CO2 capture and storage – reducing carbon emissions from coal

In Australia we generate 75% of our electricity from coal. This creates a lot of CO2 emissions, with increasing concerns about global warming and climate change.

Dr Paul Feron wants to be able to use the coal without releasing carbon dioxide. He leads a multi-disciplinary team developing cost-effective methods to capture and store CO2.

Paul’s team has built and operated capture pilot plants illustrating that the technology can be retrofitted to coal-fired power plants as well as smelters, kilns and steel works.

He is focused on reducing the cost of the capture process, so that the technology can be taken up widely – not just in Australia, but also in developing countries which depend on coal for their energy supply . So that we can meet the world’s need for energy without adding to CO2 emissions. Hear Paul talk about his work.

Next week the National Carbon Capture and Storage conference is happening at Cockle Bay in Sydney from August 31 to September 3 – visit the website for more information.

Keeping us connected – wirelessly

By Nola Wilkinson

Dr Iain Collings decided early in his career that wireless communications was hot. Fascinated by the prospect of transferring information without wires or optic cables, he saw its huge potential to change our daily lives – and wanted to be a part of it.

The whole world is into cool electronic devices. Our growing appetite for smartphones, iPads, GoPros and FitBits has produced a huge new market – and wireless data transfer is essential for these devices.

What’s more, the more we use them, the faster our demand for higher rates of data transmission grows. Iain has focused his work on the use of multiple antennae to vastly improve the rate of transmission of data wirelessly. As he points out, this is fundamental to meeting the ever-growing global consumer demand. Watch this video to find out more.

Why the stuff between the stars is like a glass of beer

By Nola Wilkinson  

Ever wondered what there is between the stars? Dr Naomi McClure-Griffiths not only wonders about it, she’s on a mission to find out.

Naomi is fascinated with the life of stars, the behaviour of interstellar gas, and how gas and stars interact.  “As an astronomer, I’d like to understand how the galaxy formed and how it’s living its life,” she says.

Naomi has conducted a massive survey of all the hydrogen gas in and around in the Milky Way. In doing so, she has shown that the stuff between the stars is actually foamy.

“The galaxy is much more frothy and bubbly than we ever thought. It looks like the head on a glass of beer.”

Very large stars, 8-20 times the size of our sun, experience dramatic supernova explosions that push gas out of the galaxy via solar winds travelling at up to 1000 kilometres a second.

It is these solar winds that blow bubbles in the gas between the stars, creating a frothy, foamy appearance.

Watch this video to find out more about Naomi and her amazing work:

Naomi’s team undertook the Galactic All Sky Survey using our Parkes telescope and is planning future work using our ASKAP radio telescope.

Young guns – our up and coming

Saad SayeefSaad Sayeef – Research Scientist – Energy

When clouds block the sun, solar panels and the electricity networks they are hooked up to need time to adjust to the fluctuations. Saad is working out how to maximise solar efficiency as part of the Energy Networks Team in the CSIRO Energy Flagship. He is looking at various solutions including smart grids, solar energy management and solar “forecasting”.


Beau Leese – General Manager – Strategy, Performance and Flagships 

Beau is responsible for the development and implementation of the CSIRO’s overall enterprise strategy, new strategic initiatives, science portfolio investment, planning and performance management, Impact 2020 and cross Flagship collaboration (phew). Beau led CSIRO’s operating model review and the startup phase of the integrated reform program. He is a member of CSIRO’s Executive Management Council, SICOM and Major Transactions Committee.


Lisa portraitLisa Harvey-Smith: Research Astronomer – Information Sciences

Lisa is CSIRO’s Project Scientist for the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder in WA.
The daughter of a Primary School teacher and a house-dad, Lisa left school at the age of 11 and taught herself at home, where her passion for astronomy developed. Her scientific publications span a number of fields from star formation, cosmic magnetic fields and gravitational lensing to supernova remnants. When not designing telescopes and studying galaxies billions of light-years away, she enjoys ultra-long-distance running, including 12 and 24-hour races. In 2012 she was appointed chair of the steering committee of the Women in Astronomy Chapter of the Astronomical Society of Australia.

