Science

Australia is famous for its unique animals, including all of the various marsupials and monotremes. But the emu and cassowary are quite famous as well; giant flightless birds, related to the ostrich and the kiwi. Australia used to have even bigger birds, though, and recent finding by scientists at Flinders University are giving new insights into what these giants looked like....

Here in the UNE Discovery Voyager team, we’ve been thinking a lot about scientific art recently. We brainstormed “What is scientific art?” and came up with a plethora of ideas, including: scientifically accurate botanical or zoological illustrations; charts or graphs representing data...

Everybody has been talking about the aurora lately – and in May it was seen and photographed as far north as Mackay in north Queensland, a rare event in Australia. The reason for this is that the aurora australis (southern lights), and its northern cousin the aurora borealis (northern lights), have been more active than usual, due to an intense geo-magnetic storm which impacted the earth on a weekend in early May. Aurora watchers were rewarded with spectacular displays of colour in the sky, most vivid on Saturday the eleventh of May, but also on following nights in southern latitudes....

Last week, I had a Zoom meeting with a colleague, entomologist James Tweed from the University of Queensland (UQ). We were chatting about insects on islands when he suddenly told me about a new species he had just described. Of course, that was fascinating, and we talked for a while about the importance of taxonomy and naming species to establish conservation measures for their protection....

On a recent camping trip to the stunning Washpool National Park we were captivated by the sight of a Spotted-Tail Quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) visiting our campsite. Our little visitor arrived just on dark as we were preparing our campfire dinner. This national park is located east of Glen Innes in northern NSW and is part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, and very close to the Gibraltar Range National Park....

Continuing our theme of palaeontology, let's look at some recent discoveries made in the field of palaeontology here in Australia. Our country is an important place for finding fossils; the rocks here are some of the oldest in the world, so some of the oldest fossils can be found here, too. Discoveries can range from the relatively recent, like the Ice Age, to long, loooooong before the dinosaurs. Here are four recent finds made by Australian scientists!...

Palaeontology is a science plagued by an incomplete record. Most fossils only preserve “hard” parts such as shells, teeth, and most notably, bones. It is very rare to find fossils with skin or muscle preserved, for example. When we think of fossils, often what comes to mind are huge dinosaur skeletons; complete, intact, and on display in museums. No skin, muscle, or internal organs to be seen, just bones. But even an intact or complete skeleton is rare to find. ...

Do you need a fix of earth science? Do you have a craving to see some lava? Do you want to check out some crystals and fossils up close? UNE Discovery has got you covered from the 7th-9th of March!...

While we celebrated International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11 February, we thought we’d also celebrate some of our female counterparts in nature too....

Heatwaves have been in the news a lot lately, and no doubt also in your house and under your skin. In Armidale, where UNE Discovery is based, we are experiencing weeks of 33+ °C!...

In the Northern Hemisphere, on the eastern edge of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, you’ll find the man-made Lake Abraham where an amazing natural phenomenon occurs during Winter.  ...

Kiwirrkurra is a remote Indigenous community nestled in the Western Desert region of Western Australia, that recently commemorated the 40th anniversary of its establishment. The 40-year celebration was held around the time the first bore was sunk on Kiwirrkurra Country....

Scientists can’t be everything, everywhere all at once, but there is one important resource scientists can utilise that is everywhere: you! Get involved in a citizen science project in 2024 and have your observations contribute to important scientific research. Here is a list of ten Australia-wide citizen science projects that you can get involved in. All of these projects offer some training so you can be confident in the accuracy of your observations....

I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Kate Grarock last month at an Entomological conference in Albany, Western Australia. I watched her deliver a great presentation on her work in Bush Blitz. Bush Blitz is a conservation initiative that unites researchers and volunteers in an ambitious quest to explore, document, and safeguard Australia's incredibly diverse ecosystems. ...

Throughout human history, the unusual has always caught the attention and captured the imagination. This has been especially true of strangely coloured animals. Black panthers, leopards or jaguars with a genetic trait called melanism, appear often in stories when their spotted kin are not as common. Albinos, animals that completely lack the dark pigment called melanin, are also eye-catching and have sparked many tales throughout history. Most mammals are some variation of brown, so if a rare individual stands out, it gets noticed....

On November 30th and October 1st, 2023, UNE Discovery was delighted to bring back Far Out Science! After a hiatus from 2020 until this year, it was wonderful to see the event return and bring so many school students back to visit the UNE Armidale campus for 2 days of science filled fun....

