INQUIRING MINDS: Predator ecologist Charlottle Birkmanis fields questions from Rockhampton students.
INQUIRING MINDS: Predator ecologist Charlottle Birkmanis fields questions from Rockhampton students. contributed

Science students get a real 'bite' out of learning

AS PART of its ongoing commitment to providing Central Queensland students with access to world-class learning resources, Rockhampton State High School arranged for Year 7 and 8 students to skype with a shark expert.

Royce Schibrowski and Georgia Bray were among the cohort who chatted online for an hour with Charlotte Birkmanis - a shark scientist, predator ecologist and PhD candidate at the University of Western Australia.

The students said they found the session engaging because Ms Birkmanis so clearly loved her job and research. Royce, in particular, was fascinated to learn about goblin sharks.

Part of Ms Birkmanis's research involves reducing species loss - such as the short-fin mako, which has just been listed as an endangered species - and identifying how sharks provide balance to oceanic habitats.

She also incorporates statistical models in mathematics to predict the number of sharks in a region in the future.

Fun facts included sharks can get sunburnt and that the bite force of a shark, at 18,000 newtons, is 14 times stronger than a human's.

Also, scientists hypothesise that hearing the sound of an orca call will ward sharks away from areas. In trials in regions where sharks are prevalent, scientists are playing orca calls in order to see if the outcome is the same for all sharks.

RSHS is the regional host for a STEM academy. They promote excellence in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

An RSHA rep said students benefitted from connecting with studying scientists because it provided a real-world link between what the students were studying and where they could end up.