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28/10/2010 Climate change funding for Deakin
1/10/2010 Engine heat could drive fuel savings
30/9/2010 Researcher sheds light on science
1/10/2010 Engine heat could drive fuel savings
30/9/2010 Researcher sheds light on science
27/9/2010 National award for teaching excellence
20/9/2010 Getting the jump on malware
15/7/2010 US appointment for Deakin IT Professor
17/5/2010 Graduate engineers a bright future
13/5/2010 Deakin's avian research takes flight
8/2/2010 Link between Omega-3 and Alzheimers
21/1/2010 Wanted: Gamers for 48 hours!
A team from Deakin University has received funding of $215,000 from the Victorian Centre for Climate Change Adaptation Research (VCCCAR), in the first funding to Deakin from this new government initiative established at the University of Melbourne. The project focuses on identifying impedances to integrated landscape management in Victoria.
The research team leader is Professor Andy TD Bennett of the Centre for Integrative Ecology and Head of the School of Life and Environmental Sciences. The project is jointly hosted with the Alfred Deakin Research Institute (ADRI), under the direction of Professor David Lowe, which continues to promote the role of humanities and social sciences in development and sustainability research and policy. Other Deakin academics involved include ADRI member Associate Professor Kevin O’Toole from Deakin’s Warrnambool Campus.
The interdisciplinary team will involve geographers, sociologists and economists from the University of Melbourne (Ruth Beilin and Rod Keenan), Monash (Ray Ison and Phil Wallis) and La Trobe (Farmar-Bowers) universities, Victoria University (Roger Jones), and RMIT (Michael Buxton).
“It’s exciting and challenging to be involved with such a talented interdisciplinary research team drawn from five universities, and the Alfred Deakin Research Institute. The research outcomes have the potential to significantly improve conservation outcomes and Victoria’s response to climate change,” Professor Bennett said.
“The Strategic Research Centres which Deakin has established, including the Centre for Integrative Ecology and ADRI, have been most important facilitators of this research funding success.
“A team of three professors from our school attended the initial workshops in Melbourne that VCCCAR established earlier in the year, and the outcome was funding for one of Deakin’s applications.
“Since then, with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), I have facilitated Deakin becoming an affiliate member of VCCCAR,” said Professor Bennett, “and I trust this will create new opportunities for Deakin in the climate change and sustainability area.”
The current project focuses on identifying impedances to integrated landscape management in Victoria. The team is currently recruiting a research fellow for the project, and is in consultation with State Government officials, CMAs and other stakeholders for input into the research program.
Photo: Professor Andy TD Bennett (l) and Professor David Lowe.
People who are blind and visually impaired will have a unique way to ‘view’ art when they visit galleries in the future thanks to new technology being developed at Deakin University.
Alfred Deakin Professor Saeid Nahavandi, the director of Deakin’s Centre for Intelligent Systems Research (CISR), and Dr Ben Horan from the School of Engineering are expanding the capabilities of haptic technology - which adds a sense of touch and feel to virtual or remote objects - to provide people who are visually challenged with the ability to interact with 2D visual art works in a way not currently possible.
“Haptic technologies generate forces and vibrations that simulate a realistic sense of touch and feel to the human user,” Dr Horan explained.
“Simple haptic sensations are already being widely used in video gaming and the new generation of mobile phones. More advanced haptic interaction is achieved through arrangements of actuators and sensors much like traditional robotic arms.
“We are pushing the boundaries of the technology and working on a haptic system which can represent the visual information contained within 2D visual art. It will allow users to touch and feel 2D visual artworks. The implications of this capability are immense and wide reaching.”
This first of its kind technology will comprise the haptic colour palette and specially designed mobile haptic display being developed at Deakin University.
The haptic colour palette will facilitate the representation of the visual information which will then be displayed on the haptic device. Users will place their hands on the device, which will produce tactile and force-based interactions, providing a means of perceiving the visual information.
The project is funded by the Australia Council for the Arts and the Australian Research Council. The project team also includes postdoctoral fellow Dr Shady Mohammad, PhD student Husaini Adam and Synapse Artist-in-Residence, Brisbane-based artist and writer Professor Paul Brown.
“We are pleased to have Professor Brown involved in the project. As an artist he is in a different space and thinks differently to the rest of us so there is a great synergy between the team members,” Professor Nahavandi said.
The team envisages having the first fully-working platform by mid next year.
Photo: (l-r) Husaini Adam, Dr Shady Mohammad, Professor Saeid Nahavandi, and Dr Ben Horan.
