Media releases

Saving our species and the future of weeds: protecting biodiversity in a changing climate

Biodiversity Node at Macquarie University wins 2017 BHERT Award for Outstanding Collaboration for National (Non-Economic) Benefit

New South Wales is better placed to manage and protect its biodiversity in a changing climate thanks to the deeply collaborative work of the Biodiversity Node of the NSW Adaptation Research Hub, hosted by Macquarie University.

Since it was established in 2013, the Node has delivered research to support the management of biodiversity conservation in NSW under climate change. As a result of this research the Node has produced a suite of evidence-based online tools including:

  • Niche Finder: baseline maps of ecological ranges and climate niches
  • Threatened Species: metrics on the vulnerability of NSW threatened species to climate change
  • Weed Futures: predicting how weeds will respond to climate change
  • Climate Ready Vegetation: step-by-step instructions on revegetation planning for future climates.

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2017 Prime Minster’s Prizes for Science announced

Photos and videos of the winners available. And photos from the award presentation. 

Read the Minister’s media release.

The winners of the 2017 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science are:

  • Jenny Graves (La Trobe University, Melbourne)—Prime Minister’s Prize for Science
  • Eric Reynolds (The University of Melbourne/Oral Health CRC)—Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation
  • Jian Yang (The University of Queensland)—Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year
  • Dayong Jin (University of Technology Sydney)—Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year
  • Neil Bramsen (Mount Ousley Public School, Wollongong)—Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools
  • Brett McKay (Kirrawee High School, Sydney)—Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools

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Professor Dali Kaafar to lead research at the Optus Macquarie University Cyber Security Hub

A focus on cyber security and privacy-preserving technologies.

Macquarie University is pleased to announce the appointment of Professor Dali Kaafar as Scientific Director of the Optus Macquarie University Cyber Security Hub.

Prof Kaafar will move from CSIRO Data61 on 3 October 2017.

“It is a pleasure to appoint Prof Kaafar who is regarded worldwide as one of the leaders in cyber security, in particular regarding data privacy issues,” says Dr Christophe Doche, Executive Director of the Cyber Security Hub.

“Privacy is a fascinating and important research area as it cuts across fields of information technology, business, law, criminology, psychology, and ethics,” he says. “This research topic is thus very well aligned with the philosophy of the Cyber Security Hub, which is to tackle cyber security issues with an interdisciplinary mindset. Privacy-preserving technologies are key to enable collaboration amongst organisations and to foster private and confidential data-sharing for wider and more powerful cyber security approaches.”

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Dali-Kaafar

Microbial mass movements: the millions of species we ignore at our peril

Michael Gillings (Credit: Chris Stacey, Macquarie University)

Science paper Friday, 15 September 2017

Background information below.

More high-res images available below.

Wastewater, tourism, and trade are moving microbes around the globe at an unprecedented scale. As we travel the world we leave billions of bacteria at every stop.

As with rats, foxes, tigers and pandas, some microbes are winners, spreading around the world into new ecological niches we’ve created. Others are losing, and might face extinction. These changes are invisible, so why should we care?

“Yes, our survival may depend on these microbial winner and losers,” say a team of Australian, Chinese, French, British and Spanish researchers in a paper published in Science today.

“The oxygen we breathe is largely made by photosynthetic bacteria in the oceans (and not by rainforests, as is commonly believed),” says Macquarie University biologist Michael Gillings.

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A 3D printed rocket engine – made in Melbourne

Monash engineers have designed, printed, and test-fired a rocket engine.

Media call 9.30 am, Monday 11 September, Woodside Innovation Centre, New Horizons Building, 20 Research Way, Monash University, Clayton

HD footage of static rocket testing and metal printers at work
Media contact: Niall Byrne, 0417-131-977, niall@scienceinpublic.com.au

The new rocket engine is a unique aerospike design which turns the traditional engine shape inside out.

Two years ago, Monash University researchers and their partners were the first in the world to print a jet engine, based on an existing engine design. That work led to Monash spin-out company Amaero winning contracts with major aerospace companies around the world.

Now a team of engineering researchers have jumped into the Space Age. They accepted a challenge from Amaero to design a rocket engine, Amaero printed their design, and the researchers test-fired it, all in just four months. Their joint achievement illustrates the potential of additive manufacturing (or 3D printing) for Australian industry.

