Astronomy and Beyond : A Constellation of Collaboration


Written By
Kailey Reinhart

QM Collaboration with Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium (BCC), The Herbarium and Queensland Chief Scientist, Kerrie Wilson, to organise an exceptional educational experience for students from socially and economically disadvantaged schools.

Rolling out at venues throughout Brisbane every year in March, Queensland’s Chief Scientist Kerrie Wilson describes the World Science Festival Brisbane as ‘highly successful at reaching the general public about science’ and enabling us to ‘shine a spotlight on Queensland science capability and our scientists’. This year the 10-day celebration of science comprised over 80 events with more than 290 performances across 42 venues, hosting 160 participants. An astonishing 173 volunteers supported the event across 1,841 hours, demonstrating their commitment and passion for science.

As part of the wider programming, on Monday 18th March 2024 the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium and The Queensland Herbarium hosted a special student event funded by the Queensland Office of the Chief Scientist, in conjunction with the Queensland Museum as part of World Science Festival Brisbane 2024.

The event delivered the opportunity for 30 students from two local schools to attend a diverse program of activities that included a dome-projection of ‘The Earth Above’ an epic adventure through Australia’s First Nations ancestral history, a walking tour of the Queensland Herbarium hosted by one of its eminent botanists, an astronomical highlights show illuminating the night sky above Brisbane and a presentation on biodiversity that showcased the cutting-edge applications of science in everyday life. The collaborative nature of this event permitted a broad insight into the innovative and evolving world of scientific research and many of the different careers that STEM can be applied to.

Queensland Museum, like many cultural and historic institutions across the globe, is continually challenging itself to grow and innovate, evolving its position from an institution both of cultural stewardship and scientific research, to an innovative research and experience centre, with the drive and capacity to engage and captivate audiences.

Excursions like this demonstrate the impact and engagement that is possible when different organizations and stakeholders partner with us with creativity and vision.

Encapsulated within this broader co-funded event was a demonstration of computer software imported from the United States via Queensland Museum’s own Nicole Gunter (Scientist and Curator, Entomology), a collaboration between her and computer graphics company Evans & Sutherland, a Cosm Company, engaged in the programming and design of immersive digital experiences for Planetariums. This co-designed software plugin, developed with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the USA, enables the use of Planetarium domes as a dynamic framework to communicate otherwise abstract or theoretical datasets into an engaging visual format within the immersive planetarium setting.

The future applications for this plug-in include the broader communication of the research conducted by academics and citizen scientists alike (using data from both museum research databases and open and crowdsourced observational datasets from websites such as iNaturalist or the Atlas of Living Australia), particularly related to biodiversity. The software offers the potential to communicate such information to diverse audiences outside academia, with a view to inspiring broader interest in issues such as habitat destruction, biodiversity loss, challenges presented by invasive species, and migration.

Nicole Gunter delivered a presentation on the migration of humpback whales to showcase her software.

Experiences like this excursion offer young minds from socially disadvantaged communities the opportunity to engage with science in new and profound ways, exploring potential career pathways and applications of science that they may never have considered, which is a core value of the World Science Festival Brisbane.

Through continued collaboration and co-investment with our partners, World Science Festival Brisbane can continue delivering social impact and educational outreach of this calibre into the future. Queensland Museum would like to thank the Queensland Office of the Chief Scientist, the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium and The Queensland Herbarium for making this event possible.

Written By
Kailey Reinhart


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