Humans of SparkLab – Brandon

Brandon – SparkLab Learning Officer at Queensland Museum

Brandon is a scientist, teacher and science communicator with a Bachelor of Science (Honours) and Graduate Diploma in Secondary Education from QUT.

What first sparked your interest in science?

From a young age I have been amazed by living things and the natural world. I enjoyed going on bushwalks with my family, exploring rock pools along the beach and canoeing in rivers and lakes. I was amazed by the diversity of unique animals that call Australia home, from spikey echidnas to weird cuttlefish and our wonderful birds. I would even search for interesting animals in my backyard!

There were always more places to explore, more animals to discover and more questions to ask.
I also loved going to the zoo or museum, discovering animals from other parts of the world, as well as prehistoric creatures that lived millions of years ago. This lifelong passion for exploring nature means that I am still exploring and still discovering new animals.

Brandon in the Science bar at SparkLab.

What’s the most interesting research/experiment you’ve conducted?

The most interesting research project that I have worked on was exploring how we could use acoustic recording devices to measure the diversity of bird species in different habitats throughout south east Queensland. It is much easier to hear birds than see them and recording soundscapes can help reveal an unseen world.

I would head out into different habitats and set up acoustic recording devices. By listening to and analysing these sound recordings, I could identify the diversity of birds in that habitat. I was also investigating how computer programs could make this analysis easier.

Through this research we were able to expand our understanding of what bird species use different habitats, how bioacoustics can be used to monitor biodiversity and how ecosystems are changing over time.

What’s your favourite space/exhibit in SparkLab and why?

Science on a Sphere is my favourite exhibit in SparkLab. It is a huge 1.8m diameter, suspended sphere that uses digital technology to project global, environmental and planetary data onto its surface.

We are able to:

  • View 100 years of earthquake data and explore the earth-shattering science of earthquakes;
  • Track the movement of species of sharks, turtles and birds around the planet;
  • Discover more about storms by tracking weather events as they happen in real time;
  • Explore other planets and investigate what we can discover by looking at their surfaces; and so much more.

I enjoy supporting visitors to choose a topic or dataset that they are interested in and together we ask questions, identify and investigate the data and share ideas. There is something to interest everyone.

Brandon using Science on a Sphere to see the migratory patterns of sea turtles in SparkLab.

As you develop new programs and experiences in SparkLab, what is one of the most interesting concepts, discoveries or experiments you have come across?

While developing the Move it! Maker Space program, I explored the role of nature in designing the world around us. Biomimicry is a practice that learns from and mimics the strategies found in nature to solve human design challenges. I was amazed by how engineers looked to nature to redesign the bullet-train. They noticed how Kingfishers (a bird similar to a Kookaburra) slice through the air and dive into the water to catch prey while barely making a splash.

This was useful in designing solutions for trains that move through air at speeds between 160 – 300 kph.    In Move it! visitors investigated animal features such as beaks, claws, tails and feet and this inspired them when designing a device that could pick up and move objects from one place to another.

Which scientist/engineer/ designer (living or deceased) would you most like to have dinner with and why?

I would love to have dinner with the legendary naturalist and documentary-maker David Attenborough. He has helped spark my lifelong passion for the environment, wildlife and our natural world. His work instilled in me a deep sense of wonder – a feeling that there are so many questions yet to be asked and so much more about our world to discover.

Attenborough’s ability to communicate and connect others with the wonders of our world is something that is truly inspirational and influences my role as a science teacher and communicator

Attenborough has visited some of the most remote places on Earth (from rainforests, reefs, deserts, the Arctic and Antarctica) and had up-close experiences with wildlife that others could only dream of. I have so many questions to ask him and would love to listen to his stories