The Sprigg Geobiology Centre Launch

The Environment Institute is pleased to announce the launch of a new research centre at the University of Adelaide, the Sprigg Geobiology Centre.

The Sprigg Geobiology Centre is a new initiative of the University of Adelaide, developing expertise within geobiology. It aims to understand how organisms both alter and evolve in response to the environment, and how they control geologic processes that influence resource distribution and environmental stability.

The Centre, which will be part of the University’s Environment Institute, is named in honour of pioneering scientist Reg Sprigg AO (1919-1994).

Reg Sprigg

Reg discovered the first geologic evidence for ancient animals in 560-million-year-old fossils found in the Ediacaran Hills of South Australia’s Flinders Ranges. These early fossils provide our primary insight in to how and why the first complex life on Earth evolved and prospered. Reg was a pioneer of the integration of geology and biology in both fundamental and applied science, and played an important role in the establishment of South Australia’s oil and gas industry. He led the first motorised expeditions through the Simpson Desert, revolutionised deep-sea exploration off Australia’s coasts and founded the major energy companies in the State.

The new Sprigg Geobiology Centre draws on Reg’s legacy by also integrating across the scientific disciplines of geology and biology to address both fundamental scientific questions, such as the history of life on this planet, as well as applied scientific challenges including resource sustainability and climate change.

Professor Martin Kennedy, Inaugural Director of the Sprigg Geobiology Centre, says “The Sprigg Geobiology Centre recognises the latest revolution in geoscience research identifying the inseparable nature of life from the Earth system and the important coevolution of an integrated-Earth-life system. The centre will provide a means of bringing together the broad array of scientists necessary to understand this inherently interdisciplinary endeavor.”

Professor Martin Kennedy, Inaugural Director Sprigg Geobiology Centre

The Centre will be launched tomorrow night (Thursday 8th November) at the SA Museum.

Visit the Sprigg Geobiology Centre website

Read the Media Release

Read the news article on ABC news

EI member wins Future Fellowship

Environment Institute member Assoc. prof. Ivan Nagelkerken was recently announced as a winner of a Future Fellowship for funding commencing in 2012 by the Australian Research Council. Ivan’s project title is ‘Ocean acidification and rising sea temperature: What happens to the fish?’

Ivan Nagelkerken

Congratulations are also awarded to the other 8 successful applicants from the University of Adelaide.

A full list of the successful Future Fellowship applicants can be found here.

Summary of Ivan’s Proposal:

Fish populations worldwide are currently suffering unprecedented stress. Ocean biodiversity and ecosystem viability are clearly being threatened by climate change. However, our knowledge of marine ecosystems and their inhabitants is piecemeal and much more empirical evidence is urgently needed in order to understand precisely what underlying mechanisms regulate biodiversity of coastal marine communities and how stressors such as ocean acidification and temperature are affecting them. I will study the behaviour, physiology, and competitive ability of selected fish species subjected to these stressors and develop models that can more realistically predict changes in local biodiversity and the dynamics of marine populations.


WRC Water Wednesday – Optimisation of Urban Water Supply Systems: A Pipe Dream?

The Water Research Centre are proud to present the final Water Wednesday for the year, ‘Optimisation of Urban Water Supply Systems: A Pipe Dream?‘, on Wednesday 19th of September 2012.

Professor Graeme Dandy

This seminar draws together three international experts who will talk about recent developments in the optimisation of urban water supply systems and prospects for further developments in this field. Speakers include:

  • Professor Dragan Savic, University of Exeter
  • Asst. Professor Dominic Bocelli, University of Cincinnati
  • Professor Graeme Dandy, University of Adelaide

When: Wednesday 19th of September 2012
Where: Horace Lamb Lecture Theatre, University of Adelaide
Time: 5:30pm – 6:50pm
Please note: Although this is a free event, registration is essential.

Find out more and register

Biosecurity: Climate change and environmental uncertainty

Climate change, extreme weather events and increasing habitat modification are acting together to have a detrimental effect on the range and spread of animal pests, weeds and pathogens in Australia. Coupled with this, increasing human population size, shifting demographics and changing land-use is straining the environment. This pressure complicates pest management and dramatically increases the risk of multi-species diseases occurring.

Experts currently believe that the majority of emerging diseases are of a multi-species, or zoonotic, nature, meaning they are transferred from animals to humans. Powerful examples of zoonotic diseases include; rabies, plague and a variety of intestinal parasites.

This type of biosecurity threat has been featured in the news recently after a large proportion of Asian tiger mosquitoes were discovered in northern Queensland. This breed of mosquito can carry diseases such as dengue fever and yellow fever and poses a threat to the Australian public.

