Scientists in Schools

Science in the field

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  • Marnie Sparrow, Sandringham College, Sandringham , VIC
  • Felix Lipkin, CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences

As an environmental scientist, Felix works in a variety of outdoor locations. Marnie and Sandringham Secondary College students had the opportunity to experience this during their excursion to Ricketts Point, even snorkelling in the name of science.

In this three year partnership, Felix's key involvement has been the annual Year 8 Ecology excursion. Students experience fieldwork, using techniques from identification through to data collection using a thermal infrared camera, a laser range finder and a high precision GPS. Using these tools, students collect location information of rubbish, biotic and artificial features of the area. They also gain experience in classifying living things and estimating distances.

Learning from Felix

Data collection

"I enjoyed working with the GPS toughbook and was amazed to learn that it could pinpoint my location down to 5cm," explained Hugo. To complete the process, Felix plots their data, sending the map to Marnie for students to analyse and test their hypotheses.
In addition to the annual excursion, Felix has spoken about his role as an environmental scientist to Year 8 students and taken some Year 10 students each year for work experience. This year Felix was encouraged to see students from his first Year 8 excursion request work experience, a sign they have maintained their interest in science.

This simple act of volunteering a couple of days a year allows Felix to challenge popular misconceptions of a scientist, while allowing students to experience the human aspect of science. He reflected, "It's hard to measure the impact but I believe a certain amount of curiosity has been triggered.

"When asked about the educational benefit of her three year SiS partnership, Marnie responded, "[SiS] is a fantastic program. Our students have experienced what it is like to carry out field work with advanced technical equipment. Initially it was a challenge not knowing Felix, but now we do it's very easy to collaborate."