By Melissa Sheil
AN intrepid group of Year 6 students have been selected to take part in a groundbreaking experiment on the effects of space travel on native Australian seeds.
Woodlupine Primary School students Jett Ferguson, Sakhpreet Kaur, Cody Funnell and Jaslyn Toop were selected for the What’ll Happen to The Wattle? (WHTW) program, receiving a punnet of golden wattle seeds that have spent six months aboard the International Space Station.
The seeds will be planted on the school grounds, and their progress monitored for up to two years.
The Woodlupine Seeds in Space team, which also includes Year 6 teacher Karena Joyce and school gardener Tammy Quarman, were thrilled their submission to the program, which was created in only three days, was successful.
“The only thing from space I’ve ever touched has been in a museum so it’s pretty cool we were selected to look after the seeds,” Jett said.
“We’re going to plant them sometime next term next to other wattle seeds that haven’t been to space for comparison, to see what happens and if they grow differently,”
“I’m not sure if they will [grow differently], because six months isn’t that long a time to change cellular structure, but who knows?
“I hope they will look different – it won’t be that fun if they look exactly the same.”
However, Year 6 classmate Jacob thinks the space wattle will have altered DNA, referencing NASA’s 2015 Twin Study.
“I think it will be like the case of the astronaut identical twins, where the one who went to space had different biological reactions after coming back than his brother on earth did.
“The wattle that’s been to space might have different reactions or growth than the earth wattle.”
Run by the One Giant Leap Australia Foundation and supported by the Australian Space Agency and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, the WHTW program selected around 200 groups across Australia to give the seeds to.
Team member Cody thinks they were chosen for the program thanks to their work collaborating with the Western Australian Herbarium in their Seed Bank project, which assists in protecting critically endangered native plant species.
“Our submission involved us talking about how the Seed Bank project has given us the opportunity to learn and observe the care-taking process of propagating endangered native plant species,” she said.
“We said this would help ensure the space wattle seeds are enthusiastically cared for.
“We love native plants and are so excited to be a part of something so cool.”
The group will actively experiment with the seeds, logging data into a special app, and have the opportunity to join webinars, teleconferences, gatherings and virtual meetings with astronauts, space experts, flight directors and other professionals.
A nationwide map identifying the location of Australia’s ‘space wattle’ trees will be created following the projects end.
Visit https://seedsinspace.com.au/ for more information.