Science Live: Whalebirds – the mystery of the storm riders. Success!

On Tuesday, 22 October 2013 we, the ornithology team at Te Papa, hosted the museum’s second Science Live event- Whalebirds- the mystery of the storm riders.  We brought the public into the lab using live streaming so they could watch us on YouTube and send questions in via Twitter and Facebook.  It was very exciting to see the streaming light click on!

The show focused on a group small bluey-grey seabirds called whalebirds, who are also known as Prions. Over three hundred thousand of them perished along the West Coast of New Zealand in 2011 when they were pushed ashore by a long, windy storm.  Relatively little is known about prions so Te Papa scientists initiated a research program to learn what they could from the over 800 carcasses that made their way to their freezer.  On Tuesday, myself and five other Te Papa scientists introduced Prions to our viewers and explained the research we have been conducting.  The show really got going when Elizabeth Crotty took the audience through a prion dissection- that girl really knows her stuff!

Elizabeth Crotty about to start a prion dissection

Elizabeth Crotty about to start a prion dissection

My personal highlight was when I got to answer questions that the audience was sending in via Twitter and Facebook!  For example, Amy asked “Why can’t you x-ray them instead of cutting them open?” and Jonathon asked “Are prions related to penguins?”.  Question like these made me realise students are really thinking about what we were saying and doing!  Great job Plateau School students!

As a build up to the event, during the week before, we posted a series of blogs all about Prions ( ).  We have had over 800 views in a week!  New Zealanders are just crazy about these little blue guys!

Lastly I was thrilled to hear a segment about our work on Radio New Zealand’s Checkpoint…


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