Luke Simpkin

Manager, Live Exhibits

Listen and read

I’m Luke Simpkin and I’m Manager of Live Exhibits at Melbourne Museum.

If a stranger asks me what I do, I say…  I’m responsible for everything that is alive in the museum that isn’t human.

The first thing I do when I get to work is… enter the forest gallery and I have a bit of a walk through before any of the public are in here just to check out what’s happening and to see how everything is going. In a sense I’m pretending I’m a visitor wandering through for the first time, so I look to see whether things seem to make sense, whether there signs are in the wrong spots, whether any of the animals are active, whether there might be anything that might be dangerous for people, or just get a sense of the ambiance of the space that might be what people will experience for the day.

Later this week… I’ll be helping the garden crew do some planting up in Millari Garden. We’ve got some new plants there, some Kangaroo Grass and some other native grasses that are Aboriginal-use plants and we are planting out a little area there.

I first got into this area... at the museum. I was working at the zoo at the time. I was one of the teaching staff and I was helping to coordinate the teaching staff at the zoo so their responsibility was to provide programs for school students that would come on weekdays. Also to provide some programs for weekends and provide curriculum materials and we were also involved in a number of projects at the zoo. It was that sort of project work that helped get me over the line for the big project of the Forest Gallery at Melbourne Museum.

In my job it’s important to… support the animal keepers and the horticulture staff. Make sure they have the resources they need, the time they need and the training and cross-pollination that they need in order to do their job really well. They’re really passionate people and they really want to do terrific stuff, so apart from the resource side of things it is to make sure that we are all pretty much going in the same direction, that we all share the vision for the place and what we would like to do, both for the animals and plants but particularly for the visitors that come here.

Others say I… should resign from my job so they can have it!

In my job I never dreamed I would… hold a Veiled Chameleon in my hand and feed it crickets. Just watching that 30 cm tongue shoot out and grab the cricket is something that really takes my breath away.

If I had a magic wand I would… certainly like to see live animal or plant displays integrated throughout all of the new museum exhibitions that are developed over the next ten years and in the Forest Gallery in particular if I had a magic wand I would like to see all the people who come to the Forest Gallery actually get out and see the real forest itself. I like to think that when they come here get a bit of taste of something that really excites their appetite and gets them to go out and see the real thing for themselves.

In the crystal ball, I can see my job is… always going to be really interesting. There’s absolutely never a dull day - but the crystal ball would really be terrific if you really had one because you never know quite what is going to happen from one day to the next. I might be trying to manage a swarm of bees in our display hive, or we might be worming wrens, or helping praying mantids hatch out of their ootheca and pop them off into little enclosures, I mean it could be just about anything that happens on any day.

What’s that?
That’s the male Yellow Robin that we introduced to the gallery about a month ago. Yellow Robins are a typical wet forest bird. I like to call  the ‘photographer’s friend’ because when they fly to a perch and sit still, they’ll sit there perfectly still, long enough for you to whip out your SLR, turn it on, adjust the lenses, frame it up and take a photograph where as most birds are gone in a blink of an eye. This current spring, the male is just getting accustomed to his environment here but at Healesville Sanctuary and Taronga zoo they are breeding Yellow Robins and a new female from one of those populations will be introduced next spring to this male that you can hear in the Forest Gallery.

What’s that?
That’s a Red-Browed Finch and you can see a few more there that are drinking from the pond. Red-Browed Finches are a little seed-eating bird. They live in little groups and true to their name they have a red beak and red eyebrows. It’s a bit like red eye make-up, but only the adults have that – you might notice a couple of them have a black beak and no red eye make-up and they are this year’s babies that are just following the adults around.

Outside the Forest Gallery I like to... go surfing and I like to get out in the garden.

“Others say I should resign from my job so they can have it!”

Image Gallery

Bower of Satin Bowerbird The Forest Gallery Cunningham's Skink