New ‘Antarctica Online’ Course

Cliff interviews Nick Golledge, from the Antarctic Research Centre, while Rebecca hides inside her extreme cold weather gear.

Cliff interviews Nick Golledge, from the Antarctic Research Centre, while Rebecca hides inside her extreme cold weather gear.

Following Rebecca and Cliff’s successful trip to Antarctica in December 2014, the Science in Society team have been working hard to put together a new fully online course called ‘Antarctica Online’.

The course features lectures that were filmed on the ice and examines contemporary Antarctic scientific research, placing it in a wider scientific, historical, social and cultural context. Rebecca and Cliff gathered material over 10 days around Scott Base, McMurdo Station, and the Ross Island historic huts and three days at an Antarctic Research Centre field camp in the Transantarctic Mountains.

As well as filming lectures for their own modules—on Antarctic science history, and Geology and paleoclimate—they also filmed material for a third module, Constructing Antarctica, which will be led by Rhian, and Leon Gurevitch from the School of Design.

Most of us will never get to visit Antarctica, but this course hopes to offer the next best thing.

The course runs from Monday 28 September to Friday 6 November 2015 (6 weeks)

Fee: $120  (There are no prerequisites for this course)  ENROL HERE




We’re looking for a special someone to join our Science in Society team

For the last two years we (Rhian and Rebecca) have been getting by on a lot of adrenalin and with the support of an army of awesome tutors: but now we have new courses to launch and new plans to hatch and we need someone else to join our small, dynamic team. This is an 18-month full time teaching position, with full details below. This job could suit someone who’s been working as a high-school science teacher, or someone with a science PhD and a real interest in and commitment to teaching, or someone with a science degree and experience in online education.

Here are the details on the job ad:

Senior Tutor in Science in Society, Faculty of Science (18 month fixed term position)

Our small dynamic team seeks a senior tutor with a background in science, interest and/or experience in digital learning technologies, project management skills, and confidence in delivering online courses. The appointee will have excellent organisational, communication and interpersonal skills, a demonstrated understanding of science and its role in society, and experience working with students and academics.

The appointee will coordinate an innovative and flexible online general science course that will be delivered to first year university students, teachers, and high school students and will utilize the latest online technologies and pedagogies. The appointee will be at the forefront of strategic development and delivery of large, online courses (including MOOCs) at Victoria University and will be expected to engage with a range of internal and external stakeholders representing educational technology, instructional design, and secondary and tertiary education. In addition, the appointee will support existing initiatives of the Science in Context teaching programme, including supporting online courses and related outreach.

Depending on the appointee’s background, opportunities exist to develop and teach online modules on Antarctic science, environmental science, and other contemporary issues in science and society.

We encourage applications from a range of candidates including, for example, science teachers, people with a higher degree in science and demonstrated interest in teaching, and educational technologists/ instructional designers with a demonstrated science literacy.

The position is for a fixed term of 18 months with an immediate start date.

Contact Details for Vacancy: Rhian Salmon, Programme Director for Science in Context, Faculty of Science

Applications close 5 June 2015 Reference 634

Full details on how to apply are here

Call for papers: Finding New Zealand’s Scientific Heritage

Venue: Victoria University of Wellington
Date: 23-24 November 2015

2015 is a significant year for New Zealand science history. It is 150 years since James Hector arrived in Wellington to set up many of our national science organisations and 100 years since Ernest Marsden arrived in Wellington.

In 1865 Hector was appointed head of the New Zealand Geological Survey, with his responsibilities eventually including the Colonial Museum, Colonial Observatory, Meteorological Service, Colonial Botanic Gardens, and the New Zealand Institute. In 1915, Marsden arrived in New Zealand to be professor of physics at Victoria University. He stayed in this position for seven years then, in 1926, was appointed head of New Zealand’s Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, a position he held until 1946.

In 1983, The Royal Society of New Zealand and the Alexander Turnbull Library ran a conference In Search of New Zealand’s Scientific Heritage. In the more than 30 years since this date there have been significant research and publications into New Zealand’s science history but there is still much to explore. The 2015 anniversaries invite a renewed focus on New Zealand’s science history and provide momentum leading up to the Royal Society of New Zealand’s 150th anniversary in 2017 and the 250th anniversary of the arrival of the first European scientists in 2019.

The conference committee invites proposals for individual papers, panels, and posters for Finding New Zealand’s Scientific Heritage, 23-24 November 2015.

