Feeling glum? 10 positive stories you may have missed

11 August 2020
10 stories to bring you out of that COVID-19 slump
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is still some good happening in the world. Here are ten of the University of Sydney's most promising and positive stories that you may have missed.

Donations will support koala care and research.

1. WIRES uses bushfire donations to support University koala research

WIRES are giving donations from the general public, in response to this year's bushfires, to the University's Koala Health Hub to support their koala research and care.

The donation of $1,012,399 is the largest one-off living gift (ie, not a bequest) made to the University’s School of Veterinary Science, where the Koala Health Hub sits. Donations to WIRES were made by both local and international donors including from the US, UK, Asia and Europe.

KHH benefits koala welfare and conservation by providing laboratory support and evidence-based information to those at the coalface of care and management of koalas, whether in the clinic or in the wild. Read more.

2. Resilience and empathy vital for leaders post-COVID: global survey

Professor Greg Whitwell said that while the challenges of collaborating across time zones remain, effective leaders have proved adaptation is possible.

A global survey of over 1,700 professionals, including University of Sydney Business School alumni, has found corporate employees are more focused on communicating with their offshore colleagues than they were before the pandemic.

Respondents from 70 countries participated in the survey, which also saw a shift in the qualities employees are looking for in managers in the wake of the pandemic.

Resilience, empathy, cultural communication and cultural intelligence are some of the qualities that have become more important for leaders since the COVID-19 crisis began. Read more.

3. Engineers use electricity to clean up toxic water

Julia Ciarlini Junger Soares.

A team of engineers may be one step closer to cleaning up heavily contaminated industrial wastewater streams.

Researchers from the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering developed an electrochemical oxidation process with the aim of cleaning up complex wastewater that contained a toxic cocktail of chemical pollutants.

The process involved treating wastewater with electricity using specialised electrodes. They discharged electricity, then drove oxidation reactions near the electrode surfaces, transforming the organic contaminants into harmless gasses, ions or minerals. Read more.

4. Saving a language through song

Sydney Conservatorium of Music and Sydney Environment Institute Fellow, Dr Genevieve Campbell, has been researching Tiwi song language. Focusing on documenting endangered song sets and the creation of new works, this research is essential for the preservation of the language.

Dr Campbell said the project is vital for the future of Tiwi song practice.

Dr Campbell has been working closely with Tiwi elders whose deeply-rooted connections with traditional song language, subject matter and musical elements, places them in positions of high esteem to preserve the unique culture. Through increasing engagement with recordings, both as educational tools and as the starting point for new music, Dr Campbell has discovered and begun repatriating archived song recordings to the Tiwi islands. Read more.

5. Where in the (Greek) world is William Woodhouse?

William Woodhouse was chair of Greek at the University of Sydney from 1900 and Honorary Curator of the University’s Nicholson Museum from 1903 until his death in 1937. A regular traveller to Greece, he voraciously photographed his explorations of Greek antiquity and excursions through the countryside.

An image of Syntagma Square, in the centre of Athens, taken at the turn of the 20th century. Credit: NM2007.14.3 (Nicholson Collection, Chau Chak Wing Museum, University of Sydney).

A project calling on members of the public to shed light on photos taken in Greece by this renowned classicist more than a century ago has yielded more than 600 responses from around the world.

The Woodhouse Archive Flickr Project will feature in the Impressions of Greece exhibition at the University’s Chau Chak Wing Museum when it opens on 18 November. Read more.

6. $20 million gift to establish a cancer immunotherapy laboratory

A $20 million gift to the University of Sydney from the CLEARbridge Foundation will fund a new Professorial Chair, a laboratory, and vital supporting resources to drive immunotherapy research. Widely considered the most promising emerging treatment, immunotherapy offers exciting new ways to combat a broad range of cancers.

As part of its normal function, the immune system prevents or limits the growth of many cancers. However, cancer develops ways to avoid detection and destruction. Immunotherapy is at the forefront of cancer treatment with researchers working on ways to supercharge the immune system, from bypassing the ability of tumour cells to evade detection, to using viruses to infect tumours and create an immune system focused on killing cancer. Read more.

7. Eat like the animals for good health

Olive baboons in Uganda eat the bark of particular trees that are rich in sodium. This is driven by an appetite specific to that nutrient. Credit: David Raubenheimer.

From jungle to laboratory and back to our own kitchens, David Raubenheimer and Stephen Simpson's new book explores how and why we eat, how appetites are fed and regulated - and how, in the end, it all comes back to five appetites.

Their new book Eat Like The Animals reveals the reasons a baboon, a cat and a locust instinctively know exactly what to eat for balanced nutrition, and yet we humans can’t seem to figure it out. Read more.

8. Scientists find remnant of dismembered star cluster at galaxy edge

An international team of astronomers has discovered the remnant of an ancient collection of stars that was torn apart by our own galaxy, the Milky Way, more than two billion years ago.

Artist’s impression of the thin stream of stars torn from the Phoenix globular cluster, wrapping around the Milky Way (left). Astronomers targeted bright red giant stars (artist’s impression, right) to measure the chemical composition of the disrupted Phoenix globular cluster. Credit: James Josephides, Swinburne Astronomy.

The extraordinary discovery of this shredded ‘globular cluster’ is surprising, as the stars in this galactic archaeological find have much lower quantities of heavier elements than in other such clusters.

The evidence strongly suggests the original structure was the last of its kind, a globular cluster whose birth and life were different to those remaining today.

“Even though the cluster was destroyed billions of years ago, we can still tell it formed in the early Universe from the composition of its stars," said lead researcher, University of Sydney PhD student, Zhen Wan. Read more.

9. Eating habits of baby predator starfish revealed

Adult crown-of-thorns starfish pose one of the greatest threats to the Great Barrier Reef due to their coral diet. Marine life, including fish, crabs, seahorses, and turtles, depend on coral as a food source, as well as for shelter. No coral means no smaller creatures. This has a domino effect, ultimately decimating the food chain and ecosystem.

The baby starfish eat coral.

The researchers have discovered that juveniles can eat a range of algae, not just the algae they are thought to prefer; crustose coralline algae. They can even subsist on biofilm – microorganisms that cover the sea floor, including bacteria and protists – to avoid starvation.

While this discovery is deeply concerning learning more about this starfish is crucial for efforts to save the Reef. Read more.

10. How to make copper mines emission-free

A world first study by the University of Sydney's Warren Centre for Advanced Engineering, Zero Emission Copper Mine of the Future, lays out how Australian copper mining can be cleaner and smarter using emerging technologies.

A world first study by the University of Sydney's Warren Centre for Advanced Engineering, Zero Emission Copper Mine of the Future, lays out how Australian copper mining can be cleaner and smarter using emerging technologies.

This ‘world first’ roadmap, commissioned by the International Copper Association Australia (ICAA), identifies five key target areas for technological innovation to reduce and ultimately eliminate mining emissions: exploration, movement of materials, ventilation, processing, and water use. Read more.

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