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DISPLAYING POSTS FROM: Oct 2011 (15)

Prom Bioscan

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
19 October 2011
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Museum Victoria has partnered with Parks Victoria for a two-week intensive biodiversity survey of Wilsons Promontory National Park. The Prom Bioscan project, from 16 to 28 October, is targeting terrestrial, freshwater and marine wildlife and visiting some remote and rarely-visited sites. This rapid census will help Parks Victoria assess the environmental impacts of recent extreme weather events: the 2005 and 2009 fires and the floods in early 2011. On 23 September the southern part of the Prom reopened to visitors after six months of flood repair. Many riparian zones (near creeks and rivers) have changed proundly since the flood, their vegetation and beds scoured away the 370mm of rain that fell in one day in February.

Wilson's Prom is one of Victoria's oldest National Parks. It was first designated a National Park in 1898 due to its unique wilderness, stunning natural beauty and its ease of isolation from the mainland. Its habitats - heathlands, swamps, grasslands, forests and more - house numerous species of plants and animals.

skink A skink from Wilsons Promontory.
Image: David Paul
Source: Museum Victoria
 

lacewing A lacewing caught at Wilsons Promontory.
Image: David Paul
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Researchers have worked here for decades to document the life and environment of the Prom. The Prom Bioscan is a special case: it's rare to have so many experts working simultaneously across the park. Over 40 Museum Victoria staff and volunteers and 15 Parks Victoria staff are participating.

three biologists checking mammal traps Karen, Lara and Karen checking mammal traps.
Image: Michela Mitchell
Source: Museum Victoria
 

In the first few days, the scientists have observed 69 species of birds, two types of rats, Gondwanan snails, numerous skinks and much more. Some specimens will become part of the Museum Victoria collections whereas others are released after a small tissue sample is taken for genetic research. The days in the field are long, especially for those who follow animals that are active at dawn and dusk, but the stunning surroundings more than make up for it.

Granite boulders, wildflowers and blue sea at Wilsons Promontory Granite boulders, wildflowers and blue sea at Wilsons Promontory.
Image: Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria
 

You can follow #PromBioscan on Twitter. Tweet your questions for MV scientists about the project to @museumvictoria. 

Links:

Parks Victoria: Wilsons Promontory National Park 

 

'On their own' opens

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
14 October 2011
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The travelling exhibition On their own - Britain's child migrants opened at the Immigration Museum on Thursday. Created by the Australian National Maritime Museum and National Museums Liverpool, UK, the exhibition recounts some of the experiences of over 100,000 British children who were sent to Commonwealth colonies and dominions from the 1860s to the1970s. They were taken from orphanages and children's homes to populate Australia, Canada and African colonies with "good white stock" in schemes that were largely hidden from public scrutiny until the late 1980s.

About 7500 children were sent to Australia. Some of the children left desperate circumstances and found their new home to be a land of opportunity. But for many child migrants, the experience was brutal.

Harold Haig at podium giving a speech Harold Haig, Secretary of the International Association of Former Child Migrants and their Families, speaking at the exhibition launch.
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Guests in the Immigration Museum atrium Guests in the Immigration Museum atrium for the official launch of On their own - Britain's child migrants .
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Harold Haig, Secretary of the International Association of Former Child Migrants and their Families, spoke at the exhibition launch. "Many child migrants faced an assault course of adversity rather than a preparation for adult life. The children were often led to believe that they were orphans; that their parents were dead. This was a particularly cruel deception that extinguished the hopes of many parents and children of ever being reunited." The British Consul-General, Stuart Gill, spoke about his participation in the formal apologies delivered by the Australian Government in 2009 and by the British Government in 2010. He considers them among the most powerful but emotional duties of his position, yet concealment by both Governments of their policies for decades meant that just a few years prior he had never heard of child migrants.

Stuart Gill and Maggie Gill in exhibition. Stuart Gill, British Consul-General and Maggie Gill in the exhibition.
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Now, it is hard to believe that the schemes that brought unaccompanied children as young as three years old to these shores were not more widely known. Settled mostly in rural institutions, the children were expected to provide farm and domestic labour. Hugh McGowan left Glasgow as an adolescent and was placed at Dhurringile Training Farm in Tatura, and later Kilmany Park Home for Boys in Sale. He says, "I was fed, I was clothed, I was somewhat educated, I was housed. [But] there are things that happened to me as a seven year old boy and as a 15 year old boy that I just didn't discuss with anyone." Mr McGowan speaks frankly about the abuse and deprivation that he suffered because he feels that it's important for people to know what happened to him. He left institutional care at the age of 17, permanently shaped by his experiences, and found it difficult to relate to people in his personal and professional life. "I didn't understand them because I wasn't the product of a loving family, whereas they were."

