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Research stories

The following stories relate to Tasmania’s Research sector.

30 Tasmanians share honours

Edition 191_Farquhar

Expatriate Tasmanian scientist, Graham Farquhar, AO, was named Senior Australian of the Year, while 29 other local people were honoured in the 2018 Australia Day Awards.

8 February 2018, Edition 191

Fucoidans pass US cancer test

Seaweed extracts developed in Tasmania have been found by researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston to boost the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs. The extracts, known as fucoidans, are produced by Cambridge-based biotech business Marinova from seaweed varieties found in local waters. The extracts were found to decrease the growth of a human ovarian cancer tumour line by up to 33 per cent and a human cervical cancer tumour line by up to 70 per cent. The researchers also found that fucoidans considerably improved the efficacy of the chemotherapy drug Tamoxifen in treating breast cancer and decreased breast cancer tumour growth by up to an additional 26 per cent. Director of the Women’s Health Integrative Medicine Research Program in Houston, Dr Judith A. Smith, said: “This was the first research program to comprehensively assess the metabolism of fucoidan compounds for possible chemotherapy drug interactions. A ... study is now underway at UTHealth to further assess safety and observe quality of life parameters in human cancer patients.”

8 February 2018, Edition 191

Tasmanians prefer the seaside

Tasmanians are more than twice as likely than other Australians to holiday near the coast or on an island, according to a national poll commissioned by Tourism and Transport Forum Australia. Of the Tasmanians surveyed by Nielsen, 75 per cent said the main type of location they were planning to stay at during the summer break was near the coast or on an island, compared with 31 per cent nationally. Popular Tasmanian holiday destination, Bruny Island, was busy again over the 2017-18 holidays. Bruny Island Escapes, which operates Hotel Bruny and about 15 other accommodation properties, was totally booked out. Spokesperson Charlotte Boss-Walker said guests included a “good mixture” of local, interstate and overseas visitors. The Nielsen research also showed that 25 per cent of Tasmanians would spend the summer break in a regional town. The top day-trip activities were shopping and visiting friends and relatives. Thirty-six per cent said they would go out to cafes or restaurants, 21 per cent said they would go to the beach or a local swimming pool, a further 21 per cent said they would go on a scenic drive, and 7 per cent said they would go to a sporting event.

8 February 2018, Edition 191

Quolls are on a mission

Twenty captive-bred Tasmanian eastern quolls are set to become the first of their species to live in the wild in continental Australia for more than 50 years. Raised at Trowunna Wildlife Park and Devils@Cradle in Tasmania, they will be released into Booderee National Park in southern NSW in April. Once found across much of south-eastern Australia, the animals have become extinct outside Tasmania, with blame allocated to foxes, cats, poisoning and habitat destruction. Adult quolls are about 37cm long (excluding the tail) and weigh about a kilogram. They feed on insects, small mammals, birds and reptiles. WWF-Australia’s Head of Living Ecosystems, Darren Grover, said: “The loss of native species like eastern quolls has disturbed nature’s balance. The goal is to see some eastern quoll populations permanently re-established in the wild on mainland Australia and it all starts at Booderee National Park ... We hope they settle in quickly, stay healthy and start to breed immediately." The park has been the scene of extensive fox-control programs. If the release is successful, a further 40 quolls will be released in 2019 and another 40 in 2020. The released quolls will be GPS collared and monitored by Parks Australia staff and Australian National University ecologists.

8 February 2018, Edition 191

$14.7m boosts UTAS research

UTAS researchers will map the Milky Way, use our convict history to explore the impact of solitary confinement, analyse how best to influence corporate tax strategies and complete other projects, thanks to 27 grants totalling $14.7 million in recent Australian Research Council allocations. The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Brigid Heywood, said: “This is an outstanding result for the university, and for Tasmania, in what is a highly competitive process. Our research delivers significant social and economic benefits to the State, but more importantly it creates new knowledge which drives creativity and innovation. The projects funded today highlight the breadth of the University of Tasmania’s expertise and confirm our place as a research-led institution boldly exploring new frontiers.”

8 February 2018, Edition 191

Living fossils found in WHA

Scientists have discovered rare, living stromatolites among peat-bound karstic wetlands in a remote Tasmanian Valley — the first living stromatolites found in the State. Stromatolites are laminated structures built by micro-organisms which create layers of minerals using elements dissolved in the water in which they live. Fossil stromatolites are the oldest evidence of life on Earth, first appearing 3.7 billion years ago. The West Australian coast boasts some of the world's best-preserved fossil stromatolites, but living examples are especially rare because competing species, like sea snails, have evolved and can consume the micro-organisms that form stromatolites. Unique wetlands in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area contain spring mounds from which highly mineralized water flows, soaking the surrounding peat-rich soil. UTAS researcher Bernadette Proemse said: “This is good for stromatolites ... these Tasmanian ‘living fossils’ are protected by the World Heritage Area and the sheer remoteness of the spring mounds.” Researchers described their discovery in a paper published in the journal, Nature.

8 February 2018, Edition 191

Academy honours two locals

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

Ancient ash inspires fire plan

Edition 190_Maynard

A core sample taken from a secluded lake on lungtalanana/Clarke Island in Bass Strait suggests Aboriginal people were using fire management there at least 41,000 years ago.

5 December 2017, Edition 190

Seafood testing given upgrade

The Tasmanian Government has invested $1.2 million to help upgrade Analytical Services Tasmania to become a world-class laboratory that can service the State's seafood industry. The Minister for Primary Industries, Jeremy Rockliff, told the Shellfish Futures Industry Annual Conference: "This will provide a fast reliable service supporting not only our shellfish sector but lobster, abalone, scallop and clam industries ... We’re continuing to work in partnership with industry to ensure we have a modern and effective system that guarantees quality of our shellfish product, protects our brands and provides market access." Mr Rockliff said $765,000 had been allocated in this year’s Budget to assist the oyster industry's recovery from the Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome outbreak last summer.

5 December 2017, Edition 190

IMAS takes on POMS threat

Scientists are working with oyster farmers to reduce the impact of a likely outbreak of Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome this summer. Last year's outbreak has caused an impending oyster shortage this festive season and signs of the virus are expected to emerge again when water temperatures consistently reach 18C, most likely later in December. The Institute for Marine and Antarctic Science has a research team working with growers on ways of reducing mortality in POMS-affected areas through husbandry and farm-management adjustments affecting oyster size and age, handling, stocking densities, positioning of oysters in the water column, and the cooling of oysters. Dr Sarah Ugalde said: “Mechanical grading is quicker, but much more stressful for the oyster compared to grading by hand and this may make them more susceptible to the virus.” POMS was first detected in Tasmanian waters in January 2016 and spread to five growing areas — Little Swanport, Blackman Bay, Pittwater, and Pipe Clay Lagoon — causing widespread oyster deaths that resulted in financial stress and job losses among oyster growers.

5 December 2017, Edition 190

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Tasmania's Stories Edition 191

Edition 191_Campus

Launceston taking the lead in the race to be Australia's "smartest city" is the top story in your first Tasmania's Stories newsletter of 2018.  I hope you find lots to interest you in your latest edition of Tasmania's Stories.

15 February 2018, Edition 191

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