This week at Science in Public

This Week

Lisa’s call to action; science and science writing prizes; Jane Goodall tour; and promoting women in science

Science stakeholder bulletins

Lisa Harvey-Smith has issued a call to action for International Women’s Day for a last minute push for nominations for the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science. Entries close on Tuesday and the initial entry process has been simplified. Lisa is an astrophysicist and Australia’s Women in STEM Ambassador. More on this, the Eurekas, France and EU grants below.

Primatologist Dr Jane Goodall is coming to Australia in May. See her around the country, and support her tour.

Our own team (pictured) is packed with talented female scientists-turned-communicators. Meet them at our media training courses around the country.

Our Director of Engagement Tanya Ha has shared her insights from media training scientists on LinkedIn. Read on for more information about our courses and upcoming workshop dates. We also offer cost effective training packages for larger HDR groups.

In this bulletin:

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Mission design at rocket speed

Australian science stories, Stories of Aus Sci, This Week

Planning space missions is traditionally a time-consuming and costly process. But the new Australian National Concurrent Design Facility (ANCDF), housed at UNSW’s Canberra campus, speeds things up so a mission can be planned in weeks rather than months.

Harnessing the expertise, design processes and software of the French Space Agency CNES (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales), the UNSW team has created Australia’s first concurrent design facility.

The ANCDF allows engineers and scientists—both professionals and students—to design different parts of a mission in parallel rather than one after the other, which is the traditional approach. [continue reading…]

Wheat that’s good for guts

Australian science stories, Stories of Aus Sci, This Week

A new kind of wheat high in resistant starch can improve intestinal health

Bowel cancer is the world’s third most common cancer. A diet that includes more resistant starch, a kind of fibre that feeds good bacteria in the large intestine, can make it less common. Resistant starch helps improve gut health and reduces the risk of conditions such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer.

Since 2006, CSIRO scientists have been working in a joint venture with French company Limagrain Céréales Ingrédients and the Grains Research and Development Corporation to develop wheat with more resistant starch. [continue reading…]

A polariton filter turns ordinary laser light into quantum light

Macquarie University, Media releases

Nature Materials paper Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Artist’s impression of the polaritonic photon conversion platform. Laser photons enter through the top mirror and leave through the bottom mirror exhibiting quantum ‘granularity’ – after interacting with the semiconductor layer. Image: Andrew Wood

An international team of researchers led out of Macquarie University has demonstrated a new approach for converting ordinary laser light into genuine quantum light.

Their approach uses nanometre-thick films made of gallium arsenide, which is a semiconductor material widely used in solar cells. They sandwich the thin films between two mirrors to manipulate the incoming photons.

The photons interact with electron-hole pairs in the semiconductor, forming new chimeric particles called polaritons that carry properties from both the photons and the electron-hole pairs. The polaritons decay after a few picoseconds, and the photons they release exhibit distinct quantum signatures.

The teams’ research was published overnight in the journal Nature Materials.

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Trees remember heatwaves

Macquarie University, Media releases
Eucalyptus grandis

The flooded gum or rose gum (Eucalyptus grandis). Photo: Geoexplore

An Aussie eucalypt can ‘remember’ past exposure to extreme heat, which makes the tree and its offspring better able to cope with future heatwaves, according to new research from Macquarie University.

This finding could have important implications for restoring ecosystems and climate-proofing forestry, as the number of hot days and heatwaves increase due to climate change.

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The Milky Way is warped

Macquarie University, Media releases

A slightly exaggerated impression of the real shape of our warped and twisted Milky Way. Image: Xiaodian Chen (National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences)

The first accurate 3D map of our galaxy reveals its true shape: warped and twisted.

Background information and further images below.

Astronomers from Macquarie University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have used 1339 ‘standard’ stars to map the real shape of our home galaxy in a paper published in Nature Astronomy today.

They found the Milky Way’s disc of stars becomes increasingly ‘warped’ and twisted the further away the stars are from the galaxy’s centre.

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Cane toads: what they do in the shadows

Macquarie University, Media releases

A juvenile cane toad (Rhinella marina) in Emma Gorge, Western Australia. Photo: M.G. Swan

Cane toads are picking up some shady habits, according to a new study co-authored by a Macquarie University researcher.

Toads in Western Australia have been spotted awake and active during the day in deeply shaded habitats, despite the species usually being nocturnal in Australia and other parts of the world.

However nearby cane toad populations at more exposed sites remained only active at night.

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Promiscuous females and their role in evolution

Macquarie University, Media releases

A promiscuous female fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) marked with paint. Photo: The Wigby Lab

Males have to make less of an effort to mate with promiscuous female fruit flies, making the quality and quantity of their semen all the more important in the competition to fertilise the females’ eggs.

This also leads to male flies repeatedly mating with the same female, according to a paper published overnight in Nature Communications, by researchers from Macquarie University, the University of Oxford and the University of East Anglia, who looked into the eyes of thousands of fruit flies.

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The shape of a perfect storm: saving lives by predicting firestorms

Fresh Science, Media releases

Scientists available for interview – details and photos below.

Correction: an earlier version stated the tool is being formally trialed by the NSW Rural Fire SERVICE. It is currently in use, but formal trials ended in 2016.

A fully developed pyrocumulus cloud, formed from the smoke plume of the Grampians fire in February 2013. Credit: Randall Bacon

Firestorms are a nightmare for emergency services and anyone in their path. They occur when a bushfire meets a ‘perfect storm’ of environmental conditions and creates a thunderstorm.

