Animals play critical roles in ecosystems, but they are broadly overlooked in assessments of mine site restoration success says Sophie Cross, an ecologist at Curtin University.
She tracked Australia’s largest lizard species, the perentie, using VHF radio and GPS tracking, and walked hundreds of kilometres through unmined and restoration bushland on a mine site in the mid-west region of Western Australia for her study published in the Australian Journal of Zoology.
Imagine printing your own room lighting, lasers, or solar cells from inks you buy at the local newsagent. Jacek Jasieniak and colleagues at CSIRO, the University of Melbourne and the University of Padua in Italy, have developed liquid inks based on quantum dots that can be used to print such devices and in the first demonstration of their technology have produced tiny lasers. Quantum dots are made of semiconductor material grown as nanometre-sized crystals, around a millionth of a millimetre in diameter. The laser colour they produce can be selectively tuned by varying their size.
High tech cling wraps that ‘sieve out’ carbon dioxide from waste gases can help save the world, says Melbourne University chemical engineer, Colin Scholes who developed the technology. The membranes can be fitted to existing chimneys where they capture CO2 for removal and storage. Not only are the new membranes efficient, they are also relatively cheap to produce. They are already being tested on brown coal power stations in Victoria’s La Trobe Valley, Colin says. “We are hoping these membranes will cut emissions from power stations by up to 90 per cent.”
The first Australian trials have started of a vaccine to prevent koalas from contracting and spreading the deadly sexually transmitted disease, chlamydia.
The trials—supervised by Prof Peter Timms and Prof Ken Beagley from Queensland University of Technology (QUT)’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation—have been undertaken safely both in healthy koalas and koalas that already have chlamydial disease. All vaccinated koalas developed a good immune response to the anti-chlamydia vaccine, which shows great promise of making a significant impact on the disease in the near future.
Chlamydia is a major threat to the continued survival of koalas. Almost all populations in Australia are affected by the disease. It is a significant cause of infertility, urinary tract infections, and inflammation in the lining of the eye which often leads to blindness.
Koala numbers are declining across virtually its whole range. In the Koala Coast region of southeast Queensland in 2008 it was estimated that 2332 koalas had been lost in a three-year monitoring period. That represented a 51 per cent decrease.
By studying chlamydial disease in koalas, QUT researchers hope to understand the condition better in general. They believe their work may also hold the key to developing a successful vaccine for use against the human sexually transmitted disease Chlamydia trachomatis, a major cause of infertility in women.
Photo: Professor Peter Timms is trialling a Chlamydia vaccine for koalas.
Climate change will impose a complex web of threats and interactions on the plants and animals living in the ice-free areas of Antarctica.
Increased temperatures may promote growth and reproduction, but may also contribute to drought and associated effects. These scenarios are explored in a new book, Trends in Antarctic Terrestrial and Limnetic Ecosystems: Antarctica as a Global Indicator, co-edited by Australian Antarctic Division biologist, Dr. Dana Bergstrom.
Dr Fiona Hogan is DNA fingerprinting Australian owls with the help of feathers and a keen public.
Her work is transforming our understanding of the night life of owls, normally notoriously secretive.
From a single feather, this Deakin University researcher can determine the species, sex, and identity of individual birds. She has already found a pair of powerful owls who have mated together for at least ten consecutive years, and that those breeding in urban areas are typically more closely related than those which breed in the bush.
Researchers at Geoscience Australia have unravelled the development of a unique seafloor community thriving in complete darkness below the giant ice sheets of Antarctica.The community beneath the Amery Ice Shelf in Antarctica is 100 kilometres from open water and hidden from view by ice half a kilometre thick. This ecosystem has developed very slowly over the past 9,000 years, since the end of the last glaciation.
Today it is home to animals such as sponges and bryozoans fed by plankton carried in on the current. Dr Alix Post studied shell fossils within core samples where she unexpectedly found evidence of these isolated ecosystems.
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.
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.