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Monash rocket engine test firing

3D printed rocket engine – backgrounder and links

Quick facts

  • A joint Monash University/Amaero team of engineers successfully designed, built, and tested a rocket engine in just four months
  • The engine is a complex multi-chamber aerospike design
  • Additively manufactured with selective laser melting on an EOS M280
  • Built from Hasteloy X; a high strength nickel based superalloy
  • Fuel: compressed natural gas (methane); oxidiser: compressed oxygen
  • Design thrust of 4kN (about 1,000 pounds), enough to hover the equivalent of five people (about 400 kg)

The 3D printed or Additive Manufactured aerospike rocket engine is the result of a collaboration between a group of Monash University engineers and Amaero Engineering, supported by Woodside Energy and Monash University.

Engineers at Amaero approached a team of Monash engineering PhD students, giving them the opportunity to create a new rocket design that could fully utilise the near limitless geometric complexity of 3D printing.

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The mystery of leaf size solved

Click here for high-res images.

Background information below.

And feature story by lead author Ian Wright for The Conversation here.

A global team of researchers have cracked the mystery of leaf size. Their research was published today as a cover story in Science.

Why is a banana leaf a million times bigger than a common heather leaf? Why are leaves generally much larger in tropical jungles than in temperate forests and deserts? The textbooks say it’s a balance between water availability and overheating.

But it’s not that simple.

The research, led by Associate Professor Ian Wright from Macquarie University, reveals that in much of the world the key limiting factor for leaf size is night temperature and the risk of frost damage to leaves. [click to continue…]

Big Leaf

Reinventing the laser

Caring for Country in Arnhem Land
Macquarie University Eureka Prize winners

Macquarie University congratulates its winners in the 2017 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes and the winner of the Macquarie University Eureka Prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher.

High-power diamond lasers invented at Macquarie University

High-power lasers have many potential applications: from medical imaging to manufacturing, shooting down drones or space junk, or powering deep space probes. But current laser technologies overheat at high power.

Rich Mildren and his team have developed a technique to make diamond lasers that, in theory, have extraordinary power range. Five years ago, their lasers were just a few watts in power. Now they’ve reached 400 watts, close to the limit for comparable conventional lasers.

Rich Mildren won the Defence Science and Technology Eureka Prize for Outstanding Science in Safeguarding Australia.

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Rich-Mildren

Reinventing the laser

High-power diamond lasers, invented at Macquarie University, Eureka finalist

High-power lasers have many potential applications: from medical imaging to manufacturing, shooting down drones or space junk, or powering deep space probes. But current laser technologies overheat at high power.

Rich Mildren and his team have developed a technique to make diamond lasers that, in theory, have extraordinary power range. Five years ago, their lasers were just a few watts in power. Now they’ve reached 400 watts, close to the limit for comparable conventional lasers.

Their calculations suggest that their diamond laser technology could handle over a thousand times the current power. They’ve also shown that they can use diamond to focus multiple laser beams into a single beam. And they can create almost any frequency of light.

Diamond is an outstanding optical material and exceptionally good at dissipating heat. But it’s not very good at generating a laser beam as its dense structure makes it difficult to introduce the impurity additives normally needed to amplify light. Until now.

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Indigenous and Western science caring for country in Arnhem Land

A unique collaboration between scientists and Aboriginal people in remote south-eastern Arnhem Land is building knowledge about country and how local people can better manage it.

In the last nine years the Ngukurr Wi Stadi bla Kantri (We Study the Country) Research Team has discovered species new to science, found new populations of threatened species, preserved culturally-significant wetlands, and documented the community’s plants and animals in eight local languages.

Led by ecologist Dr Emilie Ens from Macquarie University and Ngandi Elder Cherry Wulumirr Daniels, this citizen science research is also working with the Yugul Mangi Rangers to better manage the new threats facing their country—like feral animals, weeds, climate change and altered fire regimes.

The project is blending ecological methods with traditional knowledge and ways of seeing country. “Our ancestors were rangers. We were rangers for 40,000 years and are rangers today,” Cherry says. “It’s a responsibility for us to look after those things.”

