Project Synthesis time once again…

Thursday, May 16th, 2013 | EMILY HALL | No Comments



Synthesis of Project A View Discussions



You are each to make to a New Note that pulls together the knowledge you have gained from the knowledge building discussion on your Project A View (Maths, Physics. Geography or Zoology).

We have added a new set of scaffolds entitled ‘My Synthesis’ to help you do this. Use these scaffolds to help you synthesise what you have learned from your Project A discussion and to highlight the most important ideas, posts and links that were raised.

Post your synthesis as a New Note titled `My Synthesis’ within your Project view.

 This task should take you no more than 30 minutes.

Date Due:  Friday 31 May, 2013

Every synthesis post goes in the draw for one of 5 iTunes or Warehouse vouchers.


Any one want to go to Mars? One way?

Friday, May 10th, 2013 | ouassa | No Comments

Well, about 78,000 people have already applied to become Red Planet colonists with the nonprofit organization Mars One since its application process opened on April 22, officials announced today (May 7).Artists depiction of proposed  human colony  living pods on martian surface

Mars One aims to land four people on the Red Planet in 2023 as the vanguard of a permanent colony, with more astronauts arriving every two years thereafter.

Is this for real ? In the words of  fellow Scot  Danny Bhoy “Oh My God! How Bizarre! Literally!”

Check it out here

So, anyone even just as little bit interested?  What we’d be keen to hear form you all is

  1. Why would YOU want to go?
  2. What would be your biggest fear ?(Can’t be dying cos, your going to die out there anyway, that’s part of the  deal !)
  3. What science would be the most important on this first coloniser mission?
  4. How would you break the news to Mum and Dad? ( Give us your opening lines)

We look forward to your  comments

What does a Scientist look like??

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Do a google image search for Scientist and you get a lot of images that look like this guy in the picture. Although I was somewhat heartnened to see that some were women, by far the vast majority were men and most were white. Somewhat foolishly, I then google image searched Physicist and it was white males as far as the eye could see. I’m not sure why I didn’t see that one coming.

The first day of class in my Year 12 Physics class every year, I always get the students to draw a Physicist. Because I am in a girls’ school and 3/4 of the Science department are female, you’d expect to see lots of women in the mix, but year after year I get pictures like the one on the left. We then go through the exercise of talking about Physicists who are not stereotypical in an attempt to get them to see that Physicists are real people and that anyone, including them, can be one.

I recently ran across this and had to share it. Allie Wilkinson, an American journalist, solicits pictures and short bios from anyone doing Science who wants to submit. The result is a collection of people of all ages, ethnicities and genders doing Science but also dancing, skating, running, being human.

Definitely going to show this one to my classes and hopefully it will help them see Science not as some unreachable thing but something that is accessible to people just like them.

Fun Friday Films!!

Friday, April 19th, 2013 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

The school holidays are upon us and while you students are busy with work, fun and hopefully some study, I’m sure there’ll be times when you think to yourself “boy, I could sure do with a serving of Science right now!”. Well you are in luck because someone recently suggested one of these 3 minute films to me and I found myself watching more and more of them. And for teachers, I showed a couple to my class yesterday at the end of the period and they really enjoyed it. They are interesting little snippets that can serve as a good starting point for discussion and only 3 minutes long so not a huge investment of time. is the website
This one appealed to the students as it is about a 14 year old boy who makes a breakthrough in cancer testing.
My 10 year old son was particularly fascinated with this one: where they talk about a new way to “pave” the road with solar cells!

Anyway I’ve managed to watch maybe 1/2 dozen of the films on here and haven’t yet found one that I didn’t think was cool on some level.

Another film site that I’ve been sent at least 3 times in the last little while is one by astronaut Chris Hadfield on the ISS.
He has videos on all kinds of things from making a sandwich in space, to sleeping in space, toothbrushing in space to wringing out a washcloth in space!! Again cool Science of everyday objects and good starting point for discussion! I really hate flying but Chris Hadfield makes me want to be an astronaut it looks like the most amazing “job” ever!!

Have a happy safe holiday to all the students and teachers!!

Grab a steaming cup of 1,3,7-Trimethyl-3,7-dihydro-1H-purine-2,6-dione…

Friday, April 12th, 2013 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

So this week I went looking for some cool chemistry resources. I stumbled into the Royal Society Chemistry page and found a couple of things I thought were really cool!

First – Feb 2016 marks 175 years of the Society and one of the things they are doing is a 175 faces of Chemistry. Little bios of Chemists and their lives. They reminded me a little of the Applications books where they use a real life example of someone doing something cool to explain some Science and I thought maybe they could be useful to get kids thinking about the relevance of Chemistry to them. The one I thought was super cool was a high school Chemistry teacher turned Fireworks guru – insert explosive learning puns here! Anyway – check them out:

Also on the website, they have resources for teachers, I took a quick stroll through those and I am going to use the one about the 100m race and acid/base chem in my Year 10 class next term. They are nice because they are ready to go ppt and notes with worksheet etc but also I was thinking with the 100m one it is loose enough we can add in some things as we go. All their resources are here:

And finally, the part of the site that dragged me furthest away from any useful work and perhaps proved to myself yet again what a massive nerd I am was the ChemSpider. This is the neatest little tool – you type in the name of a chemical (it was almost morning tea time so I started with caffiene) and it gives you the name, formula, 2d and 3d pictures as well as links to papers written about your substance of choice and all kinds of other useful information. Very easy to spend a lot of time in here exploring chemicals around us!! Fall down that particular rabbit hole here:

And that is all from me for now, I have to get back to chemspider!!!


Phun Physics Phriday resource…

Friday, April 5th, 2013 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Quickie post to share this resource from IOP. Every day this term I have been writing on the whiteboard in my classroom a “Tody in Physics” that I found from the IOP website. ( The students enjoy seeing what has happened “on this day” and the couple of times I haven’t gotten around to updating it they complain!! We’ve also had some good discussion come from them asking questions about what exactly the discovery means or who that person is or why would anyone want to know that? 🙂

If you have some time – make sure you take a look at the rest of the IOP website – there is a lot of good stuff there about teaching/promoting Physics.

Hope the short week was good to you!


Just in time for Easter….!

Thursday, March 28th, 2013 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

It’s Official!  Chocolate is good  for  you!

So says the science.collection of chocolate animals

 Or does it?

Research from my old university in Glasgow  claims to show that eating just a single chocolate bar has a direct effect on the brain and may cut the risk of stroke. 


Is it a case of roundabouts and swings? 


Calling all Science Communicators

Thursday, March 21st, 2013 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments


Eureka Science Communication competition 2013  Banner




There is  up to $5000 to be won in this nationwide competition
Each finalist gets $1000.


Be inspired
Meet like minds
Find out what the judges are looking for
Develop winning ideas
Learn awesome presentation skills
Boost your confidence

Elizabeth Connor, the inaugural winner of the Prime Minister’s prize for science communication, is to run a series of workshops for students who intend to enter the Sir Paul Callaghan Awards for Young Science Orators. Workshops will be fun and interactive and will help you put your best foot forward to try to win the prestigious Sir Paul Callaghan Supreme Award.

It’d be great to see an OUASSA presence! You gotta be in to win!

Click here for more info:


The Dawn of De-extinction. Are you ready?

Friday, March 15th, 2013 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

“Throughout humankind’s history, we’ve driven species after species extinct: the passenger pigeon, the Eastern cougar, the dodo … A colour collage of threatened species

But now, says Stewart Brand, we have the technology (and the biology) to bring back species that humanity wiped out. So — should we? Which ones? ”

Check out  Stewart Brand’s TED  Talk here at 

 Is it the answer to every conservationist’s prayer?

As Barry Hillman  muses in  on one of  the responses,
“Sure, we have a responsibility to un-do the damage we’ve done,let’s try to change our thinking and become a more caring society that has no need to damage our world and then we can spend more of our valuable and limited time on earth creating instead of repairing.”

What do you think? 

There’s a follow-up here, a panel video discussion `hot off the  press’  from March 15th  : 

(OUASSA students: You can now comment on our Blog-posts,  but after clicking ` Comment’ box, you will have to sign-in using your Otago University login given  to you at the January camp)

For 2013 Academy Students – where we’re going with KF

Friday, March 1st, 2013 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Well done for the contributions you have made to our start-up activity in Knowledge Forum on three global problems.  Many of you are doing a great job structuring well written posts which have created discussion and further questioning amongst your peers. Many of you are also trying hard to use the PQP approach and you will soon begin to see that this method of structuring answers is a useful tool to master, not just in Knowledge Forum. Remember that when proposing something that builds on the post you should provide evidence that supports your proposition. This can be a link supporting information, a news item, magazine article, video clip or another post.

To date you have been building knowledge on 3 global problems. Shortly we will move our focus closer to home – to your Project subjects. First, however we would like you to pull together what you have learned in each of these global views by posting a`Synthesis View’ as outlined below:

         `My     Synthesis’ of Global Problem View Discussions 2013

Task: You are each to make to a New Note (titled `My Synthesis’) that pulls together the knowledge you have gained from our knowledge building community discussion on at least one the three Global Problem Views:

  • Climate Change: Let the Science Speak!
  • 21st Century Energy & Food Demands
  • Global Wealth & 21st Century Science

We have added a new set of scaffolds entitled ‘My Synthesis’ to help you do this. Use some or all these scaffolds to help you.

In your synthesis we’d like you to outline:

  • What you have learned from these discussions
  • Highlight the most important idea(s) developed in this community
  • How the knowledge building discussion has impacted on your understanding of the topic of study.   

Post your synthesis as a New Note titled `My Synthesis’ within the relevant `View’

This task should take you no more than 30 minutes.

Date Due:  March 10th

Every `synthesis’ posted goes in draw for 1 of 5 I-Tunes/Warehouse vouchers!

1. Time frame 

  • Global Views Synthesis:        25th February –10th March
  • New Project A Views:            March 11th to April 19th
  • Project A Views Synthesis:   April 20th – May 5th 

The three Global views will remain open for the rest of the year so feel free to contribute any good ideas, resources, thoughts at any time. However, from March 11th we would like you to focus primarily on your Project A views (Maths, Physics, Geography or Zoology).  We will shortly post a starting view for each of these project groups with the help of your project leaders. These you will individually be building on, the same way as you have been doing with the Global problem views. You are free to contribute to any of the project views. You will then have two weeks to you synthesize and consolidate the ideas and knowledge you have taken from community’s contributions.

We will then move onto your Project B group (Biochemistry/Genetics, Chemistry, Computer Science or Marine Science) and repeat the exercise with four views on these projects. The synthesis and consolidation phase for these projects will take place in the lead up to the Winter Science camp in July.

2.  Commitment/expectations

As outlined in the January camp as part of OUASSA 2013 we expect you to be contributing to Knowledge Forum on a weekly to fortnightly basis. At least one post per week would be brilliant! Emily and I check Knowledge Forum very regularly and read your posts. Occaisionally we will post ourselves. However, our role is to guide the discussion and sometimes present useful links – not to provide `answers. You are the `knowledge builders’!

3.  Trouble shooting

The login page for knowledge forum is at
Remember to use the ‘Enhanced’ version of the software where possible and to select ‘OUASSA-2013’ from the Database drop-down box

If you are having any problems logging into Knowledge Forum, remembering your user name or password, or have any general questions, please contact us right away:
Email:  Ph: 03 3793496 Ph: 03 4799204
Also, please don’t forget to be checking the OUASSA Resource Page for useful resources:
We try to add to this page regularly with at least one useful link/resource.  Please feel free to send me any useful links that you would recommend or you can post them yourselves on comments box.

Anything else we can help you with?  Email us… we are here to support and help you reach your full science potential.

Kind regards – The OUASSA Team
Steve Broni (Director)
Emily Hall    (Science Teaching Co-ordinator)


Friday – Fall Further down the rabbit hole…

Friday, February 22nd, 2013 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

I ran across these little Physics related videos the other day. Each one is only about a minute long so a nice little break. They are also aimed at presenting ideas rather than answering questions so could be a good way to stimulate a discussion or a starting point for more research. Cute and accessible for many year levels. Access the videos here.

Have an explore of the site while you are there – they have some other resources online mostly related to quantum physics. I also liked this one which explains some “big ideas” in an accessible way.

Have a great weekend!


I had to get up anyway…

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013 | EMILY HALL | 1 Comment

This morning my lovely 11 year old nieces woke me up from a dead slumber with a 5am facetime request. I can forgive them because they live in Canada and don’t really have a handle on time differences. Of course their first question was “why is it so dark?” since for them it was 10am and daylight…

Anyway – I have been thinking about sleep lately because the latest issue of New Scientist covers the issue of sleep in depth. Recommended reading if you can get your hands on it. While thinking about sleep I also spent some time here warning though there are so many interesting interactive things to play with you could end up spending more time than you planned!

Finally nothing to do with sleep but I recently received an email with a link to the Quantum World song from this website. I watched a couple of the other ones and thought they were pretty neat. The planets one is good, and not just because Neil de Grasse Tyson is wearing a super funky tie in it. I have put the link to the Climate Change one on Knowledge Forum under the Climate Change question. They’re all worth a look though if you have a spare few minutes – maybe some soothing science music if you’re having trouble sleeping?

Antikythera – science in action in ancient Greece

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Well, January camp is officially over and what a time we had! Much Science was done, friends were made and we all had a great time. Also have to give a huge shout out to our green shirt team who kept camp running smoothly and campers in line and on time! Students need to remember to check into Knowledge Forum at least once a week and post your thoughts on the questions. If you have any questions or have trouble with Knowledge Forum then let me know
On another note I was watching a documentary on the History Channel last night about the world’s oldest computer. This is amazing – a piece of technology that dates back to 1BC that was used to count through lunar and solar years and predict both lunar and solar eclipses. The amount of mechanism, thought and observation that must have gone into this is incredible – and it was done in 1BC!!! The ability of the ancient Greeks to calculate precisely how many teeth to cut into the gear wheels and how to fit them together still amazes me. It makes me wonder , if they could create that with the limited amount of technology they had available to them, what kinds of amazing things will we be able to do in the future?

If you want to read more about the actual device, you can go to this website. I also found a youtube movie of an engineer who worked up a model of the device in his spare time using tools and parts that would have been available to the ancient Greeks watch it here.

That is not the end of the story though – the device was found over 100 years ago but although some analysis could be done, scientists were left to guess about what it was actually for. It has only been very recently that we have had the technology to enable an in depth analysis to be carried out. A special X-ray analysis machine was actually built specifically for the purpose of trying to see the device’s internal structure. Techniques for photographing and analysing paintings were used to finally allow detailed observation of writing on the surface of the instrument.

This whole story gives us a wonderful example of the discovery, investigation and observation at the heart of any science. Also, it illustrates the evolution of science as we go from educated guesses 100 years ago of what was almost a black box, to detailed 3d images of the interior of device today. Many scientists worked on the project, making predictions, testing, retesting, and fine tuning their ideas based on evidence. One scientist in the documentary talked about a colossal mistake he had made early on in the project which meant he had to go back and re think and re test his original predictions in light of observation not fitting with his original ideas.

As you head back to school this week and next remember your time at OUASSA and what you have learned but the most important things to remember are to be curious, ask questions, observe and experiment with the world around you. Work hard and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Yes, you may not succeed in everything you try but often our best lessons are learned when we look back at our failures.

Look forward to seeing you all on KF soon!

Camp time is almost here, 2013 OUASSA Intake!!

Monday, January 7th, 2013 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Happy New Year! January camp is almost upon us and the preparations are in full swing! In the meantime, some New Year’s frivolity to ponder…
Did your New Year’s celebrations involve dancing around a tree to ensure luck in love? stocking up on supplies so as to ensure a year without poverty? wearing brand new clothes for wealth? did you open your doors at midnight to let the old year out? Or did a tall dark haired man come first footing with coal to ensure you had a good year?
Superstitions are rife around holiday times and often seem simple, harmless fun as we follow along in the ritual without really thinking about where they came from. But reading about the above and other New Year’s traditions to ensure luck and prosperity for the New Year got me thinking – where did these superstitions come from in the first place?
There was a time in human history where belief in magic and the occult was considered just good common sense. With the ideas of scientists such as Newton and Galileo offering alternative explanations to commonly observed phenomenon, our idea of what is common sense and rational began to change.
Many of us do hold strong to superstition though and I think this may be partly because we are unaware of or forget the saying drummed into many an aspiring Scientist “correlation does not imply causation”. For example, just because the last three times I killed a spider it rained doesn’t mean that every time I kill a spider it’s going to rain. The two things are correlated in my tiny experiment but there are way more factors to consider than just my spider killing and the rain falling. (For the record, I tend to have more of a catch and release policy towards spiders in real life 🙂 )
As the countdown begins and our new OUASSA 2013 students and teachers get ready to come see us (in just two weeks !) stay safe and healthy but also remain curious and observant of the world around you.

Avian Influenza: H5N1 Researchers Ready as Moratorium Nears End

Friday, January 4th, 2013 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

 Just because we can does it mean we should?

Researchers who study the H5N1 avian influenza virus will soon be able to do some science that’s been off-limits for nearly a year.

This has sparked  renewed debate on the dangers of developing a strain that  can move between mammals.
Fearing that such “gain-of-function” experiments could enable terrorists or a lab accident to start a deadly human pandemic, critics demanded stricter controls on science that could be used for good and evil.

Read on for the full story on how scientists globally are trying to address this issue.

Reach for the stars!

Friday, November 9th, 2012 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Wishing  all of you the best of luck with your Scholarship and  NCEA end of year exams!
From ALL of us here at OUASSA.

Don’t panic!cartoon of two penguins  standing. one with fish over top of head as if being eaten by it


Reach for the Stars!

Silhouette of child on beach at dusk/dawn with hand outstretched toward a rising/setting sun/star



Food for thought – exam time youtube breaks

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Exam time is upon us! The stress, the pressure, the extreme studying. Sometimes you just need a break, man. So here are some cool youtube links for you. These will give you a short guilt free break from study as you can be entertained but also absorb or review some Science in the process. Enjoy!

A while ago, a link was posted on the blog to the cool minute physics youtube channel. I am mentioning it again in case anyone has forgotten. The content is updated regularly and is worth a look. Especially in these time pressurised pre exam times, a little minute physics snack is a nice break from study. You can get to the minute physics youtube channel by clicking here.

Another longer, but no less cool youtube channel if you want to learn about Science is this one here, called the SciShow. Not just Physics but we’ll forgive them for that. I first ran across this when one of my students came in raving about water bears, since then I’ve popped on here and watched other tidbits. If minute physics is a snack, then these weighing in at 3 – 5 minutes each we will call a light lunch.

Finally, if you’re looking for something longer, say a 3 course meal of a science video, you could do worse than have a gander here. I used a clip from one of this BBC Horizon series in the tutorial that we did on waves and interference looking at Young’s double slit experiment and how observation changes experimental results. The wave particle duality and uncertainty. I haven’t had the time to watch all these but I have watched bits and it is a good solid Science series.

Hope you are all studying hard, eating well and scheduling time to rest and relax!


Secret Messages and a Side Track down Equation Lane

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

I was reading an issue of New Scientist at the airport the other day and there was quite a cool article in it about quantum entanglement and a possible link to cryptography. You can read the whole article here, if you would like. I was going to write a blog post on that and include another article I found today that is relevant to the topic (click here to see it)
I got side tracked on the New Scientist website watching this short video – its a pretty cool little three minute study break if you’re looking for something short to watch.
New Scientist Equation Video
So good luck with exam study, make sure you rest, eat well and exercise as well as study and we can think about quantum entanglement another time!
PS – Just had to put in a plug for Otago University Physics Department. My Year 13 Physics class went on a tour on Monday of the University labs. We had a really interesting talk about temperature and what it all means followed by a tour of the laser lab where they were cooling things down into the single digit Kelvin scale. We then got to experience the relative heat of the cold labs where the temperature is down to the negative Celsius scale. We looked at super cool liquids and some properties of ice as well as hearing about all kinds of research going on at Otago. All in all a really cool trip so if you get the opportunity to go have a look I would highly recommend it.

The Fish With A See-Through Head

Friday, October 19th, 2012 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments


Macropinna Microstoma: The Fish with a  See-Through HeadPhoto of deep sea fish  (Macropinna  Microstoma) with a transparent head

Every once in a while  (well, actually more often  than you might think) nature comes up with something so bizarre  it leaves you shaking your head and  pondering  “How? How? How?” and  puzzling  “Why? Why? Why?”

Found 600m or more down off the coast of California, the species lives in nearly total darkness. A transparent fluid-filled sack replaces the top of the head and two spots above the mouth, called nares, act somewhat like human nostrils, chemically sampling the water.

Experts think the fish hangs motionless in the current with its eyes swivelled upwards to spot the faint silhouettes of its prey. If it spots something it likes the look of, it rolls its eyes back to the forwards position and swims up to intercept it with its small, toothless mouth.

Check it out on this short video clip

Macropinna microstoma A deep-sea fish with a transparent head and tubular eyes

So, what’s the evolutionary advantage of a see-through head?
Would you want one for yourself?
( Might make wearing a beanie compulsory for some of us!)

Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine 2012: stem cell research

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012 | smida55p | No Comments

This year’s Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine goes to two researchers for their work on induced pluripotent stem cells or IPSCs.  The Prize recognises the achievements of the two researchers in this promising field of science – one of whom first published on the subject 50 years ago.

IPSCs are formed from mature body cells that have been effectively ‘reprogramed’ to a pluripotent state so that they resemble the cells in an early embryo.  Early embryonic stem cells are pluripotent and so have the highest potency of any stem cells.  This means that (under the right conditions) they are able to develop or differentiate into any type of cell.

