Australia’s Eureka Awards: Dengue, dingos and dragonsBy Graham Land Sep 06, 2013 6:00AM UTC
The Australian Museum’s annual Eureka Prizes honor scientific achievement in the fields of research and innovation, science communication & journalism, school science, and leadership & commercialization. On the night of September 4 the winners of this year’s prizes were celebrated at an awards dinner in Sydney.
The awards are of course named after the Ancient Greek word for “I have found it”, popularly associated with the Ancient Greek scientist Archimedes. The story goes that when Archimedes stepped into the bath and realized that he could measure the volume of an object by the amount of water it displaced, he cried out “Eureka!”
Archimedes is also credited with some pretty cool inventions like the Archimedes screw, the ship-sinking Claw of Archimedes and a mirror-powered “heat ray” used to burn ships. He was basically a nightmare for ships that dared invade Syracuse. Not bad for someone who lived during the 3rd century BC.
On to the awards.
The NSW prize for environmental research went to a study revealing that dingoes might actually be good for the environment of Australia, challenging long-standing beliefs that the wild dogs are pests. Benefits of areas with healthy dingo populations include well-controlled numbers of kangaroos, foxes and feral cats. We’ve previously discussed how those animals can be problematic. The research also showed a correlation between healthy vegetation and small native mammal populations with the presence of dingoes. Take that, dingo-bashers.
Frank Howarth, director of the Australian Museum, is quoted in the Guardian:
Dingoes arouse passionate feelings. This research will change attitudes and help us appreciate their ecological role.
The dingo looks like being rehabilitated as a useful member of the Australian environment and the researchers are already putting their work into practice in the management of Evelyn Downs station near Coober Pedy.
James Cook University’s Eliminate Dengue project took the prize for research in infectious diseases. Dengue fever is a tropical disease which claims around 25,000 lives per year, infecting tens to hundreds of millions. There are no anti-viral drugs for dengue at present.
A nice twist to the awards is that an amateur photographer, Richard Wylie, won the New Scientist Eureka Prize for Science Photography for his picture of a male weedy sea dragon. To be fair, though Wylie is an amateur photographer he is a professional marine biologist.
He explains the winning photo:
Fathers’ Day falls at the start of September and this wonderful photograph of a male weedy sea dragon incubating eggs serves to remind us of the many forms that fatherhood in nature can take. It also helps people appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of a species that’s listed as near threatened.
See the winning shot, entitled “Fatherhood” along with the other nominated photographs here.
Check out the full list of 2013 Eureka Prize-winners in The Conversation.