From a talk in a pub to the world stage

Article by our member Paco Sánchez-Bayo

Last year I presented a small talk at the Pint of Science that SRAP used to sponsor and which our member Angel López Sánchez organised. I chose the topic “Worldwide declines of the 4Bs and their causes”, as I have been following – and witnessing through my work – the disappearance of bees, birds, bats and butterflies, and I wanted to raise awareness about this issue among the common folk. We had a full pub attendance and received a good feedback from the crowd gathered around pints of beer. So much so that later on I approached an entomologist colleague I propose him to do a review of the literature on insect populations with the idea of publishing it in a high impact journal. And so we started to collect the information needed.

While working on the insects’ paper, I decided to present a similar topic at the Earth Forum in Canberra (16 November 2018), but this time focused on the honey bees “as sentinels of global agricultural pollution”. I think people liked it too. Our paper was going through the reviewing process at that time and I had the feeling that it would be published soon.

On January 31st 2019 our paper appeared online, and within a few days I distributed a few hundreds of copies among my colleagues and other people who requested it. A journalist working for the environmental section of The Guardian (U.K.) approached me and did an interview over the phone one night. His article was published on February 11th, and as I was on my way to Sydney University I received calls from several media which wanted to know about the paper. That morning I was on Al-Jazeera live-TV, and several newspapers, radio and TV stations had to queue up to get an interview. The following morning I was on ABC TV and radio programs, both live and recorded, and two days later on SBS TV news, SBS TV news, including the Spanish radio program on SBS. The media madness did not stop for a month or so, with calls coming from as far as Japan, Norway, Brazil, the USA and, of course, Australia and Spain! Even today I had a Skype interview for an American magazine. My co-author of the paper handled about half of the interviews, mainly those in French, Dutch or German, as he is a polyglot. Together we have responded to the many queries that media organisations, scientists and other individuals had posted to us. We have also been approached by Nature and Investigación y Ciencia (the Spanish version of Scientific American) to write articles for them.

It all started with a small talk at the Harlequin pub in Ultimo (Sydney), the last place indeed that anyone could imagine for jumping to the world media stage. As I write this piece, my email is still popping up messages from people who want to talk to me next week or who ask me to answer a few questions for a women’s magazine in Spain…Is this going to stop one day?

My message to all of you, specially to the young researchers in Australia, is never underestimate the impact of your research, no matter how insignificant or unimportant you think it may be. One day, sooner or later (for me it has been very, very late) you will see the impact of your hard work. All you need to do is to work well and don’t be discouraged.

(Incomplete) list of all the interviews:


About Angel.Lopez-Sanchez

Dr Ángel R. López-Sánchez is an astrophysicist and science communicator working at the Australian Astronomical Optics (AAO) and the Department of Physics and Astronomy of the Macquarie University (MQ) in Sydney (NSW, Australia). His research is focused in the analysis of star formation phenomena in galaxies of the Local Universe, especially in dwarf starbursts and spiral galaxies, using multi-wavelength (UV, optical, IR, radio) data. He presented his PhD Thesis at University of La Laguna and the Instituto Astrofisica de Canarias (Spain) in 2006. In 2007 he joined CSIRO Astronomy & Space Science (Sydney) with a postdoctoral position. He then joined the AAO (formerly the Australian Astronomical Observatory) and MQ in 2011. In July 2018 he was appointed as Senior Lecturer at AAO-MQ. He has been providing instrument and observing support at the Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT, Siding Spring Observatory, NSW) since 2011, being the instrument scientist of several instruments: the multi-fiber spectrograph 2dF+AAOmega and the near-infrared imager and spectrograph IRIS2. He also has large experience with integral-field spectroscopy (IFS), being a very active member of the SAMI collaboration at the AAT and part of the HECTOR Science Team. He currently is the Instrument Scientist of KOALA+AAOmega at the AAT, and leads the international astronomy survey "HI KOALA IFS Dwarf and irregular galaxy Survey" (Hi-KIDS), that is getting unique, high-quality IFS data of a sample of 100 nearby dwarf and irregular galaxies for which 21cm H I interferometric data is available He has large experience teaching undergraduate and PhD students and giving lectures and classes about Astronomy. Dr. López-Sánchez is passionate science communicator who continuously gives talks and public lectures, writes popular science articles and organizes science communication events and stargazing activities. He is very active in social media, his Twitter feed is @El_Lobo_Rayado.