Science community continues dedicated work during break

22 Dec 2017

University of Queensland Faculty of Science staff and students are maintaining essential services, and ensuring the welfare of their charges over the festive break.

They will tend native and domestic animals, raise fruit flies, unload barges, water plants, monitor instrumentation, and tend experiments.

Faculty Executive Dean Professor Melissa Brown thanked the Science community for their dedication. Here’s a snapshot of some – but not all - activities:

Gatton campus
School of Veterinary Sciences Clinical Studies Centre manager Sam Kempster says staff will feed, clean, and play with dogs, cats and birds in the rotational teaching colony every day. These animals are up for adoption in the Pets for Life Adoption Program.

“The pets will all receive a special Christmas treat on the 25th. Staff have been very thoughtful in the menu choices and each will receive a meal to their liking,” she said.

“Some will get fresh bones, others will get chew toys. New squeaky toys and balls are also arriving.

“The birds won’t miss out either - they will also receive a little treat. They will all get some new toys for their aviary.

“Full time staff will be back on 2 January for any adoption enquiries.”

UQ VETS Small Animals Hospital and UQ VETS Equine Specialist Hospital operations manager Anne Covill reports both hospitals will remain open over the festive season. They will accept emergencies 24/7, and open 27-29 December between 9am-5pm for referral services.

The Production Animal Service, which provides routine and emergency mobile veterinary services to farms within a 70-kilometre radius of UQ’s Gatton campus, will be on call.

UQ Postdoctoral researcher Dr Tamara Keeley will continue koala studies at Dreamworld, on the Gold Coast, while Lisa Swales and Meg Edwards are part of the team tending animals at UQ’s Native Wildlife Teaching and Research Facility at Gatton and the Hidden Vale Wildlife Centre, Grandchester.

Wildlife charges include mahogany gliders, blue tongue lizards, fat-tailed dunnarts, central bearded dragons, blue-tongue lizards, a black-head python, and a phascogale. Staff will pouch-check dunnarts for young, keep animals' enclosures clean and ensure plentiful food.

“We want to make sure our animals are healthy and doing well at all times throughout the year, including Christmas,” Lisa said.

School of Agriculture and Food Sciences’ Farm Manager, Crop Research Unit Mark Deegenaars advises: “Throughout the forecasted scorching festive season, existing trial crops need irrigation to maintain young plant and trial viability.

“Our Crop Research Unit team will also prepare ground for a flourish of early New Year trial plantings for our clients.”

Plant Production and Horticultural Technical Officer Bec Archer will check the temperature-controlled and evaporative glasshouses, irrigation and research nursery areas she manages.

“It’s Important to ensure that there are no breaks in automatic irrigation and repairing where needed, the temps in the glasshouses are holding and show no signs of mechanical issues and check research plants in this heat and watering where needed,” she said.

St Lucia
In the School of Biological Sciences, Professor Christine Beveridge’s group is tending plants for plant development research, while Roger Ellis has been sub-culturing Drosophila fruit flies for teaching experiments in 2018 for classes with over 1000 students.

UQ Fellow and senior lecturer Dr Katrina McGuigan reports that research associate Adam Reddiex, will prepare food for flies, keep an experiment running, and with Jack Price, Derek Sun and Dr McGuigan, will collect the flies as they emerge on December 28.

“Derek will also look after fish in Lexa Grutter’s saltwater aquarium,” she said.

“I really appreciate the willingness of staff to fit in around the schedule that the animals dictate.”

Heron Island
Faculty Workplace Health and Safety Manager Marshall Butterworth will be caretaker manager at the University’s world-class teaching and research station on Heron Island , Great Barrier Reef, while staff take a well-earned seasonal break.

“I’ll be on call for anything, but mainly daily meter reading, general security, supporting Sophie Dove’s group if needed, resolving service issues, unloading the weekly barge, and reacting to weather events,” he said.

Also at Heron Island, Bachelor of Science (Honours) student Vanessa Clark will tend two sets of coral climate change experiments.

Central Queensland
School of Agriculture and Food Sciences’ Associate Professor Steve Johnston is awaiting a seasonal miracle.

He is hoping to achieve a world-first after an artificial insemination trial in wombats.

Five southern hairy-nosed wombats at Safe Haven near Mount Larcom, have been artificially inseminated using sperm collected from wild wombats. They are due to give birth on Christmas Eve if the procedure goes well.