Fact or fiction in sci-fi, Indigenous rangers talk science, and the power of dog poo: building the Inspiring Australia community

Inspiring Australia

Around Australia, hundreds of scientists, science communicators, outreach officers, teachers and students are running engagement projects, planning National Science Week events and entering science awards – all with the support of Inspiring Australia.

From harvesting traditional knowledge in the Tiwi Islands in the Top End to mapping marine species in the Southern Ocean, they’re helping to support and promote science and science literacy across the country.

Though we work in disparate offices and diverse organisations around the country, together we’re a community.

We want to build and strengthen that community and we’ve just signed a contract with the Inspiring Australia team to build a communication platform to do just that.

Over the coming months we’ll be developing a new website at inspiringaustralia.net.au and creating newsletters and other tools to provide an online realm for the sharing of ideas and celebration of achievement among the Inspiring Australia community.

Our first newsletter kicks off with a sample of some of the stories of Inspiring Australia grant recipients. The first, basic version of the website is also up and running. Over the next few days we’ll be completing a resource about all the recipients, starting with the announcements from last year and then adding updates of recent achievements.

We’ve also started a science events and prizes calendar, drawing from the ABC, Science in Public’s own calendars and other resources. Social media links will be added next week.

At the end of this newsletter you’ll also find information about upcoming events and award programs. If you have an event you’d like us to include, please email chris@inspiringaustralia.net.au.

We also invite you to visit inspiringaustralia.net.au to join the conversation and provide feedback on the kind of information you need and how you want to community to grow.

In this bulletin:

 Introducing the Inspiring Australia website

An online home for science engagement and communication

More news about the activities of the Inspiring Australia grant community can be found online at our new website, inspiringaustralia.net.au.

The site also features a calendar of upcoming science events around the country, as well as prize opportunities for scientists and science communicators.

In coming months we’ll be producing more content for early-career researchers and science leaders, plus community features to connect everyone engaged in science in Australia.

But in the meantime, please drop by and join the conversation about your fabulous achievements in science communication. And if you have exciting news, or an event you’d like to promote, make sure you drop us a line.

Find out more at inspiringaustralia.net.au

 The truth behind sci-fi films revealed

Using the power of popular culture


Darth Vader in the audience at a 2012 Fact or Fiction event

Could you make yourself disappear with an invisibility cloak? Or defend yourself with a lightsaber? Can bacteria be teleported from one place to the other?

Scientists from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) are putting some of the world’s most popular science fiction films ‘under the microscope’ to see what is possible and what’s pure fiction.

ANSTO Fact or Fiction is a fun big screen experience putting the science of Hollywood movies-and the audience-to the test. The audience watch clips from classic sci-fi movies and vote whether the technology featured is, in fact, real or imagined. Once the audience voting has been locked in, an ANSTO researcher critiques the science featured in the film and provides the answer.

Fact or Fiction is entertaining and educational, using popular culture to engage primary and secondary school-aged children who aren’t necessarily interested in science.

The events were a big hit during National Science Week last year: nearly 2,000 people voted on the science of Star Wars, Back to the Future and James Bond.

With an Inspiring Australia grant, the 90-minute show will go on a national tour in 2013 and 2014, kicking off in May at Lismore before heading to Hobart in June, and Adelaide and Canberra in August.

Information and tour dates

 Animal field guide for everyone’s pockets

Animal app crosses platforms


Museum Victoria’s Field Guide to Victorian Fauna goes mobile

If you can’t tell an Android from an Apple, then Museum Victoria’s Field Guide app might be able to help…not because it lists smartphones, but because the app is now available on both platforms.

And because Museum Victoria has released the technology on an open-source licence, it’s now being used to create similar field guides in other Australian states, as well as guides for Victorian marine parks and even the Grand Canyon.

The new Android app and the updated iOS version can tell you all about 730 species of Victorian mammals, birds, reptiles, frogs, fishes and marine and freshwater invertebrates.

The app includes everything you need to identify animals in the wild-pictures and maps but also sounds, like bird calls. And because the content is downloaded and stored on your mobile device, it can be accessed without an internet connection in remote locations.

Museum Victoria’s Field Guide to Victorian Fauna app for iPad and iPhone has been downloaded 57,000 times since its launch in 2011.

The Android app was built with funds from an Unlocking Australia’s Potential grant, and was launched at Museum Victoria in May by the Federal Minister for Science and Research, Senator The Hon Don Farrell.

