Beer, bandicoots, bat-poop, black holes, and science in the courtroom

Media releases, National Science Week

Wednesday 19 August 2020

Highlights from day five of National Science Week

342 events, 588 competitions and online activities, and dozens of great stories and talent.

Researchers, experts, and other interesting people available for interview around the country.

  • ACT:  In court, is scientific evidence the same as legal proof?
  • NSW: Holy bat-poop! What bugs are spread by flying faeces?
  • NSW: Talking climate change like your life depends on it, with Tim Flannery and Rebecca Huntley
  • NSW: From supermassive black holes to Australia’s Women in STEM Ambassador—meet Lisa Harvey-Smith
  • QLD: Pandemic proofing the future
  • QLD: Humpback whales—the biggest tourists regularly visiting the Gold Coast
  • SA: Help SA’s endangered bandicoots find prickly new homes
  • TAS: What can four different brews teach you about the science of beer?
  • WA: Tiny food for huge whale sharks
  • WA: How much sunlight is good for your health?
  • WA: Can big data help save the quokka, koala and wallaby?
  • WA: Curtin University Big Watermelon Experiment
  • WA: Oceans vs space: the battle of the final frontiers
  • VIC: Science and technology saving lives in natural disasters

Read on for more on these, including event contact details.

Coming up:

Herding caterpillars, good science, and bad behaviour in space – see a preview of Thursday’s highlights.

National Science Week 2020 runs from 15 to 23 August. Media kit at Or visit the National Science Week website for more events and activities:

More about the event highlights

The reception, quality and evaluation of scientific evidence in australian courts—Canberra, ACT

What is the difference between scientific evidence and legal proof? Every year, scores of people’s lives hang on the distinction.

Explore the issue by joining a panel of experts from scientific and legal fields, chaired by The Hon Justice Virginia Bell AC of the High Court of Australia. Hear from:

  • The Hon Justice Mark Weinberg AO QC, Reserve Judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria and formerly a Judge of the Federal Court of Australia
  • Professor David Balding FAA, Professor of Statistical Genetics, The University of Melbourne
  • Tim Game SC, Senior Counsel Forbes Chambers, Principal Practice in Criminal Law
  • Professor Carola Vinuesa FAA, Professor of Immunology Co-Director, Centre for Personalised Immunology, Australian National University

This event is a collaboration between the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Law.

Wednesday 19 August. Event details

Bat colonies: fresh from the field & live poo analysis—Sydney, NSW

Join Macquarie University’s Dr Michelle Power as she visits a bat colony to collect poo samples.

This is a great virtual opportunity to find out what a real live scientist does out in the field. The samples gathered by Dr Power form part of her research into diseases that can spread from wildlife to humans.

Using live and pre-recorded footage she will show the process of collecting samples from field locations and explain parasite spread and surveillance, broadcast from the event Facebook page.

After the poo has been collected, a second event follows: Live from the lab – Poo analysis.

Wednesday 19 August Event details

We still need to talk about climate change—Sydney, NSW

Join climate scientist and author of The Future Eaters and The Weather Makers, Tim Flannery, marine ecologist Adriana Vergés, and social researcher and author of How to Talk About Climate Change in a Way That Makes a Difference, Rebecca Huntley to find out how we might turn pressing climate conversations into climate solutions.

Last summer’s bushfires saw more than 18 million hectares burnt, and more than a billion animals killed. How do we restart the conversation on climate change? How can we take the politics out of these important issues? How can we bring communities together to think about change?

Hosted by marine ecologist, TV presenter and UNSW Dean of Science Emma Johnston.

Wednesday 19 August. Event details

Tim, Adriana, Rebecca and Emma are available for media interviews.

Super STEM Careers Q&A—Sydney, NSW

Are you a high school student wanting to design, build or discover new things? Do you want to solve the challenges facing our world? Want to know what a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) really looks like, and how to get there? 

Australia’s Women in STEM Ambassador, astrophysicist Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith, is hosting a live-streamed Q&A with CEO of Aubot, roboticist Marita Cheng AM, and Superstar of STEM epidemiologist Dr Kalinda Griffiths. Join them as they talk about their jobs and how they started on their STEM career pathways.

Wednesday 19 August. Event details

Lisa Harvey-Smith is available for media interviews.

Pandemic proofing the future—Brisbane, QLD

How can we reduce the risk and severity of COVID-19 and other infections? Hear an expert pannel discuss plans to pandemic-proof the future. Featuring:

  • Tegan Taylor, ABC health and science reporter 
  • Professor Ian Frazer, clinical immunologist University of Queensland
  • Dr Kirsty Short, Australian Research Fellow, School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences, University of Queensland
  • Professor Paul Young, Head of School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences, University of Queensland

Wednesday 19 August. Event details

Science of the Sea: when humpback whales visit the Gold Coast—QLD

Each year, Queensland plays host to some massive tourists—humpback whales. The Gold Coast bay is one of the few resting, socialising and emerging calving grounds for these awe-inspiring marine mammals.

Gold Coast Libraries’ ‘Science of the Sea’ is a program of free online events, including ‘Luminary Lectures’ from high-profile scientists, focused on the ocean, coastline and marine life.


Thursday and Friday:

Olaf Meynecke, Tim Flannery (limited availability), Peter Mumby and Ocean Connect scientists are available for media interviews.

iBandi: citizen science finding homes for bandicoots—Mount Barker, SA

Help find blackberries for bandicoots!
Southern brown bandicoots, the last remaining species within South Australia, shelter in blackberry thickets if there is no suitable native vegetation around.

