Julian Finn

Senior Curator, Marine Invertebrates

SCUBA diver
Julian Finn diving with a camera.
Source: Museum Victoria

Dr Julian Finn has 20 years experience in marine invertebrate research (primarily studying cephalopods - octopuses, squids, cuttlefishes and nautiluses) and is involved in diverse projects revealing and promoting Victoria’s unique marine environment.


For two decades Julian has conducted marine invertebrate research from the tropics of Indonesia and Baja California to the shores of Antarctica. Julian has spent thousands of hours diving underwater collecting and photographing new species. He has tracked cephalopods using radio acoustic positioning telemetry, conducted blue and black-water-hangs (hanging under the boat in open-ocean, during the day and night), designed, constructed and deployed specialist light traps for capturing planktonic fauna and spent many months on ocean voyages collecting and studying deep sea life.

Julian has discovered and described new species and genera, reported novel behaviours in octopus and cuttlefish and even described how dolphin master-chefs prepare their cuttlefish meals.

Julian’s cephalopod research has received intense media attention. A recent study describing tool use in octopus was covered by over 500 websites with the story on BBC receiving 1.3 million views in the first days alone. When posted on YouTube, Julian’s footage received over 1 million views in the first weeks and remains amongst the ‘Most Discussed’, ‘Most Viewed’, ‘Top Favorited’ and ‘Top Rated’ Australian Science & Technology stories of all time.

Julian has worked as a freelance cameraman and scientific consultant on over 30 international documentaries shooting stories in diverse locations including Japan, Indonesia and Mexico. Julian’s footage has appeared on all Australian TV channels and featured in documentaries produced by BBC (UK), National Geographic (USA) and NHK (Japan).

Julian is an avid underwater stills photographer with a passion for macro (close-up) photography. Julian took the majority of the underwater images in Museum Victoria’s Marine Life Exhibition and his images feature in marine field guides and publications produced by Museum Victoria.

Current activities

Resolving the blue-ringed octopus fauna of Australia: taxonomy, phylogeny and human health hazards of the genus Hapalochlaena (Family Octopodidae)

With the support of the Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS) and Museum Victoria, Julian is undertaking a detailed taxonomic revision of the Australian blue-ringed octopuses (genus Hapalochlaena). While blue-ringed octopuses are renowned for their dramatic colour patterns, high toxicity and for causing human fatalities, knowledge of these distinctive small octopuses remains surprisingly poor. Julian’s research will describe all Australian blue-ringed octopus species, determine their distributions and investigate their biology and venom.

Underwater Backyard - showcasing the beauty of Victoria’s unique marine environment.

Julian recently filmed underwater fish-eye footage at six locations around Port Phillip, for a Scienceworks exhibition titled Underwater Backyard. The footage, when projected inside a 3 m vertical dome, produced a virtual aquarium allowing visitors to take a dive into their local waters without getting wet. Julian is extremely passionate about showcasing the beautiful underwater world of our southern seas, to inspire the next generation to become advocates and custodians of this unique environment. Julian hopes to take his filming to the next level, producing an immersive underwater experience for projection within Scienceworks state-of-the-art planetarium and on Melbourne Museum’s gigantic IMAX screen.

Systematics and biology of the argonauts or ‘paper nautiluses’ (Cephalopoda: Argonautidae)

Julian’s PhD research (conducted through Museum Victoria and La Trobe University) examined a family of open-octopuses known as argonauts (or ‘paper nautiluses’). Julian reviewed thousands of years of literature, examined specimens in museums around the world and dived intensively to gain an understanding of these mysterious marine creatures. Julian is currently writing scientific papers about his findings.

Under the Lens – documenting and promoting Victoria’s marine parks

In collaboration with Parks Victoria, Julian is documenting the biodiversity of Victoria’s marine parks through regular photographic surveys. Julian is taking underwater imagery (photographs and video) to document the park’s inhabitants and aid in the understanding, promotion and protection of Victoria’s marine life.

Museum Victoria guides to marine life

Julian is authoring guides to marine gastropods and cephalopods, and has coauthored a guide to Sponges (2013). Julian’s underwater images also feature in the published guides An Introduction to Marine Life (2008), Crabs, Hermit Crabs and Allies (2008), Barnacles (2009) and Shrimps, Prawns and Lobsters (2015).

Museum Victoria diving operations

Julian oversees diving operations at Museum Victoria, assisting staff and students with diving research and ensuring that safe diving practices are implemented.

Last updated 27 May 2015