Science & Space

During last year’s UK National Whale and Dolphin Watch, a record-breaking 1,529 hours of dedicated watches took place. Some 300 hours more than any previous occasion, this represents 2,500 volunteers all around the British Isles getting involved to report on the UK’s whale and dolphin species.

2017 was the sixteenth year that this huge citizen science scheme had taken place and clearly the event is building on popularity year on year. “It’s so important for people to join in helping us to track whales, dolphins and porpoises in UK waters. The Sea Watch Foundation database holds hundreds of thousands of records which are used by scientists and governments to inform research and policy on these wonderful animals” says Kathy James, Sightings Officer for Sea Watch. “By taking part, people are directly contributing to their conservation”.

Aside from the expansive effort put in by volunteers in 2017, there were also a huge number of whale, dolphin and porpoise sightings reported as part of the event. 1,410 records of cetaceans, the collective term for whales, dolphins and porpoises, were reported from land and at sea.

“The wonderful thing about watching for whales and dolphins in the UK is that you don’t necessarily have to get on a boat to see them” adds Kathy.

More than half of the reports received came from land-based volunteers stationed at one of 108 survey sites or those who were lucky enough to spot a cetacean as they went about their other business. Forty-eight vessels were also involved with the event, from pleasure craft and fishing vessels to ferries and cruise ships.

The reports received during the 2017 National Whale and Dolphin Watch amounted to around 6,500 individual animals “captured” by the survey, a powerful testament to citizen science.

This most recent effort also showed that on average around the UK, a cetacean could be spotted once an hour! North and East Scotland, South Devon, Cornwall and North-east England all had a greater sightings rate than the national average. These excellent cetacean-spotting areas clocked up between 1 and 5 animals per hour on average per site.

Eleven different cetacean species were seen in UK waters during the National Whale and Dolphin Watch. All in all, 29 species of cetacean have been recorded in UK waters although only fourteen are recorded regularly. Seeing a good proportion of these in just nine days goes to show what people can achieve when they work together.

Sea Watch Foundation are seeking volunteers to come forward to take part in the National Whale and Dolphin Watch 2018 this summer, which takes place 28th July – 5th August. Surveys can take place from your favourite or closest bit of coastline and boat-users are urged to get in touch too. No experience is necessary as the team at Sea Watch will offer you training and advice on how to take part.

Find out more about the event: seawatchfoundation.org.uk

Whilst UK gears up for their annual watch, Jonas Liebschner, a photographer and guide with Whale Watching Sydney, releases ‘Whales of Sydney: and other visitors to our shores’. The book due out in March 2018, beautifully documents the annual migration of whales past the coast of Sydney through engaging photography. Their behaviors and the interaction between them have changed our understanding of the whale’s importance and the need to protect them for future generations.

New Holland Publishers, ISBN: 9781925546132

To ensure a prosperous career in a climate of lightening innovation and constant evolution, gain a vital edge with smart forecasting and insider knowledge.

It’s hard to ignore the tide of technological advancement and its diverse applications in today’s world, and our dependance and integration of these breakthroughs is unlikely to fade in the future.

The zeitgeist of our time is driven by a movement towards intelligent technologies and so the wise who seek meaningful, expansive, and challenging roles in this future might well look at engineering as a smart career choice.

We asked leading career coach, Ray Pavri, to interpret the multi-dimensional value of engineering as a catalyst profession for conservation, science, medicine and more…

Engineers can transform the world into a better place and maintain the world to stay as a better place.

Both have relevance, but is engineering a smart career choice in 2018 and beyond?

Yes, but you must think beyond the stereotypical applications of engineering in traditional industries like mining, oil and gas, coal fired power generation and manufacturing. You’ve got to shift your attention to growing industries such as the environment including air, food & water quality and health. Engineering for an ageing population, urban infrastructure related engineering to cope with growing cities, engineering within defence within what is an ever-changing international climate and agriculture related technology innovation enforcing Australia as the food bowl of Asia. This is where the future will be, for a lot of young engineers.

