Professor Graeme Dandy Wins AWA National Water Professional of the Year


Congratulations to Professor Graeme Dandy who has been awarded the Australian Water Association Water Professional of the Year for 2014.

The award recognises “individuals who have displayed a sustained passion and continued commitment to the water industry and who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and influence in the water sector”.

You can find out more about the awards on the Australian Water Association website.

Graeme recently presented his research at the DEWNR NRM Science Conference. Watch the presentation below.

The South Australian Giant Cuttlefish Needs YOU!

The South Australian Giant Cuttlefish Needs YOU!

The Australian giant cuttlefish is the largest cuttlefish species in the world reaching a total length of up to 1 m and a weight of 15 kg.  Researcher Bronwyn Gillanders at the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute is heading up research on these cuttlefish as part of the Spencer Gulf Ecosystem & Development Initiative (SGEDI).

Giant Cuttlefish logged on REDMAP, April 2013

Giant Cuttlefish logged on REDMAP, April 2013

During May and June, the Australian Giant Cuttlefish (Sepia apama) will form dense spawning aggregations in around Point Lowly, in the northern Spencer Gulf, South Australia. This is the only know site in the world where the cuttlefish congregate to breed.

Over the last few years however, the numbers of these aggregations are on the decline and scientists aren’t sure why. Are the Giant Cuttlefish choosing to lay their eggs somewhere else?

This is where you can help! If you spot a group of 10 or more Giant Australian Cuttlefish in South Australian waters, you can log it on the REDMAP (Range Extension Database and Mapping Project) website.

Recreational and commercial fishers, SCUBA divers, boaters and scientists are being invited to spot, log and map sightings of Giant Australian Cuttlefish. Researchers are interested in sightings of aggregations of more than 10 adult cuttlefish as well as eggs, when spotted in South Australian waters, especially northern Spencer Gulf.

REDMAP Australian CuttlefishREDMAP Australian Cuttlefish2















You can find out more and download the information flyer. We hope to see your sightings pop up over the coming months!

The One Use of Drones Everyone Can Agree on, Except for Poachers.

The 360-square-mile swath of wetlands and forests in the Himalayan foothills is difficult and costly to reach on foot, let alone patrol for poachers.

But this is the responsibility of forest rangers in Nepal’s Chitwan National Park.

Find out how University of Adelaide Lian Pin Koh’s drones are helping protect some of the world’s last remaining one-horned rhinoceroses and Bengal tigers the Smithsonian magazine article: “The One Use of Drones Everyone Can Agree on, Except for Poachers”.

A Falcon UAV unpiloted aircraft is bungee launched in a midday demonstration flight. Source:

A Falcon UAV unpiloted aircraft is bungee launched in a midday demonstration flight.

Lian Pin Koh is founding director of and Associate Professor and Chair of the Applied Ecology and Conservation group (AEC) in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, and the Environment Institute, at the University of Adelaide.

Director of the Environment Institute, Professor Bob Hill to kick off the Sprigg Geobiology Centre Seminar Series

Director of the Environment Institute, Professor Bob Hill will give a seminar entitled ‘The Decline of the Great Southern Rainforests: Cenozoic climate change and vegetation responses

Prof. Bob Hill

Prof. Bob Hill

Professor Hill’s botanical research research has made significant contributions to the areas of palaeobotany, plant systematics, plant ecophysiology and applying research from these areas to interpreting changed that have occurred to Australian flora through evolutionary time.

During his career, he has won many awards including the Clarke and Burbidge Medals for his research into the impact of long-term climate change on the evolution of Australian Vegetation. He is currently Editor-in-Chief of the Australian Journal of Botany.

His lifetime interest in the evolution of the vegetation of Australia and Antarctica has seen Prof. Hill widley published on this subject. He is best known for his research on the fossil history of the southern beech, Nothofagus, and the southern conifers.

Join us for the first in the series of Sprigg Geobiology Centre Seminars for 2014.

When: Friday, March 14, 12:10pm
Where: Mawson Lecture Theatre, University of Adelaide


Animal Armageddon scientist descends on Adelaide. Welcome to Peter Ward.


Peter Ward. Source: Nautilus Magazine

You may come to the conclusion that the research of Peter Ward is somewhat fatalistic. He did after all, coin the term Medea Hypothesis, which proposes that multicellular life as we know it is suicidal. However, the very poison of complex life may also be able to save it.

Showcased in his TED talk, Peter tells a story of the mass extinctions of Earth’s past in contrast to the plot of Hollywood blockbusters Deep Impact and Armageddon.

He proposes that many of the mass extinctions or “Animal Armageddons” of Earth’s history have been caused not by the impact of extraterrestrial bodies, but by bacteria.

Rapid global warming causes oceans to become depleted in oxygen, which allows buildup of a gas poisonous to complex life, hydrogen sulfide (H2S). Bacteria on the other hand thrives on H2S, and so its domination of the planet is abetted.