“We are not doing it for ourselves. We are doing this for our country and for our people and for the sake of our culture, keeping our culture alive and strong.”

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Are you a slave to your smartphones? Or master of your mobile?

We spend three hours a day on our phones, on average, with almost one in five of us admitting we check our phone at least once every 15 minutes.

These are some of the early findings from Australia’s Biggest Smartphone Survey, which is looking at how we use our smartphones and how we feel about them.

More than 10,000 people have taken part in the survey so far, but there’s still plenty of time to participate with the survey running until Friday, August 25.

In particular, researchers want to hear from more young people, especially those aged between 12 and 25.

Psychology PhD student Bep Uink from Murdoch University, says: “Young Australians are digital natives so it’s possible they have more sophisticated relationships with their smartphones than their parents’ generation.”

“It’s really important for researchers to hear from young people about the benefits they get from their smartphones, and conversely the downsides of having such a ubiquitous device in their lives, that we might not otherwise be aware of,” she says.

Other early findings from the survey show: [click to continue…]

Super Hornet simulators; sporty science; Robotronica; Aboriginal astronomy; Pokémon GO with real animals; and more

Sunday 20 August 2017

Highlights for the final day of National Science Week

142 events and exhibitions, 16 online activities, and dozens of great stories and talent.

National and international talent, researchers, experts, and other interesting people available for interview around the country. Plenty of photo opportunities.

Sydney

Gold Coast

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Sex, genes and rock ‘n’ roll; inside a dodgy drug lab; physics of recycling; and more

Saturday 19 August 2017

Highlights for day eight of National Science Week’s nine-day ‘week’

177 events and exhibitions, 16 online activities, and dozens of great stories and talent.

National and international talent, researchers, experts, and other interesting people available for interview around the country. Plenty of photo opportunities.

Hobart

Perth

Blue Mountains

Canberra

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Keeping the lights on; Mayan astronomy; Whisky Academy; bull science; and more

Friday 18 August 2017

Highlights for day seven of National Science Week

446 events and exhibitions, 23 online activities, and dozens of great stories and talent.

National and international talent, researchers, experts, and other interesting people available for interview around the country. Plenty of photo opportunities.

Melbourne

Sydney

Darwin

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Our earthquake science epicenter; new recycling plant opening; ‘tree lobsters’ and peacock spiders; the physics of beer; and more

Dozens of stories and interesting people at 120+ Science Week events in ACT

  • Opening of Canberra’s re-vamped recycling facility…tour the facility, meet the experts and see how physics sorts trash from treasure. Drone footage available.
  • ‘Tree lobster’ stick insects and small peacock spiders on the big screen. And meet the man who discovered these tiny dancing spiders.
  • Scienceability: young adults with a disability running a free science workshop open to the public.
  • Ask scientists to explain physics using beer.
  • Geoscience Australia open day—see inside Australia’s epicenter for earthquake detection, how we use satellites to find water for agriculture, and precious rocks for our smartphones.
  • Dancing with the Science Stars: astronomy, gravitational waves and Antarctic research explained…with the help of dancers.
  • 1,000 science Scouts and Guides saving the planet.
  • How to turn a ‘dead’ seed into a living plant.
  • Do you have a healthy relationship with your smartphone? Researchers want to know.

More on these highlights below, and others at www.scienceinpublic.com.au/science-week, and on Twitter at @SciWKMedia.

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The botany of booze; drones on the farm; wildlife forensics; plastic oceans; and more

Thursday 17 August 2017

Highlights from day six of National Science Week

448 events and exhibitions, 22 online activities, and dozens of great stories and talent.

National and international talent, researchers, experts, and other interesting people available for interview around the country. Plenty of photo opportunities.

Sydney

Charters Towers (near Townsville)

Hobart

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The ‘Madhouse Effect’; evil weevils; the funniest physicist; the language of plants; dingo puppies; and more

Wednesday 16 August 2017

Highlights from day five of National Science Week

476 events and exhibitions, 22 online activities, and dozens of great stories and talent.

National and international talent, researchers, experts, and other interesting people available for interview around the country. Plenty of photo opportunities.

Canberra (10am, Parliament House)

Sydney

Melbourne

Western Australia and South Australia

Perth [click to continue…]