Graphic novel from Small Friends Books

The Scale Free Network, as Small Friends Books, has already published two wonderful books for children with gorgeous illustrations and up-to-date science. I bought my son their existing books in 2014 and he often requests them as bedtime stories.SquidVibrioMoon_frontcover_IPPY

The Squid, the Vibrio and the Moon is our favourite, and it describes Vibrio fischeri bacteria travelling up the digestive tract of a baby bobtail squid called Sepio. The bioluminescent bacteria shine from the squid’s belly when the moon is out, confusing potential predators.


Zobi and the Zoox depicts a group of zooxanthellae saving coral from destruction.


The group has moved on to a graphic novel for adults and teenagers. The Invisible War depicts  the microscopic action inside human bodies, and our own symbiosis with bacteriophages (viruses which ‘eat’ bacteria). The large-scale story framing this action is the First World War and the human whose body is carrying the small-scale warriors is a nurse on the Western Front.



This ties in cleverly with Australian commemorations of ANZAC Day on 25th April. The team wants to raise $25,117 before ANZAC Day so they can create hard copy versions of the book.

The digital versions have already been trialed with children in schools in Victoria. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

“A battle on both small and large scales which explores the body as well as the living conditions in WWI.” Eddie, 13.
– “A fun informative graphic comic book, full of easy to read and understand facts about viruses and how they work.” Nelia, 16.

It is wonderful that scientists and artists are working together to create cross-curricular material. Please do support this campaign. They only have 14 days left!

Learn more about The Invisible War and pledge to support it here.

If symbiotic bacteriophages have piqued your interest, you can find out more from this National Geographic article by Carl Zimmer.

What do entomologists actually do?

In Class 6 this term I planned a role play where half the characters had ‘problems’ and the others pretended to be entomologists who could help solve these problems. Prior to this we did the ‘minimum spanning tree’ activity described in my last post, and we talked about what organisations might employ entomologists.

Problem scenarios Experts who could offer a solution
Tomato plants not fruiting. They need buzz pollination.

“Tomato scanned” by David Besa from Sonoma, USA – Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons –


Don Griffiths, from the UK: You can introduce bumblebees (non native), with specially designed hives to keep the queens from escaping.

Ken Walker from the Museum of Victoria: You can use flowers to attract native bees.

Citrus plants affected by spined citrus bug

Spined citrus bug, Biprorulus bibax. Photo by Jason Green on Flickr
Adrian Nicholas, Senior Entomologist for the NSW Government, Department of Primary Industries. Use an aggregating pheromone to attract all the adult bugs to one place, then remove them. Many other insects can be used to remove the spined citrus bug, so it’s not a good idea to use a wide-spectrum insecticide like pyrethrin.
Vehicle routes for Coles delivery trucks. Tanya Latty, from the University of Sydney: Use studies of ants, who have very small brains but as a group are good at finding the shortest (or most efficient) route.
Maintenance schedule for Hydro Tasmania Wai Kuan Foong (computer scientist): Use ant colony optimization.

The role plays worked well in one group, but not so well in the other. I had given the children cards with quite a bit of text about each of their characters and the background to the issue. I think if I repeat this activity I will split them into groups and spend more time discussing the issue. Then I might have a pre-written script for the children to read out rather than expecting them to adlib (although some of the scenes were pretty funny).