We chat to Andrea Wild, author of a new book packed with fabulous facts about plants, animals and microbes that's sure to inspire young minds.

What could be more amazing than going on a scientific journey through 100 topics inspired by the specimens and stories from CSIRO’s National Research Collections Australia?

Author Andrea Wild shares more on her work at CSIRO and the launch of her new book, AmAZed! CSIRO’s A to Z of Biodiversity.

Andrea Wild, AmAZed!

Andrea Wild and her son read AmAZed!

What do you do at CSIRO?

I’m a science writer at the National Research Collections Australia, home to more than 15 million natural-history specimens.

I have a science background and started with CSIRO in 2000 as a Research Assistant. My love of writing later saw me move into a Communication Advisor role.

In my communications work, I enjoy writing creatively and using storytelling techniques to create easily-understood content that inspires people.

What prompted you to write this book?

When my son was in Year 2, the head teacher would line up the Kindergarten to Year 2 students in the morning.

She’d then encourage them to go off and “Be amazing” as she’d say.

After a whole year of hearing this teacher speak at morning assembly, I walked out and thought, ‘What could I do that’s amazing?’

I realised the people I work with in the collections do amazing things every day.

I pitched a few ideas for some books to CSIRO Publishing that were inspired by our collections. The one the team liked was an alphabet book written for primary school-aged kids.

Luckily, ‘Amazed’ neatly included ‘A-to-Z’ in its title and tied in with the alphabet book concept.

Amazed, Andrea Wild

How did you decide on what topics to include?

It was tricky to narrow down the topics. We have roughly three-to-four features per letter of the alphabet.

Some ideas were top of mind as I’d written on many before in my work. Some inclusions were inspired by a photo or a fun fact I’d heard.

One surprising piece of information I included was about Kangaroo grass seeds.

I learned that if you spray the seeds with a mist, they start to dance. When it rains they begin to wriggle and find a soft spot in the soil.

What has the feedback been like from your children?

My sons are aged 10 and 12 and I used to read them drafts of the book at night.

I used to check in with them and ask, “Was that interesting?”

My hope is that this is a book people have on their shelves for a long time and something they can refer back to for fascinating information.

Tell us about the imagery in the book

A range of wildlife photographers supplied photos for the book and so did I.

There’s an iPhone snap in the book that I took of a Thylacine skull that’s 4000 years old – I highly recommend the portrait setting on iPhone.

I can say this book was a family affair with my sons listening to my draft stories and my Dad supplying some photos too.

Rachel Tribout did a lovely job of illustrating the the cover and parts of the book where we didn’t have photos.


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