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Science Festival nano-edition to feature Otago staff

Thursday 2 July 2020 9:33am

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This year's New Zealand International Science Festival launches on Saturday, with organisers urging Otago staff, students and their families to check out the events.

The 2020 New Zealand International Science Festival will get under way this weekend – despite COVID-19.

Festival Director Dan Hendra says his team worked through the lockdown to create a “nano-edition” of the biennial festival, and is thrilled to be offering an extensive programme featuring more than 60 events.

"What I am most proud of is the creation of the country’s first festival post lockdown. This was only made possible thanks to our partners who have continued to support us, with the University of Otago and the Dunedin City Council being our cornerstones."

“It’s been an incredible and challenging journey working through the pandemic and lockdown,” he says. “What I am most proud of is the creation of the country’s first festival post lockdown. This was only made possible thanks to our partners who have continued to support us, with the University of Otago and the Dunedin City Council being our cornerstones.”

Mr Hendra says it would not have been possible to create such a high-calibre programme without the support of University of Otago scientists – who have contributed significantly.

“The University of Otago has always been, and continues to be, our cornerstone partner for the festival. Even through the pandemic their support and commitment has allowed us to create a highly engaging festival for the public, sharing insights and knowledge for young and old to help us all understand the world around us better.”

The Festival runs from 4 to 12 July, and a full programme is available here.

“The festival is launching this Saturday, and many events are already selling out. This is a great programme during the school holidays, so if you have kids it’s well worth heading to. We've ensured that most events are $5 or less to keep it affordable.”

Here are some of the events Otago staff are involved in:

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COVID-19 Unmasked. Understanding the outbreak
Sat 4 July, 6pm to 7.30pm, $12, College of Education Auditorium

Join us in a discussion among New Zealand’s top experts on COVID-19 and how our country has approached the global pandemic. Experts will give insight into the situation from the viewpoint of scientists involved with the Ministry of Health, from the biomedical makeup of the virus, to its evolution, the clinical approach, and how to better prepare for the next public health emergency. The event will finish with an audience Q&A session.

The experts are:
• Professor Vernon Ward, Virologist
• Professor Miguel Quiñones-Mateu, Webster Family Chair in Viral Pathogenesis
• Professor Michael Baker, Prof. of Public Health, Wellington
• Professor David Murdoch, Dean of University of Otago, Christchurch
• Dr Jemma Geoghegan, Senior Virologist

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Hand Sanitiser- know it and use it
Sun 5 and Mon 6 July, various times, School of Pharmacy

Good hand hygiene is essential to prevent the spread of microorganisms. In the weeks before the COVID-19 lockdown, New Zealand experienced a scarcity of hand sanitiser. Dr Shyamal Das and his students at the University of Otago's School of Pharmacy prepared the World Health Organisation’s recommended hand sanitiser to serve the local community. Dr Das and his team will give a presentation followed by a demonstration and hands-on experience about hand sanitiser, an essential commodity to prevent COVID-19. Participants will learn the science behind hand sanitisation, understand safety issues related to hand sanitiser, observe the preparation of alcohol-based hand sanitiser in the laboratory, and learn how to detect a substandard alcohol-based hand sanitiser. All participants will also receive a sample of this hand sanitiser.

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What makes our heart tick?
Wed 8 July, 10am and 11.30am, Dunedin Public Library

Led by Heart Otago, a University of Otago Research Theme. Learn how your heart works and why it sometimes beats slow and other times feels like it is going to burst out of your chest! Did you know it can still beat outside your body? Through a hands-on interactive session we'll learn all about hearts and answer questions such as: How does the heart work? What makes the heart beat? Is a mouse heart the same as a whale heart? Can we measure what happens when you exercise?

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Pop-Up Aquarium
Sat 4, Sat 11 and Sun 12 July, various times and locations

The Aquavan will “pop-up” in a variety of different Dunedin locations to introduce local communities to their marine neighbours. The Aquavan, with its seawater system and touch tank, is an opportunity to engage families in close discoveries of local marine critters, while learning about the connection between land and sea. Combined with our ‘enviroscape’ model, participants will learn how our activities on land affect our river catchments and ultimately our coastal ocean. Join staff from the University of Otago's NZ Marine Studies Centre for a marine encounter, close to home!

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Wet and Wild Walks - with livestream. Rocky Shore
Sun 5 July, 9.30am to 10.30am, NZ Marine Studies Centre

Join us for walks along a range of Dunedin seashores and learn about the diversity and adaptation of the marine critters that live between the tides. Don’t worry if you don’t want to leave home, or get wet, these field trips will also be live streamed to your living room! Participants will have lots of opportunity to ask questions, share their observations and learn how to contribute to a range of citizen science projects. This walk (one in a series of four) will ramble along the rocky shores of Otago Harbour with Sally Carson, Director of the University of Otago's NZ Marine Studies Centre and author of the Collins Guide to the New Zealand Seashore.

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Science Short Films
Daily Sat 4 to Sun 12 July, 10am to 4pm, Dunedin Public Library

Drop into the library and enjoy some short science films created by students and staff at the University of Otago's Centre for Science Communication. A mix of documentaries and DIY science experiments will be screened on the Cube.

Story by Lisa Dick (Otago Bulletin Board Editor).