Media releases

Star-quake vibrations lead to new estimate for Milky Way age

Data gathered by NASA’s now defunct Kepler telescope provides a solution to an astronomical mystery.

An artist impression of the Milky Way, showing the thick and thin discs.
Credit: NASA/JPL Caltech/R.Hurt/SSC

Star-quakes recorded by NASA’s Kepler space telescope have helped answer a long-standing question about the age of the “thick disc” of the Milky Way.

In a paper published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, a team of 38 scientists led by researchers from Australia’s ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in Three Dimensions (ASTRO-3D) use data from the now-defunct probe to calculate that the disc is about 10 billion years old.

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Faecal pellets and food remains reveal what ghost bats eat in the Pilbara

Alba Arteaga Claramunt, University of Western Australia.
Photos of 2019 Science in Public Event at the Brisbane Hotel in Perth. Photos Ross Swanborough.

UWA, Curtin university and Perth zoo researchers have discovered that Australian endangered ghost bats in the Pilbara (WA) eat over 46 different species.

Its diet is very diverse ranging from small mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians.

Researchers used a new approach by combining two methodologies: DNA analysis of faecal pellets and classification of dried food remains.

They receive their name due to their pale grey colour and “ghostly” appearance. They are top-level predators and very important for the ecosystem.

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Citizen scientists deserve more credit, researchers argue

Academic journal rules are penalising citizen scientists and indigenous knowledge, say US and Australian scientists.

Listing indigenous citizen scientists as co-authors on a cane toad paper proved challenging.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Citizen scientists should be included as authors on journal papers, researchers say.

In a paper published in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, a team led by biologist Dr Georgia Ward-Fear from Macquarie University in Australia and Dr Greg Pauly from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles argues that newfound respect for indigenous knowledge and changes in technology mean that non-professionals are taking greater roles in science work.

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When reefs decline, parrotfish thrive

Researchers find familiar species pave the way for coral regrowth

Parrotfish numbers rise as reef quality decreases.
Credit: Kendall Clements

In contrast to most other species, reef-dwelling parrotfish populations boom in the wake of severe coral bleaching.

The surprise finding came when researchers led by Perth-based Dr Brett Taylor of the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) looked at fish populations in severely bleached areas of two reefs – the Great Barrier Reef in the western Pacific and the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean.

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‘Magic crystals’ to enable our electric car future

Australian invention promises massive boost to lithium production

CSIRO and Monash University’s Matthew Hill received the Solomon Award for developing ‘magic crystals’ with dozens of applications from cleaning gases and liquids to mining and drug production.


Cheaper cleaner lithium mining for future cars and batteries is the newest application. It’s being developed with US company Energy Exploration Technologies (EnergyX).

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When cells forget how to die – a hallmark of cancer

Andreas Strasser and David Vaux win $50,000 CSL Florey Medal for Lifetime Achievement for identifying cell death triggers and using them to fight cancer.

  • Past CSL Florey Medallists include Graeme Clark, Ian Frazer, and Nobel Laureates Barry Marshall and Robin Warren.
Professor Andreas Strasser with Professor David Vaux. Image credit: Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

In the late 1980s to early 1990s, two Melbourne scientists, Andreas Strasser and David Vaux, discovered the molecular processes that cause billions of cells in each of us to die every day. They showed that some cancer’s cells can evade this process of programmed cell death and ‘fail to die’. So far, their findings have led to powerful new treatments for leukaemia and opened a new field of research which generates 25,000 papers every year. And, they say, there is still much to learn.

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Spin doctors: Astrophysicists find when galaxies rotate, size matters

Sky survey provides clues to how they change over time.

A simulation showing a section of the Universe at its broadest scale. A web of cosmic filaments forms a lattice of matter, enclosing vast voids. Credit: Tiamat simulation, Greg Poole

The direction in which a galaxy spins depends on its mass, researchers have found.

A team of astrophysicists analysed 1418 galaxies and found that small ones are likely to spin on a different axis to large ones. The rotation was measured in relation to each galaxy’s closest “cosmic filament” – the largest structures in the universe.

Filaments are massive thread-like formations, comprising huge amounts of matter – including galaxies, gas and, modelling implies, dark matter. They can be 500 million light years long but just 20 million light years wide. At their largest scale, the filaments divide the universe into a vast gravitationally linked lattice interspersed with enormous dark matter voids.

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2019 Metcalf Prizes for Stem Cell Research

Permanent hearts and changing breasts spur stem cell research

Winners of the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia’s Metcalf Prizes announced today

Monday 4 November 2019

Scientists available for interviews

Breast epithelial cells in culture, viewed through a microscope
Credit: Dr Teneale Stewart/Davis Lab, Mater Research Institute, UQ

The stubborn endurance of heart cells and remarkable plasticity of breasts have won two Queensland researchers $50,000 each in the annual Metcalf Prizes, awarded by the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia.

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Underwater grandmothers reveal big population of lethal sea snakes

A novel citizen science project in New Caledonia finds an ‘astonishing’ number of venomous reptiles in a popular swimming spot.

Fantastic grandmother Monique Mazière photographing sea snake number 79, nicknamed Déborah. Credit: Claire Goiran/UNC

A group of snorkelling grandmothers is helping scientists better understand marine ecology by photographing venomous sea snakes in waters off the city of Noumea, New Caledonia.

Two years ago the seven women, all in their 60s and 70s, who call themselves “the fantastic grandmothers”, offered to help scientists Dr Claire Goiran from the University of New Caledonia and Professor Rick Shine from Australia’s Macquarie University in their quest to document the sea snake population in a popular swimming spot known as Baie des citrons.

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Lonesome no more: white sharks hang with buddies

Apex marine predators choose who they hang with, researchers reveal.

A white shark (Carcharodon Carcharias). Credit: Wikimedia Commons

White sharks form communities, researchers have revealed.

Although normally solitary predators, white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) gather in large numbers at certain times of year in order to feast on baby seals.

These groupings, scientists had assumed, were essentially random – the result of individual sharks all happening to turn up in the same area, attracted by abundant food.

Now, however, a group of researchers including behavioural ecologist Stephan Leu from Macquarie University in New South Wales, Australia, have used photo-identification and network analysis to show that many of the apex predators hang out in groups which persist for years.

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