2012 Media Report

January

3: Dr Jonathan Webb is interviewed on television channel ABC1 about his work on saving Northern quolls from the cane toad invasion. Nauseating cane-toad flavoured sausages developed by Dr Webb are now used by Territory Wildlife Park to discourage native quolls from eating toxic toads. For more stories on taste aversion conditioning in quolls, see media items in April, May and June, 2010; as well as January and March 2011.

  • 10: ABC (Far North, Cairns), a PhD student interviewee from another university references Dr Webb’s work on quolls.
  • 12: “Baits train wildlife to avoid toxic toads” – Kimberley Echo. Professor Rick Shine comments that the cane-toad sausages were also used successfully to condition native goannas.

10: Dr Dieter Hochuli performs stand up comedy as part of the Sydney Festival. The Daily Telegraph reports on this in the article “Laughing at creepy crawly sex”.

10: As part of an international collaboration, Professor Steve Simpson showed for the first time that predatory animals such as the ground beetle will choose food based on optimal nutritional value.

Professor Rick Shine and PhD student Joshua Amiel describe in journal Biology Letters how lizards incubated at higher temperatures as eggs emerge with enhanced learning performance. The study receives widespread media coverage across web and print outlets.

19:Toad savvy marsupials make a meal of quoll toll” – 702 ABC Sydney (Online) reports on Dr Jonathan Webb’s discovery that Western Australian quolls are naturally wary of cane toads. Red-cheeked dunnarts avoid eating the toxic glands of cane toads and quickly learn that eating them is dangerous. Results are compared to work on endangered Northern quolls which are not naturally wary but are being conditioned to avoid the toads.

27:Cane toads lose their killer touch in east Australia” a story in New Scientist reports on work by Professor Rick Shine. Rick showed that lizards exposed to the toxic plant ‘mother-of-millions’ may have gained tolerance to cane toad poison.

27: Dr Fiona Clissold, a nutritional physiological ecologist from the Animal-Plant Interactions Group comments that locust outbreaks occur in low-quality pastures that are high in nitrogen. “Slideshow: Low-Quality Plants Power Locust OutbreakScienceNOW (Online).

Research published in the Journal of Geophysical Research by Professor Maria Byrne showed that sea cucumbers play a vital role in reducing the impact of ocean acidification on coral growth. "When they ingest sand, the natural digestive processes in the sea cucumber's gut increases the pH levels of the water on the reef where they defecate, countering the negative effects of ocean acidification," said Professor Byrne.


February

1: Professor Chris Dickman and his work in the Australian outback was profiled for Qantas’ magazine, The Australian Way, as part of an article entitled "The truth is way outback”. The article touches on the hardships of undertaking field work in the desert and the long-term record of outback ecology that Professor Dickman and his team have been collecting.

Dr Mathew Crowther comments on the impact of the plant pathogen myrtle-rust on koala numbers. Dr Crowther said that myrtle rust stops new growth, which koalas depend on and it may exacerbate the problem of dwindling koala populations.

3: Professor Maria Byrne comments on findings from the Australian Institute of Marine Science that warming waters had not negatively impacted on coral growth. Professor Byrne said that if you get an increase in temperature you will get an increase in metabolism and consequently growth. The question is at what temperature will the positive effects of climate change be reversed? "Study finds coral reef growth thrives in warmer waters” – The Australian

Several stories about koala conservation were triggered by the impending decision about whether to add the koala to the threatened species list. Dr Mathew Crowther was called upon to comment. Dr Crowther discussed the emotional response people have to koalas and the impact of habitat loss on koala numbers.

  • 15: "Koala now threatened species” - ABC Radio National
  • 20: Interview also aired on ABC Southern Queensland
  • 21: “Gunnedah leads the way in protecting koala habitat” – Namoi Valley Independant

Federal government funding for a Centre for Obesity, Diabetes and Cardiovasular Disease, headed by Professor Steve Simpson, was announced. In interviews, Professor Simpson speaks about the link between locust and human nutrition and the separate appetite for protein. The Centre will tackle these diseases by considering not only the biological factors, but the economic, social, cultural and political factors

Research published in PLoS One from Associate Professor Peter Banks and PhD student Alex Carthey shows that bandicoots not only fear dingoes, with which they have a long association, but also all dogs. This work also showed that unlike dogs, bandicoots were not instantly afraid of cats.

18: The effect of the recent wet weather on insects and spiders was discussed in a Sydney Morning Herald article "It’s raining on cicadas’ parade but spiders and others loving the wet”. Dr Nathan Lo says that insects normally spend a lot of energy finding enough moisture to stop them shriveling up in the heat. Wet weather gives many insects and spiders more time to eat.


