Seagrass meadows provide food and habitat for everything from dugongs and birds to fish and tiny crabs. Globally we’re losing over 100 sq. km per year due to dredging, coastal developments and runoff. That’s bad news for the animals they support, and bad news for us too, as seagrass supports healthy coastal fisheries as well as acting as a carbon store. To see how seagrass can be given a fighting chance, Dr Paul Wu at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers and collaborators have put an extended modelling technique to new use, predicting seagrass health and suggests how some modified human activities could reduce the damage. Continue reading Saving seagrass sanctuaries
We can make biofuels with algae, but can we make them commercially viable? A University of Queensland (UQ) research team is working towards it – and Siemens, Neste Oil Corp, the Queensland Government and others have joined their quest. The Solar Biofuels Research Centre is one of the most advanced national facilities investigating the development and use of high-efficiency microalgae production platforms. Continue reading Can algae fuel our future?
Professor Perry Bartlett is putting people with dementia on treadmills. He has already reversed dementia and recovered spatial memories in mice through exercise. And in 2016 he and colleagues at The University of Queensland will begin clinical trials to see if exercise will have the same impact in people with dementia. Then he’ll look at depression. Underpinning these projects is the idea that the brain is constantly changing; and that learning, memory, mood, and many other brain functions are in part regulated by the production of new neurons. Continue reading The ageing brain can repair itself
Toxins from snakes, spiders, jellyfish and scorpions are helping scientists to better understand how pain works, with the hope of managing chronic pain more effectively. Pain comes in many forms, requiring different treatments and often making it difficult to manage. Many painkillers have negative side effects including addiction, and for some the painkillers don’t even work. “Many drugs achieve around 50 per cent pain relief in only one-third of patients. That’s not good enough,” says Dr Irina Vetter, Deputy Director of the Institute for Molecular Bioscience’s Centre for Pain Research at The University of Queensland. Continue reading Deadly animals helping us understand pain
Prototypes of a portable test for Zika virus and a range of other diseases, using just a microchip plugged into a smartphone, may be available by the end of 2016. Zika – a rapidly-spreading, mosquito-borne disease – doesn’t always show symptoms and currently has no treatment or vaccine. The new test could be performed from the comfort of the patient’s own home according to Professor Kirill Alexandrov from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) at The University of Queensland. Continue reading Smartphone testing for Zika virus
How much fish move around is critical information for fisheries managers—for example they need to know if fish caught off Brisbane are a separate population to those caught off Cairns. Different tracking techniques, such as physical tags or genetic mapping, can be used but each method has its weaknesses. A team of mathematicians is using pre-existing data on Spanish mackerel, using their hitchhiking parasites to track fish movements and model the populations. Continue reading Tracking fish with parasites and maths
Many of today’s big questions can only be answered with new mathematical and statistical tools. That’s what the ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers are working on, and they’re finding real-world applications in areas as diverse as:
- Saving seagrass sanctuaries
- Setting smart credit limits
- Solving a dusty mystery
- Spotting super-spreaders in epidemics
- And designing efficient digital communication networks.
Two science teachers from New South Wales and Queensland are using fresh approaches to get kids interested in science – and keep them interested.Continue reading Improved primary science teaching at no extra cost
While coral reefs around the world are feeling the heat, little-known reefs in Australia’s Kimberley region are prospering, despite living in some of the toughest conditions—and scientists aren’t yet sure why. The discovery has particular significance this summer with fears of a severe coral bleaching event to hit our northern waters—the result of steadily rising sea temperatures and a strong seasonal El Niño. WA researchers have found that while coral reefs all around the world are feeling the heat of rising temperatures, some inshore reefs in the Kimberley region’s Bonaparte Archipelago are prospering, despite living in some of the toughest conditions. Continue reading Kimberley corals are true Aussie battlers