On Thursday 26 October, the UNE Discovery Voyager team and our colleagues from UNE’s School of Education collaborated and hosted a “Digital Play Day” for our local pre-schoolers and Kindergarteners. This was a Children’s Week event and one that was hugely successful with over 100 children participating with their carers, educators and teachers....

In Australia, we may not think of Canada as a particularly warm part of the world but nestled in the Fraser Valley in British Columbia’s Coast Mountains, Lillooet may be Canada’s hottest town. ...

What a blast! Every year UNE Discovery looks forward to National Science Week and this year we pulled out all the stops to bring Armidale something magical....

As the weather starts to warm up, we’ll be seeing a few snakes moving about as they mobilise from their Winter brumation. ...

Whether we live in a town or on a farm, every day we hear nature around us. Sometimes nature’s sounds blend into the background, but when we tune in, we realise there is a great variety - some musical, some quiet, some scary, and some just strange....

On the 22nd-24th August 2023 UNE Discovery team members Alfonsina and Claire had the opportunity to join the fun of AgQuip with some of the representatives of UNE from a range of faculties. ...

Attention all teachers in the northern NSW region – Far Out Science is back in 2023! UNE is excited to welcome school students to campus for a BIG science extravaganza in late October. Registrations will be open very soon. Add the dates to your calendar......

Have you ever seen pictures of glowing animals deep in the bottom of the sea and wondered, how do they glow? Well, this is called ‘Bioluminescence’ it is caused through a chemical reaction called the ‘Luciferin-Luciferase’ reaction. This chemical reaction happens inside the creature’s body, giving it a bright glow. ...

The Popocatépetl is one of Mexico's most renowned and picturesque volcanoes. Standing tall at 5,393 meters, this majestic stratovolcano is located in the country’s central part, near Puebla and Mexico City. Popocatépetl's name means "Smoking Mountain" in the indigenous Nahuatl language, and it has a rich history dating back to ancient times....

Australia is home to many plants and animals that have been introduced by humans either intentionally or by accident. Some of these have become invasive, meaning they have spread and multiplied to the point where they damage the environment, threaten the continued existence of our own native plants and animals, or create significant problems for agriculture. Invasive animals, often called feral animals, and invasive plants or ‘weeds’ are two of the biggest environmental problems facing Australia today. We would commonly call them pests!...

In late May, UNE and Armidale Secondary College hosted some very special guests. Several high schools around the region, including ASC, Guyra Central School, and Uralla Central School, have recently started Future Teachers Clubs, where high schoolers that are interested in becoming teachers get a taste of what it's like to do the job. On May 24th and 25th, the Future Teachers from these local schools were joined by the Future Teacher's Club from Macquarie Fields High School in Sydney, which has a long-standing Future Teachers Club of its own....

Last month, we said goodbye to one of our long-term UNE Discovery team members. Phil Spark joined the team in the middle of 2017 and has now taken early retirement....

We are very excited to offer two new activities from Term 2 in 2023. Escape the Museum is our portable escape-room style activity which includes some challenges and puzzles that students will need to solve to find their way out of a locked museum before time runs out. Using imagination, logic and problem solving, students will work within a small group and immerse themselves in an imaginary museum. ...

Our UNE Discovery team member, Alfonsina, recently participated in a two-week research expedition in New Caledonia, where she had the privilege of exploring the magnificent rainforest in Le Parc des Grandes Fougères with the research team, where they encountered the Cagou (Rhynochetos jubatus) in its natural habitat. While there for beetle research and walking in the forest, they spotted the bird running with its wings open and its crest standing up as a sign of defence. Though it was a fleeting moment, it left the research team with a lasting impression of the bird moving its wings but unable to fly....

UNE Discovery is most well known for visiting schools and delivering exciting, play based activities to students across northern NSW. But this is not all we do. From time to time the Discovery team also heads out to special festivals and events to bring awesome science fun to kids and adults alike! This was the case earlier this year when we attended the Minerama Fossicking, Gem and Jewellery Show in Glenn Innes, and a Close the Gap event in Tamworth....

Have you noticed a lot of dragonflies in your area lately? Are there more than usual? Well, there’s a reason for this. A story by Megan Backhouse in “The Age” late last year suggests that while these insects are always most prevalent from November to March, their recent abundance is being attributed to La Nina....

