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Optical fiber chemical sensors based on optical absorption feature high specificity, fast response, and a much longer lifetime compared to other chemical sensors, qualities that offer significant potential for application in pollution monitoring, environmental protection, and hazardous-material detection. Now by integrating metal organic framework (MOF) materials—a new class of highly porous crystalline material—with optical fibers, researchers from Victoria University and Monash University, Australia, have co-developed a novel, highly sensitive chemical sensor based on an optical fiber coated with a thin film of a specific MOF (namely, UiO-66), which could be potentially used for real-time detection of heavy organic contaminants such as herbicides or pesticides in water. In a paper published this week in the journal Optics Letters, from The Optical Society (OSA), the researchers described their work. "Metal organic frameworks (MOFs) are networks of metal atoms linked and separated by carbon-based (organic) compounds. The UiO-66 MOF we used in the experiment is made from Zirconium and is well known for the stability in water," said Stephen Collins, professor of engineering, Victoria University, Australia. "We have demonstrated for the first time that the advanced porous material MOFs can be coated onto the end-face of optical fibers to create a novel, faster and more sensitive chemical sensor potentially used for measuring heavy organic contaminants on site and in real-time." Collins said various porous adsorbents such as pyrene-labeled monomer, silica sol-gel and zeolites have been studied recently by scientists for detecting hazardous compounds. However, the low porosity and small pores of the above adsorbents limit their use in the sensing area to small molecules. That is, they cannot detect larger or heavy organic molecules (e.g. herbicides or pesticides) in water. Metal organic frameworks are about 10 times more porous than any material previously known, so they can absorb larger molecules. MOFs form as crystals and careful selection of MOF constituents can yield crystals of ultrahigh porosity and high thermal and chemical stability. To fabricate the MOF-fiber sensor, the researchers removed the polymer coating of a conventional single mode fiber several centimeters from the end and activated the fiber surface using plasma. Then, the fiber was placed in MOF liquid solution and heated at 120 degrees Celsius for 24 hours, which allowed the activated fiber surface to attract the MOF to grow on the end-face of the fiber, resulting in a MOF thin film of 17- to 22-micrometer thickness. Collins explained that the MOF-fiber sensor can be used as an in-fiber Fabry-Perot interferometer, which is a well-established method for detecting the "optical thickness" of a thin film by studying the interference signals generated by the film interfaces. As the MOF-fiber sensor absorbs more and more contaminants, the optical thickness of the MOF thin film increases accordingly, leading to a change in the interference spectra. By using the established optical model and mathematical procedure, the researchers can calculate the optical thickness of the MOF thin film from the experimentally measured interference spectra, and hence infer the concentration of contaminants in water. In the experiment, Collin's team used the MOF-fiber sensor to detect a specific contaminant in water called Rhodamine-B (RhB) dye, a bright pink dye known as Opera Rose, which is used in the textile industry and is known to be potentially carcinogenic if ingested. "Our experimental results showed a positive detection response of the MOF-fiber sensor to RhB in water down to 48 parts per million or 0.1 millimolar, which is a very promising result, demonstrating the sensor's ability to detect pollutants at a low concentration before the pollution goes worse," said Collins. He explained the high sensitivity and fast response of the MOF-fiber sensor are attributed to the MOF's ability to pre-concentrate molecules, which can be imaged as a sponge "soaking" up molecules into its pores. Additionally, the MOF sponge selectively absorbs molecules to fit into its pores and rejects unfit ones, which enhance the sensor's sensitivity and reliability. The researchers also found the sensor's absorption process of RhB dye is non-reversible, which is ideal for long-term monitoring where RhB concentrations are minimal and a marked increase in the dye's concentration would be recognized easily, said Collins. "While the non-reversible mode suits many applications, we have also developed methods of releasing absorbed molecules by shining light down the fiber, which would make the sensor re-usable," Collin said. The researchers' next step is to further explore the MOF-fiber sensor's responses to other heavy organic contaminants such as pesticides and herbicides in water. More information: M. Nazari, M. Forouzandeh, C. Divarathne, F. Sidiroglou, M. Martinez, K. Konstas, B. Muir, A. Hill, M. Duke, M. Hill and S. Collins. "UiO-66 MOF End-Face-Coated Optical Fiber in Aqueous Contaminant Detection" Optics Letters 41, 1696 – 1699. DOI: 10.1364/OL.41.001696