Researchers from the Centre for Integrative Ecology in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences (LES) achieved major successes at the International Behavioral Ecology Congress (ISBE 2010) in Perth recently.
PhD candidate Bibiana Rojas received the prize for the best poster, which was presented in front of more than 700 delegates from 32 countries.
Of 250 posters, Bibiana’s was voted by delegates to be the best. Titled ‘A potential role of colour patterns in intra-specific communication in the dyeing poison frog, Dendrobtes tinctorius, the poster summarized her PhD work to date in South America on these brightly coloured and polymorphic frogs which sequester toxins from their diet. Bibiana’s research is supervised by Professor John Endler and her winning poster will shortly be on view in the CIE corridor at the Geelong Campus in Waurn Ponds.
Professor Endler’s talk on his recent work on the use of forced visual perspective and other visual tricks by bowerbirds was given to a packed lecture theatre with no standing room and many audience members sitting on the floor, even at the front. Details of this work was recently published in Current Biology (A*, impact factor 11.0) and featured in both Nature and Science. For further details see the Current Biology web site.
Another success was Justin Eastwood’s talk on his honours project which was finished in LES in 2010. Presentations of honours research are unusual at international conferences and Justin’s talk was believed to be one of only two at this conference. His project investigated the role of the Beak and Feather Disease Virus in maintaining variation in the crimson rosella ring species complex of south eastern Australia. It was supervised by Dr Matt Berg and Professor Andy TD Bennett (LES) and Dr Ken Walder (Medical School) and grew out of a successful CRGS application by Dr Berg. Justin has now begun PhD work on this topic at Deakin.
Two other talks, by Ben Knott and Professor Andy TD Bennett on the crimson rosella species complex and its evolution and colour vision discussed two other papers recently published with co-authors Dr Berg and Dr Kate Buchanan (LES) and Dr Leo Joseph (CSIRO)in Proceedings of the Royal Society - Biological Sciences (A*, impact factor 4.7).
A discussion by newly appointed LES lecturer, Matt Symonds about his fascinating work on thermoregulation, bill size and latitude recently published in American Naturalist (A*, impact factor 4.8), was well attended in the main auditorium.
The congress provided an excellent opportunity to highlight the depth and excellence of Deakin’s research in behavioral ecology and evolutionary biology and to attract new staff to the research teams.
A system being developed by researchers in the School of Engineering that uses wasted engine heat to reduce engine friction in motor vehicles has demonstrated fuel consumption reductions of over seven per cent in preliminary testing.
“A typical car engine releases about a third of the energy bound in fuel as exhaust waste gas. About another third is lost through heat transfer into the environment,” explained project leader Frank Will.
“Our system recovers and redirects some of this wasted heat and uses it to bring the engine oil up to its optimal operating temperature. This helps to reduce friction in the engine which has the potential to reduce fuel consumption significantly.
“Preliminary testing of our system has demonstrated fuel savings of over seven per cent as well as significant reductions in exhaust emissions.”
Mr Will said he believed the system - which he has tentatively named OVER7™ - represented a smarter approach to vehicle engine design.
“One of the most important features of our system is that it doesn’t have to heat all the oil in the sump, it instead heats the active oil in the engine lubrication system using an oil return bypass connected from the cylinder head directly to the oil pump, or oil pick-up tube.
“This bypass helps to increase the heat transfer from the combustion gas to the oil so the overall heat transfer process will be much more efficient.”
The possibility of retrofitting the system was another exciting opportunity, Mr Will said.
“The system has the potential to be retrofitted to existing engines and we don’t think it will require big changes to fit it - in fact it will probably require less work than an LPG conversion.
“We also think the system will be suitable for a range of vehicles, including diesels, hybrids and alternative fuels.”
“We were very pleased with the results of the physical testing we carried out on the system. Now we are working with car manufacturers and their suppliers to continue to test the system and optimise the technology to best suit their needs.”
Dr Paul Francis, a chemical scientist with Deakin’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences, is shedding light on science both in the lab and in the classroom.
Dr Francis has received a 2010 Young Tall Poppy Science Award which will see him spending time inspiring young people and educating the wider community about the importance of science.
He is also shining a light, literally, on a number of fields such as forensic science, environmental monitoring and medical diagnosis.
“My research explores the possibilities of chemiluminescence or chemical reactions that produce light. The luminous glow of fireflies and the brilliant blue emission of light from the spray that police use to find traces of blood at crime scenes are two well-known examples of chemiluminescence,” Dr Francis explained.