Dr Rachel Badlan and Associate Professor Jason Sharples are part of a team of experts from UNSW Canberra and ACT Emergency Services that has found the shape of a fire is an important factor in whether it will turn into a firestorm.

Fires that form expansive areas of active flame, rather than spreading as a relatively thin fire-front, are more likely to produce higher smoke plumes and turn into firestorms, the researchers found.

This finding is being used to underpin further development of a predictive model for firestorms. The model was trialed in the 2015 and 2016 fire seasons by the ACT Emergency Services Agency and the NSW Rural Fire Service, and now forms part of the national dialogue around extreme bushfire development.  

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The quest for the missing proteins in rice

Macquarie University, Media releases

Rice (Oryza sativa) is the major food source for more than half the world’s population. Photo: Pille-Riin Priske/Unsplash CC

Researchers have identified over 5,700 new proteins in rice and are calling for a global effort to find the remaining missing proteins, in a new study co-authored by Macquarie University.

The international team of scientists from Australia, Iran and Japan say there’s an estimated 35,000 proteins encoded by the rice genome, and yet we still don’t have experimental evidence for 82 per cent of them.

This is important because rice is the major food source for more than half the world’s population, and in order for it to grow in warmer climates and with less water we will need to better understand rice at the molecular level. [continue reading…]

Have you seen a sawfish?

Media releases

From Sydney to Cairns to Darwin to Perth, we want to hear about your sightings – a live fish, a saw on the wall of your local pub, or a photo from your family album.

“Your sightings, no matter how long ago they happened, will help us work out how many sawfish there used to be, how many remain, and how we can help them recover,” says Dr Barbara Wueringer, a zoologist and the director of Sharks and Rays Australia (SARA).

A sawfish caught at Manly, Sydney in 1926.
Photo source: Queensland State Library.

Forty years ago, sawfish were regularly seen off Sydney and the east coast, and Perth and up the west coast. Today they’re rarely seen outside of the Gulf of Carpentaria, NT and the Kimberley.

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Media Release: Melbourne steps up to drive global health

Melbourne Global

Images, video overlay, two case studies (rotavirus vaccine and TB in adolescents) and backgrounder available.

Melbourne Children’s Global Health initiative to take action for the:

  • Two million children dying annually from pneumonia and diarrhoea
  • 8 million new child and youth cases of TB each year
  • Mental health and wellbeing of youth caught up in global unemployment, civic unrest, conflict, urbanisation and migration
  • Hospitals and health workers who want training and education to help them save their young patients.

Three of Australia’s child health leaders are joining forces to tackle global child health. Melbourne Children’s Global Health will build on the achievements of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI), the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) and the University of Melbourne. [continue reading…]

Backgrounder: What is Melbourne Children’s Global Health? What will we do?

Melbourne Global

Melbourne Children’s Global Health is an initiative to improve the health of children and adolescents in disadvantaged populations globally through partnerships in research, public health, education and advocacy.

The initiative has been created by Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, the University of Melbourne Department of Paediatrics, and the Royal Children’s Hospital under the auspices of the Melbourne Children’s Campus, and with the support of the Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation.

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Images: Melbourne Global

Melbourne Global

For hi-res versions please click on the photo and then right click to download the file.

The first baby in Indonesia to be vaccinated with the new vaccine. (Credit: Melbourne Children’s Campus)

The midwives and doctor at the Jatinom Primary Health Centre in Klaten District, Central Java, which is connected to the new rotavirus trial. (Credit: Melbourne Children’s Campus)

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Videos: Melbourne Global

Melbourne Global

High quality videos are available to download via Dropbox.

Click here to download videos.

 

 

Case Study: New rotavirus vaccine enters manufacturing

Melbourne Global

Bio Farma, Indonesia’s national vaccine company, is completing a phase 1 trial of a new rotavirus vaccine invented in Melbourne and has started pilot manufacture of the vaccine. Licencing trials are next, followed hopefully by release of the new vaccine in 2021.

The project is the culmination of a 42-year partnership between Melbourne and Gadjah Mada University which started after Ruth Bishop and colleagues found a virus, now known as rotavirus, in babies at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. They showed it was the cause of an acute gastroenteritis that was hospitalising 10,000 Australian children every year and killing more than half a million children worldwide. [continue reading…]

Case Study: TB in adolescents: Melbourne Children’s Global Health guides new WHO roadmap

Melbourne Global

In 2017, almost one million children fell ill and over 200,000 children under 15 died of tuberculosis, according to the latest WHO Roadmap. The report also identifies a previously underreported challenge, TB in adolescents.

University of Melbourne researcher Ms Kathryn Snow has estimated that about 1.8 million young people develop TB every year comprising [continue reading…]

Melbourne paediatrician wins 2018 CSL Florey Next Generation Award

CSL Florey Medal, Media releases

Oxygen halves child pneumonia deaths

A Melbourne student researcher and doctor has helped Nigerian hospitals halve the number of children dying from pneumonia—just by improving training and access to oxygen.

Dr Hamish Graham has been awarded with the inaugural $20,000 CSL Florey Next Generation Award for top PhD candidate in health and biomedical sciences. [continue reading…]

CSL Young Florey Medal – photos from the award night

CSL Florey Medal

The Hon Catherine King MP, Shadow Minister for Health and Medicare, presents winner Hamish Graham with the CSL Florey Next Generation Award (Photo credit: AAMRI/Bradley Cummings)

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