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Research stories

The following stories relate to Tasmania’s Research sector.

Views sought on GMO-free status

Leatherwood tree with bee

Brand Tasmania Partners are being urged to have their say on what our GMO-free status means for Tasmania’s brand. Read more

19 December 2018, Partner Connections

Research to restore giant kelp forests

The Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) and the Climate Foundation are researching the possibility of restoring Tasmania’s iconic giant kelp forests, which have almost disappeared due to ocean warming. It will assess whether remaining individual healthy giant kelp, along Tasmania’s East Coast, can form the basis for both restoration and a possible marine permaculture industry. IMAS Professor, Craig Johnson, said more than 95 per cent of the giant kelp forests that once dominated Tasmania’s East Coast have been lost due to climate change: “The primary driver of the decline in our giant kelp forests has been the extension of the East Australian Current (EAC) into Tasmanian waters as the ocean climate in eastern Tasmania warmed. Over just a few decades the extensive, rich and dense kelp forests that were once an iconic feature of the East Coast have been reduced to a few isolated patches.”

7 December 2018, Edition 201

Ohio boost for Tassie devils

A zoo in the US has increased its commitment to Tasmanian devil conservation. The Toledo Zoo, in Ohio, is more than halfway through a five-year, $500,000 agreement to fund annual population-monitoring surveys of the endangered animals through the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program. The zoo has committed an additional $50,000 a year for three years, to fund targeted surveys of wild devil populations for genetic mapping. Toledo Zoo President, Jeff Sailer, said: "We've done a lot of work with them over the last three and a half years, and we're seeing that benefit the devils in a big way. It's a great opportunity for the zoo to work directly in conserving an iconic species like the devil." The Toledo Zoo is also home to three Tasmanian devils: 18-month-old female ‘Bubbles’, and young male ‘Superman’, who recently joined six-year-old male, ‘Nugget’.

7 December 2018, Edition 201

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

‘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

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

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

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

‘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

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

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March target for new-look Brand Tasmania

Brand Tasmania Annual Report 2017 - 18

Now that the final stage of the legislative process has been completed, expect a ‘turbo charged’ Brand Tasmania to be up and running by the end of March. 

19 December 2018, Partner Connections

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