During a challenging 2020, field research was one of the first casualties of travel restrictions and border closures.

With many scientific research vessels confined to port, Mardi McNeil and Dr Luke Nothdurft from QUT were fortunate to be able to continue their on-water research aboard the R/V Falkor, which has been operating in Australian waters since December 2019.

Mardi McNeil and Dr Luke Nothdurft on the aft deck of RV Falkor, with the Remotely Operated Vehicle SuBastian. Image: Schmidt Ocean Institute

“Due to Covid-19 restrictions, a research voyage that we’d been planning since 2016 was cancelled, but we were lucky we could still travel on R/V Falkor to collect important scientific data on reef environments,” McNeil said.

“As a marine geoscientist, I study…


Damage to the reef from climate change impacts present an enormous challenge for conservationists and ecologists. Image: Brett Monroe Garner via Getty

A new survey has shown that although Australians do care about the Great Barrier Reef, very few of us know the best way to protect it from climate change.

Research carried out by Dr Angela Dean and Professor Kerrie Wilson at QUT’s School of Biology and Environmental Science shows that while most people cite plastic as a top concern, very few people surveyed identified climate action as a way to protect the Reef.

“The focus on plastic is easy, because it’s a very visible issue that’s had a lot of attention recently,” said Dean, an environmental and conservation social scientist…


Smart cities mean more than just connected cities. They’re the infrastructure and data at the intersection of planning, artificial intelligence, and human and non-human life. Image: Busakorn Pongparnit via Getty

In Singapore, a robot dog roams the streets making sure people maintain social distancing. In England, a man asks his smart phone for directions to the nearest train station. In Australia, drones scour the countryside counting koala populations in the wake of a bushfire.

These are just a few examples of the myriad ways smart cities are designed and implemented to improve our lives, and the livelihood of the environment around it.

Associate Professor Tan Yigitcanlar from QUT’s School of Built Environment specialises in smart city research.

“These visible signposts of smart cities are really just the tip of the…


From studying law like a hawk to studying owls for science — QUT research student Callan Alexander is working with BirdLife Australia to help track and monitor Australia’s threatened powerful owl.

As part of his masters research, Alexander will develop an automated species recogniser — a computer algorithm that detects a species’ call from an audio recording.

To do this, he visited several nature reserves around Queensland and captured audio from the environment using acoustic monitors.

“We can take audio from an area and run it through the algorithm which should tell us if there are any powerful owls…


Dr Sandra Wiedbrauk at QUT’s Soft Matter Materials Laboratory is making exciting new advances in state-of-the-art light-stimulated chemistry. Image: QUT

Advanced applications of 3D laser lithography can open avenues for new material design. Bioengineers will be able to make new, better implants like artificial retinas. Materials scientists can create meta materials with highly specific property features. And 3D printing at the nanoscale has exciting potential applications in integrated circuit manufacture.

However, innovations in the photochemistry underpinning 3D laser lithography are critical to realising these futuristic aims. Dr Sandra Wiedbrauk is at the forefront of this photochemical innovation push.

Wiedbrauk built extensive experience in photochemistry at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, and she is currently fusing that knowledge with new advancements in polymer…


With bushfire season approaching, and after the devastating fires over the black summer of 2019–2020, new research into how and why houses are destroyed during bushfire events is welcome news.

Professor Mahen Mahendran from QUT’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering is spear-heading emerging research that could lead to improved Australian building standards and safer homes by determining why buildings structurally fail during fire events.

Earth, wind and fire

When buildings are destroyed by bushfires, it’s not always due to the flames — often, buildings are structurally damaged by powerful bushfire-generated winds, which can tear roofs off buildings as they rip across the landscape.


Diabetes-related vision loss is the leading cause of blindness for working-aged Australians. Yet it’s almost entirely preventable.

A recent Australian study found only half of people with diabetes get the recommended annual eye checks.

We could be doing things better.

One of many complications

Around 1.7 million Australians have diabetes. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are three times more likely to develop diabetes than non-Indigenous Australians.

Diabetes occurs when glucose (sugar) in your blood is not converted into energy, so its level becomes too high. Blood glucose is our main source of energy and mostly comes from the food we eat.

Diabetes can…


By Dr Alina Dini

Shutterstock via The Conversation

Many Australians say they would consider buying an electric car. But unfortunately, new electric vehicles don’t come cheap.

Even at the more affordable end of the market, a new Nissan Leaf or Hyundai Ioniq cost around A$50,000. The popular Tesla Model 3 would set you back A$66,000.

But there’s another option: buy second-hand. A used electric vehicle can be yours for under A$20,000. However supply is limited and, like with any major purchase, there are pitfalls to watch for.

I’m an energy consumer advocate, researcher and electric vehicle owner, and have helped friends and family buy…


Mealybug captured below the soil in grazing land. Image: Edward Bryans, QUT

Pasture dieback is a scourge in contemporary grazing, with the income lost running into billions of dollars.

Pasture dieback isn’t new in Australia — it was first observed in 1926 — but despite over 80 years of documented outbreaks, the cause of the recent outbreak has remained elusive.

Researchers at QUT have worked quickly to identify what they believe to be the main cause: a small yet lethal mealybug.

With the support of $1.2m in funding from Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), the research comes at an important time: as more farmland is lost to pasture dieback, options are needed…


Did a visit to the supermarket end with a scratch on your new car?

That dreaded feeling when you get home and realise a supermarket trolley was cast adrift!

You kick the tyres, curse at the lack of bumpers on trolleys and look around for who to blame.

Ahead of you is the laborious process of getting the scratch fixed. While repairs to car paintwork have become easier with mobile services, it still takes time, is expensive and often hard to revert the paintwork to the shine of a new car.

Paint is one of the many substances that rely…

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