“This phenomenon can also be used to detect biomarkers of disease, illicit drugs, or traces of chemical or biological weapons in weapons by using instruments that can measure light more sensitively than the naked eye.
“Understanding how these light-producing reactions work is the focus of my research. Hand-in-hand with this work is the development of new, miniaturised devices that will allow testing to be performed more efficiently at, for example, crime scenes or a patients’ bedside.”
Over the next year, Dr Francis will be involved in a range of outreach initiatives as part of his Tall Poppy Award.
“The philosophy behind the award fits nicely with my desire to spend more time getting young people and the broader community excited about science.
“In previous years I have run science outreach programs and demonstrations in schools, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Through the Tall Poppy campaign, I look forward to not only inspiring young people to consider science careers, but also engaging the public more broadly on science and science issues.”
Dr Richard Tucker from the School of Architecture and Building has won the national 2010 Hansen Yuncken FE Crowle Award for Excellence in Teaching, presented by the Australian Institute of Building (AIB).
Richard's submission was highly praised and the judges were impressed with his work on interdisciplinary teaching and his wider role in the School.
Researchers in the School of Information Technology have developed a system that could help to significantly reduce the time it currently takes to identify computer viruses and other malicious Internet threats.
In collaboration with security software company CA Inc, the researchers have developed an automated process for classifying malicious software.
Director of the Information Security Group at Deakin, Professor Lynn Batten, said malicious software - or malware - was costing global networks hundreds of billions of dollars a year.
“Malware is any software that tries to attack your computer,” Professor Batten explained.
“For instance, it may delete files or change information or get into your computer to track what you are doing.”
“Malware generally belongs to different families - for example it might belong to a virus family or a Trojan family. Most new malware samples that come along are a variant, perhaps a combination, of one of these pre-existing families,” she said.
“Our system uses what we know about existing malware to classify new threats automatically. Preliminary results show that we can do this with up to 98 per cent accuracy.
“Automating the classification process has the potential to help new malware to be identified and responded to significantly faster than is currently possible.”
The School of Engineering is hosting the International Clean Vehicle Conference at the University's Geelong Campus at Waurn Ponds on Tuesday 21 September 2010.
The conference will cover a range of new clean technologies around engines, transmissions, controls, fuels, materials and new vehicle concepts.
It will also provide a networking opportunity for inventors, researchers and students to meet with presenters from car manufacturers, suppliers and investors.
Program includes speakers from GM Holden, Robert Bosch, Continental, AVL and Commercialisation Australia.
Deakin University's Professor John Endler has played a prominent role in a new study that claims male bowerbirds deliberately decorate their bowers to make themselves look larger to females.
The discovery makes bowerbirds the only animal - in addition to humans - known to create a scene with altered visual perspective, and one constructed for viewing at a particular angle.
Professor John Endler, an evolutional ecologist who is a recent prized research recruit to Deakin's Centre of Integrative Ecology on the Geelong Campus at Waurn Ponds, says he noticed a consistent geometric size pattern while studying a species called the great bowerbird (Chlamydera nuchalis).
He and his fellow researchers have recorded the findings in the journal Current Biology.
"It appears the males create a staged scene, only visible from the point of view of their female audience," says Endler.
"He places white and grey pebbles, bones, and shells in the court ... putting smaller objects near the front and larger ones further back.
"If you move stuff around, he'll move it back, not to the same spot as some reports claim, but certainly to the same distance from the front of the court."
Bowerbird males have long been known to make elaborate constructions full of objects to impress and attract mates.
The bowers have an avenue approximately 60 centimetres long that leads to a decorated court.
The female stands in the avenue watching the male displaying in his court.
Professor Endler says this staged scene only works from one viewing angle, which happens to be the avenue.
The forced perspective, particularly if birds see things the same as humans do, could lead females to "perceive the court as smaller than it is and therefore perhaps perceive the male as larger than he is".
"It could make him look like a better catch or it might just make him easier to see against the background," Professor Endler said.
Earlier research reports that colour is important to bowerbirds, white and grey objects as well as stronger colour like red and green.
"Interestingly they really seem to dislike yellow," he said.
"That could be because they have a yellowish tinge on their chests, so they're looking for a contrast to make them stand out.
"Satin and regent bowerbirds like blue and yellow, which is why you see things like blue clothes pegs in their bowers. In the days before blue plastic they decorated their bowers with blue feathers and fruits like blue quandong."
Endler says it's too early to say whether the male feels for the female perspective.
