Residents and visitors to Canberra are in for a rare treat this National Science Week (16-24 August) when CSIRO Discovery reveals behind-the-scenes glimpses of Australia's National Collections of soils, fauna, flora and insects.
CSIRO is the custodian of the Australian National Wildlife Collection, Australian National Herbarium, Australian National Insect Collection and the Australian National Soils Collection, all housed in Canberra.
Together the four collections contribute to the discovery, inventory, understanding and conservation of Australia's plant and animal biodiversity and are vital resources for managing Australia's environmental sustainability.
'The scale of the collections is enormous and continues to grow as scientists discover new species,' says the Head of the Australian National Insect Collection, Dr John La Salle.
'The Australian National Herbarium has more than 1.4 million specimens, some of which were collected by Sir Joseph Banks on his voyage with Captain Cook in 1770.
'Even bigger is our Australian National Insect Collection, which has over 12 million specimens and is the world's largest collection of Australian insects and related groups such as mites, spiders, worms and centipedes,' he says.
Australia's National Collections are recognised internationally for their quality and uniqueness, and scientists come from all over the world to work with them.
And while the public may not get to see them very often, the results of research from the collections are making a big difference.
'Information from the collections is available and used in a variety of ways, for example, to support revegetation efforts,' Dr La Salle says.
The collections also publish books and CDs to help professionals and enthusiasts identify different species of plants, animals and insects, and to identify soils and their potential uses.
'We are really excited to be able to show people just some of the best of these amazing collections and to meet the people looking after them and see how specimens are collected, stored and used.'