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NZ International Science Festival 2021

The 2021 NZ International Science Festival was both the biggest and most diverse festival yet, with a jam-packed programme that included over 100 events from 8th – 18th July.  This biennial festival was enjoyed by the smallest budding scientists all the way through to those working in science but curious to find out more about other disciplines. Genetics Otago was lucky enough to be involved with two events over the 10 days.


Together with the Department of Biochemistry and the Genetics Teaching Programme (Genetics Mātai Ira) we hosted a hands-on display at the University of Otago Science Expo on the 9th and 10th of July.  This huge 2-day event, in the atrium of the Business school, included displays and activities from 23 University departments and research centres. Children and adults alike had a great time exploring our stations; trying their hand at pipetting and gel loading, observing and drawing fruitflies and lysozyme crystals with mini microscopes and, our tried and true favourite, extracting DNA from bananas (a staggering 200 DNA extractions were performed over the 2 day period!)

The 17th and 18th of July saw us ‘set up shop’ for the Outside Inside Forest in the Meridian Mall. The Forest had a wide variety of activities over the 10 days including land and sea conservation, climate science and animal education.  Genetics Otago brought along a modified version of our ‘Who Killed the Kiwi?’ school resource for the first time, adding another successful community outreach resource to our belts. Young detectives helped to identify suspects using footprint analysis and hair samples, they then learnt about the power of DNA in determining the true culprit (the naughty dog!) using gel electrophoresis. The use of a microscope and loading of gels were both hits with children of all ages. The activity provided a great reminder of why it is so important to keep our dogs under control while out walking in the bush and on beaches (this activity could easily have been ‘Who Killed the Penguin?’).

With almost 100 entries to our detective prize draw by the end of the weekend, we drew two lucky winners to take home a prize pack of Genetics merchandise. Congratulations to Quinn (5) from Invercargill and Siraj (6) from Mosgiel and thank you to all the young (and not so young) detectives who helped us solve the mystery.

Events like this are not possible without the support of volunteers to run the activities and answer the many questions from the public, so a huge thank you to the members of our Outreach hub who helped out over the two weekends, we hope you enjoyed the experience!


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