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Articles categorized as ‘Griffith University Science Programs’

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018

Griffith Aviation partners with Qantas for Future Pilot Program

Cool career alert!

Bachelor of Aviation students at Griffith University could become future pilots with Qantas thanks to a new partnership.

The Qantas Future Pilot Program provides students with access to experienced pilots during their degree, with selected students invited to complete an intensive 12-week Airline Transition Course.

Griffith University Aviation partners with Qantas for Future Pilot Program

Griffith Aviation student Kate Richards (far left) attended the launch of the program in Sydney (Photo: Griffith University)

Graduates can then transition to employment with QantasLink and complete their training under the supervision of QantasLink’s experienced training team and become qualified as First Officers flying the airline’s Dash 8 200/300 or Q400 fleet.

The program is open to a potential pool of 300 students in the next few years.

QantasLink Chief Executive Officer John Gissing said the program would build the next generation of exceptional pilots from within Australia’s top aviation schools and provided students with unparalleled benefits and job certainty not available with any other training program.

“Aviation students will have an enormous head start to their career as a pilot. They will not only benefit from a direct pathway to Australia’s largest regional airline, but will also have access to experienced Qantas Group pilots throughout their studies,” Mr Gissing said.

New pilots are usually only considered for employment with a commercial airline after spending time flying in the general aviation market, which is often gained by flying single-pilot charter aircraft usually in regional areas or by seeking employment outside of Australia.

“This fantastic initiative will equip high-performing and motivated students with the skills needed to transition into an airline and provide them with a platform from which to launch their career as a pilot within the Qantas Group.

“We are ensuring our students get the best possible start to their career and job opportunities secured early.”

Head of Griffith Aviation Associate Professor Gui Lohmann believes that Griffith Aviation offers a suite of initiatives that put Griffith students ahead in the industry.

“In 2018, Griffith Aviation is launching new initiatives to make sure our cutting-edge degrees are at the forefront of aviation education,” he said. “They include a new flight procedure lab, specific courses on Rotary Wings and UAVs, as well as the first ever Helicopter Pilot Training Graduate Diploma in Flight Management.”

To be eligible for the Qantas program, students need to be enrolled in the Bachelor of Aviation program, hold a GPA of 4.0 or above for the duration of their studies, and have Australian work rights.

Why choose the Bachelor of Aviation at Griffith University?

Griffith University has one of Australia’s largest and most highly recognised aviation teaching programs. Over the past 20 years teaching in this field, Griffith has built an international reputation for graduates who are industry ready. Griffith aviation staff have strong industry ties and are world leaders in aviation research.

The Bachelor of Aviation is a two-year, accelerated degree allowing students to progress more quickly into a flying career.

Students will be introduced to the sciences underpinning the theory and practice of aviation, and will also study courses in areas such as, navigation, planning, and the human factors in aviation. Through the Bachelor of Aviation, you will develop with the skills needed for lifelong learning in the evolving aviation environment.

The Bachelor of Aviation together with self-funded flight training will allow graduates to be ready to work in the aviation industry as a commercial pilot.

Program: Bachelor of Aviation
Location: Brisbane, Queensland
Semester intake: February each year
Duration: 2 years

Apply to the Griffith University aviation program!


Would you like more information about Griffith Aviation degrees? Contact OzTREKK Admission Officer Charlynn Lecompte at charylnn@oztrekk.com.

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

Griffith University scientist named Australian of the Year

Griffith University Emeritus Professor Alan Mackay-Sim has been honoured as this year’s Australian of the Year recipient.

The retired biomedical scientist, whose ground-breaking stem-cell research was instrumental in helping a paralysed man walk again, accepted the prestigious award during a live announcement at Parliament House in Canberra on Australia Day eve.

Griffith University scientist named Australian of the Year

Griffith University Professor Emeritus Alan Mackay-Sim is the 2017 Queensland Australian of the Year (Photo via Griffith University)

Professor Mackay-Sim has spent his career researching how nerve cells in the nose regenerate and pioneered a way to safely apply that same regenerative process to damaged spinal cords.

Recognised as the 2003 Queenslander of the Year and the 2017 Queensland Australian of the Year, Professor Mackay-Sim will now spend the next year fulfilling his duties for the Australian title while still overseeing several research projects at the Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery.

Those projects include stem cell research into treatments for conditions such as schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease and Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to talk about the importance of research on spinal cord injury and brain diseases,” Professor Mackay-Sim said in his speech.

“About new treatments using stem cells and cell transplantation, undreamed of 20 years ago. About how we must, as Australians, prioritise our spending so that we can afford not only to look after the diseased and disabled in our communities but also to afford the research for new and radical treatments to reduce future health costs.

“As a nation we must be part of this. And we must invest in young scientists.”

Professor Mackay-Sim highlighted the vital need for continued support and funding for research to ensure this life changing work isn’t compromised.

Vice Chancellor Professor Ian O’Connor congratulated Professor Mackay-Sim on his national award.

Griffith University is extremely proud to have such a remarkable man and scientist among us,” he said.

“Alan’s research has laid the foundation for global efforts to use stem cell surgery to repair spinal cord injury. It is an extraordinary field.

“He is a deserved recipient of Australian of the Year and we join the rest of the country in applauding him.”

Pro Vice Chancellor (Sciences) Professor Andrew Smith said, “We are delighted Emeritus Professor Alan Mackay-Sim and his research has been recognised at the highest level. Griffith Sciences Group remains committed to supporting this pioneering stem cell research towards new innovative treatments for spinal injury.”


Find out more about studying science at Griffith University! Contact OzTREKK’s Admission Officer Shannon Tilston at shannon@oztrekk.com for more information.

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

Griffith launches Green Labs program

Griffith Sciences and Griffith Health laboratories are going green.

Griffith University Green Labs program

Griffith Sciences Technical Manager Stephen Boyd, Eskitis Institute Director Professor Jennifer Martin and Sustainability Project Officer Kay Ollett at the launch of the Green Labs program at Nathan campus (Photo credit: Griffith University)

The Green Labs program aims to provide more sustainable practices in laboratory procedures and management.

“In laboratories sustainability offers real challenges and opportunities in minimizing energy, water consumption and chemical/biological waster,’’ says Stephen Boyd, Griffith Sciences Technical Manager.

“Compared to other work areas such as office space, laboratories are high-energy consumers and/or producers of these factors.

“Making even small changes in energy consumption or waste production will provide a significant benefit in reducing the carbon footprint and environmental load from laboratory operations.”

Green Labs objectives:

  • Reduce energy and water consumption
  • Improve waste disposal and recycling practices
  • Raise environmental impact and protection awareness in laboratories
  • Improve purchasing decisions in laboratories
Griffith University Green Labs program

Second-year Bachelor of Science student Clinton Carty-Lewis uses a lower fume cupboard hood sash height to conserve energy (Photo credit: Griffith University)

“Simple practices include switching off electrical appliances when not in use, reduction of fume cupboard hood sash heights which reduces waste of conditioned air, and appropriate sharing of chemicals to minimise duplication and accumulation in stock.

“Universities worldwide are implementing sustainability initiatives including similar Green Lab programs. Griffith University will continue to develop the program to be as comprehensive as possible.”

Griffith School of Environment

Since its inception, Griffith has had an ongoing commitment to the environment and sustainability. As a forerunner in the field, in 1975 Griffith launched Australia’s first environmental science degree and since then, has continued to lead in areas of environmental science, education, research and practices.

In 2010 Griffith reinforced its sustainability commitment when it signed up to the UN Global Compact—the world’s largest voluntary corporate and sustainability initiative. The Compact has 10 universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption.