As it turns out, the hydrogen sulfide poison present at the boundary of these mass extinctions may actually have a medical application to sustain human life. Not all mammals were wiped out during the mass extinctions of the past, or you wouldn’t be here reading this. Those that survived underwent an adaptation to cope with small amounts H2S due to the series of exposures to high atmospheric hydrogen sulfide they experienced.

Hydrogen Sulfide may be used to facilitate lowering of core body temperature following trauma, to allow time for transport to hospital. Understanding Earth’s history provides an opportunity to revolutionise medicine.

Peter Ward’s work to uncover the secrets of Earth’s mass extinctions has been profiled in internet think tank BigThink.comand inspired the Discovery Channel documentary Animal Armageddon.


Peter Ward diving at Osprey Reef, off the Great Barrier Reef. Source: Nautilus Magazine

This is research immersed in philosophy, that extends to the depths of the oceans. Work conducted with such passion and creativity is often sparked from a childhood experience. And so it is with Peter Ward.

In his surprisingly emotive piece in about a creature for a magazine of the same name, the Nautilus, Ward tells the story of a career researching a creature that has prevailed for 500 million years. It began with his entrancement with the Nautilus shell after first seeing one in a shell shop in Hawaii as a young boy. It ended, albeit temporarily, with the tragic death of a friend on a diving expedition in New Caledonia.

Ward visited Adelaide late last year to give a presentation concerning specific new data coming from research into the K/Pg mass extinction at field sites in Antarctica, the late Devonian mass extinction based on work just finished in the Canning Basin of Australia, and the Permian mass extinction from new work in both South Africa and Western Canada. He is now working at School of Earth and Environmental Sciences the University of Adelaide.

In a video interview for Nautilus magazine in answer to the question “What is your proudest achievement as a scientist?” Peter Ward muses “that I have been able to instill in students that it [science] is FUN.

Our guess is that students are in for a real treat. The Environment Institute welcomes Peter Ward!

Quenching the curiosity of everyday Australians.

Environment Institute members Corey Bradshaw and Barry Brook were part of a hand-picked group of 27 academic experts and science writers from across Australia who contributed to a very interesting publication released late last year by the Chief Scientist of Australia.

The Curious Country

The book, available for download as a pdf or to e-readers is entitled “The Curious Country“. This collection of essays is the result of asking Australians directly what were the important issues that they wanted science to address.

What were their concerns about science? What inspires them? 1186 Australians were surveyed, men and women ages 18 to 65, from all education levels and locations around Australia. Climate along with heath issues topped the list for 30% and 32% of Australians, respectively. Pollution and water were the environmental issues of greatest concern.

The book is designed to bridge the gap between heavy scientific papers for specialists, and those wanting more accurate, up-to-date information about science than what currently filters through the mainstream media.

There is no need to read the book from start to finish. Flip and flick until you find a story that piques your curiosity. Perhaps there is some scientific phenomena that you always wondered about, but haven’t yet come across a reliable and accessible source.

"Powering the Future" by Barry Brook

“Powering the Future” by Barry Brook


Barry Brook explains in his contribution Powering the Future that Australia must use science and technology innovations to move away from a dependence on coal and seek lower carbon alternatives.  Brook notes that: “Australia has been a world leader in the development of lower-cost and more-efficient crystalline solar photovoltaics” and support for this type of research should continue. Along with this, he urges Australia to embrace the exploration of new frontiers such as engaging in multi-lateral collaborations- he uses the large hadron collider project as an example.



"Biowealth: all creatures great and small" by Corey Bradshaw

“Biowealth: all creatures great and small” by Corey Bradshaw


In Biowealth: all creatures great and small, Corey Bradshaw explains how all people depend on absolutely every other species for their own survival. Take for example the very air we breathe every day, which is provided to us free of charge by other species, mostly plants and marine algae. Biodiversity is extremely important to the human race, and yet it is being lost at an alarming rate. Corey discusses his involvement in the project on his own blog

Biosecurity research positions available

We are currently seeking two individuals for a Research Assistant position and a Research Associate position. These positions are ARC funded positions in ‘Transport risk pathways for emerging invasive species’.

  •  Research Assistant within the School of Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Adelaide, Invasion Ecology Group (
    The successful applicant will be expected to engage with researchers in the School of Earth & Environmental Sciences as well as fostering ties with other research providers, industry risk creators, and State Government end-users. The successful applicant will work closely with researchers in the Invasion Ecology Group providing empirical support for projects relating to transport networks and incursion risk. Research will include the collation of empirical data from Australian (and international) biosecurity datasets, the visualisation of spatial data, and the curation of digital project meta‐data.
  • Research Associate within The School of Mathematical Sciences and the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences.
    The successful candidate will work within the Operations Research Group of the School of Mathematical Sciences. The Operations Research Group consists of a number of leading mathematical modellers, with particular strengths in stochastic modelling and optimisation, and hosts a node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for ‘Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers of Big Data, Big Models, New Insights’, which shares strong links with this advertised position. Research will include the construction of complex pathway transport models supported by existing biosecurity datasets and the predictive mapping of ecologically-realistic environmental and climatic risk neighbourhoods. Computational and mathematical techniques will be used to forecast probabilities of future incursion risks into Australia.The successful applicant will also work closely with researchers in the Invasion Ecology Group, in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences (, and will be expected to foster ties with other research providers, industry risk creators, and State Government end-users.

