Hello! I am based in Brisbane, Australia where I work on the taxonomy of sea sponges at the Queensland Museum as a Research Officer. Being a taxonomist is a great job, especially if you like order and keeping things tidy! As a taxonomist, I find a place for animals in the classification of life, and everyday I get to look at animals in a way that only a few people ever get the chance to do. This is the thing I love most about my work - seeing new animals from new perspectives and understanding more about how they have come to look the way that they do and be in the places that they are currently. There are still so many new species out there - sometimes it feels like we are only just starting to scratch the surface!
At the Queensland Museum, I work on a particular group of sponges belonging to the Class Demospongiae, which are the most common and diverse of all sponges. Often people ask me, what is a sponge? And I tell them that a sponge is actually an animal that lives in the sea, or sometimes in freshwater, and that sponges have a lot to teach us about the world around us and how we fit into it.
If I asked you to think about sponges, you would probably think about those puffy balls that you use to scrub with in the bath, or maybe even the synthetic ones that are used to wash dishes. But sponges are much more than that. The sponges that are used in the bath are actually the skeletons of animals that lived under the sea. These days, not very many people use bath sponges anymore, but sponges are incredibly important to our modern lives. Although they are very ancient animals, today’s scientists are studying sponges to look for new chemical compounds, compounds which may be used as new drugs for combating cancers, for stopping blood clotting during surgery and for fighting bacterial infections. In order to study the chemicals in sponges, it is very important that scientists can identify sponges accurately (this is where taxonomy comes in!). Sponge species are very difficult to identify, largely because sponges have very few characteristics, and the characteristics that they do have are often very hard to interpret. As an EOL Rubenstein fellow, I will provide species pages for sponges in the Indo-west Pacific. With my colleagues here at the Queensland Museum, and also in other museums in Australia, such as the Western Australian Museum and Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, I aim to provide species pages for more than 500 species of sponges. It is hoped that these species pages will help scientists and the public to be able to identify sponges with greater confidence and also to see the magnificent diversity of these important animals of the sea.
- Full name
- Kathryn Hall
- I am
- a professional scientist
- Curator level
- Full Curator
EOL Rubenstein Fellow 2012
Research Officer (Sessile Marine Invertebrates) Biodiversity Program, Queensland Museum
I have a PhD in invertebrate taxonomy from The University of Queensland, where I also completed by BSc (Hons I). I also am a trained science communicator, having completed a PGCert (Sci Comm).
- Curation scope
- Sponges of the Indo-west Pacific