May 2013

DISPLAYING POSTS FROM: May 2013 (10)

Get down and get fungi

Author
by Colin
Publish date
10 May 2013
Comments
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

Launch of Spencer and Gillen website

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
8 May 2013
Comments
Comments (1)

The Spencer & Gillen: A Journey through Aboriginal Australia website was launched last Friday at a celebration at Melbourne Museum. In attendance were MV staff, representatives from several partner institutions, Central Arrernte Elders, and descendants of the two ethnographers, Walter Baldwin Spencer and Frank Gillen.

Screenshot of spencerandgillen.net Screenshot of the newly-launched website, spencerandgillen.net.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

People at launch of Spencer and Gillen Descendants of Sir Baldwin Spencer with MV curator Dr Phillip Batty and three visiting Central Arrernte Elders.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Central Arrernte Elders performing The spencerandgillen.net launch included speeches by project partners and collaborators, and a performance by three Central Arrernte Elders. L-R: Martin McMillan Kemarre, Ken Tilmouth Penangke and Duncan Lynch Peltharre.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The website has been several years in the making and brings together over 50,000 objects, photographs, documents, recordings and drawings that are housed in institutions in Australia, Europe and the United States. Research coordinator Jason Gibson calls it "one of the most comprehensive collections to do with a group of Aboriginal people. Certainly there’s nothing else like it on the web. It covers life on the frontier in Central Australia between 1875 and 1912."

Among the treasures are rare and wonderful audiovisual recordings, including the earliest film footage taken on mainland Australia. "Most of this material isn’t available on the web anywhere else, so we had to digitise and compile it at the same time," explains Jason. With a new mapping function and many ways to sort and filter the collection, you can now access these vital ethnographic records in ways never before possible, which is particularly important for members of Arrernte communities. "We spoke to over 80 different individuals from five different language groups, mainly in Alice Springs and Tennant Creek and overwhelmingly everyone is really excited and proud to have their heritage on display for all to see."

Men watching film The Central Arrernte Elders watching the footage on spencerandgillen.net of the 1901 Unintha corroboree at Charlotte Waters. This is the earliest film footage shot on mainland Australia.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria
 

 

View the Unintha corroborree footage on spencerandgillen.net

Spencer and Gillen worked in Central Australia for 30 years. "Although they have been criticised by many people for their social evolutionist attitudes, this collection demonstrates the collaboration with local people," explains Jay. "Gillen’s very close relationship with Arrernte people was unusual at the time and they were among the first non-Indigenous people to grapple with the concept of the Dreaming. 'Dream time' was a Gillen interpretation of the Arrernte word Altyerr and this interpretation became important internationally in terms of thinking about religion and society."

The website is the product of a collaborative project that was funded by the Australian Research Council and led by the Australian National University. It would not have been possible without the partner organisations especially the South Australian Museum, Northern Territory Library, and the Pitt Rivers Museum.

Links:

spencerandgillen.net

Media News: Putting Spencer and Gillen back together

MV Blog: Following the travelling Tjitjingalla

MV Blog: Rare scene of first European contact

Annular Solar Eclipse

Author
by Tanya
Publish date
8 May 2013
Comments
Comments (2)

On the morning of May 10, the Moon will meet up with the Sun in the sky. Many places across Australia will experience a partial solar eclipse - here in Melbourne, 37% of the Sun’s diameter will be blocked by the Moon. It’s not enough for us to notice any visible effects, but if you use the right observing methods (as described below), it’s a neat thing to watch.

However, along a narrow line across the top of Australia, including Tennant Creek (NT), an annular eclipse will occur. What happens here, is that the Moon directly lines up with the Sun, but the Moon is too small to block the Sun completely. Instead, we are left with a ring of sunlight shining out from around the dark Moon.

Annular Solar Eclipse from the Hinode satellite The satellite Hinode, a Japanese mission in partnership with NASA, NAOJ, STFC, ESA and NSC, observed this annular eclipse on 4 January 2011.
Source: Hinode/XRT
 

Skynotes readers will be aware that the Moon’s distance to Earth varies throughout the month. At perigee, when the Moon is closest to Earth, it’s around 360,000 km away. But at apogee, when the Moon is furthest from Earth, its distance increases to about 400,000 km. Well this month, apogee occurs on May 13, a few days after the eclipse. Being further away, the Moon appears smaller and no longer matches the size of the Sun.