By investigating the timing and magnitude of the tropical mosquito population decision-makers can determine the optimal level of mosquito control to reduce the risk of disease outbreaks in human populations. For example in 2009, Environment Institute members Professor Barry Brook and Professor Corey Bradshaw conducted a study which investigated the mosquito population in northern Australia. They suggested that targeted control, such as spraying in early September, of mosquito breeding areas may allow for more effective control of mosquitoes close to human settlement, and therefore reduce the likelihood of disease outbreaks amongst humans.

Environment Institute member Associate Professor Phillip Cassey, an expert in biosecurity, believes that Australia needs to take notice of the research at the forefront of developing climate-change forecasting methods. This type of research can downscale data from global climate material to a scale that is ecologically beneficial for Australia.

Using climate and ecological data, Professor Cassey believes it is vitally important that Australia looks to:

  • Develop user-friendly simulations to predict responses, and changes in distribution, of existing invasive species, emergence of new invasive ‘sleeper’ species, and the spread and transmission of diseases in Australia under likely scenarios of climate change and habitat modification.
  • Contribute specialist expertise in information technologies such as, the use of remote sensing in combination with current data and models to identify and monitor for emerging diseases and habitat pests.
  • Investigate the adoption of current techniques for tracking changes in mating systems, increasing genetic diversity, or shifts in gene patterns that could indicate the imminent risk of shifting from a ‘sleeper’ pest or weed to a problematic invasive species.

Find out more about the work of Assoc. Prof. Phillip Cassey and his team at the Cassey Invasion Ecology Group

ACAD Bioinformatics Early Career Researcher Workshop – Event

The Australian Centre for Ancient DNA is pleased to host the third Early Career Researcher workshop that builds on the successful workshops held in 2009 and 2010. This workshop is an intensive 5 day hands-on training course tutored by international experts in the field, utilising leading software packages for the analysis of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) and SNP array data.

The course will focus on interpreting complex data sets, such as genomic and metagenomic samples, and review the most recent developments in the field. The tutors will provide detailed instructions on the analysis of model and empirical datasets, and focus on the latest techniques available.

When: Monday 5th November – Friday 9th November
The University of Adelaide, North Terrace Campus
Cost: Environment Institute members – $190 (Early Bird rate)
Non-Environment Institute members – $400 (Early Bird rate)

Early registration is strongly encouraged as seating is limited to 30 places, and there is strong demand.  Interested graduates are encouraged to apply for travel funds from their host institution.

Find out more and register
Download the registration form

EI members amongst successful ARC Linkage Projects 2012 (Round 2)

The Australian Research Council (ARC) has released the funding outcomes for Linkage Projects 2012 (Round 2). The University of Adelaide secured 11 new grants, 5 of these involving Environment Institute members.

Congratulations to all of our successful members on their grant success.
The successful projects involving Environment Institute members were (with EI participants highlighted):

Evolution and biogeography of Australian idiopid trapdoor spiders: implications for conservation biology and environmental assessment
Participants: Prof Andrew Austin, Dr Michael Rix, Prof Mark Harvey and A/Prof Steven Cooper
Project Summary: This project will use DNA techniques to study the evolution of trapdoor spiders and provide genetic criteria for their identification, environmental assessment and determining conservation priorities.
Partner Organisations: Western Australian Museum, South Australian Museum, BHP Billiton Iron Ore Pty Ltd, Pilbara Iron Company (Services) Pty Ltd, Biota Environmental Sciences Pty Ltd

Identifying cost-effective reforestation approaches for biodiversity conservation and carbon sequestration in southern Australia
Participants: Prof Corey Bradshaw and Dr Margaret Mayfield
Project Summary: The project will determine the reforestation approach that maximises the native biodiversity found in bushland/shrubland regrowth in South Australia, while maximising the carbon sequestered for the lowest cost.
Partner Organisations: SA Department of Environment And Natural Resources, Zoos SA, Australian Flora Foundation

Bad tastes, odours and toxins in our drinking water reservoirs: are benthic cyanobacteria the culprits?
Participants: A/Prof Justin Brookes, A/Prof Andrew Humpage, A/Prof Michael Burch, A/Prof Paul Monis and Prof Tsair-fuh Lin
Project Summary: This project will investigate species of Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) that grow on the sediments of reservoirs and produce toxins and bad tastes that contaminate drinking water sources. Thus providing more comprehensive management solutions to the water industry.
Partner Organisations: SA Water Corporation, Water Quality Research Australia Ltd, Sydney Catchment Authority, National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan

Root distribution and salinity and soil water dynamics in a chenopod shrubland: implications for restoration ecology
Participants: A/Prof Jose Facelli, A/Prof Jennifer Watling and Prof David Chittleborough
Project Summary: This project investigates the dynamics of water and roots in soils in arid lands to inform revegetation practitioners on the best approaches to reconstruct soils and vegetation after mineral extraction. The project will also provide basic information on the function of chenopod shrublands in arid southern Australia that may be affected by climate change.
Partner Organisations: Iluka Resources Ltd

