Scientists in the news this week: September 2020

University of Adelaide scientists have sprung into the new season by sharing their research achievements and expertise in the media. 

Here are the stories of our scientists and science graduates in the news during September 2020.


Plant Accelerator, Waite campus

Agriculture, food and wine

Dr Bettina Berger features in a SeedQuest article about a cross-NCRIS collaboration between the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility and Bioplatforms Australia has been successful in securing investment worth $400k over two years from the Australian Research Data Commons for a high-impact data partnership project called OzBarley.

Image: Dr Bettina Berger, Scientific Director - The Plant Accelerator

GRDC soil microbes photo with Matthew Denton and Yi Zhou

GRDC GroundCover reports that soils from across Australia have been collected in a national research effort which aims to one day lead to the discovery of new rhizobia and beneficial growth-promoting soil microbes to create a step-change lift in chickpea production.

This research was led by Associate Professor Matthew Denton and Dr Yi Zhou.

Image: Yi Zhou and Matthew Denton, photo by Dr Joshua Philp

Professor Martin Cole

Internationally-recognised food scientist Professor Martin Cole (pictured) discusses the relationship between COVID-19 and food safety with ABC Radio Eyre Peninsula and West Coast.

In other news published by The Land, Food and Drink BusinessVegconomist, Retail World Magazine, Which-50 and The National Tribune, Australian plant-based meat startup v2food has announced Professor Cole as its new Chief Scientific Advisor.

Image: Professor Martin Cole

Collecting samples from a Tasmanian Cider gum

Tasmanian media picked up the story on scientists reviving the lost practices of Aboriginal fermentation techniques. Professor Vladimir Jiranek featured on ABC Radio Hobart, ABC News and in the Burnie Advocate.

Coverage of the research also appeared online including on:

Image: Researchers collect samples from a Tasmanian Cider gum.

Chris Preston weed science

Professor Christopher Preston featured in The Weekly Advertiser, Farm Weekly and on ABC discussing herbicides that can be used tactically to manage and control early germinating broadleaf weed.

Professor Preston also discussed annual ryegrass control in The Weekly Advertiser and strategies for promoting crop growth in a Farm Weekly article.

In Rural Business, Professor Preston answers the question, ‘Will the new Group G herbicides help control herbicide resistance in broadleaf weeds?’

Newspaper Melbourne Weekly Times mentioned Professor Preston’s presentations at the Mallee Sustainable Farming field days.


Animal and veterinary sciences

Wombat photo - Raphael Eisenhofer

Recent studies have shown that there are half a million more southern hairy-nosed wombats than previously estimated.

Researchers from the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences and School of Biological Sciences have provided more accurate burrow counts through the use of high-resolution satellite imagery. Scientists involved were PhD graduate Dr Michael Swinbourne, Dr Alyce SwinbourneDr David Taggart and Associate Professor Bertram Ostendorf.

This news was published in the *Sunday Mail Adelaide and *Cairns Post and on ABC News. A subsequent article in the Yorke Peninsula Country Times writes that the region’s southern hairy-nosed wombat population is decreasing.

Image: Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat by Dr Raphael Eisenhofer

Wild Orchid Watch Rosalie and Robert Lawrence

Biological sciences

*The Advertiser and *Daily Telegraph feature a story on the ‘Unsung Hero of SA Science’ award winners.

Honorary palaeobiologist Graham Medlin from SA Museum was recognised. Dr Liz Reed talks about Graham’s ‘lasting legacy to Australian natural history, environmental reconstruction and palaeoecology research’.
Dr Robert and Rosalie Lawrence won the Science Communication Award for driving Wild Orchid Watch, a national citizen science project designed to collect, record and share scientific information about Australian native orchids.

Image: Dr Robert and Rosalie Lawrence, Wild Orchid Watch

Archie Saunders, Fred Pickett, Jasmin Packer, and Geraldine Turner are determined to save the "precious" Whibley wattle from extinction

ABC reports there is new hope for one of Australia's most endangered acacias, with research led by Dr Jasmin Packer trialling an innovative technique to produce more of the iconic Whibley wattle.

Image: Archie Saunders, Fred Pickett, Jasmin Packer, and Geraldine Turner are determined to save the 'precious' Whibley wattle from extinction.

Komodo dragon by Achmad Ariefiandy, Komodo Survival Program

Dr Alice Jones features in The Adelaide Advertiser, The Bendigo Advertiser, The West Australian, and on Newstalk Radio in Brisbane and Perth about a University of Adelaide-led study which found the Komodo dragon could be driven to extinction by climate change unless significant measures to intervene are taken soon.

This story was also covered in news bulletins on more than 70 radio stations and via Yahoo News NZ, The National Tribune, Margaret River Mail, News wise, AlphaGalileoOberon Review, International Animal Health Media, Haaretz, Cosmos, News India and Treehugger

Exotic pets like these, on display at the 2018 Repticon in West Palm Beach, can escape and form invasive communities. Photo courtesy of Adam Toomes

PhD candidate Adam Toomes is the lead author of a study that has analysed public enquires to the Australian Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment about the legality of the importing exotic species.

The findings show that exotic pets desired by Australians are significantly biased towards threatened species, invasive species and also species that are prominent in the United States exotic pet trade.

This information is important for the biosecurity of Australia as it may contribute to the prediction of illegally smuggled pets. The research was covered in the news on ABCGet RegionalNature World News, EurekAlert, Brightsurf and

Image: Exotic pets like these, on display at the 2018 Repticon in West Palm Beach, can escape and form invasive communities. Photo by Adam Toomes.

Associate Professor Martin White

Physical sciences

Associate Professor Martin White and research student Anna Mullin have published an article in Cosmos magazine, asking the question, ‘can Facebook solve the biggest mystery in physics?’

Image: Particle astrophysicist Associate Professor Martin White

Artist's impression of binary black holes about to collide by Mark Myers, ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav)

Professor David Ottaway was a part of a team of scientists that discovered the biggest black hole collision and merger ever, 142 times the mass of our sun.

This news was covered extensively across various media including  The Daily Telegraph, The Advertiser, Scimex, and 7News.

Image: Artist's impression of binary black holes about to collide by Mark Myers, ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav)

Tiahni Adamson

Students and alumni

The Koori Mail, Lismore, features a story about proud Torres Strait Islander and Larrakia woman Tiahni Adamson who has now completed her Bachelor of Science (Wildlife Conservation Biology).

Tiahni is now working for the Department of Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA) as part of their Aboriginal Fisheries Compliance Support career pathway program. She aspires to continue working and upskilling with PIRSA and working onboard their vessel, the Southern Ranger.

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