Episode 7 - Flockumentary

November 28, 2008 14:47 by andi

Whilst cleaning my home the other day I had an insight. (Yeah, I was glad too, it had been a while). Perhaps it was not so much an insight but a prediction or even a theory. I think I came up with this because I have a newfound appreciation of birds since talking to Museum Victoria staff about the world of birds.

My theory is that people have at least three effigies of birds in their homes. Don’t believe me? Well ... check the bathroom ... do you own a rubber duckie? How about decorative birds in the lounge room? (e.g. the retro-classic of three ceramic birds in flight.) Look in the garden: maybe you have a rooster wind vane, some terracotta geese, or those crazy wooden birds whose wings spin around in the wind? Safari into the kitchen (too easy) and check the oven mitts and tea towels.

I bet that someone in your household has depictions of feathered friends on their pyjamas. I have sleepy penguins on mine. Even my laundry cleaner is a toilet duck!

Got to fly

Dr Andi

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image_spread.jpg Visitors marvelling at the Elephant bird skeleton and egg.| Eggs in the specimen lab.| Rory with his bird preparations.


Episode 6 - Knee deep ... Knee deep

November 12, 2008 11:37 by andi

It happened a long time ago but I still remember studying for my Biology 101 exam at my friend Tim’s house. After chatting about the kidneys of salt water fish and many other zoological marvels (which seemed not so marvellous cos we were cramming for an exam) it was time for a coffee break. Tim made the coffees and as he opened the fridge door I caught a glimpse of a row of jars containing frog specimens! Yikes … (Tim’s Dad was a frog researcher.) Whilst I have accidentally grown scarier things in fridges, this was a surprise.

Leapfrog into the future to today and I have finally met the man responsible for this unforgettable experience; he is Associate Professor Murray Littlejohn who is a legend in the frog world for recording frog calls since the late 1950s. He is an honourary fellow here at Museum Victoria and his collection of frog sounds has been digitised for the Museum web site.

Let’s get “knee deep knee deep” once again into the world of frogs.

Dr Andi

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image_spread.jpg Murray Littlejohn with his new book Frogs of Tasmania.| Portable windup reel-to-reel recording equipment used to record frogs in the late-1950s. | Litoria littlejohni: a frog named after Murray Littlejohn. Photo of Littlejohn's Tree Frog taken at Minchin Track, Victoria.


Episode 5 - The Pond-cast

September 30, 2008 10:53 by andi

I don’t actually own a pair of gumboots. That’s how much of an apartment-living, non-outdoor type of city gal I am. So when the PhD students who study Victorian frogs suggested I come on a field trip with them to a large frog pond I released a slow, drawn-out, reluctant, unsure but polite “okay”, thinking: I can still get out of this.

Yes, yours truly – the daring reporter, who intrepidly goes behind the scenes, ventures into hazardous laboratories and dares to go into collection stores where only a few museum staff and contracted cleaners ever go – was not keen about anything beyond Map 58 of the Melbourne road map directory. But this was a rare opportunity to go with tomorrow’s expert herpetologist where no “Access all Areas” had gone before.

So I confessed to the students the only frogs I am brave enough to hold are the chocolate ones I can buy from the I.T. staff canteen and went looking for gumboots. Luckily Dr Jo from marine invertebrates group found me a pair (thanks honey!).

Well … what a great night … I didn’t get to kiss the frog prince but I did get to hold hands.

Frog Princess for a night,  Dr Andi

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Josh looking for frogs in the pond.| Katie makes contact with the Southern Brown tree frog (Litoria ewingi) | Andi holding hands with Katie and Litoria ewingi (the frog prince).


Episode 4 - Lizards of Oz

September 3, 2008 14:14 by andi

Like most adult inner-city dwellers I rarely encounter reptiles and, when I do, they are usually in the form of lollies, like the impulse-buy giant multicoloured pythons at convenience store counters. Then there are the packets of jelly snakes often supplied at corporate training sessions, interdepartmental brainstorms and kids’ parties.


When faced with a bowl of jelly snakes, I still dive in for a red one first, I still stretch them out until they snap (or almost snap depending on mood) and gobble them head first with gusto and childish delight.


