Hatching turtles, the Thylacine’s genome and objects from outer space at this year’s World Science Festival

The group of ten lucky students who attended the World Science Festival in Brisbane. Photo Supplied by the BHP Foundation.

A group of ten Indigenous students interested in science received an all-expenses paid excursion to Brisbane’s World Science Festival in March.

The trip was thanks to a partnership between Queensland Museum and the BHP Foundation, along with its STEM partners CSIRO and AMSI (Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute).

Students participated in a range of activities across the two-day festival on March 21st and 22nd, allowing them opportunities to learn more about future STEM jobs and meet top Australia scientists.

Nominated by CSIRO and AMSI, the students came together from four different states, some hopping on a plane or travelling interstate for the first time.

Day one saw students exploring the Queensland Museum’s NASA exhibit: ‘NASA – A Human Adventure.’

The exhibition contains over 250 important artefacts from both the US and Soviet Union space programs. Students came face to face with original objects flown in space as well as replicas and scale models.

The students also had access to one of the festival’s most popular events, the hatching of turtles in incubation chambers. The turtles are born in tanks at the Queensland Museum that are specially designed to replicate the natural process of hatchlings meeting the sea for the first time.

On the second day, the group of ten listened to scientists speak about their jobs at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre’s Concert Hall. The sessionaims to encourage others to become excited about science and to shine a light on some of the world’s most interesting jobs.

One scientist who spoke was Associate Professor Andrew Pask. Associate Professor Pask’s lab is responsible for the sequencing of the extinct thylacine’s genome. This data is now being used to better understand the biology of thylacines. Associate Professor Pask is also Reader and Australian Research Council Future Fellow in the School of BioSciences at the University of Melbourne.

Research Scientist with the Australian Antarctic Division Jess Melbourne-Thomas also spoke to the students. Ms Melbourne-Thomas works with marine ecosystem mathematical models to understand how the ecosystems function and how they could react to human activities and climate change.

A role model for women in STEM, she co-founded the Homeward Bound Program for women in science and leadership, which saw the largest ever all-female voyage to Antarctica with 80 scientists on board the trip.

Students also had an exclusive behind the scenes look at Queensland Museum and its collection stores. The back of house tour was run by expert tour guides who showed the students some of the millions of objects and specimens the museum hosts.

The World Science Festival has run annually for over ten years in New York and the Queensland Museum Network holds the licence to host World Science Festival in the Asia-Pacific region from 2016 to 2021.

By Hannah Cross

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