Prehistoric predators, satellite selfies, reclaiming dark skies, and more

Media releases, National Science Week

Great stories and talent up for grabs around Australia, including:

  • Discover storms on Jupiter—multiple events and locations
  • Your selfie from space—Canberra and Northern Territory
  • Get your dark sky back—talent from Sydney, Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne
  • Are bushfires good for plankton?—Tasmania
  • Giant wombats versus ichthyosaurs: which would win? Adelaide palaeontologists fight over which is the best fossil
  • Vaccines, coronavirus, criminal trials, and climate change: trusting science in a time of crisis—Melbourne
  • Is your diet good for the planet?—talent in Sydney and Melbourne
  • What will it take to keep the Great Barrier Reef great? Ask an expert—Gold Coast
  • Flying doctors: how do you save lives while flying thousands of metres above sea level?—Perth
  • Growing hemp in the Red Centre—Alice Springs

These are just a few of the events happening across Australia in National Science Week, August 15 to 23.

If you’re after more great ideas for stories, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at www.scienceinpublic.com.au/science-week, and on Twitter at @SciWKMedia.

Scientists, performers and event organisers are available for interview before and during National Science Week. Read on for contact details for each event, or call:

Individual event details and media contacts

SciVR: a virtual reality trip around the solar system— Echuca (VIC), Adelaide & Mt Gambier (SA), Denmark (WA), Kingston (TAS), and online

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.

SciVR comprises two online events, presented by astrophysicists Rebecca Allen and Alan Duffy, live-streamed to homes and venues (where COVID-19 restrictions allow) around the country. They will include Auslan interpreting. The second is especially for children.

Friday 21 – Saturday 22 August. Event details

Rebecca Allen and Alan Duffy available for media interviews.

Satellite selfies in the territories—ACT & NT

You can be part of a selfie from space. A satellite will fly over Australia’s two mainland territories – the ACT and NT – to capture images of giant artworks created by the locals.

Participating schools, businesses, families and individuals can go to an oval, park or backyard and put together designs, posters or logos that are big enough to be seen from space. The satellite will capture the results and upload them to a website for viewing.

High-altitude photos will be taken over Canberra, Darwin, Katherine, Alice Springs and a dozen other northern towns.

Monday 17 – Friday 21 August. Event details

When artificial light becomes pollution—NSW

Remember when the night sky used to be dark? Light pollution harms wildlife, disrupts sleep, wastes electricity, infuriates astronomers and obscures our view of the Milky Way. Find out about the growing movement to bring back darness where it’s needed.

Join the Australasian Dark Sky Alliance science committee in an online panel event revealing how light is impacting the environment and the simple steps you can take to help. Featuring:

  • University of Melbourne ecologist Dr Theresa Jones
  • Macquarie University astronomer Dr Richard McDermid
  • Perth-based ecologist Dr Kellie Pendoley
  • South Australian environment manager Ms Sofia Oliver

The Australian Dark Sky Alliance, by the way, recently secured a Guinness World Record. Be sure to ask for details!

Thursday 20 August. Event details

The Great South Australian Fossil Debate—Adelaide, SA

Which prehistoric South Australian creatures were the greatest: giant wombats and kangaroos, the plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs that swam in the Eromanga Sea, or the armoured predators of Cambrian oceans?

Four leading palaeontologists delve into the state’s rich fossil heritage and argue which is the most important. They are

  • Dr Felicity Coutts, University of Adelaide
  • Associate Professor Diego Garcia-Bellido, University of Adelaide, SA Museum
  • Professor Mike Lee, Flinders University, SA Museum
  • Diana Fusco, Flinders University

Each has seven minutes to make a case before battling it out in a panel debate, moderated by the singing palaeontologist and Dinosaur University Dean of Science, Professor Flint (otherwise known as science communicator and comic actor Michael Mills). Online audience members can pose their own questions.

The production also includes songs by Professor Flint and performers from the Adelaide Youth Theatre.

