Millions awarded to Museum scientists in most successful research grant year to date

14 November 2013

Science staff working in the labs.

South Australian Museum ARC grants November 2013

The South Australian Museum is celebrating a record level of grant funding in the latest round from the Australia Research Council (ARC), after securing more than $5 million for ongoing and new science projects.

Museum experts and scientists affiliated with the Museum are constantly working on groundbreaking projects here at the North Terrace site and in the field, from ‘Olympic Dam in a test tube’ to exploring agricultural evolution, from studying the earliest stories of life to the latest advances in nanotechnology.

Last financial year (2012-2013), the Museum attracted $5,472,000 in project grants from a range of sources. Only five months into this financial year, the Museum has nearly topped that and is on track to have its most successful year ever for scientific research funding.

Minister Assisting the Minister for the Arts Chloë Fox MP congratulates the South Australian Museum on its record achievement in the latest grant round.

“I am a strong advocate for the South Australian Museum and have keenly promoted its outstanding track record as a research institution,” Ms Fox says.

“South Australians can be very proud of the research that is undertaken at their Museum and this latest success highlights the esteem in which it is regarded at a national level.”

South Australian Museum Acting Director Professor Andrew Lowe says the latest record level of funding from the ARC emphasises the status of the institution as the most successful research museum in Australia for attracting grants.   

“It’s an absolutely outstanding result which is testament to the value of the South Australian Museum brand. It’s rare that you would have success by just a single person so it’s a demonstration of how effectively the group of scientists is working together here at the Museum to conduct excellent research – a group that people around the world want to collaborate with.”

Kangaroo Island fossil dig.

A fossil dig on Kangaroo Island; one of the many research activities the Museum undertakes.

Professor Lowe, who himself has secured $900,000 this year from the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network for a project to establish an ecological plot monitoring network, says key Museum research areas such as mineralogy and evolution are valued by the ARC.

“Our research continues to strengthen in its quality and relevance to the scientific community and general public. These latest figures indicate that the South Australian Museum is Australia’s leading research museum by a very large margin.”

The ARC awards money across a broad spectrum of scientific areas at the Museum. Among key investments are a new High Resolution Scanning Transmission Electron Microscope and Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscope (also generously supported by Adelaide University, with collaboration from the University of South Australia and Flinders University), which will produce top-quality images of nanoparticles and allow scientists to quickly and easily identify atomical structures.

South Australian Museum Head of Mineralogy, Professor Allan Pring, says there will be broad industrial uses for the new equipment.

“Everything from nanotechnology applications to carbon sequestration, and analysing gold particles and grain boundaries. This will give us an extremely high resolution, accurate picture of the chemicals we’re working with.

“The microscope’s electron beam scatters the electron clouds of the atoms we’re studying.  As these electrons move, they emit x-rays, which are expressed as light. The information is shown as colours in the microscopic images, and from those colours we can identify the elements we have.”

The Museum’s Head of Biological Sciences, Associate Professor Ian Whittington, says, “In Biological Sciences, we are thrilled that Museum staff, Honorary Research Associates and affiliated postdoctoral fellows have been successful in winning grants and fellowships.” 

The successful biodiversity-related projects include: ‘Evolutionary histories of genes, populations and species of Indo-Australian sea snakes’, ‘Faunal responses to environmental changes across the past five million years’ and ‘First radiation of animals’.

“The new projects and fellowships in Biology and Palaeontology allow Museum scientists and affiliates to pursue exciting, world class research that will address fundamental questions and conundrums across the realms of biology, evolution and ecology of Australian, Indo-Pacific and Asian flora and fauna,” says Associate Professor Whittington.

The South Australian Museum will likely continue to be successful in securing research funding for the remainder of the financial year, which will take the institution into its most successful scientific research era.


The South Australian Museum

The South Australian Museum is a natural and cultural history museum dedicated to the conservation and study of nature and culture for the benefit and enjoyment of current and future generations. We advance knowledge through scientific research derived from collections in order to support life-long learning in our community. We contribute to the global understanding of human cultures and the natural world.

External research funding supports the studies and expertise of Museum staff and affiliates.  Scientific research is a core component of Museum research.  Importantly, the outcomes of research at the South Australian Museum not only lead to significant publications in leading journals internationally but it contributes knowledge and specimens to our growing collections and galleries and informs our educational and outreach programs.  Success in national and international competitive grant schemes supports the significant partnerships the Museum enjoys across academia and industry.