Media releases

Sharp increase in Ningaloo whale shark injuries might be due to boat encounters

Scarring and major lacerations due to vessel collisions becoming more common, study finds.

The tail of a whale shark (Rhincodon typus), showing massive scarring. Image: Jess Hadden.

Almost one-fifth of the whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) in Western Australia’s Ningaloo Reef Marine Park show major scarring or fin amputations, with the number of injured animals increasing in recent years, new research reveals.

Distinctive scar patterns strongly suggest many of the injuries are caused by boat collisions, says whale shark scientist Emily Lester from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS).

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Canberra astronomer becomes first Australian to win major US science award in 133 years

Lisa Kewley has transformed our understanding of the early years of the Universe, the development of galaxies, and what happens when they collide.  

2020 James Craig Watson medal winner Professor Lisa Kewley in her office. Credit: ASTRO 3D

For her pioneering investigations across theory, modelling and observation, she will receive the US National Academy of Science’s biennial James Craig Watson Medal in Washington DC.

“At school I thought physics would be too hard.  But I had a wonderful physics teacher whose love for astronomy was contagious!” says Lisa.

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Whooping cough is fighting back.

Researchers discover how whooping cough is evolving paving the way to a new vaccine.

Laurence Luu, The University of New South Wales

Whooping cough strains are adapting to better infect humans, a team of Sydney researchers has found.

The scientists, led by microbiologist Dr Laurence Luu of the University of New South Wales, may have solved the mystery of why, despite widespread vaccinations, the respiratory disease has been resurgent in Australia across the past decade. There have been more than 200,000 cases recorded during the period.

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Stopping poaching by the numbers

Maths model helps rangers protect national parks, despite tight budgets.

Math could be used to prevent elephant poaching.
Image credit: Pixabay

Mathematics can help reduce poaching and illegal logging in national parks, researchers have found.

A team of applied mathematicians including Macquarie University’s David Arnold has developed an algorithm that predicts which areas inside park boundaries offer the greatest possibilities for criminals – and how rangers can most efficiently combat them.

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Hunting molecules that signal pain

Researchers close in on an objective measure for physical distress.

Pain self-assessments are naturally subjective. An independent pain measure will help treatment.
Image credit: Jim De Ramos

A new microscope-based method for detecting a particular molecule in the spinal cord could help lead to an accurate and independent universal pain scale, research from Australia’s Macquarie University suggests.

An accurate way of measuring pain is of critical importance because at present degrees of discomfort are generally assessed by asking a patient to estimate pain on a one-to-10 scale. The situation is even more acute in the treatment of babies, the very old and animals, where speech is absent.

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Device makes electric vehicle charging a two-way street

New tech means cars can power houses, as well as the other way round.

A new device turns electric vehicles into chargers for houses and stranded cars.

Researchers led by Seyedfoad Taghizadeh from Australia’s Macquarie University are looking to commercialise the technology, which may significantly increase the appeal of the vehicles.

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Better emergency responses by removing social bots

Image credit: Mehwish Nasim

Filtering out social bots can help critical response teams see what’s happening in real time

Mehwish Nasim, University of Adelaide

Researchers have created an algorithm that distinguishes between misinformation and genuine conversations on Twitter, by detecting messages churned out by social bots.

Dr Mehwish Nasim and colleagues at the School of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Adelaide say the algorithm will make it easier for emergency services to detect major events such as civil unrest, natural disasters, and influenza epidemics in real time.

“When something really big is going on, people tweet a huge amount of useful information,” says Mehwish.

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Family matters in autism outcomes

Lauren Lawson, La Trobe Univcersity

Cognition is influenced by siblings, researchers find.

Autistic children with autistic siblings have better cognition than those who are the only family member with the condition, researchers have found.

Importantly, the outcome does not depend on birth order.

Although previous studies have identified that having autistic siblings leads to better cognition for individual children with the condition, it was assumed that the order in which the children were born was a significant factor.

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Hire more LGBTQ and disabled astronomers or risk falling behind, review finds

Analysis finds gender equity among star scientists improving, but big challenges remain.

Professor Lisa Kewley, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence in All Sky Astrophysics (ASTRO 3D), in front of Australia’s Reynolds telescope, which dates from 1927.
Credit: ASTRO 3D

Ensuring research opportunities for indigenous, disabled and LGBTQ astronomers is essential if Australian research is to succeed in the new era of “mega-telescopes”, a major analysis has found.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Astronomy, Professor Lisa Kewley, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence in All Sky Astrophysics (ASTRO 3D), finds that encouraging astronomers from marginalised communities will increase the chances of significant research discoveries.

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Researchers use sound to deliver drugs

A technique adapted from telecommunications promises more effective cancer treatments.

Dr Shwathy Ramesan from RMIT

Drugs can be delivered into individual cells by using soundwaves, Melbourne researchers have discovered.

Adapting a technique used in the telecommunications industry for decades, Dr Shwathy Ramesan from RMIT, and colleagues, used the mechanical force of sound to push against cell walls and deliver drugs more effectively than treatments currently in use.

The new technique aids in silencing genes responsible for some diseases, including cancer, by switching them on or off.

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