Oversized black holes, outback astronomy, and koalas and crocodiles teaching us about sex

Bulletins, Media bulletins

Today to Wednesday evening

This year’s Eureka Prize finalists are available for interview.

They’re teaching Northern Territory quolls not to eat cane toads, have invented a system to store solar power throughout the night, and they’ve presented the first science event for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. More below.

And Wednesday night

The 2015 Eureka Prize winners will be announced at a grand dinner at Sydney Town Hall. The top science photograph for 2015 will also be revealed.

The 16 winners will not know that they’ve won until the envelope is opened at the dinner. But they will be available for interview after they have been announced. If you’d like to speak to them, contact me on  niall@scienceinpublic.com.au or Errol on errol@scienceinpublic.com.au. More below.

Also on until Wednesday

How do you get sperm from a saltwater crocodile? What can we learn about male infertility and ovarian cancer from hairy-nosed wombats, koalas, and egg-laying mammals? What triggers preterm birth, and is BPA making kids fat?

We’ve collected the media highlights of a reproduction conference that kicked off in Adelaide on Sunday. It’s running until Wednesday.

Leading endocrine and reproduction experts will be sharing their work at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Endocrine Society of Australia and the Society for Reproductive Biology (http://esa-srb.org.au). More below.

Kind regards,


Salt batteries, oversized black holes, outback astronomy: the best in Australian science discovered on Wednesday night

2015 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes Award Dinner at Sydney Town Hall

At the end of July, 49 finalists, from every state, were announced for 16 Eureka Prizes worth a total of $160,000.

On Wednesday night we’ll find out who will take home a coveted Eureka Prize.

The 2015 Eureka Prize finalists have invented:

  • low-temperature, low-pressure hydrogen storage that can power a motorised bicycle over 120km on a single, small canister, producing only water as a by-product (Sydney)
  • a salt-solution energy-storage system that efficiently stores solar power through the night hours, solving the mismatch between solar power generation and electricity demand (Adelaide)
  • ‘carpentry’-type techniques to switch off key molecular weapons of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, transforming them into harmless bacteria (Canberra and Melbourne)

They have discovered:

  • a bizarre dwarf galaxy that harbours a supermassive black hole more than a thousand times ‘too large’ (Sydney)
  • how to teach Northern Territory quolls not to eat toxic cane toads: feed them smaller, less-toxic toads that make the quoll sick, but aren’t fatal (Sydney)
  • the secret to viewing processes within a patient’s living tissues: nanocrystals with precise, in-built timers that may allow real-time disease diagnosis and the ability to watch drugs interact with living cells in real time (Sydney and Adelaide)

And they have:

  • taught astronomy in remote WA schools to students of the Wajarri Yamatji, the traditional owners of the land on which the Murchison radio-astronomy observatory sits, and presented the first science event for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (Sydney)
  • engaged wine growers, foresters and farmers from Cape York to Canberra in on-the-farm research to see the effects of climate change on crop growth and quality (Melbourne)
  • combined microbiology, machine learning, and a visualisation method developed to map Napoleon’s military campaigns to identify new insulin activation mechanisms (Sydney)

View information about all 49 finalists at australianmuseum.net.au/2015-finalists-eureka, including video footage of each entry.

The 16 winners will become available for interview as the prizes are announced – from about 7.30 pm to 10 pm AEST Wednesday 26 August – get in touch if there are any finalists or winners you’d like to talk to.

You can also follow along on Twitter @EurekaPrizes and #Eureka15 where the winners will be announced the moment their names are read out on stage.

The Eureka Prizes are Australia’s most comprehensive national science awards, honouring excellence in Research and Innovation, Leadership, Science Communication and Journalism, and School Science. This year, new prizes recognise excellence in rural research and international collaboration.

Also revealed on Wednesday: top science photograph for 2015

Three images are finalists for New Scientist Eureka Prize for Science Photography and are available for publication.

Seven more photographs were highly commended by judges, and all 10 images are online at australianmuseum.net.au/2015-new-scientist-eureka-prize-for-science-photography  and are available for publication. Contact us for high-resolution versions.

Here’s one of the finalists:
Saltwater Crocodile, Justin Gilligan 

Exploring the coral reefs of Kimbe Bay in Papua New Guinea is like being caught in a literal time warp, where the hours pass by like fleeting moments. For Justin Gilligan, this juvenile saltwater crocodile presented the perfect opportunity for a close encounter on a glistening natural stage. When taking this stunning image, Justin focused on the raised eyes and nostrils and the camouflaged skin – all adaptions this crocodile needs to live a life both above and below the water’s surface.

The winners of all 16 prizes will be announced in the presence of over 650 science, government, culture and media leaders at the Eureka Prizes Award Dinner at Sydney Town Hall on Wednesday night.

Reproduction research Down Under: koalas and crocodiles, rather than the birds and the bees, to teach us about sex

How do you get sperm from a saltwater crocodile? What can we learn about male infertility and ovarian cancer from hairy-nosed wombats, koalas, and egg-laying mammals?

At the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Endocrine Society of Australia and the Society for Reproductive Biology in Melbourne, held Sunday 23 to Wednesday 26 August, researchers will discuss:

  • What makes us male? Duke University Medical Centre visiting researcher Professor Blanche Capel, on the pathways that lead a foetus toward male or female development
  • Male infertility: can the right nutrients improve it?

And does infertility predict the future of a male’s health?

  • Oestrogen – hero and villain: the role of the hormone in both causing and preventing breast cancer
  • Preterm birth: Director of the Robinson Institute at the University of Adelaide Sarah Robertson and others present the latest understanding in what triggers preterm birth, and how to prevent it
  • BPA: should you avoid exposure during pregnancy?

And is there evidence it’s making your kids fat?

  • Obesity through the generations: can we improve the health of future generations by addressing obesity in fathers-to-be?
  • Cleaning chlamydia from koala semen, and trials of a vaccine treatment for the disease
  • Ovarian cancer: investigating over-expressed genes in monotreme malignancies may provide insights for humans
  • Bringing reproductive biology out of the burrow for South Australia’s state animal, the southern hairy-nosed wombat

We’re not doing the media for the conference, but you can get in touch with Rebecca Robker, one of the SRB Program Co-Chairs and Associate Professor at the University of Adelaide, on rebecca.robker@adelaide.edu.au.

More about Science in Public

We’re always happy to help put you in contact with scientists. Our work is funded by the science world – from the Prime Minister’s Science Prizes to Nature. We’re keen to suggest interesting people and stories – and not just those of our clients’.

If you’re looking for ideas or people for features we know hundreds of science prize winners past, present, and future and are always happy to chew the fat about the developing themes in Australian science.

Feel free to pass these stories along to colleagues. And between bulletins, you can follow me on Twitter (@scienceinpublic) for more science news and story tips.