Spider Girl - Today Tonight story on Frances Harvey

Video | Updated 3 years ago

Channel 7's Today Tonight program featured young scientist Frances Harvey on its 20 July 2010 episode. Frances Harvey, daughter of the Museum's Head of Terrestrial Zoology, won the the state BioGeneius Challenge for her research project on spiders, and was flown to Chicago to compete against the international finalists. At the age of 15 Frances is already performing DNA sequencing and identifying new species!


Well they're just another household creature I guess, they're nothing, I don't find them scary or intimidating at all. She has always shown an interest in looking for things like spiders and millipedes under rocks. While most teenagers are on Facebook or listening to their ipod's Frances Harvey spends her spare time in a science lab discovering new species of spiders. I investigated some trapdoor spiders from Pilbara and I looked at not only their morphology, what they look like but also their DNA structure to be able to determine how many species there were. Impressive stuff for an experienced scientist but Frances is just 15 a year 10 Shenton College student who identified 7 new species of trapdoor spiders in our North-west. I was completely overwhelmed It was just an amazing experience to know that I have done so much hard work to get to this stage and I was rewarded. The discovery took the young spider woman to Chicago representing her country at the BIOGenius Challenge. Just going over there feeling all nervous but then meeting all the other kids was just like completely incredible. I think what she has done is a remarkable project. The teenager's dad is Mark Harvey, not the footy coach but a senior curator at the WA Museum This sort of research we are looking at the morphology of spiders is normally done by researchers at university level or post university level. It was a 4 month project, a painstaking process. When you look at something and especially these spiders not incredibly big so you can't really pick out any differences, so the molecular sequencing can pick up things that are internal differences or evolutionary differences that you can't pick up with the human eye. She took photographs of each of those and then compare them to each other and then worked out there was seven different species also using this DNA technique which is terribly complicated. I don't know how to do DNA analysis but she does. The work is vital for mining companies who have to make sure that their work won't threaten any rare wildlife. We fed that information through to the mining companies so that they are aware of the results of this project. So what does this star of the science lab want to be when she grows up? I've been asked this so many times but I still have no clue. I still have to choose my year 11 subjects for next year. She might end up with science she could end up in something else. Shes got all sorts of different talents. It just something about being different, you know liking spiders, being interested in science is good. And I think what she did was an amazing job, very proud of her.