SA: Dropbears, superbugs, and astrophysics meets Minecraft

Media releases, National Science Week

Great National Science Week stories and talent up for grabs around South Australia, including:

  • Are koalas really cuddly … or are they dropbears in disguise?
  • How do superbugs get super-villain powers?
  • Forget the Telstra shop. Your smartphone came from the stars. Find out how.
  • Giant wombats versus ichthyosaurs: which would win? Adelaide palaeontologists fight over the best fossil
  • Explore a gravitational wave detector via Minecraft
  • How can you tell good science from bad? Ask the experts (if you trust them!)
  • Meet the cuttlefish, sea-dragons, dolphins, sharks and rays of the Great Southern Reef – without getting wet
  • The science of blowing a record-breaking 19.8-metre soap bubble
  • Help SA’s endangered bandicoots find prickly new homes
  • Discover the love-hate relationship between butterflies and ants
  • Become a Carbon Counter and join the challenge cut our contribution to climate change.

More on these highlights below, and others at, and on Twitter at @SciWKMedia.

Scientists, artists, performers and event organisers are available for interview throughout Science Week.

Individual event details and media contacts

Myth-busting koalas: dropbears, drowsiness and deadly threats

Are koalas really cuddly? How are they recovering after last summer’s disastrous bushfires? Can they survive future fires? And are dropbears real? Take your hard questions about these soft marsupials to an expert: Professor Chris Daniels from South Australia’s International Koala Centre of Excellence.

Professor Daniels will front an online interactive event, live-streamed from the Royal Institution of Australia, in Adelaide. Log on to explore the science and history of koalas, including conservation, habitat loss, social lives, disease threats, drowsy behaviour – and dropbears.

Thursday 6 August. Event details

Chris Daniels is available for media interviews.

Exploring gravitational wave observatories in Minecraft

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detector in USA is one of the most sensitive scientific instruments ever built. Now scientists from the University of Adelaide have made another one – in Minecraft!

LIGO made the first observations of gravitational waves—ripples in space-time caused by colliding black holes and neutron stars—in 2015, a century after Einstein predicted them.

Explore its Minecraft doppelganger through live online tours given by researchers who work on gravitational wave detectors.

Minecraft users can log in for the tours. Other audiences can watch via a YouTube stream.

Friday 21 – Saturday 22 August. Event details

Deadly Slime: a choose-your-own-adventure animated experience

Dive into the slimy battlefront of the war with super-villain superbugs.

Deadly Slime is an online choose-your-own-adventure animation experience, exploring biofilms, the protective coatings bacteria cover themselves with as a defence against our powerful immune systems. Thus armoured, they can quickly evolve into dangerous superbugs. Even with antibiotics, it is difficult to destroy these fortified slime castles.

Navigate your way through a dramatic story inspired by real-life events. Will you make the right decisions and defeat the infection?

Win or lose, you can meet Adelaide antibiotic-resistant bacteria researcher Dr Katharina Richter and surgeon Dr Markus Trochsler for an online Q&A panel event on 26 August.

Monday 17 – Wednesday 26 August. Event details

Paradoxical objects at MOD

The clothes you wear, the cutlery you eat with, the device you’re reading this on – they all come from the stars.

Join artist and futurist Ana Tiquia during her online residency at the University of Adelaide’s MOD museum to explore our material world, following everyday objects through time from the start of the Universe, through Earth’s geological periods, to extraction, manufacturing and transportation.  

Suggest an object to Ana in her space-time travel agency. If she likes it, she will trace its cosmic origins and offer personalised planetary travel guidance to its owner.

Tuesday 21 July – Friday 4 September. Event details

Ana Tiquia available for media interviews.

The Scientific Bubble Show

How do you blow a 19.8 metre bubble? Meet Marty McBubble, the man who secured a Guinness World Record for doing just that.

Mr McBubble (the alter ego of scientist and professional clown Graeme Denton) will entertain via Zoom, interacting with participants and exploring the science of bubbles, explaining their geometry, iridescence, flexibility, surface tension, gravity, density, and other fun inflatable stuff.

Saturday 8 – Sunday 9 August. Event details

Meet the cuttlefish, sea-dragons, dolphins, sharks and rays of the Great Southern Reef – without getting wet

Immerse yourself underwater while staying bone-dry!

Adelaide-based organisation Experiencing Marine Sanctuaries is presenting a series of livestreamed events and virtual tours revealing the spectacular diversity of the reef system.

  • Weird and wonderful creatures of the Great Southern Reef: Monday 3 August, event details
  • Sea-dragons and their cousins – Monday 10 August, event details
  • Rays and sharks – Monday 17 August, event details
  • Site attached reef fish of the Great Southern Reef – Monday 24 August, event details
  • Dolphins – Monday 31 August, event details
  • Aboriginal connections to coast and marine – Monday 7 September, event details
  • Virtual tour: swim with Giant Australian Cuttlefish – Saturday 1 August – Wednesday 30 September: event details

The events include commentary and Q&A from leading South Australian marine biologists, ecologists, Kaurna elders, underwater photographers, researchers and citizen scientists.

Underwater photos and footage available.

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
  • Professor Mike Lee, Flinders University, SA Museum
  • Associate Professor Diego Garcia-Bellido, University of Adelaide, 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.

What makes science good?

How can you trust a scientist? Defining what makes science ‘good’ is surprisingly complex.

Explore these thorny issues by asking the experts through an online Q&A event hosted by Professor Rachel Ankeny, convenor of the Public Engagement in Science and Technology Adelaide (PESTA) research cluster at the University of Adelaide.

Joining Professor Ankeny:

  • Professor Frank Grützner, who will use a project known as EchidnaCSI as an example of how citizen science can be a powerful tool for research, public engagement and education.
  • Professor Veronica Soebarto and Dr Helen Barrie, who will will share their experiences in using citizen science to engage the communit in the co-design of public and green spaces.
  • Dr Kim Barbour, who will explore the notion of trust by discussing markers of expertise and relevance in online scientific discussions.
  • Professor Sean Connell, who will talk about the innate attraction of communicating optimism and the influence it can yield in driving positive change.
  • Dr Ian Musgrave, who will discuss the concept of communicating risk in a time of uncertainty.

Thursday 20 August. Event details

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.

Herding Caterpillars—Adelaide, SA

 To get beautiful butterflies, you need caterpillars … and ants!

Find out about the Lycaenidae family of butterflies and their unique relationship with ants, as protectors and prey.

This webinar features short talks from Butterfly Conservation SA experts, providing insight into the life of the chequered copper butterfly (Lucia limbaria), how Lycaenid larvae produce a secretion that attracts and rewards ants who in turn protect them, and how some larvae prey upon the ants.

Thursday 20 August. Event details

Carbon Counter: cut your contribution to climate change—online

How much carbon will you pledge to save this National Science Week? Put on a jumper when you’re cold, cut your shower time, eat roo or fish instead of beef, cycle instead of driving. These are some of the small changes that you, your household or your school can adopt to reduce your carbon footprint.

Join in at Carbon Counter, a countrywide challenge produced by the ABC. See what savings your lifestyle hacks will make and pledge to make a difference.

The Carbon Counter project invites individuals, households and schools to make small changes to day-to-day energy, food and transport use with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas production.

A running tally of the tonnes of carbon saved shows the collective impact of you and your fellow challengers.

Visit from Wednesday 12 August.

Researchers and science communicators available for interviews.

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