International keynote speaker:

Why History Matters: Perspectives from the Recent History of Science by Professor Naomi Oreskes
Various scholars have argued for the pertinence of historical perspectives to understanding contemporary issues, but historians of science have, until recently, been mostly loathe to inject themselves into contemporary debates. One reason for this is the belief that an important contribution of our field is the understanding of how different “science” in the past was from its present configuration. It is not merely that our ideas about the world have changed, but also that our beliefs as to how we learn about the world have changed, too. Neither the definition of what constitutes “science,” nor the methods that have been considered “scientific,” have been stable over time; one can discern major changes even within the past century.  Yet, despite this, prominent historians of science, myself included, have not only used history to illuminate contemporary debates, but have provided unique and important insights and perspectives. This paper explores how we have done so, and how such efforts can both contribute to society and strengthen our field as an intellectual endeavor.

Professor Naomi Oreskes

Professor Naomi Oreskes

Professor Naomi Oreskes, Harvard University
Naomi Oreskes is professor of the history of science and affiliated professor of Earth and planetary sciences at Harvard University, and an internationally renowned geologist, science historian, and author.

Oreskes is the author of many scholarly and popular books and articles on the history of earth and environmental science, including The Rejection of Continental Drift (Oxford, 1999), Plate Tectonics: An Insider’s History of the Modern Theory of the Earth (Westview, 2003), and The Collapse of Western Civilization (Columbia University Press, 2014). For the past decade, Oreskes has been primarily interested in the science and politics of anthropogenic climate change. Her 2010 book, Merchants of Doubt, How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco to Global Warming, co-authored with Erik M. Conway, was shortlisted for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and won the Watson-Davis Prize from the History of Science Society. The film version was released in late 2014.

Oreskes’s current research projects include completion of a scholarly book on the history of Cold War Oceanography, Science on a Mission: American Oceanography from the Cold War to Climate Change (Chicago, forthcoming), and Assessing Assessments: A Historical and Philosophical Study of Scientific Assessments for Environmental Policy in the Late 20th Century. She has lectured widely and won numerous prizes, including the 2009 Francis Bacon Medal for outstanding scholarship in the history of science and technology, the 2011 Climate Change Communicator of the Year, and the 2014 American Geophysical Union Presidential Citation for Science and Society.

Other speakers and sessions:
Simon Nathan: James Hector and contemporaries: the H-connection and the 19th century web of science
Rebecca Priestley: “A place among the immortals”: Ernest Marsden and his 20th century scientific networks
Panel discussion: The future of science in New Zealand: new areas for history of science research. This panel, of scientists and historians, will explore future challenges for science in New Zealand as a way of illuminating priorities for research into the history of science.

Call for papers
We are interested in receiving proposals for papers, full sessions/panels, and posters on any topic around the history of New Zealand science, including but not limited to:

Scientists and their disciplines, such as

  • James Hector and his life in science
  • Ernest Marsden and his life in science
  • Hector’s scientific mentors and contemporaries, eg, Colenso, Hochstetter, Haast, others
  • Marsden’s scientific mentors and contemporaries, eg, Rutherford, Fleming, Cotton, others
  • Histories of the natural, physical and social sciences in New Zealand
  • Hector’s and Marsden’s legacy in New Zealand today
  • New Zealand scientists working overseas
  • Matauranga Maori in 19th and 20th century Aotearoa New Zealand

Scientific institutions and networks

  • Histories of the New Zealand Geological Survey, Colonial Museum, Meteorological Service, Colonial Observatory, Colonial Botanic Gardens
  • Histories of the DSIR and its constituent agencies
  • Other histories of New Zealand science, scientists, science organisations and museums
  • The mobility of scientists during wartime, changing networks and connections
  • Indigenous knowledge meets European science

History of science as a discipline

  • Books, blogs, and tweets: popularising the history of science in New Zealand
  • Sources and records of science: challenges and opportunities for the 21st century scholar
  • Painting the scientist: portrayals of scientists in New Zealand art, literature and film

Science in Society

  • Historical perspectives on contemporary issues in science and society
  • Histories of science education
  • New Zealand: “more than any other country made by science”?
  • Future challenges for history of science
Illustration accompanying T. W. Kirk's 1887 paper

Illustration accompanying T. W. Kirk’s 1887 paper “Brief Description of a New Species of Large Decapod: Architeuthis longimanus”. From

Special issues of the Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand
The JRSNZ has dedicated two issues of the journal to the history of science in New Zealand. Conference attendees will have the opportunity to submit papers to these special issues, which will be co-edited by Rebecca Priestley and Simon Nathan, for publication in 2017. Deadline for submissions will be December 2015.

Key dates:

Call for papers: closes 30 June 2015

Draft programme available: 1 August 2015

Registrations open: 1 August 2015

Earlybird (discounted) registrations close: 30 September 2015

Full fee registrations will continue to be available through October and November.

Submission of abstracts
Please send abstracts (300-400 words) to the convenor of the programme committee, Jim McAloon, at Papers will be accepted on a rolling basis, please expect to hear back within 10 working days.