Nick RodenNick Roden – PhD Student – Environment

Rather than chipping on to the 9th green on the professional golf circuit, Nick Roden is now looking at how different biological and physical processes combine to influence the carbon cycle in the waters around East Antarctica. A few years ago Nick, who is based in Hobart, decided that studying the biology of the waters around East Antarctica as part of a PhD had a brighter future than being a professional golfer, so Nick chucked in the clubs and joined CSIRO. We’re glad he did.


Vanessa (Ginny) Hill – Social Media Advisor – Communications

Vanessa Hill + Luna Vanessa is one of the team leading CSIRO into the digital age as far as social media is concerned –video content produced by Vanessa has had more than 13 million views on YouTube. Other platforms such as Twitter and news@CSIRO blog take CSIRO’s and Vanessa’s work to millions more each year.
Even when Vanessa is at home or on holidays – she keeps on tweeting and communicating science.



Mitch Serena: teaching with fire

Meet Mitch Serena: master of scientific entertainment.

Meet Mitch Serena: master of scientific entertainment.

What kind of job involves making tornadoes one day, sitting on a thousand nails the next, with some liquid nitrogen and lightning bolts thrown in for good measure?

Mitch Serena’s of course. As a part of CSIRO’s Education program, Mitch has visited over 75,000 school students with one aim: to make them as excited about science as he is.

On a typical day he performs live, curriculum-linked science shows for school kids across Australia, teaching them about topics as diverse as weather, chemistry, magnetism and energy.

The shows help to enrich school science teaching and give students an authentic and exciting learning experience.

“My favourite part of the day is watching the students leave my show with a big smile and a sense of curiosity,” says Mitch.

Working with us has given Mitch access to plenty of great Australian science stories, and he loves sharing them with the next generation of scientists, engineers, mathematicians and technologists.

Mitch has also made appearances on Channel 7’s Saturday Disney as well as hosting episodes of DIY Science on YouTube. Check them out below.

He has a taste for performances of the musical variety too, both as a spectator and as a musician. His seven years of keyboarding in the rock band Planet of the Stereos even saw him record an album in Montreal and tour the country with Shannon Noll.

“The band was great fun, and I like to think it taught me a few performance skills that bring something extra to my science shows,” says Mitch.

Who said learning wasn't fun?

Who said learning wasn’t fun?

Mitch got his first taste of science communication while studying his Bachelor of Science (Physics) at the University of New South Wales.

“I felt myself drawn to science communication because I could see how important it is in society, and the great things that can happen when it’s done well.”

He was among the millions of young people inspired by Carl Sagan, having been wonderstruck by Cosmos as a child.

He also lists some more surprising influences:

“Tim Minchin, the musical comedian, has done some hilarious stuff on critical thinking. And of course, my 4th grade teacher. She started it all with her fun science experiments. We made our own kaleidoscope that I couldn’t stop gazing into.”

It’s not all smiles and fireballs though – there’s plenty of research and development that goes into preparing and presenting the shows, and a lot of travel. But according to Mitch, it’s all worth it.

“I believe that somewhere out there, there’s a child who is going to be a world-leading scientist, or policy maker, or entrepreneur, but doesn’t even know what science is. I love the thought that maybe I can plant that seed.”

Carl Sagan was right: understanding is joyous.

For more information on careers at CSIRO, follow us on LinkedIn.

Grumpy cats and angry birds: do animals have feelings too?

Else Verbeek is working to understand how farm animals really feel.

Else Verbeek is working to understand how farm animals really feel.

Sad panda. Grumpy cat. Angry birds. Emotional animals are everywhere – or at least in fictional form. But is there any way to tell how animals are really feeling?

Using the latest scientific methods, animal welfare expert Else Verbeek is doing just that. She’s working with our livestock welfare team in Armidale, New South Wales, finding ways to better understand and improve the wellbeing of farm animals.

