Monash Science research breakthroughs

Using the oldest fossil micrometeorites – space dust – ever found, Monash University-led research has made a surprising discovery about the chemistry of Earth’s atmosphere 2.7 billion years ago.
The findings of a new study published today in the journal Nature – led by Dr Andrew Tomkins and a team from the School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment at Monash, along with scientists from the Australian Synchrotron and Imperial College, London – challenge the accepted view that Earth’s ancient atmosphere was oxygen-poor. The findings indicate instead that the ancient Earth’s upper atmosphere contained about the same amount of oxygen as today, and that a methane haze layer separated this oxygen-rich upper layer from the oxygen-starved lower atmosphere.
Dr Tomkins explained how the team extracted micrometeorites from samples of ancient limestone collected in the Pilbara region in Western Australia and examined them at the Monash Centre for Electron Microscopy (MCEM) and the Australian Synchrotron.
“Using cutting-edge microscopes we found that most of the micrometeorites had once been particles of metallic iron – common in meteorites – that had been turned into iron oxide minerals in the upper atmosphere, indicating higher concentrations of oxygen than expected,” Dr Tomkins said.
“This was an exciting result because it is the first time anyone has found a way to sample the chemistry of the ancient Earth’s upper atmosphere,” Dr Tomkins saiMonashMonash Science researchers are currently leading several ground-breaking projects, including the following:

Monash Science researchers are currently leading and participating in several ground-breaking projects, including the following:

Cosmic dust reveals Earth’s ancient atmosphere

Using the oldest fossil micrometeorites – space dust – ever found, Monash University-led research has made a surprising discovery about the chemistry of Earth’s atmosphere 2.7 billion years ago.

The findings of a new study led by Dr Andrew Tomkins and a team from the School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment at Monash, along with scientists from the Australian Synchrotron and Imperial College, London – challenge the accepted view that Earth’s ancient atmosphere was oxygen-poor. The findings indicate instead that the ancient Earth’s upper atmosphere contained about the same amount of oxygen as today, and that a methane haze layer separated this oxygen-rich upper layer from the oxygen-starved lower atmosphere.

Feeding the future: mapping a path to improved cassava production

An international research team  including scientists from Monash University, have for the first time, mapped the cassava plant’s genetic diversity.

A billion people around the world eat the cassava plant every day. Easy to cultivate and drought- tolerant the fact that it is eaten by so many means that attacks by pests and diseases have huge impact on food security. It’s also the only staple crop that can kill you or cause chronic neurological disease if it’s not processed, potentially producing fatal levels of cyanide when drought-stressed.

“Until now, very little research has been done at the DNA level – the genome – of cassava, the world’s fifth most important crop,” Associate Professor Gleadow said.

“To maintain food security, it’s critical that cassava is resistant to disease and resilient to climate change.”

Monash to lead extraordinary new Antarctic biodiversity expedition

Monash University will lead the terrestrial biodiversity component of a major new expedition to better understand Antarctic ecosystems.

Using powerful new genetic and computational approaches the team will address a major, unresolved question in modern biology: how has life evolved and spread around the Antarctic region, both in the past and today?

The Monash-led project, A Functional Biogeography of the Antarctic (AFBA) forms part of the Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition (ACE). ACE involves 22 projects, 55 researchers and 19 countries and is the first project of the newly created Swiss Polar Institute. The project will investigate terrestrial biodiversity of the region and its responses to rapid and extensive environmental change.

Monash to lead extraordinary new Antarctic biodiversity expedition

Monash to lead extraordinary new Antarctic biodiversity expedition

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