During Australian wet weather events, the news is full of images of saturated, soggy and sodden koalas and exhausted kangaroos swimming through the rising flood waters. While the diversity of Australian mammals is substantial, with approximately 380 species, most of our native mammals are small and rarely seen. Because of their tiny size, it can be difficult to remember that they, too, are affected when the skies open and gullies turn into white water rapids....

On 7th and 8th March, the Armidale Central Rotary Club together with the support of UNE’s Schools of Science & Technology and Environment and Rural Science, hosted the Highlands Science and Engineering Challenge & Discovery Days, a nationwide program run by the University of Newcastle. Students from primary and secondary schools from all across the Northern Tablelands gathered at the Armidale Ex Services Memorial Club to tackle difficult science and engineering tasks, competing for the top place....

The 11th February marks the annual International Day of Women and Girls in Science. UNESCO and UN Women implemented this day in collaboration with institutions and civil society partners that aim to promote women and girls in science....

It is always interesting looking at the night sky, seeing the Moon and some of the planets. Just after sunset it is currently possible to see Venus, Jupiter and Mars. There are a number of other interesting celestial objects in the sky right now as well. They are comets. The most notable in the news recently is “The Green Comet” which is in the direction of Mars. The name of this green comet is Comet ZTF. ...

Dung beetles play a crucial role in the burial and degradation of vertebrate dung, performing several critical ecological services that are essential for ecosystem functioning. Australia has more than 500 species of native dung beetles. Some of these species inhabit tropical and subtropical rainforest regions, and some are restricted to small pockets of rainforest above 1000m, making them very vulnerable to climate change....

Australia has over 240 species of frog, with 90 species found in NSW alone. While everyone knows what a frog is, and of course every Australian knows what a cane toad is, it’s not all that common for people to be able to tell different species of frogs apart....

Earlier this year, UNE teamed up with The Science Experience to deliver a 3-day science camp for high school students. The Science Experience is a nationally run program across 30 different universities in Australia. The goal of the program is to give high school students with a passion for science a taste of university life and exposure to the many and varied disciplines in science....

2022 has been a year of great change for UNE Discovery. After a tumultuous couple of pandemic years, 2022 was when we finally started to feel like we were getting back to normal and down to business. At the start of the year, the Discovery Voyager team was quite small and a somewhat restricted in what we could offer. However, as the year went on we were privileged to be able to grow the team with new and vibrant facilitators....

The residents of the New England region share their homes with many wonderful species of plants and animals. One that is unique to the Tablelands is the Bell's turtle (Myuchelys bellii), which may also be unique among all turtles for its unusual diet....

The residents of the New England region share their homes with many wonderful species of plants and animals. One that is unique to the Tablelands is the Bell's turtle (Myuchelys bellii), which may also be unique among all turtles for its unusual diet....

Filomena is a Flashforge Guider IIS fused filament deposition 3D printer. This means that is uses a coil of plastic filament which is fed through a heated nozzle to ‘draw’ out plastic to build up a model, layer by layer. Unlimited access to this technology is going to allow Discovery to build custom parts and specialised pieces for our activities. We have already been using 3D printed models for one of our very popular activities: Think Like A Rock!...

ROLA (Stone) is a short film depicting the intersection of geology and culture. Directed and produced by UNE palaeontologist and geologist, Dr Marissa Betts, the film beautifully captures the interconnectedness of our environment with human culture and experience....

The Aussie Bird Count is an activity for all ages that involves observing and counting the birds that live near you – whether that’s in your garden, the local park, a beach, your school or even your own town centre. By taking note of the birds you’ve seen in a 20 minute period, you will help BirdLife Australia develop an understanding of local birds whilst getting to know the wildlife on your doorstep....

It’s that time of year again: our lawns are a bit soggy, the temperature is mild, and slugs and snails are crawling up the walls. If you are anything like me, you walk to the mailbox, dodging and tiptoeing to avoid them while whispering a stream of apologies when you hear a dreaded crunch. The common garden snail was accidentally introduced in Australia on the bottom of pot plants from Europe more than 120 years ago and is generally only found where humans are. ...

The University of Toronto has recently carried out a study suggesting using trains to capture CO2 from the air could help us with the fight against climate change. ...

ABC Science recently asked people to go online to explore the wonder and science of the plant kingdom, and vote for their favourite tree....

The theme for this year’s National Science Week was “Glass: more than meets the eye” and while the UNE Discovery team were planning and preparing for our activities in Sydney and Armidale, we made some interesting discoveries. ...

Teachers! Are you looking for a fun way to teach about extinction, biodiversity, evolution, or Australian megafauna? Are you looking for a free, curriculum-aligned resource? Then Go Extinct! might be for you!...

This year National Science week ran from 14-22 August and the Discovery team were certainly very busy getting out and about during this most wonderful time of the year....

Would you like to go back in time and cuddle a Woolly Mammoth? Well, we can’t offer you either of those but we can tell you about an amazing discovery in the news recently....

Science continues to answer the big questions, like “Did dinosaurs have bellybuttons?” A bellybutton seems like a pretty normal thing for us humans. Before we are born we grow in our mother’s womb, and we are given all our vital nutrients to let us develop through our umbilical cord. All placental mammals share this trait, and our bellybutton is essentially the scar from where the umbilical cord was once attached....

I read a fascinating story about a male lyrebird called ‘James’ recently.  By all accounts it’s a true story and not an urban myth. It got me thinking about the mimicking abilities of this amazing bird.  A lyrebird is one of two species of ground-dwelling Australian birds. The two species are Menura novaehollanidae, the Superb Lyrebird, which is the larger of the two species, and Menura alberti, Albert’s Lyrebird. Lyrebirds are large passerine birds, amongst the largest in the order....

The octopus' brain and the human brain share the same 'jumping genes'. Now there’s a revelation! The octopus is thought to be one of the most intelligent invertebrates (ie. no backbone). They have demonstrated intelligence in a variety of ways, including solving mazes, tricky tasks for food rewards, and their amazing escapades are the focus of many hit videos. A new study has identified an important molecular analogy that could explain the remarkable intelligence of these invertebrates....

Do you like snow and ice? Would you like to be in Antarctica and have it all around you? Or would you prefer to keep warm? Antarctica is a great place for preserving things. It’s one of Earth’s freezer compartments. We use our freezers in our houses and workplaces to preserve things until we are ready to use them....

March can sometimes be a little quieter for UNE Discovery, but there's one event always stands out – the Glen Innes Minerama! For a whole three days every year (pandemic permitting) hundreds of people gather on the Glen Innes showgrounds for the annual rock, gem, and craft show. UNE Discovery is privileged to be invited along to provide some expert assistance in the rock, mineral, and fossil ID department. ...

Fermentation is one of the oldest, but also a current popular nutritional trend, often mentioned in the same sentence with the words “gut health”. Fermented foods are occupying an increasing space in our supermarkets, but what does this term “fermentation” actually mean, and how can we engage in homemade fermentations and reap the benefits of this elemental process?...

When you go outside in the evening, what can you see in the sky? Some stars and the moon maybe. Do all the stars appear to twinkle? What are the ones that don’t twinkle? They are planets. How many planets can we see? At various times during the night we can see up to 5 planets - mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Any idea of how far we can see into the sky? With the naked eye the furthest star we can see is about 4000 light years away. How far away are the stars? The closest star to the Sun is 4.2 light years away, so we can see a lot of stars between 4.2 and 4000 light years. What is the Milky Way? The Milky Way is a collection of stars held together by gravity to form our Galaxy. The furthest star in the Milky Way are 1 million light years away. ...

Origami is known as the Japanese art of paper folding but it may have had its origins in China or Europe. The practice itself can be a joy and challenge for children and adults of all ages. Origami is all about neatly folding square sheets of paper and transforming the paper into amazing sculptures and models of various shapes and decorative designs. The word origami has its origins in Japan, ori meaning ‘to fold’ and kami means ‘paper’. ...

There’s the old saying ‘you’re never too old to learn’, and we all know it’s so very true. I love it when my daughter comes home from school and tells me about all the interesting and fun things she learnt that day. In fact, we swap stories and our casual chats inevitably end up with more questions than when we started. I often don’t know the answers so it gives us a great opportunity to do some more searching together (or ‘search it up’ as she would say).  With that in mind, she was telling me about earthquakes today. I had my own ‘wow’ moment! Each child in the class chose one of the world’s significant earthquakes for their own research project so I’m going to use this as my own “did you know?” info here based on what I learnt today. ...

