Beaker Street


Our original podcasts explore science, story, and place, and invite listeners to immerse themselves in the rich soundscapes and surrounds of Tasmania. We look beyond the headlines and delve into the stories behind scientific research, and the people who devote themselves to discovery. Produced in collaboration with local researchers, artists, and creatives, our podcasts take our exploration of science and art beyond the walls of our Festival Hub and into the world — a Beaker Street offering that’s available anywhere, any time. 

9 Episodes

Sci Art Walks is a project by Beaker Street Festival, an annual celebration of science and art in Hobart, Tasmania. The unusual circumstances of 2020 inspired us to innovate, and create something that would get people away from their screens and out into nature. You might say Sci Art Walks is a project for a pandemic. In times of uncertainty and anxiety, many of us find solace in our natural world. Creating these episodes was also a great opportunity to continue to facilitate collaborations between scientists and artists, and showcase some of the amazing talent and groundbreaking scientific research coming out of Tasmania.

Sci Art Walks

Created by Margo Adler, Chris Townend, and Rosie Pidd.

Cradle Mountain

In search of a devil facial tumour disease vaccine

Talk by Dr Andy Flies with music by Emily Sanzaro

Tassie Devil populations are at risk of extinction due to a devastating transmissible cancer that has wiped out huge numbers of the iconic species. But their plight has catalysed groundbreaking research into devil immune systems, and the search for an effective vaccine against the deadly tumour is well underway. The upshot may be that we pull the devil back from the brink, while also discovering crucial insights into other wildlife diseases, including those thought to underlie the Coronavirus pandemic.

GASP! Trail, Glenorchy

On risk

Talk by David Walsh Music by Zac Henderson

Humans are flawed evaluators of past decisions. We place far too much emphasis on outcomes, with little consideration of inherent risk. When we learn to appreciate the importance of alternative histories, the ghosts of our past decisions come back to haunt us, or perhaps we finally appreciate the broker who sold us that insurance policy we never collected on. Perched just above the Derwent River, trekking through David Walsh’s past and present stomping grounds, a chance to view Mona, and the world, through his distinct point of view.

Knocklofty Reserve, Hobart

Reigniting aboriginal fire culture in Tasmania

Talk by Andry Sculthorpe and Billy Paton-Clarke with music by Emily Wurramara

Many Australians view fire as a destructive force, but there’s more than one type of fire. Aboriginal people have been burning this country for centuries, helping to encourage native vegetation, improve food availability for humans and animals, and restoring balance in the ecosystem. Knocklofty Reserve was a very different environment not so long ago, but when we look out at the vegetation there today, we rarely see what’s been lost and what’s misplaced. Reigniting Aboriginal fire culture in Tasmania is a crucial step towards restoring our connection to country and our ability to understand and respect our fragile habitats.

Cataract Gorge, Launceston

Using maths and evolution to connect all living things

Talk by Professor Barbara Holland with music by Brian Ritchie

The field of phylogenetics describes how all living things are related, and can be traced back to a common ancestor (one of Darwin’s key insights). As you wander through the ancient geological formation of Launceston’s Cataract Gorge, a reflection on using mathematical tools to understand evolution, species diversity, and what ties us all together.

Cockle Creek to South Cape Bay

Exploring the last stop on the earth

Talk by First Dog on the Moon with music by Emily Sheppard

A joyful meditation on the end of the world, taking refuge in Tasmania’s secluded and stunning environments, and drinking good whisky along the journey. Emerging at South Cape Bay, one of the most southern points in the inhabited world, take a moment to gaze out at the great nothingness before you. Perhaps this is where humanity ends and nature takes over.

Lake Pedder

Rewilding Tasmania: the ecological challenge of restoring Lake Pedder

Talk by Christine Milne, Bob Brown, Distinguished Professor Jamie Kirkpatrick, Tabatha Badger and Todd Dudley with music by Tilly Martin and Julius Schwing

When Tasmania’s iconic Lake Pedder was flooded in 1972 to create a reservoir in the service of hydroelectric power, a unique wilderness was drowned, and now lies 15 metres beneath the surface, dormant but apparently intact. What would it take to reverse the course of history, drain the impoundment, and restore the flooded lake to its original glory? Is such a goal even ecologically possible? Meander through Tasmania’s Southwest National Park while contemplating the effort to undo our past actions and rewild our world.

The Nut, Stanley

The secret life of mutton birds

Talk by Dr Jennifer Lavers with music by Maggie Abraham

The small, brown, humble-looking mutton bird may not seem so exquisite upon first glance (or first sniff), but their modest appearance belies their incredible story. From throwing themselves off a cliff for their first flight and not returning to land for five years, to flying round-trip to Antarctica every few days to fish for their growing chicks, these birds are true Tasmanian superheroes. Walking along the Nut, with evidence of mutton birds everywhere around you, spare a moment to appreciate their splendour and to listen to the warning they have for all of us.

Wineglass Bay Walk, Freycinet

As Tasmania’s waters warm, what happens to our marine species?

Talk by Professor Gretta Pecl with music by Michael Fortescue

Climate change and rising sea temperatures are pushing Australian coastal marine species south, in search of cooler waters and more suitable habitat. But Tasmania’s east coast is pretty much the stop of last resort for many vulnerable species. To those gazing out over the dazzling Wineglass Bay, the changes occurring below the surface may be invisible, but their effects are already altering our ecosystems and ways of life.

Remarkable Cave to Crescent Bay

Walk slow, look low: seeing the world from a naturalist’s perspective

Talk by Dr Cathy Byrne and Dr Simon Grove with music by Warren Mason and Ben Salter

When you go for a walk in the bush, you enter the realm of small species. Insects abound in our natural world, but many of us rarely take the time to look for them or wonder about their stories. Whether you make it 100 metres out of the Remarkable Cave car park, or all the way to Crescent Bay, here’s a chance to tune into the incredible diversity and intrigue of the insect world. Full of scandal, sex, murder, and mystery, you’ll never look at a clump of leaves or rotting tree bark the same way again.

4 Episodes

Science is more than Eureka moments and flashy results. We look beyond the headlines to uncover the often gruelling and gritty process of scientific research, and to get to know the people who devote themselves to discovery.

Episodes can also be found by subscribing for free on:

Darwin Ate an Owl

Produced by Beaker Street, Spectral Media, and Crow’s Nest Media, with host Mark Horstman. Research and writing by Margo Adler and Mark Horstman, recording and editing by Fraser Johnston and Andrew Tehrell, and sound design and music by Nick Sullivan.

Episode 1: Introduction

What’s with the name?

A conversation between host Mark Horstman and producer Margo Adler. They discuss where the name of the podcast comes from, the idea behind the show, and their own different experiences of science.

Episode 2: Dr Dejan Stojanovic

Protecting Tasmania’s caffeinated birds

We run through the bush with a passionate conservation biologist, tracking the iconic swift parrot through its quickly disappearing habitat.

Episode 3: Dr Angela Crean

Sperm is to semen as rum is to Coke

Ever think about the stuff sperm gets delivered in? Dr Angela Crean thinks about it A LOT.

Episode 4: Professor Russell Bonduriansky

An inordinate fondness for flies

Mark sits down for a cuppa with a renowned evolutionary biologist as he recalls his early research experiences painting tiny insects and collecting rotting meat.