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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.

Talk by Dr Andy Flies with music by Emily Sanzaro.

Suggested walking location

Cradle Mountain

“This must be a National Park for the people for all time.” So declared Gustav Weindorfer from the summit of Cradle Mountain in 1910. It is now one of Australia’s most famous national parks, protecting a grand glaciated landscape and the wonderful flora and fauna it contains. 

Multiple walks available ranging from Grade 1 (No bushwalking experience required. Flat even surface with no steps or steep sections. Suitable for wheelchair users who have someone to assist them) to Grade 4 (Bushwalking experience recommended. Tracks may be long, rough and very steep. Directional signage may be limited). Click here for more information.

Meet the presenter

Dr Andy Flies

Andy earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 2002. He completed a PhD in 2012 in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, where his focus was understanding how ecology can affect the immune system in spotted hyenas. In 2013 he moved to Australia to join his intelligent, beautiful wife where she was pursuing her PhD in disease ecology. He now calls himself a wild and comparative immunologist and is a senior research fellow at the Menzies Institute for Medical Research at the University of Tasmania. You can read more about Andrew’s research at

Meet the musician

Photo credit: Jade Hallam Photography 

Emily Sanzaro

Emily is a solo performing harpist, vocalist, violinist & electronic loop artist based in Launceston, Tasmania. Emily specialises in creating contemporary arrangements, original compositions, improvisations and experimentation with percussive techniques, electronic effects and looping. She also enjoys playing a wide range of musical genres on the harp including classical, celtic, jazz & blues, harnessing the versatility of the instrument. Although it gives her great pleasure to play standard harp repertoire, she relishes any opportunity to depart from the type of music audiences expect to hear from the instrument.


Feature image credit: Off the Path


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.