Each year, the School of Biological Sciences leads scientific workshops in collaboration with The ConocoPhillips Science Experience and UQ Experience Science

Students in years 9 - 12 have the opportunity to discover what studying science is like at UQ and how science is applied in industry and everyday life. Our biological series of hands-on, interactive science workshops are led by our scientists and our industry Partners with help from postgraduate students (feel free to interview them about their science stories while you are here!)

Our Programs are rotated each event and it is possible to enroll in one or more workshops at each event, giving you the opportunity to attend every year and participate in a unique experience each time.

If you have any questions regarding this event please contact the Experience Science team: 

Our Programs

Biological Attack!

A highly contagious virus known as the Zen Virus has escaped from a research laboratory.  It quickly spreads between humans by blood-sucking parasites and threatens to turn the world’s population into shuffling zombies!  Join a special task force of biological scientists and help trace the spread of the infection, track down potential vectors and search for a possible cure. Each student will do fun, hands-on investigations from one of five different activities.

  • Botany:  Blood-sucking mosquitoes are responsible for the transmission of the Zen Virus and biologists believe plants may hold the key to their control.  Learn how to identify and extract important chemical compounds from leaves, roots & flowers and test their toxic effects on mosquito wrigglers.
  • Parasites:  Viruses can be transmitted through blood feeding organisms such as fleas, lice and leeches.  Explore how these blood-suckers locate, attach to and feed on their hosts through microscopy, making slides and observing their behavior using cool experiments.
  • Mutations in animals:  Humans can contract the Zen Virus if they come into close contact with rats who are also known to carry the virus.  Whilst it is not lethal to rats, the virus causes strange abnormalities in their limbs and vision. Investigate how these mutations impact on their survival and ability to forage for food and explore the implications this may have on the spread of the Zen Virus.
  • Microbiology: Quarantine officers fear the worst when a family outside the infection zone falls ill with virus-like symptoms.  Get up-close with the hidden world of microbes, fungal spores and bacteria and analyse samples taken from the victims’ home to look for signs of the Zen Virus.
  • DNA:  Geneticists have discovered a strain of mutated mosquitoes with deformed wings, affecting their ability to fly between humans and spread the Zen Virus through their feeding.  Use state of the art equipment to examine DNA and isolate the genes responsible for this mutation in the search for a way to eradicate mosquitoes.  

Marine Biology

Recent storms and heavy rain in South-East Queensland has washed large volumes of flood water into the pristine waters of Moreton Bay. This runoff contains pollutants, sediment and nutrients from surrounding industries and agriculture and biologists fear it could have a disastrous impact on marine organisms living in the bay.  You will be part of a team of marine biologists investigating the impacts of flood waters on Moreton Bay.  You will do fun, hands-on experiments using some of the techniques marine biologists use every day.  The areas of investigation include:

  • Marine Botany:  Sediment-rich waters pouring into Moreton Bay have made the surrounding waters muddy and turbid, reducing the light available to marine plants.  You will conduct experiments to see how a decrease in light effects the ability of plants to photosynthesise and explore how this will impact on other organisms in the ocean.
  • Invertebrates:  The waters of Moreton Bay and its surrounding estuaries are teeming with smaller invertebrate organisms that play a vital role in ocean food chains.  Pesticides, fertilizers and other harmful chemicals can be found in flood waters not to mention large volumes of fresh water.  We will test the effects that changes to salinity and pH has on the survival of aquatic invertebrates such as marine shrimp and mosquito wrigglers.
  • DNA:  There are two populations of dugong near Brisbane – those that are found in the pristine waters off Hervey Bay and those that live in the flood-effected waters of Moreton Bay.  When the body of a dead dugong washes up on the beach, its cause of death is a mystery.  Could it have been killed by toxic chemicals from the flood waters?  Or perhaps the dugong died from natural causes and was simply washed into Moreton Bay by the tide.  You will use special molecular markers called microsatellites to examine the DNA from the dead dugong to determine its origin.
  • Marine Diversity:  Flood waters have blanketed rocks and seagrass beds in a thick layer of muddy sediment.  We know that seagrass is a vital food source for dugongs, but do any other creatures rely on it?  How will pollution effect the survival of rocky shore organisms?  You will use microscopes, magnifying glasses and get your hands wet as you explore the diversity of marine creatures living in these habitats and look at the impact flood waters will have on their survival.
  • Feeding & Foraging:  A flood has the potential to disrupt the way animals locate, capture and consume their food.  You will examine the intricate filter-feeding structures of mussels and look through the eyes of a predatory fish to help investigate how flood waters impact on feeding and foraging.

Animal forensics

Raymond the Ram, celebrity sheep, TV personality and beloved mascot has been murdered!  Two weeks after he disappeared from his farm, a group of hikers stumbled across his remains in bush land near Brisbane.  Forensic biologists were sent to the site to collect evidence from the crime scene. You will be part of the forensic investigation team to examine the evidence and help track down the killer.  You will get to carry out hands-on experiments in several different areas:

  • Pollen:  Mud was found stuck to Raymond’s thick fleece and analysis of the mud under a microscope revealed traces of pollen and spores from plants.  Closer inspection of the crime scene revealed a series of muddy footprints leading to the site from neighboring bush land.  You will extract, examine and identify the pollen from Raymond’s fleece and compare it with the pollen from the various muddy footprints in order to identify the killer. 
  • DNA:  Strange hairs were found amongst Raymond’s fleece, possibly left by the killer.  DNA can be extracted from hair follicles and forensic scientists can use DNA based technology to recover evidence from a crime scene. You will be extracting DNA using state of the art equipment and procedures.  You’ll also explore techniques such as DNA fingerprinting, gene coding and genetic markers to identify the killer from a list of suspects.
  • Entomology:  Maggots removed from decomposing bodies can hold vital clues.  You can make and examine slides of fly larvae and use them to calculate the time of death.  We can also extract the victim’s tissue from the gut of maggots and use this for toxicology studies, to see if a victim has been drugged or poisoned.  In this activity you’ll do both!  
  • Skeletons:  Raymond’s body revealed a series of bite marks.  Several animal suspects have been named in this investigation, including some such as dingoes who are capable of inflicting fatal bites.  You will be making plaster casts of animal jaws and by examining the number, type and arrangement of teeth and comparing it to the bites found on Raymond, we can identify the animal most likely to have inflicted the bite.
  • Scats:  There are clues in poo!  A pile of scats (animal droppings) were found next to Raymond's body.  Several different scat samples were collected from nearby bush land to be used in comparison.  You will be examining the physical attributes of the scats such as size, shape and colour in order to identify the animal that produced it.  You will then make extracts & slides of the scat and examine it under a microscope to determine what the animal has been eating, also aiding in its identification.


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