The Australian Museum has begun one of the largest scientific expeditions in its almost 170 years of history.

One of our nearest neighbours is one of the biologically least explored places on earth.

This year the Australian Museum will undertake a survey of the biodiversity and conservation of Timor-Leste, the first combined terrestrial and marine expedition ever to the country and one of the largest scientific expeditions organised by the Australian Museum in its almost 170 years of history.

The first group of eight researchers departed in late May for a two week expedition to study snails and insects. This will be followed in September by ten marine biologists, who will study the biodiversity in marine habitats.

The Australian Museum Scientists will not only document biodiversity distribution using a modern conservation approach but they will also seek to test planning concepts for an efficient national park system which will sustain all important ecosystem services.

Two Australian Museum Scientists and a museum associate undertook a short scouting trip to Timor-Leste in November last year in preparation for these major expeditions.

In just 12 days, over 400 species of insects and snails were collected – including many new beetle species collected by the Australian Museum’s beetle specialist, Chris Reid.

Chris said the initial trip merely scratched the surface of Timor-Leste’s natural heritage.

“The age of Timor-Leste is in dispute, but as an isolated piece of land, it is likely to hold a mixture of animals related to Australia and New Guinea to the south and east, and to the main Indonesian archipelago to the north and west,” he said.

“Therefore we anticipate discovering some fascinating insights into the origins of some Australian animal groups.”