Mapping the science in Australian stories

The Australian environment is the most common recurring character in our books, movies and plays. Now a project called Locating Science is mapping the ways in which stories shape our understanding of the landscape and its ecosystems.

Associate Professor Jane Stadler and her team from the University of Queensland have created an online map of story locations to serve as a starting point for digging into the relationship between ecological science and narratives in works ranging from Nevil Shute’s On the Beach to the 2011 film The Hunter.

Dingo fence on Moon Plain

Dingo fence on Moon Plain. Located just north of Coober Pedy, this location features as the post-apocalyptic landscape in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome and it doubles as the Maralinga nuclear test site in Ground Zero.

“Films and novels provide a space in which to dramatise and communicate concerns regarding environmental science,” says Assoc Prof Stadler. “By combining scientific information with cultural representations we’re providing a portrait of the land and its people, and offering a glimpse of some of Australia’s most remote locations in regions that are rich in both natural resources and cultural heritage.”

For Tim Winton’s Dirt Music, for instance, this includes geographically-pinpointed extracts from the novel, along with fact sheets on asbestos mining, commercial fishing and King Sound, which has the second highest tides in the world.

These resources also link to social media, encouraging debate on land management practices that are bound up in our nation’s cultural heritage and their ecological impacts, such as extinctions, erosion and damming waterways.

Locating Science is a showcase feature of the Cultural Atlas of Australia, an interactive digital map that allows students, scholars or travellers to trace the ways in which Australian places and spaces have been represented in plays, novels, and films. Users can search by location, by title or author, or by year.

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2 comments on “Mapping the science in Australian stories”

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  2. Pingback: Locating Science – Inspiring Australia

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