By Angela Beggs
This week, we’ve taken miniscule insects, like wheat weevils and Christmas beetles, and scaled them right up to almost 40 times their original size using a 3D scanning system.
We took the scanned files and sent them through our 3D printer and…. Voilà! In just 10 hours there were GIANT bugs everywhere, made from the finest quality titanium of course.
Our scientists are buggin’ out at the new 3D printed creatures because they show exciting new potential for entomologists studying the anatomy of miniscule insects by enabling them to physically handle them and study their features right up close.
They believe this technology will soon enable them to determine characteristics, such as gender, and examine surface characteristics which are otherwise difficult due to the minute size of, say, a tiny wheat weevil at only 3mm long.
Although printing bugs is unchartered territory for our scientists, they’re usually busy working in areas such as aerospace, automotive and biomedical, it brings together two really important areas of science – entomology and material science.
So weev (pardon the pun) still got a lot to learn from these super sized beetles and wheat weevils, but for now, we think our big bugs are the crème of the crop.
At the surface, it is home to white sharks, southern bluefin tuna, and marine mammals including blue whales and sealions – the images that make the Great Australian Bight a vast and iconic Australian ocean region.
Down deep there’s another lesser known world – and a frontier area for marine science, plus oil and gas exploration. Although we know that more than 85 per cent of shallow Bight species (such as those mentioned above) can be found nowhere else in the world, very little is known about their deep water counterparts.
We recently returned from 20 days exploring deep waters of the Bight – the first voyage supporting our recently announced science collaboration with BP and Marine Innovation Southern Australia (MISA, a consortium of South Australia’s major marine research institutions, including the South Australian Research and Development Institute, University of Adelaide, Flinders University and the South Australian Museum); a collaboration aimed at gaining a greater scientific understanding of the Bight.
In the video below meet CSIRO’s Mark Lewis and see our research in action.
In one of only a few whole-of-ecosystem studies undertaken in Australia, CSIRO and MISA are providing information to decision makers in industry and government to support sustainable development in the Bight and monitor possible future impacts.
Aboard Australia’s Marine National Facility research vessel, the Southern Surveyor (check out a virtual tour of the ship), we surveyed the Bight in depths of 200 to 2000 metres – collecting the deepest set of samples ever taken from the area.
Using a range of equipment, we collected samples of fauna from the seabed and the water column such as fishes, crustaceans (shrimp and crabs) and echinoderms (sea stars, sea urchins and sea cucumbers) and phytoplankton (single-celled plants). These included unusual species like the bizarre amphipod Phronima (see picture above) and this deep sea crab (below).
We also collected a great variety of environmental information, including acoustic data that will help map the seabed and determine if oil seeps are present. We used what’s called an integrated coring platform (ICP), pictured below, which collects sediment cores from the seabed plus acoustic measurements (we recently blogged about this piece of gear).
There is a reason that we’re collecting all of these wonderful critters, samples and data – it will help us understand the composition, distribution and number of species in the Bight, and the ways in which they are influenced by the environment around them. This will be vital information for any potential development in the Bight.
All of this information contributes to an ecosystem model, which will help CSIRO, MISA and BP understand how the ecosystem could change with, for example, future development or exploration (for oil and gas for example), allowing industry and government to plan for future activities in the region in an informed way.
Survey results will be made available to decision makers in industry and government – to help evaluate the needs for future ecological monitoring as oil and gas activities accelerate and expand in Australia’s deep ocean.
Read more about our Great Australian Bight collaboration with BP and MISA.
Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef attracts nearly two million tourists every year and it runs for 2300km down the east coast – so big it can be seen from outer space.
But what does the Great Barrier Reef mean to you? Well, CSIRO wants to know!
In a study exploring how people interact with the reef, what they love about it and what they want to protect, CSIRO will be posing questions to 5000 people across Queensland to find out.
Discovering what people really think is important about the Great Barrier Reef will help shape how the region is managed in the future.
Locals, tourists and business operators from Cooktown to Bundaberg will be quizzed over the next two months and a snapshot of their opinions will be published by the end of the year.
We will be approaching people to complete the quick 15 minute survey in shopping centres, beaches and tourist hotspots. Tourism operators and commercial fishers working in the region will be interviewed over the telephone.
