Copenhagen forest fund, Australia Day stories, and Cairo in 2011

Media bulletins

It’s Australia Day tomorrow, 26 January. So here are a few recent Australian science stories to catch your attention, along with a story on the potential failure of the Copenhagen forest fund, and the dates – just announced – for the 7th World Conference of Science Journalists in Cairo next year.

The stories include:

Throughout this year I’ll write occasionally with Australian science news alerts and other news on science reporting. If you’re looking for any other science stories or science contacts from Australia please give me a call or drop me an email. If you don’t want to receive these emails please let me know.

Kind regards,

Niall Byrne

+61 (417) 131 977

Will the $3.5 billion Copenhagen forest fund work?

One of the few tangible outcomes of Copenhagen was a $US 3.5 billion fund to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere by preventing the unfettered destruction of tropical forests.

Will it work?

A report released at Chatham House in London last Friday suggests there are real risks that unclear land rights in some countries, coupled with threats from corruption, could block success.

The authors of The End of the Hinterland: Forests, Conflict and Climate Change cite numerous studies suggesting that in 2010 the potential for enormous profits will lead to increased competition over forest resources between powerful global governments and investors on the one hand, and local actors on the other, resulting in new and resurging violent conflict.

Australian/PNG scientist Phil Shearman is one of the authors. He’s written an assessment of what’s happening in Liberia – using archival aerial images (similar to his previous PNG study).

He and his colleagues are available in London for interview. The report isn’t all bad news. The authors welcome land reforms in China and Brazil.

The media release with contact details and all the supporting documents are online here.

Science journalists’ conference in Egypt in 2011

The 7th World Conference of Science Journalists will be held in Cairo, Egypt, from 27 to 29 June, 2011 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel.

“We invite you to Cairo to debate, influence, share experience and excellence, develop skills, network, and enjoy all that Cairo has to offer,” says conference co-director Nadia El-Awady.

Highlights of the conference will include:

  • Skill-building workshops in investigative journalism, multimedia reporting, social media networking, narrative storytelling, evidence-based reporting, journalism ethics, and freelancing.
  • A science track that illuminates the latest science and how to cover it, with topics including pandemics, climate change, malaria eradication, the science and politics of vaccines, water shortages, sustainable agriculture, and the interface between science and religion.
  • Field trips including Whale Valley in the Western Desert to study evolution; along the Nile to look at environmental problems in rivers; and to Qatar’s Science & Technology Park.

Egypt contains more than one-third of the world’s antiquities and boasts some of the world’s most popular sea resorts and its most well-preserved coral reefs. The country’s geography ranges from Sahara desert to the lush Nile valley and delta, to desert oases and the mountains of prophets in Sinai.

For more information contact:

Nadia El-Awady, Egypt Country Director, International Center for Journalists; President, World Federation of Science Journalists; Co-Director, 7th World Conference of Science Journalists Cairo, Egypt;,

How astronomy freed the computer from its chains

When you use a Wi-Fi network—at home, in the office or at the airport—you are using patented technology born of Australian astronomy.

Australia’s CSIRO created a technology that made the wireless LAN fast and robust. And their solution grew out of 50 years of radio astronomy and one man’s efforts to hear the faint radio whispers of exploding black holes.

Dr John O’Sullivan and his colleagues didn’t find the black holes. But they developed a way of cleaning up intergalactic radio wave distortion which became the key to fast, reliable Wi-Fi.

Details and photos here

From plastic money to plastic electricity

Tomorrow’s solar panels could bear an uncanny likeness to Australia’s polymer banknotes.

In fact, the first prototypes of a new kind of solar panel are being printed on the same printing presses that print Australia’s money.

The research team are confident that within five years these plastic solar panels will start appearing on windows, shade clothes and roofs across Australia.

Details and photos here

Mites hitch lift in birds’ beaks

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.

During winter, eastern spinebills are particularly dependent on nectar from the mountain correa, a shrub which flowers over several months. During this time, a single bush may display hundreds of flowers at different stages of development.

Details and photos here

Kangaroo bacteria fight cancer

Australia’s iconic kangaroo may hold the secret for the war on cancer.

Assoc. Prof. Ming Wei from the Griffith Institute of Health and Medical Research is using commensal bacteria found in kangaroos to develop anti-cancer agents that are expected to be effective in combating solid tumours, which account for up to 90 per cent of cancers.

Details and photos here

These stories are just a few of the collection we’ve put together online in Stories of Australian Science 2010. Some of the other 50 stories are:

Our recent publication Stories of Australia Science provides a snapshot of the diversity of Australian research. There are more than a few intriguing yarns inside, including: