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Research stories

The following stories relate to Tasmania’s Research sector.

Wind farm technology protects eagles

In an Australian first, a Tasmanian wind farm will employ cutting edge technology to help protect one of our most majestic creatures, the Tasmanian Wedge-tailed Eagle. The breakthrough science that will help prevent eagles from colliding with wind turbine blades will be installed at the Cattle Hill Wind Farm which is currently under construction in the Central Highlands. Goldwind Australia said it was installing the IdentiFlight aerial monitoring and detection system to help mitigate the wind farm’s impact on eagles. Managing Director, John Titchen, said the company, “understands the importance of balancing the need for clean renewable energy whilst protecting Tasmania’s unique wildlife, particularly the endangered Tasmanian Wedge-tailed Eagle.” Goldwind Australia says the technology works within seconds to alert the system of an approaching eagle, resulting in the 16 mounted IdentiFlight detection monitors shutting down any of the 48 turbines as necessary.

9 November 2018, Edition 200

‘Rewilding’ animals reduces fire devastation

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

Rocks challenge Tasmania’s origin

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

‘Zorro’ to the rescue

Edition 199_Zorro

‘Zorro’ the puppy could be called the ‘masked owl avenger’. He is the secret weapon in the fight to save one of Tasmania’s rarest birds.

14 October 2018, Edition 199

Spawning success for spotted handfish

An innovative breeding program hoping to save the critically endangered spotted handfish is proving a success. Last month, we brought you the story of ceramist Jane Bamford, who made thousands of artificial spawning habitats for the rare fish which is found only in Hobart’s River Derwent. These long porcelain spindles – which replicate the stalked ascidians that are their natural breeding habitats and have largely vanished – were embedded on the river floor by divers over the past few months. It was hoped that the fish would lay their eggs around them. With the spawning season now underway, the first results are in, and CSIRO scientists are reporting that handfish have laid hundreds of eggs around the ceramic artificial spawning habitats. This much-loved fish is one of Tasmania’s most unique creatures, and while it is still early days, for those involved this is definitely cause for celebration.

14 October 2018, Edition 199

Prestigious awards for lobster research

World-leading research paving the way for the development of a lobster aquaculture industry in Tasmania has won accolades for the University of Tasmania. Scientists at The Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) have developed a unique process that allows tropical rock lobsters to be bred on a commercial scale, overcoming challenges posed by the lobster's long and complex life-cycle. This ground-breaking work won both of the awards on offer at the recent Knowledge Commercialisation Australasia (KSA) annual conference. The KSA supports the commercialisation of innovative research, and the organisation’s Chair, Dr Erin Rayment, said: “We need to make more noise about what we do, and this KSA award is one way of shouting out about the top level transfer work in all facets of research, commercialisation, industry engagement, and entrepreneurship that is taking place.” The awards were judged by commercial leaders in innovation.

14 October 2018, Edition 199

Art lends a helping hand

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Art is the latest weapon in the fight to save one of Tasmania’s most unique creatures – the critically endangered spotted handfish.

12 September 2018, Edition 198

Shooting for the stars

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With Australia’s only cross-continental telescope array, Tasmania is shooting for the stars as the nation’s space race heats up.

12 September 2018, Edition 198

Scientists' food safety breakthrough

Tasmanian scientists are testing a new method of reducing the bacteria, E. coli, which could have significant ramifications for the food safety of red meat. A research team from the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) – a joint venture between the University of Tasmania and State Government – has begun testing their findings at the JBS abattoir at Scone in NSW. Tests were also carried out earlier this year at the JBS abattoir at Longford, in northern Tasmania. Research fellow at the TIA, Dr Jay Kocharunchitt said: “We have found through our laboratory and pilot trials that spraying beef carcasses with oxidant and water during refrigeration, a process known as spray-chilling, causes significant reductions in E. coli numbers and helps maintain meat weight.” He adds that, “most types of E. coli are harmless; however, pathogenic E. coli are a risk to public health so there is no tolerance for them in some export markets".

12 September 2018, Edition 198

Button grass mystery continues

The mystery of Tasmania’s iconic button grass plains – which cover much of our south-west wilderness – remains unsolved. Fifty years on from ground-breaking research into Tasmania’s button grass, we are no closer to finding the answer. Scientists have been divided for half a century over whether these landscapes naturally evolved, or whether they are the result of fire regimes used by indigenous Tasmanians. Professor David Bowman from the School of Natural Sciences at the University of Tasmania explains: “In 1968 Tasmanian Professor of Botany, WD Jackson, published a really fascinating paper about western Tasmania and the role fire had in shaping its landscape…In 1968 these were amazing ideas that plants could influence fire activity and that fire activity could shape landscapes, that landscapes could be shaped by cultural practices.” 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of Dr Jackson’s theory, which went on to influence global thinking about the role of fire in the natural environment.

13 August 2018, Edition 197

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Partner connections October 2

Legislation to transform Brand Tasmania into a new, independent, Statutory Authority, is now before State Parliament.

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26 October 2018

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