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September 2005 Update Scien News - Research


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highlighting research at DSE

Native plant biocides: Eco-alternative for marine environment

Scientist's at Murdoch University have isolated plant compounds, known as biocides, which provide environmentally friendly alternatives to toxic chemicals such as Tributyltin (TBT), a main ingredient of marine antifouling paints.

Dr Lepesteur-Thompson, an environment mircrobiologist from Murdoch University, prepares solutions of the naturally occurring plant biocides in the laboratory.
Dr Muriel Lepesteur-Thompson, an environmental microbiologist from the School of Environmental Science discovered the naturally occurring biocides after observing bioactivity of native vegetation in the field.

"Strong preliminary results showed bioactivity against specific target organisms such as bacterial strains and agents of harmful algal blooms, suggesting that large commercial applications were readily available," said Dr Lepesteur-Thompson.

Antifouling paint is used widely on boat hulls to deter the growth of algae, barnacles and other marine organisms that can greatly reduce the performance of a boat and can contribute to structural damage. Used in the paints since the 1970s, TBT causes malformations in aquatic lifeforms, particularly shellfish and has been found in accumulated levels in sperm whales, seals and water birds.

Government initiatives, such as the Antifouling Program, aim to have the toxic ingredient banned from 2006.

Dr Lepesteur-Thompson said that the natural biocides also had wide potential in the oil and gas industries in treating pipe corrosion and could be used to develop low impact algecides for the management of algal blooms in our waterways.

It is expected the biocides will be available commercially by early 2006.

For more information, please contact Dr Lepesteur-Thompson at lepesteur@murdoch.edu.au

SABC makes an impact in Australia's Biotechnology Capability Statement

Prof Mike Jones, Director of WA State Agriculture Biotechnology Centre, was involved in the decision-making process on Agricultural Biotechnology, aimed at developing a biotechnology policy for Australia for the next 10 years.

This occurred after the international BIO2004 biotechnology meeting where the five federal ministers responsible for biotechnology policy in Australia; and the state ministers, asked Biotechnology Australia, a federal government organisation, to develop a Capability Statement for Australia in Biotechnology. The aim of the Capability Statement is to provide a realistic overview of Australia's current position, set goals for the next 10 years and identify gaps and national priorities needed to reach these goals.

Prof Jones chaired the expert panel on agricultural biotechnology in Parliament House in Canberra and said that it was a fascinating experience to contribute to the decision-making processes of the federal government. He added, "Biotechnology is a complex subject and the need to achieve a whole of government approach was important for future development, rather than have five government departments with competing and overlapping sectoral policies in biotechnology."

For more information, please contact Prof Mike Jones at M.Jones@murdoch.edu.au

Federal Parliamentary Environment Committee visits ETC

Several members of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Environment Committee, as part of their study into sustainable cities, visited ETC on 30 March for some ideas on sustainability. The committee visited ETC as they saw it as an epitome of a sustainable city by integrating technologies in water, waste, permaculture, renewable energy and sustainable buildings. ETC has been promoting the concept of technologies for sustainability and is demonstrating these technologies with its industrial partners on its 2 ha site located on campus.

Members of the committee speaking to Prof Goen Ho (Right), Director of ETC