"He spends 70% of time arranging the bower, so it could just be a case of decorating the bower to suit his own tastes rather than doing it to impress the females."
The researchers are now conducting further tests to see if these visual tricks to enhance the impression of size are related to success with mating.
Professor Andrzej Goscinski, Chair in Computing at Deakin University, has been appointed Visiting Professor in the Department of Computer Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the United States.
A history of the Institute says the Rensselaer School was established in Troy, New York, in 1824 “for the purpose of instructing persons ... in the application of science to the common purposes of life.” The Institute has been described as committed to being “among the world’s leading technological universities”.
Professor Goscinski said he was honoured by the appointment.
“To be invited to take up this position at Rensselaer is an honour and a great opportunity. As part of my appointment I will be collaborating with the Center for Pervasive Computing and Networking and on research activities that touch on my recent work in the area of cloud computing. Overall, I am looking forward to my time at Rensselaer being very fruitful,” he said.
Cloud computing can be described as when high performance computing services are provided from the Internet to multiple clients.
Specifically, the research of Professor Goscinski and his colleagues has been looking at ways in which cloud computing can be made more accessible, reliable and efficient. Recent papers have addressed issues of cloud security and also the development of a new technology to allow cloud computing clients to better identify groups of linked computers, or ‘clusters’.
“I am hoping that as well as outcomes such as joint publications and grant applications, my time at Rensselaer will also be an opportunity to set up research links that could potentially benefit other Deakin IT researchers and academics,” Professor Goscinski said.
Professor Goscinski’s appointment as visiting professor began on 1 June 2010 and runs through until 31 August 2010, with part of this time to be spent at Rensselaer.
Professor Andrzej Goscinski is in the School of Information Technology (www.deakin.edu.au/sebe/it/) at Deakin University’s Geelong Campus at Waurn Ponds.
To arrange an interview with Professor Goscinski please contact Vanessa Barber on 03 5227 1301 or 0488 292 644.
Dr Sambit Datta and his team at Deakin University’s Digital Design Laboratory at the School of Architecture and Building are well and truly rendering redundant one of the profession’s great traditions - hand drawn and written plans.
They are doing this by creating the next generation of “file to factory” design tools - Computer Aided Architectural Design (CAAD).
“Traditionally architects, as we well know, worked in two dimensions with their old hand-drawings,” Dr Datta said. “The computer is the new pencil and it is a much more effective and versatile tool for design.
“We are not just designing a building, but generating a class of buildings that best fits the performance that is being sought from the new construction. We are then able to narrow down into an efficient form through structural, material and performance optimisation.
“Our computer generated designs allow architects to work not only in three dimensions, which is an enormous advantage, but also virtually test the design before it is even built.
“We are able to create a “virtual” building prototype and to test and optimise its performance on the computer before its taken to the construction phase, leading to significant cost and time savings.
“The power and flexibility of our digital design tools allow us to test new geometries, structural systems and materials for example, different sorts of panelisation systems for cladding, in this way.
“There is a great capacity within design to do more with less, to reduce the amount of materials used in construction because we can optimise the whole file to factory process, eliminating a lot of on-site trial and error.
“A new and exciting direction in our research is to virtually test and optimise the building’s performance against new green building codes.
“It is really amazing and exciting what can be done.
“Basically, what is happening in computer-aided architectural design is much the same as what Boeing did with the new 777.
“It was the first aeroplane designed completely on a computer.”
Dr Datta’s research takes a particular interest in the use of advanced geometry in architecture.
“A lot of design in the past has been about producing something that is pretty much a box,” Dr Datta said. “But we find now in architecture we are getting away from the rectangular. This is happening because we are letting environmental forces such as the sun and wind dictate the form.
“I am looking at how different shapes can make the performance of a building more efficient.
“And again, an important part of this work is about creating the next generation of architects well versed in computer-aided design tools.”
Dr Datta comes to Deakin with outstanding qualifications.
He graduated from India’s most prestigious architectural institution, the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology University (CEPT).
He undertook postgraduate studies in Singapore before completing his PhD at the University of Adelaide.
He now lives in Geelong with his wife Sonal and children Sagar and Srija.
And like all of India, he is very keen on cricket.
“I am an Australian citizen now, but I do have to keep my loyalties a secret when India plays Australia in cricket,” he smiles.
And he laughs at the idea that he has ruined things for Australia’s most famous, and probably only, cricketing architect - former Test bowler Max Walker.
Walker has insisted on sticking with his handwriting, whether it is in building design or writing his best-selling books.