More information and download the app for free

Pet Poo Power! a new view of waste

Teaching sustainability with toilet humour and puppy love


Strong, fun visual branding a key to Poo Power!’s appeal.

From Richmond to Northcote, the pet dogs of inner northern Melbourne make about 750 tonnes of dog poo every year – and about 150 tonnes of poo ends up in the city’s parks.

A project in Melbourne’s City of Yarra is turning that poo into power for park lights and barbecues, instead of leaving it to spread pathogens and pollute stormwater.

Poo Power! turns dog poo into a renewable energy resource, installing anaerobic digesters in parks to process doggy doo into biogas that can be used for heating, lighting or electricity.

It’s also an education campaign, challenging members of the community to rethink ‘what is waste’ and engaging them with the science of waste management, renewable bioenergy, sanitation and water ecosystem protection.

The project is the brainchild of dog owner and sustainability educator Duncan Chew.
“When people see ‘Poo Power!’ they’re curious. They have to stop and ask questions about it,” says Duncan.

“The hook of the program is in its humour, visual branding and the fun of its messaging. We show we don’t take ourselves too seriously, but this is about a serious issue.”

“The approach I’ve taken recognises that dogs form a part of our society. They bring us together in social places. Why not come together and learn as well? It’s a covert approach to talk about science and sustainability in a non-threatening manner.”

Duncan is running the project under the auspice of the Yarra Energy Foundation, working with an interdisciplinary student team from Swinburne Design Factory.

Poo Power! will continue to engage Australians through social media, educational resources, its outreach program, and events, such as the Sustainable Living Festival and the Dog Lovers Show. It will also partner with Melbourne Water to deliver an awareness campaign that will educate and encourage people to dispose of their dog waste properly.

See Poo Power! on ABC News or visit the website.

Visualising science with Björk’s biomedical animator

Making invisible science visible

Three bright young scientists are learning the art of 3D biomedical animation from the man behind Björk’s beautiful DNA-inspired film clip for the song Hollow.

BAFTA and Emmy Award-winning biomedical animator Drew Berry is training the next generation of science animators to use engaging graphics, cinematography, storytelling and sound engineering to help audiences visualise and understand biomedicine.

A trained cell-biologist, Drew animates the work of WEHI’s researchers with accurate illustrations drawn from real scientific data.

“When you create a visualisation, particularly for the general public, you never, ever dumb it down. You show them exactly what the science is about,” says Drew.

“But you must try and steer away from complex verbal language-the technical jargon of science-that is what makes this stuff opaque to them. If you show them the science, they’ll get it.”

As part of the VIZBIplus: Visualising the Future of Biomedicine project, three apprentice animators will use their new skills to illustrate biomedical processes that are invisible to the naked eye.

  • CSIRO scientist Christopher Hammang will illustrate the role of bacteria in digestion and the development of colorectal cancer.
  • WEHI’s Maja Divjak will use animation to show what exactly inflammation is at a cellular level.
  • The Garvan’s Kate Patterson hopes to show that cancer is not just one disease.

Their animations will be showcased as part of the 2014 Vivid Sydney festival.

Project co-manager Kate Patterson says her aim is to produce imagery that is both awe-inspiring and factual.

“To see a process happening, rather than hear or read about it, can make a huge difference in people’s understanding of complex scientific concepts and medical problems,” says Kate.

“The challenge for us is to combine artistry and accuracy.”

The plan is to produce core images and animations of biomedical processes. These animations can then have narration added to suit different audiences. The animations also help the scientists themselves visualise the phenomena they’re researching, providing new insight into their research subjects.

VIZBIplus is a collaboration between the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, WEHI and CSIRO, with funding from Inspiring Australia.

The project includes a series of special VIZBIplus outreach events, including events at annual Vivid Sydney festivals.

Indigenous rangers promoting science in their communities

Unlocking science promotes potential role models

Tangentyere Council’s Land and Learning project is linking traditional ecological knowledge and western science, working with Indigenous ranger groups to inform and engage their communities in science.

The rangers produce resources about their work and local land management issues, including videos, PowerPoint presentations, booklets and newsletters, and use these resources to present these issues to their communities and regions.

Rangers also run activities in the field, involving elders, schoolchildren and youth groups in hands-on local land management projects.

