The recent Scientist for a Day program saw young would-be scientists come face to face with Australia’s most dangerous animals

Scientists for a Day meet Australia’s deadly 30
A close encounter with the herpetology department’s snake collection. (The snakes are not live.) Image: Science Communications team
© Australian Museum

We kicked off by examining top predators such as saltwater crocodiles and great white sharks and looking at some smaller (but equally terrifying) creatures such as jellyfish, bees, venomous snakes and spiders. These budding young biologists were encouraged to challenge common misconceptions about dangerous creatures and start thinking about what makes animals real threats such as territorial behaviour, aggression, hunger or fear.

In the next activity, kids got in touch with their artistic side by painting their favourite dangerous creature in a traditional Aboriginal style on a canvas bag while learning about the role of deadly native animals in indigenous culture from Derek Walker, a museum educator of Aboriginal decent.

Next, these little scientists used some leg work to hunt down dangerous specimens and live animals around the Museum. They met our new diamond python, Tiffany, said hello to the baby freshwater crocodiles and brushed paths with giant skeletons in pursuit of answers to the paper chase.

The day continued with our “Deadly 30” workshop where kids compared their long jump against the length of the dangerous Aussie giants, created a danger rating poster, mapped out the locations of the deadly 30 on a map of Australia and practiced pressure immobilization of a snake bite.

After a lazy lunch we got back to business with a presentation from Museum herpetologists, Cecilie Beatson and Ross Sadlier. They rolled out the skin of the world’s longest constrictor, a 6-meter-long Asiatic reticulated python, which is also the only snake known to consume humans. Kids gasped at the size of viper fangs and got a close-up look at some of the scariest snakes in the world, including the Costal Taipan, the Death Adder, Russell’s viper and the Eastern Brown snake.

We ended the day by making glow-in-the-dark box jellyfish in a bottle and our young scientists headed home with a dangerous animal of their own.