Mary Cairncross set to buzz this weekend

Dr Michael Rix, Queensland Museum and BJ Murphy Jinnaburra First Nation sharing knowledge about a female trapdoor spider.

There are an estimated 30,000 species of flies in Australia and this October, one scientist is on a quest to discover those that live in Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve at Maleny, as part of Sunshine Coast Council’s Tiny Giants event.

Funded by the Environment Levy, 12 scientists, led by Queensland Museum will partner with council to uncover the hidden invertebrates that keep the rainforest ecosystem ticking. 

Under the microscope will be flies, spiders, ants, mites, moths, butterflies and beetles.

From October 21–24, 2021, the community is invited to join in the fun and learn directly from the scientists during four days of diverse walks, talks and workshops for all ages. 

Sunshine Coast Council’s Environment and Liveability Portfolio Councillor Maria Suarez said the invertebrate survey would reveal what lived in the reserve so council could better manage and protect its biodiversity and deliver on its healthy, smart, creative vision.

  • Ovenu Sunshine Coast

“We know the reserve is buzzing with activity underneath the leaf litter,” Cr Suarez said.

“We’re partnering with Queensland Museum to better understand what type of invertebrates there are and their relationships with the plants in the reserve.”

Queensland Museum Curator of Entomology Dr Christine Lambkin said little was known about most invertebrates in Australia.

“There are 178 species already recorded in Maleny and that is only just scratching the surface,” Dr Lambkin said.

Queensland Museum Senior Curator of Entomology Dr Chris Burwell, who will have his magnifying lens aimed at ants, bees, wasps and dragonflies, said gathering baseline data for Mary Cairncross was vital.

“It’ll allow us to compare the reserve to other south-eastern rainforest habitats and track changes over time,” Dr Burwell said.

Meanwhile Dr Michael Rix, Principal Curator of Arachnology, will be searching for endemic spiders.

“There are a large number of new and undescribed arachnid species still to be found in rainforest habitats like Mary Cairncross,” Dr Rix said.

“Knowing what species occur is essential for understanding any changes in faunal composition over time caused by impacts like climate change.”

Sunshine Coast Council’s Division 5 Councillor Winston Johnston invited the community to attend a workshop or a talk during the four-day event.

“There are activities for interested adults and children, from exploring the forest during a walk with a scientist or joining in a kid’s critter crafternoon,” Cr Johnston said.

“Visitors can learn about insect trapping methods, skill-up on macrophotography and butterfly identification or listen to an expert panel on how to get involved in invertebrate citizen science and much more.”

Bookings are essential and the full program is available at


Twelve scientists joining the research project

  • Dr Christine Lambkin (QM Curator of Entomology)
  • Dr Chris Burwell (QM Senior Curator of Entomology)
  • Dr Mike Rix (QM Principal Curator of Arachnology)
  • Kathryn Ebert (Postdoctoral researcher at University of Queensland)
  • Owen Seeman (QM Collection Manager of Arachnids and Myriapods)
  • Dr Penny Mills (Entomological Society of Queensland)
  • Chris Moeseneder (Research Associate, Australian Museum)
  • Jessa Thurman (PhD candidate University of Queensland)
  • Dr Jason Maté (Entomological Society of Queensland)
  • Dr Andrew Maynard (Entomological Society of Queensland)
  • Wesley Jenkinson (Entomological Society of Queensland)
  • Dr Vivian Sandoval Gomèz (Honorary Research Fellow of the Queensland Museum)



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