News Article | November 30, 2015
Site: phys.org

The collar covers—a tube of brightly-coloured fabric which slips over a cat's collar— are designed to make hunting cats more visible to birds. "Many birds have advanced colour vision and see bright colours especially well, even in low light," says Victoria University researcher Dr Heidy Kikillus. "The collar covers have been tested overseas with promising results, and we would like to investigate if they have the same success in New Zealand." Domestic cat owners are being invited to take part in the study, which will be conducted over summer. "Participants will be provided with a collar and attachable cover from United States-based company Birdsbesafe, and are asked to keep a record of the prey caught both with and without the collar over an 8-week period," says Dr Kikillus. The results from the study will be collated and analysed, and may be used as part of a more comprehensive study of cat behaviour in Wellington. "Cats have received a lot of attention in the media due to their potential negative impact on native wildlife, and it will be interesting to see if the collar covers have an impact," says Dr Kikillus. "We've been delighted at the level of interest from cat owners, and we look forward to including them in this study. It's a neat opportunity to partner with the community to learn more about cats together." Explore further: Study: 3 out of 4 cats will wear a collar, making it worth a try More information: More information on participating in the study can be found here: cattracker.nz/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Recruitment_Participant_Info.pdf

News Article | March 1, 2017
Site: www.prweb.com

Traveling the globe with a group of friends creates some of the most enjoyable and memorable experiences of our lives. Organizing those trips is another thing all together. Two young Melbourne entrepreneurs have come up with a solution. Loom is a clever travel app that distinguishes itself from the pack by managing the early organizing phase of travel planning to help friends ‘travel together’. Users are able to coordinate a set of dates and destinations which can be synced, shared and adjusted to suit the needs of all travelers. Anthony Soriano and Jake Barker-Daish developed Loom while completing their commerce degrees at Victoria University in Melbourne. The two said, “We found that the main reason group travel plans fail to get off the ground is the inability to match each person’s timing requests and preferences. We wanted to ensure that all the excitement and momentum of the planning phase is not only captured, but transformed into action” “All of the features we built into the app, such as ‘Group Chat’, alerts on ‘Matches’, ‘Near Misses’ and the ‘Live World Map’ - which is populated with the itineraries of traveling friends in your list - were all designed in line with the belief that travel is best enjoyed with friends” Another clever feature of the app sees its itineraries display the branding of the travel companies they are booked with, along with a visual trip plan that is much more pleasing to look at than the traditional travel agent print outs. Unlike traditional itinerary creation methods, once the Loom itinerary is loaded in the app, the user has their own E-itinerary which is easily shared across social media. Loom is principally aimed towards the ‘organizers’ of the group, the unsung heroes who somehow manage to pull the group together and get them from A to B. The boys went on to say, “While most other travel apps focus on the booking process, we understand that a lot of work goes in before that. We just got sick of all these great plans never amounting to anything and we wanted to do something about it” Loom is now available to download for free on the App Store and Google Play.

