Learn in Tasmania stories
The following stories relate to studying in Tasmania
19 March 2019, Edition 203
Tasmanian scientists have identified balloons as the highest-risk plastic threat to seabirds, and they are 32 times more likely to kill than the ingestion of hard plastics. The research is a collaboration between the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, CSIRO and the Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre. Scientists looked at the cause of death of 1,733 seabirds and found that one third had ingested marine debris. Furthermore, a seabird ingesting a single piece of plastic had a 20 per cent chance of mortality, which rose to 50 per cent for nine items, and 100 per cent for 93 items. Scientists also found that while hard plastic accounts for most debris ingested, it is far less likely to kill than soft plastics, such as balloons. Research leader, Dr Lauren Roman said: “Balloons, or balloon fragments, were the marine debris most likely to cause mortality, and they killed almost one in five of the seabirds that ingested them.”
19 March 2019, Edition 203
The striking similarities between the geology of Tasmania, and the USA’s Grand Canyon, has led scientists to challenge theories about how Tasmania was formed. After five years of research, Dr Jack Mulder – a University of Tasmania graduate and now researcher at Monash University – believes Tasmania may have been connected to the west coast of America hundreds of millions of years ago, when the two landmasses were joined as part of the super-continent, Rodinia. After years of examining the rocks around Tasmania’s north west, Dr Mulder found them to be very different to those of a similar age on the mainland. An international search eventually led the research team to the Grand Canyon, where they discovered a perfect geological match. Dr Mulder theorises that when Rodinia started to break up around 700 million years ago, Tasmania travelled from the US to Australia. He told The Advocate: “We think that probably happened when the Pacific Ocean began to open, and Tasmania got plucked off the US.”
9 November 2018, Edition 200
Returning large animals to different environments could greatly reduce devastation caused by fires, according to new research from the University of Tasmania. Professor Christopher Johnson found the ‘rewilding of animals’ could reduce the impact of fire globally: “Putting back big animals that are responsible for stabilising ecosystems and sustaining biodiversity lets the animals themselves do the repair work on ecological processes.” Professor Johnson said ‘rewilding’ was popular in Europe and America, and could also be applied as part of Tasmania’s fire management regime: “It’s clear that areas grazed by large animals, such a kangaroos, or maybe even deer in Tasmania, can function as quite effective fire breaks. If you’ve got a certain fraction of landscape treated in that way by animals, it can have a big impact on the probability of a fire that will sweep across the entire landscape.”
9 November 2018, Edition 200
Tasmania is proving to be a significant aviation player, with a local company winning a lucrative contract to train overseas pilots. Par-Avion, based at Cambridge aerodrome in Hobart, is Tasmania’s premier flying training organisation. It has just signed a deal with Air Asia for around 75 of its pilots to be trained in Tasmania each year. In the meantime, Par-Avion has indicated it is keen to set up another flight school in the state’s north-west, and is eyeing off both Devonport and Burnie as potential options. Earlier this year, Managing Director Shannon Wells told The Advocate the fact that both airports are under-utilised and had low congestion, makes them ideally suitable for aviation training: “It’s all round a good match for what we’d want to have for our potential international flying school… it would mean jobs and growth for the region.”
14 October 2018, Edition 199
There are calls from Tasmanian of the Year, Scott Rankin, for a greater focus on creativity and thinking in the classroom. He has joined the push for the education initiative STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) to be expanded to STEAM – by including the arts. Mr Rankin told ABC News: “I love science, I love engineering, I love English, I love maths, I love technology, I love anything that starts with S, T, E and M, but I love the ARTS more. Because that is about mental gymnastics, it’s about the stuff that you need to be innovative and creative, in your life firstly, in your community secondly, and then good in business.” Mr Rankin is a leading arts identity. Twenty-five years ago, the Burnie theatre director and writer set up Big hART, a charity that aims to help bring about social justice through the arts.
