Bringing the Devonian era to life

Imagine what life was like around 360 million years ago; a time well before dinosaurs, where ancient and bizarre looking fish ruled the world. This was the Devonian period, also known as the ‘Age of Fishes’.

With the support of $5,000 from Inspiring Australia (NSW), the newly established Cowra Cabonne Science Hub is embarking on an ambitious 3-stage project to present a 3D recreation of a local billabong from the Devonian era.

Celebrating the Canowindra species found in the region’s famous fossils, The Devonian Billabong is Alive project will provide a rare insight into this ancient time. Community members will get a glimpse into Devonian life when stage 2 of the innovative project is unveiled at the Age of the Fishes Museum during National Science Week in August.

Research shows that the fish from the fossil collection were buried after being trapped in small pools of water that eventually dried up. Incoming sediments slowly covered the small fish communities leaving them fossilised with minor disturbances to their skeletons. The unique fossil deposit is of international scientific importance, and has been deemed as ‘world class’ by famous naturalist Sir David Attenborough.

Working in partnership with internationally renowned visual artist Craig Walsh and local designers from the Corridor Project, the Museum plans to create a virtual display that will bring to life these fossils for the first time. Stage 2 will present its most famous fish, the Canowindra Grossi, in lifelike, 3D rendition.

“With the help of technology that allows accurate 3D scientific modelling, this initiative will allow everyone to see our unique Canowindra fossils brought to life as never before,” said Warren Keedle, Director of the Age of Fishes Museum and convenor of the Cowra Cabonne Science Hub, who expects widespread interest from the media.

“It will be like gazing into a 360 million year old aquarium,” he added.

In addition to welcoming participation by the local community in a range of workshops with artists, discussions and other activities, Mr Keedle said that the project will target primary, secondary and national tertiary students.

“We want to encourage them to engage with the science behind this initiative, particularly the palaeontology that relates to the ancient Canowindra fossils.”

Having invited participation from the Australian Museum, Science Hub members are also exploring whether the displays can eventually be presented in Sydney. During National Science Week, an additional project will present a major event in the local community that will see the Canowindra grossi again swimming in the local waterways. Details will be released as more information becomes available.

The Cowra Cabonne Science Hub is the latest addition to a growing network of partnerships across rural and metropolitan regions in NSW that are committed to delivering high profile science events in the community. With support from the NSW Regional Science Grants Program offered by Inspiring Australia (NSW), Hubs aim to increase community engagement with science by hosting events that spark excitement and wonder.

Cabonne Mayor Councillor Michael Hayes said that the project will act as a springboard for scientific discussions and activities that will inspire our children to become the future scientists Australia needs.

The Devonian Billabong is Alive project will also act as an economic stimulant, attracting people to Canowindra from all over NSW, and I am proud to support the Cowra Cabonne Science Hub,” Councillor Hayes said.

About the author
Aliyah Hage is a science graduate who has been interning with Inspiring Australia (NSW). The Devonian Billabong is Alive will launch at the Age of the Fishes Museum on 17 August. For further information please contact Warren Keedle, Manager of Age of Fishes Museum on 63441008 or by email to