Having toured this collection of: sound; mammals; eggs; pelts/hides; bones and nests in draws and boxes; reptiles in jars of alcohol, we visit two labs and the collection of bird specimens. The first (lab) is for the CT scanner where the morphology of skeletons and bones can be imaged for further research and analysis. In the second (lab) surrounded by the paraphernalia of working tools, equipment, benches and refrigerators storing specimens, Gill Pfitzner is concentrating on the delicate task of preparing a small Rock Warbler* (Origima solitaria) for the bird collection. This is the last part of the whole Wildlife Collection to see and Leo Joseph shows me the range and extent of bird specimens held here: from the huge Cassowary (1.5-2 m) and exotic Birds of Paradise (from PNG) to the numerous and more familiar species of Parrots, Pigeons and Wrens. We marvel at the variety of markings, colour, iridescent feathers, the way different techniques such as DNA samples of a specimen can be applied to developing and understanding more about its evolutionary relationships (and can challenge existing knowledge).
*Images and sound recordings of the Rock Warblers can be found on <http://graemechapman.com.au/cgi-bin/viewphotos.php?c=444>
More information of how this and other national collections contribute to the national and international biological knowledge <http://www.csiro.au/science/Australian-biological-collections.html>
Friday 15 JULY: I met Dr John La Salle, Head of the Australian National Insect Collection (ANIC) at CSIRO Discovery Centre and on our way to his office at ANIC he points out a lurp insect in a leaf (of an overhanging eucalyptus tree) and begins to explain his work on the parasitic wasp Hymenoptera. There are 10-12 million insect specimens in this collection and although insect collecting (and entomology) is often represented by spectacular colour and patterning of butterflies and beetles, the microscopic scale of this specific insect is remarkable and significant.