Choose your own science

4 08 2009

In the lead up to Australia’s National Science Week this month (don’t forget to sign up for that), the Australia Museum is holding People’s Choice Awards for their Eureka Science Prizes.

GO VOTE. (There are prizes for Australian residents)

I actually have connections with one of these scientists! Squeee! I am like legitimate (or not…). Kathy Belov, nominated for her work regarding the genetics of the Tadmanian Devil facial tumour (DFTD). Marsupial immunology is a small field, so Kathy was one of the collaborators with my ex-supervisor on the launchblock for my research (one of my former lab-mates now has Kathy as a PhD co-supervisor) – near the end of my research our lab received some very useful American marsupial DNA libraries from her.Good luck Kathy.

And if transmissible facial cancer in devils is not cool enough for you there is also:


Enuff fail – thyme for suksess

6 11 2008

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

This is my photo of Wiggles. Taken with a camera phone while I was volunteering at the Rockhampton Zoo.

Wiggles is a southern hairy-nosed wombat, NOT a feline-porcine hybrid.

But he really is that cute. Like a furry little piglet.

You can read more here about the Wombat Research Centre where Wiggles was born.

There has been talk of shutting down the Rockhampton Zoo, which would spell trouble for Wiggles, their two chimpanzees and a whole host of other critters. Let’s hope some of the some of the government funding being funneled in their direction will stave of collapse for now.

Here’s another gorgeous photo of him I found online. That little stubby pointy thing is his tail by the way, not anything else.

And the song goes on

11 10 2008

Something I learned doing research with endangered Australian marsupials was that Australia has the worst record on history as far as extinctions of major animal species.

This doesn’t look set to change anytime soon.

At least my Australian European-ness can feel a little less self conscious – it seems its been that way since humans started arriving on this island.

Particularly Tasmania.

Which is still very depressing. Tasmania’s island of an island status means it does have some of the more interesting ecosystem inhabitants. With creatures like the Tasmanian devil not found anywhere else anymore.

Human arrivals to isolated islands – such as Mauritias and New Zealand – has seen severe eco-damage throughout history.

There is also a feature on this research in this month’s Australasian Science.

That’s not a mouse, or is it?

5 07 2008

You’d think I’d be all chuffed about this research. A Tasmanian Tiger gene was put into a mouse embryo quite a while back now. It’s sexy, with extinct marsupials and genetics.

But it’s more a Holly Valance sexy than Nicole Kidman sexy. It’s all new and shiny and wow, and then you realise, it can’t sing, act, or dance.

According to the article:

The results, published in the international scientific journal PLoS ONE this week, showed that the thylacine Col2a1 gene has a similar function in developing cartilage and bone development as the Col2a1 gene does in the mouse.

But the University of Melbourne researchers say:

“As more and more species of animals become extinct, we are continuing to lose critical knowledge of gene function and their potential.”

Right. Critical knowledge, like thylacine gene acts the same as a mouse gene.

Okay. I’m being harsh. It is a little sexy. Looking at how extinct genes behave could turn out interesting. But inserting genes into mice isn’t news. And neither is sequencing genes from extinct animals. So combining the two just isn’t that exciting for me.

I am a bit curious though why they are using Mus musculus embryos, and not Monodelphis domestica – your friendly neighbourhood laboratory marsupial research subject.