Deadly news for Deadly Science

There’s a buzz in the air at NACC about a very exciting, new cross-regional project in which traditional ecological knowledge and western science come together with a group of young and inspired Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

The project is the end result of a chance meeting at last year’s Bush Heritage Hamelin Station Science Fair between NACC Aboriginal Liaison Officer Bianca McNeair – a Mulgana woman from Guthurraguda (Shark Bay) – and Bush Heritage Australia scientists Blanche D’Anastasi and Erica Suosaari.

Blanche, Bianca and Erica all share a passion for the environment, as well as for empowering young women to engage with the environment and consider careers in science. It was while discussing this shared passion and their respective amazing supportive organisations, that a plan was hatched that is about to become a reality!

The trio was delighted and excited  this week when the news came through that Blanche, a PhD student at James Cook University, was successful in being awarded the 2017 Layne Beachley Aim for the Stars Foundation sisSTARS Scholarship, to support her work as the Director of Deadly Science Getaway.

Thanks to this scholarship, and the collective energy of Bianca, Blanche and Erica, it means the a “Deadly Science Getaway” will be held in Western Australia for the first time, in 2017!

The Deadly Science Getaways project will involve a new collaboration between NACC, Bush Heritage Australia, Scinapse, and James Cook University. It will be conducted in the Abrolhos Islands and Guthurraguda, aimed at helping to inspire young women to reconnect with country, while learning more about science.

The inaugural WA Deadly Science getaway events will be held in addition to the annual Deadly Science Getaway trip to James Cook University’s Orpheus Island Research Station, which is conducted in partnership with Transition Support Services and the Department of Education and Training, Queensland Government.

Deadly Science Getaway inspires young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to pursue careers that motivate and inspire them, while experiencing some of Australia’s wildest places with ‘scientific eyes’, in a supportive environment, with passionate women.

In September 2016, women from four different remote Northern Queensland communities – Wujal Wujal, Kowanyama, Lockart River and Palm Island – went on a Deadly Science Getaway to Orpheus Island. Activities included snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef to see coral bleaching first-hand and the relationships between fish and coral; and looking for wildlife around the station at night.

Career pathways and science-based opportunities are a hot topic at the Getaways, as is art and creativity – meaning the WA participants will be making a turtle sculpture out of recycled ghost nets using traditional Malgana weaving techniques, under Bianca’s tutorage.

Deadly Science graduates also get involved in science communication, having previously carried out TV interviews with the ABC Open North Queensland film crew, and hitting social media with blog posts and tweets.

Graduates of the Orpheus Island Deadly Science Getaway said that they would love to do more science if it was taught like this. In their own words – “We loved this trip. We learned so much, and came away feeling so inspired. We would like to see more trips like this for young people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities all around Australia.”

And it’s not just the students who are excited.

“I am looking forward to an incredible year for Deadly Science Getaway and the extraordinary young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women that we support,” said Blanche.

“My favourite part of this program is introducing our young women to places where traditional ecological knowledge works with science in the most amazing ways,” said Bianca.

Keep an eye on future editions of NACC Notes to see more about the roll-out of the Deadly Science Getaway in Western Australia.

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