out the cooler months. Although not as spectacular as the roosting sites in North America that host many millions of butterflies, these clusters around Sydney and Adelaide are a memorable sight.

Female Wanderer Butterfly Female Wanderer resting during the day.
Source: Patrick Honan
 

Flight of the Butterflies 3D opens at IMAX Melbourne Museum on 21 March. 

Patrick's first post: Monarch or Wanderer butterfly

 

References

Orr, A. & Kitching, R., 2010, The Butterflies of Australia, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 296pp.

Oyeyele, S.O & Zalucki, M.P., 1990, Cardiac glycosides and oviposition by Danaus plexippus on Asclepias fruticosa in south-east Queensland (Australia), with notes on the effect of plant nitrogen content, Ecological Entomology, 15:177–185.

Parsons, W.T. & Cuthbertson, E.G., 2001, Noxious Weeds of Australia, CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne, 698pp

Zalucki, M.P. & Brower, L.P., 1992, Survival of first instar larvae of Danaus plexippus (Lepidoptera: Danainae) in relation to cardiac glycoside and latex content of Asclepias humistrata (Asclepiadaceae), Chemoecology, 3(2):81-93

Junior entomologists get the bug

Author
by Wayne
Publish date
18 March 2013
Comments
Comments (1)

Chauliognathus lugubris. The Plague Soldier Beetle. This wee beast accounts for hundreds of insect identification requests we receive at the Discovery Centre during the summer. At this time of year these little pollinators descend from the crowns of flowering trees to indulge in seething masses of mating activity triggered by hot weather.

This frenzied 'coupling' activity rarely goes unnoticed, especially because of the numbers in which the beetles congregate– we often get calls from people describing masses of these little cigar-shaped critters with their distinctive orange collars in their gardens; regular readers will have read our earlier post about Plague Soldier Beetles.

Last week, however, it seems this beast and its plaguing behaviour caught the attention of the Rainbow Lorikeet class at Dame Nellie Melba Kindergarten in Richmond. The Lorikeets' teacher Adam contacted us with an identification request, accompanied by some photographs and observations of the insects in question from the students, some of which I’ll share below:

  Grace from Dame Nellie Melba Kindergarten holds the 'mystery beetle' for a photo Grace from Dame Nellie Melba Kindergarten holds the 'mystery beetle' for a photo
Image: Adam Shrivell
Source: Adam Shrivell
 

It has 3 legs and 3 legs (from Sylvie). They have two antennae (coming) out of their head (from Andrew and Hugo) 

A great start for young eyes – these are key characteristics of insects that separate them from other arthropods

I think it's a stink bug (from Ralph) and I think it's a beetle (From Taj) 

These are also good observations. Like the animals we call 'stink bugs', they can emit an unpleasant liquid as a defence mechanism.

I think it's a grass hopper (from Harry) 

Harry isn’t quite right here, but the plague behaviour is similar to locusts, so still a good observation.

It's a beetle and he flies away and he has the mummy and the daddy and the baby and the dog (from Jed) 

Apart from the bit about the dog, Jed is also on the money.

I think they only come out once a year in summer (from Grace) 

Grace has also hit the nail on the head – clearly we have some budding entomologists here!

They carry each other (from Lucas) 

In a manner of speaking, yes they do – but we may leave this to Lucas's guardians to explain further if required.

Alexander, Lucas and Grace gathering a specimen Alexander, Lucas and Grace gathering a specimen
Image: Adam Shrivell
Source: Adam Shrivell
 

As seasoned respondents to enquiries of all types from the public, we thought the Rainbow Lorikeets were particularly clever in separating their observations into 'what we think' and 'what we know' – in doing so, they were more than half-way there with their identification by the time it reached us. This, along with the photos, made our entomologist’s job quite easy in providing the identification as Plague Soldier Beetles.

Dame Nellie Melba Kindergarten's Rainbow Lorikeets, with teacher Adam Dame Nellie Melba Kindergarten's Rainbow Lorikeets, with teacher Adam
Image: Adam Shrivell
Source: Adam Shrivell
 

Well done Rainbow Lorikeets, we in the Discovery Centre are impressed with your entomology skills!

Discoveries in the jungle

Author
by Priscilla
Publish date
13 March 2013
Comments
Comments (0)

Priscilla is a Program Coordinator for Life Sciences and works on education programs at Melbourne Museum.

"There’s still plenty to discover in the jungles of Sulawesi," said Dr Kevin Rowe yesterday, via satellite phone from the jungles of Indonesia. He was phoning in to HQ – Museum Victoria, that is; he and his field crew are deep in the jungle, with email access a day’s hike away.

Dr Kevin reported that he and MV Ornithology Fellow, Dr Karen Rowe, have been enjoying great success on their current field trip. “To date, we’ve caught eight species of rats, two species of squirrels, five species of shrews and 13 species of birds”. He further explained that these mammals are all endemic, meaning that they are not to be found anywhere else in the world.

The crew has two camps set up at different altitudes. Kevin and Karen are camped at an altitude of 1600 metres, while Wayne Longmore, Museum Victoria’s Collection Manager of Terrestrial Vertebrates, is working with others at 400 metres above sea level.

While we here in Melbourne have been melting, during the hottest March since records began, Kevin and the crew have been experiencing endless rain. "Rain, rain and more rain, with days reaching a maximum of 16 degrees Celsius" said Kevin. "It’s a big cloud forest here, which leads to a lot of moss on the trees." And where there’s endless rain, there’s plenty of mud, making the work of our scientists tougher as they set out their 240 traps each night, ahead of collecting and checking them all the very next day and processing the data in daylight.

Birdsong metre demonstration The birdsong metre being demonstrated by museum volunteer, Bentleigh, during a trip to the Grampians.
Source: Museum Victoria

Dr Karen Rowe said that they had found many birds on this trip too, including honeyeaters, fantails and goshawks. Simply trying to sight these birds can be very difficult in thick jungle, however, so, to better understand the bird life of Sulawesi, she has been using a song meter to automatically record birdsong, which she can analyse later to determine which birds are living in the area.

The crew are in the jungle until this Saturday, when they will hike out at night. Through the rain, Kevin says "the views of the jungle from the lookouts are beautiful." However, they have only a few more days to enjoy the sights; they'll be back in Melbourne a week from Saturday. Meanwhile, there just may be some more discoveries yet to be made...


View Sulawesi Field Team in a larger map

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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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