The marine stage of the Museum's expedition to Timor-Leste has begun, with the team arriving safely in Darwin.
Darwin. The city, not the father of evolution. Although he's here in spirit I'm sure. Not that I've tested that hypothesis. Or had it peer-reviewed. It's just a feeling -- anyway, where was I?
Darwin. Capital of the Northern Territory, regional centre of the Top End, gateway to Timor-Leste, and for 18 hours host to the Australian Museum's crack squad of marine scientists.
And what was the first place we visited after we checked into our hotel? The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. You have to respect our dedication.
Jokes aside, the Museum was in fact extremely interesting and a great way to start the trip. We were greeted by one-time Australian Museum employee Helen Larson, Emeritus Curator of Fishes, and led on a tour of the Gone Fishin'... The Reel Top End Story exhibition by Curator Michael Hammer.
It's been a big success, Michael told us, with nearly everyone in the institution involved. Focussed on how fishing has influenced culture in the Top End, the exhibition has been able to reach new audiences - something all Museums hope to achieve.
One photo opportunity in particular was just too good to pass up but they're just half of the scientists on this expedition. Allow me to introduce The Marine Team:
From left to right:
"It’s exciting to think that the information that we learn from this expedition will be used for planning purposes by officials in Timor Leste."
- Mark McGrouther is the Fish Collection Manager. During his 30 years at the Museum he has participated on many expeditions within Australia, South-east Asia and the Pacific.
"I love fish."
- Amanda Hay started as a volunteer for the Fish Department while completing her undergraduate science degree. Since that time she's been involved in research that looks at the taxonomy and ecology of larval fishes.
"It will be fascinating to compare the species I hope to find with those living nearby in tropical Australia – I expect there will be some interesting differences and similarities that reflect the biogeographic history of the region."
- Rosemary Golding is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Malacology department and studies mangrove snails.
"This trip I'm hoping to find the tricky kind that live amongst sand grains, and masquerade as worms!"
- Nerida Wilson is an evolutionary biologist that is particularly partial to sea slugs; tricky and non-tricky ones alike.
"Sometimes it's like they're speaking another language."
- Your Truly is an online producer with a media background, learning something new every moment of this trip.
"In order to sustainably manage cephalopod fisheries we need to know what species are found where. My goal on this trip is to identify as many cephalopod species as possible and see what the locals are catching and eating!"
- Mandy Reid is Collection Manager for Malacology (molluscs). Molluscs include snails, clams and squid and she has a particular interest in squids, octopuses and cuttlefishes (collectively called cephalopods).
"We will be exploring new frontiers in terms of the fish fauna that is present in this region, perhaps even discovering new species."
- Sally Reader has been a Technical Officer in the Fish department for a number of years.
Anna Murray is a Technical Officer in the Marine Invertebrates department.
Lauren Hughes is a Postdoctoral Researcher in our Marine Research department.
"For the last few years I have been studying a group of amphipods known commonly as ‘beach-hoppers’. Amphipods play an important role as a food source for shore birds and shallow water fish. I am hoping to place the East Timor species into the broader Indo-Pacific story."
- Jim Lowry is Principal Research Scientist and has been studying small crustaceans called amphipods as a scientist at the Australian Museum for about 30 years.
Barry Russell is Curator Emeritus at the Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT), Darwin. He started his career at the Australian Museum in the 1970s as research assistant before later taking up a position at the MAGNT in 1982. He has worked extensively in the Northern Australia and the South East Asia region, including Timor Leste and Indonesia.
"Timor is on the Australian Tectonic Plate, even though it is now part of the Indonesian Archipelago. We’ll be looking at the species of reef fishes in East Timor, and how they may or may not differ both morphologically and genetically from Australian reef fishes."
- Jeff Leis is a Senior Principal Research Scientist and has been studying fishes in the tropical Pacific for over 40 years.
"On this trip I am collecting fishes and crustaceans. I love field work and enjoy the camerarderie, team work and learning new stuff."
- Penny Berents is Head of Natural Sciences and has more than 40 years experience as a diver and field biologist.
"I hope to collect various groups of worms in East Timor through diving and expect many to be species new to science. To date no seaworms have ever been described from the region."
- Pat Hutchings is a recognised international polychaete (seaworms) expert and has spent a lifetime studying worms.