MV Blog

DISPLAYING POSTS FROM: Nov 2012 (10)

Diggers in Birmingham

Author
by Emily Woolley
Publish date
30 November 2012
Comments
Comments (1)

Emily is a third-year History of Art student at the University of Birmingham. She worked at MV after winning a Global Challenge award which gives students opportunities to work overseas.

In August and September I spent six weeks in Museum Victoria's Humanities Department helping to plan for the Centenary of World War I exhibition, which will be held at the museum in 2014. My main focus was on a collection of magazines named Aussie published for soldiers during and after WWI.

At the end of my placement I came away eager to contribute more, however small, and link up Melbourne Museum's WWI centenary commemorations with those that will happen in the Birmingham. I set out to find any connections between Australia and the University of Birmingham relating to WWI.

Australian and New Zealand soldiers came to Birmingham in 1914 to be treated at the University of Birmingham’s Great Hall, then called the 1st Southern General Hospital (and it is where I will be graduating next summer). Looking through the university’s collections, I came across an embroidered quilt that was produced by convalescing soldiers. Made up of nine panels, it includes an Australian panel depicting a crown with ‘Australian Commonwealth Military Forces’ written on a scroll underneath and a New Zealand panel featuring an intricate fern with ‘NZ’ over the top.

white stitching on cloth Australian Servicemen embroidery detail on Matron Kathleen Lloyd's linen cloth.
Source: BIRRC-H0013, Research & Cultural Collections, University of Birmingham

stitched fern pattern on cloth New Zealand Regiment embroidery detail embroidery detail on Matron Kathleen Lloyd's linen cloth.
Source: BIRRC-H0013, Research & Cultural Collections, University of Birmingham
 

I also found photos at the Birmingham Archives and Heritage collections, with wounded soldiers from Australia and Scotland posing with nurses in the grounds of the hospital. Museum Victoria also holds many photographs taken and postcards purchased by soldiers from their time in England during WWI.

group of soldiers Australian soldiers with nurses at the 1st Southern General Hospital, now the University of Birmingham's Great Hall.
Source: UA10/i/4, Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections, University of Birmingham
 

In addition, in the university’s collections there is an interesting article in The Mermaid magazine, entitled A Trip to Gallipoli’ by Percival M. Chadwick. He was a Civil Engineering Lecturer at the University of Birmingham who left in 1915 to go and fight in Gallipoli for twelve months, only to return to Birmingham again to be treated at the university in the 1st Southern General Hospital. He was attached to the New Zealand Engineers working with Australian and New Zealand Infantry and Cavalry regiments including a Maori contingent. He states:

The officers with whom I worked gave me a homely welcome, and I speedily felt quite at ease among them.

I could reiterate what Percival M. Chadwick said about Australians, about my colleagues at Melbourne Museum. It was a pleasure working there and one of the most enjoyable work experiences I have had. I very much look forward to seeing what Melbourne Museum puts on in its centenary exhibition in 2014 and I hope it is a success for everyone.

References:

Percival M. Chadwick, R.E, ‘A Trip to Gallipoli’, The Mermaid, issue 13, p121, 1916-17, University of Birmingham Research and Cultural collections.

Links:

University of Birmingham collections

Gallery of the Grampians survey

Author
by Blair
Publish date
26 November 2012
Comments
Comments (10)

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
Comments
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.

The Adventures of Ally, the albino Possum

Author
by Max
Publish date
21 November 2012
Comments
Comments (10)

One of the many questions we are asked in the Discovery Centre is about the many and varied birds and mammals people sight in their own surburban backyards.  One such enquiry came to us from Steve from East Brighton who had spotted an albino possum in his garden.

Ally, the albino possum Ally, the albino possum
Image: Steve Mitchelmore
Source: Steve Mitchelmore
 

In February 2012 Steve discovered an albino baby brush-tail possum in his backyard. He wanted to know how rare they were as he had been observing possums for years, and this is the first albino one he had seen. One of our experts responded with the following;

Albino mammals are not totally unknown; we have received specimens at about a three year interval on average. Once the gene is introduced into a local population then their occurrence becomes a bit more periodic although only about once in a generation. Because they are not camouflaged as well as their parents or siblings they are readily detected by predators and could be easily taken as prey. A true albino will also have poor eyesight due to the lack of pigmentation in the eye again making them susceptible to predation. It will be interesting to follow this young animal and see how it survives such traumas.

Ally, the albino possum Ally, the albino possum
Image: Steve Mitchelmore
Source: Steve Mitchelmore
 

To which Steve responded;

About three weeks ago I noticed the small tail and one paw protruding from the mother's pouch seemed unnaturally pale in colour, then last night the juvenile, creamy white with deep red eyes, was on its mother's back...

P.S. Regarding predators, do you know if Powerful Owls inhabit the East Brighton area?

To which our expert replied;

I am unsure about the Powerful Owl’s situation in East Brighton but I can say that they have been seen/heard in many Melbourne suburbs. So if the area concerned is heavily vegetated – that is with large trees then there is every possibility that one of these large owls will make its presence felt.