March

1: Madison Magazine reviews long-held health assumptions in an article entitled "High heels are harmful (and other mantras you might want to rethink)”. Dr Alison Gosby comments on the assumption that a high-protein diet equals a low weight. The scientifically supported health message, from Dr Gosby and the World Health Organisation, is that women eat 70 grams of protein per day and that this should constitute 15 percent of the total daily energy intake.

5: "A brush with a garden vandal” in the Daily Telegraph reported on increased sightings of brush turkeys in Sydney suburbs in the wake of fox control programs. Dr Mathew Crowther commented that other small mammals, including native bush rats and bandicoots, have also benefitted.

10: A lifestyle piece in The Saturday Age, "The air up there”, discusses the benefits and drawbacks of being a tall woman in modern society. Professor Steve Simpson comments on the genetic potential for height and its relationship to diet.

The use of the social media phenomenon Facebook, for a scientific survey of sulphur-crested cockatoos in Sydney, generated several media stories for PhD student Adrian Davis.


April

1: Dr Dieter Hochuli is interviewed by James O'Loghlin on ABC 702 Sydney about the evolution of fruits and plants.

4: ABC Kimberley (radio) interviews Professor Rick Shine about developing a solution to control cane toads. His group has been working with pheromones that can be used to attract or repel cane toad tadpoles. The story was repeated in the 7.30am news on April 5.

25: The science outreach Gifted and Talented Discovery Program appears in local papers profiling participants and highlighting biology workshops. “Local gifted and talented science students experience Sydney University” in the Riverina Leader.

  • 26: “Hands-on workshops: Blood, slime and...fun” – Mosman Daily
  • 26: “Young scientist among the best” – Penrith City Star
  • 1 May: “Honour for student” – Blacktown Sun
  • 3 May: “Talented Highlands students selected for uni program” – Highlands Post
  • 3 May: “Ashley’s a gifted student” – Lithgow Mercury
  • 9 May: “Gift discovering science” - Mt Druitt St Marys Standard
  • 10 May: “Gifted at science forum” – Cooks River Valley
  • 16 May: “Gifted and talented science students go to Sydney University” – Southern Highland News
  • 29 May: “GATS Science Discovery Program” – Daily Examiner, Grafton

30: Diffusion Science Radio program on the Community Radio Network interviewed Dr Fiona Clissold about her work on temperature and locusts. (Fiona’s interview starts at 14:55 in the mp3 file)


May

1: Dr Simon Ho authors a popular science article in Australasian Science about Ice Age megafauna and their ability to survive, as revealed by ancient DNA analysis, entitled “Frozen in time: what caused the extinction of the Ice Age megafauna”.

4: “How fungi can rescue your soil” an article in Tasmanian Country includes comments from Dr Peter McGee about the importance of fungi in storing organic carbon in the soil.

8: The film screening and panel discussion of Flock of Dodos was promoted in the Inner West Courier – “Intelligent design ideas under the microscope”.

17: The opening of new laboratories at Chowder Bay for the Sydney Institute of Marine Science was covered by SBS NewsLast 50 years were Australia’s hottest: study” and in the Mosman Daily – ““World-class” marine research centre opens in Mosman

18: The World Today on ABC Radio National ran a story “Fears for the yellow spotted goanna” in which Professor Rick Shine was interviewed. The yellow spotted goanna in the NT is disappearing due to canetoads, but Rick said the reptiles can learn to avoid the toads.


June

6: A profile of Professor Steve Simpson in The Australian focused on his years as an undergraduate student at UQ and a PhD student in London – “Vintage science on a beer budget

11: Dr Chris Gillies obituary by Chris Moran and Professor Ben Oldroyd – “Colourful cytogeneticist helped transform science for students” is printed in the Sydney Morning Herald. The article celebrates Chris’ scientific successes and his service to the scientific community.

13: Research published by Professor Rick Shine, Dr Michael Crossland, Dr Takashi Haramura and collaborators in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B reveal a novel method for trapping cane toads. The cane toad’s own poison is used as a chemical attractant to cane toad tadpoles, which can then be removed from a water body. This story was picked up nationwide; including radio interviews on 3AW, 2UE, 5AA, 2NM, 3WM, 2MCE, 4BC, ABC Darwin (late breakfast), 4BCCane Toads” and AM ABC RadioCane toad vs cane toad”.

15: An in-depth profile of Professor Rick Shine’s cane toad research, in light of his recent paper, appeared in Science Magazine – “The Reluctant Toad Killer”.

