Environment Institute

Forensic research students from the Environment Institute have been recognised across the world for their amazing research.

The Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) research students Felicia Bardan and Duncan Jardine won prizes at the Australian and New Zealand Forensic Science Society (ANZFSS) conference in Auckland. The ANZFSS brings together scientists, law enforcers, criminalists, pathologists and members of the legal profession to advance the quality of forensic science. Felicia won best poster for her presentation of historical DNA databases, while Duncan won best wildlife talk on illegally logged timber.

Meanwhile, all the way in Cape Town, South Africa, Dr Jen Young has been recognised as one of the top, young research scientists at 35th International Geological Congress (IGC). Dr Young won an award for her contribution to forensic geology and was subsequently invited to join the prestigious International Union of Geological Sciences- Initiative on Forensic Geology (IUGS-IFG). The chair of the IFG, Dr Laurence Donnelly, formally invited Dr Young to the committee, which aims to advance the application of geology in criminal investigations. The committee is comprised of academics, industry leaders, law enforcement agencies and forensic organisations from around the world.

Congratulations to Felicia, Duncan and Jen! You’re doing us proud!

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Best practice guide for forensic timer identificationA new guide on the illegal timber trade has been released in a global effort to clamp down on timber trafficking crimes.

The Best Practice Guide for Forensic and Timber Identification was prepared by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), with a substantial contribution from the Environment Institute’s Dr Eleanor Dormontt. Dr Dormontt is an expert in the field of illegal timber trafficking and her research was recently featured in New Scientist.

The Guide was developed in response to international concerns about the loss of global biodiversity and degradation of natural ecosystems. In particular, the illegal trafficking of wildlife and timber has been recognised as a significant threat to global conservation efforts.

Forensic science may be used to clamp down on illegal timber trafficking by providing solid evidence in prosecution cases against criminals. However, the collection of forensic data must follow strict procedures to be credible and admissable in court.

The Guide aims to provide a uniform approach to the collection of forensic data of timber and is intended for worldwide use. The Guide was officially launched in May in Vienna and is now available for pdf download.

Further information can be found at the UNODC Wildlife and Forest Crime Publications website.





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A common marine crustacean has shown researchers that it’s all set to beat climate change – the males will get more attractive to the females, with a resulting population explosion.

The University of Adelaide study is the first to show how mating behaviour could change under the warmer waters and more acidic oceans brought by climate change.

PhD student Katherine Heldt and University of Adelaide ecologist and evolutionary biologist Dr Pablo Munguia studied the herbivorous amphipod, Cymadusa pemptos, in large tanks under the elevated temperature and CO2 predicted for 100 years from now. This work was in collaboration with Professor Sean Connell, Dr Bayden Russell and PhD student Kathryn Anderson.

The amphipod family includes the land-based beach-hopper or sand flea commonly seen hopping around on beaches. In Cymadusa pemptos, like other marine amphipods, males have larger claws than females, which are used as a display to attract females or a weapon to fend off other males.

Published in the journal Scientific Reports, the study found the population increased twenty-fold under predicted warmer waters and high CO2.

“Climate change most usually comes with predictions of severe negative impacts on population sizes, if not extinctions,” says Dr Munguia, in the University’s Environment Institute. “In general, booming populations are not predicted.

“It got even more interesting, however, when we dug deeper and found that males were much larger in size than in previous generations under cooler waters and lower CO2, and their bigger claws were disproportionately larger still. Females stayed the same size.

“On top of that, where there had been variation in large claw size throughout the population, suddenly all the males had large claws. This happened within a few generations.

“It seems that sexual selection for this attractiveness trait could mean that every male was equally attractive to the females, resulting in very large numbers of females – almost 80% – becoming pregnant, causing a massive population explosion.”

Because the future climate change conditions also promoted increased growth of the marine algae which amphipods eat, constraints on competition for food were removed, allowing males to support their energy-demanding bigger claws and enabling the population to grow.

“We know that climate change will be cataclysmic for many species but in some cases it will not,” says Dr Munguia. “This is the first quantitative example of how it will be beneficial for some individual species, albeit with massive consequences to the environment overall.

“We’ve also shown how mating systems may potentially change. If all males are equals in claw size, then perhaps claws will no longer become a key trait. Our research shows how we can start remapping ideas on how mating systems may become modified under future climate.”

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Thinking about the future in decision making and planning processes is critical. In this article we look at one of the best tools to do this: Scenario planning. Thinking about the future reveals many questions When we think about how our own lives will change in the future, it is full of uncertainties. Missed or […]

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The University of Adelaide’s Unmanned Research Aircraft Facility (URAF) invites you to join them for an information session and networking opportunity. Title: Drones, the University and Beyond When: 3pm, Friday October 7, 2016 Where: Room 313/314, Level 3, The Braggs This event is an opportunity to obtain a deeper insight into some of the URAF’s current projects, as […]

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The Environment Institute’s Dr Eleanor Dormontt has been featured in the latest edition of New Scientist, sharing her insights into the illegal timber trade. The New Scientist article delves into the promises of new technologies, such as DNA analysis, to hamper the illegal wildlife and timber trade. Dr Eleanor Dormontt speaks about the barriers to employing these potential […]

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The next Sprigg Symposium will be presented by Dr Laurie Menviel, DECRA Fellow from the University of New South Wales. She will present a seminar entitled “The role of ocean circulation changes as a climate driver during the last glacial period” Title: The role of ocean circulation changes as a climate driver during the last glacial […]

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Professor Bronwyn Gillanders has been recognised for her extraordinary contributions to fish and fisheries sciences. Prof Gillanders was awarded the K Radway Allen Award, the highest award granted by the Australian Society for Fish Biology (ASFB). She is the first South Australian and first woman to receive this prestigious award. The award was presented at a joint […]

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Dr Susannah Eliot, board member at the Environment Institute, has been awarded an honourary doctorate from the University of Adelaide. Dr Eliot, who already holds a PhD in cell biology from Macquarie University, has been recognised for her outstanding contribution to science communication. Dr Eliott joined the Australian Science Media Centre (AusSMC) as founding CEO in 2005 […]

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The University of Adelaide will work with South Australian food manufacturer Spring Gully Foods to investigate potential sources of food colourings among Australian native plants. The project has been awarded an Innovations Connections Grant of $25,000, under the Australian Government’s Entrepreneurs’ Programme. Innovation Connections encourages and assists small and medium businesses to access knowledge, engage […]

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