Inspiring Australia update: Fossil tourism in the Flinders

How training ten locals is set to unearth tourism potential and take science to thousands.

Science communicators in training

Science communicators in training

The ‘Hidden National Treasure’ project is turning Flinders locals into science communicators and working with them to develop Ediacara fossil tourism ‘experiences’.

Fossils from the Ediacaran Period have lain hidden like buried treasure for 550 million years under the ancient sea floors of outback Flinders Ranges.

This project has trained ten locals in palaeontology and communication, allowing science engagement to infiltrate into local tourism activities.

Project manager Damia Ettakadoumi of Straight Up Science says the project capitalises on the passion and enthusiasm the people who live in the region have for the fossils. It also takes advantage of the fact that many already offer guided tours of their properties, nearby gorges and geological formations.

“Embedding science stories in other experiences is another way of getting science out into the community,” says Damia. “The locals were looking for this opportunity. They have both the passion and the means to pass it on. By teaching these few, we can potentially reach thousands of tourists.”

The beauty of the project is its ability to reach ‘beyond the converted’. Breath-taking scenery, wildlife, bushwalking tracks and the landscape paintings of Hans Heysen attract a wide range of visitors to the region – people who might not otherwise engage with science.

“The people living up there running cattle stations and tour operations are not geologists, botanists or palaeontologists, but they’re very hungry for information about these topics and Indigenous knowledge because they love it! They want to talk about it!”

Ten locals have received Certificate III training and an intensive course in Ediacara palaeontology and geology. They can now confidently explain the Ediacara story to tourists.

Dickinsonia - an iconic fossil of the Ediacaran biota

Dickinsonia – an iconic fossil of the Ediacaran biota

Damia and her colleagues are now working with the Flinders locals on the next stage of the project: developing tourism experiences and resources, such as formalised fossil tour routes, brochures and tourism apps. They will also develop an Ediacara brand to help promote Flinders fossil finding adventures internationally.

The Flinders Ranges is one of 16 regions chosen for the Australia’s National Landscapes program, a tourism development and conservation partnership managed by Tourism Australia and Parks Australia. Other regions include the Australian Alps, the Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo-Shark Bay.

The Hidden National Treasure project injects science education into this tourism development, with outcomes that will be great for both public education and the local economy.

Inspiring Australia

National Science Week success

Thanks to Rona Sakko and Brian Haddy for their time in providing this round-up of events. 

National Science Week 2012 in South Australia was a big one this year. The biggest, according to the State Coordinator, Rona Sakko.

She was thrilled there were so many new events this year and that there was so much variety in the type of events. They ranged from the University of Adelaide’s inaugural Microscopy Open Day, to ancient DNA talks from the South Australian branch of the Australian and New Zealand Forensic Science Society.  The CSIRO played a significant role again, and this year, the association with Questacon proved a huge success.

An all-encompassing emphasis across the State saw country communities encouraged to participate, with events in many regional areas.

Two of the major events for SA were the Science Alive event in Adelaide and the SciWorld Sunday event in Mount Gambier.

According to Brian Haddy, coordinator of these events and SciWorld General Manager, both had better than expected attendance. The Science Alive event saw an astonishing 20,000 people attend over just one weekend and 2,500 high school students during the week. Mount Gambier, for its small population had a turnout of over 3,000 people – incredible!

The Science Alive event in Adelaide is Australia’s largest science expo event and is realised through a partnership with Inspiring Australia and a new association with Questacon.

Sixteen circus stars from Questacon’s Science Circus performed shows every half hour. On the main stage there were plenty of shows including Chemistry, Native Animals and Magic shows. Professor Rob Morrison and Doctor Deane Hutton even reprised their roles in live ‘Curiosity Show’ performances.

The Mount Gambier event, SciWorld Sunday, was partly funded by a National Science Week grant and was supported by Uni SA and the City of Mount Gambier. It was held at the new main corner development and also offered a variety of attractions including Questacon, shows on native animals, robotic workshops, showcases of bugs and slugs and plenty of aquariums. The incredible attendance might have been aided by the TV advertisement produced and run 210 times by the local WIN TV station.

Well done to everyone who helped make all of these events a huge success.

ASCSA Journal Club

From Lisa Bailey

ASCSA Journal Club

The South Australian branch of ASC will this year be starting a new journal club as part of our roster of ongoing ASCSA activities.