Closing date for these positions is Monday 17th March.

Spencer Gulf Ecosystem & Development Initiative Workshops

Workshops to discuss the progress on the Spencer Gulf Ecosystem and Development Initiative (SGEDI) are being conducted in regional areas and Adelaide over the next four weeks.

This is a four year program, led by the Environment Institute at the University of Adelaide. The program aims to provide all stakeholders with access to independent and credible information. We seek to enable positive environmental decision making for groups and individuals associated with the Gulf.

Cumulative Impact and the Spencer Gulf System

Cumulative Impact and the Spencer Gulf System

Workshop locations:

·         Port Augusta – Tuesday 18 February – Charles Chappell room, Standpipe Golf Motor Inn, Corner Eyre and Stuart Highways from 1.30pm until 4.30pm

·         Whyalla – Tuesday 11 March  – Training Room, Whyalla Library, 7-9 Ekblom Street from 1.00pm until 4.30pm

·         Wallaroo – Tuesday 25 February – Supper Room, Wallaroo Town Hall, Section 1634 Irwine St from 1.00pm until 4.30pm

·         Port Lincoln – Wednesday 26 February – Lecture Theatre, Lincoln Marine Science Centre, 1 Hindmarsh St from 1.00pm until 4.00pm

·         Adelaide – Friday 7 March – Seminar Room West, Masonic Hall, North Terrace TBC.

The aim of these workshops is to discuss the work that has been undertaken in the last twelve months. This includes:

  • a summary of the findings from the last series of stakeholder workshops that were conducted at the end of 2012
  • a review of the scientific knowledge about the Spencer Gulf’s marine environment
  • an assessment of key knowledge gaps
  • pathways for the next period of research

Download the Spencer Gulf Ecosystem and Development Initiative Summary (PDF)

In order to cater, we would be pleased if you could RSVP with your chosen location before 14 February by email to

Feel free to contact the Environment Institute for more information on (08) 8313 0543.

TED Speaker and “Drones Ecologist” Lian Pin Koh joins the Environment Institute

His research has been featured in National Geographic, presented at TED Global 2013, named by Scientific American as in the Top 10 of “World Changing Ideas” and has been listed in the Nominet Trust “100 of the World’s Most Inspiring Social Innovations” list.

So it is no surprise that the Environment Institute is very excited to welcome Lian Pin Koh in 2014!

Founder of the non-profit ConservationDrones.orgLian Pin has shared his research at TED Global 2013 in a talk entitled “A drone’s-eye view of conservation”.

So what exactly is a “Conservation Drone“?  Essentially model planes that can be equipped with a camera and sensing equipment, these drones can be programmed to fly over wildlife zones previously difficult or too costly to reach. To use Lian Pin’s words, they are “the ultimate boy’s toy”. He has even had his share of detractors, claiming that they were just “fooling around with toy planes”.

As the accolades suggest, these are no ordinary toy planes. They are currently being used in Nepal in the fight against wildlife crime, in North Sumatra to monitor the number of orangutan nest in a remote rainforest, and to keep an eye on deforestation as a result of the growth of palm oil plantations.

Looking ahead, there is enormous potential for the drones to be used in conjunction with radio collar trackers for monitoring of endangered animal populations, or for collection of images from remote cameras via WiFi.

In short, they are a “game-changer for conservation research and applications”.

Lian Pin commences as Associate Professor with the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences this week at the University of Adelaide. Welcome Lian Pin, we look forward to following your exciting research!

New Review: Parasites as biological tags to assess host population structure: Guidelines, recent genetic advances and comments on a holistic approach

A new review involving Environment Institute member Bronwyn Gillanders, as well as Sarah Catalano, Ian Whittington and Stephen Donnellan of the Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity has recently been published in the International Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife.

This review, titled Parasites as biological tags to assess host population structure: Guidelines, recent genetic advances and comments on a holistic approach includes a summary of the population studies that have used parasites as biological tags for marine fish and cephalopods. The new ways that parasite genetic data can be incorporated into population structure studies is discussed.

Hundreds of dicyemid parasites (white, fuzzy strands) attached to the renal appendage (in red) of a cuttlefish individual.

Hundreds of dicyemid parasites (white, fuzzy strands) attached to the renal appendage (in red) of a cuttlefish individual.

Download the review to find out more.