Researchers are keen to find big blackberry patches in which to potentially house the bandicoots, but they need the help of citizen scientists to do so.

This online workshop will teach volunteers how to use a dedicated bandicoot-focussed computer platform, called iNaturalist iBandi. The aim is to locate blackberry thickets at least as large as a football field, nestled in bushland.

New discoveries will arm researchers with crucial insights to protect bandicoots into the future.

Wednesday 19 August. Event details

Photos and footage available. iBandi coordinator Wendy Warren and chief investigator Dr Jasmin Packer are available for interviews.

Science made beerable—Hobart, TAS

Four breweries and four brews: each demonstrating a different aspect of the science of beer.

Science Made Beerable – a partnership between thirsty scientists Kelsey Picard and Matt Fielding – is taking this hop-portunity to make you weiser to ale the science that gose into a brew with a live-streamed beer tasting event.

Four breweries—Hobart Brewing Company, Shambles Brewery, OCHO Beer and Van Dieman brewing—have put forward a beer they think highlights some of the science that goes into a brew. Brewers from these ale-makers will explain more.

You can order your four-pack to drink along at home, as Picard, Fielding and their brewer friends delve into how each beer is made, what sets them apart, and how science is integral to every step of the process.

Visit the Facebook page to find out more and learn about the science behind the brews.

Wednesday 19 August. Event details

Why do whale sharks get so big?—Perth, WA

Whale sharks are the world’s largest fish, yet they eat very tiny prey: shrimp-like animals called krill that occur in enormous numbers in the world’s tropical oceans.

Whale sharks dine on krill by filtering water through specialised plates on the gills, an energy intensive process which has the potential to cool the animal very quickly when their food is found in deep, cold water.

How do whale sharks find enough food to eat while staying warm enough to survive?

AIMS fish biologist Dr Mark Meekan explores the world of whale shark research in this webinar, showing how animal-borne cameras are revealing the behaviours of whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia and giving insights into the behaviour, ecology and evolution of these ocean giants.

Wednesday 19 August. Event details

Mark Meekan is available for interviews

Sun health with Dr Shelley Gorman — Clarkson, WA

Learn about the role of sunlight exposure in good health from Dr Shelley Gorman, a leading sun health researcher from the Telethon Kids Institute.

Shelley is an expert on how sunlight affects our wellbeing, from inflammation to immunity. In this Wanneroo Libraries event she will discuss how it could be used to treat obesity and type-2 diabetes, and how Vitamin D may have a role in stopping some chronic and autoimmune conditions.

The library will also be giving away a small number of copies of Chasing the Sun: The New Science of Sunlight and How it Shapes Our Bodies and Minds, by Linda Geddes.

Wednesday 19 August. Event details

Curtin University Big Watermelon Experiment—Bentley, WA

How many rubber bands does it take to implode a watermelon? Take part in Curtin University’s big, fruity and very messy science experiment. Predict, plan, explore the forces at work and participate in this mass collaboration.

Watch University teams compete to see which can implode the watermelon the fastest. Join a collaborative experiment by placing your rubber band on a watermelon. Will yours be the one to make the melon go boom?

Wednesday 19 August. Event details

Event type: in person

A day @ DNA Zoo—Attadale, WA

How do you 3D-map a genome? Can big data help save the quokka, koala and wallaby?

The Australian branch of DNA Zoo thinks so. They’re an international consortium focused on helping conservation efforts through the rapid generation and release of high-quality genetic data.

Students will have the opportunity to meet the Australia scientists, who are 3D mapping the genomes of some of the world’s endangered species, producing vast amounts of useful information. 

Jump online to watch a live DNA lab investigation in action – with 10 lucky Perth schools able to participate in real time.

The event also introduces a new social enterprise, BioBarcode Australia, which will bring DNA technologies to schools and the community. Suitable for Years 10,11,12 STEM focused students.

Wednesday 19 August. Event details

Oceans vs space: the battle of the final frontiers—Perth, WA

Space and our ocean are often described as the final frontiers of science. But which is better?

Why have we mapped more of the surface of Mars and the Moon than Earth’s ocean floors. Should we be exploring the depths of the seas or the outer reaches of space?

Astronomer Kat Ross and adventurer James Dingley will argue the case for each frontier in this lively online debate.

Wednesday 19 August Event details

Fire, flood, storm and cyclone: applying science to the challenge—Melbourne, VIC

The tragic and destructive bushfires of the 2019/20 Black Summer across south-eastern Australia pose a range of challenges for the nation’s scientists. In the face of the combined forces of nature, climate, demographics and limited resources, can science make a real difference? What sort of research do we need to do now to prepare for the natural hazard impacts of tomorrow?

In this online event, Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel presents the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC Laurie Hammond Oration, speaking on how science and technology can make a meaningful difference.

Dr Finkel this year took the role as Chair of the Expert Advisory Panel for the CSIRO Report on Climate and Disaster Resilience, which was commissioned by the Prime Minister following the tragic 2019/20 bushfire season in southern Australia.

Wednesday 19 August Event details

Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC CEO, Dr Richard Thornton is available for interviews.

More about National Science Week

National Science Week is one of Australia’s largest festivals. Last year 1.5 million people participated in more than 2050 events around the country, in metropolitan, regional and remote locations.

In 2020, the festival is almost entirely virtual, online, DIY and well-spaced. This means most events, large and small, is open to anyone, no matter where they live.

National Science Week 2020 will run from 15 to 23 August. Media kit at, public event listings at