News Article | February 21, 2017
Site: www.businesswire.com

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--JetBlue (NASDAQ:JBLU) today announced that, after conducting a rigorous internal and external search, it has promoted Steve Priest to executive vice president and chief financial officer effective immediately. Priest has more than 20 years of experience leading financial, operational, and commercial aspects of the airline business and most recently served as the airline’s vice president, structural programs. As CFO, Priest will oversee treasury, investor relations, corporate tax, audit, accounting, financial planning and analysis, fuel hedging, aircraft and materiel programs, insurance, financial reporting, risk management, infrastructure (corporate real estate), and strategic sourcing. He will also serve on JetBlue’s executive leadership team and report to President and Chief Executive Officer Robin Hayes. “Steve quickly made an impact at JetBlue through his leadership of priority initiatives aimed at establishing a sustainable business for our future and creating value for our shareholders,” Hayes said. “Steve is passionate about cost control and will be a strong voice for costs as we manage our business. His experience at British Airways and his leadership of JetBlue’s structural cost and on-time performance programs, combined with his understanding of our unique culture, positions him to deliver on our commitments to shareholders, crewmembers and customers.” Priest joined JetBlue in 2015 and in his most recent role was responsible for JetBlue’s strategic sourcing efforts and for fleet and engine strategy. He spearheaded high-priority change initiatives including the launch of the airline’s on-time performance program and structural cost initiative, which is set to generate $250-$300 million in cost savings by 2020. In his new role, he will continue to oversee the successful implementation of the structural cost program. “I’m proud of our early achievements in bringing increased focus to our costs and look forward to successfully implementing our capital allocation strategy,” Priest said. “One of my immediate priorities will be to spend time with our shareholders as well as our crewmembers to support our efforts to deliver better than industry-average margins as we grow.” Prior to JetBlue, Priest held positions of increasing responsibility at British Airways from 1996 to 2015. Most recently, he served as senior vice president, North Atlantic joint business where he significantly grew unit revenue and market share with partner airlines. He also served in senior roles in strategy and planning; customer contact and distribution; and commercial and call center operations. He served as regional vice president, controller for Western Europe, Latin America, and Caribbean and as chief financial officer for BA Ground Handling Services. He is a graduate in economics and geography of Victoria University of Manchester (UK) and a qualified Chartered Global Management Accountant. Priest will succeed Jim Leddy, who served as interim chief financial officer since November. “We very much appreciate Jim’s contribution to JetBlue and his stepping in as interim CFO to oversee the function during this period,” Hayes said. Leddy will help support JetBlue with the transition. JetBlue is New York's Hometown Airline®, and a leading carrier in Boston, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, Los Angeles (Long Beach), Orlando, and San Juan. JetBlue carries more than 38 million customers a year to 100 cities in the U.S., Caribbean, and Latin America with an average of 925 daily flights. For more information please visit jetblue.com.