‘To be a sustainable university’ is one of five key goals in Griffith University’s Strategic Plan 2013–2017.


Would you like to study environmental science at Griffith University? Contact OzTREKK Admission Officer Shannon Tilston at shannon@oztrekk.com for more information.

Tuesday, March 8th, 2016

Minister joins call for more women in science, tech, engineering and maths

In the lead-up to International Women’s Day (March 8, 2016) the Hon Karen Andrews MP, Assistant Minister for Science, visited young engineering students on Griffith University’s Gold Coast campus on Friday, March 4, 2016.

Assistant Minister Andrews, herself a qualified engineer, is a strong advocate for making science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) a priority in schools and in particular for girls to study these subjects through to university.

Griffith Engineering School

Hon Karen Andrews MP, Assistant Minister for Science visits first-year engineering students at Griffith’s Gold Coast campus (Photo credit: Griffith University)

“Tackling the gender imbalance in STEM is a key focus for the government in its National Innovation and Science Agenda. There’s $48 million to inspire STEM literacy under the agenda and we’re investing an additional $13 million to inspire girls and women to take up STEM education and careers,” said Mrs Andrews.

“This will be done by highlighting female leaders and building programs and networks to support workplace gender equality and advance women in STEM.”

Pro Vice Chancellor of Griffith Sciences Professor Debra Henly said she was delighted to have the Minister’s support in calling for more women to take up careers in STEM.

“The future of work is in STEM. The National Innovation and Science Agenda will drive a new boom to generate jobs and prosperity for all and we need more women to do that.

Griffith University is committed to producing high calibre STEM graduates and we begin that process with our Science on the Go team which works very closely with high schools across the southeast Queensland encouraging more students, particularly girls, to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics courses.”

“At Griffith University, we also work closely with our industry partners so that our students are working on real-life projects from the word go and they have the necessary skills and experience to take advantage of the range of jobs that are evolving.”

Professor Henly is one of only a handful of women who head a science, engineering and information technology faculty in Australia.


Learn more about studying science, engineering, and information technology at Griffith University! Contact OzTREKK’s Admission Officer Shannon Tilston at shannon@oztrekk.com or call toll free in Canada at 1-866-698-7355 for more information.

Monday, February 29th, 2016

Griffith partners with World Science Festival Brisbane

Griffith University is an academic partner of one of the world’s most prestigious scientific and cultural festivals.

Queensland Museum will host the Festival in Brisbane from March 9 – 13.

The inaugural World Science Festival Brisbane will take science out of the laboratory and into the streets, parks, museums, galleries and premier performing arts venues of Brisbane’s Cultural Precinct in South Banks.

Griffith science degrees

Griffith University is a partner of the inaugural World Science Festival Brisbane. (Photo credit: World Science Festival New York)

A range of Griffith’s experts will join international leaders from across science and the arts for four action-packed days of public science at its best.

Held annually in New York since 2008, the World Science Festival is now one of the most celebrated science festivals in the world.

Pro Vice Chancellor (Sciences) Professor Debra Henly said Griffith Sciences was delighted to be a part of the inaugural World Science Festival Brisbane.

“Our researchers will be involved in a number of events that will showcase our world class research to the general public,” she said.

“There will be something for all ages—from hands-on science activities by the Griffith Science On the Go! team for children to stimulating and thought provoking discussions.”

During the festival, Griffith researchers will showcase the latest in 3D scanning technology to create an accurate model of the Museum’s “Mephisto” tank, while budding scientists will be able to experience Griffith’s groundbreaking Quantum Physics laboratory.

Griffith will lead a discussion about how revolutionary science may allow rapid mapping and analysis that might be able to save our reefs from climate change.


Find out more about studying science at Griffith University! Contact OzTREKK’s Admission Officer Shannon Tilston at shannon@oztrekk.com.

Friday, February 26th, 2016

Griffith asks if ecotourism save threatened species

Ecotourism can provide the critical difference between survival and extinction for endangered animals, according to new research from Griffith University.