Irrespective of whether it’s transforming or maintaining type of work as an engineer, if you embark on your engineering career with a genuine love of what you are doing alongside creativity, initiative, business acumen, communication skills and connectedness with others, you will do well.

A lot of engineers facing frustrations in the mid to late stages of their life have lost sight of what makes them happy, being chained to lifestyles rather than de-linking, re-calibrating and re-engaging in areas which they’d get joy out of. It is hard to make the world a better place and through that get true joy in being an engineer, if your own head space does not get better.

Take the example of Professor Ana Deletic, a one of Australia’s innovative engineers for 2017. She created a technology called “green-blue walls” for installation as small planter boxes on walls, taking up entire walls of multi-story buildings, with gravity and plant roots doing the job of percolating greywater and stormwater within urbanised areas. The phosphorus concentrations being extracted also reduce local temperatures, increase biodiversity and the amenity value of urban areas. There are many applications of this technology and it will transform the world into a better place.

Other Australian engineers who are enjoying what they are doing and excelling in their own sub-disciplines include:

Tony Lavorato (Complex Cantilevering Over Heritage Structures)
Wes Johnston (Mobile Swing-stage Gantry)
Gregory Kelly (Flooded Roads Smart Warning System)
Dr Madhu Bhaskaran (Stretchable Oxide Electronics)
Simon St Hill (Heat Recovery Power Generator)
Peter Atherton (New Clinical Waste Management)
Dr Richard Kelso (Low Drag Bicycle Helmets)
Professor Sandra Kentish (Storing CO2 in Microalgae)
Dan Copelin (Virtual Pipes)

See a full list of Australia’s Most Innovative Engineers @ innovativeengineers.com.au

So how can you set yourself apart in the world of engineering?

Seek inspiration and reach out to others. Connecting with others is a sure-fire way to improve your career success.

This need not start only when you are in the work force. It should start even while you are at Uni as a group of students at the University of NSW have done. A team of engineering students from the University of NSW, physicists, lawyers, communications specialists and musicians teamed up to design a DNA scaffold that could help find a cure for HIV. This innovation earned the UNSW students the Grand Prize at Harvard’s annual BIOMOD competition.
To connect though, you need a good range of soft skills.

Too often engineers are remaining in silos rather that reaching out to others – after all engineering has day-to-day applications and for that to happen you need to connect with the full fabric of society.

It is also important for engineers to understand market context, relating what they are doing to current and future market needs. There are several engineering related Phd’s who show untapped potential driving Ubers when they could be re-shaping the world – all because of the desire to create the perfect mouse trap which no one wants.

Another imperative to make it in engineering in the modern world is to keep up with societal challenges and that means keeping up with what is in the news both here and globally. It is about keeping an eye out for the “wouldn’t it be nice if” societal needs because inherent within these needs, lie creative engineered solutions which could turn the world on its head. Australian engineers are equally placed as engineers globally to change this world we live in.

The future of engineering as a smart career choice lies in its diverse applications – industrial batteries adjoining intermittent power generation like wind and solar. Or in smart devices proliferating society and work places within the internet of things revolution. Or in driverless cars, driverless trains at mining sites and now driverless cargo ships within the broader automation revolution taking shape.

When you start to think about the application of engineering to the world’s problems, the opportunities seem endless.

Ray Pavri is Australia’s most respected career coach for degree-qualified engineers. A career professional with an MBA in Business, Ray has held senior roles with many large organisations in Australia. But his real passion is working with engineers and technical professionals at all levels of management who are stagnating in their careers.

For the past twenty years, Ray has helped over 4,000 technical professionals escape the work trap dilemma to discover more rewarding and meaningful careers. As founder of Watt Electrical News, a premier online resource within the global electrical community, and My Electrical Community, a peer-to-peer business and social network, Ray is devoted to improving the lives of technical professionals throughout Eastern Australia. Connect with the Career Coach @ jobtransitionstrategy.com

Science has shrugged off it’s serpentine grasp of academic rigour and embraced a simpler language—speaking to a new generation with interactive, DIY science experiments. Now we have Popular Science, an official category covering a genre that includes all fields of scientific investigation: neuroscience, bioscience, astrophysics, robotics…with more emerging variants trending at lightening pace. Today, the formerly impenetrable lofts of science are reimagined as Youtube videos, sci-fi talkshows, interactive museums and theme parks. This opens avenues to create new career paths into science, welcoming more diverse methods of exploration which can shape how we learn and engage with science.

