QBI researchers have received more than $2.7 million in the latest round of Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Project grants to explore topics ranging from how sensory experience modulates sense of smell through to the role of micro-RNAs in the learning and memory of insects.
Among them was Australia’s largest individual grant of $962,000 to Professor Justin Marshall’s team to conduct a three-year study of colour and polarisation vision on the Great Barrier Reef.
As the tightest-packed ecosystem on the planet, coral reefs make for a competitive environment, from which has evolved unique sensory adaptations that Professor Marshall’s research will investigate.
“Australian neuroscience has much to learn by examining brains and visual systems working in their own natural habitats,” Professor Marshall says.
“Many reef animals visualise and communicate with light that humans cannot see, or interpret the light we can see in more detail.
“My aim is to translate these previously unexplored languages.”
Many of the animals Professor Marshall studies, including cephalopods (octopus, squid and cuttlefish) and stomatopods (mantis shrimps), possess colour vision that outperforms humans, while some also have polarisation vision which humans lack altogether.
“For example, while we possess three channels called cone cells for colour vision in our eyes, stomatopods have twelve,” he explains.
“A range of techniques and methods developed in my laboratory, such as underwater spectrophotometry, photography, unique behavioural tests and mathematical modeling of animal vision, will be used to understand the design of visual signals and systems in the light of ecology, behaviour and evolution.”
Professor Marshall’s grant included a Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award (DORA), of which only 26 were awarded Australia-wide.
QBI Director Professor Perry Bartlett said QBI performed extremely well in the first round of ARC funding to commence in 2012, achieving an outstanding 100 per cent success rate, compared with a national average of 21.95 per cent.
Other QBI Discovery Project recipients were Chief Investigators Professor Joe Lynch, Associate Professor Frederic Meunier, Dr Charles Claudianos and Dr Judith Reinhard.
Professor Jason Mattingley and Associate Professor Ross Cunnington were also involved in successful grants submitted through the School of Psychology.
QBI researchers were also successful in the latest round of ARC Linkage Project grants.
Professor Joe Lynch, together with Professor Pankaj Sah, will receive $458,933 over three years, in partnership with NuNerve Pty Ltd, to explore new tools to activate and silence neural circuits.
“Many neurological disorders occur as a result of neuron cell death that is initiated by excessive levels of excitatory activity in central nervous system neurons,” explains Professor Lynch.
“This project will develop and validate a new treatment for these disorders that involves silencing excessive neuronal activity using a safe, commonly prescribed drug.”
Professor Bartlett also said he was delighted to congratulate the recipients of the NHMRC Project Grants – Chief Investigators Tim Bredy, Helen Cooper, Darryl Eyles, Linda Richards and Jason Mattingley (with two grants).
Also successful was Michael Piper who submitted through the School of Biomedical Sciences (SBMS).
“Congratulations also go to Peter Kozulin who obtained an NHMRC Early Career Fellowship (overseas) with Linda Richards as his supervisor.”
UQ topped the nation in the number of grants awarded, and was second nationally in the dollar value of supported projects, earning more than one tenth of the total amount of $236.8 million awarded nationally.
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