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Pupils Drill For Knowledge

May 2017

What lies beneath South Dunedin has intrigued many for decades.

Today, 2700 homes are constructed on land in the area, reclaimed from coastal wetlands and dunes, that is less than 50cm above sea level.

Now, geography pupils at Bayfield and King's High School are about to find out what is beneath the land on which they stand.

As part of the Government's Curious Minds programme, year 10 geography pupils from both schools will work with the Otago Regional Council, the New Zealand International Science Festival, GNS Science and the University of Otago to learn about the variability of groundwater levels and soil composition beneath their schools.

Groundwater monitoring bores will be drilled up to 4m deep at both schools in mid-June, and sensors will be placed inside the holes to monitor water levels.

Pupils will analyse data from the sensors and study soil and sedimentary layers from their bore holes to see their composition and compare them to what was known about the historical landscape.

King's High School social sciences head Simon Cushen said the project aimed to whet pupils' appetites for natural science by giving them an opportunity for hands-on learning about the geography and hydrology of South Dunedin.

ORC engineering, hazards, and science director Gavin Palmer said the low level of South Dunedin, along with high groundwater levels, meant the area was flood prone. There was also concern the hazard would increase with a rise in sea level.

"Given what we know about South Dunedin, we need to be prepared for adapting to the changing environment over time. Understanding the nature of the landscape South Dunedin is built on is an important step in that process."

"The small bores in the school grounds will provide simple visual cues as to the rise and fall of groundwater and rainfall, and how ocean tides affect these movements."

"We hope by the end of the project they have a greater understanding of what the climatic pressures facing South Dunedin are and how they interact with each other.''

Once the pupils have analysed the data, they would make presentations to family and the school community on their findings.

New Zealand International Science Festival director and project director Dan Hendra, of Dunedin, said it was important pupils and the community understood South Dunedin's changing environment and its effect on the area's geography and hydrology.

"Recent rainfall events mean it's more important than ever that we collectively engage in what is happening directly below our feet,'' Mr Hendra said.

This project is the first step in engaging the community through outreach to affected schools.

"The next step is to build on this through creating an educational exhibition for the 2018 New Zealand International Science Festival, which will outline in greater context the role of climate change in shaping Dunedin's evolution and geology history, and our sustainable occupation of this landscape,'' Mr Hendra said.

Read the ODT article here


New Festival Director for NZ International Science Festival  

March 2017

Dan Hendra, the man behind Dunedin’s inaugural Craft Beer and Food Festival and events run by the Otago University Students' Association over the past seven years, has been appointed as the new Director of the New Zealand International Science Festival.    

Announced at today’s AGM of the incorporated society behind the biennial event, Mr Hendra will lead next year’s festival after long-term director Chris Green stood down from the role last month. 

“I'm excited to get stuck into the role and looking forward to the new set of challenges it will bring,” says Mr Hendra.

“It's a very dynamic and exciting position and it will be an honour to continue on the great work the festival has achieved over the last 20 years. Without giving too much away, I have some fresh, new ideas I want to explore as well as continue to build on the existing popular events.”

Mr Hendra brings more than 12 years experience in events to the role, working as an events co-ordinator at OUSA from 2008-2012, before taking on the role as Events Manager in 2012. The following year, Mr Hendra founded the Dunedin Craft Beer and Food Festival – an annual event that attracts more than 6000 people, including 1500 out of town attendees and involves 90 companies – including, 70 from outside Dunedin. He has also managed various OUSA events, including Orientation, Tent City, the Capping Show, Battle of the Bands and various international food festivals.

NZ International Science Festival committee president Dr Michele Coleman says the team is thrilled to welcome Mr Hendra to the new role.

Says Dr Coleman: “Filling Chris Green’s shoes seemed a near impossible task – he has given so much to the role and massively grown the event. But we believe Dan brings an incredible skill set, fresh ideas and strong networks – particularly with youth – that will bring some exciting new changes to the Festival. We’re looking forward to working towards a wonderful new-look festival for 2018.”

Since 1997, the New Zealand International Science Festival has developed, managed and produced International Science Festivals in Dunedin (every other year since 1998).

The Festival aims to celebrate, promote and raise awareness of science, technology and the environment, encouraging people and organisations (educational, research, business and community) to participate in the promotion of their work in science and its applications and contributions to society.

