Australian Science Prizes 2016

Clunies Ross Awards

Dr Elaine Saunders has made premium hearing aids more affordable and easier to use. She and her team have built on Australia’s bionic ear technologies to create a system where you can: test your hearing online; buy your hearing aid online and receive it set up ready for you; and adjust the hearing aid with your smartphone while you’re at the pub, dancing, or watching TV.

Credit: Blamey Saunders

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Mangroves’ message from the grave

Mangroves help fight climate change but they’re at serious risk from its effects. That’s one of the findings from a study of a massive mangrove dieback that occurred in late 2015.

Local fishermen reported mangroves were dying along hundreds of kilometres along the Gulf of Carpentaria coastline, an area known for its barramundi fishing and high value commercial fisheries.

This caught the attention of Dr Damien Maher of Southern Cross University, who is interested in the chemistry of mangroves—how they store carbon in their soils, remove planet-warming nitrous oxides from the atmosphere, and neutralise ocean acidification by releasing alkaline chemicals into nearby waters.

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Citizen science: eyes in the skies and on the seas

Australian citizen scientists are helping to catch shooting stars in the vast skies of outback Australia and to track the impact of climate change on species in our warming oceans.

Kevin Wilson recorded a Red Emperor 300 km further south than previously recorded. Credit: Kevin Wilson

Curtin University’s Fireballs in the Sky project invites people to use a smartphone app to record and submit the time, location, trajectory and appearance of meteors they spot.

By triangulating these reports with observations from an array of cameras in remote Western and South Australia, scientists can try to determine where the meteorite may have come from and where it landed.

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Academy recognition

Photo: Wouter Schellart’s geodynamics research into the activity of the Earth’s mantle, including the Mt Etna volcano, earned him the AAS Anton Hales medal for Earth Sciences. Credit: NASA

The Australian Academy of Science recognised five individuals for their career achievements in 2013.

Alice Springs—gateway to the stars

A BALLOON LAUNCH AT ALICE SPRINGS. CREDIT: R. SOOD.
A BALLOON LAUNCH AT ALICE SPRINGS. CREDIT: R. SOOD.

Scientists are using the unique advantages of Australia’s Red Centre to conduct high-altitude balloon flights for astronomical research. The clear air and low population of central Australia make it the ideal location for balloon-based research.

For most types of astronomy, observatories are typically built high on the tops of mountains, far out in space or high in the sky, dangling from 150-metre-tall helium balloons. Continue reading Alice Springs—gateway to the stars

Animals contribute to greenhouse gases

Smoke-belching coal-fired power stations and factories and fossil fuel-guzzling motor vehicles may be seen as the big villains of the global climate change debate, but they aren’t the only ones contributing to the greenhouse effect.

Australia’s hundreds of millions of cattle, sheep, pigs and other agricultural animals – not to mention our native fauna – also release significant amounts of methane and other gases into the atmosphere.

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