Modifying microbes to eat plastic; climate solutions; rewilding to save species; and what policies add up?

Great National Science Week ENVIRONMENT stories up for grabs now around Australia

  • Do environmental policies add up? Ask Hugh Possingham, a professor of both maths and zoology.
  • Bandicoots, platypuses, and more: can we save our endangered species through rewilding?
  • Leafy green cities, coastal wetlands, microalgae: the climate solutions you wish you knew about.
  • Citizen scientists wanted to investigate microplastics.
  • Meet the super microbes who could save us from plastic.
  • Archaeology in space and on Earth in a changing climate.
  • How the Southern Ocean is keeping the planet from overheating.
  • Tree scientist encourages gardeners to grow the urban forest.

More on these highlights below.

Scientists, experts and event organisers are available for interview throughout National Science Week.

Read on for direct contact details for each event, or contact Tanya Ha – or 0404 083 863.

Visit to find more stories in your area.

Media centre here. Images for media here.

Individual event details and media contacts

The maths of saving the planet – according to a mathematician saving the planet – Bruce, ACT

How has science and mathematics shaped – or not shaped – Australia’s most significant environmental policies?

Professor Hugh Possingham, one of Australia’s most experienced and respected environmental scientists, has some thoughts, which he will share at the Krebs Lecture.

Hugh is the former Chief Scientist for Queensland and a Professor of both Mathematics and Zoology at The University of Queensland.

He will share his unique, candid perspective of environmental and climate change policies, from emissions offsets to land-clearing to protecting threatened species.

The examples could include biodiversity offsetting, allocation of funds to threatened species, long-term monitoring, land-clearing, designing marine protected areas, wildlife management, and more.

Tuesday 15 August:

Media enquiries: Jaana Dielenberg, Communication and Engagement Manager, Biodiversity Council, or 0413 585 709.

Hugh Possingham is available for media interviews.

Bandicoots, platypuses, and more: can we save our endangered species through rewilding? – Kensington, NSW

From the golden bandicoots in the Strzelecki Desert to the platypuses in the Royal National Park, can we save our endangered species through rewilding?

Join ecologists and rewilding experts in their quest to reverse the devastating impact of climate change on our natural environment and stop Australia from being ‘extinction central’:

  • UNSW Sydney’s Director of the Centre for Ecosystem Science, Professor Richard Kingsford
  • Principal Ecologist for the Wild Deserts project Dr Rebecca West
  • Associate Professor Katherine Moseby
  • Lead Researcher for the Platypus Conservation Initiative Dr Gilad Bino.

This panel discussion chaired by journalist Dr Ann Jones explores the limitations of traditional conservation approaches to landcare and highlights the power of rewilding our fragile ecosystems – all before it’s too late.

Monday 14 August.

Media enquiries: UNSW Centre for Ideas,, 02 9065 0485.

Climate solutions you wish you knew about – how plants can help us tackle climate change – Sydney, NSW

What can we learn from the way plants adapt to changes in climate?

How will plants handle sea level rise? What role do our urban green spaces play? What does a more-acidic ocean mean for the very tiny but important seaweeds at the bottom of the food chain?

Ask the experts:

  • Plants in smart green cities – Prof Michelle Leishman, Macquarie University
  • Wetlands weathering climate change – Prof Neil Saintilan, Macquarie University
  • Microalgae in a warming and acidifying marine environment – A/Prof Katherina Petrou, University of Technology Sydney
  • Protecting plants and fungi from diseases and other threats – Dr Brett Summerell, Australian Institute of Botanic Science, Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, Sydney.

Dr Brett Summerell, Chief Botanist and Director Science, Education and Conservation at Botanic Gardens of Sydney is available for interviews.

Tuesday 15 August:

Media enquiries: Botanic Gardens of Sydney media, or 02 9231 8122.

Citizen scientists wanted to investigate microplastics – Launceston, TAS

Is it sand or microplastics?

Discover what plastics can be found in beach sand, alongside other typical beach materials such as shells, and organic matter.

This activity will have participants learning about the source of microplastics and their impact on our marine ecosystems.

Thursday 17 – Saturday 19 August:

Media enquiries: Maddie Brough,

Meet the super microbes who could save us from plastic – Sydney, Orange & Newcastle

We’ve used microbes to create bread, wine and cheese for thousands of years.

Now, scientists can modify microbes in tiny cellular ‘factories’ to replace many of the products currently produced by fossil fuels. And they give microbes ‘superpowers’ to gobble up plastic.

Hear from the synthetic biologists who have created the card game ‘Remediate!’, where players give microbe characters the right genes to remove the most plastic from different environments.

Orange: Wednesday 16 August:

Sydney: Friday 18 August:

Newcastle: Sunday 20 August:

Media enquiries: Mary O’Malley, or 0438 881 124.

Archaeology in space and on Earth in a changing climate – Unley, SA

Ask two very different archaeologists from Flinders University about finding unmarked graves, how climate change has impacted human history, and why the Moon is an archaeological site.

Alice Gorman is an international leader in the field of space archaeology and the author of the book Dr Space Junk vs the Universe.

Ian Moffat is an archaeological scientist using geological techniques to examine the effect of climate variation on human evolution.

Thursday 17 August:

Media enquiries: Kristie Beatson, City of Unley Libraries, or 08 8372 5100. Flinders University media enquiries: or 0427 398 713.

Unsung heroes: Southern Ocean vs. climate change – Sandy Bay, TAS

Ask the experts how the Southern Ocean is keeping the planet from overheating and how scientists find out this hidden crucial information from the plants and animals living in the extraordinary world of the Southern Ocean.

Secrets of the natural world often lurk in places we could never dream of going ourselves. These secrets are crucial in the unfolding battle against climate change.

Find out more about the Island of Ideas public talks:

Tuesday 22 August:

Media enquiries: Belinda Brock, or 03 6226 2521.

Tree scientist encourages gardeners to grow the urban forest – Aberfoyle Park, Noarlunga, Smithfield Plains, Salisbury, & Enfield, SA

Trees reduce pollution, create shade and encourage biodiversity, according to plant scientist Dr Kathryn Hill.

Kathryn studies how well trees are growing and how much carbon they’re storing by measuring their scientific values.  She even compares how plants grew 65 million years ago to how the same species grow today. 

Amateur plant scientists can help her grow and study more trees in Adelaide by attending her National Science Week workshops.

Multiple dates and locations.

Media enquiries: Kathryn Hill, or 0423 693 733.

About National Science Week

National Science Week is Australia’s annual opportunity to meet scientists, discuss hot topics, do science and celebrate its cultural and economic impact on society – from art to astrophysics, chemistry to climate change, and forensics to future food.

First held in 1997, National Science Week has become one of Australia’s largest festivals. Last year about 1.9 million people participated in more than 1,650 events and activities. 

The festival is proudly supported by the Australian Government, CSIRO, the Australian Science Teachers Association, and the ABC.

In 2023 it runs from Saturday 12 to Sunday 20 August. Event details can be found at