Shark and neurone research makes for tall poppies

sapoppylogov2Marine biologist Dr Charlie Huveneers tracks sharks, including great whites: neuroscientist Dr Damien Keating tracks the communications between cells in the brain. Both Flinders University researchers have been named as 2010 Young Tall Poppies of Science at the South Australian awards ceremony on Tuesday, August 10.

The annual awards recognise the achievements of outstanding young scientists in various disciplines for their work as researchers and communicators.

Dr Huveneers’ research includes underwater surveys, tagging and biopsy sampling of sharks, using a variety of acoustic and satellite-linked tracking devices to collect data on swimming patterns, residence times, migratory corridors as well as water depths and temperatures.

“The general goal is to develop a better understanding of sharks’ behaviour and their role in the marine ecosystem, which has implications for the fishing and ecotourism industries and for beach safety as well,” Dr Huveneers said.

His position is jointly funded by Flinders and the South Australian Research and Development Institute.

Dr Keating, an Australian Research Council Future Fellow in the School of Medicine, is investigating communication between cells in the human brain, an area of research that has potential to improve the prevention and treatment of serious degenerative diseases.

“My lab uses cutting-edge techniques to identify how cells communicate with each other through the release of neurotransmitters and hormones,” Dr Keating said.

“We have identified several proteins, some associated with human disorders including Down Syndrome, Alzheimer’s Disease and diabetes, that regulate the release of these chemical messengers from cells.”

Tall Poppy winners in South Australia and interstate are selected on the basis of both their research achievement and passion for communicating their work, and the Flinders Tall Poppies will take the message of the merits and benefits of science into high schools with a series of presentations in coming months.

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