It seems like New Zealand museums are setting a new trend for staging scientific dissections of big interesting animals and getting the public involved in them online.
It’s a great way to engage visitors with the scientific activities of natural history museums – it takes the behind-the-scenes stuff out into the public arena. And it can be a real boost to public knowledge and understanding about animal biology and conservation.
Today Auckland Museum is holding a dissection of a Great White Shark and you can view it on their website from 2pm. The necropsy, or animal autopsy, will raise public awareness of this magnificent, and vulnerable fish species.
Here at Te Papa we have also had great success with making some recent scientific examinations and dissections available online. In April 2008 a team of scientists thawed and examined a colossal squid, but didn’t dissect it. This is the colossal squid now on display , along with lots of info explaining it’s anatomy. While the team examined the big colossal squid specimen they dissected a smaller, incomplete colossal squid specimen and a giant squid specimen and blogged about it live. The information we got from dissecting these other big squid specimens was vital to understanding the biology of the colossal squid, and then communicating this in the exhibition.
After the success of the squid investigations we then decided to blog about a dissection of a pygmy right whale in May 2008. Looking at our blog stats we still have heaps of people going to these posts about the pygmy right whale heart and lungs – somewhat strange, but true. I’m not sure why these posts would be so popular - so if anyone out there knows please tell me!
Then in July 2008 the Melbourne Museum held a public dissection of a giant squid, which you can view here.
From big molluscs we have now moved on to big fish! It’s great to see these new ways of communicating science in museums being explored and our museum-based scientists taking centre stage - I’m interested to know what others think about this.