Bioterrorism - are we ready?
The 2000 Olympic Games will bring with it a number of targets that may make Australia attractive to bioterrorist groups. In preparation for an attack, Australia has developed a number of preventative and emergency response strategies.
Hormonal bind for bad insects
CSIRO scientists have embarked on a project to develop new insecticides that target the receptor for the insect steroid hormone ecdysone. By targeting the ecdysone receptor the scientists intend to overcome a previously unforeseen problem with hormone-based insecticides.
Friendly fungus has termites covered
A fungal insecticide developed by CSIRO offers a new weapon against termites. The fungus, Metarhizium anisopliae, produces tiny spores that kill termites by penetrating the insect's cuticle and filling its body cavity with hair-like threads.
Accounting for carbon
The CRC for Greenhouse Accounting has been established to determine cost-effective ways of estimating carbon dioxide flux from farms, forests and land clearing operations. These are needed so that Australia can claim official credit for its carbon sinks and offset some of its own and other nations' excess carbon emissions through revegetation.
Global demand for recycled construction products has increased substantially in the past decade. After many years of research, concrete can now be recycled into a product that performs as well as the original in non-structural uses such as footpaths and driveways.
Using a technique called transposon tagging, scientists have identified the master gene that controls flowering in plants. The gene, known as FLF, suppresses flowering until switched off by other genes in response to environmental cues. The discovery raises the possibility of developing anti-flowering compounds for use in crop production and weed control. Other research has shed light on the pathway that allows the plant Arabidopsis to flower in response to increasing day length.
On the rebound
Whale species are staging extraordinary recoveries after being hunted to the verge of extinction. Southern right whales may approach their original population in Australian waters by 2050. Populations of humpback whales are expanding in the North Atlantic, North Pacific and off Western Australia. The relatively clean and remote southern feeding grounds of Southern Hemisphere whale populations are aiding the recovery. As whale numbers increase their reproductive behaviour is becoming better understood.
Insulation, orientation for solar access, window size, placement and shading, draught reduction, and the heat-storage capacity of floors and walls have long been accepted as important elements of energy efficient design in Australian residential buildings. As Australia prepares to meet its commitments to greenhouse gas reduction, ways of promoting the incorporation of these principles in new home construction are being explored. One option being considered is the addition of mandatory energy rating standards, such as the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS), to the Building Code of Australia.
Tales from the tomb
The Australian National Wildlife Collection contains specimens of 50,000 birds, 25,000 mammals, 6,000 reptiles, 2,500 amphibians and about 17,000 deep-frozen samples of bird tissue for genetic studies. The specimens are widely regarded as the finest and most useful of all the great Australian wildlife collections. There are two main reasons for this: the geographic spread of the specimens and the quality of the data associated with them.
Reconciling interests in the rangelands
Australia's rangelands are under considerable pressure from the pastoral industry. The project '21C' has been established to promote the establishment of policies and institutions needed to support sustainable land use in the rangelands of New South Wales.