Category: Academic Research

Dr Simon Clulow Published in Science

The August 04, 2017 cover of Science.

Excitingly Dr Simon Clulow, a member of the Conservation Biology Group has had a paper published in Science.

The paper, published with Australian and international co-authors identifies the frog fauna of New Guinea (including Papua New Guinea) at risk of a major catastrophic event, including species declines and extinctions, should the fungal chytrid pathogen, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, be introduced to the country. Currently, New Guinea is one of the few remaining global refuges for amphibians against chytrid. The paper argues for policy and biosecurity strategies to be put in place to pre-empt the impending threat by policies and actions to prevent the introduction of the fungus, and the adoption of strategies to manage the panzootic if the fungus is found there.  It recognises the need for a co-ordinated response for developing countries to manage chytrid risk, involving governments, researchers, NGO’s and communities to work together.

Dr Simon Clulow is also a member of FaunaBank network (an initiative of the Fauna Research Alliance) whose mission is to promote the use of reproductive technologies and biobanking to conserve the native fauna of Australia and the Pacific.

You can read the article here.

Dr Simon Clulow working in Papua New Guinea.

Project Lazarus


Our very own Professor Michael Mahony  attempts the seemingly impossible – to unwind extinction by bringing back to life the Australian gastric brooding frog.Profile Image

The project was awarded TIME Magazines top 25 best inventions of 2013.

Interest has recently been revitalised on the breakthrough genome technology, due to an ABC documentary starring Professor Mike Mahony and the University of Newcastle Team.

The The Lazarus Project has developed de-extinction technology which will resurrect vanished species and is the only Australian invention named in the global list.

The resurrection of the gastric brooding frog may also have implications for the medical world.

“The gastric brooding frog swallows externally fertilized eggs into its stomach, which then operates as a uterus. No other living creature can do this. This unique ability could help the medical world work out how to manage gastric secretions in the gut,” said Michael Mahony, Project Leader, Professor of Biology at the University of Newcastle and internationally-renowned ‘Frog Whisperer’.

Known as somatic cell nuclear transplantation, the cloning technology had never previously been successfully applied to dead tissue. In repeated experiments over five years, the nuclei of donor eggs from the distantly related Great Barred Frog, Mixophyes fasciolatus, were inactivated and replaced with dead nuclei from the gastric brooding frog which resulted in eggs spontaneously dividing and growing to early embryo stage.

Amazingly, the Lazarus Project team recovered the extinct frog cell nuclei from tissue samples collected in the 1970s and kept for 40 years in a conventional deep freezer.

“The tissue samples we recovered from the last known laboratory to have a colony of these species had not been treated with cryoprotectant, or ‘anti-freeze’ to stop the cells from expanding and becoming damaged during the freezing process. It wasn’t until we looked at the cells under the micro-scope that we could see the cell walls were still intact,” said Professor Mahony.

The research team believes a human spread fungus was the primary cause of extinction.

“If it is clear that we have exterminated a species, we arguably have an obligation to bring it back,” said Professor Mahony.

image courtesy of ©Dr. Michael Tyler/ Science Source

The frozen specimens were preserved and provided by Professor Mike Tyler, of the

University of Adelaide, who extensively studied both species of gastric-brooding f

rog – R. silus and R. vitellinus – before they vanished in the wild in 1979 and 1985 respectively.

“Recognition by a global publication as prestigious as TIME Magazine is evidence of University of Newcastle researchers driving world-class innovation. As global leaders in their field, they are developing solutions for the world’s most significant problems,” said Vice-Chancellor, Professor Caroline McMillen.

Undertaken in labs at the University of Newcastle, biological work is led by Frog Whisperer, Professor Michael Mahony, along with Mr Simon Clulow and Dr John Clulow, all based at the University of Newcastle, with assistance from cloning specialists Dr Andrew French and Dr Jitong Guo and overseen by paleontologist Professor Mike Archer of the University of New South Wales.

Image supplied by Dr Michael Tyler. The image was taken in his laboratory in Adelaide and depicts the only recorded instance of a gastric brooding frog giving birth.

You can read more in The INDEPENDENT HERE

Congratulations to Thi Kim Anh Tran, PhD student in Ecology and Ecotoxicology Lab!


Congratulations to Thi Kim Anh Tran, PhD student in Ecology and Ecotoxicology Lab!


Thi Kim Anh Tran, a PhD student of Dr Richard Yu and Dr Geoff MacFarlane, was awarded the 2016 Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Australasia (SETAC AU) Postgraduate Research Publication Award for her paper “Mechanistic insights into induction of vitellogenin gene expression by estrogens in Sydney rock oysters, Saccostrea glomerata” published in Aquatic Toxicology this May.

The prize is a cash award of AU$500, which will be presented at the SETAC AU annual conference dinner in Hobart.


The full-text of the paper can be accessed at this link:

Newcastle University Ecologist Helps Assess Threatened Species

Dr Anita Chalmers from the School of Environmental & Life Sciences has just completed a term on the NSW Scientific Committee. She was appointed as a member of the Committee by the NSW Minister of the Environment in 2014. The function of the Scientific Committee, under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, is to determine which species, populations and ecological communities are to be listed as threatened in NSW.


Photo- Dr Chalmers searching for new populations of Grevillea shiressii.

Dr Chalmers found the experience to be both rewarding and worthwhile. “I have really enjoyed my time on the Committee. It’s been hard work, but its also been really rewarding to have the opportunity to apply my scientific skills in a way that contributes to the conservation of biodiversity in New South Wales. It also reflects well on the reputation of ecologists within the Discipline of Environmental Science,” Dr Chalmers said.

For more information on the NSW Scientific Committee click here






Camden Haven research project to investigate school prawn productivity


Media Release: Department of Primary Industries

A substantial decline in the average annual catch of school prawns at Camden Haven on the North Coast of NSW has resulted in the estuary being listed as a research priority area.

A new research project on the estuary will be led by Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Fisheries Senior Research Scientist, Dr Matt Taylor, who said the project will determine whether School Prawns are still recruiting to certain areas of the Camden Haven estuary, and if estuarine conditions are adversely affecting prawn growth and survival.

“Fishers have reported that prawns have almost completely disappeared from some parts of the estuary, and since 2007 they have noticed prawns have been substantially smaller” Dr Taylor said.

It is thought that lower catches might be related to poorer water quality and the loss of habitat in parts of the estuary, a situation that is widespread in other estuaries on the NSW north coast where similar trends in prawn numbers and sizes have been also reported.

“We know from previous reports that the periodic presence of environmental conditions including low dissolved oxygen, low pH and the occurrence of heavy metals can produce lethal effects on prawns” said Dr Taylor.

These conditions can occur in estuarine waters as a by-product of acid-sulphate soil oxidation.

“However sub-lethal effects from degraded environmental conditions that compromise growth and reproductive output are largely unknown for prawns, so we want to understand the role this might be playing in the declining productivity of School Prawn stocks” Dr Taylor added.

The research project will commence in September 2015 and run for three years, with a final report due in December 2017.

It will guide future restoration activities in the Camden Haven estuary and act as a case study for other coastal estuaries in NSW.

The is a collaborative research project with the University of Newcastle, and funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) on behalf of the Australian Government. The project is further supported by DPI Fisheries, the Professional Fishermen’s Association, Hastings River Fishermen’s Cooperative, Port Macquarie- Hastings Council and North Coast Local Land Services.

Further information about the Camden Haven School Prawn research project is available at

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