New scientists bring real world benefits to Townsville and beyond

11 April 2017

Four new scientists, jointly appointed by Queensland Museum and James Cook University (JCU), are building on Townsville’s reputation as an internationally recognised marine research hub.

Queensland Museum Network Director and CEO Professor Suzanne Miller said these significant joint appointments across fields as diverse as coral taxonomy and anthropology, palaeontology and maritime archaeology created mutually beneficial opportunities.

“We welcome this chance to deliver real world benefits by adding to our collections and tapping into the cutting-edge research undertaken at JCU and showcasing this research through our Museum of Tropical Queensland in Townsville.

“These new researchers have significantly expanded the Queensland Museum Network’s ability to perform world-class research, inform government policy and grow Queensland’s research capacity,” Professor Miller said.

“Our new researchers have already discovered ‘sea monsters’, new coral species and a shipwreck, and helped remote isolated communities share their culture with the world.”

JCU’s Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor, Professor Chris Cocklin, said the University is delighted to be deepening its already strong relationship with the Museum of Tropical Queensland.

“JCU and the Museum of Tropical Queensland have many complementary strengths, and the joint appointments will enable JCU and the Museum to undertake significant research in areas of shared interest and expertise,” said Professor Cocklin.

Dr Espen Knutsen, our newest palaeontologist, is part of a team that discovered several new marine creatures including a Jurassic-era leviathan nicknamed "The Monster", an immense creature measuring up to 15 metres.

Dr Tom Bridge, Senior Curator of Corals at the Museum, examines the biodiversity of coral reefs and is particularly interested in the ‘twilight zone’ reefs that occur in the deep, dimly-lit waters of the Great Barrier Reef far offshore.

Dr Bridge is responsible for the Museum’s extensive coral collection, which is one of the largest and most important collections of reef corals anywhere in the world.

Senior Curator of Maritime Archaeology Dr Madeline Fowler has worked in the field for five years and was part of the team from the Australian National Maritime Museum and Silentworld Foundation that discovered the wreck of Royal Charlotte (1825) on Frederick Reefs in the Coral Sea in 2012.

Objects from the Museum’s best known shipwreck collection, HMS Pandora (1791) are well-documented and while Dr Fowler will continue to research that collection, she’ll also study objects from other shipwrecks to build our knowledge of those.

Dr Kirsty Gillespie, Senior Curator of Anthropology, has worked extensively to document performance traditions across Papua New Guinea, most recently collaborating with the people of Lihir and Newcrest Mining Limited on a cultural heritage program for the Lihir Islands.

Dr Gillespie will be working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on exhibitions of their heritage and will continue to develop the impressive anthropology collections held by the Museum.            

The Museum of Tropical Queensland, part of the Queensland Museum Network, is open from 9.30am - 5pm daily (closed Good Friday and Anzac Day).