Book: ‘Melbourne’s water catchments’

In a fit of shameless self-promotion, I’m going to spruik my new book. (because if you can’t  show it off on your own blog, where can you?)

It’s called Melbourne’s water catchments: perspectives on a world-class water supply. It’s available from CSIRO Publishing.

The book is an account of the history of Melbourne’s water supply (I bet you didn’t see that coming), from the squalid swamps of the first settlements to the sophisticated system in place today. How have ecological, biological, economic and political pressures affected the water supply over time? What challenges will Melbourne face for water supply in the future? Find out in the book!

Melbourne's Water Catchments


A new species of Acanthocephala (shameless self-promotion!)

My first paper for 2013 is out. If you’re interested in learning about a new species of Acanthocephala from fish, then this is the paper for you.

Weaver HJ and Smales LR (2013) Filisoma filiformis n. sp. (Echinorhynchida: Cavisomidae), a New Species of Acanthocephala from Kyphosus spp. (Perciformes: Kyphosidae) from the South Pacific, and a Key to the Genus Filisoma. Comparative Parasitology 80, 33 – 38.

Find it here: If you can’t access it, let me know by leaving a comment and I can email it to you.

Here’s the abstract: 

“We describe a new species of acanthocephalan from the reef fish Kyphosus bigibbus Lacepede, Kyphosus sydneyanus (Gunther) and Kyphosus vaigiensis (Quoy and Gaimardi)  from Heron Island, Queensland; Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia; and Moorea, French Polynesia, respectively. Filisoma filiformis n. sp. is differentiated primarily from other species by its long, slender proboscis, with 16–18 longitudinal rows of 42–48 hooks. The wide distribution and multiple host species of F. filiformis suggest that it could be found in other localities around the Indo-Pacific region where kyphosid fish occur. The differing patterns of host range and geographic distribution within the genus Filisoma are discussed.”


It’s been so long since I posted last. But my current project is nearly finished, so hopefully the blogging can recommence soon.

Dogs can drive better than many people.

Three dogs from a New Zealand SPCA shelter were taught how to drive a special modified car. See their success here:

Yes, it’s really driving. Apparently the car had been modified to only drive at walking pace, so the leadfoot dish-lickers couldn’t drive off into the sunset.

The point of this campaign was to get people thinking that rescue dogs are awesome and deserve a nice home as much as any other dog.

Perhaps worryingly, these dogs seem to be doing a better job of driving than many humans I see on the road each day…

Tuesday weirdness: mattress dominoes.

I forgot what day it was yesterday. I’m sorry. However, on the few occasions where I’ve forgotten the Monday Awesome, I’ve provided you with something on Tuesday. Today’s is a bit weird, but let’s face it, Tuesdays are a bit strange anyway so it’s probably a good fit.

The world record for mattress dominoes has been broken in Shanghai, with 1001 people holding onto mattresses participating. I can’t embed the video, so you’ll have to go to the link (here) to watch it at the ABC News site. Here’s a screenshot of it:

screenshot of video of mattress dominoes

Several questions arise:

  • why does there have to be a person on each mattress?
  • was the previous record just beaten (at 1000 people/mattresses), or did they go all-out and smash it?
  • why mattresses…..?

It does look like fun though.

Tuesday Cringe: ‘Bogan’ in the dictionary.

There was nothing awesome about yesterday, so therefore no Monday Awesome. Sorry folks.

Today, however, I saw via various news sites that the Oxford English Dictionary (which is the one the Queen uses when she wants to check up on ‘her’ English) has included the word ‘bogan’ in its new edition. For the non-Aussie readers of the blog, here’s the OED definition:

a “depreciative term for an unfashionable, uncouth, or unsophisticated person, especially of low social status”

They forgot to mention that the bogan is often identified by a mullet or rat’s tail hairdo, and, increasingly, a Southern Cross tattoo, but I guess that comes under the general term ‘unfashionable’.

So, international readers, there you have it. Another insight into the rich and varied Australian lexicon. I hope you all use it in a sentence today.

Monday Awesome: Walking rats!

Rat walks again! (image via NewScientist)

Published in Science last week, and reported by NewScientist (amongst others) was some seriously amazing research on spinal cord injuries. Rats that had their spinal cords cut to simulate trauma/damage learned to walk again following a series of treatments with chemicals and electrical stimulation of the spinal cord. Part of the rehabilitation process was motivation, because initially the electrical stimulation was making the rats’ legs move involuntarily. Modifications to the special rat-harness to allow independent movement by the rats but still provide support if they fell over, and addition of a treadmill almost did the trick. The final element was motivation, in the form of a treat at the end of the treadmill. Rats were able to walk, voluntarily, for a few steps after 2-3 weeks of treatment/rehab. Longer treatment periods allowed the rats to walk further unassisted. The rats had to ‘will’ themselves to walk towards the treat, and the researchers think this has something to do with the brain’s messages down the spinal cord kick-starting the growth of nerves at the site of the spinal injury. I’ve simplified it rather a lot, but the implications for this kind of research for humans with certain kinds of spinal injuries is exciting.

See the video of rats walking from the New Scientist website.