Dust, biodiversity and collecting possum poop

Dust, biodiversity and collecting possum poop

Macquarie University wins three national citizen science grants.


Citizen scientists will be investigating the health risks of household dust, mapping biodiversity in remote areas of Australia, and collecting possum poop to help in the fight against antibiotic resistance, as part of three projects that were funded last week.

Macquarie University researchers have been awarded $1.1 million in grants announced by the Federal Minister for Science, Arthur Sinodinos, as part of the Inspiring Australia – Science Engagement Programme. This represents a quarter of the total grant money awarded nationally.

Mapping biodiversity in remote areas of Australia

Aboriginal rangers in Arnhem Land.Macquarie University’s Emilie Ens and her team will be working with three Aboriginal ranger groups—the Yugul Mangi Rangers, the Numbirindi Rangers and the Yirralka Rangers—along the west coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria in Arnhem Land to develop new cross-cultural tools for assessing biodiversity. Yugul Mangi Rangers, Maritza Roberts (pictured in orange at right) and Jane Hall, are collecting small lily (Nymphoides spp.) on a biodiversity survey in the SE Arnhem Land Indigenous Proected Area, NT.

The tools will bring together Western and Indigenous science to develop locally meaningful biodiversity assessments that can be used in remote areas across Australia. The project is supported by the Atlas of Living Australia.

Local schools and communities will also be taking part in the project, and increasing their knowledge of the threats facing their areas, like feral animals, fire and climate change.

The project builds on previous work and will begin at the start of next year.

Announcing the grants, Minister Sinodinos said: “By harnessing ‘people power’ and technologies like smartphone apps and the internet, these studies will have a greater impact than a small team of scientists can achieve alone.”

“It also gives the local community greater buy-in and access to the information generated, helping them to be more informed on these issues and aware of the value of science to our lives.”

Collecting poop to fight antibiotic resistance

Possum poop on autumn leavesNew South Wales school students, their parents and Youth at the Zoo participants will be encouraged to collect possum poop as part of a project that is looking at antibiotic resistance in native animals.

Macquarie University’s Michelle Power is working with The University of Sydney and Taronga Zoo to run the project. It’s also being supported by Wildlife Health Australia.

The citizen scientists will learn about antibiotic resistance, how to collect samples and the DNA methods used to test the samples for resistance.

The project will begin towards the end of this year, or early next year. It’s hoped it will expand nationally in the future.

The health risks of household dust

A pile of dust in a vacuum cleanerAs more people live in cities, they’re also spending more time indoors, sometimes up to 90 per cent. This increases their exposure to household dust.

But what is household dust made of and does it pose any health risks? Citizen scientists will be helping Macquarie University’s Mark Patrick Taylor and researchers from the University of Queensland, RMIT and the University of South Australia find answers to these questions.

Olympus Australia is supporting the project, and universities in the US, Hong Kong and the UK will also be involved. It is thought to be the first global dust study of this kind.

Participants will submit vacuum dust samples for chemical and biological analysis, and will then be able to access their results via interactive web tools and see what they can do about any problems identified.

The project will be launched in late September.

The full list of grant recipients is available at www.business.gov.au/CSrecipients

Contact: Kevin Rhodes

Phone: +61-2-9850-7559

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