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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Putting off joint replacement

Advanced medical imaging has allowed Tasmanian scientists to trial new therapies for osteoarthritis and to potentially delay the need for joint-replacement surgery.

Photo: Hip replacement surgery may not be needed with Graeme Jones’s new therapy for osteoarthritis. Credit: NIADDK, 9AO4 (Connie Raab-contact); NIH

Graeme Jones and his team from the Menzies Research Institute used dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry to see what was happening to a joint’s internal structure as osteoarthritis developed, allowing them to spot changes long before a conventional X-ray could.

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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.

Regular source of ocean data now underway

More than 50 different environmental measures routinely collected by Australia’s national ocean research vessels—including sea surface temperature, dissolved oxygen concentration, and salinity—can now be accessed online almost as they are recorded.

The Marine National Facility vessel Southern Surveyor, one of Australia’s scientific research ships. Credit: CSIRO
The data is incorporated, often automatically, into predictive meteorological and ocean models, improving their accuracy.  “So we end up with an improved representation not only of the weather but of processes like large scale ocean circulation or the state of the seas during tropical cyclones,” says Dr Roger Proctor, director of the e-Marine Information Infrastructure Facility of Australia’s Integrated Marine Observing System.

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Bringing undiscovered Earths into focus

USING A NEW OBSERVATORY BEING BUILT NORTH OF HOBART, RESEARCHERS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TASMANIA ARE GEARING UP TO FIND WHETHER THE UNIVERSE HARBOURS MORE PLANETS LIKE EARTH. CREDIT: JOHN GREENHILL, UNIVERSITY OF TASMANIA.
USING A NEW OBSERVATORY BEING BUILT NORTH OF HOBART, RESEARCHERS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TASMANIA ARE GEARING UP TO FIND WHETHER THE UNIVERSE HARBOURS MORE PLANETS LIKE EARTH. CREDIT: JOHN GREENHILL, UNIVERSITY OF TASMANIA.

How many of the planets scattered across the Universe have the potential to harbour life? An observatory being built in Tasmania is poised to help answer just that question.

Astronomers at the University of Tasmania (UTas) currently use the Mount Canopus Observatory in Hobart to search for Earth-like planets orbiting distant suns—but the growing city is compromising the observatory’s view of space. “Light is driving us away,” says John Greenhill, the Observatory’s director. Continue reading Bringing undiscovered Earths into focus

Virtual management of the world’s oceans

New computer models are challenging the conventional wisdom in marine science.

Virtual management of the world’s oceans
Beth Fulton’s fisheries models are used all over the world. Credit: Istockphoto
These models have revealed for example that: large populations of jellyfish and squid indicate a marine ecosystem in trouble; not all fish populations increase when fishing is reduced—some species actually decline; and, sharks and tuna can use jellyfish as junk food to see them through lean periods.

The models were developed by the 2007 Science Minister’s Life Scientist of the Year, Dr Beth Fulton, a senior research scientist at CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research in Hobart.
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