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Leading academic Associate Professor Leigh Ackland (School of Life and Environmental Sciences) has been appointed to Personal Chair.
Associate Professor Leigh Ackland is Deputy Director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology. Leigh and her team are interested in the function of trace metals in human health and disease. She also has a research program that is aimed at better understanding breast cancer.
"I am greatly honoured to be granted a Personal Chair at Deakin University," she said. "This leadership role brings with it the capacity for me to enhance research in biological and biomedical sciences within the School of Life and Environmental Sciences, the Faculty of Science and Technology and to promote partnerships with external organisations.
"This appointment also gives me an opportunity to provide academic support and mentorship in the University and to profile the role of women in science."
An example of Associate Professor Leigh Ackland's recent research: Leigh Ackland research article (496 KB)
A copy of the full media release is available at www.deakin.edu.au/news/2009/061109personalchairs.php
Dr Giovanni Turchini (School of Life and Environmental Sciences) has been awarded an Australian Research Fellowship as part of his successful application for Australian Research Council Discovery Project funding. Under the Fellowship he receives funding for his research project - Triggering the dormant capacity of fish to make omega 3 fatty acids - for five years.
Unsustainable fishing practices have led to increased pressure on aquaculture (fish farming) to meet the shortfalls in the supply of fish, which are the main source of many essential omega 3 fatty acids. However, these fish have special nutritional requirements and need to be fed fish oil so they still contain high levels of omega 3. The problem is that current fish oil is derived from the already over-exploited wild fish stock - a situation that is environmentally and economically unstable, likely leading to a collapse of the sector within a few years.
Dr Turchini is working on new ways to increase the omega 3 oil contained in farmed fish from within. He is looking at innovative natural methods of producing fish still rich in omega 3 fatty acids without using fish oil. "I am looking at the basic biology of fish," he says. "It is changing the fish from within - triggering their dormant capability of transforming fatty acids available in vegetable oils into the good ones."
Dr Turchini says in the last two years he has received fantastic support from many staff of the School of Life and Environmental Sciences and the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, in particular from the two co-investigators of the funded ARC discovery project, Professor Andy Sinclair and Associate Professor Leigh Ackland, and from Dr David Francis and Dr Cenk Suphioglu, who were essential for developing the proposal.
To view Dr Turchini's recent review paper please visit:
Dr Turchini's papers are available at:
A research project involving Professor Andrew F. Bennett (School of Life and Environmental Sciences), which shows a dramatic decline in native woodland bird species in northern and central Victoria over the past five years, was featured on ABC TV 's The 7.30 Report on Wednesday 21 October.
Professor Bennett worked on the research with Professor Ralph Mac Nally and Dr Jim Thomson, Monash University; Dr Jim Radford, Deakin University (now with Bush Heritage Australia); and Dr Peter Vesk, University of Melbourne. Their findings were recently published in the international journal Diversity and Distributions.
"Climate change, particularly the lack of rainfall, has reduced the quality of habitat available to a wide range of bird species," Professor Bennett said."This has compounded the already serious effects of extensive habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation in the region."
Professor Bennett believes lack of food has contributed to the decline in numbers. "The collapse in bird numbers strongly suggests the availability of food has crashed," he said. "Red Ironbark trees, an important food source for nectar-feeding birds, are flowering less frequently with the drought. In five of the past eight years Red Ironbark eucalypts have flowered little or not at all.
"Most worrying, species thought to be secure, such as the Red Wattlebird and the Laughing Kookaburra, have declined as much or more than species already considered endangered. "
"We can't change the climate," Professor Bennett said, "but we can do much more to protect and improve the quality of habitats for our native wildlife.
"This means careful management of existing native vegetation, including our parks and reserves, and greatly increasing the amount of restoration and revegetation in rural environments. There is much good work being done by Landcare groups and others, but the scale of our restoration actions does not match the scale of the problem."
A transcript of The 7.30 Report story is available on the ABC website
Related research paper: Collapse of an avifauna: climate change appears to exacerbate habitat loss and degradation
Life and Environmental Sciences PhD student Sharl Mintoff won the prize for best poster by a young scientist under 35 at the recent biennial conference of the Australasian Plant Pathology Society held in Newcastle, Australia, 28th September - 1st October. Sharl is in the first year of his PhD program at the Waurn Ponds campus and received a framed certificate from CSIRO publishing, a book voucher valued at $150 and a 12 month subscription to the CSIRO journal 'Functional Plant Biology'.
Sharl's poster was titled "Priming for resistance against pathogens: cellular responses of Arabidopsis to UV-C radiation" and described his research that is investigating components of the signalling pathways that are induced in the model plant Arabidopsis in response to ultraviolet light. Sharl and his co-investigators are using detailed microscopy, biochemical assays and microarray analysis of gene expression to investigate the impact of ultraviolet light on the response of plants to disease-causing organisms.
Life and Environmental Sciences researcher Dr Daniel Ierodiaconou has won a Young Tall Poppy Science Award. The prestigious annual awards recognise the achievements of Australia's outstanding young scientific researchers and communicators.
