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Ulster Museum

NI Science Festival 2020

Join us for NI Science Festival 2020

Thu 13 Feb 2020 - Sun 23 Feb 2020

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NI Science Festival is back and bigger than ever for 2020. With a programme bursting with exciting events, there's something for all ages. We're proud to play host to the events below at the Ulster Museum as part of this year's festival:

The Trouble with Lichens

13 February 2020, 7.00 - 8.00 pm

Age: 14+


Lichens add colour and a sense of age to rocks, trees and buildings, and tell us much about environmental threats and the age of our woodlands. Open your eyes to the amazing world of lichens.

Most people barely know lichens exist, yet they colour our world. Literally. They make splashes of colour across rocks and tree bark; add a sense of age to buildings and tombstones; provide homes or food for many animals; and are beautiful in themselves. Lichens may not stop you growing old but they can they tell us of air and river pollution, the survival of ancient woodlands, and the health of our own rain forests. Come along to have your eyes opened to the amazing world of lichens.

Exploring Animal Contests

14 February 2020, 1.00 - 1.45 pm

Age: All ages


Animal contests are a fundamental component of animal behaviour. They occur over access to resources and are therefore, major drivers of natural selection. This talk will explain current thinking on animal contest behaviour across a range of species. It will also consider how man-made changes to the environment may be influencing contests in the natural world exemplified through a recent study on the influence of noise on the vocal contests of Robins singing for territorial defence.

FernGully - The Last Rainforest (Film)

16 February 2020, 3.00 - 4.30 pm

Age: All ages


Young and innocent fairy Crysta, who calls the rainforest of Ferngully her home, rescues human Zak from an out-of-control logging machine - by shrinking him down to fairy size. Unfortunately, she is unable to return him to his own size, and Zak ends up involved in a fight not only against the loggers who are deforesting Ferngully, but also against the evil Hexxus, who the loggers accidentally free from the tree where he is imprisoned.

Lost Landscapes and Climate Change

17 February 2020, 7.30 - 8.30 pm

Age: 16+


What did the world look like millions of years ago? Was it swathed in forest, or did savannah grasslands stretch from pole to pole? What did it smell like? How hot was it? Could life survive there? What can past landscapes and climates, and the life that inhabited them, tell us about our future? Join Jennifer Mc Elwain, from Trinity College Dublin, on a journey through 400 million years of Earth’s landscape and climate history, and on an expedition to Greenland to collect some of the fossil plants that provide key evidence for these changes.

Harry's Habitat Adventure

18 February 2020, 10.30 am & 1.30 pm

Age: 3-6 years


Over the hills and far away… where will Harry end up today? Harry is a mischievous six-year-old boy who loves nothing more than getting mucky and exploring the big, wild world. Follow Harry as he traverses various environments across Northern Ireland where he learns about the flora and fauna of these habitats with the help of some special habitat experts he meets along the way. A perfect introduction to the natural world this show is fantastic way to introduce little ones to the science and importance of environmental conservation.

Lasers Live

18 - 22 February 2020, 11.00 am & 5.00 pm

Age: 6+ years


Ever wondered why a light bulb brightens up a whole room while a laser produces only a very narrow beam of light? Lasers Live will demonstrate how light is a form of energy, how different colours interact differently, and how lasers can provide us with technologies that were the stuff of dreams just a decade ago. Experts from the Centre for Plasma Physics, Queen’s University Belfast, will be on hand to explain these topics and many more. A unique opportunity for adults and children alike to discover how research by laser and plasma physicists at Queen’s is playing a leading role in how our future world will look.

Invasive Alien Species - Predicting the Unpredictable

20 February 2020, 1.00 pm & 2.00 pm

Age: 14+ years


Invasive Alien Species (IAS) cause enormous ecological and economic damage globally, but can be near impossible to eradicate. To understand and predict the impacts of IAS and take action against them, scientists at QUB have developed ways to predict the effects of IAS on biodiversity.

Using examples such as “killer shrimps”, lionfish and red-eared sliders, this lecture will discuss the latest research and what we can achieve to protect our environment from IAS.

Dawn of the Modern World

20 February 2020, 7.00 - 7.45 pm

Age: 16+ years


Earth's climate is changing, but what will the outcome be? Global warming 230 million years ago wrought huge changes on our planet and created many features of the modern world. Might this event provide clues to our own fate? Come along to hear more, from the two people that discovered it 30 years ago. 

In 1988 the Ulster Museum’s palaeontology curator, Mike Simms, and Alastair Ruffell, now at QUB, stumbled across evidence for a major climate change linked to mass extinction in rocks 230 million years old. For years they were ignored but today it is being investigated by scientists around the world. It triggered changes that saw the diversification of dinosaurs, dinoflagellates, coccoliths and much more. Without them our modern world might be very different, without birds, coral reefs or chalk cliffs to name but three. Hear the story of its discovery - from those that actually discovered it - and what the latest research implies for current climate change.

Living Seas Exploration Stall

22 February 2020, 10.00 am & 5.00 pm

Age: 3+ years


Too cold to go exploring the beach? We’ll bring the beach to you! Come and see the Living Seas Exploration Stall and find out what lives on our shores and under the sea surface. Our team of marine biologists will show you our amazing collection of seashore treasures and, if you are daring, challenge your knowledge of our local sea life with games and quizzes!

Short Surveys - Taster Sessions

22 February 2020, 10.30 am, 1.00pm & 3.30 pm

Age: 14+ years


Step into the fins of a marine biologist for a day. Try our shore survey taster session and learn how to identify some of our most common species. If this event floats your boat, you will have the opportunity to join further training sessions throughout the year as a marine citizen scientist.


23 February 2020, 10.30 am, 1.00pm & 3.15 pm

Age: 14+ years


Did you know that some sharks lay eggs? When empty egg-cases wash ashore we can identify which types of shark laid them which in turn provides critical information for protecting these “Jawsome” fish. The Sea Deep project is empowering citizens to get involved in local shark conservation because you don’t need to be a scientist to make a difference. Join our eggcase ID workshop and gain a unique skill set which you can use on your next trip to the shore!

We're Gonna Need A Bigger Boat

23 February 2020, 10.00 am - 5.00 pm

Age: 3+ years


Have you ever wondered why a shark has so many teeth but doesn’t need a dentist? Then discover the Sea Deep stall where you can sink your teeth in to the world of sharks, skates and rays. Our team of marine biologists will be there to answer all of your fishy questions about these Jaw-some creatures.

March of the Penguins (Film)

23 February 2020, 10.15 am - 11.45 am

Age: All ages


Every year, thousands of emperor penguins make an astonishing journey to breed their young. They walk - marching day and night in single file 70 miles into the darkest, driest and coldest continent on earth. Morgan Freeman narrates this amazing, true-life tale touched with humour and alive with thrills.

White Space with Beth Healey

23 February 2020, 1.00 pm - 2.00 pm

Age: 12+ years


In 2017, medical doctor Beth Healey conducted a year-long mission for the European Space Agency to Concordia Station in Antarctica, also known as ‘White Mars’. Beth’s role was to investigate the effects of this extreme environment, with its isolation, inaccessibility, altitude and low light levels, on the physiology and psychology of the overwinter crew. Join Beth to learn about her daily life in this most inhospitable environment and the lessons learned for future settlements on Mars.This event is part of Antarctica Insight, a UK wide cultural programme marking the 200th anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica.