Eco-warrior worry, beefy cattle, rocks and Fresh Science alert

Media bulletins

Could it really happen—a secret geo-engineering project financed by a billionaire eco-warrior in frustration at the lack of government action on climate change? It is possible, but how likely? ABC’s Bluebird alternative reality project explores real issues in geo-engineering.

Getting fire-safety messages into the home, using bacteria to break down rocks,  cleaning up soil with ultrasound and the meat quality of beefier cattle were just some of the fascinating research projects about which I heard at the Cooperative Research Centres Association (CRCA) Conference in Alice Springs last week.

Next week, look out for discoveries in environmental science, astronomy, medicine, waste treatment, weed management, cosmetics and IT as up-and-coming researchers present their work at Fresh Science.

More on all of these below.

Kind regards,

Niall Byrne


Will eco-warrior billionaires hack the earth?

Beefier cattle, bushfire messages and breaking rocks with bacteria—young scientists present at the CRCA conference

Fresh Science begins on Monday 7 June

Will eco-warrior billionaires hack the earth?

Could our failure to act on climate change encourage an underground movement to take action and attempt to fix climate change through geo-engineering? It’s a real threat according to leading academics.

As climate provocateur, Bjorn Lomborg pointed out to Robyn Williams recently on the ABC’s Science Show, many geo-engineering possibilities are inexpensive enough to be within the reach of a billionaires like Bill Gates and Richard Branson —and Governments seem hamstrung about coming to agreement on any other action.

“The major challenge [with geo-engineering] is not technological, it is acceptability and governance,” Peter Cox of Exeter University, who helped prepare the Royal Society of London report on geo-engineering told Williams. “So, from my perspective, I can’t see anything happening unless it is done unilaterally and…it’s done secretly.”

All this makes the ABC’s Bluebird AR project topical. It’s an intriguing way to explore the ethics of climate action through the medium of an alternate reality drama/game that plays out this week.

Where do you sit? Join the debate. Become part of the action at Get involved in Bluebird AR. Firm up your views. Fence-sitting is not an option. If we do nothing about climate change, someone else may take things into their own hands.

Science commentator Tim Thwaites is available to talk on the science and issues of geo-engineering at (03) 9398 1416 or 0422 817 372. And Sam Doust, creative director of Bluebird AR, is available to discuss the ABC alternative reality program—contact Gemma Gray,  Marketing Coordinator, ABC Innovation T: 03 9626 1987 E:

And we have on offer an op-ed by Tim Thwaites, available at

For further information:  Niall Byrne, +61 (3) 9398-1416, or Carolyn MacDonald, Head Marketing, ABC Innovation on 03 9626 1982 or

Beefier cattle, bushfire messages and breaking rocks with bacteria—young scientists present at the CRCA conference

Eight early-career CRC scientists are keen to talk to the media about their work. They were invited to speak at the CRCA’s Pathfinders 2010 Challenge and Change Conference in Alice Springs last week where they also did a day’s media training.

Briony Towers, of the Bushfire CRC, found that children are good channels for getting fire-safety messages into homes. Contact her on 0400 543 336.

Carla Zammit, of the Parker CRC for Integrated Hydrometallurgy Solutions, has found salt-tolerant bacteria that can break down rocks. She suggests that these microorganisms could replace smelters and chemical plants in the extraction of heavy metals from ores in Western Australia. Contact Carla on 0434 894 040, or email or

Kandasamy Thangavadivel, of CRC for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment, has worked out how to use ultrasound to clean up finely textured soils contaminated with DDT. Contact Kandasamy on 0430 056 933.

Peter McGilchrist, of the CRC for Beef Genetic Technologies, reported to the conference that muscular beef cattle can more consistently deliver better meat. His work is likely to drive selective breeding programs. Contact him on 0419 986 056.

These are just some of the stories presented at the CRCA conference, Pathfinders 2010 Challenge and Change Conference, last week. See the media releases at

Media contacts: Laurelle Halford Ph 0417 222 211, email;

CRCA Media Ph 0419 250 815, email

Fresh Science begins on Monday 7 June

Look out next week for Fresh Science—research stories from 16 early-career scientists selected in a national competition.  They will be talking about their work to the media and high school students—and they have all made discoveries of note.

You’ll hear about silk chips, nano-cosmetics, the cancer secrets of lizards, using plastic for electrodes and for capturing carbon, making weeds tastier, a new use for pig effluent, measuring Antarctic sea ice, new shoulder implants, sizing up black holes, heat-resistant insulin, a new clock for computers, and treating waste with new micro organisms,

Stay tuned for more details as their stories are released.

Also, you can meet them at the pub on Monday evening 7 June, upstairs at the Duke of Kent, 293 La Trobe Street, Melbourne, from 7pm.

The 2010 Fresh Scientists are:

  • Peter Domachuk, School of Physics, University of Sydney
  • Naomi McSweeney, School of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Western Australia
  • Andrew Dowdy, Bureau of Meteorology
  • Julien Ridoux, Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, The University of Melbourne
  • Bridget Murphy, School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney
  • Dave Ackland, Department of Mechanical Engineering, The University of Melbourne
  • Colin Scholes, CRC for Greenhouse Gas Technologies
  • Bianca van Lierop, School of Chemistry, Monash University
  • Jason Du, CRC for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment
  • David Floyd, Anglo-Australian Observatory /The University of Melbourne
  • Nasrin Ghouchi Eskandar, Ian Wark Research Institute, University of South Australia
  • Rylie Green, Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering, University of New South Wales
  • Jennifer Firn, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems
  • Natalia Galin, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Science, University of Tasmania
  • Andrew Ward, South Australian Research and Development Institute
  • Jacek Jasieniak, CSIRO Molecular and Health Technologies.

The first batch of Fresh Science stories will be released on Tuesday 8 June. All stories are embargoed until release.

Call me for more information on Fresh Science, or go to

Kind regards,

Niall Byrne

Science in Public
26 Railway Street South, Altona Vic 3018

ph +61 (3) 9398 1416 or 0417 131 977

Full contact details at