Mental note to self: okay to do at kids’ parties but not so impressive with senior museum managers.


In this episode of ‘Access all Areas’ we visit a chameleon who has a special permit to be an Australian citizen, a skink couple, the skink wrangler, lizard researchers and a real (not jelly) snake handler.


Join us in an audio encounter of the reptilian kind.

Dr Andi


P.S. Sing “We’re off to see the lizards … the wonderful lizards of Oz because because because because because … because because!”


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Leela, Veiled Chameleon. Photographer: Alan Henderson, Source: Museum Victoria| Dr Jane Melville identifying a snake (Elaphe dione) in Kazakhastan, Central Asia. Source: Museum Victoria | Sign at Scienceworks. A few tiger snakes have crawled on the campus. (Dr Andi)


Episode 3 - Celebrity Rocks

August 5, 2008 20:21 by andi

Hello pod adventurers!

As it nears lunch-time here at work and my brain starts to resemble a slow-moving lava lamp, I know I only have to synthesise two simple thoughts: discovering the weather conditions outside the window and therefore deciding which of the local cafes gets my lunch money and patronage.

But wind back a million years ago to the same window vista and all I would see is volcanic smoke as Victoria (Australia) was a volcanic frenzy! And the only option for lunch would be smoked anything sandwiches. Okay I made that last bit up! So how do we know there was lava flow long ago? You guessed it, the rock-solid evidence of rock specimens: they map the story of our planet.

What blew me away in this pod episode was even though geology and mineralogy have been around forever as scientific pursuits, there are still rocks left unturned, and geoscientists are finding new minerals every year.

I pod, therefore I have rocks in my head and you will too when you hear what Pyrite and Pumice have to say about being museum specimens.

Rock on, Dr Andi.

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Beautiful Birchite. (Dr Andi) | The Bunyip Gold Nugget — This 50-ounce nugget was found near Bridgewater in the Loddon Valley and acquired by Museum Victoria in 1977. (MV Photographer Frank Coffa) | Dermot Henry clutches a special rock... (Dr Andi)


Episode 2 - Dinos of a Feather

July 1, 2008 11:43 by andi

Hi there and Hej! (hello in Swedish).

I've been doing a bit of travel recently - I've been in Washington, Toronto, Stockholm and I'm on my way to Copenhagn today. What makes cities round the world really feel like foreign places to me is not the architecture, the language on the street, or the different flavoured kiosk snacks... It's the amazing range of bird life. As a Melbournian I got very excited at seeing a gaggle (love that word) of geese out the bus window on the freeway in Toronto and yelled "look everybody - geese!". I got that quick bemused smile from my fellow travellers. In Sweden I keep seeing an unusual (well unusal for me as a Melbournian) grey brown bird (it could be the same one that is following me).

Anyway, what is even more extraordinary is that the ancestors of all this bird life around our planet were therapod dinosuars. Now that is exciting to all of us on the bus!

Cheers and chirps, and enjoy this month's episode - Dr Andi

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Archaeopteryx, A bird's eye view of the dinosaurs at Melbourne Museum, Chef Sean serves up a tasty dish at the cafe. (all images by Dr Andi)


Episode 1 - Bee Nice to Curators

May 30, 2008 14:00 by andi

I have had a mortal fear of bees and bee stings ever since I was a kid, having seen and heard one too many neighbourhood chums howling after being stung.

So far I’ve managed to avoid getting stung myself, so it is with great fascination (and relief at maintaining my safety record) that I can view a bee hive from behind glass at Melbourne Museum.

It’s truly an amazing sight to see the bees clambering over the comb and doing their thing: they must be among the busiest hardest working public servants around (except perhaps the drones – you’ll find out why in the pod cast).

Having pondered the notion that we must surely know everything about bees by now - well apparently not so, as we find out from entomology researchers ‘what still needs investigating’. I also ponder the notion: if the Museum specimens could talk, what would they say? I ponder, therefore I pod or rather, I podcast.

Bee nice to the curators and museum staff: they do important work! - Dr Andi

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Images: Simon the entomology enthusiast (Source: Dr Andi), Female worker bees 'working for reward' (Source: Museum Victoria), Luke is manager of live exhibits and 'King Bee' (Source: Dr Andi)