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Indigenous health, shark gonads, blind books, and future food: it’s National Science Week!

May 18, 2021 Lifestyle News No Comments
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This year’s festival runs 14 to 22 August with thousands of events around Australia.

Entertainment, business, environment, food and wine, Indigenous, the Arts, health, sport, technology, farming and agriculture, lifestyle, education, and disability media …

EVERY round can find a story in this year’s National Science Week.

National Science Week 2021 runs from 14 to 24 August. Here are some of the early top picks:

Future-proofing food

How are we going to feed 10 billion people on a planet hit by climate change? Ask one of the hundreds of Australian scientists working on solutions. For instance:

  • Getting our protein from edible insects – Kim Johnson (Melbourne).
  • Improving food crops grown in hostile soils – Peter Ryan (Canberra).
  • Making self-fertilising legumes – Ulrike Mathesius (Canberra).
  • Making nitrogen nutrition in plants less expensive – Brent Kaiser (Brisbane).
  • Plants for good guts and industrial hemp – Rachel Burton (Adelaide)
  • Adapting rice, wheat and other crops to cope with more frequent flooding due to climate change – Timothy Colmer (Perth).

Indigenous health: closing the gap with an AI ‘Time Machine’ and a health lab on wheels

Chronic diseases account for about 80 per cent of the mortality gap between adult Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and other Australians.

In the Northern Territory, the Menzies School of Health Research is letting people experience the effects of long-term diseases before they get sick. HealthLAB – a clinic on wheels – lets people see heart and kidney ultrasounds, hear their heart beating, and try on ‘alcohol goggles’ that mimic raised blood alcohol levels. An award-winning interactive Time Machine app completes the picture – literally – by showing how those choices affect appearance.

HealthLAB will travel to locations around Darwin, the island community of Wurrumiyanga on the Timor Sea, and Ramingining in the Arafura Swamp to work in country with trainee Indigenous health practitioners.

Ocean health

From the Great Barrier Reef to the Great Australian Bight, the health of Australia’s ocean zones is a matter of keen fascination for all of us. During National Science Week, researchers from around the country will explore critical aspects of the seas that girt our home.

Ask oceanographers Lachlan McKinna and Ivona Cetinić how the ocean is an incredible climate machine or if the food web will work in warming waters.

But not everything will be deep, dark and depressing. Some of the questions answered will be, um, quite unusual. For instance: do male sharks really have two penises?

Actually, they’re called ‘claspers’, and channel semen into females during mating. Charles Darwin University PhD candidate Amy Kirke and colleagues will reveal all as they dissect commercially caught sharks in front of an audience.

Science belongs to everyone: making it accessible for people with disabilities

Meet the legally blind artist making sensory science ‘books’ you can read with your eyes closed.

Erica Tandori creates tactile displays and multi-sensory, multimodal artworks. She has vision loss due to inherited eye disease and is artist in residence at Monash University’s Rossjohn Laboratory.

My Goodness is an exhibition of 10 interactive multisensory science ‘books’ designed for low-vision, blind, hearing-impaired, and deaf audiences, using large print text, braille, tactile artworks, haptic and 3D audio, visual tracking and tactile sensor interaction technologies.

Or ask scientist and children’s book author Rina Fu about ‘MicroToons’, the animated cartoons about microbiology she’s making with and for people with autism.

If you’d like to chase up any of these stories or hear about others that relevant to your round, get in touch.

To receive story alerts in the lead up to and during National Science Week, register here or email

National Science Week began in 1997. Last year about 1.1 million people participated in more than 1200 events—despite a global pandemic—exploring topics from art to astrophysics, chemistry to climate change, and forensics to fermented food.

National Science Week is proudly supported by the Australian Government, CSIRO, the Australian Science Teachers Association, the ABC, and Cosmos magazine.

Visit to find stories in your area using the event listing.

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