Biodiversity bonus: New book reveals power of bugs, beasts and bacteria to solve today’s challenges

CSIRO

A new book published by Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, shines a light on the National Research Collections Australia to show how natural history specimens are used by researchers to discover and understand biodiversity so that it can be conserved and used.

AmAZed! CSIRO’s A to Z of Biodiversity will be launched at an event in Canberra today with a group of primary-school students, written to encourage an appreciation for the natural world and to consider a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

Author and CSIRO Communication Manager, Andrea Wild, said she was inspired by the scientists working with biodiversity specimens to make life better for everyone.

“I have two sons – one who loves nature and one who loves experiments – I would read them the draft of the book at night and ask them ‘was that interesting?’,” Ms Wild said.

“My hope is that this is a book will spark curiosity and be something people have on their shelves and can refer back to for fascinating information about Australia’s biodiversity.”

The book includes the stories behind the CSIRO invention Aerogard, curious flies, newly named species, sparkling microbes in the sea and mysterious metal nests.

It also introduces CSIRO scientists including entomologist Dr Bryan ‘Bry the Fly Guy’ Lessard, marine ecologist Dr Cindy Bessey, ichthyologist Dr Will White, and molecular biologist Dr Luana Lins.

Dr Lins grew up in Brazil and is working with CSIRO to find ways to more quickly identify pest insects by taking miniature labs into the field.

“I am fascinated by what molecular biology can tell us about different creatures, and I’m investigating how we can identify pests by their DNA really quickly, like at airports where they could be a threat to our biodiversity,” Dr Lins said.

In addition to hosting more than 15 million natural history specimens for researchers to study, CSIRO has been inspiring students to study and pursue careers in STEM with education programs for the past 40 years.

Teacher at Burgmann Anglican School in Canberra Annie Nygh said the book had been very well received by her students.

“My students and I loved learning new facts about the weird and wonderful living things. The mix of photos and illustrations is fabulous and engaging,” Mrs Nygh said.

AmAZed! CSIRO’s A to Z of Biodiversity includes 100 of Australia’s natural wonders and discoveries for each letter of the alphabet, and is available from all good booksellers and through CSIRO Publishing https://www.publish.csiro.au/book/7984 , with resources for teachers also available at https://www.publish.csiro.au/learning/teachernotes.

Images

Cannon Hill Anglican College students learning about pollinators from AmAZed! as part of their study of
Cannon Hill Anglican College students learning about pollinators from AmAZed! as part of their study of “minibeasts” (arthropods and other invertebrates).

Teacher Claudia Cochrane reads AmAZed! to her Year 1 class.
Teacher Claudia Cochrane reads AmAZed! to her Year 1 class. Students (L-R pictured): Violetta Jenkins, Minnie Maxwell, Astoria Nicholson, Jonathan Wright, Raphael Da Rosa, Maddie Clark. © jesse smith photographer

Students Jonathan, Raphael, Astoria, Minnie, Maddie and Violetta are AmAZed! at Australian biodiversity featured in the book.
Students Jonathan, Raphael, Astoria, Minnie, Maddie and Violetta are AmAZed! at Australian biodiversity featured in the book. © jesse smith photographer

Student Minnie Maxwell reading AmAZed!
Student Minnie Maxwell reading AmAZed! © jesse smith photographer

Student Maddie Clark examines an insect from an entry featured in AmAZed!
Student Maddie Clark examines an insect from an entry featured in AmAZed! © jesse smith photographer

Raphael Da Rosa, Year 1 student at Cannon Hill Anglican College is fascinated with spiders wasps featured in AmAZed!
Raphael Da Rosa, Year 1 student at Cannon Hill Anglican College is fascinated with spiders wasps featured in AmAZed! © jesse smith photographer

Cover of AmAZed! CSIRO's A to Z of Biodiversity.
Cover of AmAZed! CSIRO’s A to Z of Biodiversity.

Mother and son sit on couch with book
Author Andrea Wild reading AmAZed! with her son, Timmy.

Some of the beautiful jewel beetles in the Australian National Insect Collection.
Some of the beautiful jewel beetles in the Australian National Insect Collection. © Gordon Gullock

Specimen of lichen held in the cryptogram collection of the Australian National Herbarium.
Specimen of lichen held in the cryptogram collection of the Australian National Herbarium. © Gordon Gullock

A Thylacine (marsupial) skull around 4000 years old in the Australian National Wildlife Collection.
A Thylacine (marsupial) skull around 4000 years old in the Australian National Wildlife Collection. © Andrea Wild

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