Molecular Systematics Laboratory - An introduction from Alec Coles

Video | Updated 1 years ago

This video is an interview with WA Museum CEO Alec Coles, OBE, about the launch and development of the museum's Molecular Systematics Laboratory - officially opened on 2 February 2012.


Interviewer: I'm here with Alec Cole, the Chief Executive Officer of the Western Australian Museum. Alec, can you tell us why we are here today?

Alec Coles: Yeah, we are here to launch the molecular systematics laboratory at the Western Australian museum's collections research centre down here in Welshpool. It is a really exciting day for us because this is going to revolutionize the kind of work we can do here everybody knows about the museum up in Perth or the museum down in Fremantle but a lot of people won't realise the amount of scientific work that goes on behind the scene and down here in Welshpool we have got scientists working pretty much day and night on the biodiversity of this incredible State and this is really going to help.

Interviewer: Can I ask you what exactly is a molecular systematics laboratory?

Alec Coles: Well i guess the the shorthand is it's a it's a D.N.A lab. You'll know we have e all have our own individual D.N.A it is like our own fingerprint and we also share a lot of D.N.A together so by analyzing the D.N.A of different animals that we will be looking at surveying here we wil be able to start to understand the relationships between them and that's the way we discover which species are related to each other how they evolved and something that's a particular thing here in WA where in a sense we still know so little about the State we can discover completely new species and that's something that happens every day here at the WA Museum.

Interviewer: And how did laboratory come about how was it funded?

Alec Coles: It's been funded through environmental offset funding and I'm delighted that Rio Tinto Iron Ore have put in about 1.6 Million dollars that's gonna fund the laboratory it is going to fund some on costs it's also going to fund some-one to run the laboratory for the next three years.

Interviewer: Are there many laboratories like this in Western Australia?

Alec Coles: There aren't and this has been one of the issues that we've had whenever we collect new material we have to put it out under contract to other laboratories that envitably introduces a time delay a lot of this material is collected as part of environmental impact assessments for the resources industry obviously they don't want to wait forever to get those results back so this is going to mean that we can operate much more quickly we can control our own destiny in a sense and actually we can do much cheaper too.

Interviewer: What organisations will the museum work with in this research?

Alec Coles: We are constantly working with researchers and scientists across WA so that obviously includes all our major universities it includes the Department for Environment Conservation, the Department of Fisheries wildlife organisations, the zoo we have a whole range of partners in this.

Interviewer: And just finally can I ask you what will the people of WA understand is what will be experienced here and what will be discovered?

Alec Coles: Well I think what will be going on here will be a bit like if you watch CSI that kind of thing, that kind of genetic fingerprinting that goes on but actually more important to me is what it means and the WA Museum is at the forefront of trying to understand the biodiversity of W.A. There's a huge amount of work that goes into creating the collections and then looking at the the animals to see just as I said how they're related to each other where we've got new species how important they are to what can be some very sensitive environments and people often ask me what are people doing down here I say they are saving the world because actually what they're doing is is helping us understand just what the biodiversity results of this State is and this is going to be a fantastic step forward in that regard.

Interviewer: We hear the word biodiversity, used quite a bit in Western Australia are we a particularly bio-diverse area of the world?

Alec Coles: Western Australia its really interesting because well first thing is obviously its enormous land mass so straight away you can imagine there's a lot of different wildlife across a lot of different bio habitats living here but when the early researchers came out Charles Darwin pitched up in the southwest of WA and he said it was one of the least interesting places he had ever seen and yet of course he didn't have the ability and the knowledge at that time of this era that we do now we now know that.

West Australian and particularly the southwestern part of it is one of the world's top biodiversity hot spots and you know people often think of places like the Amazon because it's a tropical rain forest and its been hugely bio-diverse well start thinking of WA like that as well.

Interviewer: Alec Coles have you got any other concluding comments in summary about the molecular systematics labortary that is opening at the WA museum today?

Alec Coles: I think the the significance of this event is that I say the WA Museum is going to take a huge step forward in fact many steps forward at once in terms of being able to research the biodiversity of our State and I think this puts us at the forefront of this work and it will only increase and with the the work that is required particular in terms of the resources industry its going to grow and grow and it's a really exciting time to be here in WA because we are just going to discover so much more so much more quickly.

Interviewer: Thank you very much