The Australian Museum has a long history of presenting lectures and seminars on a variety of scientific and cultural topics. That tradition continues with the Australian Museum Research Institute Seminar Series, a platform for AMRI scientists and associates to present recent research and findings to their peers.

Since 2020, many of these presentations have been delivered online due to the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic. Below you can find some of these recordings.

The delayed rise of flowering plants

Presented by Dr Hervé Sauquet

Senior Research Scientist, The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, Sydney

Recorded Wednesday 19 May 2021

The rise of angiosperms was a major revolution in Earth’s history, yet many aspects of their diversification remain unresolved. Extant and fossil data are both critical to understand angiosperm macroevolution and intersect particularly in calibration of molecular dating analyses and in phylogenetic assessments of fossil taxa, but this integration remains often limited and both sources of data are typically under-utilized. Here, Dr Hervé Sauquet presents results from a new molecular dating study of angiosperms as a whole, calibrated with the most comprehensive set of fossil age constraints to date (238 calibrations). They found substantial time lags (37-56 Myr) between the origin of families (stem age) and the diversification leading to extant species (crown ages), raising new questions about the tempo of angiosperm diversification. Dr Sauquet will then introduce the first results from ongoing work aiming at including 100 fossil flowers as tips in angiosperm phylogenetic analyses by recording their traits in their expanding eFLOWER dataset.

Biodiversity of small cryptic fishes in the Coral Sea

Presented by Dr Chris Goatley

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of New England; Research Associate, Ichthyology, Australian Museum Research Institute; and, 2020-21 AMF/AMRI Visiting Research Fellow.

Recorded Wednesday 14 April 2021

Dr Chris Goatley is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of New England in Armidale. He was recently appointed as an AMRI Research Associate-Ichthyology and received a 2020-21 AMF/AMRI Visiting Research Fellowship. His research focuses on the biodiversity and functional ecology of small cryptobenthic reef fishes, which are highly abundant on coral reefs around the world, yet often overlooked. In this seminar, Chris presents preliminary data from a recent research trip, during which he and other AMRI staff collected these cryptobenthic fishes from reefs spanning the length of the Coral Sea. He discusses the patterns of cryptobenthic fish biodiversity, new species records and potential new species discoveries made on these remote Australian reefs.

Gerard Krefft, Wilhelm Blandowski and the library that travelled

Presented by Vanessa Finney

Manager, World Cultures, Archives & Library, Australian Museum.

Recorded Monday 07 December 2020

On his 1857 natural history expedition to the Murray River, German naturalist Wilhelm Blandowski did not just take the usual load of guns, boxes, barrels and preserving spirits. He also took an unusual library of around 250 books. The library has since travelled on to Germany where it is held in the collections of the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin. The library's contents and the story of its travels are a great tool for thinking about the role of books, reading and writing in nineteenth century natural history and field collecting.

The 1857 expedition was also the training ground for AM Curator/Director Gerard Krefft. That makes the library important for Krefft's story; filling in more details on his background, his education, his intellectual and scientific influences and the hands-on, practical approach to natural history he brought to his work at the Australian Museum from 1860 to 1874. His mutterings and grumblings about Blandowski tell us something about his coming troubles at the AM, too.

Invertebrate conservation in the North East Forests of New South Wales

Presented by Professor Shawn Laffan

School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales; Australian Museum, collaborator.

Recorded Wednesday 14 October 2020

Invertebrate taxa such as bugs, beetles and snails, are an important but often overlooked part of the ecosystem, despite the fact that they make up 75% of terrestrial species. The bushfires of 2019/2020 resulted in 10 million burnt hectares, mostly in the forests of the Great Dividing Range of NSW - hundreds of invertebrate species were impacted. Fortunately, much of this area has been previously surveyed for invertebrates by UNSW and the Australian Museum, including a seminal survey of the North East Forests in 1993.

UNSW and the Australian Museum are now embarking on a project to develop a spatial, taxonomic and ecological information system to re-assess invertebrates in these areas, using the 1993 baseline data to determine the effect of the 2019/2020 mega-fires on these rarely studied species. This is funded by the Australian Government’s Wildlife and Habitat Bushfire Recovery program. Project outcomes will include nomination of threatened invertebrate species, as well as selection of sites for active restoration projects. We will also link with local and indigenous communities, and partner with a citizen science project to train local communities to help monitor these species.

Fairy Wrasses and Fairy Tales

Presented by Yi-Kai Tea

University of Sydney, School of Life and Environmental Sciences; 2019-20 AMF/AMRI Postgraduate Award recipient, Ichthyology Australian Museum Research Institute.

