Silvertop study reveals healthy genetics
Researchers are assessing whether forestry practices such as clear-felling are narrowing the genetic base of silvertop ash, Eucalyptus sieberi, in East Gippsland. Analysis has revealed high levels of genetic diversity in both the original stands and regenerating saplings, and no change in diversity.
Made to measure
Technicians specialise in no-fuss solutions to practical, real-world problems. Technicians make up about one-third of the CSIRO workforce, yet their contribution to science is not always recognised. Three technicians at CSIRO are: Lynda Graf who is currently working on manufacturing DNA; David Grice who is involved with wildlife surveys; and Julian Mattay who is involved with predictive modelling of forest ecology.
More techies' tales
Profiles of three CSIRO technicians: John Owen who is involved with forestry research; computer technical officer Cher Page; and librarian Tricia Larner.
The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is developing high-yielding 'super rices' and urging Asian farmers to protect biological diversity by swapping chemicals for integrated pest management, a move that has brought remarkable success in the Philippines. The 'super rices' will have increased photosynthetic capacity and will direct more energy into grain production, instead of biomass. The Institute is using the resources of its germplasm bank, and using hardy genes gathered in regions such as West Africa. Other challenges are to reduce methane emissions from rice fields and to give the new rice plants resistance to pests by inserting genes from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).
Australia's climate Cerberus - the puzzle of three oceans
Australia's climate is affected by interactions between the ocean surface and the atmosphere in the Indian, Pacific and Southern Oceans. These interactions produce effects known as El Nino, the Indian Ocean Dipole and, the most recent discovery, the Antarctic Circumpolar Wave. The Climate Modelling Group at CSIRO Atmospheric Research is characterising the mechanics of the Antarctic Circumpolar Wave to better understand its influence on the climate of southern Australia, and to improve the accuracy of global climate models.
Australian scientists, backed by the automotive parts industry, are developing a hybrid internal combustion engine-electric vehicle. The project is a response to the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide and nitrous oxides. It will also promote Australia's technological and manufacturing skills on the world market. CSIRO is contributing expertise in rare-earth motors, lead-acid batteries and new-generation super-capacitors which provide bursts of power for rapid acceleration, plus electronic control systems, energy analysis, and design of low-mass metals and polymer composites to enable weight reduction.
Bioinformatics: spinning a worldwide web of life
The OECD's Megascience Forum is funding a project to make information on biological resources held in the Earth's museums available via the World Wide Web. The Global Biodiversity Information Facility is considered essential to biodiversity management. The CSIRO has a similar project - the Bioinformatics Initiative. This project is developing software tools that will enable data to be gathered and analysed from various CSIRO collections and databases.
A case of inflated identity
Caterpillars of heliothine moths are the number one pest for more than 60 different crops throughout the world. CSIRO entomologists have invented a device called a phalloblaster which inflates the penis of heliothine moths, and enables identification of different species. Now that the moths can be more easily distinguished, scientists are screening for natural pathogens and parasites.