Science prize announcements; memory test for dementia; insulin without needles and more…

Media bulletins, Oz Research of Note

This week I’ve got a couple of media alerts and some stories you may have missed from last week – things that we saw and liked. This week it includes: insulin without needles; a memory test for dementia risk; vitamin B reduces work stress and more.

Next Monday we will announce the $50,000 CSL Florey Medal. Previous winners include Ian Frazer and Nobel Laureates Barry Marshall and Robin Warren.

We’ll be releasing information on embargo later in the week, if you’d like to receive a heads-up, give me a call on 0417 131 977.

The winner of the $50,000 Victoria Prize will be announced from 10:15am tomorrow morning at Queen’s Hall, Parliament house. A further $100,000 Anne & Eric Smorgon Memorial Award will be presented to a research institute supporting the work of the Victoria Prize winner.

And six $18,000 Victorian Fellowships will also be announced. The fellowships are awarded to early-career researchers to undertake short-term study missions to facilitate their career development and enable them to develop a commercial idea or undertake specialist training. We’re not involved in this one so for media enquiries call Penny Underwood on 03 9818 8540.

Also Australian science discoveries you may have missed from the past week.

Oz research of note, 13 November, 2011

Scientists are a step closer to finding out how earthquakes happen

Researchers in Australia, Italy and Germany have used simple, innovative laboratory models to examine the forces behind the movement of plates in the Earth’s thick outer shell.

Dr Giampiero Iaffaldano, Research School of Earth Sciences, ANU

Insulin without needles

A team of researchers in Perth have found a substitute for insulin to help treat diabetes orally. After looked at millions of compounds on pharmaceutical databases to try to emulate the molecular map of insulin, they found one and are developing it to ‘take the needle out of diabetes’.

Prof Erik Helmerhorst, Curtin University

Test to predict dementia risk

Researchers have developed a memory stress test that can be used to predict those at risk of developing dementia. It is based on the finding that the brain’s response to increasing mental stress can predict a future decline in everyday functioning.

Prof Michael Breakspear, Coordinator, Mental Health and Complex Disorders, Queensland Institute of Medical Research

Vitamin B reduces work stress

Increasing your Vitamin B intake could significantly reduce work-related stress, a Melbourne clinical trial has shown. At the beginning of the trial the researchers assessed 60 participants against factors such as personality, work demands, mood, anxiety and strain, and then re-evaluated them at 30 and 90 days.

Prof Con Stough, Swinburne University of Technology
Human Psychopharmacology,  

World’s rarest marsupial clambering back

A recent translocation of 12 Gilbert’s potoroos (Potorous gilbertii) is helping save a species once thought to be extinct and revealing some surprise findings. The Gilbert’s potoroo is a critically endangered Australian native animal and the world’s rarest marsupial—existing only in pockets of WA’s south coast.

Dr Tony Friend, principal research scientist, WA Department of Environment and Conservation

The rules of social interaction

Sydney researchers have investigated the rules underlying how big groups of animals move in a coordinated fashion. They found that each fish in a shoal uses very simple rules to respond to its neighbours.

Mr James Herbert-Read, Dr Tim Schaerf and A/Prof Ashley Ward, School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,

Coral reefs can increase and decrease seawater acidity

Two papers recently published provide the first look at how the ocean acidification threat to coral reefs varies with reef type.

Dr Ken Anthony, Research Team Leader – Climate Change and Ocean Acidification, AIMS
Global Change Biology,

Auditing the Earth’s sea-level and energy budgets

Scientists have accounted for all the contributions to global sea-level rise in a study that balances the sea-level rise ‘budget’ and explains the observed rise over recent decades. The researchers also reviewed the related Earth’s energy budget – confirming that 90% of the energy stored in the climate system resides in the ocean and this warming drives one component of sea-level rise.

Dr John Church, Dr Neil White, Wealth from Oceans Flagship, CSIRO
Geophysical Research Letters,

Corals thriving in muddy waters

Kimberley coral reefs are thriving in turbid inter-tidal conditions and defying conventional scientific understandings that corals need clear oceanic waters to survive.

Dr Barry Wilson, marine biologist
Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia,

Shark Bay stromatolites at risk from climate change

Climate change resulting in more frequent flooding of the Wooramel River that leads into Shark Bay is threatening the unique ‘living rock fossils’ that make Shark Bay a World Heritage site. These stromatolites – rocky structures formed over millennia by blue-green algae or cyanobacteria in which a new kind of chlorophyll has been found – thrive in Shark Bay’s Hamelin Pool, where an unusual undersea landscape has created an environment twice as saline as normal seawater.

Emeritus Prof Diana Walker, Oceans Institute, UWA