On the 7th of August this year NSW went into lockdown again! It was just seven days prior to National Science Week, and many of us were holding our breath waiting to hear if we would be able to hold our long-awaited real-life events to celebrate FOOD as the theme of National Science Week in 2021. The calendar was peppered with events like an 8-course degustation menu at Tattersalls Hotel Armidale, a Science of Beer workshop, Markets in the Mall of Tasting Plates and a Science in the Club night. Of all of them, Science in the Club was the only one able to transfer to an online format, so we did gather online for a quiz night to remember!...

There is a curious little plant growing in my lawn. Whenever I brush against it, small capsules fly everywhere, either hitting me (gently) in the face or pinging off into the nearby grass. I suspect that when I touch the plant, it is explosively dispersing its seeds....

I really enjoy going outside in the evening to check out the wonderful night sky. Now is a perfect time to see three of the major planets in the night sky. Just after the sun sets in the West you’ll be able to see a bright object in the western sky about two handspans above the horizon. This is the planet Venus. It is quite bright and stands out. Venus is also known as the ‘evening star’ even though it isn’t a star. ...

Last month, the UNE Discovery team were pleased to have Sarah Adeney, opera soprano, and Chris Clark, Director, both from the New England Conservatorium of Music (NECOM) visit the Boilerhouse. NECOM hosted an Opera Australia event during that week and we were thrilled that Sarah could come and test out the acoustics in the Boilerhouse stack (the very tall chimney of the Boilerhouse that you can see for miles). Can we just say . . . . WOW!!!! The small crowd we had in attendance were blown away by Sarah’s beautiful voice and the amazing sound that was achieved while Sarah was singing in the stack....

As summer progresses, I have found many dead cicadas around our property. Most of these will become food for other animals, and contribute to nutrient cycling. I have managed to salvage a few and, with my niece, we have carefully pinned and preserved some beautiful specimens for our insect collections. ...

Some parts of Australia have seen a lot of hail falling this spring, and some of the pieces have been big enough to cause some damage. But how do these big hailstones form? ...

I have been doing a lot of garden watching of late, particularly in the cool Armidale mornings. I find it very soothing to sit at the edge of the vegie patch, with a cup of hot tea, watching and listening to the invertebrate critters as they scurry about in the mulch....

You may have seen a creatively named challenge making its way through the ether lately. So, what’s it all about? The 2020 Soil Your Undies Challenge is a collaboration between Dr Oliver Knox, CottonInfo, UNE SMART Farms and UNE Discovery. The original concept of ‘Soil Your Undies’ is a fun and engaging citizen science project, conceived and established by the University of New England (UNE)’s Dr Oliver Knox and CottonInfo. It aims to increase awareness and understanding of soil health, exploring soil health concepts in a novel and fun way, and encouraging participants to share their experiences....

I recently caught up with Dr Jean Holley, exploring the idea that there’s nothing like a hands-on experience for deepening our understanding and appreciation of all things science. Dr Jean Holley is an entomologist and insect ecologist. She is also UNE Discovery Voyager’s Schools Liaison and Booking Officer, as well as a developer and facilitator of several of our activities, including Plants, Poop and Pollinators and Busybots. During her undergraduate years Jean undertook a major in Zoology before completing her Bachelor of Science (Honours). Her PhD focused on insect behaviour. ...

Northern NSW, and specifically the New England area of NSW, is fortunate to have the amazing facility that is Thalgarrah Environmental Education Centre located on Rockvale Road, about 18km north-east of the Armidale CBD. Thalgarrah is a Department of Education school that serves a large area, stretching from the upper Hunter to the Queensland border and from the coast to as far west as Bourke. ...

Have you ever wondered what scientists do after they have finished an experiment? How do they communicate their data and the conclusions they have made to other scientists around the world? One of the most important ways that data and ideas can be shared is by peer reviewed publication in scientific journals. But what does that mean? How do you publish in a scientific journal, and what is peer review?...

1000 curious students, 62 inspiring facilitators, 34 primary and high schools, 27 energetic guides, 22 hands-on activities, over 20 amazing behind-the-scenes staff and two enormous days - that’s Far Out Science for 2019!...

The final Science in the Club night was an extravagnaza of palaeo entertainment, the science of reeeaaallly old things (including invertebrates, dinosaurs and small shelly fossils!), and a celebration of FOUR years of Science in the Club in Armidale! Held on Wednesday the 30th of October at the Wicklow Hotel, the event was timed so that Professor Flint (aka Michael Mills) could host the evening, and his colleagues, taking us on a journey of our own identity. In his words:...

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