Using population viability modelling, the Griffith team of Professor Ralf Buckley, Dr Guy Castley and Dr Clare Morrison has developed a method that for the first time quantifies the impact of ecotourism on threatened species.

Griffith University ecotourism

Griffith researchers, from left, Dr Guy Castley, Dr Clare Morrison and Professor Ralf Buckley (Photo credit: Griffith University)

The findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE.

“We know that ecotourism is increasing on a global scale, with visitor numbers to many protected areas expanding each year. We also know that such activities can have negative as well as positive impacts,” said Professor Buckley, Griffith’s International Chair in Ecotourism Research.

“Until now, however, there has been no way to evaluate the net effect of ecotourism in increasing or decreasing the risk of extinction for endangered species, which is the key parameter for conservation efforts.”

Population viability models are widely used in practical wildlife management. They estimate cumulative population changes by simulating births and deaths iteratively, one generation at a time. Final predictions are based on thousands of repeated simulations.

The Griffith University scientists used the models to calculate future population changes for nine threatened species for which data exists: orangutan, hoolock gibbon, golden lion tamarin, cheetah, African wild dog, New Zealand sealion, African penguin, great green macaw and Egyptian vulture.

“We converted all ecotourism effects—positive and negative—to ecological parameters and found that for seven of the species involved, ecotourism provides net conservation gains through factors such as private reserves, habitat restoration, reduction in habitat damage, removal of feral predators, anti-poaching measures or captive breeding and food supplementation,” said Professor Buckley.

Dr Castley, from Griffith’s Environmental Futures Research Institute, said the research demonstrates how the net effects of tourism differ among species and sub-populations and that these effects are influenced by local circumstances.

“For example, they depend on the scale and intensity of ecotourism, the size of initial populations, rates of predation and on the impacts of other industries such as fishing and logging,” he said.

“Other factors, including poaching, are also important.”

Griffith School of Environment’s Dr Morrison said the research confirms that ecotourism is not always successful.

“In a few cases, this can have a net negative effect on threatened species,” she said. “However, for most of the rare and endangered bird and mammal species analysed, ecotourism makes the critical difference between survival and extinction.”

Griffith School of Environment

When Griffith University introduced the first environmental science degree in Australia, it was revolutionary. Griffith has expanded on their initial programs to offer not only environmental and natural sciences but urban planning and architecture with a focus on sustainable development.

In 1971, establishing a School of Environment was thought of as revolutionary. Over time the environment and sustainable practice has evolved from a fringe issue to a mainstream challenge to government, industry and even individual households.

Griffith University has expanded on their initial programs to offer not only environmental sciences and natural sciences but urban planning and architecture with a focus on sustainable development.

Program: Master of Environment
Location: Nathan Campus, Brisbane, Queensland
Semester intake: February and July
Duration: 2 years

Apply to the Griffith University Master of Environment!


Find out more about studying environmental sciences at Griffith University. Contact OzTREKK’s Australian Environmental Sciences Admissions Officer Shannon Tilston at shannon@oztrekk.com or call toll free in Canada 1-866-698-7355.

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

Griffith solar cells shine with molecular breakthrough

Griffith University scientists have developed a molecular waterproofing technique to improve the humidity tolerance of new solar cell technology.

The cells, based on a compound known as perovskite, are cheaper to make than traditional silicon cells, but their use in real-world devices has long been limited by a reduced efficiency in humid conditions, such as exist in Queensland.

Griffith University science degrees

Professor Huijun Zhao, Director of the Centre for Clean Environment and Energy (Photo credit: Griffith University)

However, researchers have now developed a water-resistant perovskite solar cell that can operate in a humid environment and maintain efficiency for longer.

Professor Huijun Zhao and Dr Yun Wang, from the Centre for Clean Environment and Energy within Griffith’s Environmental Futures Research Institute, led the Australian-Chinese project.