Highlights from the program include:

  • A camp at Ilpili springs, involving Anangu Luritjiku rangers teaching students about the damage done to these major springs by feral camels and the rangers’ work monitoring and managing the issue. Feedback from this successful camp showed the rangers were great role models for the students and good teachers.
  • A workshop held at the Central Land Council Women’s Land Management Forum to train women rangers and elders from 7 different communities to teach two-way science (Indigenous ecological knowledge and western science) about the local bush to community schools and youth groups.
  • A community barbecue and training session organised by Anangu Luritjiku Rangers, engaging their community around the problems of feral animals at local springs. The Rangers presented the resources they’d created in their training session, and a DVD about the issue. These activities helped to bring about community agreement on this local land management issue.

The ‘Indigenous Rangers Promote Science in their Communities’ project worked with the Lytentye Apurte (Santa Teresa) and Anangu Luritjiku Indigenous ranger groups, managed by Central Land Council and funded by an Unlocking Australia’s Potential grant.

Based on the success of the project, Central Land Council is keen to take on this model for rangers promoting science in their communities with all ten Indigenous ranger groups that it manages.

Science events and prizes

29-31 May [ACT + livestream] – Science at the Shine Dome 2013

Science at the Shine Dome, prestigious awards are presented, high achievers are admitted to the Fellowship of the Australian Academy of Science, and a symposium is held on an issue of national importance. This year’s theme is ‘Power to the People: The Science Behind the Debate’, exploring the science driving the future of power generation. This event is being livestreamed.

When: 29 May, 9am – 5pm – New Fellows Day
30 May, 9am – 5pm
31 May, 8.35am – 5pm – Annual Symposium
plus social events (see full program)

Where: Shine Dome, Gordon St, Canberra

More information and full program

3 June [ACT] – 2013 Inspiring Australia Address

Winner of the 2012 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools, Anita Trenwith is a passionate science teacher who successfully tailored her lessons for special education students, inspiring them with a love for the subject. In the 2013 Inspiring Australia Address, Trenwith will talk about what works in her classroom and how these have led to her achievements.

When: 6pm-7pm (refreshments served from 5:30pm)

Where: Shine Dome, Gordon St, Canberra

More information

5 June [NSW] – #BigSci13 Contentious Science Media Workshop

A pre Big Science Communication Summit workshop design to explore the importance of planning and how to handle the contentious science issues is being hosted in conjunction with RiAus and National Enabling Technologies Strategy.

When: 1pm – 4.30pm

Where: The Alumni Rooms UNSW, High Street Kensington, NSW

More information

6-7 June [NSW] Big Science Communication Summit

Bringing science communicators, innovators, science journalists, decision makers and educators together, this two-day summit is an opportunity for participants to individually and collectively compare, shape and influence their science communication direction and activities.

When: 6 June, 8.45am – 7pm
7 June, 8.30am – 3.30pm

Where: Scientia Conference & Events Centre UNSW, High Street Kensington, NSW

More information and full program

Awards & prizes

3 June [National] – 2014 Australian of the Year Awards: nominations open

Award categories include Australian of the Year, Senior Australia of the Year, Young Australian of the Year and Australia’s Local Hero.

More information

14 June [National] – 2013 Banksia Sustainability Awards: early bird entry deadline
26 July [National] – 2013 Banksia Sustainability Awards: nominations close

Relevant award categories include Land and Biodiversity, Water, education, Built Environment, Indigenous Award, Agriculture and Food, and Innovation.
The 2013 program also includes Technical Awards, with categories including Climate Adaptation, Energy Efficiency and Carbon Management, Soil Remediation and Improvement, and Waste Minimisation.

More information

30 June [National] – RACI 2013 National Awards: nominations close

Education Award categories include the Centenary of Federation Teaching Awards in Chemistry, Fensham Medal for Outstanding Contribution to Chemical Education, Green Chemistry Challenge Awards and the Pearson RACI Chemistry Educator of the Year Award.

More information

1 July [WA] – Western Australian Science Awards: nominations open

Award categories include Science Educator, Science Engagement Initiative, and Student Scientist of the Year.

More Information

5 July [SA] – Unsung Hero of SA Science Awards: nominations close

Program offers two awards: one for science and research endeavours; the other for science communication.

More information

5 July – Seeing Stars SKA Art Prize 2013: entries close
Using the inspiration of the SKA, artists and would-be artists are invited to create original pieces of artwork expressing the excitement and mystery of the SKA and its potential for discovery.

More information