J.W. Spencer bequest promotes innovative research at the Faculty of Science

The John William Spencer bequest was generously donated to the Faculty of Science for the purposes of supporting research. Totalling $100,000, the funds were shared by four mid-career researchers who were required to partner with industry to foster long-term research partnerships, and to reach a stage in their research projects to enable ARC Linkage Grants.

The funds were expended over two years from 2015 to 2016.

José Lahoz-Monfort (BioSciences) - Developing novel applications of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to aid conservation in predator-free fenced areas ($30,000)

José Lahoz-Monfort’s project explored novel drone-based monitoring approaches to improve the efficiency of the monitoring of fence lines and detection of feral incursions in the natural habitats of endangered species. His team developed a better understanding for the technical challenges involved in the different aspects of the project, and pending further investigation, will focus on the thermal monitoring of wildlife rather than fence monitoring. Further collaborations with the AWC are being planned, and two publications are in preparation.

David Phillips (Earth Sciences) - Towards a fundamentally new approach to diamond exploration ($30,000)

David Phillips’ project took an important step towards establishing a more cost-effective approach to evaluating the diamond potential of kimberlites and related rocks at an early stage of the mining cycle. The results indicated that mantle minerals brought to the surface with diamonds can provide important, though relatively unexplored, constraints on the characteristics of the Earth’s mantle where diamonds reside. A new PhD project has been setup, which will be partly funded by De Beers, to develop additional tools for diamond exploration. This project contributed to the development of new direct links between the Kimberlites and Diamonds (KiDs) research group at the University of Melbourne and De Beers.

Ute Roessner (BioSciences) - Discovering biomarkers to monitor health using dried blood spots ($30,000)

Ute Roessner’s project aimed to utilise metabolomics technologies to identify biomarkers from easily obtainable dried blood spots, monitor human health and provide personalised, precision nutrition. Research agreements have been signed, including with industry partner Xerion and the Red Cross, and the first analyses are expected to be finalised by the end of 2017.

Michele Trenti (Physics) - Skyhopper design study for a rapid response infrared space telescope on a CubeSat ($10,000)

The key objective of Michele Trenti's project was to develop a concept study for SkyHopper, a rapid‐response infrared space telescope on a CubeSat. The project, which also received funding through the John William Stone Trust, has entered a phase of re-design to a larger spacecraft thanks to funding provided by the project investigators. Presentations were given at international meetings and currently two peer-reviewed publications are in progress.