News Article | January 5, 2016
Site: www.sciencenews.org

Every square inch of my body is sweating. I’ve been working out for only 15 minutes, and I’m not sure my legs can take any more. They are shaking uncontrollably. Later, I sit down to dinner, and my arms are so exhausted I can’t seem to pick up my spoon. I had just suffered my way through a session of high-intensity interval training, or HIIT. The regimen can be over and done in 25 minutes, warmup and cooldown included: Quick bursts of extreme physical exertion — 10 seconds to four minutes — are followed by rest periods two to five times the length of the intense parts. Studies show that HIIT increases cardiovascular fitness and can promote healthy blood glucose levels. The short workouts also increase endurance, and a recent study shows why HIIT has more endurance benefits for couch potatoes than it does for pre-trained athletes. But while HIIT may hit health in the right direction, it does little for our waistlines. And some psychologists question whether a workout that’s so uncomfortable should be promoted in public health campaigns. Will people work through the pain? Or will promotion of such difficult workouts just make people give up in frustration? In the end, whether you pick up a workout plan and stick with it may have less to do with how much time you have, and more to do with where you priorities — and your willingness to deal with pain for gain — really lie. What constitutes a HIIT workout can be a little difficult to define. Go through one bout of extreme work, and one bout of rest. Then repeat, usually three to six times in a given workout. A series of 20-second sprints and 40-second rests for 10 minutes is a HIIT workout. The seven-minute workout qualifies as high-intensity interval training, too, if interspersed with rest periods. Some types of CrossFit qualify, as well as some treadmill workouts and cycling bouts. Workout intensity varies as well. “It’s about relative intensity to the individual, not absolute intensity,” explains Kathryn Weston, an exercise scientist at Teesside University in Middlesbrough, England. “For an older person, going up a hill would be HIIT, but for an athlete, they might need to go to sprint training.” The most important thing, says Charlotte Jelleyman, an exercise physiologist at the University of Leicester in England, is “it should feel hard. For people who are more used to it, it can be all out.” And when Jelleyman says all out, she means it. “Your legs hurt, your lungs hurt, you absolutely cannot go on anymore once you’re finished,” she explains. She’s not kidding. Every time I go through a session of HIIT, I feel like I never want to do it again. The pain might be over and done with relatively quickly, but the muscle exhaustion feels eternal. The soreness can last for a week. All that pain is worth it for the health gains, studies have shown. In young to middle-aged healthy adults, HIIT produced better improvements than endurance training in the maximum amount of oxygen that a person could consume — a commonly used measure of cardiovascular health, Zoran Milaović and colleagues at the University of Nis in Serbia reported in a meta-analysis August 5 in Sports Medicine. In theory, these gains in maximal oxygen, called VO max, should mean better health. Weston says her group is especially interested in how that translates to everyday life. “It’s great VO max is improving,” Weston says. “But does it mean they are able to carry out daily tasks better? Does it translate over to real life, or is it just in the lab?” HIIT may also reduce the risk of type II diabetes. “What … HIIT does very well is basically prevent the accumulation or worsening of insulin resistance, and therefore is a very good way of preventing type II diabetes,” says Jelleyman. “It helps keep the blood glucose within a healthy range.” In a meta-analysis of 50 studies, Jelleyman and her colleagues showed that blood glucose is lower following HIIT than it is following normal continuous exercise or no exercise at all. The meta-analysis was published  October 20 in Obesity Reviews. One of the most dramatic effects of HIIT is how quickly it increases muscle endurance. “HIIT is much more time-efficient than normal endurance exercise,” notes Håkan Westerblad, a muscle and exercise physiologist at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.  “For some groups you get better faster with HIIT than with normal endurance exercise.” It’s a short workout that produces results quickly. “Some studies have shown effects in as little as two weeks,” Jelleyman notes, if the person is working out at their highest intensity. “But usually you expect at least two months for long-term changes.” And the gains even seem to affect those who aren’t gym rats by nature. “It almost favors less fit people,” Weston says. “Our data has shown it’s the people who don’t exercise, they’re the ones that might get the most benefit from it.” To look at how these big gains take place in such a short time, Westerblad and his colleagues examined 18 recreationally active men and male endurance athletes who did six rounds of 30-second bursts of high-intensity cycling followed by four minutes of rest.  After the workout, the scientists took biopsies of the working muscles in the participants’ legs. When a muscle cell receives a signal to contract, tiny pumps called ryanodine receptors open, and calcium pours out of holding spaces within the cell into the cellular fluid. The high concentrations of calcium signal the muscle cell to contract. Scale this up across all muscle cells, and the whole muscle flexes. After a single HIIT workout, un-athletic guys showed fragmentation of the ryanodine receptor. Breakdown of the ryanodine receptor means calcium can leak out into the cell in a continuous drip. With only a little bit of calcium getting released, the muscle cells don’t contract. Instead, the calcium causes a little bit of stress to the cell. Cells react to this stress by increasing their endurance, making them better able to withstand the next bout of HIIT. Endurance athletes, however, didn’t get the same benefits. It turns out that the breakdown of the ryanodine receptor is a consequence of the production of free radicals — highly reactive molecules — during exercise. Westerblad says that after prolonged endurance training, the muscles of endurance athletes have “a more effective antioxidant system,” something that the nonathletes will develop as their muscles get used to broken down ryanodine receptors. Endurance athletes, he argues, had no benefit because they had nothing left to improve — they were too fit for HIIT. Westerblad and his group published their results November 2 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. But while HIIT has proven to improve health and endurance, it may not hit us where it really counts — our weight. “The only thing it definitely doesn’t do is weight loss,” Weston says. “Generally, it has not been claimed that HIIT is effective for losing weight, per se. The energy expenditure isn’t great enough.” But, she says, some studies have shown decreases in waist circumference. “It doesn’t affect the scale but may affect how you look in the mirror.” Even so, HIIT is still good for cardiovascular health and your blood sugar. What’s not to love? Well, it turns out, people don’t love the workout itself. “I was constantly questioning whether people would want to do that kind of thing,” says Stuart Biddle, who studies psychology and active living at Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia. “We know that those much higher levels of intensity are experienced as unpleasant.” In a debate with Alan Batterham of Teesside University published July 18 in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, Biddle argues that pushing HIIT for everyone might just doom most people to failure. “[HIIT] has physiological benefit, of that there’s no doubt,” he says. But he thinks the workouts themselves won’t make people come back for more. “It’s unpleasant, it’s hard to do,” he explains. “I don’t think people look forward to it.” The compressed time means a HIIT workout could work for people who say they have no time to exercise, but the reality may be they don’t want to exercise at all. “When people say they don’t have time, they aren’t documenting it,” Biddle says. “It’s a statement to reflect they don’t want to spend their free time doing exercise.” To overcome this, Biddle believes that people don’t need workouts that are faster and more challenging, like HIIT. Instead, he promotes exercise that can be incorporated into daily routines. With a tough workout and no weight loss to show for it, a HIIT regimen needs to be something that you’d actually want to do. And time spent working hard doesn’t feel so bad if it’s spent doing something you love. Weston says that applying HIIT principles to the types of exercise you prefer might help you come back for another bout.  “People like different things,” Weston says. “I hate the treadmill, personally. There’s a misconception that [treadmill or cycling] is the only way [HIIT] can be done.” But that’s not true. Weston says it’s really just about getting yourself to work really hard. “It could be stair climbing or boxing drills, football drills, dance drills, gym equipment,” she says. “As long as you can get that cardiovascular response that shows you’re working hard, it doesn’t matter so much about the mode of exercise.”

