AS my Twitter followers (#ChiefSci_WA) know, I have recently returned from a two-week visit to China with Perth Education City (PEC). Their primary mission was to attract Chinese students to study in Western Australia, and, as a group, we also focused on building more economic, research, social and cultural links with China, our largest export destination.
The seventeen-strong delegation visited six cities across China. For the part of the journey in Nanjing and Chengdu, which are sister cities to Perth, the Lord Mayor of Perth, Lisa Scaffidi, joined us.
My roles were varied but to the fore were media interviews and lectures to schools, universities, Nanjing Medical University, and industry and government officials in Nanjing special zones and scientific bureaus, promoting Western Australiaâ€™s achievements in science, technology and engineering .
I was able to highlight Western Australiaâ€™s strong research links with China â€“ of which there are many. One great example is the development of new and improved species of Brassica crops through research by UWAâ€™s Department of Agriculture in collaboration with Chinaâ€™s Huazhong Agricultural University and Zhejiang University. The genus Brassica includes some of our most nutritious vegetables, Kale, Cabbage and Canola (just to name a few). By developing new species with greater yields and wider adaptations, we stand a better chance of meeting food demands in a world faced with global population growth and climate change.
Murdoch University Professor and Eucalypt expert, Bernard Dell, is another example of how West Australians are sharing their expertise in China. For over 20 years, Prof Dell has been visiting China to work with local universities and the forestry industry. He has helped to improve nursery management and long-term forest management practices of the Eucalypt plantations, a significant part of the forestry industry in China.
An innovative part of our â€˜road showâ€™ involved Shenton College science teacher, Warwick Matthews, and Curtin University undergraduate, Nic Dyer. With the aim of making science real and relevant, they devised an experiment that allowed students to extract and take home their own DNA â€“ to the delight and often awe of everyone who took part. It was a great way of making the Western Australian exhibit shine at the Education exhibitions, where we compete with the rest of the world to convince literally thousands of potential students and their parents, that Western Australia is the place to go for a top quality scientific education.
In the city of Hangzhou, south of Shanghai, I was invited to officiate at an English language competition for school students, sponsored by the Western Australia Department of State Development. I have already caught up with the 25 winners when they arrived in Perth last week.
On a personal note, one of the highlights of my trip was a visit to Chengduâ€™s Panda Base, a breeding centre for Giant Pandas. I was so fortunate to handle a hefty 11-month panda cub that had been lovingly hand raised by carers. Hand rearing is necessary because Panda mothers give birth to two babies but will rear only one, so the second baby must be raised in their hospital-grade facilities. Interestingly, pandas have an extra boney extension on their wrist bone. This acts like a thumb making them very dexterous.
Back to Perth now and looking forward to National Science Week next week. Make sure you look out for events happening in your area and donâ€™t miss Explore-a-Saurus at Scitech â€“ a display of incredible animatronic dinosaurs.