Amazing facts about the Great Barrier Reef:
- The reef runs for 2300km down the east coast of Australia – so big it can be seen from outer space
- The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) listed the Great Barrier Reef as a World Heritage Site in 1981
- The Reef is home to the world’s largest collection of coral reefs, with 400 types of coral, 1625 species of bony fish and 3000 types of mollusc
- Within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (348,000 square kilometres) there are almost 3000 individual reefs of varying sizes and shapes, and over 900 islands
- About ten thousand ships travel through the reef area every year
- Commercial fishing is the fifth largest primary industry by value in Queensland, with a value of about $360 million each year
- More than 70 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Traditional Owner clan groups along the east coast of Queensland assert Native Title rights, interests and responsibilities in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.*
Find out more about our social research on the Great Barrier Reef:
- Understanding our perceptions about the Great Barrier Reef
- Balancing coastal use and community values with management options
By Dr Andrew Johnson
On February 11, 1861, Robert O’Hara Burke reached the Gulf of Carpentaria. He described in his diary the environment as “a considerable portion is rangy but it is well watered and richly grassed”.
More than 150 years after the ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition, many Australians consider north Australia to be a place of limitless potential. Throughout the 20th century, governments promoted development in the north. With a few notable exceptions, these have ended in failure.
More recently, state and federal governments of both political persuasions have had the foresight and courage to mandate scientific investigations to quantify the capacity of the north’s land and water assets, and to understand constraints to sustainable development presented by market opportunities, transport infrastructure and land tenure.
The passionate commentary demonstrates the diversity of views and the breadth of misunderstanding about the challenges of the tropics. Indeed, there are perhaps more urban myths about northern Australia than any other part of the nation. So let’s get some facts on the table.
Our scientists have identified the capacity to sustainably double or triple the north’s irrigation area using renewable groundwater resources. The potential is even greater if surface water is used. History has shown the challenges. Unlocking investment requires confidence about the scale of opportunities, and knowing the risks. A scarcity of detailed information about soil and water availability made it difficult to establish water storage options or agricultural productivity estimates or establish locations for irrigation. The cost of acquiring reliable soil, water and agricultural productivity estimates has often been an insurmountable barrier to private and public investors.
Underdeveloped transport infrastructure and long distances increase the cost of accessing inputs and selling outputs, as well as reducing the mass, quality and value of commodities.
Inconsistency in land and water regulations across jurisdictions and lack of clarity within them poses significant barriers to investment. Northern Australian tenure systems are complex. There are multiple, often overlapping tenure types for the same piece of land. Administrative arrangements vary across state boundaries. There are new and emergent tenures for water and carbon that are uncertain and are evolving.
Despite this, there are positive developments. In the Gulf country, the federal and Queensland governments, with our researchers, have demonstrated methods for rapidly and economically quantifying water flow and function, identifying water storage options, constructing soil maps of high precision and combining them to establish estimates of regional agricultural production potential. In the east Kimberley, the tireless efforts of government and the community are now driving profound positive change in the Ord. These examples provide a blue print for irrigated agriculture across the north.
The establishment of mosaic irrigation for the beef industry will enable increased productivity by overcoming seasonal feed shortages and intensifying production. This will allow producers to improve long-term viability. A year-round feed supply will also enable more efficient use of existing beef industry infrastructure.
Smarter transport logistics that deliver least-cost pathways for existing infrastructure – critical where rerouting is often required in response to flooding – is essential. A focus on logistics will prioritise investment in strategic infrastructure such as holding yards, rest stops, road configuration, the location of abattoirs and more efficient use of ports.
We also need to address property rights. Changes to land tenure regimes have the potential to transform indigenous communities from welfare dependency to economic participation as well as creating a more positive environment for investment. Changes to tenure arrangements are under way that aim to enable more diverse uses and clarify access and use rights. Future efforts must continue to focus on pastoral lands and in clarifying Indigenous interests in land and water.
Perhaps at no time since Federation has the nation’s interest in the north been so strong. A positive agenda will benefit all Australians, especially indigenous peoples. Whatever the actions taken, many will take time to implement; there are no easy fixes. They require patience, persistence, flexibility and a long-term commitment from all stakeholders.
Small-scale fault systems in the Earth’s crust have a strong correlation with the location of gold, a recent study of the St Ives Goldfields in Western Australia has found.
Our research, published in science journal Ore Geology Reviews, found that all major gold deposits are controlled by faults, but small fault systems are more likely to lead to gold than larger ones.
Researcher Dr Carsten Laukamp says the relationship between fault systems and gold traces is key to understanding the genesis of gold and could be used to help locate any commodity.
“Determining the spatial relationship between geological features such as fault lines, and gold traces, is not only important to understand how deposits form, it can also guide mineral exploration because we can use this information to develop predictive mineral maps,” he says.
Dr Laukamp and his team developed a predictive mineral map of the St Ives Goldfields that shows new prospective areas where there is a high likelihood that gold could be located.
