Scientists of the future

Students of Merri Creek School were keen to learn about Australia's biodiversity

I was a bit nervous about having to ‘mingle’ with guests at the launch of Bush Blitz II in Melbourne last month, but I found a way to make myself useful.

The launch hall at the Melbourne Botanic Gardens filled up with eleven and twelve-year olds who quickly swarmed around a trestle table covered with glass jars and specimen cases. Before coming to Bush Blitz, I spent many years showing school groups the plants and animals of Dorrigo National Park, so I jumped at the opportunity to do something I was good at.

I slipped behind the table and began fielding questions. What’s this one? (An elephant weevil). Is that a yabby? (Yes). What’s that one? (A legless lizard). What’s the difference between a snake and a legless lizard? (Among other things, the tongue). How do you know when you’ve discovered a new species? (It’s complicated).

Several of the speakers mentioned the school-children – and the claim that they are our future scientists seemed heartfelt and true. The children, from Merri Creek Primary School, filled the space with a feeling of lightness, joy and hope. From time to time, standing amid the throng at the rear of the hall, I glanced at the backs of their heads - they seemed engaged; politely attentive; model students.

Afterwards I asked them if they belonged to a class for gifted students. ‘We’re all gifted!’ they chanted in reply. ‘We’re all gifted!’

Brian Hawkins, Bush Blitz

Bush Blitz is a partnership between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities and Earthwatch Australia. The innovative program sends scientists out into the field to record the fascinating plants and animals in conservation areas across Australia.