The botany of booze; drones on the farm; wildlife forensics; plastic oceans; and more

Media releases, National Science Week

Thursday 17 August 2017

Highlights from day six of National Science Week

448 events and exhibitions, 22 online activities, and dozens of great stories and talent.

National and international talent, researchers, experts, and other interesting people available for interview around the country. Plenty of photo opportunities.


Charters Towers (near Townsville)


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

Also today:

National Science Week has become one of Australia’s largest festivals. Last year saw a staggering 1.3 million people participate in more than 1,800 events and activities.

In 2017, National Science Week celebrates its 20th birthday, with 2,000+ events registered throughout Australia—from insect Olympics in Darwin to ‘Blood’ at Melbourne’s new Science Gallery, to Antarctic science in the Apple Isle—with everything from science festivals, music and comedy shows, expert panel discussions, interactive hands-on displays, open days and online activities.

Visit the National Science Week website for the details of events in your area:

For general Science Week media enquiries:

More about the event highlights

Wildlife forensics—Kensington, NSW

Did you know that maggots in a corpse can tell you the person’s time of death? Or that genetic fingerprinting of smuggled animals can help fight illegal trade in wildlife? Or that, thanks to Australian research, the DNA of 200-year-old koala specimens is revealing the effects of human activity?

Two experts reveal the insects and animals that are helping to solve crimes, and the cutting-edge techniques used by wildlife detectives.

Bryan Lessard—‘Bry the Fly Guy’ from the Australian National Insect Collection, CSIRO, will discuss the latest in forensic entomology, the use of insects in legal investigations. He named a rather bootylicious horse fly Scaptia beyonceae.

Rebecca Johnson—Director of the Australian Museum Research Institute, and co-chief investigator of the Koala Genome Consortium—will discuss her work as a wildlife forensic scientist. Originally a geneticist, she helps police and border protection agents piece together DNA clues and track down perpetrators of cruelty against wildlife.

Rebecca has led the Australian Museum’s development of a fast-acting test to identify rhino horn from other substances. It is now being rolled out in Asia. Previously, Border Security could not distinguish the rhino horn from other drugs. Now they can test and book smugglers within 24 hours.

Thursday 17 August. Event details

Media enquiries: Claire Vince:, 02 9320 6181 or 0468 726 910

Botany distilled—Sydney, NSW

You can tell by the enthusiasm in his Texan drawl that Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens horticulturalist Jimmy Turner loves his plants…and his gin.

Jimmy and a group of experts in their fields will explore the role plants play in the concoction of your favourite alcoholic beverages in this night dedicated to the process of turning plants into alcohol.

Meet local makers, taste their products and learn the science behind the creation of wine, beer and gin.

Thursday 17 August. Event details

Media enquiries: Vanessa Barratt,, 0450 018 752 or 02 9231 8176

Rural Futures: science and technology in agriculture—Charters Towers, QLD

Future farms will have help from flying drones. SBS broadcaster Oliver Heuthe hosts a Q&A-style panel to explore what science and technology offers to the future of agriculture.


  • Dr Airlie Chapman is a multi-award-winning expert in her field with a PhD in Aeronautics & Astronautics from the University of Washington.
  • Eric Schoof is a PhD candidate in Aeronautics & Astronautics, University of Washington, whose research covers human-swarm interactions and semi-autonomous networks.
  • Alex Olsen from James Cook University is ‘building and training’ a weed terminator as part of his PhD in automating the detection and control of invasive and noxious weed species in northern Australia. He is doing this through a combination of research methods in computer vision and machine learning.
  • Shane Campbell is an invasive plant and animal science specialist for the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Thursday 17 August. Event details

Media enquiries: Caron Gabriel, 0467 244 524

Chemistry: saving lives and creating jobs—Macquarie University, NSW

Margaret Brimble has raided nature’s medicine chest to create treatments for many diseases. With 500 articles, 30 patents, and a string of successful commercialisations, she has shown how medicinal chemistry can transform lives and reap economic returns.

At the lecture Margaret will reveal how to build bridges from the chemistry lab to the clinic and to industry.

Thursday 17 August. Event details

Media enquiries: Kevin Rhodes, or 0448 037 266

What did a voyage to Antarctica tell us about women in science? Meet the scientist studying the scientists—Hobart, TAS

In 2016, 76 women with science backgrounds from around the world travelled to the Antarctic as part of the three-week Homeward Bound leadership program, designed to support female experts to contribute to climate change collaboration and policy development.

Social scientist Dr Meredith Nash from the University of Tasmania was one of them. At this Science Week event, she will discuss her research drawing on the experiences of 25 women who were fellow participants.

Thursday 17 August. Event details

Meredith Nash is available for interviews.

Media enquiries: Sally Glaetzer,, 03 6226 1832 or 0439 862 420

Seeing the invisible with Dr Elizabeth New—Sandy Bay, TAS

Dr Elizabeth New from The University of Sydney will explain the fluorescence of everyday objects—from highlighters to spinach—and the many applications of fluorescence, including in forensic science and medicine.

Dr New will also be travelling to schools around Tasmania as the Royal Australian Chemical Institute’s Tasmanian Branch Youth Lecturer.

Thursday 17 August. Event details

Dr Elizabeth New is available for interview.

Media and event enquiries: Nathan Kilah,, 03 6226 2183 or 0429 206 737