May 2013

DISPLAYING POSTS FROM: May 2013 (10)

Smoky mice in the Grampians

Author
by Phoebe Burns
Publish date
31 May 2013
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Phoebe is a University of Melbourne Masters student supervised by Dr. Kevin Rowe at MV. She is studying post-fire distribution and ecology of the Smoky Mouse in the Grampians National Park

Smoky Mouse Smoky Mouse, Pseudomys fumeus. Grampians, November 2012.
Image: David Paul
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The Smoky Mouse (Pseudomys fumeus) is an elusive and endangered rodent native to southeast Australia. Historically, the Grampians in western Victoria have been home to healthy populations of the mouse, though years can pass without observations of the species. During the November 2012 Museum Victoria Bioscan, we found a large population of Smoky Mice in the Victoria Range in the west of the Grampians; an amazing find as the mouse had not been detected in such high numbers since the 1980s!

In February 2013 a wildfire burnt through 35,000 hectares of the Grampians, including 80 per cent of the Victoria Range and the locations we surveyed in November. While such a large fire raised concerns about the survival of the Smoky Mouse population, we’re using the opportunity to understand how the species responds to fire. So far things are looking promising: earlier this month we found evidence of rodent activity in a small sheltered patch in the middle of a burnt gully and the vegetation is regenerating well. Excitingly, Parks Victoria staff have detected Smoky Mice on cameras in the southern end of the Victoria Range.

Fire has shaped the communities of plants and animals that live in the Grampians, but we still have so much to learn about the role it plays in the lives of our native rodents. Regular burns are essential to the reproduction of some plant species, which in turn provide habitat for our animal species. The Smoky Mouse relies on specific plant communities to provide food and shelter; fire is necessary to ‘reset’ these plant communities to prevent them growing to a point where they are no longer suitable for the mouse. However, fire is best delivered in a patchy mosaic, allowing animals to live in unburnt areas while adjacent burnt areas regenerate and the plant community returns to a suitable state. Wide-scale fires like the one in February are not ideal, and we’re eager to learn what impact it may have on the native fauna.

We’re hopeful that the Smoky Mouse is living in unburnt patches throughout and around the burnt areas. Over time the Smoky Mouse will recolonise the recently burnt areas and we’ll be able to map the movement of the species across the landscape using genetic techniques. In the short term, I will be hiking around the Grampians monitoring the progress of the Smoky Mouse over the next year. I hope to learn where the mouse is persisting and how the species responds to fire in order to help plan management techniques to ensure the conservation of the species for generations to come.

  Smoky Mouse Smoky Mouse, Pseudomys fumeus. Grampians, November 2012.
Image: David Paul
Source: Museum Victoria

Links:

YouTube video: Moth hunting at the Grampians

MV Blog: Gallery of the Grampians survey

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. 

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

3D printing at SmartBar

Author
by Ely Wallis
Publish date
16 May 2013
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The theme of the most recent SmartBar at Melbourne Museum was 'retrofuturism'. A perfect theme to base a demonstration of technology that's definitely more future than retro – 3D printing.

During the evening we had two printers set up: the Museum's recently-purchased MakerBot Replicator2 and a printer brought along by our colleagues Bernard Meade and Ben Kreunen (from The University of Melbourne). Bernard and Ben also brought along a 3D scanner, and spent the evening scanning specimens from our Marine Invertebrates collection.

A crowd of people view 3D printers 3D printers and scanner demonstration with an enthusiastic and interested crowd at SmartBar, Melbourne Museum, April 2013.
Image: Ben Kreunen
Source: The University of Melbourne
 

We had an incredibly positive response with people very interested to see the new technology demonstrated. One reaction was surprise that the Museum is experimenting in this emerging field. “What are you going to use it for?” was a common question. The answer ranges from science (especially palaeontological) research, to rapid prototyping of exhibition components, to modelling. And the list will continue to grow. Other museums are also experimenting, and 3D printing maker spaces have been popping up at museum technology conferences for a couple of years now.

We also used the deadline of SmartBar to test out possible workflows, as we have also recently purchased a 3D scanner. With the scanner located in our Media Production department, our best expertise at handling 3D files located in our Design team, and the printer located in our Digital and Emerging Technology department, we wanted to see how well a new cross-department workflow might go.

3D printer in operation The MakerBot Replicator2 in action, printing an ammonite.
Image: Ely Wallis
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Our Sciences department supplied some collection specimens to scan, which we did more and less successfully. The best was an ammonite, and our scan of a trilobite was okay, though we want to try printing it end on to get better relief detail.

Less successful was a biscuit star which looked to have enough surface detail to scan well, but which ended up looking like a lump of dough. The lessons learned were that we should upgrade our scanning software, and that we need a lot more practice in how to fill in ends and merge multiple scans to get a complex 3D shape with no holes.

The least successful, but amusing, experiment was an attempt to scan quartz crystals. Lovely shapes but the lasers passed straight through or bounced off the clear crystals, providing a very pretty laser light show but no scan. Next time we’ll try powdering them to get a better matt surface.

