How Not To Be Seen: welcome, Dustin Welbourne


In this picture there are thirty cameras. None of them can be seen. In this next week, we hope to show you How Not To Be Seen…

This is Mr Dustin Welbourne of the University of New South Wales, Canberra. He is doing a PhD in biogeography, combined with a Masters in Science Communication at ANU. The snake (model’s own) is not, as it is hard to be a science communicator without thumbs.


Dustin, who in certain company answers to ‘Slothhead’, says he’s always had a love of science and nature. “As a kid I would disappear for hours looking for animals and plants. I used to go down to the quarry not far from my home and split open rocks, I always wanted to find a T-Rex…” He never did find a T-Rex.  T-Rexes, for the record, also make terrible science communicators. Tiny hands. Crap at tweeting.

Dustin admits, “My interest in so many forms of science has been a source of contention for deciding what I want to do.” Through high school Dustin became more interested in chemistry and physics and still to this day considers himself an amateur astronomer. Until recently he was the owner and director of the Canberra Reptile Sanctuary, a not for profit exhibit of native and non-native, venomous and non-venomous reptiles. At university he began in biochemistry, but after doing some readings on Malthus, got really interested in big, complex systems, which led him to his PhD field of biogeography. Biogeography is the study of where and why biological organisms are distributed the way they are. As a field, it lies at the intersection of multiple natural sciences such as climatology, geology, geomorphology, ecology and so on, which appeals to Dustin’s generalist preferences. Dustin’s PhD research is on optimising non-invasive techniques, such as motion activated cameras and acoustic and ultrasonic recorders, to detect vertebrates in the field. One of the outcomes of his work is to develop a monitoring methodology that can be used on Australian Defence Force Estates.

Because PhD research by definition turns you into a specificist, Dustin’s satisfied his generalist interests in science through science communication, which he’s exploring in his spare time (PhD students have spare time these days??) in his Masters at ANU. He tweets at @DustinWelbourne and blogs his PhD project and his interests in science/sci-comm at An area of science communication that he is particularly interested in is the use of micro-mentaries, documentaries under 10 minutes, to tell science stories. Last year he won his group in “I’m A Scientist, Get Me Out Of Here” – something he has in common with our most recent curator, Brad Tucker. He’s recently finished the rough draft of a short doco on the nature of controversial issues in science, done on almost zero budget over 3 weeks. Dustin welcomes comments, preferably nice and/or helpful ones, on the draft version: We welcome Dustin and his tremendous beard to RealScientists and wish him all the best for a fun week on the account!


James is a recovering scientist and escaped postdoc who works in research management at the University of Otago, New Zealand. He's now retired from active @RealScientists duty, after serving from the project's beginnings in 2013 through to mid 2015. When not managing research, surviving #PlanetParenthood or pretending not to be an expat Australian in the Deep South of NZ, he tweets @theotherdrsmith.

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