Public Open Science Day

The new waterfront building of the University of Tasmania, home to the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) and the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (ACE CRC), opened its doors to its first major public event on Sunday 9th March 2014.

School students and the general public were invited to attend the Public Open Science Day on the theme of sea ice and the polar system. The event was organised by the Local Organising Committee of the International Symposium on Sea Ice in a Changing Environment and the ACE CRC (see previous story). The enthusiastic public response engendered a great deal of energy in those fortunate enough to participate in showcasing the unique contribution of Hobart’s highly-diverse research community to Antarctic and Southern Ocean science.

Three keynote speakers provided the audience with an introduction to the wonders and challenges of sea ice physics and ecosystems and connections between Tasmanian/Australian weather patterns and the Antarctic and Southern Ocean. The speakers, Professor Andy Mahoney (USA), Professor Hauke Flores (Germany) and Tasmania’s own Dr Mike Pook, captivated the audience with entertaining and informative talks, and many questions were asked of all three speakers after both sessions. One speaker even used icy poles to help demonstrate brine flow through sea ice. Such was the success of these lectures that the IMAS lecture theatre was filled to capacity in both sessions.

Other popular activities included five science stations adjacent to the lecture theatre, giving visitors first-hand experience of Antarctic ice, viscosity (an analogue to gravity drainage of the ice sheet), and ocean waves (simulated in a tank). Emerging technologies were also demonstrated, much to the delight of the many budding ‘tech heads’ present. The science stations were ably manned by students and young scientists, who provided background information, explained the science and answered questions.

A selection of superb photography provided a display of the polar landscape, wildlife, micro-organisms and work environment. In a side lecture, the crowd was treated to a demonstration of the power of satellite remote sensing; in this case in support of sea ice science and ship operations south of Tasmania. The old favourite ‘dress up like an Antarctic expeditioner’ (kits courtesy of the Australian Antarctic Division) entertained young and old alike. Another great success was a demonstration of the Antarctic food web. Finally, school-aged attendants participated in a prize draw, with the winners invited to a special session at the sea-ice symposium.

With an estimated 2000–3000 visitors, lots of smiley faces and a wonderful bunch of contributors and helpers, this Public Open Science Day was a spectacular success, and a wonderful lead-in to the international sea ice conference. Visitor feedback was overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic, with many expressing an interest in more such events. Taking this request onboard, the organisers are now looking at contributing to National Science Week in August 2014.

Petra Heil and Rob Massom
On behalf of all involved in the Open Science Day event