An integrated tool for informing pest management: modelling range shifts for an invasive vertebrate in response to climate change
Participants: Dr Damien Fordham, A/Prof Phillip Cassey, Prof Barry Brook and Mr Gregory Mutze
Project Summary: This research project focuses on providing user-orientated tools that enable a strategic approach to European rabbit management and vertebrate pest control in Australia in response to anticipated climate and land-use change.
Partner Organisations: Biosecurity SA, WA Department of Agriculture and Food, NSW Department of Primary Industries

Congratulations to all of the successful candidates from the University of Adelaide. See a full list of the successful applications from the University of Adelaide.

Research Tuesdays: Life strikes back – Video now available

Environment Institute member Professor Andrew Lowe presented the latest Research Tuesdays seminar held by the University of Adelaide on Tuesday 8th May.

The seminar was titled ‘Life strikes back – How the explosion of knowledge in genomics is enhancing our ability to conserve species’ and explored the positive story unfolding in the field of biodiversity genomics.

Video footage of the presentation is now available to view on the University of Adelaide’s Research Tuesdays website.



New Paper: Why are birds’ eggs colourful? Eggshell pigments co-vary with life-history and nesting ecology among British breeding non-passerine birds

A new paper involving Environment Institute member Phill Cassey, as well as Gavin Thomas (Bristol University, Steven Portugal (University of Birmingham & the Royal Veterinatry College, Hertfordshire), Golo Maurer (University of Adelaide & University of Birmingham), Mark Hauber (City University of New York), Tomas Grim (Palacky University), George Lovell (University of St Andrews) and Ivan Miksik (Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic) has recently been published in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society.

Phil Cassey, one of the authors on this paper

The paper titled, ‘Why are birds’ eggs colourful? Eggshell pigments co-vary with life-history and nesting ecology among British breeding non-passerine birds’  investigates how the concentrations of avian eggshell pigments vary among related species, and whether this variability is associated with either eggshell appearance and/or species life-history traits. Suprisingly, this element remains poorly understood as biologists have tended to focus on the structure and biochemistry of the avian eggshell instead.

Download the paper to find out more about this research.

University of Adelaide to host TERN 3rd Annual Symposium

The Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN) will have its 3rd Annual National Symposium at the National Wine Centre, Adelaide, on 28-29 March.

The University of Adelaide is a founding partner in TERN, and two key research facilities are based at the University.

TERN relies on hi-tech equipment in the field and sophisticated data collection and sharing to provide the best, most up-to-date information to environmental scientists about the current state of Australia’s ecological diversity.

Using the resources and expertise provided by TERN, scientists will be able to tackle some of the big issues for the nation’s ecology, such as:

  • How Australia’s ecosystems change over time;
  • What is the current health of some of Australia’s key ecosystems;
  • How introduced plant and animal species affect native species;
  • How the spatial distribution of Australian plant and animal species change, and how some become extinct.

The University of Adelaide hosts two of the eight key facilities for the TERN project:

  • Eco-informatics – a new, national web-based system of ecological knowledge and observations. This information is available for the benefit of researchers, planners and policy-makers right across Australia.
  • Multi Scale Plot Network – a facility coordinating the collection and archiving of scientific measurements and observations. This is key to developing a detailed understanding of Australia’s biodiversity and how our ecosystem works

One of the highlights of the symposium will be a keynote address by Dr Steve Morton, CSIRO Fellow and Chair of the Board of the Environment Institute.

Read the full Media Release

More details about the Symposium and a full program can be ound on the TERN website.

EI Members win 2011 Asia-Pacific Spatial Excellence Award – Environmental Sustainability

The 2011 Asia-Pacific Spatial Excellence Award for Environmental Sustainability was recently given to Environment Institute members  Ken Clarke, Megan Lewis and Bertram Ostendorf, together with Anna Dutkiewicz and Giles Forward of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for their satellite remote sensing tool for monitoring soil erosion risk. This international peer-recognition is in addition to recent State recognition with the Environmental Sustainability South Australian Spatial Excellence Award for the same project.

This ARC Linkage Project was the culmination of more than eight years of fruitful collaboration with DENR. From inception and pilot through to a tool ready for operational use, this collaboration has greatly benefited both partners. The Landscape Science group looks forward to continuing this relationship with DENR.

Once again, State and international industry recognition highlight that the University of Adelaide Landscape Science group is capable of producing outstanding practical applications of remote sensing tailored to industry needs. In conjunction with an already strong academic performance, this places the University of Adelaide Landscape Science group as the top spatial sciences group in Australia.