It’s such a great coincidence that we have solar eclipses at all. Who ever thinks much about the Sun and Moon appearing the same size, even though they are at such different distances from Earth? Having seen my first total solar eclipse last November, I’m really glad this coincidence occurs, as it was an amazing sight.

Timings of the partial eclipse from Melbourne on Friday 10th are:

Eclipse begins: 7:50am
Mid-eclipse: 8:52am
Eclipse ends: 10:02am

Remember, it is not safe to look directly at the Sun. There are safe ways to look at the eclipse – at the Scienceworks shop you can purchase special eclipse glasses that will allow you to watch the event, while protecting your eyesight.

You can also create a simple "pinhole" projection. It's as easy as making a small pinhole in a piece of paper or cardboard. Do not look through the hole, but allow the Sun to shine through and project an image onto a second piece of cardboard. Even a blank wall or clear patch of ground can make good surfaces for projection.

Sometimes nature helps out too. If you can see sunlight travelling through the leaves of a tree, you’ve got yourself some ready made pinhole projections. Check the ground and it might be covered with little eclipse images. Take a look at this great example on the Astronomy magazine website.

Links:

Australian Astronomy Factsheet : for eclipse timings from other Australian cities.

MV’s Field Guide app - now on Android!

Author
by Nicole K
Publish date
6 May 2013
Comments
Comments (7)
Since the launch of MV's Field Guide app for Apple mobile devices, we've received hundreds of requests for an Android version, my favourite being:


All I want for Christmas is an update on the Android field guide!

Well – drumroll – it's here!

Last Friday, we were very proud that Senator The Hon Don Farrell, Minister for Science and Research and Minister Assisting for Tourism, was able to join us at Melbourne Museum to celebrate this significant milestone. 

  Field Guide apps team pose with Minister Farrell: Simon Sherrin, Jo Taylor, Ely Wallis, Ajay Ranipeta, Minister Farrell, Blair Patullo (absent: Nicole Kearney, Michael Mason). Field Guide apps team pose with Minister Farrell: Simon Sherrin, Jo Taylor, Ely Wallis, Ajay Ranipeta, Minister Farrell, Blair Patullo (absent: Nicole Kearney, Michael Mason).
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Development of the Android version is part of a wider project, funded by the Australian Government under the Inspiring Australia, Unlocking Australia's Potential scheme, where we are working with museums around the country to deliver field guide apps for all States and Territories.

The MV Field Guide app is now available through Google Play for Android devices – including tablets, phablets and phones. And it's free.

The MV Field Guide home screen (shown here on a Nexus 7) The MV Field Guide home screen (shown here on a Nexus 7)
Image: Museum Victoria
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The app contains over 730 Victorian animals, including mammals, birds, reptiles, frogs, fishes and marine and freshwater invertebrates. Each detailed description includes stunning images, distribution maps, endangered status and animal sounds (for birds, frogs and other noisy critters).

The Helmeted Honeyeater is Victoria's bird emblem (shown here on a Nexus 7) The Helmeted Honeyeater is Victoria's bird emblem (shown here on a Nexus 7)
Image: Museum Victoria
Source: Museum Victoria

Apple device users will be able to download an updated iOS version in the coming weeks. The new version represents a significant upgrade to the existing iOS app.

Additions to the new Android app (and coming soon for Apple devices) include:

  • Over 30 new species (many added as a result of user requests), including the Great White Shark, the Giant Gippsland Earthworm and Victoria's bird emblem, the Helmeted Honeyeater
  • New marine mammals: seals, dolphins, whales
  • 75 new bird calls, including the Powerful Owl, the Little Penguin, the Tawny Frogmouth, the Sacred Kingfisher and the Red-tailed Black Cockatoo
  • The complete set of frog calls
  • The updated Victorian Endangered Status for all vertebrate species (bringing the app in line with the DSE's 2013 Advisory List for Threatened Vertebrate Fauna)

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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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