Measuring climate on ice, chemistry, pesticides, global health and more

Fresh Science, Media bulletins

A young Tasmanian electrical engineer, Natalia Galin, has turned US technology into a robust helicopter-borne radar system that can accurately measure the thickness of snow on polar sea ice.

She is the first of the 2010 Fresh Science winners. Her story is below.

We will announce three more Fresh Science stories tomorrow with a press conference at 10.30 am at Melbourne Museum, Activity Room B. They will be:

  • improving bushfire weather prediction – Andrew Dowdy from the Bureau of Meteorology
  • silk microchips – Peter Domachuk from The University of Sydney
  • what black holes eat for breakfast –David Floyd from The University of Melbourne.

Other dates for your diary:

You’ll see another six Fresh Science stories this week, keep an eye out on for details and images.

Look out for a lively discussion of chemistry and pesticides in July when ‘Chemistry for a Sustainable World’ is the focus of two major conferences that will be held together from Sunday 4 July to Thursday 8 July 2010 at the Melbourne Convention Centre – the Royal Australian Chemical Institute’s National Convention, RACI 2010 and the 12th IUPAC International Congress of Pesticide Chemistry. We’ll be helping with media.

And at the end of August look out for a large UN conference in Melbourne to discuss global health – the 63rd UN Department of Public Information NGO conference makes its third trip away from New York. We’re also helping with this one.

The Medical Writers are exploring the changing face of media this month. The Internet, digital technology and the rise of social networking have changed consumer demand and work opportunities for journalists forever. Join the Victoria branch of AMWA for a discussion on what the media world is today and what it may be tomorrow. Details below.

Join us Monday night for Fresh Science at the Duke (the Duke of Kent in La Trobe Street, Monday 7 June). Chris Krishna-Pillay will put this year’s 16 Fresh Scientists through their paces with sparklers, haikus and limericks – details below

Kind regards,


Creative Director, Science in Public

0417 131 977

Hobart engineer measures the climate on ice

Young Tasmanian electrical engineer Natalia Galin has turned US technology into a robust helicopter-borne radar system that can accurately measure the thickness of snow on polar sea ice.

Her work will improve NASA’s satellite measurements of what’s happening to the Antarctic sea ice, and will contribute to more accurate climate models. It will be presented for the first time in public this week at Fresh Science – a national science talent search – at the Melbourne Museum. Natalia is one of 16 winners from across Australia.

High resolution photos of Natalia working in Antarctica are available.

When the world’s climate scientists measure the thickness of snow on polar sea ice in future using satellite radar, the accuracy of their results is likely to depend on Natalia Galin’s work at the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Science where she is now completing a science PhD.

The measurement is one of the keys to understanding just how our climate is changing. And Natalia Galin has been working hard at modifying, programming and operating specialised radar equipment in a helicopter off Antarctica to provide accurate readings of snow thickness which will be used to calibrate satellite remote sensing. And she will be revealing her results for the first time at Fresh Science.

“Thickness estimates are considered the Holy Grail of the sea ice world. We can only measure directly how much of the ice is floating. And if we get that measurement wrong, we multiply the error of the estimating the thickness of what’s below the water by 8 to 9 times.”

That’s important because polar regions play a key role in the Earth’s climate system. In winter, when the air temperature can be -50 °C, the sea water under the ice is at about -1.8 °C—and the ice acts as insulation preventing the sea water from losing heat. And the heat of that sea water ultimately drives global currents and climate systems.

There is strong evidence that there has been massive sea ice loss in the Arctic, Galin says, but at present we are lacking similar information about what is happening in the Antarctic. In particular, the thickness and variability of Antarctic sea ice and snow cover are poorly understood.

Radar is a particularly attractive way of making the measurements as it not only penetrates snow and ice, but the reflected signal also provides information about internal structure. In the Arctic, satellite readings can be checked against those taken from submarines travelling under the polar ice cap, but Antarctica is a neutral, weapon-free zone, meaning no submarine data.

So, in a collaboration with the University of Kansas, Natalia has taken radar designed there, and used by NASA in fixed wing aircraft—and has modified it for operation in helicopters. It has taken her two years to develop a system robust enough to function accurately in such an unstable environment. She has now checked her helicopter radar estimates against physical measurements of the snow depth taken from sleds on the ice floes.

Natalia Galin is one of 16 early-career scientists presenting their research to the public for the first time thanks to Fresh Science, a national program sponsored by the Australian Government. Her challenges will include presenting her discoveries at a Melbourne pub in haiku or limerick.

  • For interviews contact Natalia Galin on 0423 275-481
  • For Fresh Science contact: Sarah Brooker on 0413 332-489 and Niall Byrne on 0417 131-977 or
  • Print quality photos of Natalia on the Antarctic ice visit At the bottom of the release are downloadable photos.

The Future of Journalism

The Internet, digital technology and the rise of social networking have changed consumer demand and work opportunities for journalists forever. Join the Victoria branch of AMWA for a discussion on what the media world is today and what it may be tomorrow.

Guest speaker: Louise Connor, Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance, Branch Secretary Victoria

When:        Tuesday 22 June @ 6.30 pm

Where:       The Clare Cafe Bar Bistro (formerly The Clare Castle Hotel)

421 Rathdowne St, Carlton

Cost:            Free for AMWA members, $10 for non-members

Drinks and meals at pub prices

RSVP for numbers to L.E. Ohman or Jacinta Miller

The Future of Journalism

At a time of massive restructure of our industry and the introduction of new technologies, new consumer demands and changed work opportunities for journalists we all need to consider what the media world is today and what it may be tomorrow. We also need to consider the impact on our communities and our profession. What will the role of a journalist be in 10 or 20 years? MEAA Branch Secretary Louise Connor will discuss the Alliance’s Life in the Clickstream: Future of Journalism project and how journalists can find a way to flourish in this challenging new environment.

For background:

Fresh Science at the Duke of Kent

Monday 7 June 7pm

Fresh Science is a national competition that identifies new and interesting research being done by early-career scientists around the country, trains the scientists, and releases their stories to the media.

Sixteen scientists – chosen from over 130 nominations – will be media trained on Monday before talking at the pub, over dinner, and to schools at the Museum and at country schools. Their stories will appear in media around the world.

Join us for a drink and meet this year’s Fresh Scientists this Monday, 7 June.

Where:                 Upstairs at the Duke of Kent, 293 La Trobe Street, Melbourne

(Between Queen & Elizabeth St)

Cost:                      The science is free, all meals and drinks at bar price

RSVP:                   AJ Epstein,, (03) 9398 1416

The Fresh Scientists this year 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

Look out for their stories in the media in the coming weeks and at