Self-made science guy, Jacob Strickling, shares his unconventional career path and the experiments which make science fun!

I love Science… Always have!

Exploring how things work, marvelling at the creation around me. Intrigued and blown away by the bombardier beetle and the firefly. I just had to be a science teacher and so pursued this career path and satisfied my cravings for how things work by taking the engineering pathway.

I love building things, especially equipment that helps explain scientific principles. Fun stuff as well, rides and games with a science twist. Four years ago, I started filming and uploading myself doing science and building my projects. Make Science Fun was born, so named to remind me and others, that science should be enjoyable and engaging.

A big break happened one year into the life of the YouTube channel. I was off to Japan with some students for a science competition and we had to produce a video about where we live. Whale watching is a regular past time of mine, and so to help film them from my boat and bring them a little closer, I made a device to ‘talk’ to the whales. Surprisingly we soon had whales swimming all around us and the video was pretty exciting. A video distribution company made contact with me and since then I’ve sold hundreds of videos world wide. One of the video’s went seriously viral on FaceBook (we’re talking 50 million views). A TV producer saw the video and made contact, so I ended up doing fun science experiments on the morning news.

A book publisher saw me on TV and so, I wrote my first book ‘Make Science Fun’. It’s filled with childhood memories of the science projects and adventures I got up-to as a kid. One of the nature memories I’ve captured in the book is hunting antlions. When I was young I would catch ants and drop them into the sandy pit-trap of a hungry antlion, watching the hunter catch its prey was always exciting to a 6yr old.

It’s been a privilege being able to help parents have the confidence to do science with their children at home. ‘Make Science Fun’ the book has gone so well it’s even been translated into a Chinese edition.To cater for the next age group up I’ve written a second book ‘Make Science Fun Experiments’. Released early December 2017, its aim is to help young people, ages 8 -15, to do real science experiments at home, following the scientific method.

My favourite project… A DIY Sewage System!

15 years ago my family was fortunate enough to move onto a beautiful property on the Central Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Like my neighbouring properties, our sewage was ‘treated’ by a pretty basic septic system. This was fine during sunny weather, but when it rained, the smelly, soapy overflow ran pretty much straight into the local creek which was a vital habitat for frogs, eels, small fish and plenty of other critters. I felt terrible polluting the beautiful environment like I was. At the time, I couldn’t afford the $15,000 for a new aerated waste water treated system which would have guaranteed complete sewage treatment.

Through some research, innovation and (might I say) a stroke of genius, I came up with a design for a home-made sewage system which would only cost $1,200 and perform the same function. The system is based on 7 Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBC’s)—these are 1 metre cubed plastic tanks, inside a metal cage. They are used to import detergents into the country and become a waste product themselves and so can be purchased for incredibly low prices ($100 each).

With the IBC’s, a series of pipes, air diffusers and a blower it only took me a day to build, and the system has been working wonderfully for the past 15 years. In fact, I’ve done some YouTube videos on it, and I’m proud to say that the system has been built many times over in many different countries by like minded people who want to minimise their impact on the local environment.

Make Science Fun Experiments, New Holland Publishers RRP $19.99 available from all good bookstores or online newhollandpublishers.com

Jacob Strickling YouTuber and school Science Co-ordinator, has a passion for making science education fun, relevant and accessible via his You Tube channel Make Science Fun. With regular appearances on the Today Show, he uses science to entertain and inspire people of all ages but specifically children from ages 5–15.

The modern world is a fascinating study in innovation and unseen mechanics—millions of micro processes underpinning the structure and function of a city go largely un-noticed by many of us.