News Article | February 28, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

A team of international researchers led by University of Freiburg hydrologist Dr. Andreas Hartmann suggests that inclusion of currently missing key hydrological processes in large-scale climate change impact models can significantly improve our estimates of water availability. The study shows that groundwater recharge estimates for 560 million people in karst regions in Europe, the Middle East and Northern Africa, are much higher than previously estimated from current large-scale models. The scientists have shown that model estimates based on entire continents up to now have greatly underestimated in places the amount of groundwater that is recharged from fractions of surface runoff. This finding suggests that more work is needed to ensure sufficient realism in large-scale hydrologic models before they can be reliably used for local water management. The team has published their research findings in the scientific journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)." Groundwater is a vital resource in many regions around the globe. For managing drinking water, the recharge rate is an important quantity for securing sustainable supplies. The researchers have compared two hydrological models that simulate groundwater recharge. One is a long-established global model with limited accounting for subsurface heterogeneity. The other is a continental model the researchers have developed themselves that includes, for example, variability in the thickness of soils and different subsurface permeabilities. They have carried out the comparison for all of the karst regions in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Karst regions are known for their great degree of subsurface heterogeneity, because carbonate rock shows greater susceptibility to chemical weathering - a process that is known as karstification. Karstification leads to varying soil depths and permeabilities. A comparison of the models' calculations with independent observations of groundwater recharge at 38 sites in the regions has shown that the model that accounts for heterogeneity produces more realistic estimates. The researchers explain the reason for the difference between the two models as follows: In simulation, their newly developed model shows reduced fractions of surface According to the new model, a farmer in the Mediterranean region would potentially have up to a million liters more groundwater for extraction available in a year than the established model estimates, dependent on actual subsurface composition and the water demands of the local ecosystems. When applied to the example of karst regions, the researchers' approach shows how it is possible to adapt global models used to predict water shortages, drought or floods to account more realistically for regional conditions. Scientists from the University of Freiburg, Canada's Victoria University, the University of Bristol in England and International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria took part in the study. Hartmann, A., Gleeson, T., Wada, Y., Wagener, T., 2017. Enhanced groundwater recharge rates and altered recharge sensitivity to climate variability through subsurface heterogeneity. In: "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences"; doi:10.1073/pnas.1614941114.

News Article | December 19, 2016
Site: www.marketwired.com

Robert Pizzari, Anandh Maistry and Jane Bounds join Trustwave to drive further growth in cybersecurity and managed security services across the Asia-Pacific Region SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA--(Marketwired - December 19, 2016) - Trustwave today announced the appointment of Robert Pizzari as Senior Vice President of Asia-Pacific Sales, Anandh Maistry as Vice President of Sales for Australia and New Zealand, and Jane Bounds as its first Director of Asia-Pacific Marketing. The new executive appointments represent Trustwave's increased focus on driving growth in the Asia-Pacific region. Pizzari is responsible for all Asia-Pacific sales activity at Trustwave. Maistry is responsible for sales in Australia and New Zealand and reports into Pizzari. Bounds is responsible for all Trustwave marketing activities in Asia-Pacific including marketing with and through Trustwave telecommunications and channel partners in the region. According to Gartner's Worldwide Information Security Forecast 2Q16 Update, the Asia-Pacific cybersecurity market is expected to grow from $17.2B in 2016 to $23.2B in 2020. Trustwave Executive Vice President of Global Sales Dave Feringa said, "Trustwave has a massive opportunity in Asia-Pacific given our connection with Singtel and its affiliates. Robert and Anandh bring a solid set of sales leadership skills to the company, and I look forward to their helping expand our business delivering cybersecurity and managed security services across Asia-Pacific." Trustwave Chief Marketing Officer Steve Kelley said, "Jane is a highly experienced marketer with experience encompassing all aspects of marketing, using multiple touch points to create brand momentum. Her passion for strong engagement with sales leaders and the market, to identify the 'sweet spot' for opportunity, will benefit Trustwave as we continue to execute on our strategy to become the premier cybersecurity and managed security services provider across the Asia-Pacific market." Pizzari joins Trustwave from F5 Networks, where he was most recently Managing Director of Australia and New Zealand. He also held Asia-Pacific sales leadership roles at F5 and Cisco. He received a bachelor's degree from Victoria University. He is based in Singapore. With more than 25 years of IT industry experience, Maistry joins Trustwave from Citrix Systems, where he was Senior Director for Sales responsible for defining, building and driving a growth strategy. Prior to Citrix, Maistry worked for Oracle where he was the Vice President for their Systems Business in Asia, and Cisco where he was Managing Director for the Services Provider Organization. He studied computer science at UTS Sydney. He is based in Sydney. Bounds joins Trustwave from IBM Australia and New Zealand, where she was most recently Market Executive for the IBM Systems business unit. She held a number of marketing leadership roles at IBM spanning IBM hardware, as well as software including Tivoli and security, data management and Lotus. She received a bachelor's degree in computer science from the University of Sydney. She is based in Sydney. About Trustwave Trustwave helps businesses fight cybercrime, protect data and reduce security risk. With cloud and managed security services, integrated technologies and a team of security experts, ethical hackers and researchers, Trustwave enables businesses to transform the way they manage their information security and compliance programs. More than three million businesses are enrolled in the Trustwave TrustKeeper® cloud platform, through which Trustwave delivers automated, efficient and cost-effective threat, vulnerability and compliance management. Trustwave is headquartered in Chicago, with customers in 96 countries. For more information about Trustwave, visit https://www.trustwave.com. All trademarks used herein remain the property of their respective owners. Their use does not indicate or imply a relationship between Trustwave and the owners of such trademarks.

News Article | December 11, 2015
Site: phys.org

It is often assumed that animals that live in urban areas become less wary of humans through habituation, but until now, no research has been conducted which tests whether animals' preference for an urban or non-urban environment might be genetically determined. A team of researchers from Victoria University, Deakin University and The University of Melbourne, Australia, conducted a series of tests to establish the wariness of two separate populations of black swans (Cygnus atratus). One population of 80 swans were living in an urban parkland setting, where they frequently encountered humans, while a second population of 20 swans were living around 30km away in a non-urban area, much less frequented by people. The researchers quantified the birds' wariness by walking slowly towards them, and then measuring the distance at which the bird flew away, called the Flight Initiation Distance (FID). Separately, they also took blood samples from the two populations of birds so that they could look for variations in two sets of genes - DRD4 and SERT - typically associated with behaviours related to anxiety and harm avoidance in animals. As expected, the swans living in an urban setting were much bolder than their rural counterparts, with an average FID of 13 meters, compared to 96 meters for the non-urban swans. The genetic tests revealed no significant differences between the two populations in SERT genotypes, but they found five different variants of DRD4 which were associated with different levels of wariness. The vast majority (88.8%) of the urban swans shared the most common genotype for DRD4, whereas only 60% of the rural swans exhibited this genotype. Of all the swans, 83% with the most common DRD4 genotype had a shorter average FID, suggesting that the birds' wariness is at least partly determined by their genes. As swans are typically highly mobile, and have the ability to migrate between different habitats, the researchers conclude that wary swans may be more likely to choose to inhabit a non-urban site, with bolder swans colonising urban areas. Lead researcher, Wouter van Dongen, says: "Growing global urbanisation means that wild animals are increasingly settling near to humans. Although we often assume that animals become less wary of humans by simply getting used to them, our results suggest that at least part of this response might be genetically determined. This has important implications for conservation, particularly for the introduction of animals bred in captivity, which could in future be screened for genotypes that are associated with wariness, allowing them to be released to a location commensurate with their expected wariness." More information: Wouter F.D. van Dongen et al. Variation at the DRD4 locus is associated with wariness and local site selection in urban black swans, BMC Evolutionary Biology (2015). DOI: 10.1186/s12862-015-0533-8

