And then there was light: looking for the first stars in the Universe

Researchers hunt for a 12-billion-year-old signal that marks the end of the post Big Bang “dark age”.

In this image of the Epoch of Reionisation, neutral hydrogen, in red, is gradually ionizsed by the first stars, shown in white.Credit: Paul Geil and Simon Mutch

Astronomers are closing in on a signal that has been travelling across the Universe for 12 billion years, bringing them nearer to understanding the life and death of the very earliest stars.

In a paper on the preprint site arXiv and soon to be published in the Astrophysical Journal, a team led by Dr Nichole Barry from Australia’s University of Melbourne and the ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions (ASTRO 3D) reports a 10-fold improvement on data gathered by the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) – a collection of 4096 dipole antennas set in the remote hinterland of Western Australia.

Continue reading And then there was light: looking for the first stars in the Universe

There’s no place like home: butterflies stick to their burbs

Members of at least one species choose mates and egg sites based on where they were born, research reveals

Two American passionfruit butterflies, Heliconius charithonia, part of Dr Darrell Kemp’s research cohort.
Credit: Darrell Kemp.

Birthplace exerts a lifelong influence on butterflies as well as humans, new research reveals.

In a paper published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Macquarie University ARC Future Fellow Associate Professor Darrell Kemp reveals that the American passionfruit butterfly, Heliconius charithonia, selects its mate and egg-laying site based on the species of plant that hosted its own egg.

Continue reading There’s no place like home: butterflies stick to their burbs

Pioneering collaboration between Indigenous communities and Macquarie wins Eureka Prize for STEM inclusion

The NISEP program has helped almost 1000 Indigenous school children enter leadership roles.

National Indigenous Science Education Program Eureka Prizes 2019 © Salty Dingo 2019 CRG-7382

The National Indigenous Science Education Program (NISEP), based at the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Sydney’s Macquarie University, won the inaugural the Eureka Prize for STEM Inclusion at the 2019 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes.

The awards were held in Sydney on Wednesday, August 28.

Continue reading Pioneering collaboration between Indigenous communities and Macquarie wins Eureka Prize for STEM inclusion

Blue Carbon Horizons team wins Eureka Prize for Environmental Research

Collaboration investigates the link between changing sea levels, global warming and the health of marine wetlands.

Blue Carbon Horizons Team Eureka Prizes 2019 © Salty Dingo 2019 CRG-7409

Carbon dioxide capture by coastal ecosystems operates in direct relation to the speed of sea level rise.

That was the conclusion of extensive research conducted by a team of scientists from Macquarie University, University of Wollongong and ANSTO – work that has now won the scientists the NSW Environment, Energy and Science (DPIE) Eureka Prize for Environmental Research.

Continue reading Blue Carbon Horizons team wins Eureka Prize for Environmental Research

Antiseptic resistance in bacteria could lead to next-gen plastics

Australia-UK researchers identify ancient protein pumps that make bacteria tough to treat – but could be key to new green polymers

The molecular machinery used by bacteria to resist chemicals designed to kill them could also help produce precursors for a new generation of nylon and other polymers, according to new research by scientists from Australia and the UK.

“Resistance to artificial antiseptics appears to be a lucky accident for the bacteria, and it could also be useful for humans,” says Professor Ian Paulsen of Australia’s Macquarie University, one of the leaders of the research group.

Continue reading Antiseptic resistance in bacteria could lead to next-gen plastics

A New Hope for Coral Reefs: Largest-Ever Study Unlocks Global Solution to Save Coral Communities

Scientists urge priority action on hundreds of surviving reefs.

Image credit: Jeremy Bishop

The majority of 2500 reefs surveyed in a major international exercise retain the coral species that give them their distinctive structure.

More than 80 marine scientists, including several from Australia, contributed to the study, which is published in the journal, Nature Ecology and Evolution.

Continue reading A New Hope for Coral Reefs: Largest-Ever Study Unlocks Global Solution to Save Coral Communities

Searching for insight? Maybe get into nature

Early results from Australia-wide experiment suggest being outdoors can be a good way to trigger “aha” moments.

People are most likely to have a sudden bright idea when out in the bush – or lying in bed.

That’s one of the early observations arising from The Aha! Challenge, the month-long Australia-wide science experiment that kicked off during National Science Week and runs until the end of August.

The experiment, which revolves around a series of online brainteasers, aims to explore sudden bursts of clarity and insight, and their role in problem-solving. In effect, it’s a nationwide quest to find the things that make you go “aha!

And so far the results have been very revealing.

Continue reading Searching for insight? Maybe get into nature

Using quantum dots and a smartphone to find killer bacteria

Australian scientists develop cheap and rapid way to identify antibiotic-resistant golden staph (MRSA).

Researchers Anwar Sunna (right) and Vinoth Kumar Rajendran with their smartphone-enabled MRSA detector.
Credit: Sunna Lab

A combination of off-the-shelf quantum dot nanotechnology and a smartphone camera soon could allow doctors to identify antibiotic-resistant bacteria in just 40 minutes, potentially saving patient lives.

Staphylococcus aureus (golden staph), is a common form of bacterium that causes serious and sometimes fatal conditions such as pneumonia and heart valve infections. Of particular concern is a strain that does not respond to methicillin, the antibiotic of first resort, and is known as methicillin-resistant S. aureus, or MRSA.

Recent reports estimate that 700 000 deaths globally could be attributed to antimicrobial resistance, such as methicillin-resistance. Rapid identification of MRSA is essential for effective treatment, but current methods make it a challenging process, even within well-equipped hospitals.

Continue reading Using quantum dots and a smartphone to find killer bacteria

Gender bending: baby turtles influence their own sex

Chinese-Australian research finds climate change good news, and solves an evolutionary mystery

Chinese Pond Turtle (Mauremys reevesii)
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Baby turtles influence their gender by moving around inside their eggs, research has revealed.

The idea that an embryo reptile can act in a way that affects its chances of developing as male or female has long been thought impossible, but findings by scientists from China and Australia have now provided clear proof of the process.

The research, published in the journal Current Biology, solves a long-standing evolutionary mystery – and offers hope that at least some species thought especially vulnerable to effects of climate change will prove more robust than thought.

Continue reading Gender bending: baby turtles influence their own sex