The breakthrough is an important step towards large-scale production of high-performance perovskite-based devices, deemed by many to represent the next wave of solar energy technology.

“The ‘holy grail’ of solar technologies is in their cost, efficiency, and stability,” said Professor Zhao, Director of the Centre for Clean Environment and Energy. “Cost and efficiency are the advantages of perovskite solar cells, but it is the stability issue that will directly determine their fate.

“We invented a simple dipping technique capable of functionalising perovskite films with some common moisture-tolerant molecules.

“The molecules adsorbed on the perovskite surface have a unique feature of high water resistance, resulting in the perovskite structures remaining stable after 30 days of long-term testing under 90 per cent relative humidity.”

Granted access to the Raijin supercomputer at the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) facility in Canberra, Dr Wang conducted electronic structure calculations to achieve an efficient water-resistant layer on the solar cells.

In an interview with NCI, Dr Wang said, “Scientists are currently looking for green technologies by preventing waste, using renewable resources, designing environmentally friendly products, increasing catalytic selectivity and reducing energy consumption.

“Using state-of-the-art quantum mechanics techniques combined with the development of data and materials science, scientists can now do ‘virtual’ screening of candidate materials to theoretically forecast their performance through comprehensive understanding of their structural, electronic, magnetic and optical properties.”

Dr Wang added the research is in response to long-term environmental and energy-related crises driven by population growth, limited fossil resources, pollution, and climate change.

“The screening of potential functional materials is an important step for using cheap, earth-abundant materials to improve renewable energy resources,” he said.

Griffith University Professor Zhao said the development brought scientists one step closer to the ‘holy grail’ of efficient, stable and cost-effective photovoltaic technology.

“These functionalised perovskites can exhibit similar photovoltaic performance to the pristine ones,” he said. “As well, this functionalisation technique is also the simplest, involving only dipping and washing steps. As such, it can be readily scaled up and adopted by manufacturers.”

Funding for the research came from the Australian Government, Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

The research is published in the prestigious journal Nature Energy.


Find out more about studying science at Griffith University! Contact OzTREKK’s Admission Officer Shannon Tilston at shannon@oztrekk.com.

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

Natural born killers: is warfare in our bones?

Skeletal remains of a group of hunter-gatherers massacred around 10,000 years ago are raising questions about humankind’s propensity for warfare.

Griffith University environmental sciences

Skeleton of a man found lying prone in lagoon sediments. The skull has multiple lesions on the front and on the left side, consistent with wounds from a blunt implement. (Image: Dr Marta Mirazon Lahr)

The fossilised bones of the Stone Age victims were unearthed at Nataruk — 30km west of Kenya’s fossil-rich Lake Turkana – and are believed to be the earliest scientifically dated historical evidence of human conflict.

The new Director of Griffith University’s Research Centre of Human Evolution, Professor Rainer Grün, was part of the Nataruk research team led by the University of Cambridge’s Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies (LCHES).

The site was discovered on the western side of Lake Turkana in 2012 when researchers found the partial remains of 27 individuals, including at least eight women and six children.

Of these, 12 skeletons were relatively complete and 10 revealed clear signs of violent death, including extreme blunt-force trauma to crania and cheekbones; broken hands, knees and ribs; arrow lesions to the neck; and stone projectile tips lodged in the skull and thorax of two men.

Several skeletons were found face down, with four—including a woman in the final stages of pregnancy—in positions indicating their hands had probably been bound.

Griffith University environmental sciences

A woman, found reclining on her left elbow, with fractures on the knees and possibly the left foot. The position of the hands suggests her wrists may have been bound.

While the bodies were not buried, some had fallen into a lagoon that has long since dried, with the bones preserved in sediment.

The research is published in the latest edition of the prestigious journal Nature.

