environment

New bendable cement-free concrete can potentially make safer, long-lasting and greener infrastructure.

A new type of concrete that is made out of waste materials and can bend under load has been developed by researchers from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia.

This material, which incorporates industrial waste products such as fly ash produced by coal-fired power stations, is especially suited for construction in earthquake zones – in which the brittle nature of conventional concrete often leads to disastrous building collapses.

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Tea trees crave water during hot and dry summer days

The iconic Australian tea tree (Melaleuca decora) is more vulnerable than native eucalypt species to extreme temperature and moisture stress, Western Sydney University researcher Anne Griebel has discovered. 

To make the finding, Anne and colleagues fitted instruments that measure the exchange of carbon, water and heat at 10 times a second to an extendable mast on a trailer deployed in a critically endangered woodland in Western Sydney.

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Is that plant healthy?

We can’t easily monitor the health of plants, by the time we see that they’re sick it’s usually too late to save that. That’s an issue for your house plants, a field of wheat, orchards and plantations.

Karina Khambatta has developed a way to use the waxy surface of leaves to monitor their health.

Currently the technique uses infrared spectroscopy to study changes seen throughout leaf senescence. Karina has had the opportunity to utilise the infrared microscopy lab located at the Australian Synchrotron to help correlate her infrared studies undertaken at Curtin University, but Karina believes it can be turned into a handheld device that could be used on-farm, like reading a barcode.

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Protecting Tiwi wildlife is a hollow argument

Climbing trees reveals a housing shortage for tree-rats and other endangered animals.

Estimates of tree hollows – which form the houses of several endangered species in northern Australia – are much too high, researchers at Charles Darwin University in the Northern Territory have found.

And the discovery could be bad news for several of Australia’s most vulnerable species, including the Black-Footed Tree-Rat (Mesembriomys gouldii) and Brush Tailed Rabbit-Rat (Conilurus penicillatus).

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More safe havens for native plants and animals needed in NSW’s west

The squirrel glider (Petaurus norfolcensis) is listed as a vulnerable species in New South Wales. Photo: Wikimedia CC/Brisbane City Council

Location matters for species struggling to survive under a changing climate.

A new study led by Macquarie University has found we need to provide more safe havens for wildlife and plant species to survive under climate change in New South Wales’ west.

Along the Great Dividing Range, the vulnerable spotted-tailed quoll will be forced to move into higher habitats as the climate changes, but can find sanctuary in protected areas like Kosciuszko National Park.

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Physical sciences (alone) can’t save us: we need to understand human behaviour, too.

Science is important in solving the world’s biggest problems.

But can the social sciences solve our planet’s biggest issues on their own?

Last month’s Woolworths’ and Coles’ plastic bag ban is a perfect example: environmental scientists have known for decades that plastic is harmful to the environment but changing habits at the individual level has not been simple.

Nature Sustainability’s Australian launch with (L-R) Tanya Ha, Rebekah Brown, Kath Rowley, Veena Sahajwalla and Robyn Schofield. Image credit: Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute/Claire Denby

Relying on the physical sciences alone to fix the world’s problems is futile. So the leaders of Springer Nature have decided it’s time for a journal that is broad based and cross-disciplinary. Nature Sustainability publishes research about sustainability from the natural and social sciences, as well as engineering and policy, and was launched in Australia on July 17 by Monica Contestabile, the Chief Editor of the new journal.

Academics are traditionally siloed into research areas and often forget to think about how the research will be embedded into society. Yet understanding human behaviour and how the public may respond to research can be the difference between failure and success in policy.

There is a need for academia and policy, along with the social sciences, to work together, so science can be developed with society in mind. And when these three things work together, real change can happen.

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Putting a window and lasers in a ship’s hull

Melbourne and Indonesian scientists work to improve shipping efficiency

Scientists available for interview in Bahasa Indonesia and English. Video overlay and photos of ferry available below.

Read the release in Bahasa Indonesia.

Every shipping manager wages an endless battle against fouling – the bacteria, seaweed, barnacles and other marine life that take residence on the hull of ships. This biofouling is thought to add more than 20 per cent to the fuel costs of commercial shipping. That’s a big cost for the maritime trading nations of Australia and Indonesia.

Using lasers and a window in a ship’s hull, researchers will assess how quickly the efficiency of the ship declines, and then how to balance fuel efficiency and the cost of putting a ship in dry dock to clean it.

A ship travelling between Java and South Samatra has had 30 centimetre windows installed in its hull for the research. Credit: Nadia Astari

A ship travelling between Java and South Samatra has had 30 centimetre windows installed in its hull for the research. Credit: Nadia Astari

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Crocodile eggs measure river health

A new land management tool using Aboriginal knowledge

Ngan’gi speakers know it’s time to look for freshwater crocodile eggs when the red kapok trees near the Northern Territory’s Daly River burst into flower.

This can occur at a different time each year, but the environmental link is solid.

A Darwin-based scientist has converted this link and other intimate Aboriginal knowledge of Australia’s landscape into an environmental management tool. [continue reading…]