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Cochrane, Margaret Ann (1950- )

Collections Manager of Entomology Collections at South African Museum, 7 June 1982 till end of March 2011.







Born to George and Sue Macpherson (neι Maas). Lived and grew up with siblings Joan and Peter in Cape Town.



Attended Wynberg Girls' Junior and Senior Schools. Matric subjects: English, Afrikaans, Physical Science, Art, History, Geography.



Metal Box Company of South Africa. Employed as a laboratory technician in the Department of Microbiology and in the Metallurgy laboratory. Duties: Routine microbiological testing of rejected canned food, analysis of the can structure and can coating to establish if spoilage was due to canner or manufacturer fault.



South African Breweries, Cape Town. Employed as a Quality Control Technician from September 1970 to December 1971. Duties included: sampling of the product and conducted various analyses of raw materials, microbiological and chemical analyses of beer at the various brewing stages; and age surveys of the product at outlets.

Went on a 6-month overseas trip.



South African Breweries, Cape Town. Employed as a Quality Control Technician from August 1971 to February 1976.

DUTIES: • Similar to my preceding period with the Breweries. After a few years I felt the need to relocate and the QC Manager felt I had potential that could be used at the research centre at Central Laboratory in Isando, Johannesburg. I was then transferred.

STUDIES: After I returned from overseas, I commenced the Chemical Technicians Diploma Course at the Cape Technical College that I continued in Johannesburg but I did not complete the course.



South African Breweries, Isando. I worked at Central Laboratory (Research Department) from March 1976 to June 1980 as a Senior Research Technician. DUTIES: • Chemical analysis of the beer product from various breweries around the country. • Assisted with the production of a new manual for the various breweries. • Method development for analytical procedures. • Set up systems for evaluating the tasting abilities of tasters around the country. • Laboratory audits of the various newly acquired breweries, for example in Swaziland and Botswana. This involved an initial audit of the quality control laboratory, then returning to head office to purchase equipment, glassware and chemical requirements to bring the laboratory within specification, delivering the requirements, setting up the laboratory, train existing staff and then later return to re-audit.



Protea Laboratory Services, Johannesburg. I was employed as the Product Manager for OXOID, a microbiological culture medium, and associated products from October 1980 to September 1981. DUTIES: • Serviced clients. • General marketing duties. • Supervised the product storage and stocktaking. Management felt I deserved to be sent to the manufacturing company in England on a product course. However, I was required to sign a contract and as I did not have much faith in management and disliked my working environment intensely, I felt compelled to resign.



I then worked at a game lodge in the Eastern Transvaal for a few months but I decided to return to Cape Town and work at the South African Museum, a place I had always been fond of since childhood



Appointed by Dr V. Whitehead as a technician in the department of Entomology on 7 June 1982.

My introduction to SA Museum was one of moving house. The building was to be renovated and we moved to temporary accommodation. A collection of about 800,000 pinned insect specimens in glass-covered drawers and thousands of jars of specimens in alcohol were packed and moved. I was promoted to Collections Manager in 1991.


Collections management

  • Care of the collections of about 1 000 000 dry pinned insects and about 50,000 samples in alcohol.
  • Administration of an international loan system where thousands of insects are lent to researchers and returned annually.
  • Assist on field trips with collecting and preparation of specimens.
  • Laboratory preparation and mounting of specimens.
  • Involved with the re-organisation and computerisation of the collections in alcohol. Currently involved with the re-organising of the dry insect collection of about 1 000 000 specimens and entering the data.
  • Produced a manual, South African Museum Divison of Life Sciences Entomology Collections Manual, to record past and current procedures to ensure some degree of continuity in the future.
  • Routine administration, ordering requirements both locally and abroad.
  • Data management and data input.


  • Initiated a fundraising campaign, the Insect Inventory Project, to try and raise funds for insect storage cabinets and this resulted in funds being donated. Wrote and produced the pamphlets and funding proposal documents required. A spin-off from this campaign was a donation of alcohol preservative for our collections.
  • Handle queries from the public and health departments.


  • A part-time lecturer for the Technikon RSA Museum Diploma Course (biological collections section). The notes prepared for this course have been included as part B in the manual above.
  • Conduct talks and tours of the collections for various students (school and university).
  • Prepare demonstrations, talks and public exhibits of insects.
  • Prepare displays (layout, text, photography).
  • Write popular articles, photography and illustrations for the  museum website. Included in the site are articles written for Sagittarius, an in-house publication, now discontinued.
  • Website development. Initiated and produced with N. Larsen SPIDERWEB that has been included in Biodiversity Explorer.(see Spiders )

Research assistance.

  • Scanning electron microscopy.
  • Preparation of specimens.

Staff management

  • Supervise one technician.


  • Co-opted member of the board of the SAMA School of Conservation


MACPHERSON, M. 1986. A Butterfly on the Move. Sagittarius, Volume 1, number 3: 18-20.

COCHRANE, M. & WHITEHEAD, V. 1989. A New Silkworm at the Cape. Sagittarius, Volume 4, number 1: 16-17.

COCHRANE, M. A. 1995. Coleoptera Type Material in the South African Museum Part 1. Carabidae. Annals of the South African Museum, Volume 104, number 9: 249-309.



Married to John Logan Cochrane. 



Became a mother to Ross James.











I obtained a certificate in Advanced Microbiology at the Cape Technical College while employed at The Metal Box Company of South Africa. While at SA Breweries, I started the 4 year Chemical Technician Diploma Course but did not complete it. Obtained BA in Fine Art (Hons.) from the University of South Africa in 1991.

Hobbies and interests