In this issue

Issue 83

Energy principles worth building on
The CSIRO's Division of Building, Construction and Engineering has been studying how much energy it takes to construct a building. They measured how much energy it took to build the building, what was left in demolished materials, and how they were disposed.
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New uses for whey protein
Researchers have been examining the claim that it is the quantity of protein in the diet, not the quality of protein, that is the important issue where diet influences the risk of colon cancer. Recent experiments refute this claim. After feeding a constant level of protein to a rat, the incidence of intestinal cancer varied from 30 to 60 per cent by substituting soyabean protein in place of whey protein.
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Larvae trialled by computer
The Larvatron, built at CSIRO's Division of Fisheries is a computer-controlled device which automates the previously labour-intensive job of running large-scale experiments on plankton. One of the strengths of the Larvatron is that the animals are maintained in a consistently high-quality environment.
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Discovery shines LITE on clouds
LlTE stands for the LIDAR In-space Technology Experiment which is led by NASA. The experiment marks the first use of a LIDAR (light detection and ranging) for atmospheric studies from space. A LIDAR is an 'active' instrument. It operates in a similar way to a radar. LIDARs use powerful pulses of laser light. When the laser beam strikes a cloud it bounces back into the LIDAR's telescope. The time taken for the pulse to be reflected gives the height and thickness of the cloud and the strength of the signal indicates the amount of material present.
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Cape Trib's lone ranger
The studies by Dr Peter Pavlov on the effect of dogs on cassowaries, and the diet of feral pigs at Cape Tribulation are outlined.
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Clean technologies pave a future for coal
Coal is a vital and increasing source of energy worldwide, but current estimates suggest it is responsible for 20 per cent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions. Research by CSIRO is showing that Australian coals can be processed more effectively and used in existing and new technologies more efficiently. Together these approaches constitute what have become known as 'Clean Coal Technologies' - processes that reduce or eliminate environmentally-harmful materials and byproducts due to coal production and use.
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Understanding the coastal zone
Population growth, tourism and aquaculture is placing increased pressure on coastal ecosystems. The CSIRO's Coastal Zone Program aims to equip managers and users of coastal areas with tools and techniques for making decisions based on the most recent scientific findings. Research being carried out as part of Coastal Zone Program is grouped under five broad headings: land use and water quality; in-stream processes; estuarine mixing models; sediments; and eutrophication and filter feeders.
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A model approach to the Derwent
New effluent and sewage treatment processes have helped to reduce pollution in the Derwent River, Tas. Nevertheless, more research is to be done to chart a total picture of the interactions between the estuary and human inputs. A major study of the Derwent is the Estuarine Mixing models project. The project follows two streams. One is looking at physical transport models, which simulate the physical characteristics that drive water along the Derwent estuary. The other is examining selected pollutants and naturally-occurring chemicals in the river: their amounts and concentrations in surface waters and in sediments; their sources, how they move along the estuary; and where they finally go.
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Watching the river flow from satellite city
Sydney's next satellite city lies adjacent to the Hawkesbury River. Unless developments are appropriately planned, the demands on the river for water supply, irrigation, recreation and disposal of treated sewage effluent are likely to affect the health of the already stressed river system. Research into how the Hawkesbury-Nepean Rivers system is likely to respond to future development is being conducted by scientists from the CSIRO Coastal Zone Program and State agencies. The Coastal Zone Program is studying how pollutants originating from urban and agricultural catchments are delivered to estuaries.
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Streamlining land-use in the tropics
Minimising the potential downstream effects of rural runoff, particularly during the wet season, is crucial for sustainable resource management. As a first step in this process, scientists are focusing on the Herbert River drainage basin, Qld, in order to come to grips with the sources of nutrients, sediments and contaminants and how these are carried down the catchment. The study's ultimate aim is to compile all relevant information into a computerised Decision Support System (DSS) for land use planners.
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A resource for the best-laid plans
The CSIRO's CAMRIS (Coastal and Marine Resources Information System) is primarily a demonstration project. It aims to show that the various coastal and marine maps of Australia can be made into an integrated database which planners can manipulate. This will enable the impacts of proposed policies to be assessed before they are implemented.
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A dangerous legacy
As part of CSIRO's Coastal Zone Program, a team is mapping the possible distribution of acid sulphate soils along the Australian coast. It is also trying to gain a better understanding of the hydrology and the chemical, mineralogical and biological transformation occurring in such soils. Agricultural, tourism and urban developments along Australia's coastal zone have led to the drainage of these soils, thus releasing acid water. The environmental and economic effects are just beginning to be understood, but scientists have so far established that acid drain water is highly toxic to gilled organisms.
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Mission beach
The Surfrider Foundation is a community organisation that aims to protect and enhance Australia's waves and beaches. As well as campaigning for improved sewage treatment, the foundation gathers information about the state of Australia's coast.
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Exploring new depths
The Mapping of Australia's Underwater Features is a three-year project, involving collecting and mapping information on Australia's seagrass and reef distribution. Maps will become part of CAMRIS, a geographical information system (GIS) being established for Australia's coastal managers by the CSIRO.
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Cleaners of the deep
Filter feeders are vital to maintain the environmental health of oceans and coastal waters, and to the ocean food web, as the first step in collecting suspended particles such as phytoplankton, zooplankton, bacteria and detritus. Filter feeders come in all shapes, colours and sizes; mussels, scallops, sea squirts, sponges and barnacles are some of the better-known ones. Learning more about the activities of filter feeders for the benefit of coastal management is the focus of a three-year study by CSIRO.
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Herefords or herbfields?
Scientific evidence - including an experiment spanning half a century - suggests cattle grazing should not have the entrenched position in Victoria's high plains it currently has. Ecologists have shown that grazing and conservation cannot exist in harmony. Their solution is to continue the heritage of mountain grazing at lower elevations where the impact of cattle is less.
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Isn't it funny how possums like hollows?
Many old-growth forests contain an abundance of hollow-bearing trees. With 400 vertebrate species in Australia using the hollows, timber harvesting in natural forests represents a threat to hollow dependent fauna. Studies have shown that their populations may be reduced or eliminated when some or all hollow-bearing trees are removed. Logging cycles or rotation lengths are typically shorter than the period required for trees to form hollows suitable for wildlife.
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