“We used information such as rock type, colour, shape and size and geological boundaries – all information we can gather from drilling samples – to develop the map,” Dr Laukamp says.
“This research is one step in the development of predictive mineral maps that integrate various types of geological data.
“Next, we’ll incorporate data collected from aircrafts and satellites, such as geophysical and spectroscopic data, which will improve the information value and accuracy of the predictive mineral map.”
Learn more about our research in mineral exploration.
Media enquiries: Liz Greenbank | 03 9545 8563 | email@example.com
By Claire Harris
We often hear that Facebook is used to post inane personal updates and share funny cat photos, but it can help scientists do their work, especially when their trial sites are overseas.
Recently, one of our CSIRO scientists solved an equipment failure mystery by visiting the project’s Facebook site and spotting the problem, through some photo sleuthing just like a spot the difference puzzle.
Neal Dalgliesh, a CSIRO researcher based in Toowoomba in Queensland, works on a project to increase cattle production in East Timor to improve the welfare and income of smallholder farmers.
The project team established a Facebook group to enable researchers to communicate with each other, as they were located in East Timor, Indonesia and Australia.
As part of the project junior scientists have been learning how to set up weather stations that monitor temperature, radiation and rainfall. Data has been streaming in but, to the frustration of researchers, the weather monitoring stations were not working properly.
“For the last two months I had been mystified as to why a radiation sensor in Timor-Leste had been producing strange results,” said Neal.
“We recently replaced the sensor, assuming it was malfunctioning, only to find that we still had a problem,” he said.
Neal visited the project Facebook site and saw a photo of one of his Timor colleagues posing next to the weather station (on the right in the gallery below).
“Totally serendipitously I browsed the Facebook page, enlarged the photo and lo and behold, found the problem; and more importantly, I immediately knew how to solve it.”
“The was a plastic cap covering the sensor, a rookie error,” he said.
It is easy to forget, as the cap is in place to protect the sensor during transport and needs to be removed when the sensor is set up.
Neal says that making mistakes and learning from them is an important process and despite his many years as a research scientist, he’s learned a lot from this event.
“Never assume anything, start at the simplest explanation first. And use social media in technical communication,” he said.
“If I hadn’t seen the photo, the problem would have remained unsolved for many months. Plus in the old days, it would have taken a number of days or even weeks to communicate this information back to the field researcher.”
“As a result of rapidly improving wireless access, and Skype, I was able to immediately contact another researcher based in Oecusse and he fixed the problem,” he said.
This cattle project receives funding from ACIAR and is led by the University of Queensland, in partnership with CSIRO, Timor Leste Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and the National University of East Timor.
Media enquiries: Claire Harris, firstname.lastname@example.org Phone +61 2 9490 8491
By Carrie Bengston
Or more accurately, what on the sea floor is rugosity? If you thought rugosity might have something to do with rugs, you’d be close. It’s the ‘bumpiness’ of a surface. Measuring and mapping the rugosity of the sea floor is one of the topics at a video and acoustics data workshop in Hobart this week (11-12 June).
Over two days, scientists from CSIRO, government agencies and universities will discuss how to handle vast streams of acoustic and video data to better manage fisheries and monitor the environment. The workshop will bring together some of Australia’s leading scientists in the cutting edge fields of multibeam sonar data acquisition and analysis, remote video data acquisition and automated recognition.
It’s a sad fact that we know more about the moon’s surface than we do about the surface of the sea floor off our own coast. The sea floor has vast amounts of canyons and ridges that are biodiversity hotspots waiting to be uncovered. And while new acoustic and video technologies are providing vast amounts of data, the challenge is how to analyse and interpret it.
Multibeam Sonar Systems (MBSS) are new tools that use sound waves to measure and map surfaces. They can map the canyons and ridges on the sea floor using acoustic gear mounted to the bottom of a boat. Sonar systems work much like medical ultrasounds which detect the shape of a growing foetus. And of course, in nature, bats use reflected sound waves to detect 3D surfaces in dark caves.
Both multibeam sonar and remote video are relatively new ways of gathering information on marine habitats and communities that are too deep to monitor by divers. They present huge opportunities to better understand the changes in our marine environment, but at the same time they present new challenges in analysing and interpreting the data.
The aim is to highlight these challenges and identify potential solutions, and to apply solutions developed in other areas (such as facial recognition software) into the environmental domain.
So, while the AV guys at the workshop are making sure the lapel mic works and the projector beams the right images, our data gurus will be focused on tackling the challenges of audio and video data from the ocean depths.