“The findings are one of the earliest indications of humankind’s propensity for group violence,” said Professor Grün, who joined Griffith’s Environmental Futures Research Institute from the Australian National University in October. He used laser ablation technology to examine and date the fossils.

“Not only does this broaden our knowledge of early human behaviour, it raises questions about whether the capacity for organised violence is elemental to our nature or a product of circumstances and opportunity.”

One adult male skeleton was found with an obsidian bladelet still embedded in his skull. Another suffered two blows to the head, both crushing his skull at the point of impact.

Meanwhile, the remains of a 6- to 9-month-old fetus were recovered from within the abdominal cavity of its mother, who was discovered in an unusual sitting position.

A woman, found reclining on her left elbow, with fractures on the knees and possibly the left foot. The position of the hands suggests her wrists may have been bound.

Now scrubland, 10,000 years ago the area around Nataruk was a fertile lakeshore sustaining a substantial population of hunter-gatherers. It may also have been a location coveted by others.

Griffith University environmental sciences

Professor Rainer Grün, from Griffith’s Environmental Futures Research Institute (Photo: Griffith University)

Project leader Dr Marta Mirazon Lahr, from LCHES, said the victims may have been members of an extended family who were attacked by a rival group of hunter-gatherers in an ancient precursor to what we call warfare.

“The deaths at Nataruk are testimony to the antiquity of inter-group violence and war,” she said.

“These remains record the intentional killing of a small band of foragers with no deliberate burial, and provide unique evidence that warfare was part of the repertoire of inter-group relations among some prehistoric hunter-gatherers.”

Professor Robert Foley, also from Cambridge’s LCHES, summarised the implications of the research by saying, “I’ve no doubt it is in our biology to be aggressive and lethal, just as it is to be deeply caring and loving.

“A lot of what we understand about human evolutionary biology suggests these are two sides of the same coin.”

About the Griffith University Environmental Futures Research Institute

The Environmental Futures Research Institute is a leading university research organisation that combines science, innovation and local Australian experience, to expand new knowledge through fundamental research and deliver effective solutions to significant global environmental problems.

Griffith University aims to be a national and international institute of excellence and a global leader in environmental research. Their vision is to be recognised as a leading research institute throughout Australia, the Asia-Pacific region, and ultimately, the world and to undertake excellent fundamental and multidisciplinary research to aid the understanding of critical environmental issues, and develop solutions that will facilitate clean, resilient and sustainable futures for Australian and global environments.


Find out more about studying environmental sciences at Griffith University. Contact OzTREKK’s Australian Environmental Sciences Admissions Officer Shannon Tilston at shannon@oztrekk.com or call toll free in Canada at 1-866-698-7355.

Monday, October 26th, 2015

Loss of ocean predators impacts climate change

Continued unsustainable harvesting of large predatory fish, including the culling of sharks, can have far-reaching consequences for the way we tackle climate change.

Professor Rod Connolly, a marine scientist from Griffith University’s Australian Rivers Institute, is the co-author of new research that says keeping populations of larger fish intact is critical to carbon accumulation and long-term storage in vegetated coastal habitats such as saltmarsh, mangroves and seagrass.

Griffith University Environmental Sciences

To cull or not to cull: new research reveals the link between ocean predators and carbon capture and storage (Photo credit: Griffith University)

A paper, Predators help protect carbon stocks in blue carbon ecosystems, is published in the journal Nature Climate Change and identifies the urgent need for further research on the influence of predators on carbon cycling, and improved policy and management with regard to blue carbon reserves.

The research comes as Australia in particular, in response to a recent spate of shark attacks—some fatal—engages in fierce public debate over shark culling.

Professor Connolly warns the loss of top order predators through excessive culling or over-fishing has serious environmental ramifications.

“Altering the numbers of top ocean predators has major consequences for the way we tackle climate change,” says Professor Connolly.

“These predators have a cascading effect on the food web and the ecosystem generally that ultimately changes the amount of carbon captured and locked up in the seabed.”

