Stromatolites have been discovered beyond the well-researched south-east corner of Hamelin Pool, in Shark Bay Western Australia, according to a researcher from Bush Heritage.

Stromatolites at Hamelin Pool, WA

Stromatolites at Hamelin Pool, WA

Erica Suosaari donned a wetsuit and spent three years being dragged behind a boat to investigate the entire pool for the first time.

She found stromatolites around almost the entire 135km margin.

“Stromatolites are a big deal,” says Erica.

“They are remnants of the oldest known life form. These structures dominate the fossil record for more than 80 per cent of the Earth’s history. The microbes that built them produced the oxygen that made animal life possible on earth,” she says.

“They represent a huge leap in our understanding of the diversity of modern and ancient life at the site. They effectively offer us a window into early life on Earth.”

Hamelin Pool is a World Heritage Area based partly on the fact that it is home to the largest and most diverse modern assemblage of stromatolites on the planet.

Stromatolites are the remains of living mats of bacteria that trap and bind surrounding sediments or precipitated carbonate cements, leaving behind a rock fabric that causes the structure to grow vertically.

And the bacteria that formed those ancient structures are the reason we’re alive. Their busy photosynthesis for the first few billion years of Earth’s history produced the oxygen that made animal life possible.

They were first discovered in the 1950s but, until now, research on the ancient structures has been concentrated in the south-eastern region of the bay.

Erica was determined to look further and investigated the entire pool for the first time.

She discovered distinct ‘provinces,’ where each has a different and distinct assemblage of stromatolite forms – a result of depth gradient and local environmental pressures.

She estimates there are 100 million stromatolites at the site, including fossils similar to those that existed long before modern times.

Contact: Erica Suosaari, Bush Heritage Australia, 0438 742 011,

Swinburne University researchers have discovered that well-fed bacteria won’t damage ships hulls.

Awais visualising a corrosive steel surface due to bacteria using a 3D optical profilometer-credit DMTC Australia

Awais visualising a corrosive steel surface caused by bacteria using a 3D optical profilometer-credit DMTC Australia

By giving bacteria tasty food, in the form of different chemicals, Muhammad Awais Javed is distracting bacteria from eating metal and other surfaces.

Bacteria are well known for the risk they pose to human health. But they also pose a risk to inanimate materials, costing the maritime and oil and gas sectors billions of dollars each year in damages.

Bacteria can gain energy from iron and other chemical elements at the surfaces of metals, ceramics, and plastics. In the process of attacking these surfaces for food, they cause corrosion and damage. [click to continue…]

Rachel Mann

A new test will help protect Australia’s apple and pear  industry from a devastating bacterial disease affecting other countries, says a Victorian scientist.

Rachel Mann, of La Trobe University, has identified unique signatures in the DNA of fire blight-causing bacteria that can be targeted with a test, ensuring the accurate detection of the biosecurity hazard and the protection of the fruit industry’s economic viability.

“Maintaining Australia’s status as ‘fire blight free’ is not only important for protecting our industry from the disease, but also for retaining market access for Australian fruit into other countries,” says Rachel, who conducted the work at the Centre for AgriBioscience in a joint venture between La Trobe University and the Department of Environment and Primary Industries.

Fire blight is found in New Zealand, North America and Europe, but is not present in Australia.

“Fire blight causes the leaves, shoots and limbs of apple and pear trees to permanently shrivel and blacken. It can eventually kill whole trees and destroy orchards,” Rachel says.

By comparing the genomes of numerous fire blight-causing bacteria, Rachel identified unique signatures only found in the DNA of the fire blight bacteria, which could then be targeted for accurate diagnostic testing. Her work is set to have an international impact.

“Working with collaborators in the United States and Switzerland, we want our new tests to be accepted as the international standard for fire blight,” Rachel says.

“Additionally, as part of a new Plant Biosecurity CRC project, the methods used to develop improved tests for fire blight are now being used to improve tests for other microbes important to Australia’s biosecurity,” she says.

Victoria State Finalist: Rachel Mann, Department of Primary Industries Victoria /La Trobe University