Print Page

Marsupial milk

Full Day
Book Program
Year Levels


Milk is vital for the survival of all infant mammals. Marsupials & monotremes are unique in that they are born extremely undeveloped and reside in the mother's pouch during early development. During pouch life they are almost entirely reliant on mother's milk for nutrition. They then exit the pouch and feed on a combination of milk and solid foods until weaning. To cater for the changing needs of the young, the composition of marsupial milk changes significantly as the joey grows.

Wildlife carers use marsupial milk formulas for rearing orphaned joeys to ensure that they receive the appropriate nutrients and minerals for proper growth and development. Understanding the nutritional needs of each species of marsupial, and their age and stage of development, is vital to ensure the right composition of protein and calcium in the milk formulas they use.

In this program, student’s will use the Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy (AAS) and the Ultraviolet and Visible Absorption Spectroscopy (UV Vis), to determine the levels of calcium and protein in a range of marsupial milk formulas.

This program provides a good basis for students intending to do Chemistry at Year 11 and is an ideal extension science activity for highly able students.

Key Learning Question

How can analytical chemistry be used to determine nutrient levels in marsupial milk?

Prior Knowledge

No prior knowledge is required for this program

Learning Intentions

In this program, students will:

  • Examine the biological and nutritional needs of infant marsupials
  • Be introduced to chemical analysis equipment and techniques


Students will:

  • Use the AAS to determine the calcium content in marsupial milk samples
  • Use the UV Vis to determine the protein content in marsupial milk

Victorian Curriculum

  • Advances in scientific understanding often rely on developments in technology and technological advances are often linked to scientific discoveries (VCSSU115)
  • Formulate questions or hypotheses that can be investigating scientifically, including identification of independent, dependent and controlled variables (VCSIS134)
  • Independently plan, select and use appropriate investigation types, including fieldwork and laboratory experimentation, to collect reliable data, assess risk and address ethical issues associated with these investigation types (VCSIS135)
  • Select and use appropriate equipment and technologies to systematically collect and record accurate and reliable data, and use repeat trials to improve accuracy, precision and reliability (VCSIS136)

Learning Continuum

The following Learning Continuum is a guide for teachers to show the links between the programs Ecolinc offers onsite, online and through outreach. The Learning Continuum can be used to access Ecolinc resources to support the development of units of work.

Ecolinc Learn Online is an online learning management system offering interactive online courses for students and teachers. These courses can be undertaken either as a pre-visit, post-visit or stand-alone. Students are encouraged to do the pre-learning course before coming to Ecolinc for an onsite program.

Learn Online Pre-program:

The Scientific Method


Marsupial milk