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Minutes of Institute Grants Committee – Science/Technology

14 August 2024, 2pm, Roland Seaforth Seminar Room 5.03

Voting Members:

Cr Lydia Greenwood, Chair

Cr Albert Shenton, Emeritus Prof.

Cr Claude Challis


Ms Prisha Devi, Bsc (Hon)


Cr Samantha Vostyok

Cr Esandra McCulloch



Chair LG: All right, so now that we’ve got the minutes confirmed, let’s move on to the reason we’re here. Ms Devi –

Cr AS: Hrmm, ah – what was that?

Chair LG: I said, we’re moving onto the reason why we’re here, Councillor.

Cr AS: No, hmm, no need to shout. I’m not deaf. Now, uh, what were we up to again?

Cr CC: The main event, Councillor! The student presentation!

Cr AS: Oh, jolly good. Now, hrmm, what was it – ah, Ms Devi, is it? Splendid.

PD: Um, yes, thank you for allowing me to present today, my name is-

Chair LG: I will introduce our speaker, Councillor Shenton! You are not the Chair!

PD: Oh, it’s ok, I was just –

Chair LG: This is Miss Prisha Devi from the University of Melbourne, who has been working on a project to eradicate the invasive black beetle, which is presented as Grant Application 2024ENV-006. As you can see from Attachment 1A has already spread to –

Cr AS: Which, hrmm, which attachment is that? I can’t get the, the, the damn thing to work.

Cr CC: It’s Attachment 1A, Councillor. It’s hyperlinked, you just got to tap on the screen.

Cr AS: It can’t – it won’t – ah, it says I’m logged out. Can someone log me back in?

Chair LG: Oh, for heavens sake! Claude, can you connect him back to the Wi-Fi? Miss Devi, why don’t you tell us about your project? I can see you’ve brought a surprise for us.

PD: Yes, thank you Councillor. Esteemed panel members, I’m here today to propose a project for the Institute’s Grants Program. As you know, the black beetle, Heteronychus arator, has been considered an invasive pest in our country since the 1930s, and most recently has become a problem on the island of-

Cr AS: Claude, do you know my login profile? You did it last time, didn’t you? Don’t see why we can’t just have the reports, hrmm, printed out like we used to.

Cr CC: Dammit, Councillor, this is why the planet is in such a terrible state. Give me that, honestly, dinosaurs like you are the ones responsible for climate change, and all the endangered species…

PD: Um, yes. Anyway, since large-scale application of pesticides is both expensive and potentially damaging to the environment-

Cr CC: Hear, hear!

PD: Then an alternative solution is to use a docile, known species that can feed on the pest until it is eradicated.

Cr CC: What?! Don’t you remember what happened with the cane toads?

PD: Councillor, I’m aware of the history behind introduced species, but –

Cr CC: Absolutely not! I will not listen to another word-

Chair LG: Councillor Challis, I am the Chair of this committee, and you will kindly stop interrupting Ms Devi’s presentation! Ms Devi, please continue.

Cr CC: Environmental vandals, all of you.

PD: I, ah, will take that observation on board, Councilor. Now what if I told you that we have already been able to breed a prototype species that has been engineered specifically to feed off the black beetle, and can be easily bred, and most importantly, is completely harmless as a predator?

Cr CC: Well, I’d be against twisting some poor creature’s DNA to make it an unwitting tool of human-led environmental disasters, I-

Cr AS: Heh heh. It’s in the cage you’ve brought, hrmm, under the cloth, isn’t it?

Chair LG: Councillors, will you stop interrupting? I will tell Miss Devi when to reveal her specimen.

Cr AS: Well go on then, Lydia.

Chair LG: That’s “Chair” to you, Councillor! So yes, I move that we should see Ms Devi’s mysterious specimen.

Cr AS: Seconded. Any opposed?

Cr CC: Well, let’s see what it is, first.


