Inspiring Australia: Is that angry bird a native, farming in the desert, whale spotters wanted, something is fishy about this and more

Inspiring Australia

Some of 63 Unlocking Australia’s Potential science communication grants totalling $5 million announced today by the Minister for Science and Research, Senator Chris Evans.

For the official announcement from the Minister; State by State releases; and a full list of grant recipients; go online to

Highlights among the 63 awarded projects include:

Is that angry bird a native species?

Your smartphone will soon be able to help you to identify Australia’s native species, thanks to a series of apps to be developed by Museum Victoria.

The museum has received a $390,000 Unlocking Australia’s Potential grant to create a range of state and territory specific Field Guides of Australian Fauna apps. They will be free, and work on Apple and Android devices.

“Citizen scientists can only contribute to a better understanding of our rich biodiversity if they can identify what they see,” a spokesperson says.

“The apps will be used to assist with identification of animals seen locally or whilst travelling, and to learn more about the animals observed in the natural world.”

The apps will download information to the phone, ensuring a persistent internet connection is not required to use it.

“A bushwalker in a national park may find that the phone signal is not strong enough, yet they can use an app without difficulty.”

Media contact: Emily Wrigglesworth / Lynnette Foo – /, 0478 305 884 / 0403 296 647

Farming in the desert

An Alice Springs indigenous group hopes to start farming in the desert, using harvestable versions of plants used for thousands of years in ceremonies and bush medicine.

Their first target is Emu Bush – and work will soon get underway to identify optimal propagation and pest control techniques as well as “methods for maintaining hedges suitable for harvesting”.

The project is a partnership involving the non-profit group Akeyulerre Cultural Healing Centre and the Arid Zone Research Institute, and indigenous youth will be involved in the horticulture work.

“There is currently little information with regards to the large-scale production of many plants from this region,” project spokesperson Sam Hussey says.

“Although harvesting from the wild remains culturally important, we hope that by establishing our own crop of the most commonly used plants, the sustainability of the enterprise and plant populations can be maintained.”

The project received a $100,000 Unlocking Australia’s Potential grant.

Media contact: Ms Sam Hussey – – 08 8952 2339

Something is fishy about this …

A Tasmanian initiative to map the distribution of marine species is expanding to take in all of Australia’s coastline.

The Redmap ( project is an online portal where users report the fish and sea creatures they encounter – particularly those sighted outside of their typical waters.

Reports are verified by a scientist, and the data is used to map changes in species distribution.

University of Tasmania senior research fellow Dr Gretta Pecl said the initiative’s national expansion would “unlock the potential of millions of eyes-on-the-water from Australia’s 3.5 to 4 million fishers and divers”.

“This also allows people – who are often out doing something they love – to be at the generating end not just the receiving end of science,” she says.

The expansion is aided by a $300,000 Unlocking Australia’s Potential grant.

Media contact: Dr Gretta Pecl – – 0408 626 792

Other grant recipients include:

Whale watchers wanted! Photos of humpback whale tails and flukes, as snapped by the public along Australia’s eastern seaboard, will be used in a unique project to track whale movements. The Marine Ecology Research Centre, at Southern Cross University, has received a $42,970 grant to create a website to receive the images. The public and whale tour operators from Queensland to Tasmania will be encouraged to submit their whale photos, which are seen as an untapped source of useable scientific data.

Media contact: Brigid Veale / Peta Beeman – /, 0439 680748 / 02 6659 3006 / 0428 872 202

Science and rock music? Ology is a rock band that performs live science demonstrations on stage.  They “take scientific issues, pitch them in a way that everyone can understand and turn them into toe-tapping, sing-a-long, rock-pop songs.” (Faster Louder Magazine, 2010) CSIRO Education has a grant of $180,000 to tour the Ology trio to every capital city and several regional centres.

Media contact: Darren Vogrig –, 02 9490 8481

What are “free radicals” and why are they bad for you? The University of Melbourne has received a $44,980 grant that will support embedding artists inside its free radical research lab. They will then produce an art exhibition and conduct community workshops focussed on free radicals and their impact on health. The works will go on show in Melbourne, Sydney and London and regional areas.

Media contact: Dr Renee Beale – – 0404 804 384

About the grants

A total of $5 million has been awarded across three levels of grant categories, small, medium and large, for projects to be delivered in 2012 and/or 2013 and/or 2014.

The prime objective of the program is to increase the engagement of Australians in science and it has prioritised projects that engage people who may not have had previous access to or interest in science-communication activities. Inspiring Australia is an initiative of the Australian Government.

For a complete list of grant recipients go online to

For more information: