In this issue

Issue 61

Sea birds in the trees
The Abbott's booby is the rarest and most restricted in distribution of the species belonging to the sea-bird family Sulidae (gannets and boobies). It is unique to Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean. Land clearing for rock phosphate mining has changed wind patterns, affecting the bird's breeding success, so a revegetation program is one of the measures being considered to improve the habitat in order to increase the chances of the bird's survival.
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Infrastructure: going ... going ... where?
Decay is a natural process. Left alone long enough, all buildings will fall down; all pipes, pylons and rails will rot away, all bridges and dams will collapse. Research looks at ways to put a lid on escalating maintenance costs.
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How the camel keeps its cool
If you've ever wondered how camels manage to survive for long periods without drinking in some of the hottest deserts in the world, you are not alone. So too have plenty of biologists who have studied this unique animal. Allowing its body to heat up means the camel needs to sweat less, they also have thick fur which provides good insulation and their respiration is adapted to conserve water loss.
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Plants, soil - and smog
Take some hydrocarbons, add noxious nitrogen oxides, stew together in sunlight, and you get a nasty brew containing ozone and other toxic chemicals. The result is photochemical smog, and it is a bane of major urban populations. Gases from plants and soil can contribute, in a minor way, to smog.
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The molecules of growth
In humans and other mammals a very complex series of hormones regulates the growth of the whole body. Studies of 'insulin-like growth factors' yield some promising findings.
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Ants and antibiotics
The moist dark and nutrient rich environment within an ant nest is ideal for fungal and bacterial growth. The ants answer to this form of potential infection is chemical defence using antibiotic or antimycotic compounds. Secretions from the metapleural glands of ants are being tested against several bacteria of human significance, some of which are resistant to commonly used antibodies.
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Staying cool with off-peak energy
Cheaper off-peak energy can be used to make ice by refrigeration systems during off-peak periods which is melted to meet cooling requirements during times of high demand when energy costs are higher.
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Time and tides
Study of the 650 million year old reddish brown siltstone from Pichi Richi Pass in South Australia's Flinders ranges showed it was made up of thin layers, or laminae, in a regular pattern. Information encoded in the rocks can tell us something about the calendar on the younger Earth. More digging and analysis should ensure we use the 'diary in the rocks' to learn not only about life on Earth but also about changes within our solar system.
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Rings on the lawn
Circles of apparently extra vigorous growth, known as fairy rings, are destructive manifestations of a fairly large fungal network, or mycelium underground. One of the worst fungi to cause fairy rings has been identified in South Australia as Marasmius oreades. The best solution to the problem is to provide plenty of competition for the fungus'.
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