Selected on the basis of research achievements and a passion for communicating their work, Dr Ierodiaconou, whose research is in the field of environmental management and ecology, was one of 11 Victorian and Tasmanian scientists under 35 recognised with an award.
"The Young Tall Poppy Science Awards recognise scientific achievers who are in the early stage of their careers and already making discoveries," says Australian Institute of Policy and Science Executive Director, Elektra Spathopoulos. "Not only are they great researchers, they have demonstrated their leadership in communicating science and engaging the public."
Instead of winning prize money, these young scientists gain the opportunity to take their research to school students, teachers and communities around their State and across Australia as part of the Tall Poppy Campaign inspiring a new generation to get passionate about science.
The awards were presented at a ceremony held in Melbourne on Thursday 17th September. Numerous former Young Tall Poppy Science Award winners have gone on to win more senior science awards, including Eureka Prizes, Prime Minister's Prizes for Science and Cosmos Bright Sparks Awards.
One example of Daniel's recent research can be found at www.sciencedirect.com
Researchers from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences have won the Geelong Researcher of the Year Award. Dr Fred Pfeffer and his Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Fellowship holder, Dr Luke Henderson, won the prestigious award for their groundbreaking research into combating multi-drug-resistant superbugs.
Dr Pfeffer and Dr Henderson are investigating a new class of antibacterial agents that one day could defeat antibiotic-resistant superbugs, (bacteria that have developed a resistance to most common antibiotic medications currently available). These multi-drug-resistant superbugs have emerged in hospitals throughout the world and are starting to emerge outside hospitals.
The most powerful tool people can use to achieve environmental change is their vote, according to Associate Professor Geoff Wescott (School of Life and Environmental Sciences). In his new book Back to Basics: Breakthrough Proposals for the Australian Environment, Associate Professor Wescott argues that "The greatest individual action people can take is to direct their vote to a political party that has high-quality environmental policies. If people use their voting power to force government and oppositions to take specific action we will see immediate and sustained improvements in our environment."
Associate Professor Wescott believes it is imperative that governments take action now. "In the book I put forward a number of breakthrough proposals that governments can adopt to address the environmental problems we are facing, from nature conservation to water and waste management to climate change," he says.
They include support for replacing the emissions trading scheme with a carbon tax, ensuring all levels of government spend as much on public transport as they do on roads and implementing existing water policy initiatives.
"Some of my other recommendations are the strategic revegetation of Australia, the 'rebirth' of inland towns to attract people away from population-pressured coastal areas and the exploration of energy options such as ocean - wave and tidal - power. Imagine a desalination plant fueled by wave energy rather than dirty brown coal," Associate Professor Wescott says.
While he applauds and supports 'individual virtuous action' on the environment, Associate Professor Wescott says it is not enough on its own."Environmental improvement is going to come from governments getting back to basics and acting in the interest of their voters, not lobbyists."
Dr Fiona Hogan (School of Life and Environmental Sciences) is DNA fingerprinting Australian owls with the help of feathers. From a single feather, she can determine the species, sex, and identity of individual birds.
She has uncovered a series of 'genetic markers' which can provide a DNA fingerprint to identify an individual owl from a single feather. "Trace amounts of DNA left behind by an animal, in feathers, hairs, scats or eggshells, can be used to identify them," she explains. "DNA in living organisms is unique and can be used to identify individuals using fingerprint techniques."
She has already found a pair of powerful owls who have mated together for at least 10 consecutive years and found that those breeding in urban areas are typically more closely related than those which breed in the bush.
Australian owls are under threat. As predators at the top of the food chain, owls are an essential part of the Australian environment. "Without them we could lose many native animals forever, because they help keep species in balance," she says. "In order to conserve owls we need to know more about them and we need that information fast."
As feather collection requires little expertise, Dr Hogan has been able to enlist the aid of people from all over Australia to collect owl feathers for her. More than 2,000 feathers have been collected, with some from highly threatened species, such as the elusive Rufous owl (Ninox rufa) which is only found in remote areas in Northern Queensland and the Northern Territory.
Dr Hogan is one of 15 early-career scientists presenting their research to the public for the first time thanks to Fresh Science, a national program sponsored by the Federal Government.
Professor Guang Shi and Dr Elizabeth A. Weldon from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences were part of an international team that found some of the oldest examples of prehistoric bacteria of its kind in Australia. They discovered the 268 million year-old fossilised bacteria on the coastline near Wollongong, accidentally while on the hunt for other fossils.
The bacteria was revealed in a trace fossil-the markings or impressions produced by a creature-believed to have been made by an ancient marine animal. Two different types of bacteria were found in different layers within the trace fossil in the rock and they may provide valuable clues about how animals reacted to climate change. According to Professor Shi, "the alternating arrangement of the different layers of sediment containing different bacteria fossils could represent a response of the animal to warm and cold climate changes."
"We know the climate was oscillating at that time during a global climate transition from an icehouse to a greenhouse state, and the rhythmic climatic oscillations are indeed reflected in both sediment type and animal behaviour living in the ancient environment," said Professor Shi.
Professor Shi said this is the first report from Australia of this kind of fossilised bacteria of this age. The research team plans to return to the area for more fieldwork to determine the spread of the fossils.