Many medical researchers think that stem cells have a lot of potential for therapeutic uses such as tissue repair, regeneration and replacement, as well as providing a source of human cells for experimentation, investigating cellular processes and modelling the action of drugs.  Early research into pluripotent stem cells involved the use of early human embryoes.  IPSCs are of significant interest in medical science as they could provide pluripotent stem cells from a non-embyronic source.

Read about this exciting story of stem cell research at

There and Back Again: New Zealand’s Great White Shark movements

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012 | smida55p | No Comments

New Zealand’s great white sharks have been in the news this week as shark scientists from NIWA, DOC and Auckland University uncover more about the movement of the world’s largest predatory fish.

Read more about the research into the long and short term movements of sharks tagged in the Foveaux Strait as they head to the tropics for a winter break at


So here’s a question: do you think that these movements could be called a migration?  Post a comment and let me know what you think and why.


So how is the polar sea ice fairing in the other hemisphere?

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012 | smida55p | No Comments

Single polar bear on solitary ice floe

From : From


Arctic sea ice has shrunk to its smallest surface area since record keeping began, taking the world into “uncharted territory” as climate change intensifies, U.S. scientists warned



For the full story see

Clambake Extinctions, Volcanic Deccan Pies & Demise of Dinosaurs

Friday, September 14th, 2012 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

“Most researchers think the dinosaurs, many plants on land, and much of the life in thePainting showing dinosaur in landscape and comet hurtling through sky above sea succumbed to a huge cosmic impact 65.5 million years ago. But new evidence from the sea floor just off Antarctica points to a major extinction there a geologic moment before the impact. The culprit in this earlier cataclysm may well have been humongous volcanic eruptions in India—the same eruptions that some researchers have credited with wiping out the dinosaurs.”

Read the full story here

Gene mutation events linked to ‘milestones’ in human evolution

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012 | smida55p | No Comments

In the third online OUASSA biology tutorial I introduced the idea that a type of chromosomal mutation known as gene duplication may be important in “providing evolution some spare genes to play with”.

Many scientists think that gene duplications have contributed to some evolutionary changes, from the evolution of antifreeze proteins in polar fish (, the divesification of a group of calcium binding polypeptides in vertebrates that are important in tooth and bone formation and production of milk and salivary proteins in mammals (, to the evolution of true trichromatic colour vision in African apes. (;

A lovely example of the role of gene duplication in evolution for Level 3/Scholarship Biology – that is truly relevant to us all in the widest possible sense – can be found at  This article tells the story of how the repeated duplication of a gene involved in neural development may have been involved in two major advances in brain cell organisation and thinking power that correlate with some big leaps forward in our own biological evolution.  Enjoy!  Darren.

Ever wondered how we know so much about genetics? “DNA from the Beginning” tells the stories of the experiments behind the biology.

Thursday, August 16th, 2012 | smida55p | No Comments

“DNA from the Beginning” is a fantastic resource that tells the stories of the science and scientists  that have helped to build our knowledge of DNA and genetics:


It is packed with great animations, stories, activities, quizzes and summaries of key concepts, and is ideal for anyone studying 90715 “Describe the role of DNA in relation to gene expression”.  10/10! – Darren

Follow your `Curiosity’

Friday, August 3rd, 2012 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Here’s one for all you fans of  extra-terrestrial science

NASA’s most ambitious mission to Mars is landing August 5, 2012.

“The rover, nicknamed Curiosity, has a greater range than any rover before and it carries an impressive array of science instruments. It will explore terrain on Mars where water once flowed, searching for evidence of life.”

Check  out this cool 5 min video from The Futures Channel website

Tune into the landing on August 5th

Climate Sceptic Changes His Mind

Monday, July 30th, 2012 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

THE Earth’s land has warmed by 1.5 degrees Celsius in the past 250 years and ”humans are almost entirely the cause”, according to a scientific study set up to address climate sceptic concerns about whether human-induced global warming is occurring.

Richard Muller, a climate sceptic physicist who founded the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project, said he was ”surprised” by the findings. ”We were not expecting this, but as scientists, it is our duty to let the evidence change our minds.”

He said he considered himself a ”converted sceptic” and his views had received a ”total turnaround” in a short space of time.

Read more:

Great resource for Processes and Patterns of Evolution

Thursday, July 19th, 2012 | smida55p | No Comments

This is a one of my favourite websites for simple, clear and valid content for learning about evolutionary processes and patterns from Berkeley:

Heaps of wonderful images, explanations and examples for revision or note-taking.

Our Far South Roadshow

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Earlier this year Gareth Morgan led the Our Far South expedition down through the subantarctic islands and Southern Ocean to Antarctica. Among the crew were 10 of New Zealand’s top experts in the region and 40 everyday New Zealanders. The purpose of the trip was to raise awareness about ‘Our Far South’, its importance and the issues facing the area including climate change, the race for resources and conservation. One of the projects that has come out of the trip is the so-called Million Dollar Mouse campaign to eradicate mice from the Antipodes Islands. See
What they discovered on the voyage was fascinating and Gareth is now embarking on a national speaking tours to share his experience and further our aim of raising awareness about the region. All proceeds from the roadshow will go to the Million Dollar Mouse campaign.
The National Tour starts in Tauranga on 30th July, visits 9 cities throughout New Zealand, ending in Invercargill on 16th August. 
More details and tickets are available on the website.

It’s Study Time…. again

Monday, July 16th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

As a teacher I can’t reccommend enough the need to revise, be well prepared and confident in the lead up to your school ‘practise’ exams and your external NCEA exams.  The Studyit website has a lot of useful information and resources such as study timetables, tips, advice etc to help you get started and to help you feel more in control during the next few months. The sooner you start, the more prepared you will be!

Don’t forget that we are offering on-line tutorials to all 2012 OUASSA students for Biology, Chemistry and Physics as well as Scholarship – sit in and listen, bring your questions and make the most of the tutorial support available to YOU!

You have been emailed a Google Form to complete regarding tutorial support – so get it filled out asap and we can make a start scheduling your on-line support!

In the mean time…. check out Studyit.

Study advice

Be prepared

  • Go to all revision sessions for your subjects.
  • Have up-to-date course notes. If you don’t, ask your teachers for the latest versions.
  • Practise assessments and examination papers.
  • Know what is required for each achievement standard.


  • Set regular routines of study.
  • Choose a quiet, airy, well-lit place to study.
  • Set study goals
    • Daily goals
    • Weekly goals
    • Long-term goals
  • Know your deadlines.
  • Make a study timetable
  • Do a small amount of study on each subject every night.


  • Have lots of breaks eg break every 50 minutes for 10 minutes.
  • Eat healthily, sleep regularly and exercise.
  • Reward yourself regularly.
  • If stressed, ask for help. Your teachers want you to succeed; ask them!

Physics at the University of Otago & Physics World

Friday, July 13th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

For those of you interested, here is the link to the physics outreach page at the University of Otago.  There are useful links aimed at teachers but these links will also be useful to many of our OUASSA students also. –

Physics World has published its Physics and Sport issue in the run-up to the Olympics. It can be downloaded for free for a limited (but unspecified) time from


“Chemistry Matters” – Once more into the world of hydronium and logarithm; but never mind the mole

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Once more into the world of hydronium and logarithm; but never mind the mole

By Associate Professor Allan Blackman
This article was orignally published in the Otago Daily Times on Wednesday 4 July 2012.

<!–Tel: +64  3  479 7931

–><!–Location: Science II, 5n4



Last month I attempted to explain the meaning of pH in around 500 words. To my chagrin, I found that this was an impossible task. The column was littered with arcane terms like ‘hydronium ion’ and ‘logarithm’, and numbers like 0.0000001 and 1 × 10-7, things that do not make for easy reading. So let’s take up where I left off and see if I can’t do a better job in explaining what pH actually means.

What was hopefully obvious from last month’s column was that pH is far from a simple concept. For starters, it is a logarithmic function. In simple terms, this means that a change of 1 pH unit corresponds to a 10-fold change in the hydronium ion concentration – at the risk of upsetting the chemistry purists, one could say that a solution of pH 3 is 10 times as acidic as one of pH 4. To put this in a more understandable context, suppose we had 1 litre of a solution of pH 3 – if we added 9 litres of water to this (i.e. a 10-fold dilution) the final solution would have a pH of 4.

The useful pH scale ranges from 0 (a very acidic solution) to 14 (a very basic solution). Because of its logarithmic nature, this means that it spans a hydronium ion concentration range of 1 × 1014, or 100,000,000,000,000, between these pH values. To give some idea of the pH values of common substances, lemon juice, for example, has a pH around 2.3, orange juice, around 3.5, milk, around 6.7, seawater, around 8, household ammonia, around 11.5, and oven cleaner can be as high as 13, depending on its composition. Although it is supposedly common knowledge that pure water at 25 °C has a pH of 7.00, measurement of the pH of a sample of any water under all but the most stringently controlled conditions will yield a value somewhere between 5 and 6; this is because the water sample will contain dissolved carbon dioxide from the air, which renders the water very slightly acidic through formation of small amounts of ‘carbonic acid’.

So this is where we get to the importance of pH. Nature has evolved so that many of its important chemical reactions, particularly those that occur in living systems, are optimised to occur at particular pH values. If the pH of the system becomes too high or too low, then critical chemical reactions are impeded, and this can be fatal for the organism. For example, normal human blood has a pH between 7.35 and 7.45 – if our blood pH lowered to 7 or increased to 8, we would probably die. Nature has therefore developed a series of chemical species we call buffers, which ensure that the pH of blood does not change significantly.

Sadly, despite all I have written here, a true appreciation of exactly what pH means is contingent on understanding the mole, a chemical concept which is usually first introduced in 6th form (Year 12) Chemistry and is not necessarily understood by all even when University rolls around. My explanation of pH has only scratched the surface and is extremely simplistic – but hopefully it had given you some idea of what pH is all about.

Of course, the fact that pH is conceptually difficult doesn’t stop advertisers telling us that their clients’ products are ‘pH balanced’ ‘pH neutralising’, and other such meaningless terms. Treat all such claims with caution.

Request for July Camp

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Dear Students/Schools,
The Otago University Advanced School Sciences Academy has commissioned Rakesh Pandey (Director of Big Picture Learning) to work with students and Teachers attending the July session.
He will be demonstrating how to maximise study productivity in a consistent, clear manner so that all students can get the highest grades in their NCEA exams they are capable of.
In preparation for the Sciences Academy, Rakesh would ideally like all of your students attending to do the following:
·      Bring any revision books and notes that students have done for all of their externals.
·      Download and ideally print the last 5 years of exam papers and schedules for each of their subjects’ achievement standards from the NZQA website.
·      Download and print one 2011 exam report for each subject from the NZQA website.
·      Go to and print the subject content summaries for each of their achievement standards.
Please acknowledge to that students who are attending have received this important information.
If your school is interested in finding out about Big Picture Learning and what services they offer, please email them at and they will send you information on a new cloud-based NCEA revision tool that is about to be released.
Big Picture Learning
5 View St.
New Zealand
Ph./Fax: 64 3 477 2888
Description: email

Revenge of the Weeds

Friday, June 22nd, 2012 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Plant pests are evolving to outsmart common herbicides, costing farmers crops and money

“It’s a story suited for a Hollywood horror film, yet it’s also a tenet of evolutionary biology. Introduce a toxin to a system, and you inevitably select for resistant survivors. These few individuals gain a reproductive advantage and multiply; sometimes they can’t be stopped with even the most potent chemicals.”

