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Source: University of Otago

Dr Gianna Savoie (Centre for Science Communication) with the five finalists from left to right: William Bowden (Highly Commended award), Devi Ratna Asih (Peoples Choice award), Clare Adams (collected Highly Commended award on behalf of Gavin Bishop), Chiara van Gorkom (Runner-up award), Amanda Konyn (Overall winner), and Pro-Vice-Chancellor Sciences Professor Richard Barker.
Two students from the Centre for Science Communication have scooped the top two awards for the 90-second video competition showcasing research being undertaken across the Division of Sciences.
Amanda Konyn and Chiara van Gorkom (Ngāti Ruanui), both Postgraduate Diploma in Science Communication students in Science and Natural History Filmmaking, were announced as winner and runner-up at the Science Communication Student Film Festival held recently at the Regent Theatre.

“I guess you could say I’m drawn to telling real stories through the lens, so the choice to study Science Communication was really a way for me to combine my interest in conservation and science with this desire to tell stories and share knowledge with others through a creative medium.”

Amanda’s video showcased the sea lion research of Marine Biology Master’s student Moss Thompson taking place on local Otago beaches. Days after her win, Amanda is still shocked to have been selected.
“I’m just really humbled, and grateful to have had the opportunity to enter the competition and shine a little light on the conservation efforts going on to better understand the local sea lion population.
“It’s also a huge boost to my confidence, which I definitely needed as I am a harsh critic of my own work.”
Amanda has a different path to Science Communication than most, gaining a Bachelor of Music in 2011 and a Diploma in Language (Spanish) in 2013. After completing her undergraduate Amanda worked as a photographer for several years, mainly covering live music, events, news photography, and weddings, usually with a documentary style.
“I guess you could say I’m drawn to telling real stories through the lens, so the choice to study Science Communication was really a way for me to combine my interest in conservation and science with this desire to tell stories and share knowledge with others through a creative medium.
“It’s been challenging, but exciting, and I’m really looking forward to honing my skills in Science and Natural History filmmaking.”
Amanda thanked Moss Thompson, for allowing her to film him and tell the story of the work he is carrying out. 
Chiara (Ngāti Ruanui) received the runner up award for her video profiling the honeybee research of Dr Paul Szyszka from the Department of Zoology which is helping to unlock secrets about the human brain.
Chiara says filming the video was a fun and gave her an excuse to return to the Zoology Department, where she completed her undergraduate.
“Without my major in Zoology I might not have gone into Science Communication! So, it felt great to share just one of the many fascinating stories they’ve got with everyone.”
Being recognised as runner up also made her feel more confident in her filmmaking skills.

“Some parts of the world don’t have the privilege of access to freshwater for drinking and hygiene like we do here in New Zealand, so the reason I made this film was to raise awareness of how science help solve problems such as saving our water bodies.” 

The idea for the 90-second video competition was initiated by Associate Professor Ting Wang, the Associate Dean Research for Sciences, as an outcome of the Division Strategic Plan Research Theme working group.
“We identified the need to promote the research in our Division to a wider audience, and considered that one of the best ways to communicate our science is through our students,” Associate Professor Wang says.
Students were invited to produce a 90-second video for judging by a panel chaired by Marine Science Associate Professor Ceridwen Fraser and included academic staff from a range of departments, as well as representatives from the University’s marketing team and Otago Museum.
Associate Professor Fraser says all films submitted were of high quality which made for some tough decisions to select a shortlist of five finalists.
“The entries were really impressive considering many were made by students without formal film-making training, and the panel came away with a strong sense that there is some exciting science being done at Otago.”
The five shortlisted films were uploaded to YouTube to determine the winner of the People’s Choice Award (the one receiving the most likes, comments and views) which went to Mrs Devi Ratna Asih.
Devi, a PhD student in Biochemistry and Botany who arrived from Indonesia at the start of 2020, produced the film about her own research on cyanobacteria with the intention to raise awareness about conserving New Zealand’s water bodies.
“I arrived in New Zealand just two months before the lockdown started, and within one year I had received the sad news of 20 people I knew who had passed away due to the virus.
“Some parts of the world don’t have the privilege of access to freshwater for drinking and hygiene like we do here in New Zealand, so the reason I made this film was to raise awareness of how science help solve problems such as saving our water bodies.” 
Devi says receiving this award means that this message has reached lots of people, so it’s great that it has served its purpose.
Amanda received $500 for her winning video, and Chiara and Devi each received $250 for their awards.
Associate Professor Wang extends thanks to the Organizing Committee, communications and marketing, and particularly Dr Gianna Savoie and Associate Professor Jesse Bering in the Centre for Science Communication, for their efforts in making the competition a success.
“In the future we plan to collaborate with the International Office to grow our global audience and hope these three winning films and the two other highly commended films will inspire more students to participate in the competition next year.”
The winning and shortlisted videos be viewed here.

MIL OSI