Fresh Science is a national competition helping early-career researchers find, and then share, their stories of discovery.

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Redrawing the lines of our marine parks for sharks

Charlotte Birkmanis, University of Western Australia.
Photos of 2019 Science in Public Event at the Brisbane Hotel in Perth. Photos Credit – Ross Swanborough.

Small changes to marine parks could make a big difference to mako sharks and many other ocean shark species, says UWA researcher Charlotte Birkmanis, lead author of a paper published in Global Ecology and Conservation today. 

Sharks are the peak predators across the world’s oceans. They’re essential to the health of the oceans, and of the fisheries that billions of people depend on.

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Mapping our galaxy’s magnetic field

Dr Charlotte Sobey, CSIRO and Curtin University

Astronomers from CSIRO and Curtin University have used pulsars to probe the Milky Way’s magnetic field. Working with colleagues in Europe, Canada, and South Africa, they have published the most precise catalogue of measurements towards mapping our Galaxy’s magnetic field in 3-D.

The Milky Way’s magnetic field is thousands of times weaker than Earth’s, but is of great significance for tracing the paths of cosmic rays, star formation, and many other astrophysical processes. However, our knowledge of the Milky Way’s 3-D structure is limited.

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TB could be conquered by common painkillers, research reveals

Image credit – Azul. (Zebrafish)

Zebrafish model suggests aspirin slows bacterial growth.

Dr Elinor Hortle, Centenary Institute in Sydney

Aspirin could be used to treat the world’s deadliest infectious disease, according to new research conducted by Dr Elinor Hortle at the Centenary Institute in Sydney.

Tuberculosis – which affects a third of the global population – currently kills two million people every year. The spread of multi-drug resistant strains mean antibiotics are becoming less effective.

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Bird conservation is literally on the radar

Decades of meteorological data are telling the story of Australia’s birds.

Rebecca Rogers from Charles Darwin University

Weather radar can be used to better manage bird populations and potentially save them from extinction, a researcher at Charles Darwin University in the Northern Territory has found.

Rebecca Rogers has been using weather radar to track the movement patterns of Magpie geese (Anseranas semipalmata) to demonstrate how the data generated can improve the management of Australia’s waterbirds.

The radars routinely pick up birds in flight, but while the information is a nuisance for meteorologists, it is a boon to ecologists.

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Do you know exactly where you are?

Kan Wang from Curtin University. Image credit: Ross Swanborough

We all rely on GPS to tell us where we are and where we’re going. The US government’s global network of 30+ satellites guides planes, ships, cars, tractors and much more. The latest GPS systems can provide mm- to cm-accuracy using advanced equipment and technique.

But GPS isn’t the only game in town. There are other global systems, and regional systems that we can tap into.

Curtin University researchers have explored the potential of regional navigation satellite systems (RNSSs) for Western Australian users. Two such systems are the QZSS operated by Japan and the IRNSS operated by India.

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Poo kit in post best approach for now

Dayna Cenin – University of Western Australia. Photo credit: Ross Swanborough

Australia’s National Bowel Cancer Screening Program is still the best way to reduce incidence and mortality for bowel cancer, according to research published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, by University of Western Australia researcher Dayna Cenin.

She predicts that personal genomics will enable more targeted screening over the coming decades, but not yet.

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Kimberley corals are true Aussie battlers

Zoe collecting samples for further molecular analysis. Photo WA Museum
Zoe colleacting samples for further molecular analysis. Photo WA Museum

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

Filtering the blood to keep cancer in check

A new diagnostic system used to detect cancer cells in small blood samples could next be turned towards filtering a patient’s entire system to remove those dangerous cells – like a dialysis machine for cancer – says an Australian researcher who helped develop the system.

The technique was developed for cancer diagnosis, and is capable of detecting (and removing) a tiny handful of cancer-spreading cells from amongst the billions of healthy cells in a small blood sample.

The revolutionary system, which works to diagnose cancer at a tenth of the cost of competing technologies, is now in clinical trials in the US, UK, Singapore and Australia, and is in the process of being commercialised by Clearbridge BioMedics PteLtd in Singapore.

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Blood reveals Great Barrier Reef sharks as homebodies

Small Australian sharks have been exposed as bigger homebodies than previously thought, in a study that took an existing chemical tracking technique and made it work for Great Barrier Reef sharks.

Dr Sam Munroe in the field
Dr Sam Munroe working in the field, Cleveland Bay, Queensland

The study found that the travel history of the Australian sharpnose shark was written in their blood—with chemical ‘fin-prints’ showing they tended to stay within smaller areas than previously believed.

“Small-bodied sharks that are both predator and prey, such as the Australian sharpnose, may be particularly important links between food webs,” says lead researcher Dr Sam Munroe, who studied the sharks while at James Cook University in Townsville.

“Information on their movements can improve our understanding of how the ecosystems function, while also helping us predict species most at risk from the impacts of a changing environment.”

Continue reading Blood reveals Great Barrier Reef sharks as homebodies