Hugh McGowan Hugh McGowan looking at a photo of four child migrants on their way to Fairbridge Farm School.
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Says Mr McGowan, "the exhibition is precisely what it should be. It's an accurate reflection of what happened. Some of us have survived, but a lot of us haven't." Parts of it are quite harrowing. Curator Kim Tao had the difficult task of sifting through stories, good and bad, to include in the exhibition. "Despite them being such difficult and painful stories, the [former child migrants] really wanted to share them and put them on the public record and recognise that this was such an important part of Australia's migration history." She mentioned the exhibition's website which has a message board, and that people are still coming forward to talk about their experiences for the first time. Through the Child Migrants Trust and other groups, former child migrants support one another as adults much they did as children, when, in the absence of parents and families, they became de facto families for one another.

Kim Tao, Sandra Anker and Hugh McGowan at the entrance of the exhibition. Exhibition curator Kim Tao (centre) with former child migrants Sandra Anker and Hugh McGowan.
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria
 

On Their Own - Britain's child migrants is at the Immigration Museum until 6 May 2012.

Links:

Child Migrants Trust

'Innocence lost in lucky country', The Age, 11 October 2011

Inside: Dhurringile boys (National Museum of Australia)

Trepang today

Author
by Blair
Publish date
12 October 2011
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Comments (6)

When you see sausages at a butcher, or purchase a barbecued fundraising snag, spare a thought for the sausage-shaped marine animals that formed one of Australia's first export industries. The trade in trepang between Chinese, Macassan and northern Australian Aboriginal people is the focus of the Trepang exhibition at Melbourne Museum which closes on 16 October.

The trade of trepang or sea cucumbers dates back before 1700. The product is known by several names: trepang (Indonesian), bêche-de-mer (French), hai-sum (Chinese) and namako (Japanese). While the live animals are shaped like a sausage, the product that is eaten is usually the dried skin (body wall) or pickled intestines. In Japan they are generally eaten fresh.

sea cucumber packaged for sale Namako (sea cucumber) for sale in a Japanese supermarket.
Image: Hector Garcia
Source: Used under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) from kirainet
 

Today, trepang fisheries exist throughout the Indo-Pacific area, including Madagascar, Ecuador, Canada, New Zealand and northern parts of Australia. The products are most often consumed in China, Korea, Japan, and some smaller Indo-Pacific islands such as Samoa and Indonesia.

The Australian trade began with 600 tonnes in the early years – about six million live animals – to 11,000 tonnes in the 1990s. This high demand resulted in over-exploitation in some areas because the animals were easy to collect, slow growing and had low reproductive rates. As a result, today's fisheries target deeper water species and are carefully managed, but some species are still over-fished.

sea cucumber A sea cucumber (Stichopus mollis) in its natural habitat.
Image: Julian Finn
Source: Museum Victoria
 

So they look like sausages but do they taste like sausages? I asked around. The closest response was from Mel, one of the museum's marine collection managers who has lived in Japan.

"I've only eaten sea urchin [a related echinoderm group] which tasted like mushed-up prawns, but I've heard sea cucumbers taste rubbery."

Nonetheless they are a delicacy for some. Sea cucumbers are rumoured to have anti-inflammatory and aphrodisiac properties, although the latter may be based more on the shape and behaviour of the live animal rather than any scientific proof.

Chimp and human DNA

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
11 October 2011
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Exhibitions about science and technology are notoriously difficult to keep up-to date because those scientists just won't stop discovering and inventing things! Curator Kate Phillips encountered an example of this last week, after someone spotted a discrepancy between two Melbourne Museum exhibitions, Darwin to DNA (2000) and 600 Million Years: Victoria Evolves (2010).

Both exhibitions compare the similarity of DNA between chimpanzees and humans. The earlier exhibition states that there is less than two per cent difference while the more recent exhibition declares a 96 per cent similarity. While the numbers don't seem to agree, they're not necessarily incorrect because they compare different aspects of the genomes.

Face of young adult male chimpanzee. Young adult male chimpanzee.
Image: Frans de Waal, Emory University
Source: Used under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 from Wikimedia Commons.
 

Kate explains:

"The discrepancy comes about because these two exhibitions were developed ten years apart and the understanding of DNA has changed over that time. In 2001 the draft human genome was published and a final version in 2004. In 2005 the draft chimp genome was published and could be accurately compared to the human one. The percentage similarity that came out of this comparison was 96 per cent. Before this time the similarity was probably based on comparing known genes, and therefore was working with less information."

"However the percentage you come up with also depends on how you make the comparison – on which bits of the genome you compare and that could also account for the discrepancy. If you compare genes, we are more similar, if you include the non-coding sequences, we are slightly less similar. Really 98 per cent and 96 per cent are both indicate great genetic similarity."