Science is secretly at work behind the scenes of major cities of the world and will continue to be so. Technological advances in fields as diverse as quantum mechanics, electronics, and nanotechnology are proving increasingly important to city life, and the urban world will turn to science to deliver solutions to the problems of the future; more than 50 percent of the world’s population now lives in cities, and that proportion is growing fast. Can engineering provide the answer to a viable megacity future?

Physicist and sci-comm consultant, Laurie Winkless, translates science and engineering to the digestible joy of every person in her first book ‘Science and the City’.

Science and the City starts at your front door and guides you through the technology of everyday city life: how new approaches to building materials help to construct the tallest skyscrapers in Dubai, how New Yorkers use light to treat their drinking water, how Tokyo commuters’ footsteps power gates in train stations. Uncovering the science and engineering that shapes our cities, Laurie reveals how technology will help us meet the challenges of a soaring world population—from an ever-increasing demand for power, water, and internet access, to simply how to get about in a megacity of tens of millions of people.

Q/A with Laurie

Which innovations driving our cities have the greatest impact on our future?

For me, I think the way we manage ‘waste’ will have the greatest impact on our future. Technologies like greywater recycling and vehicle fuel from organic waste (e.g. faeces, cow dung) are already established in many cities, but we’ll see many more adopting them in future. Our obsession with plastic is causing huge issues for our environment, both in therms of landfills and the cleanliness of the oceans. But cities like Bogota are using waste plastic as the main ingredient for a new building material, while engineers in India use it to build better roads. Other waste streams too are finding uses—for example, scientists in the UK are using chicken feathers to produce insulation panels for homes. We (as a society) need to over the idea that we can throw stuff away—there is no ‘away’, everything we discard ends up somewhere, and if we want our cities to be more sustainable, we need to redefine the waste cycle.

Another thing that will have a huge impact on our cities will be the removal of fuel-belching vehicles from our roads. Poor air quality kills millions of city-dwellers, and the most dangerous components of air pollution (e.g. particulate matter) come from the exhaust pipes of vehicles. There are some technologies that can help ‘clean’ the air, but the easiest solution is to move away from the burning of fossil fuels.

There are many other innovations that might have a role to play—self-healing materials that increases the lifetime of infrastructure (e.g. roads, water pipes), a wholesale move towards renewable energy (e.g wind turbines, solar panels and tidal energy), urban farms, etc!

Where can we explore science in the city?

Trees and parks: add colour and interest, offering us health benefits via science—they remove some of the CO2 in the air, and they help cool cities, which reduces their otherwise considerable energy footprint.

Walkability: shops close to home and business offer a more ‘European’ scale to cities that make it easy to get around on foot or by bike. Thoughtful infrastructure which provides accessibility and supports expansion.

Buildings: from many different eras give urban explorers the chance to see their city as a living, changing thing. In London, you can see structures that date from the Medieval era, right up to the sleekest, tallest skyscraper currently under construction. This reminds us that cities are in a constant state of flux, and that new modes of engineering, new materials, and changing tastes have a significant impact on the landscape.

Traffic lights: traffic is a constant in the life of a city-dweller, and as a pedestrian trying to cross the road, it can be a frustrating experience. But the science and maths behind managing traffic is fascinating, and the road network is a central artery of a city. If we get to a stage that all cars are driverless, street infrastructure (like traffic lights) may well disappear.

Metro: tunnels and the machines that dig them, are an engineering marvel, and in many cases they’re being constructed while the city above ground just keeps moving. Their construction can also uncover secrets of the city that existed in the ancient past—when we dig underground, we dig through history. Watch Laurie’s video on floating track slabs.

Laurie insists, science is not just for scientists! Through her book ‘Science and the City’ unlocks this branch of knowledge giving us all the tools and sight for science.

Visit Laurie @ www.lauriewinkless.com

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Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic have joined forces to further inspire the world through expedition travel. Their collaboration in exploration, research, technology and conservation will provide extraordinary travel experiences and disseminate geographic knowledge around the globe.

People seek exploration in wild places to experience adventure, to contribute to science and conservation, to encounter native wildlife and cultures—Lindblad and National Geographic connect travellers to all this and much more.

Discover the world @ expeditions.com