Kill or Cure: The Story of Venom
Tuesday 9 March at 8:30pm
Australia is famous for its lethal animals. Alongside sharks and crocodiles, it also has a collection of 66 venomous species – including four of the top ten most deadly animals on the planet.
So why would the ABC’s resident nature nerd, Dr Ann Jones, embark on a dangerous journey coming face-to-face with Funnel Web spiders, Taipans and Irukandji?
The answer is that there’s one astonishing discovery she wants to unravel: scientists have found that elements of the deadly venoms that could kill us can be turned into pharmaceutical drugs that could save us. From protecting the heart and brain, to potentially curing multiple sclerosis and epilepsy.
Venom is made up of complex molecules that have evolved over millennia to target specific prey - some target the nervous system, others attack the tissue or circulatory system and because of this, it could offer wide-reaching medical applications.
Ann kicks of her adventure on Fraser Island with the Bugs & Drugs team from the University of Queensland to collect one of the world’s most venomous spiders - the Funnel Web. Its venom contains over 3000 molecules – and surprisingly only one of them is responsible for killing human But another - Hi1a - is showing promise in protecting the brain following a stroke and the heart following a heart attack.
With our myriad of venomous animals, Australian scientists are leading the world in exploring a promising new apothecary of drugs that could revolutionise modern medicine.
Catalyst - Cancer: A Story of Hope
Tuesday 20 July at 8:30pm
Cancer. It’s a diagnosis that we all dread to hear. But with advances in technology and medicine, more people are living better and longer with their disease. Now, research is focusing on how individuals can maintain a quality of life throughout the treatment process. Catalyst follows patients experiencing this new kind of cancer care - their stories are filled with hope.
The Wildlife Revolution
Tuesday 3 August at 8:30pm
Nature journalist, Dr Ann Jones knows firsthand that Australia is one very lucky country.
Our vast, dramatic, and diverse landscape is home to more than one million species of plants and animals. Many – like our most endangered animal, the mountain pygmy possum - are found nowhere else in the world. But our abundant biodiversity is under increasing pressure from habitat destruction, predation and climate change. With one of the worst extinction records in the world, the speed at which Australia is losing its native species is accelerating.
We are in a race against time to protect what’s left.
To understand the rate of loss, experts use tools to monitor and assess each threat. And right now, there is a revolution taking place, one where emerging technology is helping to safeguard our wildlife in bold new ways.
In this episode of Catalyst, Ann travels across the country to meet the Australian scientists who are using these innovative technologies to work smarter and faster.
From revealing surprising behaviours in our native bat species and identifying ways to rejuvenate our ocean kelp forests; to road-testing Australia’s new weapons in the fight against the illegal animal trade. Emerging technology hopes to be our insurance policy against losing our most endangered animals forever…
Could this be the wildlife revolution we’ve all been waiting for?
Production credits: Producer/ Director: Robbie Bridgman; Assoc. Producer: Jessica Cook; Series
Producer: Elle Gibbons; Executive Producer: Penny Palmer; Head of Factual and Culture: Jen Collins.
Catalyst - Series Return
From Tuesday 1 February 8.30pm
The Secret Lives of Our Urban Birds
Nature journalist and self-confessed bird-nerd, Ann Jones, heads out on an urban safari through Melbourne, uncovering the secret lives of the city’s feathery friends.
Presenter of ABC Radio National’s new show What The Duck?! and self-confessed bird-nerd, Ann Jones, heads out on an urban safari through Melbourne, uncovering the secret lives of the city’s feathery friends. From deadly raptors and warring Magpies to promiscuous Willy Wagtails – Ann uncovers a world filled with drama and intrigue.
With over 130 bird species calling Melbourne home, you can expect the usual suspects, like the warbling Magpies, who have adapted well with their strong social bonds and curiosity making them successful city dwellers. But as Ann learns, there’s a lot more than meets the eye… you just need to stop, watch and look a while. If you’re lucky you may even spot the more surprising city slickers - one of the rarest birds in Australia – the Orange-Bellied Parrot.
To catch a glimpse of our cutest avian neighbours, Ann heads to the bayside suburb of St Kilda where a colony of Little Penguins has taken up residence. Why have they left their offshore islands for a man-made breakwater so close to the city? And they’re not the only ones with an enviable address – a pair of nesting Peregrine falcons have traded clifftops for a Collins St skyscraper to raise their chicks.
While some thrive, others barely survive. For the Powerful Owl, city life is more of a necessity than a choice as increasing urbanisation destroys their habitat. To successfully nest and breed, Powerful Owls need hollows of old growth trees – hollows that can take up to 300 years to develop. But a solution may be at hand - Melbourne University is trialling 3D printed nests in the hope that we can replace what has been lost.
Production credit: Producer: Robbie Bridgman. Director: Bruce Permezel. Researcher: Chelsea Mose. Executive Producer: Penny Palmer. Head of Specialist: Jennifer Collins.
The Big Brew Challenge: A Catalyst Special
Tuesday 8 February 8.30pm
Celebrate the science of beer with chef Paul West, as three teams of budding brewmasters take on the challenge to make their best homebrew. Do they have what it takes to impress our panel of international judges?
Celebrate the science of beer with chef Paul West, as three teams of budding brewmasters take on the challenge to make their best homebrew. But do they have what it takes to impress our panel of international judges?
Guided by one of Australia’s best-known brewers, Samara Fuss, craft beer enthusiasts Rosemary and Ashley (Team Pale), father and son duo Doug and Euan (Team Sour), and mates Pete and Paul (Team Stout) will compete over 3 weeks for their beer to be crowned champion of the Big Brew Challenge.
Joining our teams as they navigate the complex world of modern brewing is presenter Paul West who gets a lesson in the science of beer. From the basics to the revolutionary, he speaks to the scientists harnessing the power of yeast to ferment natural products to create biofuels. Travelling to Wiradjuri country, the Riverina area of New South Wales, Paul learns why malt is so important to the brewing process and discovers a brewery that is reducing its carbon footprint using microalgae.
Finally, food and drink journalist Mike Bennie and writer and broadcaster ‘Beer Diva’ Kirrily Waldorn, taste test our team’s final brews. They’re impressed with all of them – but there can only be one winner…
Production credits: Producer Director: David Symonds. Associate Producer: Rebecca Hill. Executive Producer: Penny Palmer. Manager, Documentaries: Stephen Oliver.
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Keep On Dancing: A Catalyst Special
Tuesday 4 October 8.30pm Episode 1 of 2
Can dance can be a shortcut to better health? Myf Warhurst hosts a unique experiment where a group of over 65’s attempt to slow the effects of aging through dance training culminating in a special performance.
In this two-part Catalyst special, nine older Australians take part in a twelve-week experiment exploring the power of dance for people over the age of 65. Hosted by Myf Warhurst, the programmes explore the emerging science that says dancing can improve fitness, balance, memory, mood and cognition. In short, it might slow the effects of aging.
Most of our volunteers have no dance experience, so leading them through this experiment is one of Australia’s most accomplished choreographers – Kelley Abbey (Dancing with the Stars, Happy Feet). Her task is to prepare them for a one-of-a-kind, accomplished performance to friends and family at the end of the 12 weeks.
Our dancers are living with many of the health conditions we face as we age – Parkinson’s, Alzheimers, cancer, peripheral neuropathy and poor balance that leads to falls. Monitoring their progress through physical and cognitive tests is biomechanical scientist Dr Rachel Ward from UNSW.
Will the twelve weeks of dance have beneficial results for the volunteers including 67-year-old Rod who lives with neuropathy (nerve damage) in his legs and 75-year-old Shirley, who lives with Alzheimer’s disease? And will dance improve both physical and cognitive health of the nine older Australians as they prepare for their performance?
Production credit: An ABC production. Producer Director: David Symonds, Associate Producer: Oliver Graham, Rebecca Hill, Executive Producer: Penny Palmer, A/ Head of Factual and Culture: Richard Huddleston.
Tom Gleeson’s Secrets of the Australian Museum
Tuesday 18 October 8.30pm
He’s one of Australia’s most loved comedians, but Tom Gleeson is also a physics and maths graduate with a curiosity for all things science. Join him as he goes behind-the-scenes to discover the Secrets of The Australian Museum.
The Australian Museum is home to over 22 million specimens yet less than five percent have ever been seen by the public. Until now.
In this special Catalyst episode, physics and maths graduate (and Gold Logie winner) Tom Gleeson takes cameras behind the scenes of the world-renowned institution as the team count down for a blockbuster exhibit three years in the making – ‘Sharks’.
Tom speaks to numerous specialists, including the museum’s Director & CEO, Cultural Curator, Collections Manager, Director of Research, taxidermists, conservators, artists and model makers, amongst others.
Tom takes us on an exclusive look at the culmination of three years hard work, drawing skills from every corner of the museum to bring the ‘Sharks’ exhibit to life.
Production credit: An ABC Production. Producer Director: Duane Hatherly. Associate Producer: Melanie Sauer. Executive Producer: Penny Palmer. Acting Head of Factual and Culture: Richard Huddleston.