News Article | December 17, 2015
Site: phys.org

"Over three nights we managed to track down 69 tuatara, of which 21 were born at Zealandia at some point over the past decade," says Associate Professor Nicky Nelson from Victoria's School of Biological Sciences. "This is fantastic news and confirms that tuatara are successfully breeding in Zealandia." The tuatara at Zealandia are the first wild population of tuatara on mainland New Zealand in over 200 years. In 2005, 70 tuatara were transferred from Stephens Island in the Marlborough Sounds and another 130 released in 2007. Over the decade, baby tuatara have been spotted at Zealandia, the first in 2009. This was thought to be the first case of tuatara naturally breeding on the New Zealand mainland since they were reintroduced. The recent survey—carried out 10 years to the day that the first tuatara arrived—found a number of females about to lay eggs, in addition to the 21 sanctuary-born tuatara. "We now know the group is breeding annually, a sign of a healthy population," says Dr Nelson. "We also found the tuatara have increased in size. The heaviest tuatara was over one kilogram—1010 grams, more than the recently weighed tuatara on Stephens Island. The interesting thing is that he had not grown in length since he was released 10 years ago, he just got bulkier. "One of the longest tuatara had a 30 centimetre long tail—the length of our rulers. He grew three centimetres in a decade, and put on over 250 grams." The survey team also discovered that the tuatara still have ticks, which translocated with them from Stephens Island. "The ticks are hanging in there after 10 years—we weren't sure they would survive in a less dense population like Zealandia," says Dr Nelson. "There are no major issues identified with having ticks, and the young tuatara don't seem to have them." The survey group spent three days searching release sites, known burrows and other sites to weigh and measure the endemic reptiles. "The group was made up of people from Zealandia, Victoria University, volunteers and iwi—it was a really great community effort," says Dr Nelson. "This survey has given us a good understanding of how the tuatara are doing and a base to build on for future surveys." The tuatara population at Zealandia is likely to be resurveyed every five years.

News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: phys.org

Researchers from Flinders University and the University of Adelaide, in collaboration with a number of international institutions, have converted solar energy directly into chemical energy in the form of methane and methanol. The process uses dynamic nano-clusters, which consist of a specific number of metalic-gold atoms that interact with the molecules in UV light. The team built a lab-scaled device in South Australia's capital Adelaide and have been testing its effectiveness using artificial ultraviolet light. While it is still being scaled up, researchers say it has potential for industrial, commercial and domestic applications. The US Army is so interested in using the process as a potential mobile generator, which would allow troops in the field to store energy, it is now funding the research. Lead researcher Gunther Andersson said as the world moved toward implementing more renewable energy initiatives there was a growing need for more reliable storage. "This is not completely a new idea, chemical energy storage, but the thing that is special in our work is that we use specific nano-clusters, which make the conversion far more efficient," he said. "Using a gold-based catalyst we get a about ten times more product out of it than what a contemporary catalyst would give us. "Our lab product is working quite efficiently, at least in our research terms, and we will start to scale up the project to further test the process in the coming months." The technology has the potential for large-scale application that could be used to help power whole cities or just your regular home. The dynamic shape of the nano-clusters makes them catalytic active, creating a more efficient production of chemical energy in the form of methanol or methane. Professor Andersson said these materials were ideal substances because they were already in frequent use and easily stored. "Obviously there are large-scale batteries, really powerful ones, but the problem is then availability. The batteries are also not quite developed for all these things yet," Professor Andersson said. "To get long-lasting batteries for a reasonable price is a major challenge at the moment, plus you have the problem that the chemicals you use in batteries are not very environmentally friendly." According to a recent report by the World Economic Forum, the cost of solar energy is now the same price or cheaper than fossil fuel in more than 30 countries and has declined at a 20 per cent compounded annual rate. South Australia is cementing itself as a world leader in green energy as companies begin cracking the code to make renewables commercially viable. Nearly a quarter of houses in South Australia have installed rooftop solar panels, making it one of the highest penetration rates in the world. It is also the largest producer of wind energy in Australia – the state's 1.5GW of wind energy represents almost half of the country's capability. South Australia made headlines around the world when it was announced that the state - 'a place with the population of West Virginia' - had been powered by 100 per cent renewable energy for an entire working day in 2015. Professor Andersson's solar-storage device is an international collaboration involving researchers from Flinders University, University of Adelaide, Canterbury University, Victoria University and the University of Utah. A research paper on the solar storage process is expected to be published next month. Explore further: A marriage made in sunlight: Invention merges solar with liquid battery

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