NSW: Bat poop, dark skies, making beer with algae, and defining the rights of the Moon

National Science Week

Great National Science Week stories and talent up for grabs in Sydney and regional New South Wales, including:

  • Identify a frog and see the emu in the sky on the Sydney Science Trail
  • Talking climate change like your life depends on it—with Tim Flannery, social researcher Rebecca Huntley, and marine scientist Emma Johnston
  • Learn from 60,000 years of Aboriginal astronomy and Indigenous knowledge
  • Should the Moon have legal rights?
  • Is your diet good for the planet?
  • Get your dark sky back
  • From supermassive black holes to Australia’s Women in STEM Ambassador—meet Lisa Harvey-Smith
  • What do algae have to do with beer-making?
  • Plant pathogens, pests and pollinators: the fight to get food on your plate
  • Become a Carbon Counter and join the challenge cut our contribution to climate change.

More on these highlights below, and others at www.scienceinpublic.com.au/science-week, and on Twitter at @SciWKMedia.

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

Science Week in NSW goes online – read the media release from the New South Wales National Science Week coordinating committee.

Individual event details and media contacts

Sydney Science Trail

Explore ocean depths previously unseen. Discover the resilience of the Australian bush when hit by fire. Identify a frog and spy a Wollemi pine. 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.

It inspires users to enjoy 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

We still need to talk about climate change

Join climate scientist and author of The Future Eaters and The Weather Makers, Tim Flannery, marine ecologist Adriana Vergés, and social researcher and author of How to Talk About Climate Change in a Way That Makes a Difference, Rebecca Huntley to find out how we might turn pressing climate conversations into climate solutions.

Last summer’s bushfires saw more than 18 million hectares burnt, and more than a billion animals killed. How do we restart the conversation on climate change? How can we take the politics out of these important issues? How can we bring communities together to think about change?

Hosted by marine ecologist, TV presenter and UNSW Dean of Science Emma Johnston.

Wednesday 19 August. Event details

Tim, Adriana, Rebecca and Emma are available for media interviews.

Indigenous Science Experience

What can Aboriginal astronomy tell us about the night sky? How is native flora used as bush medicine? What can we learn about sustainable living from more than 60,000 years of Indigenous culture?

Find out the answers to these and other questions during the Indigenous Science Experience.

The event consists of five online presentations showcasing science presented by Indigenous secondary students, Elders, community members and science outreach providers, including astrophysicist and Wiradjuri woman Kirsten Banks, global Indigenous engineering expert Dave Harrington, and Yaegl community members.

  • Artefact and Bush Tucker Experience: Monday 17 August
  • Bush Medicines to Pharmaceuticals: Tuesday 18 August
  • Indigenous History and Artefacts: Wednesday 19 August
  • Indigenous Astronomy in Australia: Thursday 20 August
  • Global Indigenous Engineering: Friday 21 August.

Since 2012, the Indigenous Science Experience at the Redfern Community Centre has been highlighting the value of traditional and contemporary Indigenous knowledge in STEM and the relevance of science to everyday lives. The new online format continues this tradition.

Saturday 15 – Sunday 23 August. Event details

Should the Moon be a legal person? – online, via Newcastle

Wait, what? How can the Moon be a person? And why should that even be a thing?

Hang online with a panel of experts and get to the bottom of this fascinating idea.

A recent US Executive Order on off-Earth mining has sparked an international conversation about Moon mining and the associated ethical, technological, scientific, environmental, and legal issues.

Giving the Moon the legal rights of a human will make it much harder to mine its minerals.

Put the hard questions at this online event, featuring:

  • Donna Lawler, space law specialist;
  • Michelle Maloney, co-founder and national convenor of the Australian Earth Laws Alliance (AELA);
  • Associate Professor Alice Gorman, also known as Dr Space Junk, space archaeologist and author;
  • Gabriel Harris, founder and managing director of management consultancy Interchange; and
  • Ceridwen Dovey, essay writer for newyorker.com

Tuesday 18 August. Event details

Speakers and hosts available for media interviews.

Eating for the planet

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 marry 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

When artificial light becomes pollution

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 darkness 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.


  • 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

Super STEM Careers Q&A

Are you a high school student wanting to design, build or discover new things? Do you want to solve the challenges facing our world? Want to know what a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) really looks like, and how to get there? 

Australia’s Women in STEM Ambassador, astrophysicist Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith, is hosting a live-streamed Q&A with CEO of Aubot, roboticist Marita Cheng AM, and Superstar of STEM epidemiologist Dr Kalinda Griffiths. Join them as they talk about their jobs and how they started on their STEM career pathways.

Wednesday 19 August. Event details

Lisa Harvey-Smith is available for media interviews.

Bat colonies: fresh from the field & live poo analysis

Join Macquarie University’s Dr Michelle Power as she visits a bat colony to collect poo samples.

This is a great virtual opportunity to find out what a real live scientist does out in the field. The samples gathered by Dr Power form part of her research into diseases that can spread from wildlife to humans.

Using live and pre-recorded footage she will show the process of collecting samples from field locations and explain parasite spread and surveillance, broadcast from the event Facebook page.

After the poo has been collected, a second event follows: Live from the lab – Poo analysis.

Wednesday 19 August Event details

Beer & algae: brewing a greener future

Did you know that the carbon dioxide produced by the fermentation of a six-pack of beer takes a tree two full days to absorb? So can we make beer carbon neutral?

Independent brewers Young Henrys were on a mission to tackle their carbon emissions when they came across the Climate Change Cluster (C3) at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). Together they’ve developed a way to use algae to efficiently convert carbon dioxide into oxygen.

This online event features brewery co-founder and director Oscar McMahon and UTS researcher Dr Janice McCaughly. Find out how the fusion of brewing science and climate change innovation led to an Australian-first, and discover how one humble organism is changing the future of our planet.

Thursday 20 August. Event details

Plant X Investigation – Orange, Cowra & Cabonne region

Which plant pathogens, pests and pollinators have to be managed to get wheat and wine grapes from New South Wales farms to your dinner table?

Find out in this series of online events, hosted by scientists and artists from the Orange-Cowra-Cabonne Science Hub and the NSW Department of Primary Industries. Explore the keys to plant health, from beekeeping to biosecurity.

The program features a series of scientist chats and webinar presentations moderated by plant pathologist Jordan Bailey, and Hub convener Phoebe Cowdery. Presenters include bacteriologist Toni Chapman, bee expert Elizabeth Frost, forest pathology expert Angus Carnegie, plant virologist Shannon Mulholland and plant biosecurity entomologist Polychronis Rempoulakis.

It also includes creative workshops on digital illustration with artist Todd Fuller, botanical illustration and flower press construction with Heather Vallance, and botanical illustration drawing methods with Angus Fisher. 

Multiple events and dates Event details

Carbon Counter: cut your contribution to climate change—national

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: www.abc.net.au/carboncounter.

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