Research combats invasive ants on Indigenous lands in northern Australia

Helicopters are used by Ben Hoffmann and Dhimurru ranger staff to access remote infestations of yellow crazy ants. Credit: CSIRO Darwin
Helicopters are used by Ben Hoffmann and Dhimurru ranger staff to access remote infestations of yellow crazy ants. Credit: CSIRO Darwin

Invasive ants are among the greatest environmental, social and economic threats to Australia, potentially costing the nation more than $1 billion annually. However, knowledge of the basic biology of these pest species remains rudimentary, and many management operations have been unsuccessful.

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Mites hitch lift in birds’ beaks

Eastern Spinebill Credit: Rohan Clarke, Wildlife Images
Eastern Spinebill. Credit: Rohan Clarke, Wildlife Images

Nectar-eating Australian birds make clever choices about which flowers to raid. And so do the flower mites which hitch a ride in their nasal passages, according to zoologists Jolene Scoble and Assoc. Prof. Michael Clarke at La Trobe University in Melbourne.

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Surviving in the city

ARCUE is working to understand how plants and animals adapt to urban life. Credit: Janusz Molinski/Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne
ARCUE is working to understand how plants and animals adapt to urban life. Credit: Janusz Molinski/Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne

Why do some plant and animal species thrive in the city while others disappear?

Most ecological studies are done in natural environments not in towns and cities so we lack information on urban ecology.

A team from Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens is changing that.

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Lake Mungo reveals ancient human adaptation to climate change

Lake Mungo’s ancient landscape.
Lake Mungo’s ancient landscape.

Aboriginal Elders from the Traditional Tribal Groups in the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area are collaborating with researchers to produce the first integrated account of the history of human settlement, landscape evolution and past environmental change for Australia’s foremost ‘Ice Age’ archive.

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The lighting revolution has only just begun

Zinc oxide crystal. Credit: Matthew Foley, UTS.
Zinc oxide crystal. Credit: Matthew Foley, UTS.

LED lighting is sweeping the world. It’s energy efficient, long lasting, and could save users billions of dollars worldwide and dramatically reduce carbon emissions. But it’s still a young technology. Much more efficient lights are on the way.

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Building water sensitive cities

water4a_300x180Staff in a Monash University-led project, called Water Sensitive Cities, believe the time is right for a bold idea that could produce 20 to 30 per cent of Melbourne’s future water needs.

Annually, almost as much stormwater falls on Melbourne as its citizens use, but only a fraction is captured and reused. Billions of litres of stormwater literally go down the drain and into Port Phillip Bay, degrading the ecological health of Melbourne streams and the bay.

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Invasion of the grasses

Native grass Austrostipa scabra. Credit: Janusz Molinski/Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne
Native grass Austrostipa scabra. Credit: Janusz Molinski/Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne

DNA barcodes could help farmers and conservationists identify wanted and unwanted grasses.

Identifying grasses is difficult especially when they’re not flowering. But identification is important. Australia’s agriculture and ecology are threatened by invading grasses, such as Chilean needle grass (Nassella neesiana) and serrated tussock (N. trichotoma). And efforts to re-introduce native grasses can be hampered if you can’t tell the grasses apart.

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Womb of life

Womb stem cells could help regenerate a diseased liver.
Womb stem cells could help regenerate a diseased liver.

What if the very thing that assists a fetus to grow in the womb could also prevent disease in a fully grown adult?

Monash Institute of Medical Research scientists have discovered that stem cells from the womb have the potential to treat inflammatory diseases such as lung fibrosis and liver cirrhosis in both children and adults.

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Reading the genome

Marnie Blewitt wants to understand how genes are controlled. Credit: Sam D’Agostino, SDP Photo
Marnie Blewitt wants to understand how genes are controlled. Credit: Sam D’Agostino, SDP Photo

Dr Marnie Blewitt wants to know how a human being is made: how does a single fertilised egg develop into an adult with millions of cells performing a myriad of different functions.

“How does a cell know which of its 30,000 or so genes should be active and which should be dormant?” says Marnie, a researcher at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research.

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