Recorded Wednesday 14 September 2020

The fairy wrasses (genus Cirrhilabrus) are among the most captivating and successful of the extant wrasse lineages (Teleostei: Labridae), with their 61 species accounting for nearly 10% of the family. Understanding the reasons for this success has however been hindered by the poor phylogenetic resolution of the genus. Although species complexes within the genus have been diagnosed on the basis of coloration patterns and synapomorphies, previous attempts to resolve the evolutionary relationships using molecular and morphological data have largely been unsuccessful. Join Yi-Kai Tea, recipient of the 2019-20 AMF/AMRI Postgraduate Award recipient, in this month’s online seminar where he will be discussing his recent research: Phylogenomic Analysis of Ultraconserved Elements Reveals the Recent Evolutionary Radiation of the Wrasse Genus Cirrhilabrus. In this recent study, Yi-Kai Tea, with Xin Xu, Joseph D. DiBattista, Nathan Lo, Peter F. Cowman, and Simon Ho, used a phylogenomic approach comprising 991 ultraconserved elements (UCEs) and mitochondrial COI to uncover the evolutionary history and patterns of temporal and spatial diversification of the fairy wrasses. Overall, this study demonstrates the resolving power of UCEs across shallow timescales, in a phylogenetically recalcitrant taxonomic group characterized by few robust morphological characters and where previous molecular studies have been unsuccessful.

Using DNA to understand connections between animals and plants: the giant panda and bamboo

Presented by Dr Linda E Neaves

Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University; and Research Associate, The Australian Museum.

Recorded Wednesday 12 August 2020

Giant pandas mainly eat bamboo. However, beneath this simplistic statement lies a complex issue: bamboo species are difficult to tell apart (even using standard genetic methods) and over 60 species have been reported in panda habitat and may be consumed, depending on availability and individual preferences. In addition, pandas occasionally eat food other than bamboo. In a project led by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in collaboration with the Australian Museum, Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Sichuan University, and Royal Zoological Society Scotland, DNA-based methods were used to investigate the diet of giant panda. A detailed picture of diet was obtained through a combination of broad-brush meta-barcodes to establish what was being eaten in addition to bamboo, and tailor-made SNP assays to discriminate among bamboo species in panda diet. Application of these SNP assays to the bamboos throughout panda habitat revealed unexpected diversity across bamboos associated with panda as well as insights into their taxonomy. Together, these methods and information help to refine our understanding of panda habitat, how this may change in the future and how it can best be restored.

Discovering the biological diversity of Tasmania's underwater mountains and associated worms

Presented by Dr Laetitia Gunton

Chadwick Biodiversity Fellow at the Australian Museum Research Institute.

Recorded Wednesday 13 May 2020

In December 2018, scientists from the Australian Museum Research Institute joined a team of researchers from around Australasia on the ‘Seamount Corals Survey 2018,’ led by CSIRO and Parks Australia on board the Marine National Facility's RV ‘Investigator’. It was a month-long research voyage to map and explore deep-sea cold-water corals and their associated marine life on seamounts south of Tasmania. Also on board the ship was a team of journalists and camera crew documenting the scientific research and life on a scientific research expedition. Dr Gunton will screen a series of short documentary films produced by the journalists during the voyage. Dr Gunton will also discuss how the diverse array of deep-sea biological samples collected during the expedition are being used by researchers at the Australian Museum to better understand these fascinating deep-sea environments.

Origins - How the Earth made us

Presented by Professor Lewis Dartnell

University of Westminster.

Recorded at the Australian Museum 19 March 2019

When we talk about human history, we focus on great leaders, mass migration and decisive wars. But how has the Earth itself determined our destiny? How has our planet made us? From the cultivation of the first crops to the founding of modern states, AM audiences are in for a treat as Professor Lewis Dartnell speaks about Origins and reveals the Earth’s awesome impact on the shape of human civilisations.

As a species we are shaped by our environment. Geological forces drove our evolution in East Africa; mountainous terrain led to the development of democracy in Greece; and today voting behaviour in the United States follows the bed of an ancient sea. The human story is the story of these forces, from plate tectonics and climate change, to atmospheric circulation and ocean currents.

How are the Himalayas linked to the orbit of the Earth, and to the formation of the British Isles? By taking us billions of years into our planet’s past, Professor Lewis Dartnell tells us the ultimate origin story. When we reach the point where history becomes science we see a vast web of connections that underwrites our modern world and helps us face the challenges of the future.

Lewis Dartnell is an astrobiology researcher and professor at the University of Westminster. He has won several awards for his science writing, and contributes to the Guardian, The Times and New Scientist. He has also written for television and appeared on BBC Horizon, Sky News, and Wonders of the Universe, as well as National Geographic and History channels. A tireless populariser of science, his books include the bestselling The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch. Previous venues for Dartnell's speaking engagements have included TED, the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal Institution and the London Natural History Museum, amongst many others.

The growth of fish in light of the gill-oxygen limitation theory

Presented by Dr Daniel Pauly

University of British Columbia.

Recorded at the Australian Museum on 15 August 2018.