Read on for some sobering thoughts:

Planning a Science Degree

Friday, June 15th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments


The Bachelor of Science (BSc) is a three-year undergraduate degree which enables each student to develop his or her own interests in a science subject (science major) and related subjects. Students have the flexibility to combine their major subject with other science subjects, as well as subjects from other disciplines across the University.

Students may be invited to participate in the four-year Honours degree programme based on their academic performance at the end of their first, second or third year of study in the BSc degree.

Follow the link below to help start planning a degree around what interests you.  If you have any questions, bring them to camp with you and we can get all of the answers you need!

Science Competition: Comvita Science Video Challenge

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

If  you haven’t already seen this competition, the Comvita Science Video Challenge is a fun way to learn and communicate science for the Year  9-10 science students. All they need to do is create and submit a 3 minute video explaining how some healthy food ingredients impact on people’s health. 
Details of the completion are here

NZ International Biology Olympiad Registration, Now Open!

Monday, June 11th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

 In 2014, New Zealand will be hosting the 25th International Biology Olympiad: the world’s top biology educators and secondary school biology students will converge on the University of Waikato for a week of intense academic effort – but there’ll also be time for making new friends, sharing ideas, and experiencing some of what New Zealand has to offer. “The lead-up to this event will involve a huge amount of work,’ says NZIBO Chair Dr Angela Sharpies, “and we’re very keen for more teachers and academics to join the NZIBO committee and become involved with this awesome event.”
On-line registration for the 2013 NZIBO programme is now open at
For students whose schools have never participated in NZIBO, the fee is $15 per student, while the cost for students from schools that have been involved is $30.
All Year 11 and Year 12 biology students are encouraged to enrol.
Registrations close on the 1st of August and the entrance exam will be held in the fourth week of Term 3 on Wednesday August 8, 2012.
The two hour long, multi-choice exam consists of a series of questions designed to test students thinking and problem solving skills.
The NZIBO programme is an excellent opportunity for Gifted and Talented biology students.
Following the initial exam, approximately 60 students will be invited to enter the tutorial programme.
Full details of the scheme with costs can be found on the NZIBO website.
In 2013, the International Biology Olympiad will be held in Bern, Switzerland. For further information, please contact the NZIBO secretary, Dr H Meikle, at:
Jessie McKenzie Teaching and Learning Specialist——————————————————————————————The Royal Society of New ZealandDDI: +64 4 4705 789 | MOB: +64 21 254 9114 |  SKYPE: jessie.mckenzie.rsnz 4 Halswell Street, Thorndon, PO Box 598, Wellington 6140, New

New OUASSA Staff Member

Friday, June 8th, 2012 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Hi everyone

My name is Darren Smith.

I’ve just joined the OUASSA team and will be helping out Kate and Steve for the rest of the year.

I’m a biology teacher and the sea has always been my playground, passion and study – and has been since I was old enough to gut a fish and focus a microscope. I have a Masters degree in marine biology and have worked on science research projects looking at the effects of nutrient enrichment on coral reefs and fishing impacts on seafloor communities. I’m also really into sharks, but hopefully not as a potential prey item!

I’m here to help you get the most out of your OUASSA experience and am really looking forward to reading your posts on Knowledge Forum and helping you find the answers to your biology curriculum questions. I’ve been following your progress on KF and have made a few posts on the Marine Science Project A, so maybe take an opportunity for a look. 

See you all soon at the July OUASSA camp for an awesome week of fun, challenging and rewarding science!

July Camp Update

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Well OUASSA students, the July camp is rapidly approaching and we are getting very excited to be hosting you at Otago University again.

You will soon recieve (via email) a copy of the Student Handbook with the final details regarding the July Camp.  Included in this information will be the final copy of the timetable as well as all of the important things you will need to remember to pack.

Please take the time to read the information regarding your project options eg if you do Geography you will see that you will need to find your handout from the January camp. If you do Zoology, Marine Science or Geography you will see that you will have a field component to your projects and will have to bring extra warm clothes/wet weather gear etc.

You will all also need to find and bring with you your clean OUASSA t-shirt.

Remember is you have any questions or concerns, please email me directly at

Kind regards and keep warm!


Solar Landfills: The future?

Friday, May 25th, 2012 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

An innovative  approach to alternative energy
Using landfills to generate solar power.
Mark Roberts of HDR Engineering is working on two of these solar landfill projects in Texas and Georgia.

Have a listen to the 7 min audio clip below from Radio NZ National’s ` This Way Up’ programme.  ( Scroll down to `Solar Landfill’)

 and check out the detail on this website

Why don’t parts of standing waves form in open pipes?

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

At school today we were looking at the different harmonics and how they set up in strings, open and closed pipes. One of the students asked a cool question. He could see the closed pipe and string examples where there was “something” at the end of the length to reflect the wave, but didn’t understand why the waves would set up in the open pipe since it was open at both ends. Why didn’t the wave “fall out” the ends of the pipe? Or set up only partly in the tube and partly in the air or whatever medium was outside? Well, the answer is to do with the fact that although in the Year 13 book we are using at my school, and in most texts, the wave is represented as transverse, it is actually a longitudinal wave. This means that it is compressing and rarefacting in the pipe. The pressure at the ends of the pipe come in to play because the wave is setting up between these two areas of pressure which kind of act like the ends of the string. This is a pretty easy to read explanation of what is going on here. Also there’s a whole course of Physics lectures from MIT on waves online here. video 9 is where he goes into fundementals, harmonics and relates it to musical instruments.

Quick Introduction…

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012 | EMILY HALL | No Comments


Just a quick post to introduce myself – I am Emily, here to (hopefully) help you out with the phantasical world of Physics (see what I did there?) I’m a full time teacher of Physics at Queen’s High in Dunedin. I also have a karate group at Queen’s where I can force introduce students to my other passion which is karate. In addition, I’m working on a Master of Science Communication degree in teaching Physics through…….. wait for it……… KARATE! (bet no one saw that coming). In my spare time I run around after my two little boys who luckily for me love karate and Science. I’m looking forward to meeting everyone in person in July and virtually before then.

Over and out


2012 International Science Festival

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

About the festival

From the strange to the serious, the NZ International Science Festival brings Dunedin alive this winter. With everything from hands on workshops for the kids through to the science behind why we take risks and international guest speakers there will be something for all ages. At times you’ll be shocked, scared or surprised as we bring a side to science that you’ve never seen before

When: 30th June through to 8th July

Check out the website:

You will also see information about the Science Idol competition on this site – you may even recognise Tom McFadden (one of our most memorable greenshirt helpers!).  Tom is touring nationally at the moment so keep an eye out as he may even be coming to a school near you!

“Chemistry Matters” – Radioactivity in you and me

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Radioactivity in you and me

By Associate Professor Allan Blackman.  This article was orignally published in the Otago Daily Times on Friday 18 May 2012.

Late last month, a soccer ball that had washed up on Middleton Island in the Gulf of Alaska, was discovered by a technician at the radar station there. The ball was found to have come from a school in Japan, some 6000 km away, which was struck by the Tsunami of March 11th, 2011. In addition to the enormous amount of debris swept into the Pacific Ocean, the Tsunami also caused extensive damage to the Fukushima nuclear power plant, and released significant amounts of radioactive material into the environment.

It is a tragedy that the cities of Fukushima, Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Chernobyl will for ever be associated with the word “radioactivity”. It is, in my opinion, fair to say that a significant number of people think of radioactivity as resulting solely from the actions of human beings, by way of nuclear power stations or nuclear weapons, and that it didn’t exist prior to the 20th century. So it may come as some surprise to you that your body, my body, and, indeed, the bodies of everybody on planet Earth, are teeming with radioactive atoms, the majority of which derive from a natural source – the element potassium.

Potassium (elemental symbol K) is an essential element for life. Humans require around two to four grams a day, and this is generally obtained from such foods as potatoes, spinach and bananas. But it turns out that, of all the potassium atoms we ingest, a small percentage are radioactive. Natural potassium consists of three isotopes, 39K, 40K and 41K. All three contain 19 positively-charged protons in their nucleus, but differ in the number of neutrons – 20, 21 and 22, respectively. The 40K isotope is radioactive, and comprises about 0.012% of all the atoms of potassium on Earth. It has a half-life of just over one billion years, meaning that one half of any sample of 40K will disappear over this time, and it decays by emitting beta particles and gamma rays, both of which are potentially harmful to humans.

An ‘average’ 75 kg person contains about 150 g of potassium. Of that 150 g, 0.018 g is due to the radioactive 40K isotope. This might not sound much, but when this mass is converted to an actual number of atoms, we find that it corresponds to about 270,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms of radioactive potassium in the body. That’s a lot. Given the billion year half-life of this isotope, you might perhaps expect that not many of these atoms would decay over our lifetime, but again, you may be surprised to find that around 7000 40K atoms decay per second. Each of these decays can potentially lead to DNA mutation, and there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it! Obviously it is impossible for us to gauge the health effects of these radioactive decays, as it’s rather difficult to prepare a potassium-free human.

Like it or not, natural radioactivity, whether it be in the form of 40K, the most abundant radioactive isotope in the body, 14C, which we ingest primarily through breathing in 14CO2 from the air, or literally hundreds of other radioactive isotopes, is ubiquitous, and will always be with us – well, at least for the next few billion years, anyway.

My Synthesis Notes in Knowledge Forum

Monday, May 21st, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Hi OUASSA Students,

Just a reminder that your My Synthesis note in Knowledge Forum is due by Friday of this week (the 25th of May).  This is a compulsory task for you all to complete.

The Marine Science Group are leading the charge with some really well written notes.  Have a read of these and you may find that you could use some of them as a guideline to compose your own Synthesis note i.e. they give you an idea of what is required and provide a good starting point for building your own note.  Likewise, the Maths Group have also got the ball rolling and have made some great contributions.  Well done guys!

If you are yet to do your My Synthesis note – please make sure you set aside some time to do so before Friday.

If you need help – or are struggling with the KF programme or access then please email me directly.

All details of the task required have been sent to your personal email and are also in KF itself.