Resolution 20241014-003: That the Committee wishes to see Ms Devi’s specimen. Unanimous. PASSED.


PD: That you for that…  ah, vote of interest, Councillors. Without any further ado, members of the Committee, I give you – the future!

Chair LG: It’s a…

Cr CC: It’s…

Cr AS: Ha! You can’t fool me! It’s a chicken, isn’t it?

PD: Yes, Councillor Shenton, you are correct. But this is no ordinary chicken. This is a genetically engineered prototype that has been created specifically to crave black beetle. It barely notices native insects, and if funding is given, we can breed a large number and release them on the island-

Cr CC: This is a travesty!

PD: No, it’s not! It’s a genetic engineered marvel! It’s the future!

Cr AS: The Chicken of the Future. Ha! Good name, eh? It’s all about the marketing, isn’t it?

Cr CC: No, it’s an abomination! To take this noble bird-

Chair LG: It’s a chicken, Claude.

Cr CC: To take this noble bird and modify it’s DNA without it’s consent, it’s disgusting! I move that this project be immediately dismissed! Any seconds?

Cr AS: Well, I rather like the project.

Chair LG: Look, Claude…  I mean, Councillor Challis…


Resolution 20241014-004: That the Chicken of the Future be dismissed. 1 For, 2 Against. FAILED.


PD: So, ah…  Does this mean you’ll, um…  fund the project?

Cr CC: This is an outrage! To keep this noble creature locked up, then to be used to forcefully breed a group of genetically modified monsters, it’s-

Cr AS: Oh, do be quiet, Claude. You’re, hrmm, making a scene again.

Chair LG: He does have a point though. The Institute needs to fund a good media project.

Cr AS: Wh- what do you mean, Lydia? Do you mean some kind of, of new camera?

Chair LG: That’s Chair to you, Councillor! And no, I mean something that looks good for publicity. Something sexy, like cancer.

Cr AS: Sexy…  cancer? Is, hrmm, is that a thing these days?

Cr CC: I will not be ignored on this, Councillors! This is a living, feeling creature, that-

Chair LG: Cancer research, Shenton! Try and keep up! No wonder you’re no longer the Chair.

PD: Well, ah, my project would have several positive media moments, I sure we could-

Cr CC: This bird must be saved from this nightmare! Animals must live free!

PD: No! What are you-?

Chair LG: Claude, put the bloody cage down! No, don’t open it-

PD: No! She’s scared! Just – just stop trying to hit it away, you’re just making her angrier!

Cr CC: Animals must be free! No animal experiments!

Chair LG: It’s in my hair!

Cr AS: Lydia, stop flailing! Its claws are stuck in your-

Chair LG: Get it off! Get it off me! I can’t -


Cr Lydia Greenwood, Chair, departed the meeting at 2:25pm


Cr AS: Well, ah…  yes. Miss Devi, are you alright? Has the Chicken of the Future calmed down now?

PD: Yes, thank you Councillor. I’m so sorry, everyone, she just got a scare, and-

Cr AS: That’s, hrmm, that’s fine, Miss Devi. I’m sure Councillor Challis is also sorry for the whole ordeal, aren’t you, Claude?

Cr CC: I still think this project is an abomination. Animals should not be subjected to these kinds of experiments. I refuse to allow it to be funded from the Institute Grants.

PD: Councillor, please, there’s a lot of good, real practical good, that we can achieve with this kind of science. I just need a chance to show everyone. To get some solid data and analyse the results.

Cr CC: No.

Cr AS: Well, Councillor, I rather think that Miss Devi is correct. The population can be isolated to a single island, and I think that these Chickens of the Future cannot, hrmm, fly very far, so I move that the project be funded.

Cr CC: You can’t. There’s no quorum. The Chair left the meeting. The motion cannot be passed.

PD: Oh. Well, um, th-thank you for your time, Councillors, I-

Cr AS: Not so fast, Miss Devi. I think Councillor Challis is forgetting that a voting member can be co-opted when quorum can’t be reached.