“I’ve always been fascinated by questions like: what do animals feel, how do they perceive the world and is that different to how we perceive it? So it’s really cool that I can now try to answer these questions through my work,” says Else.

Originally from the Netherlands, Else didn’t grow up on a farm, but her family had cats, dogs and horses. In fact, her old horse, Jiqhall, is still alive and kicking at 21 years of age.

After studying a Master of Animal Sciences at Wageningen University, Else decided to ditch the tradition of doing Dutch dairy farm projects. Instead, she travelled across the globe to New Zealand to complete a PhD project at AgResearch.

It was in New Zealand, while developing a novel method to measure perception of hunger in sheep, that she really became fascinated by these social animals.

Else is far from sheepish about her job.

Else is far from sheepish about her job.

“Sheep are fantastic to work with. Once they get to know you, they come out of their shell and show some quite strong personalities. And for the record they are not stupid!”

Through her PhD, Else met her current CSIRO colleagues who were doing similar research in cattle. She soon joined us as a Postdoctoral Fellow in 2011 in what she describes as her dream job.

So far she has looked at the learning and memory ability of piglets, how hunger effects judgement and attention in sheep and whether cognitive bias occurs in animals. Else’s ultimate goal is to help reduce stress in animals and increase productivity on the farm.

You can learn more about Else’s work in her Animals and Emotions blog.

For more information on careers at CSIRO, follow us on LinkedIn.

Baking bread by the numbers

Whether it’s sourdough, seeded rye, gluten-free or plain old white, there’s nothing like tucking into a fresh slice of bread. And it’s little wonder this age-old staple tastes so good – experts have been perfecting the art of bread making for thousands of years.

If we had to name who’s involved in bread making, most of us would probably identify the baker, the farmer who grows the wheat and maybe even the miller who grinds the wheat into flour. But how many people would think of the humble statistician? Dr Emma Huang would – and she’s eager to prove their worth in the process.

Statistical genius (er, geneticist) Emma Huang (second from left) is crunching the numbers for a better loaf of bread.

Statistical genius Emma Huang (second from left) is crunching the numbers for a better loaf of bread.

Emma is a statistical geneticist working with our Computational Informatics and Food Futures teams. She spends her days searching through thousands of genes for the few that affect yield and disease resistance in wheat.

By understanding the complex genetics of cultivated plants like wheat, Emma is helping farmers select the best crop varieties needed to produce the perfect loaf of bread.

“The impact of statistics in bread making starts well before preheating the oven. Statisticians are crucial in implementing efficient experimental design to compare different varieties of wheat for desirable characteristics,” says Emma.

After completing a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics at Caltech and a Doctor of Philosophy in Biostatistics at the University of North Carolina, Emma left the States to join our team in Brisbane.

Here she is using her mathematical expertise to detect regions of the wheat plants genome – or its inheritable traits – that are directly related to enhanced crop performance. This allows breeders to selectively breed specific genes, reducing the amount of time it takes to improve our food supply.

Her goal is to eventually be able to model the entire process of bread making, incorporating the effects of environment and genetics all the way from growing plants in the field, to milling the flour and baking the bread.

Performing some personal culinary research at the world famous El Celler de Can Roca restaurant in Spain.

Performing some personal culinary research at the infamous El Celler de Can Roca restaurant in Spain.

When she’s not crunching numbers in the name of food, Emma does her own private research into the best cuisine the world has to offer, indulging at world class restaurants like Spain’s El Celler de Can Roca. But fitness freaks don’t fret, she works off the extra calories playing water polo and going for ocean swims.

“Sometimes I think I was destined to be a statistical geneticist. Both my mother and aunt are qualified statisticians, my siblings all studied mathematics at university, and even my fiancé is a statistician!”

Who better to investigate the impact of genetics on our everyday life?

For more information on careers at CSIRO, follow us on LinkedIn.


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