Sunday 23 August. Event details

Michael Mills and panellists are available for interviews.

Eating for the planet—Kensington, NSW

Is it possible to feed 10 billion people a healthy diet without destroying the planet?

Four years ago, this question was posed to a group of doctors and dieticians from all over the world, and their response became the Planetary Health Diet – a way of eating created by scientists to bring together the health needs of humans with what our planet can afford.

Join public health advocate and CEO of VicHealth Sandro Demaio, Alexandra Jones from The George Institute for Global Health, clinical dietitian Jennifer Cohen and director of That Sugar Film Damon Gameau as they discuss how we can all eat better and contribute to a healthier world.

Tuesday 18 August. Event details

Damon, Sandro, Alexandra and Jennifer are available for interviews

Science of the Sea: whale sharks, climate change, nudibranchs and Tim Flannery

Ask Tim Flannery how climate change is affecting our oceans and what can we do to help. Learn about nudibranchs – the sea slugs that look like they’re dressed for the carnival. Perhaps go on a virtual rock ramble, or hear from experts about humpback whale calving, marine animal rescue, and saving the Great Barrier Reef.

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.

Luminary Lectures:

Other events include:

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

Within reason: Trusting science in a time of crisis—Parkville, VIC

Why do people deny the life-saving efficacy of vaccines? How does a jury decide which forensic evidence to trust? What if we trust science, but it turns out to be wrong?

At this event four speakers from the Univesity of Melbourne will explore how and why people trust—or distrust—science during crises.

Speakers:

  • Professor David Balding will ask who checks the reliability of forensic evidence in a criminal trial, and how we maintain trust in science while probing flaws and debunking pseudo-science.
  • Dr Jessica Kaufman will discuss communicating science in a pandemic and readying the public for vaccines.
  • Professor Fiona Fidler will talk about bias in science.
  • Dr Kate Dooley will analyse the unavoidably political nature of climate science.  

This online event will be hosted by astrophysicist, science communication lecturer, and former Catalyst host Dr Graham Phillips.

Tuesday 18 August. Event details

From Sky to Sea: Bushfires, the atmosphere and the marine environment—Hobart, TAS

What does plankton have to do with bushfires? How does weather influence fire, and what can Tasmania expect in the future? Hear from two experts at this online event.

Paul Fox-Hughes is a researcher working in the Bureau of Meteorology, mostly on the interactions of fire and weather, after spending two decades as a severe weather forecaster.

Pete Strutton is a biological oceanographer at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania. He uses satellites, ship-based data and autonomous ocean observing platforms to investigate how climate affects ocean life.

Paul and Pete share their science for the annual public lecture of the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society and the Australian Marine Science Association.

Tuesday 18 August. Event details

A day in the life of the Royal Flying Doctor Service

Ask the doctors, nurses and pilots of Perth’s Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) what it’s like to be part of the team … on the ground and in the air.

  • How does the operations centre run and what happens when an emergency call comes in?
  • What do the doctor and nurse do before, during and after an emergency flight?
  • How do they keep their aircraft flying, what type of aircraft to they use, what to the engineers do?
  • What medical equipment is carried on the aircraft?

This online webinar is an opportunity to learn more about the RFDS and see how science, technology, engineering and maths subjects apply in the workplace.

Monday 17 August. Event details

desertSMART EcoFair – Alice Springs, NT

Bush medicine, hemp, and how global warming is affecting remote communities in the Red Centre are among the highlights of the 2020 desertSMART EcoFair, running between August 7 and 9.

The festival is Central Australia’s premiere science and sustainability event. It will focus on the International Year of Plant Health, with desert scientists, Indigenous educators, renewable energy professionals and health experts all taking to the stage. The program also includes an ABC Radio outside broadcast featuring the Great Science Quiz, documentary screenings, and the Eco-Science Schools Day for local students. Several events will invite limited live audiences, and be broadcast online.

Program highlights include:

More information at www.ecofair.org.au

Friday 7 – Sunday 9 August. Event details

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.