Author Archives: Kirsten Hutton

About Kirsten Hutton

Currently doing a Masters in Science Communication at Otago University, New Zealand in the Popularising Science stream. Undergraduate Bachelor of Science in Geology was also done at Otago University.

Apologies :(

Unfortuntately, due to a family illness today, I am behind on my posting somewhat but never fear, for I still have quite a bit to talk about! I’ve been attending all sorts of talks and exhibits, taken lots of photos and talked to lots of people, so expect posts for the next week or so.  In the meantime, here are some of my photos!

Gasworks Chimney

1868 Beam Engine at the Gasworks

Battered butterfly at Otago Museum

Smaills Beach, Otago Peninsula

White-faced Heron at the Anderson’s Bay Inlet

Winter leaves outside the Registry on campus

Notice anything odd?

It’s a huge pumpkin thrown in the Leith River on Campus!  Good old students and their hijinks…


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To the Market!

Head on down to the Otago Farmer’s Market today from 9.00am, the weekly market with a great range of fresh produce, and the team from the Food Science Department will be there to test your tastebuds.  Hopefully you can guess what you’re eating, I sure didn’t know what the mystery flavour drink was at the Food Science display at the University Expo on Friday.

Oh, and try the crepes at the market, they’re well worth the wait!

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Natural City

At the top of the harbour, there’s a little area called the Anderson’s Bay inlet. Originally it was twice the size until Dunedin’s growing population demanded more land! (And so half was ‘reclaimed’, although shouldn’t it just be ‘claimed’ since no-one had ever claimed it before?)

Anyhoo, I’ve lived in Anderson’s Bay all my life and spent many hours as a kid poking at crabs, feeding ducks and jumping on the dead octopii. More recently, through an interest in photography, I took note of all the bird life that visits the inlet but even I wouldn’t have thought that there was up to 16 different bird species that visit or live in the inlet area. Someone else had taken notice though.


Jill Hamel of the Save the Otago Peninsula group organised for an artificial bird roost to be constructed in the inlet as a refuge for the birds from people and canines in May 2009.

This is possibly one of the first examples of an artificial roost in the world and after a slow start (just the ducks and the gulls) there are now up to 8 species at a time on the roost, usually at higher tide.

The Anderson’s Bay Inlet Roost has become a resource for seeing the natural world up close and this is similar to what one of my fellow Science Communication student is working on.

Tess Bunny is advocating the notion of “ReWilding the City” and currently has an installation at Wall Street which you should head along and check out. I’ve asked her to do a guest post, so that should be coming your way shortly!

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Water Sense! #2

Stuff you always wanted to know about water!

Water Quality

Water quality is linked to water consumption, e.g. how drinkable, and/or available, water is depends on how we are using our water. If we suck it out of the ground faster than it can be put back (which is happening all the time), then it can become full of minerals and salts, which aren’t very good for plants and soils. If we contaminate places where there is fast moving groundwater, like in underground caves, water will become quickly polluted elsewhere.

Surface Water and Groundwater

The water that we see on the surface (known as surface water), like lakes, streams and rivers, only accounts for ~1.5% of all the water in rocks and sediments underground.  This groundwater can surface as a spring, supply water to surface streams and lakes (usually below the water level) and even flow as streams in underground caves.

While surface water tends to be cloudy with sediment, groundwater is relatively clear and is a good source of drinking water for communities and individual dwellings.  In dry regions, groundwater may be the major or only source of water.


This is the amount of running water on the ground when there is a rainstorm, and depends on the maximum rate that soil and other surface things can soak up water. If it’s able to soak up water as fast as it falls, there is no runoff but when it is not as fast or the soil fills up, the extra water collects at the surface, and hey presto! Runoff!.  Of course, if this occurs on a hill or slope, down it goes either into streams or rivers.

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Great Day for Day 2!


It’s Day 2 of the Scifest and I hope you’ve got heaps planned but if you’re new to the area, just visiting or otherwise, here are some local attractions tied in with the Festival:

Cadbury World Sensory Tours


Delectible and Disgusting Trails at the Otago Museum


Appetising Astronomy at the Beverly Begg Observatory


Belly Business at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery


Monarch Wildlife Tours


Westpac Aquarium 


Speights Brewery

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Science is Real!

Another great video from They Might Be Giants, so much better for kids than the Wiggles!!

Science is real – don’t let anyone tell you different 🙂

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The Science of Rap…?

Today I chatted to Tom McFadden, who’s come all the way from the most-likely-to-be-warmer-than-here California as a guest speaker for the SciFest.  He was roped in though the Science Communication network, that has its tentacles everywhere, after applying for the Master of Science Communication programme for 2011. (Go Science Communication!)

Tom’s been making rap songs and videos about science for the past couple of years, in collaboration with his mates back in the USA, not all of whom are scientists, just like-minded people who are passionate about creative education.  The idea came from finding a way of making biology accessible to undergraduate students that he was teaching, and has taken off from there.  From creating videos to supplement homework for his students, he has made around 20 videos (YouTube them!) that have really taken off with both university and high school students.

Now Tom doesn’t see himself as a rapper per se, since there are many other musical paths to choose from but rap is very prevalent in the States. Pretty much everyone he knew at school has recorded at least one rap song.  Of course, rap is something that is a bit of a novelty here (so I have noticed) with many media outlets almost overemphasising the ‘rap’ word in the stories about Tom, so I reckon he should tap into the hip hop market for success in New Zealand. 🙂

Rather than telling people that “science is cool”, Tom is forging a path communicating science (mostly biology) in a way that is applicable to many people.  To him, science is not ‘a dude putting two chemicals together and making an explosion’ (as he was informed once) but being curious about the natural world.  Learning and expanding scientific knowledge helps to make our planet a better place.

Tom is running workshops for kids this week, where they choose a subject and create a rap about it.  This is gearing towards a ‘Science Idol’, which will be held during the Fun & Food Fiesta at the Edgar Centre on Sunday.  You can also check him out at Wall Street on Friday!

Photo is courtesy of Strategy First

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