“He was a very good cricketer and I do remember some of his books, so I guess we will just have let Max Walker stick with the old ways if that’s what he wants,” Dr Datta laughs.
“But here at Deakin we are really enjoying being at the cutting edge of building design through computers.
For Deakin University engineering graduate Kyle Nelson, staying up all night repairing his sumo robot so it could do battle in a competition the next day was one of the more stressful and challenging moments of his degree - but it also made him realise just how much he had learned.
“I majored in mechatronics and robotics and in the final year we built our own sumo robots to compete against each other. The night before the competition my robot broke down and I stayed up all night to fix it - a few of us had to do that - I was really proud that I was able to stick with it and get it fixed and working in time,” Kyle said.
“It was great to put all that I had been studying into a project to create something tangible, to put it into practice and piece it all together. I realised just how much I had learnt.”
As well as recently graduating with an honours degree in engineering, Kyle also received several awards. These included an Alfred Deakin Medal, awarded to the eight most outstanding undergraduate students graduating each year, and a Vice-Chancellor’s Prize, awarded to the top honours thesis in each Faculty.
Kyle said he really appreciated the awards as an acknowledgement of the hard work he had done.
“You don’t start out the year thinking about awards, but they were a great reward for the effort I put in over a sustained period. The final year of my degree was extremely demanding and just to get to the end of it was nice, so the awards have been a great way to cap off all that hard work.”
Kyle’s interest in engineering was encouraged by an Open Day visit to Deakin when he was in Year 11 at Trinity College in Colac.
“Being from Colac, I was familiar with Deakin and had been here for several excursions and competitions. Then I came along to Open Day when I was in Year 11 and was fascinated by the work being done at Deakin in haptics (force feedback technology) and at the Geelong Technology Precinct.
“During VCE I visited a lot of universities, including several interstate, and considered different options, but in the end decided on Deakin - I felt the engineering course at Deakin really suited my interests, and I liked the idea of being able to study here in Geelong.”
The decision was obviously the right one for Kyle. He was awarded a place in the Dean’s Scholars Program while studying for his degree and has remained at Deakin to do his PhD.
“I feel the University has really looked after me, right throughout my time here. People suggested staying on to do a PhD and I’m glad I took that opportunity. I’m enjoying being a researcher, so a future career in research and development is a possibility.
Deakin University now has the largest aggregation of avian biologists in Australia following the arrival of three leading researchers at the new Centre for Integrative Ecology.
“It is something of a coup that we have been able to recruit Professors Marcel Klaassen, John Endler and Bill Buttemer to Deakin,” said DVC (Research), Professor Lee Astheimer.
“They will be a vital part in our new centre, in shaping its direction and in turn attracting more top researchers in this field.”
Recruited from The Netherlands Institute of Technology, Professor Klaassen will head up the centre.
Professor Klaassen has developed broad research interests including theoretical, experimental and observational studies on numerous animal, plant and microbe taxa. Throughout this, his focus has primarily been on bird migration and nutritional ecology issues. To gain a better understanding of the behaviour and functioning of animals, he uses the rate of energy intake and the economy of its use for life processes as an index of fitness.
Professor Endler comes to from the University of Exeter in England and has broad interests in the area of overlap between Evolution, Ecology, Animal Behaviour, Sensory Ecology, Sensory Physiology and Environmental Biophysics. His main interest is in the joint effects of these factors on adaptation and using integrated principles from all of these fields to make and test explicit predictions about the direction of evolution under specified and changing environmental conditions.
Professor Buttemer, from the University of Wollongong, has a broad background from ecology to comparative physiology that includes examination of the physiological and behavioural responses animals display towards their natural environment as well as physiological appraisal of life-history strategies.
These studies have required a highly integrative research approach that combines many fields: physics to quantify the physical environments of animals (particularly heat-transfer theory), physiological assessment (endocrinology, biochemistry, immunology, and metabolic assessment), and ecology to place these interactions into an evolutionary context.
Professor Buttemer’s research has been global in both scope and location; ranging from biochemical to behavioural and from the Arctic to the Antarctic, with many tropical, temperate, and arid-zone locations in between. His expertise in animal ecophysiology is well recognised internationally and has resulted in invitations to present his research at world congresses of herpetology, endocrinology, ornithology and physiology.
“All our new Strategic Research Centres, which were announced late last year, have a key role to play in the future of Deakin as a research institution,” Professor Astheimer said.
“Even at the early stages, we are seeing tremendous growth in our research capacities right across the University.”
