The Council of Heads of Australian Faunal Collections (CHAFC) is the peak body representing Australia’s major zoological and palaeontological collections, primarily within the jurisdiction of regional, state and territory and commonwealth governments (chafc.org.au). CHAFC’s aims are to advance and disseminate collections-based knowledge and research on the Australian fauna; promote the value of zoological collections as underpinning the biodiversity sciences; and foster cooperation and dialogue amongst Australia’s faunal collection agencies as a de facto national museum of natural history.
CHAFC is responsible for the Online Zoological Collections of Australian Museums (OZCAM) (ozcam.org.au). OZCAM is a single point of access to the specimen-based information held by member museums, and presently contributes around 3.5 million specimen records to the ALA, representing all phyla of animals. Although these records are only a small proportion of the estimated tens of millions of zoological specimens held by Australian museums, they generally represent the more significant items (such as type specimens), and those with more accurate information (such as precise provenance and taxonomic identification) – thus forming the authoritative core of the ALA.
These zoological collections are underpinned by the taxonomic expertise within museums and collaborators. Every record is vouchered against a permanently maintained specimen in a museum, providing the means to repeatedly test and verify the material evidence of our biodiversity. This unique natural resource is accessed by national and international communities for taxonomic, genetic, biodiscovery, stratigraphic and other purposes. Only through evidence-based research on these collections are we able to formulate hypotheses to better resolve species’ identities, detect unique genetic resources (including the presence of invasive species), and study species’ responses and adaptations to change.
CHAFC presently consists of eleven museums and institutional collections, most of whom were founding partners in the ALA. Through strategic partnerships, including the ALA, CHAFC agencies are committed to sharing biodiversity knowledge and promoting a better understanding of Australia’s unique biological heritage.