Set of chromosomes of a human male. Chromosomes of a human male. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes and chimpanzees have 24 pairs.
Source: National Human Genome Research Institute
 

We love that someone noticed this because it means that people are reading exhibition text closely, and keeps us on our toes. It's also, as Kate concludes, a pointed demonstration of "the scale of scientific discovery in the area of genome research over the last ten to twenty years."

Links:

The Chimpanzee Sequencing and Analysis Consortium (2005) 'Initial sequence of the chimpanzee genome and comparison with the human genome' Nature, Vol 437 pp 69-87.  (PDF, 4.3 MB)

Media release from NIH News, 'New Genome Comparison Finds Chimps, Humans Very Similar at the DNA Level' (2005)

Steve Jobs 1955 – 2011

Author
by Simon Sherrin
Publish date
7 October 2011
Comments
Comments (0)

This post is by Simon Sherrin, the programmer behind MV's field guide app. He blogs at the Field Guide to the Field Guide.

Like so many, I was saddened yesterday to hear of the death of Steve Jobs. Due to the generosity of a number of donors, we are fortunate to have over 240 examples of hardware, software and trade literature relating to the history of the Apple Computer Company in our Information and Communication Collection.

Apple II computer and carry case Apple II computer system, circa 1978. The Apple II was the first commercially successful mass market personal computer to be designed and sold as a household or small business item (HT 13336).
Source: Museum Victoria
 

From a beige Apple II to a Bondi Blue iMac, from a 2001 iPod to a first generation iPhone, the company that the two Steves started in a garage in Silicon Valley has made a huge impact on computing.

Apple iPhone with headphones The 8 GB Apple iPhone from 2007, the most recent acquisition into MV's Apple collection. (HT 25320).
Source: Museum Victoria
 

It was the experience of playing with the iPad that led to the development of Museum Victoria's Field Guide to Victorian Fauna. There will always be debate around whether the 1977 Apple I was the first "personal computer", but with the iPhone and iPad, Jobs and his team have made computers that, to me, truly feel personal.

R.I.P Steve, you'll be missed.

Links:

Collections Online: Apple I replica

Original Apple I, Powerhouse Museum collection

Smithsonian Institution interview with Steve Jobs, 1995

ABC Lateline interview with Mike Daisey

Machines in Action training

Author
by Michelle Ladgrove
Publish date
6 October 2011
Comments
Comments (1)

Michelle is the Facilities Coordinator at Scienceworks, and as such has had to quickly learn the ins and outs of the building in her 10 months with the museum – every day brings new discoveries.

I've been at Scienceworks for only a short time in the big scheme of things, and was really proud to finally be able to take part in the training session for Machines in Action Day held here on the arena in September. The folks out here at Scienceworks kept referring to this 'MAD' day, and I couldn't help but wonder what it actually was - some very strange imagery certainly entered my mind I can tell you!

Upon seeing the giant old steam trucks brought out from their garage, it suddenly took me back to my childhood days (both in sights and smells) of visiting Puffing Billy. We had several enthusiastic volunteers shovelling coal, and driving these magnificent old engines around the arena. How easy we all have it now in our quiet cars that require only a keystart!

I jumped on board for a ride on the Super Sentinel Steam Wagon with Tom. Tom's a fitter and turner by trade, but he just loves being a part of the crew that get the old machines running. He told me how he had several at home he liked to tinker with, and it was really heartwarming to find out that the volunteers offer so much of their time to Scienceworks and to our lucky patrons, their only payment being opportunity to be a part of the fun.

Two men standing inside shed Tom and another volunteer outside the garage at Scienceworks.
Image: Michelle Ladgrove
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Des Lang, our supervisor for the Scienceworks Engineering workshop, jumped aboard and decided we'd take the Wagon out on the road to Willi (Williamstown for those who may not know)! Apparently they've taken her all the way to Mitcham before too, at a reasonable pace of 30-40kph mind you - not bad!

  Driving the Super Sentinel Steam Wagon. Inside the Sentinel, with Des and Tom.
Image: Michelle Ladgrove
Source: Museum Victoria
 

View from the driver's seat of the Super Sentinel Steam Wagon View from the driver's seat of the Super Sentinel Steam Wagon.
Image: Michelle Ladgrove
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The MAD Training session came to a close, and after a few rounds of the arena where I got to wave to the crowds and pull down on the steam whistle, we carefully backed the lovely old Sentinel back into the garage. I can honestly say that I am SO looking forward to the next Machines in Action Day on Sunday 9th October and will be bringing my family in to experience it too.

Thanks to the wonderful volunteers we have here at Scienceworks, and to Paula Collins who coordinates such an enormous group to which we owe so much. Hope to see you all there!

Links:

Access All Areas podcast Episode 20 - Roll out the steam engines

Machines in Action Day

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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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