I saw a need for this as I believe there is currently too much of a disconnect betweent the formal research of science communication and public engagement in the academic world, and science communication practitioners.  Often science communicators work in small businesses, not-for-profit organisations or freelance, where a primary focus is placed on delivery of science engagement output.  Practitioners based outside of Universities or large research organisations often lack access to scholarly research held behind online publishers paywalls.  It can be difficult to make time to seek out and review current relevant research in day to day working life.

So, we’re starting an experiment this June with our first journal club. I hope it will be an ongoing and informal process, with the chance to just catch up for a coffee with our fellow SA based commuicators as much of a benefit as a review of current trends in sci-com research.

How we progress will depend very much on who’s interested and what people would like to get out of it, but I’m looking forward to it.  Our first article for review is an article by Alice Bell Has blogging changed science writing?, available online here.

We’re meeting on Tuesday 12 June for more information visit   If you’re in SA I hope to see you then, or if you have a suggestion for an article for us to review let me know at

SA Event: Teach for Australia – Innovative pathways for outstanding science graduates

Brought to you by The Tall Poppy Campaign and Teach for Australia:

Event: Teach for Australia – Innovative pathways for outstanding science graduates
Monday 20 February, 2012
Royal Society Room at the SA Museum, North Terrace
12:30pm – 1:30pm (Lunch Included)

Speakers: Adam Buxton, Teach for Australia
Tessa Mudge, Alumni and Associate at Teach for Australia

Places are strictly limited and priority will be given to current SA Tall Poppies and Alumni, but all TP.SA friends and supporters are very welcome!

For more information please do not hesitate in contact myself or TP.SA State Manager Rachel Crees (

We look forward to seeing you there on Feb 20th

Grant Mills
Outreach Officer South Australian Tall Poppy Campaign
Australian Institute of Policy and Science
& the Tall Poppy Campaign
Tel: (08) 8207 8734
Fax: (08) 8207 8700
Mob: 0424 026 869
Hours: Monday and Wednesday

Life Member Profile: Barbara Hardy AO

Barbara Hardy has been working in the environment field in a voluntary capacity since the early 1970s.   During this time she spent five years at the Flinders University of South Australia studying the Earth Sciences (1974-79), following a Science Degree at The University of Adelaide in 1947 (majoring in Chemistry).

She has been a Commissioner of the Australian Heritage Commission, President of the National Parks Foundation of South Australia (now the Nature Foundation SA), Founding President of the Investigator Science and Technology Centre, and Chairman of the South Australian Landcare Committee amongst a number of other roles.

Barbara Hardy was appointed an Officer of the General Division of the Order of Australia (AO) in 1987, an Honorary Doctorate of the Flinders University in 1993, as well as an Advance Australia Award 1991, SA Great Award 1992, Institution of Engineers Medal 1992, ABC Eureka Award for the Advancement of Science 1994, and was named South Australian Citizen of the Year in 1996.  She is now a Companion of the Institution of Engineers Australia, and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Energy where she is a member of the Hydrogen Division.

In October 2001 she was appointed as the Member from Australia in the Asia-Pacific Forum for Environment and Development (APFED), a major international project initiated and funded by the Japanese Ministry for Environment.   APFED “aims to propose a model of equitable and sustainable development for Asia and the Pacific Region”.  Barbara has now stood down as the APFED Member from Australia, as of July 2006, and her place was taken by Greg Bourne, CEO of WWF Australia.

In August 2009 the University of Adelaide presented Barbara with a Distinguished Alumni Award “in recognition of her lifelong commitment, and significant contribution to the advancement of Science Education, Science Awareness, and Environmental Conservation”.

In November 2009. The University of South Australia established the Barbara Hardy Centre for Sustainable Urban Environments.   This organization later became an Institute.

In April 2010 the University of Adelaide admitted Barbara to the Degree of Doctor of the University (honoris causa).

Barbara Hardy’s principal interests are in ecologically sustainable development, biodiversity conservation, environmental valuation, renewable energy production and use, and in business and industrial matters especially as they affect the environment within which we all live.

National Science Week Feedback Event – Adelaide

Do you want to have a say about National Science Week in South Australia? Do you have feedback or suggestions from this year or a great idea for 2012 and beyond? Are you keen to meet others involved in science-related outreach? You are invited to a Planning Session on Monday 31 October at RiAus (The Science Exchange, off Pirie St, City) from 1.00pm to 4.30pm.

