Movie: Dr Dave Britton

Dr Dave Britton, Australian Museum Enotomologist, talks about how his work and how it relates to Biodiversity.

© Australian Museum
David Rawlinson
Dr Dave Britton
David Rawlinson


Hi. I’m Dave Britton. I’m the collection manager of entomology at the Australian Museum. As the collection manager of entomology, I work with the most biodiverse group of organisms in the collections, and in the world for that matter.

Working in the collections here on insects means that I have to have a very good grasp of the problems of dealing with massive biodiversity on a huge scale. The collection size is, alone, daunting.

Our collections are in the region of 6 million specimens of insects, mostly Australian insects, and we’re continually adding to those through fieldwork.

One of the recent projects we’ve been involved with is the Bush Blitz program, which is administered out of Canberra, and it’s looking at surveying
new reserve areas in parks around Australia.

And these reserve areas are often in outback areas of Australia and little is known about the insects that occur in them. So, we’re trying to improve our knowledge of that. And, recently, we went to Burke, which has had high rainfall events in January/February, nd the result was absolutely startling.

And we can see massive numbers of insects coming to the lights that we used to attract them. And it has been absolutely astounding to see how  the country has come back  after so many years of drought.                    

One thing that astounds people to know is so few of the species of insects are known to science. So few are described. There’s probably only about 50% of the Australian fauna has been formally described and recognised. As a result, we can go out into a backyard in Sydney and find species which don’t have a name attached to them. And this lack of knowledge is incredibly risky because we may be losing species before we even realise that they’re important for the functioning of environments.

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