Behavioral scientist: Kangaroo expert wins dance competition for scientists

behavioral scientist
Kangaroo expert wins dance competition for scientists

“From kangaroo whisperer to global dance sensation”: Weliton Menário Costa (M). photo

© Nic Vevers/Anu/-/dpa

Drag queens and ballet as an expression of different kangaroo personalities? Sounds crazy. But a researcher in Australia has used it to win a coveted dance competition.

An Australian kangaroo researcher has won a global dance competition for scientists with a strange video.

Weliton Menário Costa, an Australian National University (ANU) PhD student in Canberra, was named the overall winner of the “Dance Your PhD Contest 2024” after he impressed the jury with his highly creative and bizarre dance entry “Kangaroo Time (Club Edit)”, the university announced and cheered: “From the Kangaroo Whisperer a global dance sensation.” “Dance Your PhD” is a worldwide competition that has been held since 2008. Scientists should express their research results through dance.

The queer biologist known under the name WELI, who is also a singer-songwriter, combines a funky beat and cool lyrics with drag queens and Brazilian dancers in the colorful video. It’s also about different kangaroo personalities. The final product was “both entertaining and educational,” it said. WELI, who himself has Brazilian roots, is both the leading actor and director. He cleverly illustrated various personality traits of kangaroos using dance styles, wrote the ANU.

Song on Spotify and on the radio

WELI moved from his hometown to Canberra in 2017 to do his doctorate on animal behavior. He spent three years studying the behavioral differences of a group of more than 300 eastern gray kangaroos in Victoria. “We found that kangaroos like to socialize in groups, but prefer smaller social circles,” he explained. “And like humans, kangaroo personalities manifest early in life.” Among other things, siblings among marsupials often showed similar temperaments.

The variety of dances, from classical ballet to twerking to Brazilian dance moves, reflected the range of Kangaroo personalities across the spectrum, “from bolder types to more timid specimens,” it said. In the video there is also jumping – based on the marsupials.

The accompanying song has now been accessed thousands of times on Spotify and played in clubs and radio stations. “For me, winning this competition is the equivalent of winning the Eurovision Song Contest,” said the happy winner. “I think it shows not only the incredible power of the research being carried out here in Australia, but also how creative we are as a nation – even we scientists!”


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