“A university, naturally, has a lot of very smart people working across a range of disciplines and one way of encouraging high standards in research and academic achievement is to create an environment that allows these people to come together to collaborate and learn from one another.
“If you want to push the knowledge frontier of course you look at what your direct colleagues are doing, but I also believe there is much to be gained from looking more widely at what is being done in your field.
“John, Bill and I are very much looking forward to working with our Deakin colleagues, as well as with colleagues in organisations and institutes outside of the University, to establish it as a centre for ecological research excellence.”
Imagine a non-stop 10,000-kilometre trip without in-flight movies and meals and solicitous cabin crew to bring you a pillow or a rug.
Professor Klaassen is the newly installed Director of Deakin’s Centre for Integrative Ecology, and is regarded as one of the University’s key signings as it enters its next era of research growth under DVC (Research) Professor Lee Astheimer.
One of Professor Klaassen’s major research streams looks at the energy intake and the economic use of it by these marvellous little birds that each year make the trip from Siberia - sometimes via Alaska - to Australasia, and then back.
“The principle behind my research is simple: All animals must obtain and convert energy from their environments for everyday use, to fend off illnesses and to reproduce,” Professor Klaassen said.
“if they are good at that, they are successful, if not, they succumb.”
“My research involves mainly birds and focuses on their reproductive, migratory and foraging behaviours and specifically how well these creatures cope with changes in their environment.
“So that’s a big part of the research I will be doing at Deakin.
“Some species cope with change, others don’t.
“The challenge is to find out how the species that do cope with change achieve that and see if we can use that information to mitigate the negative impacts on those that aren’t coping so well.”
Professor Klaassen’s journey to Australia with his family was a little more comfortable than the sandpipers.
He arrived in January from The Netherlands, where he was the Professor in Animal-Plant Interactions at the University of Utrecht and the Netherlands Institute of Ecology.
The choice of Australia was made at both the professional and the personal level.
“The job here was quite amazing,” he said of the offer to head up the Centre for Integrative Ecology.
“It is a once in a lifetime opportunity, especially when the University is making such a substantial investment in ecology.
“At times I am overawed by the challenge, at other times I am really excited by it.”
Professor Klaassen believes that in many respects, Australia is a huge and relatively untouched canvas in the field of ecology.
“There has already been a lot of good work done here in Australia,” he says.
“But a lot of ecological research over the years still has a European and American bias.”
Excitement also filters into the personal reasons for coming to Australia - and Deakin’s Waurn Ponds Campus in particular.
Professor Klaassen’s former colleagues in The Netherlands provided an unusual farewell gift for all of his family - surfing lessons.
Having just bought a block of land at Jan Juc, one beach away from the fabled Bells Beach, they are well placed to benefit from them.
“In the Netherlands I was a speed skater,” Professor Klaassen grinned.
“But I think I will stand a chance on a surf board. Already my daughter Hiske has been riding a wave board and I have been practising standing up on it.”
Professor Klaassen has two other daughters, Anna and Puck.
As well as their individual lessons, the Klaassen’s took in expert tips from the world’s best during the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach.
“We bought a family ticket for the whole event,” Professor Klaassen said, proudly showing the purple wristband that allowed him in to see the likes of Mick Fanning and Stephanie Gilmore.
It is apparent already the Klaassen’s will enjoy the warmth of southern hemisphere summers as much as the sharp-tailed sandpipers.
Deakin University’s DVC (Research) Professor Lee Astheimer was one of the key plenary speakers at last month’s meeting of ACEDD, the Australian Council of Environmental Deans and Directors.
Held on Deakin’s Waterfront Campus at Geelong, the meeting took its main theme from the United Nations Year of Biodiversity, but also looked at research directions in Australian universities relating to ERA, the Excellence in Research for Australia initiative driven by the Australian Research Council.
The delegates from universities from all over Australia also heard from Professor Rod Keenan, the Director of the Victorian Centre for Climate Change Adaptation, and Simon Smith from the Department of Sustainability and Environment.
Mr Smith is the Director, Biodiversity Policy and Programs.
Professor Astheimer spoke about the impact of ERA on research generally, but specifically on ecological and environmental issues.
“Professor Astheimer has great expertise in this area, especially some of the new ways of measuring research,” said Professor Peter Nelson, the founding chair of ACEDD.
“Her address, and that of the other two speakers, were certainly illuminating for all the delegates.”
Professor Astheimer also spoke about some of the exciting ecological research initiatives at Deakin in 2010, including the establishment of the Centre for Integrative Ecology, headed by Professor Marcel Klaassen.