Read the ODT article here 


Women in Science - two evenings with Professor Cynthia Burek

February 2017

We were thrilled to host Professor Cynthia Burek from Chester University and the Chair of Geoconservation in Dunedin in February. She hosted two talks over two evenings. 

The first talk was titled Public Perceptions of Famous Women in Science - What Do You Know? This talk explored the general public's perception of women in science and their knowledge base. So far over 1500 people have been questioned from mostly UK. Ireland, France, Spain, Germany and Italy. Does age, gender, location or education make a difference to what you know? We are anxious to widen the paradigm to see if it fits other societies. This is on-going research to provide evidence to encourage women in the STEM subjects to become more widely known.

The second talk was on Geodiversity and Geoconservation. This talk explored the recent developments in both geodiversity and geoconservation with special emphasis on geoparks following the recent UNESCO Geopark conference in Torbay England. It also looked at the history of geoconservation and future predictions. 

Thank you to the generosity of the Federation of Graduate Women who helped to make the two events possible.

The two events were well received and gained fantastic media exposure. 

Read the ODT article here

Listen to the Radio New Zealand interview here



Project Activate

July 2016

In 2016 as part of the NZISF we worked with our funders MBIE, the Healthier Lives organisation, Otago Polytechnic, Rebecca Wilson Nutrition and the University of Otago to create an outreach initiative with the Pacific Island youth community. 

Project Activate equips young people to make lifelong healthy choices by learning about the science of good health.  The week-long holiday programme provided a rich environment for the kids to explore new ideas and skills, and try out a wide range of really interesting things, from experiments in a food science lab to learning how to read food labels at the supermarket and swimming in a flume at the speed of an Olympic swimmer.  They also invented healthy recipes, measured heart rates, and got their families involved too.

Players from the Otago rugby team helped out at several sessions as mentors, and told the kids they wished they’d had the same learning opportunities when they were young.

Pacific Trust Otago was a key partner in the programme. Finau Taungapeau, Community Development Facilitator, says that in Pacific communities “Actually there’s a lot of health issues, it’s quite complicated. The Activate programme is very very good, it lifts the spirit of the families involved. The whole whanau are working together to learn”.

The movie also provides background to the types of health issues we’re facing globally that are closely related to our lifestyles (obesity, diabetes, heart disease, some cancers), the scale of the obesity problem in New Zealand, particularly the impact for Pasifika communities, what activities the kids got into, and of course what they thought!

Thank you once again to Curious Minds (MBIE) for making the initiative possible.

See the Project Activate short documentary here

Read ODT article here - Activating healthy choices

Read ODT article here - Bread project combines science and health

Read University of Otago article here - Much healthier low cost bread possible  


ODT Community Science Awards - winner's announced!

July 2016

The inaugural ODT Community Science Awards were launched in style on the opening night of the 2016 NZ International Science Festival and we are proud to announce the winners below. The awards were warmly received by the recipients in a memorable night,  we statue our science heroes for the incredible work and passion they bring to the industry. 

Recipients of the 2016 ODT Community Science Awards 

Lifetime Achievement     Andrew Innes, Healthy Harbour Watchers

Science Communicator   Amadeo Enriquez-Ballestero, Otago Museum

Non-profit sector            Ann Cronin, The Gasworks Museum

Business                        Peter Fennessy, Abacusbio

Sustainability                 Andrew Innes, Healthy Harbour Watchers

Student                         Charlotte Steel, Neuroscience major, University of Otago

Post grad student           Bianca Sawyer, PhD student in Physics, University of Otago


Thank you to our partner the Otago Daily Times, and our valued sponsors the University of Otago, Otago Museum, Vodafone, ADInstruments, Mitre10 MEGA, Curious Minds, and the Otago Polytechnic.

Read the ODT article here 


A mini central Otago Science Festival

Last year we managed to create a mini science festival in Central Otago! It was an awesome outreach programme aimed at hands-on engagements for high school students in Alexandra last year, with kids from numerous towns in central Otago getting hands on with science. We had workshops in zoology, chemistry, physics, maths, geology, food science and astronomy. We also had a great night sky talk from Otago Museum’s Dr Ian Griffin and The University chemistry show.

Read the ODT article here