16: Professor Mike Thompson, with Dr Ricky Spencer from the University of Western Sydney, went on a field trip along the Murray River to survey native freshwater turtles and build and expand conservation partnerships. “Turtle team needs help: experts aim to save species” in the Sunraysia Daily.

  • 18: Professor Thompson interviewed on ABC Central Victoria
  • 19: “Turtle experts take road trip to the Riverland” – Murray Pioneer
  • 20: “Uncertain future: Murray River turtles face extinction, say scientists” – Swan Hill Guardian
  • 20: “Time to act to save turtle species, urge scientists” – Riverine Herald

19: “Protein stops overeating” – The West Australian ran a story covering research out of Professor Steve Simpson’s lab which indicated that humans have a separate and powerful protein appetite. He suggested that a diet with an appropriate amount of protein would make it easier to limit total calorie intake.

22: Professor Rick Shine delivered a historical perspective on the cane toad invasion for 4BC – “Celebration for a toad” . On this day in 1935 cane toads were first introduced to Queensland.

25: The Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation released a report by Professor Ben Oldroyd detailing the susceptibility of Australian honeybees to the Varroa destructor mite.


July

4: A story appearing in the Wentworth Courier, “A 21st century fox picture”, about a fox attacking a possum on private land included a comment from Dr Mathew Crowther. Dr Crowther said it was difficult to bait foxes in urban areas as pets may eat the poison.

11: A letter appearing in Take 5 from Carolina Masters called “Skinky business” mentions Professor Rick Shine and his correspondence with the letter writer. Ms Masters was listed as a co-author on one of Professor Shine’s papers after her observations of a family of skinks living in her backyard.

The science outreach Gifted and Talented Discovery Program appears again in local papers profiling participants and highlighting biology workshops. See media items in April for other stories about this program.

  • 17: “Young scientists” – Manly Daily
  • 20: “Six scientists in the making” – North Shore Times
  • 20: “Gifted and talented: Local students expand knowledge” - Western Weekender Penrith
  • 31: “Penelope enters science program” - Illawarra Mercury

The DNA and RNA sequences for Nicotiana benthamiana were made available on the Nicotiana Benthamiana Genome Page in July. The sequencing work was done by a consortium including Professor Peter Waterhouse. This remarkable plant is used in many laboratories around the world because of its excellent properties for rapid transient expression of transgenes.


August

1: The August edition of Australasian Science featured research from Dr Mathew Crowther.
"Dingos May Have Outfoxed Tigers” reported on Dr Crowther’s PLoS One paper, which suggested that thylacines became extinct on mainland Australia due to direct attacks and killings by dingoes.
The same issue of Australasian Science included an article by Professor Steve Simpson and Professor David Raubenheimer, "Spoilt by Choice”. In the article the authors discuss nutrition research they conducted in humans and primates which supported earlier work conducted on invertebrates. The results showed humans have a strong appetite for protein. Professor’s Simpson and Raubenheimer also made suggestions about the socio-economic reasons why people continue to make poor food choices in the supermarket.

An article by Matthew Cawood about Professor Steve Simpson and the $500 million investment in the Charles Perkins Centre is run in the Stock Journal on the 9th "Protein’s role in what we eat” and in The Land on the 19th "Food industry not wholly to blame”.

18: “Climate change will affect pecking order” in the Weekend West reported on a paper by Associate Professor Frank Seebacher published in "Proceedings of the Royal Society B. This fish behaviour research found that the relationship between predator and prey changes with changing temperature.

29: ABC 702 Radio interview with Associate Professor Dieter Hochuli "Why we can’t survive without insects
explored the interconnected relationships and dependencies humans have on insects. Assoc. Prof Hochuli said that without insects the world would collapse in a screaming heap.


September

1: The Courier Mail reports on research by Dr Simon Ho and colleagues showing that a zebra-virus was the cause of death of a polar bear in a German Zoo – “Around the traps: the bear facts”.

4: Associate Professor Peter Banks speaks on 720 ABC Perth about the impact of black rats in Australia.

6: Professor Steve Simpson appears on the National Nine News for a story about protein, diets, obesity and gut flora.

The Australian documentary Great Southern Land which aired on ABC1 generated a buzz of media around host Professor Steve Simpson. The four-part series looked at how and where we live in Australia, from an aerial perspective.

