Scientists in the news this week: September 2020

University of Adelaide scientists have sprung into the new season by sharing their research achievements and expertise in the media. 

Here are the stories of our scientists and science graduates in the news during September 2020.


GRDC soil microbes photo with Matthew Denton and Yi Zhou

Agriculture, food and wine

GRDC GroundCover reports that soils from across Australia have been collected in a national research effort which aims to one day lead to the discovery of new rhizobia and beneficial growth-promoting soil microbes to create a step-change lift in chickpea production.

This research was led by Associate Professor Matthew Denton and Dr Yi Zhou.

Image: Yi Zhou and Matthew Denton, photo by Dr Joshua Philp

ABC Eyre Peninsula and West Coast interviewed Associate Professor Matthew Tucker about the potential of gene editing in barley. This research also appeared on SeedWorld, Scienmag, news wiseSeedQuest and The National Tribune.

Affiliate lecturer Dr Rhiannon Schilling features in a Stock Journal article talking about her career and motivations. Dr Schilling also opened the new Unity College Agricultural Centre at Murray Bridge, which was covered in the Murray Valley Standard newspaper.

An AUSVEG article mentions Dr Katja Hogendoorn who was involved in a pollination session at the 2019 Apple and Pear R&D Forum.


Professor Martin Cole

Internationally-recognised food scientist Professor Martin Cole (pictured) discusses the relationship between COVID-19 and food safety with ABC Radio Eyre Peninsula and West Coast.

In other news published by Food and Drink BusinessVegconomist, Retail World Magazine, Which-50 and The National Tribune, Australian plant-based meat startup v2food has announced Professor Cole as its new Chief Scientific Advisor.

Image: Professor Martin Cole

Winetitles and Australia’s Wine Business Magazine report that Emeritus Fellow Peter Dry AM has been included on a panel of experts to adjudicate the new viticulturist category of the Young Gun of Wine awards.

ABC Riverland interviews PhD candidate Ruby Hume about a new collaborative project with PIRSA funded by GRDC, that aims to better understand and manage soil acidification.


Collecting samples from a Tasmanian Cider gum

Tasmanian media picked up the story on scientists reviving the lost practices of Aboriginal fermentation techniques. Professor Vladimir Jiranek featured on ABC Radio Hobart, ABC News and in the Burnie Advocate.

Coverage of the research also appeared online including on:

Image: Researchers collect samples from a Tasmanian Cider gum.

Stock Journal, The Wangaratta Chronicle, Sea Lake & Whycheproof Times Ensign, Nhill Free Press, North West Express, and SeedQuest talk with Dr Peter Boutsalis about ryegrass and herbicide resistance. 

SeedQuest reports on new traits identified for salt tolerant wheat, a study published in Functional Plant Biology by several Waite Research Institute scientists last month.

The Mount Barker Courier newspaper published a story on Professor Kerry Wilkinson who is a finalist in the South Australia Science Excellence and Innovation Awards for her contributions to wine education.

GRDC’s GroundCover features Associate Professor Gurjeet Gill who discusses a range of competitive weed tactics that can be used to manage in-crop weeds and improve the yield of the current seasons crop.


Chris Preston weed science

Professor Christopher Preston featured in The Weekly Advertiser, Farm Weekly and on ABC discussing herbicides that can be used tactically to manage and control early germinating broadleaf weed.

Professor Preston also discussed annual ryegrass control in The Weekly Advertiser and strategies for promoting crop growth in a Farm Weekly article.

Newspaper Melbourne Weekly Times mentioned Professor Preston’s presentations at the Mallee Sustainable Farming field days.

Dr Maarten Ryder featured in the news again, giving his expert advice for legume nodulation, this time in Stock Journal.

Professor Maria Hrmova is featured again in the news, this week on SeedQuest and Technology as the project leader of international research into plant cell walls.



Animal and veterinary sciences

Wombat photo - Raphael Eisenhofer

Recent studies have shown that there are half a million more southern hairy-nosed wombats than previously estimated.

Researchers from the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences and School of Biological Sciences have provided more accurate burrow counts through the use of high-resolution satellite imagery. Scientists involved were PhD graduate Dr Michael Swinbourne, Dr Alyce SwinbourneDr David Taggart and Associate Professor Bertram Ostendorf.

This news was published in the *Sunday Mail Adelaide and *Cairns Post and on ABC News.

Image: Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat by Dr Raphael Eisenhofer

Stock Journal reports in print and online of the new society launched which aims to bring together all those working in evidence-based animal production and research from livestock, to the equine industry, companion animals and even wildlife.

Professor Phil Hynd, PhD candidate Leesa-Joy Flanagan and Dr Mariana Caetano featured in the article.

The Mount Barker Courier acknowledged Adelaide Hills resident Dr Wayne Boardman as a finalist in the South Australia Science Excellence and Innovation Awards.

Dr Boardman’s nominated in the STEM Educator of the year category is for his significant contribution to the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program where he leads hands-on trips to Africa which is an element of his work as a wildlife veterinarian, conservationist, researcher and teacher.


Archie Saunders, Fred Pickett, Jasmin Packer, and Geraldine Turner are determined to save the "precious" Whibley wattle from extinction

Biological sciences

ABC reports there is new hope for one of Australia's most endangered acacias, with research led by Dr Jasmin Packer trialling an innovative technique to produce more of the iconic Whibley wattle.

Image: Archie Saunders, Fred Pickett, Jasmin Packer, and Geraldine Turner are determined to save the 'precious' Whibley wattle from extinction.

Dr Sean Tomlinson features in PerthNow, Stirling Times, Western Suburbs Weekly, Cockburn Gazette and Melville Gazette, articles about the Spring Quenda Count. This event promotes citizen science to determine the marsupial’s health, population and range across Perth.