Professor Andy T.D. Bennett, Head of the School of Life and Environmental Sciences who initiated and hosted the meeting, said it was important for the members of ACEDD to learn up close the quality and diversity of research in the life and environmental sciences and how Deakin contributes at a national level.
“All 38 member universities will have a role to play in developing the knowledge we need to deal with the multiple environmental issues now challenging the world,” he said.
“It is important that we all understand each university’s capabilities, and have good communication, and it was with some pride that we at Deakin were able to bring the other delegates up to date with our research and teaching capability and initiatives here at Deakin. We did this whilst showcasing the wonderful facilities available to students and researchers at Deakin, and I am confident delegates, who are in key positions at Australia’s universities, went back with a most positive view of what is happening at Deakin.
“I think everyone agrees that ACEDD has a key role to play in the future of environmental research in Australia and also in environmental policy development.”
ACEDD is an association of academics drawn from Australian universities and with line responsibility for environmental science and/or environmental studies programs and endeavours.
It began informal operations in July 2008 and was formally constituted in March 2009.
ACEDD’s mission is to be such an advocate and to effectively represent the interests of the field and sector, basing its actions on the principles of good governance for collegiality, communication and capacity building.
For more information on ACEDD, please refer to www.sarahterkes.com/node/22
Dr Cenk Suphioglu (School of Life and Environmental Sciences), together with his PhD students Ms Dwan Price and Ms Stacey Ellery from his Allergy Research Group, believe their recent findings may lead to a better understanding of why peanuts trigger life-threatening allergic reactions and could lead to reactions being prevented in the first place.
What makes peanut allergens life-threatening isn’t well understood. “As opposed to previous research looking at individual peanut allergens in isolation, we looked at the whole peanut - the allergens and the non-allergens. We found that peanut proteins interact with one another to form ‘super-allergens’, explains Dr Suphioglu.
“These super-allergens, we believe, could be responsible for peanuts triggering potentially life-threatening anaphylaxis, the most severe form of allergic reaction. We are currently working to test this theory.”
They are also researching ways of blocking the peanut allergy reaction. “In simple terms, an allergic reaction is the result of an allergen reacting with antibodies produced by the body in response to that allergen. If we can prevent the peanut allergens from reacting with the antibodies, we believe we can prevent or reduce the allergic reaction from occurring in the first place.”
“We have recently been successful in identifying a substance that significantly blocks, or inhibits, the interaction between human antibodies and the major peanut allergens. Now we are working to better understand this inhibitor and how we can enhance its ability to block or reduce peanut allergy reactions,” says Dr Suphioglu.
Dr Suphioglu says the work being done by his team also has potential benefits for sufferers of other allergies.
Deakin recently hosted the 6th International Brachiopod Congress (1-5 February 2010) at the Holmesglen Conference Centre in Melbourne. This was the first time this congress has been held in Australia and only for the second time it has been held in the Southern Hemisphere.
Over 90 scientists from around the world interested in fossil and living brachiopods attended. Members of the School of Life and Environmental Sciences formed the executive organising committee for the specialised scientific international conference.
The five day congress was opened by Professor Lee Astheimer, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) of Deakin University. Professor Guang Shi (Acting Head of School, School of Life and Environmental Sciences) also addressed the congress opening ceremony as the congress’s Organising Committee Chair.
In addition to presentations from Australian and international researchers, the formal congress program was supplemented by a series of social events, including a Pre-Congress Reception, a Congress Dinner. Three Mid-congress excursions were held in various Victorian locations, with field trips to Bacchus Marsh, the Great Ocean Road and a visit to the Healesville Sanctuary. Three separate week-long Post-congress field trips were also held: two at various locations in New South Wales, and one to Doubtful Sound, Fiordland in New Zealand.
Over 200 people attended a special one-day symposium on wildlife research held at the Melbourne Campus in Burwood, recently. The symposium featured highlights of research by PhD students from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences. It also recognised the outstanding contribution of philanthropist, Dr Bill Holsworth, who has supported more than 40 PhD students at Deakin over the last 20 years, and hundreds more at other Universities. The keynote speaker, Dr Rod van der Ree, and the other 15 speakers at the symposium have all been supported by the Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment. All but three speakers have completed PhDs, and now are widely dispersed through Universities, government agencies and conservation organisations.