  • 15: "Birdseye view of our Great Southern Land a revelation” - Daily Telegraph
  • 17: “Flying High” - Canberra Times
  • 18: “Looking down on our Great Southern Land” - Centralian Advocate
  • 19: “Cloud control” - Border Mail
  • 19: “Flying high” - Border Watch
  • 20: “Cloud control” – Ballarat Courier
  • 20: "Looking down on Australia” - West Australian
  • 20: “Flying High on a rich heritage” - Gold Coast Bulletin
  • 20: "Great Southern Land – Steve Simpson” - 612 ABC Brisbane
  • 20: Radio interviews with 936 ABC Hobart and ABC Darwin
  • 21: Radio interviews with 666 ABC Canberra and 774 ABC Melbourne
  • 21: “Puzzle from above” - Illawarra Mercury
  • 22: “Top view of our wide brown land” - Courier Mail
  • 23: “Up, up and away” - Sunday Territorian
  • October 5: "Great Southern Land” - 2GB
  • October 8: Interview with ABC Riverina
  • October 11: Interview on Mornings with ABC Gold and Tweed Coasts

18: “Locuts try to avoid cannibalism” in the Narrandera Argus was story reporting on research by Professor Steve Simpson which appeared in Ecology Letters. The research found that avoidance of cannibalism was the evolutionary driver for both the solitary and gregarious phases in locusts.

26: 891 ABC Adelaide interviews Associate Professor Peter Banks about native and introduced rats - "Smelling the rat”.


October

1: The Australian Geographic “Ask an expert” letters page includes an answer from Professor Rick Shine about the aquatic habits of snakes.

2: Professor Rick Shine is called upon to answer questions on 4BC Brisbane about the cane-toad invasion front moving across Western Australia - "Toads, go West

8: PhD student Chris Reid publishes a paper in PNAS which shows support for the theory that the first step toward the evolution of memory was the use of feedback from chemicals.

A paper in PNAS by Dr Catherine Price and Associate Professor Peter Banks which showed native bird eggs could be protected from rats by pre-exposing the rats to unrewarding bird odours.


November

Associate Professor Dieter Hochuli’s talk for the 50th birthday lecture series at the Macleay Museum – Futurescapes: urban ecology in a changing world - was promoted in local papers.

  • 15: “Urban ecology in focus” – Inner West Courier
  • 20: “A glimpse of the ecology in the future” - Inner West Courier
  • 21: “Talk to focus on urbanisation” - Central

16: The Manly Daily encourages its readers to participate in bandicoot behaviour study lead by Dr Catherine Price – “It’s time to tell on your nosey little neighbours”.

PhD candidate Aaron Greenville is interviewed by the ABC to discuss his research showing that the Simpson Desert has been getting warmer and experiencing more flooding rains over the last 100 years.

22: “In the environment club” - St George & Sutherland Shire Leader reports on a St George Girls High School ‘Green Day’ event at which Dr Matt Greenlees was invited to speak.

Coverage of a national entomology conference in Hobart includes interviews with Professor Steve Simpson.

29: "Taste aversion therapy trials tackle toad issue” - Kimberley Echo references work done by Professor Rick Shine and Dr Jonathan Webb to discourage native quolls from eating toxic toads (see January 2012 media report).

30: Professor Rick Shine appears on the television program 7.30 NT on ABC1 to discuss the impact of cane toads on yellow spotted monitors - "Goanna hunt: a project to protect yellow spotted monitors from cane toads”. The story also reports on the management strategy which uses cane toad poison to lure tadpoles into a trap (see June 2012 media report).


December

1: Australasian Science runs two stories featuring School of Biological Sciences researchers. Firstly, “Slime mould has a memory” detailing some of Chris Reid’s PhD findings. And secondly, “Sea snakes stay home”, in which Professor Rick Shine confirms observations that individual sea snakes tend not to move from their ‘home’ reef.

PhD candidate Lizzy Lowe caught the media’s attention with her research presented at the Ecological Society of Australia’s annual conference. She found that spiders in urban environments grow bigger than those in national parks.

4: An editorial feature in the Sydney Morning Herald, in association with the Sydney Institute of Marine Science, focussed on Associate Professor Peter Banks’ native rat science.
"Native rat stakes claim on former turf” outlines Peter’s re-introduction of native rats into the area around Sydney Harbour.

  • 9: Interviewed for Afternoon (Weekend) program - 2UE

5: The Sydney suburban newspaper, Central, reports on Aaron Greenville’s Humane Society award, “PhD Student is given science grant”.

20: "Did learning to fly give bats super-immunity?” an article online at newscientist.com includes a comment from Professor Eddie Holmes.

30: A wrap up of scientific advances for 2012 in the Sunday Mail Brisbane includes Professor Rick Shine’s cane toad management strategy which uses the toad’s own poison as an attractant for bait and capture - "Outer limits: pursuing knowledge - the wonderful and the weird". (see news stories from June 2012)