Everyone is welcome to attend this session where we will be looking at ideas for the future direction of National Science Week in SA. These ideas will then be considered by our Coordinating Committee at a meeting in November, and a Strategic Plan set in place.

Some of the topics to be discussed include:

  • What does your organisation want to get out of National Science Week?
  • How can National Science Week be used to support and develop programs throughout the year?
  • What outcomes from National Science Week should we be measuring?
  • Who currently participates in National Science Week and how can we encourage more individuals and organisations to be involved?

Can’t attend in person? You can contribute to digital discussions by signing up to and going to the dedicated National Science Week forum at:

If you can join us on the day, please RSVP to Rona:

Rona Sakko
On behalf of SA National Science Week Coordinating Committee

Note – National Science Week is planning for the 2012 National Science Week grant round to be open for applications from 7 to 28 November 2011.

Visit to Adelaide for National Science Week 2011

The ASC South Australia branch, had a busy National Science Week. I missed their contribution to the launch event, but arrived in Adelaide in time to see Science Alive, the huge local Science Week event. I met a number of ASC members who were involved in exhibit stands and talks at this enormous undertaking, which filled a large pavilion at the Adelaide showgrounds. The event attracted around 24,000 people over 3 days. I’ve heard Science Alive will be offered even more space for next year.

The day after Science Alive closed, ASC SA hosted the book launch of Dinosaurs in Australia, a CSIRO publication, and attracted a full house of 120 people to this fun evening.

They held this event in association with RiAus. I look forward to a continued close relationship between the branch and RiAus which is now being led by its new director, Paul Willis.

Jesse Shore

National President

Tall Poppy Awards – Judging now underway

The Science Excellence Awards is South Australia’s premier event to recognise and reward outstanding scientific endeavour, including its application in industry and the advancement of science and mathematics education.

New categories for Awards

This year’s Awards are being launched with an exciting new set of categories focussed on high achievers in the early stages of their careers, including PhD graduates and early career STEM professionals and educators.

Judging is now underway. Finalists will be announced mid October and a Gala Dinner will be held at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre on November 3rd. All eight 2011 SA Tall Poppies will be invited to the event where the TPoY will be announced and awarded.

More information:

South Australian Science Excellence Awards

Thanks to Lisa Bailey, RiAus for providing this information:

Calling members of the South Australian science and research community …

Do you know a recent PhD graduate with outstanding early-career achievement or a researcher with no more than five years workforce experience?  Or maybe a school or tertiary teacher who is making an outstanding contribution to student education and inspiring students to study further in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)?

In 2011, the South Australian Science Excellence Awards will be recognising outstanding achievement in the following categories:

  • South Australian Scientist of the Year
  • PhD Research Excellence

–          Health and Medical Sciences

–          Life or Environmental Sciences

–          Physical Sciences/Mathematics/Engineering

  • Early Career STEM Professional

–          Natural and Physical Sciences/Engineering/Mathematics

–          Health and Life Sciences

  • Early Career STEM Educator of the Year

–          School Teaching

–          Tertiary Teaching


The SA Scientist of the Year Award receives prize money of $20,000 with the remaining awards each receiving $5,000.

For further information, please visit

Rally for Research – Adelaide

This article was originally published here with pictures and video.

In Australia at the moment there is a real fear that our Government (who are supposed to be on the left side of that political line) is going to cut $400 million from medical research budgets. To protest this rallies are being run in most Australian capital cities to advertise the role of scientists in the community and to show all scientists that collectively we have a voice that can be heard, you just have to start shouting.

A couple of days ago the rally in my city was held and whilst I couldn’t make it (due to teaching obligations) my good friend Thomas Tu, with whom I started Disease of the Week (on which he has also written a post about this) a few years ago, has been heavily involved. You can find a radio interview he did on one of Australia’s largest radio stations, Triple J, here (about a third of the way in) and there is a video of him giving a speech at the rally. He is standing on the steps of our city’s Parliament House.

So what can you do if you can’t make a rally or are in another country but want to show your support? Jump on the Discoveries need Dollars website or the Facebook page and ‘Like’ or follow the Twitter page and at all these places there is more info.

We are trying to make it a big issue to protect medical research, our livelihoods and encourage more students into science careers and it makes it very difficult when not only is money taken away but when its predicted to affect early career researchers hardest.

If you can help and you care about medical research I implore you to do as much as you can.

I’ll get off my high-horse now.

James Byrne

Associate Lecturer at University of Adelaide
Bacteriology PhD student and writer at Disease Prone