Jessie Sinclair

Live Exhibits animal keeper

Listen and read

If a stranger asks what I do, I… normally ask, 'how recently have you been to the Melbourne Museum?' And if they say, ‘not recently’ then I say, ‘well, we actually have live animals here and I look after them.’

The first thing I do when I get to work is… Say good morning to our reptiles. I poke my head in and make sure they’re okay.

And later this week I… am actually meeting up with a whole lot of animal keepers from around Australia and we’re going to talk animal records for four whole days. We’ll be talking about how they’re maintained – a lot of fun if you’re a record keeper!

I first got into this area… when I was at university studying entomology. So I was studying bugs – I was actually doing conservation with ants. That fascinated me. And I landed a job here after volunteering at the museum.

In my job, it’s important to... have a lot of common sense, think logically, and have a good time. For example, whenever I go and check an animal out to make sure it’s healthy, I look at its behaviour; I look at how it has been feeding.

Others say I… have an awesome job

In my job, I never dreamed I would… have done a lot things! Like writing a book about keeping bugs alive. I never dreamed I would find a new species of spider – one of the really rare insects up around Cairns. It was in 2006 and we were up around the Cairns area, doing field collection for Bugs Alive. It was about 3am and we’d spent the whole night collecting bugs. And then one of our staff members spotted it up a tree. It took four people to bring this amazing huntsman spider down. It was bright orange with black markings and we knew just by looking at it that it was something new.

If I had a magic wand, I would… be Harry Potter’s girlfriend! And have live exhibits all through the museum to help explain concepts covered by the museum.

In the crystal ball, I can see my job… could become a lot more important as our world changes. There may be more and more animals that need our care as animal keepers.

What's that for?

Jessie Sinclair in front of some insect enclosures and toolsAll these tools are mainly for our food preparation. We do have a mini-kitchen, designed for our mini-animals. But we also have lots of funny things like special feeders that have barbs that come out the front just so we can feed our cockroaches to our giant waterbugs. We have long feeding tongs for our venomous snakes, and we use forceps for our Sydney Funnel-web and poisonous spiders: they all need to be fed at a distance.

A chart displaying a record of animals requiring attention from Museum Victoria's Live ExhibitsAs spring comes up in the Forest Gallery we have lots of animals that come out to bask – lots of skinks and things that have been sleeping through the winter. This list is a record when we catch up with them: as they come out we give them a health check where we weigh and worm and give them a general check-up.

Outside the office I… love to cook. But not with bugs.

“I never dreamed I would find a new species of spider...”

Image Gallery

Jessie Sinclair Jessie Sinclair Jessie Sinclair