Coastal wetlands play a crucial role in this process, extracting carbon from the atmosphere and burying it in the mud for hundreds and even thousands of years.

“When we change the abundance of higher order predators, this affects the number of smaller animals living in the mud, and that has flow-on effects for carbon storage in coastal wetlands,” says Professor Connolly.

“We are already aware of the need to manage how many fish we take and from where. But we should also know that our decisions affect climate change.”

Professor Connolly says the coastal wetlands that fringe the world’s continents are doing a power of environmental good, taking a quarter of a trillion kilograms of carbon out of the atmosphere every year; however, that efficiency can be easily compromised.

“Predators play an important and potentially irreplaceable role in carbon cycling. The effect of the disproportionate loss of species high in the food chain cannot be underestimated.”

About the Griffith University Australian Rivers Institute

The Griffith University Australian Rivers Institute is Australia’s largest university aquatic ecosystem research groups with globally recognised expertise in river, catchment and coastal ecosystems and the interaction with these systems in society. The institute brings together 130 staff and post-graduate students at the Nathan and Gold Coast campuses.

Research focuses on a “source to sea” philosophy delivering through six themes:

  • Catchment and river ecosystem processes
  • Rehabilitation science and environmental flows
  • Coastal and estuarine ecosystem processes
  • Aquatic biodiversity and conservation
  • Integration, modelling and catchment management
  • Aquatic ecosystem monitoring and assessment


Learn more about climate change and other environmental sciences programs available at Griffith University. Contact OzTREKK’s Australian Environmental Sciences Admissions Officer Rachel Brady at rachel@oztrekk.com or call toll free at 1-866-698-7355.

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

Griffith research on barnacles may help find MH370

Marine research conducted by Griffith University PhD candidate Ryan Pearson has given fresh hope to investigators trying to solve the mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

After confirmation that a wing fragment washed ashore at Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean is indeed from MH370, Mr Pearson says analysis of barnacles encrusted on the debris could narrow the search area for the missing aircraft.

Science degrees at Griffith University

Australian Rivers Institute PhD candidate Ryan Pearson removes barnacles from a turtle (Photo credit: Griffith University)

The Boeing 777 was carrying 239 passengers and crew when it disappeared in March last year. All attempts to find the aircraft have failed.

However, the recent discovery of a section of wing called a flaperon, and now identified as belonging to the missing plane, has lifted hopes of a resolution to the mystery.

Mr Pearson, from Griffith’s Australian Rivers Institute, says barnacle shells can provide information about the water conditions under which they are formed and through which they have passed. Accordingly, examination of barnacles attached to the wing piece can help determine how long it had been in the water and the path it had taken.

Barnacles can also be aged based on growth rates and size, meaning that if those on the flaperon are found to be older than the date the plane disappeared, the fragment could not have come from MH370.

Mr Pearson’s original research focuses on whether the shell chemistry of barnacles can reveal the migratory origin of endangered loggerhead turtles.

“To conserve loggerhead turtles, we need to know which parts of the ocean they use and when they use them. Scientists have tried to do this by measuring the chemical composition of the turtles, but this doesn’t always work,” he says.

“Not all turtles within a group eat the same things in the same places, so the sampling of skin tissues from a few doesn’t always tell us the big picture; however, a barnacle’s diet doesn’t really affect its shell growth, so the chemical composition of the shell will more accurately reflect where they’ve been in the ocean, compared with a turtle’s skin.”

Mr Pearson will receive the Ecological Society of Australia’s 2015 Jill Landsberg Applied Conservation Scholarship award and $6000 research grant at the Society’s annual conference in Adelaide in December. He will present his research findings at ESA16 in Fremantle.


Find out more about studying science at Griffith University. Contact OzTREKK’s Admissions Officer Rachel Brady at rachel@oztrekk.com or call toll free in Canada at 1-866-698-7355 for more information about science degrees available at Australian universities.