Blog

Hissing and Hopping through the Australian Museum

By: Vanessa Gardos, Category: Lifelong Learning, Date: 12 Mar 2018

Work experience at the museum is one of the best things any aspiring scientist could do.

Hissing and Hopping through the Australian Museum

Hissing and Hopping through the Australian Museum
Photographer: Australian Museum © Australian Museum

In November 2017, Harry joined us for work experience. Here's how he spent his week.   

The Australian Museum is a place of wonder for anyone. But for those who are extremely lucky, there is the opportunity to experience much more of the museum - beyond what is on display to the public. I was one of those lucky people who got to see the magnificence of the museum as a work experience student!

For a whole week I got to go behind the scenes and see the extensive collection that the Museum harbours. From miniscule insects to GARGAUNTUAN dinosaurs, they have it all. But what really grabbed my attention was the huge collection of reptiles and amphibians. I spent two days working alongside some great herpetologists (reptile and amphibian scientists) including Jodi Rowley and Steve Mahoney.

The first day was amazing. I watched in awe as Jodi extracted liver tissue from Papua New Guinean snakes so that it could be DNA tested to determine the species. Stephen then helped me measure the length of some baby snakes that had been preserved in jars of ethanol for years. After that, I went into the massive room that housed almost all of the herpetological specimens that the public don’t get to see. I got to work with delicate specimens of the recently extinct Gastric-Brooding Frog. After a long day replenishing ethanol into jars filled with animals, I went home to recharge for the next day.

My second day in the herpetology department was amazing. Before my very eyes lay two pythons, a death adder and a large male bearded dragon (although all were sadly deceased). My gloves and mask on, I started work and with steady hands and focused eyes I dissected the animals, preparing them for skeletal articulation, a long process that leads to the skeleton of the animal being preserved in its natural shape without the skin. The first step was to remove the skin from the inner tissue. It sounded simple, but proved difficult, taking 30 minutes to take the skin off the head of one of the pythons. At the end of the day we soaked the animals in water to remove any excess tissue.

After a week of work experience I had learnt so much! From the ever-growing amount of rare and wonderful specimens and artefacts to the amazing scientists that call this building home, I could not help but feel inspired. This was an incredible experience that I would recommend to anyone. I am certain I will be visiting again soon.

In 2018, the Australian Museum (AM) will offer work experience opportunities to students in Years 10, 11 and 12. Opportunities will be offered across a variety of AM departments, including areas of the AM focussed on scientific exploration and discovery, as well as ‘behind-the-scenes’ departments such as education, public programming and exhibitions whose work relates to the general running of the AM.

The work experience program opens for applications on 5 March 2018 and closes on 6 April 2018.

For more information visit our website