Thursday, 14 May 2015

A Cool Visit to NIWA's Sea Critter Collection

Ned (illustrator of the 'explore and discover' books) and I were excited to be invited to NIWA along with the wonderful people from the Wellington Storylines Family Day committee. There we met with Sadie Mills, a deep ocean specialist who is in charge of the NIWA Invertebrate Collection.

Sadie telling us about the collection

Invertebrates are creatures without backbones, these include - corals, octopus, sea stars, crabs, shrimps, worms. Fish, birds and mammals all have backbones, so you won't see them here, but there are shelves and shelves of lots and lots of weird and wonderful invertebrates.
'What's in this jar?'
None of the animals here are alive, they've all been preserved in alcohol or dried out, so while it's not quite like seeing a live animal in its habitat, it is the closest we might get to some of them since we are not marine scientists.
Ned's fascinated by this many legged critter.
The collection has to be kept cool, so we didn't take off our coats!
This brittle star has hardened into this shape.
I was excited to see some king crabs, they live in the deep ocean so no chance I'd ever see one of these alive. But seeing them here gives a sense of scale, they are huge compared to the crabs we see on the rocky shore.
Two king crabs
There are over 300,000 jars here, and scientists are adding to the collection all the time as new species are discovered. The collection is used by scientists who are studying the creatures and things in the collection are loaned to museums for exhibitions. The size of the collection is overwhelming to visitors like us, but NIWA staff also post on the Critter of the Week blog and on Facebook, which makes it easy to see some of the most interesting things in the collection.

We are looking forward to the public getting a chance to see some of the collection for themselves along with our books Under the Ocean and At the Beach at the Wellington Storylines Family Day later this year.