Australia's government-funded research institute, CSIRO, has opened up its photo archives under Creative Commons. Here's a selection of some fascinating images showing the history of scientific research in Australia.
The Australia Telescope Compact Array
In rural northern New South Wales, west of the town of Narrabri,
is CSIRO's radio telescope, ATCA.
Consisting of six 22m (72ft) diameter dishes, the array has new receivers
capable of detecting radio waves as short as 3.5mm. It is the only array
capable of operating at these short wavelengths in the southern hemisphere.
It's very important to maintain a sterile environment in
laboratories. At the Australian Animal Health Laboratory, all air is filtered -- once on the way in and
twice on the way out -- by massive HEPA filters contained in steel canisters,
capable of filtering particles down to as small as 0.6 microns.
This scanning electron micrograph shows a frozen intact
zoosphore and sporangia of the chytridfungus -- one of the most deadly threats to Australian frogs. It was only
discovered in 1993 on dead and dying frogs in Queensland, but research since
then has revealed that the fungus has been present in the country since at
least 1978, and is widespread across the continent.
Photo by:Dr Alex Hyatt, CSIRO Livestock Industries' Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) / Caption by:
Ornate rock lobster
No prizes for guessing where this magnificent crustacean
gets its name. The most abundant of the rock lobster species that inhabit Australian
waters, the ornate rock lobster has an incredible migratory pattern, as
discovered by the CSIRO. Every year, lobsters at least two years old travel
hundreds of kilometres across the Torres Strait to breeding grounds in the Gulf
of Papua -- after which they never return, seemingly disappearing.
The Australian National Fish Collection, housed in the CSIRO Marine Laboratories in Hobart,
is one of the most comprehensive and important reference collections in
Australia, containing some 150,000 specimens from nearly 3000 species found in
Australasian, Asian, Antarctic and sub-Antarctic waters, as well as a massive
collection of photographs and X-rays. The specimen pictured above, preserved
using a 70 percent ethanol solution, is a species of bathypelagic anglerfish.
This spiky fellow lives in the waters south of Tasmania on
seamounts in the Coral Sea and Tasman Sea -- underwater mountains formed from
extinct volcanoes. They have been largely left alone for thousands of years, but
in recent years, deep-water trawling expeditions have been targeting seamounts
looking for deep-sea fish, threatening the seamount habitats.
Photo by:Karen Gowlett-Holmes/CSIRO Marine Research / Caption by:
Protein crystals undergoing X-ray crystallography, a
technique that examines how light diffracts from crystals to determine their
chemical bonds, atom size, disorder and other information.
Arachnophobe warning: the
next four images are of spiders. If you don't like spiders, skip ahead.
The Goddefroy's wolf spider is common in open areas,
paddocks, grasslands and gardens across Australia. They look a bit scary, but
are relatively harmless, living in silk-lined burrows in the ground and hunting
for prey at night. They will rear up if provoked, but their bite is mild,
producing at most some nausea and headache. The mother will carry her egg sac
around with her, and, upon hatching, the spiderlings will ride on her abdomen
for a few days before dispersing to live their own lives. You can see another image of this mother and her babies here.
The striking redback spider -- so named for the red streak
on the abdomen of the female -- is a little less benign. They prefer warm
environments, so will gravitate towards human residences, and their bite is
venomous to humans, causing nausea, vomiting, headache and agitation. Since the
development of the redback antivenom in 1956, though, there have been no deaths
directly related to the redback bite.
huntsman spider looks a lot scarier than it is. They are large and fuzzy and
have sideways-jointed limbs that give them speed when they are hunting prey --
mostly insects and other invertebrates. They do not build webs, but live in
dark crevices, and tend to avoid confrontation with humans, biting only in
defense. Their venom is also mild, and usually does not require hospital
This is the one you have to watch out for. The Australian
funnel web -- named for the funnel-shaped homes it builds -- is one of the
deadliest spiders in the world, with the male's venom (pictured) considerably
more dangerous than the female's. Males tend to wander around in the warmer
months looking for females, and are aggressive when threatened. They're also
found frequently around human habitation; however, only 13 recorded deaths have occurred from funnel web bites in the last 100 years,
and none since the introduction of the antivenom in 1981.
Every spring, the bogong moth migrates, travelling from
northern New South Wales and Southern Queensland to the alps of Victoria to
hide in cool caves for the summer. Every autumn, they fly back again. These migratory
patterns and winds sometimes land them in towns and cities; every year, for
example, the Australian Parliament House becomes infested with the insects, which
lose their way due to the city lights. In fact, one new Canberra building, all
brightly lit, once became so full of bogongs, the lifts couldn't operate.
Australia, where even something as goofy-sounding as "bogong" can be
a massive problem.
In Central Australia, a massive outcropping of sandstone
rises from the desert landscape. This is the iconic Uluru, sacred to the Aṉaŋu people, listed as a World
Heritage Site by UNESCO and one of Australia's most beloved and recognisable
landmarks. It stands 348m (1,142 ft) high, and is surrounded by caves, springs
and waterholes, making it an unusual haven for wildlife on the otherwise flat
Most of Australia is desert, but that doesn't mean it's
devoid of life. However, rainfall is low in the middle of the continent:
Central Australia in the Northern Territory gets just 150mm of rain per year.
CSIRO does a lot of work with bees. Earlier this year, it
announced a project to use tiny RFID tags to track bees' movements in the hopes of figuring out whether
that plays a part in colony collapse. The organisation is also participating in
the Honey Bee Genome Sequencing Project. As part of this project, CSIRO researchers
discovered that the proteins in bee silk are small and non-repetitive -- unlike
the silk of spiders and silkworms -- which means it is more compatible with
millennia of fire hunts, much of Australia's bushlands now require fire in
order to propagate -- seed pods, for example, that won't open except under
intense heat, or the highly flammable oils in eucalyptus leaves that encourage
fire, eliminating competition from other, less hardy flora. Every year, the
threat of deadly fires loom during the hotter months.
The challenge for CSIRO is how to manage the fires carefully
and safely. This means conducting experiments to see how fire can best be
managed -- using different fuels, for example, and the safest times of year to
conduct controlled burns. In this grassfire experiment, CSIRO researchers
examined the way the fire burned in order to better predict grassland fire
The new CDC 3200 computer being installed at the CSIRO Division
of Computing Research, circa 1970. The CSIRO used the CDC 3200 to set up one of Australia's first computer networks,
providing a scientific computing service across all its divisions -- and, of
course, the organisation used it for computing research.
The flightless cassowary is only a little
smaller than the ostrich and the emu, reaching up to 2m tall -- but it's a
whole boatload meaner. It has strong legs, a powerful kick and a very sharp
middle claw, and most attacks come from cassowaries that have been fed by
humans -- the cassowaries will get impatient and aggressive. However, only one
human death from cassowary attack has been recorded -- a 16-year-old boy in
1926 who fell to the ground and took a kick to the neck.
It is not known why the cassowary has a crest
on its head, known as a casque. Some believe it is used to bash a path through
underbrush; another hypothesis suggests it amplifies sound.
The cassowary is an endangered species in its
native northern Australia.
Laser diagnostics is used to conduct highly detailed and
accurate measurements of flow fields in gas and liquids, alongside particulate
flows. CSIRO's laser diagnostics equipment includes Laser
Doppler Velocimetry, to measure gas and particle velocities; Phase
Doppler Particle Anemometry for simultaneously measuring particle
velocities and particle sizes; Particle Image Velocimetry for instantaneous
velocity measurements of entire flow fields; and Particle/Droplet Image
Analysis for detailed sizing of particles and droplets alongside