Dr John Conran is featured on EurekAlert and Scimex as a co-author of a recent study that discovered leaves from a 23-million-year-old forest had high atmospheric carbon.

The finding contributes further knowledge to the understanding of how rising CO2 warms the earth, how this alters the dynamics of plant life and how this may affect us now and in the future.


Komodo dragon by Achmad Ariefiandy, Komodo Survival Program

Dr Alice Jones features in The Adelaide Advertiser, The Bendigo Advertiser, The West Australian, and on Newstalk Radio in Brisbane and Perth about a University of Adelaide-led study which found the Komodo dragon could be driven to extinction by climate change unless significant measures to intervene are taken soon.

This story was also covered in news bulletins on more than 70 radio stations and via Yahoo News NZ, The National Tribune, Margaret River Mail, News wise, AlphaGalileo and Oberon Review

Associate Professor Damien Fordham is the lead author of a recent study published in Science that has used analysis of the past to inform the future of climate change. This news was shared extensively, including via The National Tribune, Cosmos Magazine, Scimex, Science Daily,, The Coal Face, EurekAlert! and Azo Clean Tech.

Professor Tom Wigley talks to China Daily about how the planet is still heading rapidly toward surpassing the warming targets prescribed in the Paris Agreement on climate change.


Exotic pets like these, on display at the 2018 Repticon in West Palm Beach, can escape and form invasive communities. Photo courtesy of Adam Toomes

PhD candidate Adam Toomes is the lead author of a study that has analysed public enquires to the Australian Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment about the legality of the importing exotic species.

The findings show that exotic pets desired by Australians are significantly biased towards threatened species, invasive species and also species that are prominent in the United States exotic pet trade.

This information is important for the biosecurity of Australia as it may contribute to the prediction of illegally smuggled pets. The research was covered in the news on ABCGet RegionalNature World News, EurekAlert, Brightsurf and

Image: Exotic pets like these, on display at the 2018 Repticon in West Palm Beach, can escape and form invasive communities. Photo by Adam Toomes.

Associate Professor Kate Sanders featured on Natural News discussing how the respiratory anatomy of sea snakes adapt to their marine lifestyle. Research found that the blue-banded sea snake (Hydrophis cyanocinctus) has developed an organ that helps it to breathe underwater.

Professor Ivan Nagelkerken continued to feature across news channels including Radio Adelaide. Professor Nagelkerken was the lead author of a report that has found more evidence that marine ecosystems are being negatively impacted by climate change resulting in rising sea temperatures.

The project to build next-stage biosensor prototypes in collaboration with the University of Adelaide ARC Graphene Hub is mentioned on the Tech Capital and Proactive Investors Australia news websites.


Physical sciences

Artist's impression of binary black holes about to collide by Mark Myers, ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav)

Professor David Ottaway was a part of a team of scientists that discovered the biggest black hole collision and merger ever, 142 times the mass of our sun.

This news was covered extensively across various media including  The Daily Telegraph, The Advertiser, Scimex, and 7News.

Image: Artist's impression of binary black holes about to collide by Mark Myers, ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav)

Professor Heike Ebendorff-Heidepriem continued to be in the news, this time in Forbes and The Australian Mining Review, for her work as part of a consortium of scientists who were inspired by glass blower Karen Cunningham’s discovery of using diamonds and glass to make a hybrid material.

Cristiano Cordeiro from University of Campinas's Physics Institute has created a novel process to fabricate special optical fiber that is far simpler, faster and cheaper than the conventional method.

This research reported on EurekaAlert, Photonics, and ISPreview was in collaboration with Professor Ebendorff-Heidepriem when Professor Cordeiro was visiting The Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS) in Adelaide last year.

Emeritus Professor Stephen Lincoln features in the Tasmanian Times’ summary of the 2020 United in Science Report, which says that climate change has not stopped for COVID-19.


Students and alumni

Stock Journal profiles Katelyn Tomas, a graduate of the Bachelor of Science (Animal Science) and Honours in Animal Science. Katelyn is now completing a PhD at the University of Qld focusing on the influence of early life experiences on stress resilience throughout later life in pigs.

The Manning River Times introduces two new vets from the Wingham and Valley Vets veterinary clinic. University of Adelaide graduates Zac Lynch and Claire Hueppauff have been offered permanent roles at the clinic, which is an hour south of Port Macquarie in New South Wales.

Bachelor of Science (Advanced) graduate Khalia Primer talks to the The Advertiser in print and online about her gene therapy research after her recent win in the University of Adelaide 3-Minute Thesis competition. Kids News also ran an article with activities for young scientists.

Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology Viticulturist of the Year finalists were announced on winetitles media.

Finalists include agricultural sciences graduates Ben Harris, who is currently the manager for Treasury Wine Estates; and Suzanne McLoughlin, who is the Technical Manager at Vinehealth Australia. 

Wine graduate Katie Spain is featured in the Adelaide Advertiser where she has shared her start in winemaking, career highlights, challenges along the way such as COVID-19 and the joy of keeping balance. 

Wine graduate Lilian Carter is labelled as one of Australia's most adroit new-generation winemakers in an article published in the Newcastle Herald.

Rob Mann, wine graduate, is featured in *The Australian Financial Review discussing following on from the legacy of his family in the wine industry, his career so far and recent work with his partner Genevieve where they have released wines under their own label ‘Corymbia’.

1990 Wine Marketing graduate from Roseworthy College, Jan Douglas, has been appointed by the Queensland Government as a Wine Tourism Recovery Officer to support the industry in the Scenic Rim and Southern Downs regions. This was reported in the Fassifern Guardian, Boonah among other Queensland media.

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