Environment Institute

Professor Andy Lowe has written a piece for RiAus (Australia’s national science channel) on the threats and solutions to biodiversity pressures.

“Lets us be in no doubt – we are in the midst of the greatest biodiversity crisis the world has ever seen.The rate of extinction today is greater than at any other time in the history of life on earth.

Read more…

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International research involving the University of Adelaide has shed new light on the origins of some of the most widely spoken languages in the world.

Three billion people today speak a language that is part of the Indo-European family of languages, spanning Europe as well as Central, Western and South Asia. But the reason why these languages – such as English, Spanish, Russian and Hindi – are related has been a source of some argument for more than two hundred years.

New research published today in the journal Nature, led by University of Adelaide ancient DNA researchers and the Harvard Medical School, shows that at least some of the Indo-European languages spoken in Europe were likely the result of a massive migration from eastern Russia.

“This new study is the biggest of its kind so far and has helped to improve our understanding of the linguistic impact of Stone Age migration,” says co-first author Dr Wolfgang Haak, from the University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD). “Using genome-scale data from more than 90 ancient European people, ranging from 3000-8000 years old, we were able to trace these people’s origins.”

The researchers found evidence of two major population replacements in Europe during the Stone Age. The first was the arrival of Europe’s first farmers, who had spread from the Near East (modern-day Turkey).

“Their genetic profiles show remarkable similarity despite vast geographic distances and differences in material culture. Whether from Hungary, Germany or Spain, the first farmers are genetically almost identical and must have come from the same origin,” says ACAD Director Professor Alan Cooper, co-author on the study.

Co-first author of the study Dr Iosif Lazaridis, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School, says remarkably, the hunter-gatherers that lived in Europe did not disappear after the first farmers moved in. “By 6000-5000 years ago, a resurgence of hunter-gatherer ancestry had occurred in agricultural populations across Europe,” he says.

Surprisingly, a third ancestry component, with its origins in the east, was found to be present in every Central European sample after 4500 years ago, but not before that time, marking the second population turnover. “It was a Eureka moment when we looked at the new data,” says Dr Lazaridis.

The team estimates that the so-called “Corded Ware” people (named after their distinctive pottery) had 75% of their ancestry from the eastern steppe. “This large migration almost certainly had lasting effects on the languages people spoke,” says Dr Haak. “This later migration sits well with linguists who had suggested a more recent spread of Indo-European, based on similar words for wheeled vehicles that had only been in use since 5000 years ago.”

The leader of the study, Professor David Reich of Harvard Medical School, the Broad Institute, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, says: “These results challenge the other popular theory that all Indo-European languages in Europe today owe their origin to the arrival of the first farmers from Anatolia more than 8000 years ago.”

He says the new study doesn’t solve the centuries-old problem of the homeland of all Indo-European languages, which are distributed widely in Eurasia. However, the team is optimistic that a solution may be within reach. “We now want to understand how the people of Europe 3000-6000 years ago were linked with those in the East, the Caucasus, Iran and India, where Indo-European is also spoken,” Professor Reich says.

Image sourced from SBS news

This story has also been covered in ABC Science Online, SBS and The Australian.


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Professor of Marine Biology Bronwyn Gillanders will present at the WOMAD Planet Talks this weekend, to a theme entitled “Creating Hope For Our Oceans And Marine Environments.”

When: 3pm, Monday 9th March, 2015
Where: Botanic Park, Adelaide
Bookings: Organise tickets on the WOMADelaide website.

See Bronwyn with fellow marine scientists, Sylvia Earle and Charlie Veron in session 5 at 3pm on the topic: “Repairing the Blue Heart of our Planet”

Host: Bernie Hobbs

Marine experts have warned that we are in the middle of an unprecedented high-risk period of marine species extinction. On our watch the world’s oceans and natural wonders like The Great Barrier Reef have borne the brunt of a potent combination of over-fishing, pollution, unparalleled mining and farming run-offs, the acidification of the seas caused by increasing carbon dioxide emissions and the disruptive results of rising water temperature disruption. Our panel, three highly regarded marine scientists, discuss the vast challenge ahead to reverse these dire predictions for our blue heart. As Sylvia Earle herself said. “Life depends on the ocean, and to save it we must love it.”

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Dr Diego Garcia-Bellido was recently involved in uncovering some unusual fossils at Emu Bay, Kangaroo Island, South Australia. Find out what drives palaeontologist, Dr Garcia-Bellido in his pursuit to study fossils in the February 2015 eScience magazine. In the feature Dr Garcia-Bellido explores how the study of fossils can help us understand evolution. “When we [...]

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Researchers at the University of Adelaide have discovered the loss of one of the State’s most significant marine ecosystems, which may have disappeared some 70 years ago. For her PhD in the University’s School of Biological Sciences, Heidi Alleway and supervisor Professor Sean Connell identified the loss of oyster reefs, formed by the native oyster Ostrea angasi, from [...]

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Associate Professor Lian Pin Koh has been invited to be plenary speaker by President Clinton in the Clinton Global Initiative University Meeting March 6-8 2015 in Miami. The meeting will bring together more than 1,000 innovative student leaders to make Commitments to Action in CGI U’s five focus areas: Education, Environment and Climate change, Peace [...]

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A 1 million dollar prize is up for grabs for the winner of the UAE Drones for Good Award, taking place in Dubai this week. The UAE Government are inviting “the most innovative and creative minds to find solutions that will improve people’s lives and provide positive technological solutions to modern day issues.” Associate Professor Lian [...]

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New research from the University of Adelaide suggests monitoring ecosystems that appear to be stable is more effective than fixing them once they have collapsed. The study, led by PhD student Giulia Ghedini from the University’s Environment Institute, examined the canopy-forming algae that create extensive underwater forests all around Australia. The research is published in the prestigious international journal Ecology [...]

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New research has shed light on the complex exchange of parasitic worms between wildlife, rats and humans. The increasing emergence of new human diseases contracted from animals has encouraged researchers from the University of Adelaide to study the link between parasitic worms found in rats and the parasites they share with other wildlife and humans. [...]

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WOMAD Planet Talks and Science in the Pub Adelaide have teamed up to bring us a free pre-festival event – “Sustaining Life: can humans, wildlife and agriculture coexist?” When: Friday 6th February 2015, 6pm (arrive at 5:30 for free nibbles and a seat) Where: The Brunswick Hotel, 207 Gilbert Street, Adelaide Cost: Free, please register for [...]

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