Flying scientists land in Emerald

Dr Christina Zdenek and her pet Woma Python, Netflix, visited Emerald. PHOTO: Ali Goddard.

Professor Hugh Possingham, Dr Anita Milroy, Dr Christina Zdenek, and Saba Sinai hosted ‘Fabulous Fossils, Remarkable Reptiles, and Peculiar Parasites’ at the Emerald Art Gallery on Monday night.
Tuesday morning saw Professor Possingham host an informative bird walk through the Botanical Gardens.
WOS Director Robyn Bull said the program came about from discussion about promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) culture in regional communities.
“At Wonder of Science we recruit, train, and mobilise Ph.D. research students as young science ambassadors to go out into schools across the state, working with teachers and students on really worldly challenge tasks, which are promoting STEM,” she said.
“[We are] getting our scientists and their amazing research out into communities, [where] they don’t normally have access to scientists in the flesh.”
Wonder of Science speaker Dr Christina Zdenek said she was thrilled to be able to share her love of reptiles with those in rural areas who didn’t often get the opportunity to meet scientists face to face.
“Reptiles are woefully misunderstood and understudied, yet incredibly important for performing ecosystem services and for providing candidate molecules for therapeutic drug design and development,” she said.
“It’s super fulfilling for me to give back to regional towns such as Emerald; it would be a shame for a child not to be able to imagine being a scientist simply because they have never met one.
“It also gives me a great opportunity to better understand how young and old non-scientists perceive and interpret everything.”
The gallery was packed with exhibits ranging from fossils and parasites to old machinery, clocks, and historical tapestries.
After a late start due to exterior issues, the crowd gathered inside excitedly as Mayor Kerry Hayes kicked off the program for the evening.
Each speaker put their best foot forward, talking about the relationship between their specialty and the Central Highlands and greater regions.
Dr Zdenek also brought in her pet Woma Python, Netflix, which was a hit with the kids as he toured around the gallery in the doctor’s bare hands.
There was also a Q and A at the end of the panel, where excited young scientists took every liberty to ask the burning questions.
Wonder of Science speaker Dr Anita Milroy said the event went really well.
“It was so great to highlight citizen scientists in the way this project does,” Dr Milroy said.
“The Central Highlands science club has had a lot of projects and grants in the past, and this is just another wonderful addition.
“To have natural and social history together works really well.”Mrs Bull said the program had already visited regional locations such as Roma, Weipa, Cooktown, and Longreach.
“It’s all about engaging rural Queenslanders in science.”