13 August 2018, Edition 197
Hobart’s historic Theatre Royal is closing down for six months – but it’s all in the name of progress. Come October, the theatre doors will shut as work ramps up on the adjacent $96 million Hedberg Centre. As well as including a performing arts centre, the Hedberg will also accommodate the University of Tasmania’s Conservatorium of Music. The Theatre Royal itself, which dates back to 1837, is not being forgotten. As part of the these works, it will be upgraded with new facilities including a multi-level foyer and expanded amenities. Also, a purpose-built studio with seating for 285 will replace the very confined – and outdated – Backspace Theatre. State Arts Minister, Elise Archer, praised this project as a “game-changer” for Tasmania’s performing arts scene, resulting in the creation of greatly expanded footprint for Hobart’s theatre hub. The new-look Theatre Royal will re-open in May 2019.
3 July 2018, Edition 196
Two Tasmanian devils are winning hearts in San Diego, USA, where they are now happily settled into their new home at the city’s famous zoo. A “laid-back” male – named McLovin – and a “shy” female – named Quirindi (pronounced Kwa-ren-dee) – are now receiving visitors and drawing great interest. The Tasmanian ambassadors are also shining a light on the fight to save our devils. McLovin and Quirindi arrived from Taronga Western Plains Zoo late last year, and recently relocated to San Diego Zoo’s ‘Australian Outback’ exhibit after completing mandatory quarantine. San Diego is currently one of the few zoos in the U.S. with Tasmanian devils. A zoo statement described these newest additions as “extremely significant,” and part of a partnership program between San Diego and Taronga Zoos, designed to, “inspire needed support for Tasmanian devil conservation.” Tasmanian devils face the threat of extinction in the wild due to the deadly facial tumour disease which kills infected animals within six to 12 months: “The disease is incredibly rare and is one of few contagious cancers in the world. The good thing about that is, it attracts a lot of scientific attention. San Diego Zoo supports research that’s being done on the disease, so there’s still a lot of hope for the devils.”
11 April 2018, Edition 193
A new population of red handfish, one of the world's rarest species, has been found in Frederick Henry Bay in south-eastern Tasmania. It was thought the species had dwindled to about 20 individuals in a single location, but a tip-off from a local diver led a group from UTAS's Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) to explore another part of the bay. Two hours into their dive, the group was about to give up when Antonia Collins spotted a tiny fish among some seaweed. "Once we found that initial fish we were able to focus our search area, and quite quickly we discovered another seven fish in close proximity to that first one, so it was very exciting," she said. It is believed that about 20 of the bottom-dwelling fish, that use their fins as hands to crawl along the seabed, are living in an area no bigger than two tennis courts. They grow to just 7cm-9cm long, living and laying eggs at the base of seaweed in shallow water. The species was first discovered near Port Arthur on the Tasman Peninsula in the 1800s, but the only known surviving populations are in two undisclosed locations on the opposite side of the peninsula. The red handfish is even rarer than the River Derwent's spotted handfish whose endangered status has inspired a successful IMAS captive breeding program.
8 March 2018, Edition 192
Two University of Tasmania scientists have received prestigious career honorific awards from the Australian Academy of Science in recognition of their lifelong achievements. UTAS Professor David Cooke (ARC Centre of Excellence in Ore Deposits) won the 2018 Haddon Forrester King Medal and Lecture, while his colleague, Professor Matt King (School of Land and Food), was awarded the 2018 Mawson Medal and Lecture. Professor Cooke's investigations into the geological processes that produce copper-gold deposits, as a result of fluids released from magma deep within the Earth's crust, have transformed geochemical exploration techniques around the world. Professor King's work has helped reveal the dynamic nature of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica and how they contribute to sea-level change. Nationally, 18 academics were honoured and most of them will be presented with their awards at the academy’s annual signature science event, Science at the Shine Dome, on 24 May in Canberra. In a further tribute to UTAS, three senior staff have been named in this year's Clarivate Analytics' Highly Cited Researchers list, ranking them in the top 1 per cent in their subject fields globally. They are Professor Reg Watson (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies); Associate Professor Tim Brodribb (Faculty of Science, Engineering and Technology) and Professor Sergey Shabala (Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture).
8 February 2018, Edition 191