Kind regards,


Scholarship Opportunity – Engineering Technology 2013

Friday, May 18th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

As part of the Maintenance Engineering Society of New Zealand’s objective to encourage New Zealand students into tertiary education in the field of engineering technology, a MESNZ Engineering Scholarship worth up to $5,000 is being offered for the specific purpose of covering tuition fees in 2013.  This scholarship is available to assist students commencing study towards an IPENZ accredited engineering degree, diploma or certificate from any year level through a New Zealand University, Polytechnic or Industry Training Organisation.  Exemplar qualifications include Bachelor of Engineering or Bachelor of Engineering Technology degrees, National or New Zealand Diplomas in Engineering and the National Certificate in Mechanical Engineering (Maintenance Engineering).
Applications are now being sought from candidates interested in maintenance engineering as a career.
Please would you forward the attached information sheet and application form to any final year students at your school who may be considering, or you think may be interested in, study towards a relevant engineering qualification.  Please note that applications close on 31 August 2011.
Further details are available on the MESNZ website

Science Idol – 2012

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

US science rapper Tom McFadden is hitting the road from 20th May on his New Zealand tour – visiting schools from Auckland to Dunedin thanks to support from the US Embassy and Klablab. Science Idol is a way of sharing Tom’s contagious passion for biology, rap, and making science fun.
Get involved and enter your own science rap, and you could win a trip to Dunedin for you and a guardian to get your rap professionally recorded – just pick a topic that has something to do with “what makes us tick?” and then get all creative!

We’ll update you on how to enter soon, so keep updated by signing up for the newsletter or facebook site
Your song can be rap, pop, or punk. It can be an original or a cover. Perform it by yourself or with a group. Not feeling musical? It can even be spoken word.
Get scientific, get creative and have fun! As long as your performance is accurate, entertaining and conveys a scientific concept, you are good to go.
If you still have more questions – contact us at

Knowledge Forum: Synthesis of Project A Discussion Views

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

 Hi  All
Your task is a simple one:
You are each to make to a New Note that pulls together the knowledge you have gained from the knowledge building discussion on your Project A View (Maths, Physics, Marine Science or Zoology). 

We have added a new set of scaffolds entitled ‘My Synthesis’ to help you do this.

Use these scaffolds to help you synthesise what you have learned from your Project A discussion and to highlight the ideas, posts and links that helped your knowledge building most. 

Post your synthesis as a New Note titled `My Synthesis’ within your Project view.

This task should take you no more than 30 minutes.

Date Due:  Fri 25th of May

We look forward to reading your ‘My Synthesis’ post. 

Don’t forget if you have ANY technical problems using Knowledge Forum let us know right away.  For those of you who haven’t been in for a while, have forgotten how to use the software or have lost the starter guide given you at the January camp, we are happy to  email you another copy and/or run a short refresher on-line using OtagoConnect.

Soon we will be posting the Project B views (Chemistry, Biochemistry/Genetics, Computer Science and Geography) to create an on-line discussion and to synthesize ideas generated between now and the July camp. 

May we take this opportunity to remind you that we expect you to access Knowledge Forum at least once a week to read the posts of others and to make a new note. This is your contribution to the Academy between camps and is part of  the  commitment  you undertook when you applied to The OUASSA.

Don’t forget the Curriculum Views are there  to post questions asking for advice or assistance with internals and externals etc. We will gladly help where we can!

2011 Students Studying at Otago University

Friday, May 11th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Hello there,

A huge thank you to those of you who attended the 2011 OUASSA Lunch held on campus on Wednesday.  It was so lovely to see you all again, to hear how well you are doing and how the Academy impacted on your tertiary pathways/career options.

Please be sure to keep in touch!

Kind regards The OUASSA Team

Science Alert – Website

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

An excellent website with the latest news and research developments.  There are many great articles to read and links to follow…. here is an example of a good article about human endogenous rhythms and the potential role of the liver.  All of you Y13 Biology students will be studying biological timing mechanisims in preparation for the external AS ‘Describe animal behaviour and plant responses in relation to environmental factors’.

Liver helps ‘set’ body clock

The University of Sydney
Friday, 04 May 2012
A disrupted body clock can cause a higher risk of obesity and diabetes, but this breakthrough suggets a new target for treatments to ‘reset’ the clock.

International travellers, shift workers and even people suffering from obesity-related conditions stand to benefit from a key discovery about the functioning of the body’s internal clock.
Professor Chris Liddle, from the Westmead Millennium Institute for Medical Research, the University of Sydney, worked with a team from the Salk Institute based in California, to demonstrate the importance of circadian receptors found in the brain and the liver. Their findings are published in Nature today.
“The research is important as these are the first core component of the circadian clock identified that can be targeted with drugs, which could provide relief for those affected by disrupted circadian rhythms,” said Professor Liddle.
The circadian clock is an internal daily body clock that controls alertness, appetite, sleep timing and hormone secretions.
“Previously we have known that there are body ‘clocks’ not only in the brain but in most other body tissues including the liver, part of the focus of this study. While the brain clock is mainly cued by light, these other clocks are cued by factors such as exercise and diet as well as receiving nerve and hormone signals from the central clock in the brain.”
People with circadian disturbances tend to have a higher incidence of health concerns such as obesity, diabetes and related metabolic disorders. It is much more than simply a problem of disturbed sleep.
“People tend to think that the clock is just something that happens in the brain but it’s a whole-body issue. Literally you do not feel like exercising and your metabolism slows when you are in a certain part of the cycle. This contributes to obesity-related problems.
“When you fly overseas, not only do you wake up in the middle of the night, you probably notice you want to eat in the middle of the night, and that during the day you have reduced energy. The liver is a key player in the regulation of energy and we now understand quite a bit more how liver genes ‘clock in’ to the circadian cycle.”
Professor Liddle, a liver expert who has worked on liver genes for more than a decade with the Salk Institute, said the team had been able to show that these receptors in the liver were important in controlling the metabolism of fats and other genes related to diet, nutrition, digestion and energy expenditure.
“This is a very exciting discovery. We have now shown that these receptors in the body’s tissues do not have a peripheral role but are core components for setting our body clock that we can potentially use drugs on.
“The promise of this research for the future is that we can specifically target drug treatments at these receptors. The hope is that not only problems like jet lag and disturbed sleep can be more easily managed but other associated health concerns can be addressed more effectively,” Professor Liddle said.

In the news – ‘Super moon’ to rise over New Zealand

Friday, May 4th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

 A “super moon” will rise in New Zealand skies on Sunday.

It will be 14 per cent bigger and 30 per cent brighter than any other full moon this year, the US space agency NASA says.

Known as a “perigee moon”, it occurs when the moon reaches its closest point to Earth.

The full moon will occur at 3.35pm on Sunday, New Zealand time, but will not be visible here until moonrise over New Zealand at 5.23pm.

With a clear sky, it guarantees Sunday night will be a bright one.

NASA says the super moon has a reputation for trouble, causing high tides, making dogs howl and keeping people awake.

The space agency says the best time to look at it is when the moon is near the horizon.

“For reasons not fully understood by astronomers or psychologists, low-hanging moons look unnaturally large when they beam through trees, buildings and other foreground objects.

“This moon illusion will amplify a full moon that’s extra-big to begin with. The swollen orb rising in the east at sunset should seem super indeed.”

Super perigee moons are fairly common, with the moon becoming full within a few hours of its closest approach to Earth about once a year on average.

The last such event occurred on March 19 last year, producing a full moon that was almost 400km closer than this one.

The “super moon” will produce spring tides around New Zealand, with a 3.6 metre high tide at 7.51am on Monday in Auckland.

By Michael Field

Contribution to Knowledge Forum

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Hey OUASSA Students,

Just a bit of house keeping from me…. this is a friendly reminder that you need to be going into KF once a week throughout the reaminder of this term in the lead up to the July camp. The expectation is a half an hour of your time per week.  If you know that you are perhaps not contributing the way that you could be, now would be an ideal time to start.  Remember that if you have any problems logging in etc just email me directly and I will do my best to get any issues sorted.

Those of you who are regular KF contributors – keep up the good work!

Kind regards,


Maui’s dolphins’ survival near ‘point of no return’

Monday, April 30th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Maui Dolphin

CLOSE TO EXTINCTION: A Maui dolphin and her calf.
The survival of the critically endangered Maui’s dolphin species will soon be “past the point of no return” unless emergency action is taken, an expert says.

What is believed to be a Maui’s dolphin was found dead by a member of the public in Taranaki last week. The dolphin was found on a beach near Pungarehu, south of New Plymouth.

It was collected by the Conservation Department and taken to Massey University for an autopsy.

It is not yet known if the dead dolphin is a Maui, of which only 54 are believed to be left, or a closely related Hector’s dolphin. The latest population survey found a couple of Hector’s mingling further north than usual with Maui’s dolphins.

If confirmed, it would be the second Maui’s dolphin found dead in Taranaki this year. Another, a female, was accidentally killed by a fisherman in January.

Otago University zoology professor Liz Slooten said the species was at a level where any loss would have a huge impact.

“Basically all bets are off already, natural processes could take them away. If we stopped catching them in fishing nets tomorrow we would still hold our breath … so we really need to pull out all the stops or soon we’ll go past the point of no return.”

Set net bans are imposed on the coastline between Dargaville to north Taranaki.

“As a biologist it’s really frustrating. I’ve done surveys there and wrote an article in 2005 to say the Maui is going much further south than the protected area,” Prof Slooten said.

The Fisheries Act included allowances for emergency protection measures to be put in place “literally overnight” in cases of sudden stock declines or unprecedented events, she said.

Submissions on laws to further protect the Maui’s dolphins closed on Friday. The laws want to extend the current ban on set nets along the west coast of the North Island and also extend a marine mammal sanctuary.

The fishing industry will argue against the ban, saying the dolphins have not been seen in the Taranaki area for years.

Keith Mawson, of Egmont Seafoods in Taranaki, earlier told the Seafood Industry Council that a proposal to extend the set net ban was a knee-jerk reaction. A ban would be disappointing for the fishing community, which was being used as a “scapegoat”, he said. By Michelle Robinson and Shane Cowlishaw.

– © Fairfax NZ News

Seven Equations that Changed the World

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Having trouble  seeing the relevance of all those formulae  in maths?

“THE alarm rings. You glance at the clock. The time is 6.30 am. You haven’t even got out of bed, and already at least six mathematical equations have influenced your life. The memory chip that stores the time in your clock couldn’t have been devised without a key equation in quantum mechanics. Its time was set by a radio signal that we would never have dreamed of inventing were it not for James Clerk Maxwell’s four equations of electromagnetism. And the signal itself travels according to what is known as the wave equation.

We are afloat on a hidden ocean of equations. They are at work in transport, the financial system, health and crime prevention and detection, communications, food, water, heating and lighting. Step into the shower and you benefit from equations used to regulate the water supply. Your breakfast cereal comes from crops that were bred with the help of statistical equations. Drive to work and your car’s aerodynamic design is in part down to the Navier-Stokes equations that describe how air flows over and around it. Switching on its satnav involves quantum physics again, plus Newton’s laws of motion and gravity, which helped launch the geopositioning satellites and set their orbits. It also uses random number generator equations for timing signals, trigonometric equations to compute location, and special and general relativity for precise tracking of the satellites’ motion under the Earth’s gravity.

Without equations, most of our technology would never have been invented. Of course, important inventions such as fire and the wheel came about without any mathematical knowledge. Yet without equations we would be stuck in a medieval world.

Equations reach far beyond technology too. Without them, we would have no understanding of the physics that governs the tides, waves breaking on the beach, the ever-changing weather, the movements of the planets, the nuclear furnaces of the stars, the spirals of galaxies – the vastness of the universe and our place within it.

There are thousands of important equations. The seven I focus on here – the wave equation, Maxwell’s four equations, the Fourier transform and Schrödinger’s equation – illustrate how empirical observations have led to equations that we use both in science and in everyday life”.


Read  more here.

There is a cool  video clip to watch too!

April Update

Friday, April 20th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Dear OUASSA students

Knowledge Forum:  We have just completed another round of statistics analysis based on the work you are doing in Knowledge Forum. The good news is that some of you are making a genuine effort to involve yourselves in the on-line discussions either by providing interesting notes, building-on and/or annotating the notes of others. However, there are quite a few of you  who are not meeting  the commitment of just 1 post per week. If you are having technical difficulties getting into Knowledge Forum  you need to let us know right away so we can try fix it from this end.

There are a number of different views that you can be contributing.  Primarily the focus for you should be on building up project related discussions based in your Project A groups (Marine Science, Zoology, Physics and Maths).

Towards the end of May we will be asking each of you to synthesise  your Project A discussions in a Synthesis Post. In this post you will identify the knowledge built for you from the discussion.   So you have approximately 4 weeks to get yourselves involved!  We will provide the instructions for this task soon.

Don’t forget, there are also views on the main curriculum areas (biology, Chemistry and Physics) where you can find Achievement Objectives, ask questions, request help etc and we will gladly support you.  The introductory exercise views on three world problems are still up and running and actively being contributed to be some of you. And there are two more recent views on Knowledge Building and Knowledge Forum Support. You are free to contribute to any or all of these views.

Please remember that the expectation we have of you is one contribution per week! That equates to about 20-30mins input.

OUASSA Resource Site:  This is a dynamic site that offers useful resources and links to all things Science related.  We recently had some pleasing feedback stating how great the site has been for a Year 13 student and how it will be his go-to site for Year 13 curriculum support. It is hoped that you are utilising this resource also. Your feedback would be appreciated. 

Medical Information:  As requested via email: please be sure to send Kate details of any medical conditions you have. If  none, you still need to reply with your Doctor`s name and contact telephone number.  This information is important for our Health and Safety responsibilities while you are in our care in July.  It is treated as confidential.

Travel Bookings:  There are just 5 students left yet to confirm their travel bookings through Kylie at Orbit House of Travel.  If you have not had a FINAL itinerary that you have accepted from Kylie you will need to check your emails and reply to her or email Kate directly at

Any other requests or questions, we are here to help so please don’t hesitate to email us.

Kind regards,


Tuesday, April 17th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

This website has a huge quantity of resources and links to some really fasinating sites.  This site would be a good go-to site for background science reading, information gathering and for studying just some of what you will be covering in your classes.

The site covers Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Maths, Electronics and even Photography.

Cell Animation – TED

Monday, April 16th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

This is a very iinteresting clip from the TED talks. Interesting for keen biologists and students with an interest in garphics, animations, etc.

Medical animator David Bolinsky presents 3 minutes of stunning animation that show the bustling life inside a cell.

David Bolinsky and his team illustrate scientific and medical concepts with high-drama animation. You’ve never seen the life of a cell quite like this.

Each of us has about 100,000 [kinesins] running around, right now, inside each one of your 100 trillion cells. So no matter how lazy you feel, you’re not really intrinsically doing nothing.” (David Bolinsky)

Was Human Evolution Caused by Climate Change ?

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Neanderthals at the cave site of Trou Al'Wesse in Belgium, clinging on as climate deteriorated. (Credit: Digital painting by James Ives)

Neanderthals at the cave site of Trou Al'Wesse in Belgium, clinging on as climate deteriorated. (Credit: Digital painting by James Ives)

Although an African origin of the modern human species is generally accepted, the evolutionary processes involved in the speciation, geographical spread, and eventual extinction of archaic humans outside of Africa are much debated. An additional complexity has been the recent evidence of limited interbreeding between modern humans and the Neandertals and Denisovans (a newly discovered group from Siberia). Modern human migrations and interactions began during the buildup to the Last Glacial Maximum, starting about 100,000 years ago. By examining the history of other organisms through glacial cycles, valuable models for evolutionary biogeography can be formulated. According to one such model, the adoption of a new refugium by a subgroup of a species may lead to important evolutionary changes.

   “Ultimately, this model explains why Homo sapiens as a species are here and the archaic humans are not.” Dr J.R. Stewart

The research also leads to interesting conclusions as to how and why Neanderthals, and indeed the Denisovans, evolved in the first place.

Check out the full article here

An Introduction to Practical Electronics: Resource

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Thanks to Lynne Newell from FutureIntech for this link 

An introduction to Practical Electronics, Microcontrollers and Software Design is a PDF book (800 pages+ and growing)  written by  Bill Collis from Mount Roskill Grammar School for students  who are starting out in electronics. It is based around the PCB CAD software Eagle, the ATMEL AVR microcontroller and the BASCOM-AVR cross compiler. It aims to help students use software like Eagle and Sketchup for their chosen projects, and how to write and plan successful code using statechart principles. There are many examples of block diagrams, circuits, layouts, flowcharts, statecharts and code in the book for many different interfaces and products.

Science Media Centre

Friday, March 30th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

This website is aimed at promoting accurate, bias free reporting on science and technology by helping the media work more closely with the scientific community.

This website could be really good for your general wider reading as well as for research for possible internals in Level 3 Biology and the likes.

Studying before bedtime has benefits

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Learning Best When You Rest: Sleeping After Processing New Info Most Effective

ScienceDaily (Mar. 23, 2012) — Nodding off in class may not be such a bad idea after all. New research from the University of Notre Dame shows that going to sleep shortly after learning new material is most beneficial for recall.

Notre Dame psychologist Jessica Payne and colleagues studied 207 students who habitually slept for at least six hours per night. Participants were randomly assigned to study declarative, semantically related or unrelated word pairs at 9 a.m. or 9 p.m., and returned for testing 30 minutes, 12 hours or 24 hours later. Declarative memory refers to the ability to consciously remember facts and events, and can be broken down into episodic memory (memory for events) and semantic memory (memory for facts about the world). People routinely use both types of memory every day — recalling where we parked today or learning how a colleague prefers to be addressed.

At the 12-hour retest, memory overall was superior following a night of sleep compared to a day of wakefulness. However, this performance difference was a result of a pronounced deterioration in memory for unrelated word pairs; there was no sleep-wake difference for related word pairs. At the 24-hour retest, with all subjects having received both a full night of sleep and a full day of wakefulness, subjects’ memories were superior when sleep occurred shortly after learning, rather than following a full day of wakefulness.

“Our study confirms that sleeping directly after learning something new is beneficial for memory. What’s novel about this study is that we tried to shine light on sleep’s influence on both types of declarative memory by studying semantically unrelated and related word pairs,” Payne says.

“Since we found that sleeping soon after learning benefited both types of memory, this means that it would be a good thing to rehearse any information you need to remember just prior to going to bed. In some sense, you may be ‘telling’ the sleeping brain what to consolidate.”

Some teams look at the big picture

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

By Associate Professor Allan Blackman
This article was orignally published in the Otago Daily Times
on Saturday 10 March 2012.

My students do little chemistry. By this, I don’t mean to impugn their reputation by suggesting their work habits aren’t all that they could be. Rather, I’m saying that they do chemistry on a small scale. They measure masses in milligrams or grams, and volumes in millilitres whenever they carry out chemical reactions. There is generally no need to work on larger scales, as no new information will be obtained. Financial considerations also often play a part in determining how much material is used in any reaction – chemicals can be surprisingly expensive!

On the other hand, some researchers do big chemistry, whose scale is limited only by their imaginations (and money again, of course). Big chemistry usually requires the collaboration of lots of research groups around the world and is often aimed at addressing big questions. One such example of big chemistry recently resulted in a group based in the Chemistry Department at the University of Otago, along with workers at NIWA in Wellington, winning the Prime Minister’s Science Prize for 2011. The big question these workers addressed was ‘what can we do to reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere?’

It is a fact that levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are increasing. This could potentially lead to both an increase in the Earth’s temperature, and the oceans becoming more acidic, neither of which would be beneficial to life on this planet. It therefore makes sense to plan for such eventualities, and investigate ways in which carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere could be controlled if necessary. And this is where the work of the groups at Otago and NIWA becomes relevant. It had been proposed that phytoplankton in the oceans could potentially absorb significant amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during photosynthesis, the process by which green plants convert carbon dioxide to organic materials and oxygen. While this hypothesis could potentially be tested in the laboratory, it would really take a large scale experiment to demonstrate its viability.

And a large scale experiment it was. Truly big chemistry. It involved seeding a small area of the Southern Ocean with iron (about 1.7 tonnes!), to encourage the growth of phytoplankton, and then monitoring the changes in carbon dioxide levels, using a variety of methods including satellite surveys. You can imagine the wealth of coordination and cooperation required to carry out such a study. The results were interesting; while it was found that enhanced absorption of carbon dioxide into the ocean did occur in the seeded areas, it was also found that the phytoplankton themselves released other potent greenhouse gases, such as nitrous oxide, into the atmosphere. This demonstrated that such an approach would not be effective at mitigating greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere.

This might appear at first sight to be a negative result, but thanks to the big chemistry carried out, we now know that we must look for other ways to avert the deleterious effects of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The Prime Minister’s Science Prize is worth $500,000. Given that a Nobel Prize is worth $1.8 million, I think that’s pretty generous. Time to get my students working harder…

OUASSA 2011 Intake

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Hi to all of the OUASSA 2011 students,

We are keen to hear what your plans are for 2012, whether you are studying (what and where), taking a break/gap year, travelling, volunteering abroad and on so.  Please send Kate an email at and spread the word among your 2011 OUASSA friends that we are really interested in catching up.

Kind regards,


No Major Drama

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

This website is a great place to spend some time looking into what you are interested in and what tertiary study options are out there for you.

No Major Drama – The smart way to learn about NZ university majors!

The smart way to learn about NZ university majors! Create your own ranking of major subject areas? based on your skills and interests.

No Major Drama helps you learn about majors for Bachelor degrees from across all eight New Zealand universities* and rank them based on your skills and interests.

(*Auckland University of Technology, Lincoln University, Massey University, University of Auckland, University of Canterbury, University of Otago, University of Waikato, Victoria University of Wellington)

No Major Drama is designed to help you answer what’s likely to be one of the most important questions you’ll face in your life: What should I ‘major’ (specialise) in at university?

This question is important because of the lifetime benefits – and costs! – associated with university education. It’s also of national significance given education’s social and economic value and the scarcity of education resources.

Based on your skills and interests, No Major Drama lets you create your own personalised ranking of 181 major subject areas – eg. Accounting, Music, Zoology, etc – representing 730 specific majors for Bachelor degrees from across all eight NZ universities.

(If you are unsure of what ‘majors’ and ‘subject areas’ are, visit our terminology page.)

As well as personalised rankings, No Major Drama provides summaries of each subject area and links to carefully chosen Wikipedia articles, career opportunities, and links to the eight universities’ web pages for all 730 specific majors available in NZ.