For more information please contact the conference convenor, Rebecca Priestley, at


Call for papers issued 30 March 2015

Click here to download a printable pdf of this Call for Papers: Call for Papers 2015 histsci

Antarctica online: return from the ice

Cliff talks about the geology of the Transantarctic Mountains, from a great viewing spot on Friis Hills. Photo Rebecca Priestley.

Cliff talks about the geology of the Transantarctic Mountains, from a great viewing spot on Friis Hills. Photo Rebecca Priestley.

Cliff and I are back from the ice, and have started editing our field footage and putting our lectures together. Thanks to a fabulous video camera (Canon XF100) and some incredible locations (and hopefully some interesting commentary from us) it’s all looking really great. One of the only problems I’ve noticed so far, is that in some of the Friis Hills footage, the sound is so perfect (there was no ambient sound at all, not a breath of wind and … well, there’s nothing else there to make a noise) and the background so incredible and the light so perfect that it looks totally fake, like Cliff’s about to swing his arm around and go through the green screen. But it was real. I need to keep reminding myself that.

We’re planning to have the online course ready to go by middle of this year. We’ll keep you posted on details.

Here are some pictures from the second week on the ice:

Scott Base: apart from when we were glamping up at Friis Hills, this was our home in Antarctica. Thanks Antarctica New Zealand! Photo Rebecca Priestley.

Scott Base: apart from when we were glamping up at Friis Hills, this was our home in Antarctica. Thanks Antarctica New Zealand! Photo Rebecca Priestley.

On the way to Cape Evans, cracks in the sea ice meant we needed to lay a bridge before driving over. Photo Rebecca Priestley

On the way to Cape Evans, cracks in the sea ice meant we needed to lay a bridge before driving over. Photo Rebecca Priestley

Happy Place: inside Scott's Terra Nova Hut at Cape Evans. Photo Rebecca Priestley.

Happy Place: inside Scott’s Terra Nova Hut at Cape Evans. Photo Rebecca Priestley.

Top of Observation Hill. Great location for lecture about Scott's journey to the Pole, and the men who waited for him to return. Photo Rebecca Priestley.

Top of Observation Hill. Great location for lecture about Scott’s journey to the Pole, and the men who waited for him to return. Photo Rebecca Priestley.

Rebecca films while Cliff Atkins interview Nick Golledge, from the Antarctic Research Centre.

Rebecca films while Cliff Atkins talks to geologist/glaciologist Nick Golledge, from the Antarctic Research Centre.

Reflections on SCIE 311: Science Communication

Between July – October 2015, Rebecca and I had the genuine pleasure of teaching a topic that we both love, to a class of fantastic, enthusiastic students. This was the first time either of us had taught Science Communication as a formal University course, and we while we had bold ambitions, we weren’t sure what the students would make of it.. or produce. To our great delight, they particularly enjoyed the classes on history and science communication theory – and even asked for more of those in the feedback! In addition, we were privileged to be able to invite fantastic artists, educators, scientists, writers, and journalists to talk with the class about their work. Many thanks to everyone who joined us.

Our class was offered both as a 15-point, credit-bearing 300-level undergraduate course, and also through Continuing Education (not for credit). In total, we had 21 students, including employees from NIWA, the Ministry of Primary Industries, Pew Charitable Tusts, the Department of Conservation, and the Royal Society of New Zealand, as well as more ‘traditional’ students from both science and non-science disciplines.

For the practical component of the course, the students first worked on a written assignment each – of the type that might appear in a long-form magazine (such as this piece by one of our students). Using a “workshopping” process adapted from the International Institute of Modern Letters, they shared their draft ideas and work, gave each other feedback, and had an opportunity to improve their work prior to submission. It was wonderful to not only see all the work improve, but also to listen to the creative, thoughtful, and constructive conversations within the workshop groups.

Much of the students’ work is now on display – both online and in physical locations. You can get an idea of the diversity of the work from the following examples:

A song, by Matapuku Robati (more info on this can be found here)

An expedition blog, by Amelia Conell

Wanted  Chemical Elements by Jessica Siacci
featuring Hydrogen, Fluorine, Chlorine, and Osmium (click on the links to fully appreciate them, and their associated text)


an oil painting by Kate Calcott that explored changes in forests over time in New Zealand

picture of painting in location

picture of Kate Calcott’s painting in location

a poster by Kelly MacLeod about microbes

What Are Microbes and How do We Identify Them?

and an educational website for computer science students and app developed by Pauline Kelly.

There was also a poster by Erroll Gibson that’s currently on the wall of the Cotton building at Victoria University of Wellington, and an “i-beacon” hidden behind one of the paintings in the same building, with associated content developed by Vicky Pruditsch. In addition, several assignments with great potential  are still being worked on so that they can be made available in an ‘authentic’ environment. This includes videos, apps, events, spoken word performance, and a game.

All assignments were also accompanied by a critical reflection that explored what they were hoping to achieve, and how they felt this work compared to their goals and aspirations.