Created in 2006 by science journalist Paola Catapano, MINIDARWIN aims at taking groups of children on scientific expeditions coached by real scientists and science communication professionals.

On the occasion of International Year of Biodiversity 2010, theMiniDarwins are ready to leave on their third expedition, to the Amazon Forest, devoted to biodiversity and its socio-economic spin offs. The MiniDarwins will be coached by biodiversity scientists and an ecological socio-economist specialised in ethno-ecology to experience life with an Indigenous population in the Amazon Forest

During the trip, we will publish on this blog a diary of the expedition and some of the photos, videos, interviews and texts we are producing for later publication on our website, book, reportage and documentary film.

1 July 2010

Preparing for the trip..

Mon June 28 Geneva, HUG

Our trip starts here, at the Geneva University Hospital. We’re just on time to get vaccinations, four weeks before departure. The MiniDarwins from Geneva, Maxine, Kai and Alberto, have certainly given proof of more courage in the past: they swam with sharks on the Galapagos Islands (see Minidarwin Expedition I), they climbed up on the Stromboli, a 900 m high active volcano, and witnessed its explosive eruptions from a mere 300 m distance every 15’, and then climbed down, with ashes up to their knees after midnight, tired, hungry … ,(see Minidarwin Expedition II). But at the prospect of getting an injection, there’s no more courage, they’re as scared as small cats in a water basin!
Maxine spent the morning pinching her left arm, to “train” before the injection, Kai tried in all possible ways to avoid getting to the hospital, hiding in every corner on the way. The angriest of all is Alberto “I do not understand why we need a vaccine” he repeats showing very little collaboration while we queue at the Tropical Diseases Department of the Geneva Hospital, after filling in the forms with all the details of our trip.
“Alberto, The vaccination you’re getting – I explain- is nothing but a harmless version of the yellow fever virus, a sort of “mutant” that does not give you the disease. It just makes itself known to your immune system. If you’ll get to meet the real virus in Brazil, your immune system would already know it and will be able to fight it without you getting sick,. In a way, with the vaccination, you’re training your immune system to defend itself from the virus”.
This explanation is satisfactory enough for Alberto’s logical mind.
“Ok,  I accept the vaccination, says Alberto still angry, but if we end up not going to Brazil in four weeks, I’ll hate you for life !” Why is this yellow virus based in Amazonia?” asks Maxine “ and how can the Amazonians
not get sick? ”
Kai gets his shot
“And what if I preferred to get sick in a month’s time instead of accepting the injection today??” adds Kai. Questions flock in. I invite the kids to keep them for professor Albert Osterhaus, one of the scientists we will meet during this trip. Albert, nicknamed Ab,  is a very important virologist, who contributed to develop many vaccinations, including the swine flu’s. He’s a real expert, the right person to convince the kids to accept a passing pain in the arm.
Paola, the science journalist


  1. En effet les pauvres, il faut savoir souffrir quand on veut être un aventurier.
    Bon séjour en Amasonie.

  2. Alberto è veramente un grande!!!