No Major Drama is quick and easy to use (5-10 minutes), and you can share your results with your parents and family, school counsellors and friends by email or on Facebook.

Created by Graduate Factory Ltd, No Major Drama is completely free – for individual users and schools. Schools can easily create customised versions of the software for their students.


New study says ancient hominid males stayed home while females roamed

Friday, March 16th, 2012 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

The males of the two bipedal hominid species that roamed the South African savannah more than a million years ago were stay-at-home kind of guys when compared to the gadabout gals, says a new high-tech study led by the University of Colorado Boulder. Dr Petrus le Roux from the Department of Geological Sciences at UCT was part of a team which studied teeth from a group of extinct Australopithecus africanus and Paranthropus robustus individuals from two adjacent cave systems in the Sterkfontein-Swartkrans area in South Africa.

hominiid skullThe research team used high-tech laser ablation mass spectrometry to measure isotope ratios of strontium in the hominid tooth enamel in order to identify specific areas of landscape use. A naturally occurring element, strontium, is found in rocks and soils and is absorbed by plants and animals and becomes incorporated in the enamel of their teeth during development. Since unique strontium signals are tied to specific geological substrates – like granite, basalt, quartzite, sandstone and others, they can be used to reveal landscape conditions where ancient hominids grew up Sandi Copeland, UC Boulder Adjunct Professor and lead study author explains, “The strontium isotope ratios are a direct reflection of the foods these hominids ate, which in turn are a reflection of the local geology”. The researchers found that the strontium isotope signals in half of the female teeth indicated that they were derived from outside the local area, which contrasted with that of the males. In the latter only about ten percent suggested that they were from elsewhere, implying that the males probably grew up and died in the same area. Sandi Copeland said, “One of our goals was to try and find something out about early hominid landscape use. Here we have the first direct glimpse of the geographic movements of early hominids, and it appears the females preferentially moved away from their residential groups.” She said that the new study results were somewhat surprising as they had assumed that more of the hominids would be from non-local areas, as it is generally thought that the evolution of bipedalism was due in part to allow individuals to range longer distances. “Such small home ranges could imply that bipedalism evolved for other reasons”, Copeland said.

Professor Matt Sponheimer, UC-Boulder anthropologist and a co-author of the article, says, “It is difficult enough to work out relations between the sexes today, so the challenges in investigating the ways that male and female hominids used the landscape and formed social groups over a million years ago, are considerable. Disembodied skulls and teeth are notoriously poor communicators, so the real difficulty with a study like this is finding new ways to make these old bones speak”. The female dispersal pattern seen in the two hominid groups is similar to that of many modern humans, chimpanzees and bonobos, but unlike most other primates, including gorillas, where one or two males dominate a group of females, explained Copeland. “This study gets us closer to understanding the social structures of ancient hominids, since we now have a better idea about the dispersal patterns”, she said.


Contact: University of Cape Town, Faculty of Science Newsletter, March 2012, Page 11


Friday, March 16th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

New Zealand’s most popular student website turned eight on 1st March. Studyit began supporting NCEA students on March 1 2004. Studyit is a free, safe and successful online support site developed and managed by CWA New Media, a business unit of Learning Media.
Studyit has everything needed to get achieve, merit and excellence, written in student
terms, as well as fourteen very active
forums where expert teachers answer student questions at night, in the weekends and during holidays.
Recent feedback from Studyit students includes:
  • I got straight E’s in maths, thank you very much for all your help on this website, it really helped me
  • I just wanted to say a huge thanks for all the help I received from Studyit for my level 1 papers last year (I got 100% excellence!)
  • Studyit made a huge difference to the way I approached the exam! I tried to make my answers biologically detailed but concise even though I was really stressed for time.
  • Seems that all us Studyit users found the exam went incredibly well even though 3 News said it was really hard. I think this just goes to show the positive impact of Studyit on our performance
  • I went into the exam feeling a lot more confident knowing that I had prepared as well as I could – and a great deal of that preparation could not have been done without Studyit. It was so great to have such quick replies to all my questions, even on weekends and holidays.
Studyit gives students more confidence! for NCEA maths, science and English students.

Studyit facebook
Winner of the 2008, 2009 & 2010 Net Guide People’s
Choice Award for Best Education Site

2011 Best Student Site

Winner of the 2006 TUANZ Education Innovation of
the Year Award

Finalist 2011 Australia and New Zealand Internet

CWA a business unit of
Learning Media Ltd.

Mobile: 027 227 8603

Fax: +64 4 382 6509

Postal: PO Box 19090, Wellington, New

Google Science Fair

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

For all of you mad keen scientists (that should be all of you!!!!) here is a link to Googles Science Fair site.  It runs you through all that you need to do to create and complete a science fair project.  Some of you may already have something underway and so keep up the good work.  Good luck and let us know if you are submitting an entry or if you need support with any aspect of your project.

Excellent Revision Site for Chemistry, Physics & Biology!

Monday, March 12th, 2012 | hamvi58p | 1 Comment

Many of you may already be using this site, but it you are not, then I thoroughlly recommend taking the time to have a look around and print off some of the useful resources within.


There are flash cards, revision activities/notes, test yourself activities and powerpoint presentations etc.  The site has been created and is maintained by a group of NZ high school teachers with knowledge and expertise in the NZ curriculum as well as NCEA.

You could even recommend this site to your subject teachers as they too would find it useful.

Teachers – Chemistry support website

Friday, March 9th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

About ChemTeach

This website is designed to be a one stop shop for chemistry teachers. It  contains internal and external assessment resources, teaching resources, news, interesting articles about chemistry in the community or cutting edge research, information about chemistry education initiatives, competitions, links to other useful web pages and you will get rapid responses to chemistry queries via our questions page.

The site is supported by the University of Canterbury Outreach Programme, the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry (NZIC) and Victoria University of Wellington.

There is an extensive question and answer archive on the site, courtesy of Ian Torrie. It covers a wide and extensive variety of questions that have been asked by chemistry teachers since the introduction of NCEA. They range from the trivial to the bizarre and while they are not “official” responses in all cases a variety of “expert” and experienced sources have been used to give the best answer available at the time.

Struggling with Genetics?

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012 | hamvi58p | Comments Off on Struggling with Genetics?

This link is to a website from the University of Utah.  It covers the basics of Y12-Y13 Genetics and covers such topics as ‘What is DNA? What is a chromosome? What is a protein? What is Heredity? What are traits?’ etc

The pace is slow enough that you can make your own notes during the animation or you can simply click through frame by frame and work at your own pace.

There is also a link to ‘What is Meiosis and Mitosis?’ that many of you will find useful to cement these concepts.

Academic Support

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Please let us know if you need any academic support with any of your Y13 Science Subjects and we will gladly organise tutorial suppport, additional readings, contacts with relevant University staff, help with resourcing materials, references etc.

If there are common themes emerging we can also post views in Knowledge Forum to source relevant information that can be shared among the 2012 cohort.

Email any requests you have to We look forward to hearing from you.

What motivates you as a scientist?

Monday, March 5th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

To tie in with the latest Nature Outlook, Lenses on Biology, the Nature Communities team asked five biological scientists at different stages of their education or careers to tell their personal stories in a guest blog post. Each scientist studies, works or has an interest in one of the five research fields featured in Lenses on Biology ― cancer, stem cells, synthetic biology, ocean health and climate change ― and they share what motivates them in their chosen subject. You can read their stories below, and discuss your own motivations here or on the posts in question.

E-Teaching Weekly

Monday, March 5th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Below is a link to a really useful and interesting website for teachers (and senior managers) in schools.  The e-teaching newsletter is a weekly publication with great strategies for effective classroom engagement and subsequent teaching and learning.  A sample of a recent publication can be seen at the link as well as details outlining subscription costs.

Suggest to your Senior Manager Team or Principal that this publication may be a good one for all classroom teachers in your school to have access to.

Science Learning Hub – Teacher Resource

Friday, March 2nd, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Most of you are already likely to be on the email list for The Science Learning Hub. In case you are not, here are the details for you!
(Read their latest newsletter online:
Kia ora and welcome to the Science Learning Hub newsletter for Term 1, 2012.
Teachers are saying some great things about the Hub!
“Going onto the Science Learning Hub is like getting a nice new glossy magazine. Everything is so beautifully presented.”
“The Hub is teacher friendly and easy to navigate. The topics are relevant and the work has been done for us.”
We encourage you to take the time to explore our site and to get to know the resources that support your teaching of the NZ Science Curriculum. Your comments, questions, ideas and feedback can be emailed to

Chemistry Matters articles

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

“Chemistry Matters” is an ongoing monthly column by Dr Allan Blackman of the University of Otago’s Chemistry Department, on
topical chemistry subjects of interest to the general public, published in the
Otago Daily Times newspaper, and reproduced on the Chemistry Outreach  website. His articles are interesting and are all about chemistry and the world around us.

The University of Otago has a great Chemistry Outreach team and on their website you will also find many more useful links to chemistry related topics.

The Deeper Secrets of Rotomahana

Monday, February 27th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

The Deeper Secrets of Rotomahana
This resource has been findly provided by Lynne Newall at Futreintech.  It is suitable for Intermediate – Junior Seconday Science classes. Please share with your Department Colleagues.
In January 2011 a GNS science team investigated Lake Rotomahana near Rotorua, and made some exciting discoveries that had been hidden under the lake for 125 years. In early March 2012 the scientists will be back, hoping to extend their knowledge with more detailed investigations.
Further useful link:

Knowledge Forum Trouble-shooting

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

If you are having trouble logging into KF, try the suggestions below from Ken Pullar our KF Technical Support person.

We have had some feedback to say that some of you are having problems logging in in the enhanced version of the software…

Students should check (as well as making sure ‘popups’ from are allowed on the
particular browser they’re using
), that Java (latest version) has
been installed (get it from ).

The problem is very, very likely to be one of these 2 issues  – if students have no joy
sorting it out they can call Ken directly (03 4468533 or 027 4468532) and he
may be able to help. Alternatively, email us at or email Ken directly at

Revision website ‘S-cool’

Monday, February 20th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

High quality revision materials using S-cool’s straight forward 3 steps to success process.  This site is from the UK and has a sepcific section for A-level revision (Senior Science).  Each of your classroom subjects will be found on this website.

1. Revise it

Check you know the main principles by reviewing the list of different topic areas, either click on the topic heading to quick learn the whole topic or pick individual principles to brush up.

2. Test it

Now you have learnt the main principles, test yourself with these sample questions. If you get stuck, go back and review the principle again.

Exam style questions

3.  Remember it

Print these out and carry them with you!


ESA Study Guides and Revision Books

Friday, February 17th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Below is the link to the ESA Publications website.  Hopefully all of you will be focussed on achieving to the very best of your ability at the end of the year and during your internal assessments.  These books offer great support for a vast number of subjects at Y13 level.   They are useful for end of topic tests also and have full vocab lists for all of that tricky terminology (especially useful for Bio!). I highly reccommend these books as a useful support tool.

