Sunday, 24 February 2013 2 comments By: Jenny Vu

#19 Australia's Flesh Eating Sundew

Ok so, they don't really eat 'flesh' per say, their main prey is insects but they have been known to trap small animals sometimes. I'm talking about carnivorous plants. Especially native Australian ones. Did you know that 187 species of carnivourous plants are endemic (only found in) to Australia? I didn't!

I have just recently gone back to my local library to borrow some books when I spotted a book about Australian carnivorous plants. It had amazing photographs and great information. It reminded me of the Sundew (genus: Drosera) I spotted last year on my ecology field trip. They were the most amazing little things I had ever seen! I have always wanted to see other carnivorous plants other than the Venus fly trap but I had no idea they grew in Australia. As you could imagine, I was half in shock, half completely excited. My first native carnivorous plant. Gosh, I love Australia.

Spoon-leaved Sundew (Drosera spatulata) - Photo taken by Jennifer Vu (me)
Here are my photos of the very first species of Carnivorous plants I found. This is a species of Sundew, commonly known as the Spoon-leaved Sundew (Drosera spatulata).

Friday, 1 February 2013 0 comments By: Jenny Vu

Spiders Can Be Beautiful - Interview with Mariella Herberstein

In my first year at Macquarie University, first semester, I had this really awesome and interesting Austrian lecturer who would play a random animal noise at the beginning of the lecture and let us guess what it was. Each time, it would sound like something we knew, but it always ended up being an animal no one could guess. Because of this, Mariella Herberstein became one of the most engaging and memorable lecturers of the year. The other thing that I took away from the lectures was that she loved spiders and found them really fascinating.

Later that semester, in another subject, we were watching an episode of ‘Life in the Undergrowth’ by David Attenborough. It got to the end of the episode and the credits started rolling and someone spotted this lecturer’s name, ‘Mariella Herberstein’. Everyone who had done first year biology was stunned to know someone who had worked with and helped David Attenborough (he’s like an idol to most biology students). This is where my interest to interview Mariella stemmed from.  
At Macquarie University, Mariella is an Associate Professor and the head of the Biological Sciences department. In her scientific research on the behavioural ecology of invertebrates, she looks at how spiders are significant models in behavioural and evolutionary research, the deceptiveness of spiders and orchids, and the mating behaviour and sexual selection of spiders and other insects. She is a well known academic who is constantly sought out by masters and PHD students who want to specialise in behavioural ecology of insects. I’m actually volunteering for one such student at the moment.

In this interview, you will learn more about how she became a science academic, what helping with a BBC documentary was like, the huge range of different scientific research papers she has helped with and that she doesn’t only love spiders. 
My Interview with Mariella Herberstein.