Cr CC: No, it can’t, you useless old fossil! Only the Chair can co-opt a voting member!

Cr AS: That is correct-

Cr CC: Ha!

Cr AS: - but you are forgetting that since the Chair did not designate an Acting Chair before she, hrmm, had to leave, then the Acting Chair position is passed to the last person to serve as Chair, which would, in fact, be me.

Cr CC: You – you stupid old -

Cr AS: Heh. Not bad for an old fossil, right Miss Devi?

PD: Ah, thank you, Acting Chair?


Cr Albert Shenton, Emeritus Prof, is designated as A/Chair at 2:38 pm.


Cr CC: It doesn’t matter! The only other person here is the applicant, and she cannot vote on a grant she has submitted!

A/Chair AS: Well, if you’re going to be like that, Councillor, then there’s always another member I can co-opt.

PD: Who?

Cr CC: Who are you looking at? Wha - you wouldn’t.

A/Chair AS: Heh heh. I would, dear boy. I would.

PD: Does he mean…?

Cr CC: I refuse to sit in a meeting where a chicken is co-opted as a voting member!

A/Chair AS: It’s the Chicken of the Future, isn’t it? Besides, some birds can be considered very smart, can’t they, Miss Devi?

PD: Well, ah… Yes, Acting Chair, the African Grey Parrot, Psittacus erithacus, has been widely proven to be able to communicate abstract ideas, even-

Cr CC: This is absolute nonsense!

A/Chair AS: Oh come now, Claude. Weren’t you the one who was saying that animals should be treated with human rights?

Cr CC: Not like that! Besides, it’s... Aha! It’s not qualified!

A/Chair AS: Of course she’s qualified. She’s the Chicken of the Future. Don’t you think she’s qualified, Miss Devi?

PD: Ah…  yes, she is, Acting Chair?

A/Chair AS: Splendid! Then the matters, hrmm, settled. Does this chicken have a name?

PD: Well, um…. We call her…  Lady Cluck.


Lady Cluck was co-opted by the Acting Chair as a voting member at 2:42 pm.


LC, Co-Opt: Buck.

A/Chair AS: And a good afternoon to you too, Lady Cluck.

Cr CC: I am not doing this.

A/Chair AS: Councillor! Please show some decorum to your fellow voting member.

LC, Co-Opt: Buck buck.

PD: Ah, thank you, um, Committee Members. Since you now know the basics of the project, I am, ah, hoping you will… fund it?

Cr CC: No. Besides, my “esteemed” fellow voting member Lady Cluck has a clear conflict of interest.

A/Chair AS: I don’t see why. Is Lady Cluck getting any payment for this project, Miss Devi?

PD: No, Acting Chair.

A/Chair AS: And you, Lady Cluck, can you confirm that while there is a Perception of Impartiality conflict, you are not receiving any, hrmm, financial benefit should this project go ahead?

LC, Co-Opt: Buck.

Cr CC: This is ridiculous! I want my protest against this vote put in the minutes!


Cr Claude Challis’s protest against Lady Cluck, Co-opted Voting Member, is noted.


A/Chair AS: Well, with that out of the way, I move that Miss Devi’s environmental protection project be, hrmm, granted funding! Seconded?

LC, Co-Opt: Buck.

A/Chair AS: Opposed?

Cr CC: Nay!


Resolution 20241014-005: That Grant Application 2024ENV-006 be approved. 2 For, 1 Against. PASSED.


A/Chair AS: Marvellous. And if there’s no more business on the agenda –

LC, Co-Opt: Buck Buck.

Cr CC: I hate you so much, Shenton.

A/Chair AS: - then I declare this meeting, hrmm, officially closed.


Meeting closed by the A/Chair at 2:55 pm. A/Chair’s meeting evaluation: “An interesting and eventful meeting, that is sure to further the cause of environmental science.”

Minutes recorded with all due adherence to the committee process.