The large audience, from other Universities, Parks Victoria, Dept Sustainability and Environment, Melbourne Water, at least 10 local government bodies, ecological consultants and many more, highlighted the strong interest in Deakin’s environmental research. From new insights into threatened species, the ecological effects of fire, landscape ecology of woodlands and agricultural environments, and marine mammals, there was something for everyone. A highlight was the many former Deakin students who returned to catch up with staff and colleagues on the day.
The School of Architecture and Building has achieved outstanding results in the recent Australian Students Survey for Engagement (AUSSE), scoring highest among all other benchmarking groups in Australia. The strong results are a reflection of the high calibre of programs offered within the School of Architecture and Building, in the fields of study in both architecture and construction management.
The surveys used to collect AUSSE data are student and staff focused. The Student Engagement Questionnaire, administered to first and third year undergraduate students, measures student engagement in different areas. The School of Architecture and Building scored the highest of any other benchmarking group in Australia in the majority of categories and also achieved some of the highest among all courses in the University. Results included a score of 50 for Academic Challenge, Supportive Learning Environment 59, High Order Thinking 67, General Learning Outcome 71 and Career Readiness 49. Overall the School scored 77 with Overall Satisfaction at 75.
The AUSSE is developed and managed by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) and was designed to stimulate evidence-focused conversations about students’ engagement in university study. The AUSSE plays an important role in helping institutions monitor and enhance the quality of education they provide.
Researchers from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences and School of Medicine believe they have discovered how the omega-3 fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) can help prevent brain cells from dying - a finding which could have implications for reducing the risk of brain function loss associated with conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.
“Previous research has suggested that there is a link between low levels in the brain of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA and Alzheimer’s disease,” explains project leader Professor Leigh Ackland (School of Life and Environmental Sciences).
The researchers found that when the level of DHA in neuronal cells (the cells responsible for transmitting signals in the brain) drops, the level of zinc rises. “The higher levels of zinc can be toxic, resulting in cell death. This type of cell death is a key feature of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s.”
“We believe that having omega-3 fatty acids in the diet helps keep the levels of zinc in the brain in balance and helps prevents the increase in levels that triggers cell death,” says Professor Ackland, adding “to the best of our knowledge this is the first time a direct link has been demonstrated between the levels of DHA and zinc in neuronal cells.”
“Alzheimer’s disease is a complex disorder and it is unclear what causes it, although dietary factors are implicated in its development. Our work provides insights into how fatty acid nutrition may prevent the development of Alzheimer’s and could lead to new treatments that prevent zinc-induced brain damage,” says Professor Ackland.
To view these findings please visit FEBS Letters
The School of IT in collaboration with the School of Arts and Education is hosting the 2010 Global Game Jam (GGJ), as gamers from around the world rally together to design games in just 48 hours. Only one weekend to design a game from scratch! This year’s Deakin GGJ will be held from 5:00pm January 29th until 5:00pm 31st January, at the Melbourne Campus at Burwood.
You’re invited to come along and be part of this worldwide community event, taking place in 36 countries. It’s a free event and free tea and coffee will be flowing to help keep you awake. Upcoming game developers and anyone with an interest in developing video games are welcome. University equipment will be available for use or you can bring your own machine.
To be part of the Deakin GGJ contact Sophie Nichol (email@example.com) now!
Everyone that attends will get a certificate of participation and there will be awards up for grabs. Industry speakers and people working in the games industry are being asked to come along and have a look at what gets created. After the event all the games designed from around the global will be on globalgamejam.org/jam
PhD student Jacquomo Monk (School of Life and Environmental Sciences) has won the 2009 Australasian Hydrographic Society Education Award. The education award, which is open to students studying within a broad range of maritime disciplines, is to the value of $2,500.
The title of his PhD research project being undertaken is ‘Understanding demersal fish-habitat associations using video observations and sonar imaging’. Supervised by a team led by Daniel Ierodiaconou (School of Life and Environmental Sciences), the project utilises the recent advances in underwater remote sensing (such as acoustic positioning, multibeam sonar and remotely operated underwater video) to generate detailed data to investigate the spatial relationships between the seafloor and marine coastal fishes in southwest Victoria.
The group’s achievements have been previously recognised by the Australian Hydrographic Society in 2006 with the presentation of a Scientific and Technical Achievement Award for their development of new techniques for coastal habitat mapping. Jacquomo is using predictive modelling techniques to get a greater understanding of these relationships. This information is essential to better manage these vulnerable, rare and ecologically important communities.
The funds provide the opportunity for Jacquomo to present his work at the GeoHab (Marine Geological and Biological Habitat Mapping) Conference in Wellington, New Zealand in May, and to the Hydrographic board in Sydney later in the year.