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Five snapshots of activities on Sponge Day.

Sponge Day activities included (clockwise from top left): building models of molecules with Dr George Randall, singing and stories with Dr Roseanna Gamlen-Greene (left) and Shar Snoeck, hands-on sea creatures with Daragh Brown (left) and Rob Lewis, making orbeez with alginate from seaweed with Dr Sarah Baird, and meeting real sea sponges with Dr Nathan Kenny.

Sponge-themed festivities took centre stage on Sunday as museum visitors and scientists converged to celebrate Sponge Day and launch Sea Week at Tūhura Otago Museum.

Collaborating across disciplines, scientists from the Department of Biochemistry joined forces with those from the Departments of Marine Science, Pharmacology and Toxicology, and Anatomy. Their mission? To engage the public in a diverse array of activities, shedding light on the hidden superpowers of sea sponges and celebrating all things related to the sea.

The event featured an exciting line up of sea-themed activities. Visitors came face-to-face with sea sponges and other marine creatures, gaining insights into their remarkable behaviours, thanks to the Aquavan provided by the New Zealand Marine Sciences Centre, with the support of Coastal People Southern Skies.

Another event highlight was a captivating talk by glass sponge expert Professor Sally Leys of the University of Alberta who is visiting Dunedin courtesy of a Chaffer Visiting Fellowship.

Guests explored the versatility of seaweed, discovering its role in enhancing slime, creating orbeez, and even aiding in wound treatment. 

There was also face painting, molecule model building, sponge throwing, a free screening of the SpongeBob SquarePants movie, and the talented Shar Snoeck and Dr Roseanna Gamlen-Greene from the Department of Biochemistry regaled the spellbound crowd with sea stories and melodic sea songs.

Dr Nathan Kenny, a lecturer in the Department of Biochemistry and a sponge scientist, spearheaded the festivities. Reflecting on the day, he agreed it was a success, “It was great fun, and hopefully we’ve planted the seed in a few kids that sees them turn into future sponge scientists.”

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