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DigiVol: What... you work with dead insects!

By: Leonie Prater, Category: Science, Date: 24 Nov 2011

Read here about two volunteers who work on the Digitisation Project

Phyllotocus ruficollis

Anne Brophy © Australian Museum

Robyn spent part of her childhood in Papua New Guinea before moving to Australia with her family. She completed a Bachelor of Pharmacy, Graduate Diploma in Computing, Masters of Environmental Science and is currently completing a Masters of Geoscience. Robyn has worked as a pharmacist and is an IT professional in systems programming and project management. She has many interests including scuba diving, bird watching, geology and hiking. Her recent adventure was to spend 3 weeks on a scientific cruise (CSIRO’s Nation Marine Facility) to detect the magnetics of the Perth Abyssal Plain and to dredge rocks off the knolls.

Why do you volunteer on this project?

“I have been a member of the Australian Museum for many years and I often attend the lectures which I find very interesting. When a request came for volunteers on the trial digitisation project, I knew, having come from an IT background, how valuable the digitised resource would be.”

What do you find enjoyable and challenging as a volunteer on this project?

“I really like the photos of the insects I take because when looking at the actual specimen without a camera lens you cannot see the fine detail. The photos show their beauty and believe it or not, they even have distinct personalities! Initially, we digitised a lot of cicadas (i.e. 80 drawers) and I was amazed by how much variety there is amongst them. Now, each week I look forward to seeing what we are working on, which has been tiny tree hoppers, leaf hoppers, plant hoppers, beautiful hawk moths and long legged flies”

“My skills are improving in taking good images. It can be a real challenge handling specimens when they are old and brittle. It is fun reading the labels to see where they have been collected and sometimes, we can relate to the collection location information and dates. It is interesting to find a collector that has collected the same species of moths for so many years… true dedication”

"It is a bonus when the Entomology Management, staff and research scientists give us some interesting background information on the insects we are digitising. I really enjoy the “behind the scenes” tour to see the huge range of insects in the collection.”

“It is an interesting crowd to work with. We always have lunch together and there is no shortage of interesting conversations. The lab is well organised and equipped and there are always ongoing improvements.”

Linda is a new volunteer recruit who has been volunteering for 2 months. Linda has lived primarily in Australia but had a year in the UK when she was travelling around Europe. She has a Bachelor of Applied Science (Biomedical Science) and a Bachelor of Interior Design. Linda has worked as a medical research scientist, interior designer and computer programmer and she enjoys sailing, travelling, photography, handicrafts, cake decorating and reading.

Why do you volunteer on this project?

“Basically, I am between jobs at the moment so I decided to do something that is interesting and useful. I like Museums and Art Galleries so I looked at their websites to see what was available and the digitisation project matched my skills”

What do you find enjoyable and challenging as a volunteer on this project?

“I enjoy seeing the variety of insects, even within the same subfamily. You see a white moth and you don’t notice the details until you take an image which magnifies it so much that you really see its different bits which are often truly amazing. Some are very cute, adorable and some are not!”

“I find it challenging to take a very old fragile label off the pin without it breaking”

“I like the diversity of people who come here – there are many interesting life stories and interests shared. It adds another dimension to home life and friends always find it interesting to know more about it. Sometimes, people think it is a bit strange to photograph dead insects.”

“The lab is better than some labs I have worked in and it is great for what we are doing. It would be nice to have a window, even if it does affect the photographic imaging. It is fun and we are always laughing about something or other. I really enjoy going on the “behind the scenes” tours and talks on insects because you feel that your contribution is valued by getting additional information.”

 

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