Science Reading – The State of Science

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Welcome to The State of Science, a series in which Australia’s leading scientists give a snapshot of their discipline. This is not a “defence” of science, nor an attack on those who reject scientific consensus. It is an in-depth, sometimes playful, look at how science works, how it affects our lives and, yes, how and where it can go wrong. Enjoy.

This is the first part of The State of Science. To read the other instalments, follow the links at the bottom of the first page of the link.  Series one – fourteen.

Electronics Teacher PD Opportunities

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Details are outined below for two teacher PD opportunities.
This information was kindly sent to OUASSA by Lynne Newell at Futurentech.
1. NCEA Electronics Level 1 and Level 2 (Digital Technologies- assessed with Achievement Standards)March 19 (Auckland), March 20 (Hamilton), March 22
(Palmerston North), March 23 (Wellington), March 26 (Christchurch), March 28
2. NCET Level 3 Electronics (assessed by unit standards
(with A,M,E grades)).
March 1 (Hamilton), March 2 (Auckland), March 8
(Wellington), March 9 (Christchurch).
You are warmly invited to register for either or both of these. These have proved to be popular courses in the past with good fellowship and offer an opportunity to develop hands-on skills, as well discussion as how
to manage assessment.
These courses and course dates are also advertised on our website and also in the next Gazette.

2012 International & National Science Opportunities

Friday, February 10th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

FORUM  16 – 30 August 2012.
Open to Yr13 students only
LIYSF 2012 will explore the future developments in the  sciences, with lecture demonstrations, specialist seminars and debates led by a team of scientists and experts and scientific visits. Support will be provided by the Talented School Students Travel Award for most of the international travel, accommodation and registration costs. Students may have to contribute a small percentage
toward this trip. For more information on what is involved in the two week programme please go to
USA INTERNATIONAL SPACE CAMP, HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA, (late July) Open to students in Yr 12 or Yr 13 This is an opportunity for two students who have a passion for astronomy to participate in an international gathering, and
experience the advanced space school program at Huntsville, Alabama. If you are involved in an astronomy club then this would be an advantage. Support will be provided by the Talented School Students Travel Award to successful students for most of the international travel costs, registration and accommodation. However students will need to pay a small percentage of their costs.  Students must be studying physics and one other science subject to be eligible to attend. (See below on how to apply)
BIOFUTURES 2011, BRISBANE, 1st or 2nd week in July Open to Yr12 and 13 students Interested in biotechnology and biomedical science?  The Royal Society of New Zealand is offering a opportunity for up to ten students to
attend Biofutures 2012 which takes place in Brisbane in July. This forum will bring together some 80 students from Australia and New Zealand who must be studying Biology and at least one other science subject.
You will participate in a hands-on experience with the
latest biomedical equipment and techniques and hear from some of Australia’s leading researchers.
Support for most of the travel and registration costs will be provided by the Talented School Students Travel Award however the
student will need to fund a small percentage.  Students from New Zealand must
apply and send their application to the Royal Society of New Zealand and not
through Biofutures, Australia. (See below on how to apply)
ISEC (International Youth Science & Engineering Camp), Seoul, August 2011 Open to Yr12 and Yr13 students

This is an international research-oriented science camp, in which that about 100 students from more than 11 countries participate. It is
a two-week program that consists of science and engineering research in top-level university facilities, field trips to major institutes/industries,
cultural experiences and much more.
Funding to assist with international travel is available from the Talented School Students Travel Award fund.  Website: Students must be studying physics and chemistry to be eligible to attend. (See below on how to apply)

(Australia New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science) 29 June –
finishing morning of Friday 7 July, Dunedin
Yr12 and Yr13 students This is a week-long residential event based in Dunedin that will coincide with the International Science Festival. 25 Australian secondary school students will attend together with up to 20 New Zealand secondary school students.  The week will involve visits to science organizations and social activities as well as being involved in the International Science Festival.  Students will be heavily subsidized by the Freemasons Travel Award however each student will need to pay $300.00 to attend. Students must be studying at least two science subjects to be eligible to attend. (see below on how to apply)


Criteria: Students must either be a New Zealand citizen or have permanent New Zealand residency, Students who apply should be excellent communicators and have a passion and aptitude for science in general or a particular area of science. Students should at studying
at least 2 of the following sciences being Biology, Chemistry or Physics,
Students who are involved in Extra Curricular science activities could be at an advantage. Please send: 3 copies of your application which must be unstapled and unbound. Each application needs to include: Letter of recommendation from the HOD Science which has to be co-signed by the Principal; Letter from applicant outlining why they think they would make a good candidate for selection. A verified copy of NCEA results or equivalent, Brief CV (please include email address – maximum 2 pages), Verified copy of passport or birth certificate, Application form.  Download from

You may apply for one or more events if you are eligible. Complete applications must be received by 5.00pm on 30 March 2012 and sent to Debbie Woodhall, The Royal Society of New Zealand, PO Box 598, 4 Halswell Street,
Wellington. Fax: 04 473 1841, Phone 04 470 5762, Email:
Late applications will not be accepted.

Chemistry – Pathologist’s discoveries to dye for

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

By Associate Professor Allan Blackman
This article was orignally published in the Otago Daily Times
on Tuesday 7 February 2012.


Tel: +64  3  479 7931


Location: Science II, 5n4



I was feeling a bit poorly a couple of weeks ago, so I crawled from my
sickbed and made one of my relatively infrequent trips to the Doctor, who
prescribed a course of antibiotics. While remaining bedridden and feeling very
sorry for myself, I had occasion to recall the interesting genesis of the first
synthetic antibiotic. It’s all to do with dyes, and a father’s great love for
his daughter.
Up until a couple of hundred years ago, brightly coloured clothes were almost exclusively the domain of the rich, as the dyes used had to be sourced from either plants or animals. The colouration of one of Julius Caesar’s purple robes, for example, reputedly came from the extracts of 10,000 molluscs, while to dye anything crimson required lots and lots of cochineal insects from far-off Mexico.
However, all this changed thanks to William Perkin, who in 1856, at the
ridiculously young age of 18, patented the first synthetic dye, the
purple-coloured mauveine. His discovery changed the chemical industry overnight,
and spurred an enormous amount of research into other synthetic dyes – indeed,
the chemical giant BASF was founded in 1865 for this very purpose.
In 1925, BASF, along with five other chemical companies, merged to form I.G.
Farben (‘Farben’ is an abbreviation of the German word for ‘dye industry’) and
it was to here that the German pathologist Gerhard Domagk took a leave of
absence from his Professorship at the University of Münster in order to further
his studies on bacterial infections. He was working on a virulent form of
streptococcus, and wanted to be able to ‘stain’ the bacteria so they could be
easily visualised. For this, he used a class of simple, highly-coloured
molecules called azo dyes, and found to his surprise that some of these showed
promising activity against the bacteria. Chemical modification of one particular
azo dye gave a molecule called Prontosil, and in 1932, Domagk showed that this
protected mice against lethal doses of streptococci.
While this was a huge breakthrough, it was by no means certain that Prontosil
would be as effective in humans. And here, fate intervened. In 1935, Domagk’s 6
year-old daughter, Hildegard, pricked herself with a needle and suffered a
streptococcal infection – in those days, such infections were often fatal. She
was rushed to the doctor, who recommended amputation of the arm to save her
life. Domagk, aghast at the suggestion, gave her a dose of Prontosil – two days
later the infection had subsided and, soon after, she was discharged from
hospital. This incident, along with other somewhat more controlled clinical
trials, confirmed Prontosil as the world’s first effective synthetic
Domagk was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1939.
However, a law passed by the Nazis forbade any German citizen from accepting the
award, and he did not make the journey to Stockholm until 1947. Sadly, while he
was awarded the diploma and the medal, he didn’t receive the monetary portion of
the prize.
While Prontosil was soon overtaken by Penicillin as the antibiotic of choice,
Domagk’s work laid the foundations for all modern synthetic antibiotics. For
this, we should be very grateful.

OUASSA 2012 Photo & Resource Request

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Hi there,

We hope you are settling into your Year 13 year at High School and that you had a fabulous time in Dunedin during your OUASSA January experience. We certainly enjoyed meeting you all and we will soon be busy arranging the timetable for July.

If you have any photos that you would like to share could you please email them to us at

Likewise, please use this site to share any interetsing, inspiring or amazing Science resources that you think may be of use to the Academy Community. Or email the links and a brief description to me and I can post them for you:-)

Many thanks,


Science Dept Outreach Links

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

The links  below will take you to school support material from each of our key science departments:

Biochemistry   Dept Outreach  

Chemistry Dept Outreach:

Computer Science Dept  Outreach

Genetics Dept Outreach

Marine Science Dept Outreach

Mathematics  Dept Outreach

Physics Dept Outreach

Zoology Dept Outreach

Essential Readings for Level 3 Bio Externals

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011 | hamvi58p | No Comments

->Covers human evolution, this website has excellent video coverage and resources

site applying genetics to examples

->Genetics applications, an excellent site

-> Gene Almanac, an awesome interactive

-> DNA from the beginning, an excellent summary of level 3 genetics

-> DNA Interactive, excellent case studies as applications of genetic practises and processes, an awesome site with case study approaches to assist in exam prep (especially for schol exam).

->  NZ evolution examples, excellent site for evolution with lots of good NZ examples.

-> Inheritance of haemophilia, an interesting case study, good practice for thinking.

-> NZ science research, home grown examples of applications of science, a good site.

->Royal Society of NZ webiste, Gamma Series, Science behind the news, great articles modelling good writing.

-> scholarship information, details of scholarship, an essential for scholarship candidates.

-> Biology Scholarship Information, details of exams etc, an essential for scholarship candidates.

->NCEA on TKI supplementary materials, summary of genetics and evolution at level 3

->NCEA on TKI supplementary materials, summary of Plant and Animal and ecology knowledge required for level 3 and scholarship


Scholarship support material

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Hi there,

We hope everything is going well and that you are gearing up for your externals in November.  If you are after scholarship support material in Bio/Chem/Physics and Math we can arrange access to the support material provided through Otagonet.  You can access this material whenever you want and can work through a vast array of very useful resources/activities/readings and questions.  Simply email me (Kate) at and she will sort your log in and password details.

We are also in the process of arranging on-line tutorials for those of you after some extra support using OtagoConnect software.  We will email you with details soon, alternatively email me and let me know if you are interested.

Keep up the good work,


Kahn Academy

Friday, September 16th, 2011 | hamvi58p | No Comments

This site has a vast number of resources covering much of your Y13 curriculum content… Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Maths (Calc and Stats) etc.  Useful tutorials to watch when you are sick of writing out your own study notes etc and just want to keep learning….

Triple Helix Resources

Friday, September 2nd, 2011 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments


is focused on the provision of quality biology and general science teaching materials.
Their aim is to produce resources that will not only help teachers to teach and students to learn but will also encourage a lifelong fascination with science and the living world


Any views or opinion represented in this site belong solely to the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the University of Otago. Any view or opinion represented in the comments are personal and are those of the respective commentator/contributor to this site.