Scientists in the news this week: July 24, 2020

University of Adelaide scientists involved in bushfire related research have featured prominently in the media recently.

From smoke taint in wine grapes, through to the impact of fire on soils and fauna, here are the stories of our scientists and science graduates in the news, for the fortnight ending July 24, 2020.


Agriculture, food and wine

Professor Kerry Wilkinson

Professor Kerry Wilkinson has started working closely with Cassegrain Wines on a project which will look into researching the impact of smoke taint from bushfires on grapes and ways to cope with this in the coming years. Professor Wilkinson featured extensively in the news across media channels including:

Dr Peter Boutsalis featured in The Land for giving a presentation focused on the research into the resistance to certain herbicides in ryegrass. 

Dr Boutsalis highlighted that in some cases of herbicide resistance there are other factors such as the environment or poor application to blame. Dr Boutsalis also discussed various strategies available to reduce the problem, such as the double-knock strategy where ‘glyphosate followed by paraquat works best when paraquat is sprayed two to five days after first glyphosate spray’.

Dr Katja Hogendoorn continues to be in the news, this week on ABC Radio and The Islander, discussing the green carpenter bee (Xylocopa aerata) which has faced a significant increase in the risk of extinction following the bushfires on Kangaroo Island. To help save the species, new nesting stalks are being built for these bees across the Island. 

Professor Christopher Preston continues to be featured in the news, this week in Stock Journal, where he is mentioned for giving advice to growers on how they can optimise the impact of new products for ryegrass control. 

The collaborative project led by Associate Professor Matthew Denton that produced a nitrogen reference manual for the Southern Cropping Region continues to be covered in the news, this week in Yorke Peninsula Country Times – Kadina.


Animal and veterinary sciences

Australian sea lions are in trouble. Their population has never recovered from the impact of the commercial sealing that occurred mainly in the 19th century.

Australian sea lion, Image by Jarrod HodgsonCC BY-ND

Researchers have found that bacteria in humans that has grown resistant to antibiotics has potentially made its way into wildlife, including bats, penguins, sea lions and wallabies, as reported in The Guardian.

The research was led by Associate Professor Michelle Power of Macquarie University with a team which included Dr Wayne Boardman. Dr Boardman states bacteria and the genes associated with them that are being passed from humans to animals can also have the potential to evolve and come back into the human population.


Biological sciences

Charcoal, ash and red soil left after a bushfire. Image by Rob Fitzpatrick

Charcoal, ash and red soil left after a bushfire. Image by Rob Fitzpatrick

Soil scientist Professor Robert Fitzpatrick contributed to an expert brief published by The Australian Academy of Science. The brief focused on the crucial need for more work to occur to help Australian soil recover from bushfires. This news was published on the websites Australian Academy of Science and Scimex

Subsequent news stories included a Q&A published by Cosmos which also appeared online via TECHregister

Professor Fitzpatrick spoke with ABC Riverland in more detail about the bushfire impact to soils and went into detail about how the soils on Kangaroo Island and in the Adelaide Hills differ. It’s suggested that further research is required and soil plans for regional South Australian communities would be advantageous.

As if space wasn’t dangerous enough… Vikrant Minhas from the Research Centre for Infectious Diseases is the author of a Conversation article which highlights research from space flight missions has shown bacteria become more deadly and resilient when exposed to microgravity.

There is continued coverage of project EchidnaCSI (Conservation Science Initiative) which aims to gather important information on how last summer’s bushfires affected Echidnas. 

EchidnaCSI is covered in The Islander, where Professor Frank Grützner explains the initiative, the nature of Echidnas and the peak breeding season of echidnas. Professor Grützner also urges people to use either the EchidnaCSI app to record echidna sightings, to upload Echidna sightings to Living Atlas of Australia or email them at


Students and alumni

Wine graduate Marcell Kustos, Head Sommelier at Penfolds Magill Estate, was awarded the 2020 Advanced Wine Assessment Course (AWAC) Scholarship. AWAC will be delivered by the Australian Wine Research institute (AWRI). This news was published by Drinks Trade and Wine Titles.


Tagged in Research, Engagement and Industry, Student & Graduate Stories, Scientists in the News, School of Agriculture Food and Wine, School of Biological Sciences, School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Viticulture and Oenology, Agriculture, Biomedical Science, Research Centre for Infectious Diseases, Ecology, Environmental Science, Environment Institute, Waite Research Institute