Early in July, Steve sent the following update;

... you mentioned that it would be interesting to follow her development and any 'traumas' she may endure.  She still comes by almost every night, having been AWOL on only six or seven occasions since late January.  She has the un-original name of 'Ally' (as in Ally the Albino)...  As for traumas, so far so good, apart from when she fell into the pool three nights ago.  Luckily the water level was so high following all the recent rain that she had no trouble getting herself out. 

Ally, the albino possum Ally, the albino possum
Image: Steve Mitchelmore
Source: Steve Mitchelmore
 

Then in late July, he sent in his last update;

Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but . . . Sadly, Ally has not been sighted since Monday night...Some months ago she disappeared for three nights straight, but I won't hold my breath after seven.  I've made numerous calls to local vets, DSE, Wildlife Victoria...Animal Rescue etc. all to no avail and searches of neighbouring yards for fur or remains have also been fruitless... I'm still amazed she survived as long as she did.  Anyway, it was certainly an enjoyable (and educational!) six months.  She will be sadly missed. Once again, thanks for your time and response to my emails.

Got a question? Ask us!

UPDATE: Ally has been spotted again!

Links

WILD: Amazing animals in a changing world

Bioinformatics

Marine app out now

Author
by Blair
Publish date
16 November 2012
Comments
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 

Lyrebird! A True Story

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
15 November 2012
Comments
Comments (8)

That celebrated mimic, the Superb Lyrebird, is the star of a new children's picture book published by Museum Victoria. Lyrebird! A True Story by Jackie Kerin is magnificently illustrated by Peter Gouldthorpe and was released just this week.

Cover of lyrebird book Cover of Lyrebird! A True Story by Jackie Kerin, illustrated by Peter Gouldthorpe.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Lyrebird! A True Story is based on the real tale of Edith Wilkinson and a a lyrebird she called 'James' who danced in Edith's Dandenongs garden in the 1930s. At the time, Superb Lyrebirds were believed to be shy and elusive, but James tolerated human audiences and performed for bird-watchers and ornithologists who arrived from around the globe. Upon a platform built on Edith's verandah rail, he became one of the first lyrebirds to be captured on film, and helped spread the reputation of these birds as uncanny imitators of the sounds around them.

Jackie first learned about James and Edith in 2007 from a 1933 book called The Lore of the Lyrebird by Ambrose Pratt. Therein he described an article he wrote about the unlikely pair in the 13 February 1932 edition of The Age. Jackie retrieved the article and from then on, she was hooked.

"I loved the story and thought that I could shape it into what I call a 'tellable tale' – take the story and put it into language for telling. I tell stories at schools and festivals and I was very interested in collecting some uniquely Australian stories," explains Jackie. "Also I like to encourage kids to connect with nature. And they're just such fabulous birds that we carry in our change purse or pocket, on the ten-cent coin. So I wrote a little story that I called Edith's Lyrebird." Her story won an award at the Woodford Folk Festival, then at the instigation of filmmaker Malcom McKinnon, Edith's Lyrebird was turned into a short film.

 

Creating a book was the next logical step, and Tasmanian illustrator and artist Peter Gouldthorpe was a natural choice to illustrate the book. As well as being a very fine landscape painter, Jackie says "he understands the importance of getting the animals and vegetation correct. I wanted a book for hungry eyes with lots of detail for kids to explore."

Woman with binoculars Jackie bird-watching in the Dandenongs while researching for Lyrebird!.
Source: Jackie Kerin
 

Jackie researched the places and era of James and Edith. She read extensively about lyrebirds and explored the landscapes and bird life of the Dandenongs. "Edith had what they called a 'cut flower and foliage farm' on the south-west side of the mountain. During the Depression, flower gardening was a big industry up there. They'd have these flower shows with whole football ovals covered in flowers." Her photographs of Cloudehill Gardens in Olinda, situated on a former cut flower farm, helped provide the reference material Peter needed to recreate Edith's garden. Wayne Longmore and Rory O'Brien at Museum Victoria showed Peter and Jackie rare books and bird specimens so that they could capture details of Dandenongs birdlife and the nature of bird-watching in the 1930s.

Man and lyrebird MV photographer Jon Augier with a lyrebird specimen in the museum's photography studio. Studying specimens of Dandenongs bird species helped Peter Gouldthorpe get all the details right in his illustrations.
Source: Jackie Kerin
 

The result is a book with many layers for readers to explore. "We've tried to include a sense of the seasons because the birds' mating and moulting are connected to the rhythmical seasons of the mountain." Throughout the illustrations there are the birds in Edith's garden that James mimicked, like the Yellow Robin, Laughing Kookaburra, and rosellas, and a there is a chart at the end of the book to identify them. Budding horticulturalists can also identify types of flowers and native flora.

Chart of bird species The chart to help readers of Lyrebird! name the birds of Edith's garden.
Image: Peter Gouldthorpe
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Jackie has also become quite fond of author Ambrose Pratt. "He was very passionate and his prose is very rich and fruity. He believed that the future was in the hands of children. He was very keen that people understand that if you care about the animals, you have to care about their environment."

Links:

Jackie Kerin's website

Lyrebird! A True Story on Facebook

Biography of Ambrose Pratt

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