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Issue 93




Sustainability - could it grow on trees?
A native, leguminous tree with nutritious leaves, pods and flowers, high-quality timber and lush pasture growth beneath its canopy is emerging as a potential ally for north-east Australia's pastoral industry. The siris tree, Albizia lebbeck, could provide the basis of a dual-purpose agroforestry system in semi-arid regions.
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Toxic algal blooms all in the genes
Microscopic blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, are a recurrent nuisance in waterways. In Australia, four cyanobacteria species are known to produce toxins. Researchers have found toxin production to be due to genetic differences between similar cyanobacteria.
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'Future car' goes one-wheel drive
Scientists have developed a wheel motor for use in solar-powered cars that consists of a stationary armature disc (stator) encased in two outer rings of rotating supermagnets (rotors). The motor has outstanding energy efficiency.
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Messenger membranes
Researchers have developed a biosensor prototype that can detect the change in voltage associated with molecular interactions on the surface of a synthetic membrane. Potential applications for the device exist in health care and diagnostics industries, environmental monitoring and in defence.
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Free flow
Applications to use water from the Paroo River for irrigation have prompted objections from scientists, conservationists, pastoralists and resource management agencies concerned about potential damage to the river's ecology. Evidence of the effects of water regulation elsewhere in the Murray-Darling Basin has been presented in an effort to protect the semi-arid wetland habitats of the Paroo.
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Bay wash
A four-year ecological study of Port Phillip Bay, Vic, has identified the importance of benthic flora and fauna in promoting nitrification and denitrification in the bay sediments. These processes facilitate the conversion of nitrogen to nitrogen gas, preventing eutrophication, despite high sewage and stormwater inputs. A predictive model developed during the study will be used to help manage the bay and its catchment.
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Aquaculture - the blue revolution
CSIRO research projects are helping Australia's aquaculture industry to compete on the growing global market. The projects cover aspects such as maintaining water quality, sustainable management, selective breeding and genetic enhancement, disease minimisation and the formulation of nutritious feeds.
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Clean power play
A Melbourne based company, Ceramic Fuel Cells, has successfully tested a prototype five kilowatt solid oxide fuel cell stack module. At the heart of the prototype fuel cell is a remarkable ceramic 'alloy', similar to transformation-toughened, partially stabilised zirconia (PSZ).
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Teetering on the brink
Improved knowledge of the conservation status of Australian plant species has contributed to an increase in numbers recorded as rare or threatened. Major threats include land clearing, overgrazing, rabbits, weed invasion, climate change and altered fire regimes. Campaigns such as the release of rabbit calicivirus, the Landcare movement and the implementation of specific recovery plans offer hope that some species may be saved.
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Seeking small wonders
A profile of the work of Peter Franzmann in the area of bacteria and the bioremediation of environmental contaminants.
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Reading the sands of time
Scientists at CSIRO have developed a technique named optically-stimulated luminescence for dating young sedimentary deposits.
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