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The bird librarian

Nature – “In the table in this photograph are the remains of more than 130 wedge-tailed eagles (Aquila audax) — Australia’s largest bird of prey. The birds had been poisoned, and I needed to confirm the species for a criminal case. As collection manager of ornithology at the Australian Museum in Sydney, I not only identify birds, but also give input on exhibits and educational programmes and provide other scientific services. The museum’s bird collection is the oldest and largest in Australia, containing about 100,000 specimens of species from all over both the country and the world. The oldest registered specimen is a northern pintail duck (Anas acuta), collected in 1828. I liken the collection to a bird library. Researchers can come in to study a species or range of species. We’ve got stuffed specimens; skeletons; animals mounted in lifelike poses; intact birds in ethanol; eggs and nests; and a range of frozen tissues. Every item notes the time and location of collection, as well as the name of the species. Each is a snapshot in time and holds information that can’t be replicated…”

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