White ammonite specimen next to black plastic one Real ammonite specimen from Museum Victoria’s palaeontology collection, next to the 3D printed model.
Image: Ben Healley
Source: Museum Victoria
 

All in all, it was a fun night, and a successful first attempt at our own scanning and printing. Congratulations to all who attended SmartBar and got to take home their own 3D printed ammonite. In case you’re interested, the original is a fossil Pleuroceras sp, which was found in Bavaria in Germany.

We have now uploaded the ammonite scan to Museum Victoria’s collection (of one!) in Thingiverse, a website for sharing 3D printable files and where you’ll find other museums also uploading scans. We’ll continue to add specimens and models there over time.

Happy printing!

(see also Amstrad on display at SmartBar)

Child’s play

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
15 May 2013
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Up in her studio in Melbourne’s CBD, artist and animator Isobel Knowles is working on something wonderful for the First Peoples exhibition. She is turning accounts of the traditional toys and play of Aboriginal children into beautiful animations for our young visitors. 

Isobel Knowles with paper cutouts Isobel Knowles in her studio with some of the paper cutouts she uses in her animations.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Isobel creates her animations with a combination of delicately cut pieces of paper, watercolour washes, photography and digital techniques. For this project, she took scripts that the exhibition curators wrote – mostly in collaboration with members of the First Peoples Yulendj Group – and brought them to life. Each animation shows the playthings in use which, in many cases, emulate the activities of the adults around them, such as nursing mothers and men hunting. Isobel has presented the stories with a deft touch of humour because, as she describes them, “they’re stories of the cheeky things that kids do.”

Paper cutout of paddlesteamer boat Isobel's materials: paper cutouts of a paddlesteamer and vegetation, and her storyboard sketches.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Isobel began with thinking about how she wanted the animations to feel and researching the landscapes of the different areas and the colours that would capture the Australian bush. “It’s been really nice working with Australian bush imagery,” she says. “Usually I’m referencing fairy tales so it’s a European look.” She also carefully considered how the children should appear. “I’ve been trying to research what they would wear but a lot of the reference pictures are during special events,” explains Isobel. Yulendj members helped her get these details right when she showed them the animations last week.

Paddlesteamer illustration Still image from a work-in-progress: Isobel's digital animation of the mudswitch story.
Image: Isobel Knowles
Source: Museum Victoria
 

In the Toy Story case of the Many Nations section, visitors will see the animated stories next to the actual toys. This section, with its animations, will be a key part of the museum's educational programs. The toys are from cultural groups across the country and they haven’t been on display before; many of them aren’t well-known outside their communities of origin.

Isobel says she’s enjoying the work and finding it incredibly interesting. “It’s a really exciting project for me and I feel very honoured to have been asked to do it and to contribute to such an amazing exhibition.”

Links:

Isobel Knowles's website

MV Blog: Modelling Myee's hands

MV Blog: Mudswitches on the plaza

Amstrad on display during SmartBar

Author
by Siobhan
Publish date
12 May 2013
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So, it’s not as big or as flashy as CSIRAC (1949), but the real star of last week’s Smart Bar event here in the Discovery Centre was our Amstrad Portable Personal Computing device (1987).

Whilst CSIRAC has the weight of history, ground-breaking science, and several good-sized African elephants behind it, the Amstrad spoke to some more personal nostalgia for many of our visitors – sort of the difference between visiting St Paul’s Cathedral and going back to your primary school.

Spec  for spec, though, the Amstrad does outperform its big brother, inspiring this mini-comic for the #SmartBar hashtag!

Amstrad Amstrad vs CSIRAC
Image: Siobhan Motherway
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Just for fun, compare CSIRAC’s specs with this website’s run down on the Amstrad and then think about the cheapest wee netbook available at the local discount shop.

Obviously, CSIRAC occupies 40sqm, whereas the Amstrad comes under the category of “luggable” – it doesn’t compare to the power or portability of the phone in your jeans pocket, but at least you could haul it around one-handed whilst looking supercool – only those looking very closely would see the veins standing out and the sweat beading on your forehead.

We couldn’t match CSIRAC’s music, though, coaxing only a recalcitrant BEEP! out of the Amstrad when we asked it to do something outside of its parameters. Like, tell us the contents of the disk in the B: drive, apparently. Nevertheless, the sight of the grey plastic shell, green screen and blinking old-school DOS cursor had dozens of visitors crowding around the desk, reminiscing about their own first computers and exploits on local BBSs.

And now I’ll leave you with the most ambitious or optimistic attempt to put the Amstrad to use on the Smart Bar evening. Sorry, sir; apparently it does have an internal modem, but 2400bps and ASCII will only get you so far.

The Amstrad laptop in the Discovery Centre A valiant effort by a visitor to get the Amstrad to connect to the internet
Image: Siobhan Motherway
Source: Museum Victoria
 

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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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