An Alumni Event Helps Celebrate International Science Center & Science Museum Day

By Tomi Ellis, Communications Officer, Scitech, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Scitech, which opened in 1988, marked the first International Science Center & Science Museum Day (ISCSMD) with an Alumni Event that highlighted how Scitech has been shaped by its staff and volunteers, and how those staff and volunteers have been shaped by Scitech.

As well as Scitech alumni and current staff, special guests attended the event including the founder of Scitech, Mal Bryce AO, and current Scitech CEO Alan Brien.

Speakers included Wesfarmers Chairman Michael Chaney, who played a big role in making Scitech a reality; Scitech Director of Science Programs Andrew Hannah, who has been with the organization since its early years; and Christine Wood, a previous staff member and current science teacher who expressed her continuing love for sharing the gift of science.

Scitech’s current and planned programs and events work on many of UNESCO’s Sustainable Development Goals, with a focus on Goal 4, “Quality Education,” Goal 3, “Good Health and Well-Being,” Goal 8, “Decent Work and Economic Growth,” Goal 17, “Partnerships for the Goals,” and Goal 5, “Gender Equality.”

Scitech also participated in NASA’s GLOBE Observer citizen science project for ISCSMD which aims to help international scientists answer questions about climate change, and built a large graphical display in the center’s foyer that highlights the local and international work its staff has undertaken to make science accessible to everyone.

Image: Michael Chaney speaking to past and present Scitech staff members, as well as special guests from the science industry, during the ISCSMD event

Supporting the SDGs with scientific research, public engagement, and action

By the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University


In September of 2015 the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University (ANS) had the opportunity to host a panel on climate change keynoted by economist and economic development expert Jeffrey Sachs. As part of his talk, Prof. Sachs discussed the pending passage of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

His description of the SDGs provided an inspiring element of hope in what is sometimes a depressing conversation. World social, economic, and environmental problems are vast, particularly when discussing climate change, but the idea of concerted effort by the world community to squarely face these problems—and set goals to address them—offers movement in the right direction.

At ANS we’re not formally working on SDGs, but the spirit of the goals is part of our institutional DNA. As one of the oldest natural history institutions in the western hemisphere, we are committed to high-level research and to scientific excellence. But we are also guided by two other key principles—active public engagement and positive human impact. Science is the centerpiece of our work, but our explicit goals include communicating, translating, and acting on science in ways that benefit humanity.

For the last 70 years, an important part of that science has been research and action to understand and protect streams, rivers, and watersheds. Water quality starts in nature, and we work to make sure that the ecology of waterways is doing its part to keep water clean. It’s obvious that Goal 6—ensuring “availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”—resonates deeply with our advancing research, education, and public engagement in biodiversity and environmental science.

In Philadelphia, the front door of our city is the Delaware River. Though the Delaware Basin is smaller in area than the Chesapeake or the Great Lakes, the river provides drinking water for 15 million people—5% of the U.S. population.

Thirty years after the passage of the Clean Water Act, many of the nation’s streams and rivers remain impaired. While the CWA has been very successful in controlling industrial and wastewater discharges it has revealed a different and more insidious stress—“nonpoint source pollution.” Runoff across the landscape, from farms, lawns, city streets, and urban gutters, can carry as much pollution as a sewage plant, and it has proven much more difficult to control.

The Delaware is no exception. The 13,500-square-mile watershed of the Delaware is a mix of undisturbed woodlands, highly developed metropolitan areas, and large tracts of farmland. Limiting the effects of runoff on the Delaware is crucial for both society and nature.

For the last five years, ANS has been one of the lead partners in the Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI). This is a multi-year, multi-dimensional, multi-million-dollar effort launched by the William Penn Foundation to protect and restore the watersheds of the Delaware.

In the last three years, William Penn has invested upwards of 40 million dollars in the work of over 50 partner organizations involved in a wide range of projects to protect the valuable forested headwaters and restore the sections of the basin that have been impaired by urban and agricultural runoff.

As the restoration and protection projects are planned and carried out, the Academy has had the opportunity to ensure the presence of sound science in all aspects of the DRWI. From identifying priority sites to monitoring the ecological results of the projects, the DRWI has provided a unique example of how science and community organizations can work together.

The DRWI is just one example of work by ANS that aligns with the SDGs. Through education, research, and public programs, ANS has been involved in issues identified as critical for people and the planet.

The DRWI has provided a unique and unprecedented level of involvement for ANS, both in terms of working with practitioners and in the breadth and scale of the activity. We think this is a cutting-edge trend that will become an expected role for science in the future as we deal with complex problems in human and natural systems.

From biodiversity and water quality to the overarching issue of climate change, ANS is working to engage the public around scientific questions and apply them to positive human impact. The SDGs will provide a context for future work in many of these areas.

The Wellcome Image Awards: The Power of Visual Imagery as an Engagement Tool

By Joanna Castle, Wellcome Image Awards Project Manager, and Carly Dakin, Clinical Collections Coordinator, Wellcome Images

Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning
Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

On this, the day which celebrates international science centers and science museums, we wanted to introduce the Wellcome Image Awards, an annual exhibition featured at many science and technology centers around the world with an aim to educate through the best science imagery.

Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation, both politically and financially independent. We support scientists and researchers, take on big problems, fuel imaginations, and spark debate. Our funding supports over 14,000 people in more than 70 countries. In the next five years, we aim to spend up to £5 billion helping thousands of curious, passionate people all over the world explore ideas in science, population health, medical innovation, the humanities and social sciences, and public engagement.

The Wellcome Image Awards are the Wellcome Trust’s most eye-catching celebration of science, medicine, and life. The Awards recognise the creators of the most informative, striking, and technically excellent images that communicate significant aspects of biomedical science. The winners are selected from all new images acquired by Wellcome Images during the preceding year. Judged by a panel that includes experts in science communication, medicine, and biomedical science, the Awards showcase the best in science image making.

The purpose of the Wellcome Image Awards is to improve scientific transparency, and encourage and stimulate public discussion. The major challenge we face is ensuring that the science we promote is understood, relevant, and accessible to all ages. To help achieve this, the Wellcome Image Awards winning images are exhibited at science centers and museums worldwide; for the 2016 Awards we partnered with 15 science centers across the UK, Europe, and Africa including the Science Museum (London), the Dundee Science Centre (Scotland), the Polytechnic Museum (Russia), and the Africa Centre for Population Health (South Africa). This collaboration has significantly improved our ability to reach and inspire both children and adults alike.

aThe Wellcome Image Awards, which began in 1997, are open to scientists, artists, and illustrators of all ages. The images represent many fields, utilize a variety of techniques, and always surprise. In fact, our judges were charmed this year by an illustration from our youngest ever contributor: an 8-year-old girl who eloquently illustrated the inter-species transmission and host species of the influenza virus.

Since 2011, Wellcome Images has partnered with the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The MIT team select their favourite form our winners and we do the same for their annual awards. The 2016 Wellcome Image Awards are currently still showing at the Polytechnic Museum in Russia; we were very excited to collaborate with them and a host of other new venues in 2016 expanding from 10 to 15. We aim to widen our reach each year making the awards more accessible to as many new audiences as possible, raising public awareness, curiosity and understanding in science, biomedicine, and imaging technology. You can keep up to date with the 2017 awards via our accounts on Twitter and Facebook.

Images 1. A child interacts with an exhibition display at the Glasgow Science Centre (Credit Ben Gilbert/Wellcome Images)
Image 2. The ecology of influenza A viruses (Credit Dolores Murcia)

Hidden Figures and Our Hidden History Exhibit

By Crystal Harden, Director of Programs and Strategic Initiatives, Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

As far as not being equal was concerned, she said, “I didn’t have time for that. My dad taught us you are as good as anybody in this town, but you’re no better.”
—Katherine Johnson, “Katherine Johnson, the NASA Mathematician Who Advanced Human Rights with a Slide Rule and Pencil,” Vanity Fair, August 23, 2016, by Charles Bolden

When I read the article and this particular quote by the amazingly gifted Katherine Johnson, I immediately felt all kinds of emotions because I had heard that exact thing from my grandparents and parents while growing up in rural Wilson County, North Carolina. As a result, I have never doubted my abilities to achieve academically, and I developed a lifelong passion for education. Others may not have grown up hearing such words of encouragement, but now this book and this movie give them that opportunity.

When I first heard about a new movie starring Taraji P. Henson, called Hidden Figures, I was intrigued. I had to find out more details. Once I understood that the movie was based on a book about women computers, particularly African American women who worked for NASA, I wanted to know more and understand why I did not know this history. As I began to read about the author, Margot Shetterly, I learned about the connection between astronauts (all of whom received celestial navigation training at Morehead Planetarium) and Katherine Johnson. I also viewed the online talks and lectures of Margot Shetterly as she described the time period of the story, including the important work of Katherine Johnson and other women.

On a leap of faith, I emailed Ms. Shetterly and explained the history of Morehead Planetarium and its role in training NASA astronauts between 1959 and 1975. I was hopeful and persistent. It paid off! She replied with an intense interest in coming to Morehead to share the story of Hidden Figures. I can’t explain my excitement except to say, “over the moon.” The Morehead community and I cannot wait to hear what Ms. Shetterly experienced growing up in the Hampton, Virginia, area near Langley Air Force Base, as well as all of her research on the women who pioneered space trajectory calculations.

My colleagues at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center felt so strongly about telling this story to all our visitors that we designed an accompanying photo exhibit, Hidden History of Firsts in Flight. This new exhibit will highlight the first women in aviation and space flight, such as Bessie Coleman, Amelia Earhart, and Mae Jemison, along with the first human computers, Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and North Carolina native Christine Darden.

The impact of these women stretches far beyond the missions and projects on which they worked. Because of them, young girls today can be empowered to write code and develop computer games.

We hope this story will open up new passions and dreams for more girls and young women to see themselves in the engineering and technology realms of research, development, exploration, and innovative design. Our goal and unwavering hope is that children, especially young girls and young women, believe that they are as good as anybody, just like Katherine Johnson did. We know that if they believe then they can and will achieve their highest potential.