The MV City of Rayville, the first US vessel sunk during World War II, has been revealed in detail for the first time by scientists from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences. Thanks to the state-of-the-art sonar imagery and remotely operated vehicles, the scientists have been able to take the first detailed images of the ship in its watery grave.
The vessel was sunk in 1940 by a German mine off the coast of Cape Otway in Victoria, Australia, in more than 70 metres of water. While its approximate location has been known since 2002, the depth of its final resting place has meant obtaining information about the wreck site has been difficult. Recent advances in technology have allowed the scientists to investigate the site remotely. Using sonar equipment, the team was able to develop detailed 3D models of the City of Rayville wreck site and collect video using a VideoRay remotely operated vehicle.
"It was very exciting to see the City of Rayville for the first time," said Dr Daniel Ierodiaconou, Deakin researcher and the principal scientist overseeing the project. "Beautiful marine life has colonised the exterior of the wreck with dense invertebrates including sponges and sea whips visible. The hull also provides an artificial reef, attracting and providing habitat for a vast array of marine life such as fishes," he said.
"The multi-beam sonar images provide a very clear picture of the orientation of the wreck and surrounding seabed. The wreck is laying upright on its keel, with a slight list to one side," said Cassandra Philippou, Heritage Victoria Maritime Archaeologist. "A hatch cover near the stern is missing, consistent with reports that covers were blown off the hatches through the force of the explosion. Sediments have built up to the south-west of the wreck, and there is a deep scour on the northern side," she said.
The City of Rayville was uncovered as part of a wider project to map Victoria's seafloor environment.
These days we all know how important it is to have good levels of omega 3 oils in our diet. But it is becoming harder to get it from the main traditional source - fish. Dr Giovanni Turchini (School of Life and Environmental Sciences) is working on new ways to increase the omega 3 oil contained in farmed fish by changing the fish from within. With more and more people eating farmed fish, there are growing concerns about how much good omega 3 oils these fish contain. That is because, while many are fed fish oil directly, growing numbers are being fed vegetable oils which do not contain good omega 3 oils and that decrease the nutritional value of the fish.
"There are not enough fish coming from the ocean to meet growing global demand,'' said Dr Turchini. This has resulted in a rapid expansion of aquaculture - or fish farming - however these fish have special nutritional requirements and need to be fed fish oil so they still contain high levels of omega 3. The problem is that current fish oil is derived from the already over-exploited wild fish stock - a situation that is environmentally and economically unsustainable, likely leading to a collapse of the sector within a few years.
Researchers around the world are looking at alternatives to this fish oil, including feeding the fish different oils such as vegetable oils and animal fats. "If we go down this path the fish we produce will contain less omega 3 and from a nutritional point of view they are no longer fish, more like chicken,'' said Dr Turchini.
Dr Turchini is looking at innovative natural methods of producing fish still rich in omega 3 fatty acids without using fish oil. "I am looking at the basic biology of fish,'' he said. "It is changing the fish from within - triggering their dormant capability of transforming fatty acids available in vegetable oils into the good ones.''
"I am interested in their ability to survive without drinking water for their entire lives if they need to," Associate Professor Donald said.
"When Hopping Mice metabolise their food they generate metabolic water - 90 per cent of their water comes from the metabolism of their food,'' he said.
When drinking water is not available, the Hopping Mice would eat very little for around six days to conserve body water - their appetite effectively became suppressed. After this, their appetite increased markedly to above normal levels.
"For the first six days without drinking water their appetite is suppressed and they consume their body fat. Their appetite then increases and they generate metabolic water by eating a lot," he said.
Associate Professor Donald said the process of understanding appetite regulation is quite complex and has implications for a wide range of health issues affecting people.
Deakin is sponsoring a major symposium to celebrate the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin, and also the 150th anniversary of the publication of his landmark The Origin of Species. The symposium runs from 14-18 February.
"Our symposium has attracted a range of experts on the evolution of birds from around the world," says Dr Kate Buchanan from the School of Life and Environmental Services who helped organise the symposium and is presenting her own paper.
The symposium will celebrate the impact of evolution on avian biodiversity. The vast array of bird forms, in terms of appearance and behaviour is due to evolutionary selection for the genes which determine individual fitness. The processes first identified by Darwin over 150 years ago are now recognised as responsible radiation in avian molecular sequences, morphologies, behaviour, and physiology.
Within the field of avian biology, the wide interests of the symposium speakers reflect the scale and diversity of the adaptive radiation seen in avian evolution. The themes which will be explored during the symposium include the processes giving rise to evolutionary adaptation, speciation, morphological changes, influence of environmental change and the evolution of adaptive behavioural strategies. The aim is to publish a group of papers which celebrates avian biodiversity and the impact of natural and sexual selection processes, by reviewing past work and highlighting new and exciting areas for future research.
"A number of papers to be published later this year in Emu Austral Ornithology, the premier ornithological journal for the southern hemisphere, as a result of the symposium. This special issue is a fair indication of the quality of those speakers involved, and the importance of their research," says Dr Buchanan.