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Science comes alive on the Chathams

From 16 August, 2022, Tūhura Otago Museum’s science engagement team will be spending a week on the Chatham Islands/Rēkohu/Wharekauri for the Chatham Islands Festival of Science, to help bring cutting-edge science and hands-on engagement to some of Aotearoa’s most remote communities.

Jessa Barder, Tūhura Otago Museum’s science engagement manager, notes that this aligns with the Museum’s commitment to science outreach, particularly with communities that wouldn’t otherwise have access to such experiences.

“One of our primary objectives is to bring science engagement activities to rural communities up and down the motu with our partners. Pre-pandemic, we had visited the Chatham and Pitt Islands twice. Each time we received an amazing response from the kids and wider community. After a nearly three-year pandemic gap, we’re really looking forward to re-engaging.”

Earlier in the year the Museum team joined forces with Massey University’s Professor David Johnston and Jennifer Lillo, who were equally passionate about sharing science on the Chathams.

Professor Johnston had recently established Whareweka – a science house at Te One on the Chathams, and with Ms Lillo, came up with idea of running an island-wide science festival

“We originally tried to do a science festival in August 2021, but the festival was cut short with the country moving into Alert Level 4 after the first day of the festival programme. So, we started planning a science festival for 2022. Now with Tūhura Otago Museum on-board, the festival programme has snowballed to more than twenty events planned across six days! There’s sure to be something for everyone from local kids to kiwi and international tourists alike”, said Professor Johnston.

The festival will bring together researchers and science outreach professionals from over a dozen organisations, including the University of Otago, Massey, and Auckland, two Centres of Research Excellence (the Dodd-Walls Centre and the MacDiarmid Institute), NIWA, GNS Science, MetService, DoC, the Cawthron Institute, and EQC, and feature a range of events, including interactive science displays in the new, purpose-built Chatham Islands Museum, an open day at the Whareweka, talks at the council chambers and local hotel, a science-themed pub quiz, school visits, stargazing, and a community science day at Kōpinga Marae.

It will also host the first public screening of the Far from Frozen: Going to Extremes planetarium show. This new full dome show was produced by NIWA and Tūhura Otago Museum to illustrate the impacts of climate. It will be screened in the Museum’s portable StarLab dome as part of the festival.

“The NIWA team have compiled some incredible footage from their Antarctica-based research, both above and below the ice”, said Ms Barder, “The film illustrates how real climate change is for everyone and the steps we can all take to do something about it. It’s really important that everyone has access to this information, so it feels very appropriate to have its first full screening in one of our most remote communities.”

Additionally, the visit will also see another first: the installation of a magnetometer by Otago University as part of the MBIE-funded Solar Tsunamis research project. The project aims to prepare

and protect Aotearoa New Zealand’s power grid from potentially destructive solar storms. The magnetometer will provide an important eastern benchmark to compare to a network already installed on mainland Aotearoa. The project also has a dedicated community engagement component that will be delivered to the Islands’ three schools during the festival.

The organisations that are attending are thrilled that whole Chatham Island community is rallying behind the festival. “Everybody has been so supportive. Air Chathams, Hotel Chathams, the Museum, Ngāti Mutunga o Wharekauri Iwi Trust, the Hokotehi Moriori Trust, Tourism Chatham Islands, the Council and all the schools....they’ve all provided a huge amount of support and enouragement. We’re really looking forward to it, and making this a very special event that the Chathams will remember.”said Professor Johnston.


For more information, please contact:

Kate Oktay, Otago Museum Marketing Manager

[email protected]

020 4197 1907