Dancing with stick insects, healing nature, and what’s in your sourdough?

Media releases, National Science Week

Saturday 22 August 2020

Highlights from day eight of National Science Week

115 events, 235 competitions and online activities, and dozens of great stories and talent.

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

  • National: Discover storms on Jupiter in a virtual reality tour of the solar system
  • National: Discover new species, map wildlife, track the effects of climate change
  • NSW: Fit or fat? How your postcode affects your health
  • NSW: ID a frog and meet a radioecologist on the Sydney Science Trail
  • VIC: How is nature good for your health and wellbeing?
  • VIC: Phasmid of the opera: performances featuring music, dance and a stick insect
  • TAS: What microbes are growing in your sourdough?
  • TAS: Make a canoe and hear about local Aboriginal engineering and navigation

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

Also today:

Coming up:

Fossil fight, wildlife under fire, and the astro-origins of your smartphone – see a preview of Sunday’s highlights.

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

More about the event highlights

The Great Aussie BioQuest: help scientists map where the wild things are—national

Grab your chance to discover a new species by joining in the Great Aussie BioQuest – a gigantic, nationwide citizen science project to discover how climate change is affecting Australia’s wildlife.

Gamers have found animals never seen before, such as the spider Ornodolmedes benrevelli, named after Ben Revell, the gamer who photographed it. Other species of moths, spiders and insects are in the process of being formally described and confirmed.

BioQuest participants log sightings of plants, animals or fungi using the QuestaGame smartphone app. All sightings are expert-verified and given a “remarkability score”.

Information is uploaded to the open-access Atlas of Living Australia to help researchers make decisions about protecting the environment.

Saturday 15 August until Sunday 23 August Event details

QuestaGame image library (please credit photos with the full text of each file name)

SciVR: a virtual reality trip around the solar system—national

Discover storms on Jupiter, exploding stars and mysterious signals from space. From global events using dozens of telescopes to watching the sky in Australia, SciVR takes audiences on a virtual reality tour of the Universe using a smartphone app and a foldable VR headset.

Today’s online event is especially for children and families, presented by astrophysicists Rebecca Allen and Alan Duffy, live-streamed to homes and venues (where COVID-19 restrictions allow) around the country. It will include Auslan interpreting.

Saturday 22 August. Event details

Rebecca Allen and Alan Duffy available for media interviews.

The science of healthy cities—Sydney, NSW

Does your suburb make you fit or fat? Share your ideas for healthier cities and track how the COVID-19 restrictions have impacted on health and wellbeing at The Science of Healthy Cities event.

Learn the role urban spaces play in your health and wellbeing, how science is tackling key urban challenges including climate change, transport and equitable access; and how you can get involved to help scientists to tackle these issues, through videos and online discussion with experts.

Presented by Yvonne Lair, University of Sydney lecturer in Prevention and Health Promotion.

Friday 14 August – Sunday 23 August Event details

Yvonne is available for interviews.

Sydney Science Trail—NSW

Explore ocean depths previously unseen. Discover the resilience of the Australian bush when hit by fire. Identify a frog and spy a Wollemi pine. Meet a radioecologist or an International Space Station flight controller. Gain an understanding of First Nations’ approaches to science and the world around us.

Sydney Science Trail is an online adventure exploring the theme of ‘Adaptation’, bringing together scientists, community groups, and institutions to celebrate Australian research.

The program features a suite of virtual activities, digital exhibitions, live-streamed talks and demonstrations, covering vital areas of science, from plants and animals to earth, technology and space.

Sydney Science Trail is an initiative of the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney and the Australian Museum. It offers curriculum-related content produced in partnership with the NSW Department of Education, Macquarie University, UTS and ANSTO.

Saturday 15 August – 15 September. Event details

Healing nature—VIC

How and why do humans need nature for the good of their physical and mental health?

Hear the answers from the experts in an online panel event, facilitated by Associate Professor Mardie Townsend from Deakin University, who works with Parks Victoria and other organisations, investigating the benefits of contact with nature for human health and wellbeing. She will be joined by:

  • Professor David Strayer – an expert in how attention and concentration can be restored by interacting with nature, from the Applied Cognition Laboratory at the University of Utah.
  • Sarah Allely – creator of the podcast series Brain on Nature, who found a path to recovery through nature following a debilitating bicycle accident.
  • Tristan Snell – senior lecturer and counselling psychologist, School of Psychology, Faculty of Health, Deakin University. Tristan’s research interests include the impact of the physical environment on mental health and learning.
  • Nicole Foreshew – an artist, writer and curator from the Wiradjuri nation, Central West New South Wales.

This panel event is held in conjunction with the exhibition at Bayside Gallery, Greenworld. Artists, scientists and experts in the field explore the relationship between an individual and their surroundings and the role nature plays in human consciousness, and its importance to health, wellbeing, and spirituality.

Saturday 22 August. Event details

Body / Insect / Machine—Carlton, VIC

Activators 2: Body/Insect/Machine is a series of videos featuring choreography by dancer Prue Lang, androids made by artist Mathieu Briand – and a stick insect. Together they comprise a movement experiment,  informed by evolutionary ecologist Professor Mark Elgar from the University of Melbourne.

The work explores the complex relationships between the natural and artificial, expressed as movement and intelligence. It is presented by dance company Chunky Move in association with Science Gallery Melbourne.

Saturday 15 – Monday 24 August. Event details

Choreographer and dancer Prue Lang, android creator Mathieu Briand, Science Gallery Melbourne creative director Ryan Jefferies, and Chunky Move artistic director and co-CEO Antony Hamilton are all available for interviews.


Get hands-on with the ancient techniques of fermenting foods such as sourdough, sauerkraut and kimchi in your own kitchen! Ask questions of world experts, take a virtual tour the Belgium’s unique Sourdough Library, and join in the quest to find Tasmania’s oldest sourdough.

Today’s highlight: What’s growing in your sourdough?  

Meet Elizabeth Landis, the microbiologist from Tufts University, who has studied over 500 sourdough starters from all over the world as she shares some of the results of the Global Sourdough Project. Find out what’s really happening in your sourdough and how different are the microbes that are growing in your sourdough starter compared to your neighbours.

Event organiser Dipon Sarkar—a food safety microbiologist with an interest in fermentation—is available for interviews.

Saturday 15 August – Sunday 23 August Event details

Tasmania’s First Scientists: Investigations into Tasmanian Aboriginal canoe-making—Hobart, TAS

Look deeper into the rich cultural knowledge and science behind Tasmanian Aboriginal canoe-making with a focus on naval architecture and cultural use of plants. Make your own canoe with found materials and be a part of an online exhibition hosted by Plimsoll Gallery.

This web-based resource includes an investigation into the resilience of Indigenous culture in surviving the impact of British invasion.

Online resources include:

  • Ethnobotanical information on the various species that are used in various types of Indigenous canoe making;
  • Video and audio of Uncle Rex Greeno talking about canoe making, how this relates to his Tasmanian Aboriginal culture and his experience as a boat builder of European type boats;
  • Naval engineering and architectural perspectives on Tasmanian canoes;
  • Photogrammetry of a 3D scan conducted on the model paperbark canoe made by Uncle Rex Greeno.

Young learners can then make their own canoe with found materials gathered from local bushland, combined with contemporary objects. Photographs of their creations will become part of an online exhibition.  

Saturday 15 – Sunday 23 August Event details

Event type: Online

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 www.scienceinpublic.com.au, public event listings at www.scienceweek.net.au.