Ecology and Marine Science

Beatrix Potter, pioneering scientist; using whales and fish to trace emerging viruses; travelling back in time; and uniting women in earth and environmental sciences

Female scientists have played a critical role in many scientific discoveries throughout history, but their contributions have often been overlooked.

Ahead of International Women’s Day this Thursday, Macquarie University scientists are celebrating the work of forgotten women of science through history; explaining how their work today is changing the world; and making the case for why women in earth and environmental sciences need to stand together.

  • Lesley Hughes researches the impacts of climate change on species and ecosystems. Now she’s celebrating the work of Beatrix Potter and other pioneering but forgotten women of science, through the exhibition Hidden Figures of STEMM.
  • Evolutionary biologist Jemma Geoghegan is using whales and fish to better understand how new viruses emerge.
  • Kira Westaway uses glowing grains of sand to travel back in time. Her work has transformed our understanding of human evolution.
  • Volcanologist Heather Handley’s research into volcanoes in the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’ is improving our understanding of volcanic hazards. She’s also the co-founder and chair of new network Women in Earth and Environmental Sciences Australasia (WOMESSA).

More on each of these stories  below.

[continue reading…]

Reinventing the laser

Caring for Country in Arnhem Land
Macquarie University Eureka Prize winners

Macquarie University congratulates its winners in the 2017 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes and the winner of the Macquarie University Eureka Prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher.

High-power diamond lasers invented at Macquarie University

High-power lasers have many potential applications: from medical imaging to manufacturing, shooting down drones or space junk, or powering deep space probes. But current laser technologies overheat at high power.

Rich Mildren and his team have developed a technique to make diamond lasers that, in theory, have extraordinary power range. Five years ago, their lasers were just a few watts in power. Now they’ve reached 400 watts, close to the limit for comparable conventional lasers.

Rich Mildren won the Defence Science and Technology Eureka Prize for Outstanding Science in Safeguarding Australia.

[continue reading…]

Indigenous and Western science caring for country in Arnhem Land

A unique collaboration between scientists and Aboriginal people in remote south-eastern Arnhem Land is building knowledge about country and how local people can better manage it.

In the last nine years the Ngukurr Wi Stadi bla Kantri (We Study the Country) Research Team has discovered species new to science, found new populations of threatened species, preserved culturally-significant wetlands, and documented the community’s plants and animals in eight local languages.

Led by ecologist Dr Emilie Ens from Macquarie University and Ngandi Elder Cherry Wulumirr Daniels, this citizen science research is also working with the Yugul Mangi Rangers to better manage the new threats facing their country—like feral animals, weeds, climate change and altered fire regimes.

The project is blending ecological methods with traditional knowledge and ways of seeing country. “Our ancestors were rangers. We were rangers for 40,000 years and are rangers today,” Cherry says. “It’s a responsibility for us to look after those things.”

“We are not doing it for ourselves. We are doing this for our country and for our people and for the sake of our culture, keeping our culture alive and strong.”

[continue reading…]