Cars driving on a dirt road.

Cars driving on a dirt road.

January 2013: fire, space and lasers

Vegetation plots established in the Brindabellas prior to the January 2003 fires reveal that 10 years on the bush is recovering strongly, while "Monster" outflows of charged particles from the centre of our Galaxy, stretching more than halfway across the sky, have been detected and mapped with CSIRO's 64-m Parkes radio telescope.

  • 26 February 2013

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[CSIROnow logo appears on screen]

[Image changes to an aerial shot of the bushfires with the title: Bush ‘bounces back’ after bushfire, Canberra, ACT]

Glen Paul: Welcome to CSIROnow.  January saw the tenth anniversary of the devastating Canberra bushfires.

[Image zooms in on a hill on fire with an immense red glow]

Where lightning strikes in the Brindabella and Namadgi National Parks west of the Australian Capital Territory sparked a blaze that swept through the bush, before entering the suburbs of Canberra on January 18, 2003. 

[Image changes to show suburban houses on a hill with the fire in the background]

In the summer of 1996/97 CSIRO established over 150 vegetation plots as part of a vegetation survey and mapping project in the region where the fire storm would later strike and now ten years on they are proving invaluable in offering an insight into landscape regeneration.

[Image changes to Michael Doherty taking equipment out of his car]

[Image changes to Michael Doherty, Ecosystems Sciences]

Michael Doherty: The beauty of this State is that we have pre-fire information, so because the plots were established before the fires we have what you could call a natural experiment, where the fire was occurred, its burnt through the landscape and burnt plots to varying degrees – some burnt at low intensity, and some burnt at high intensity – so rather than really studying burnt and unburnt, we’re actually studying the degree to which vegetation recovers after different sorts of fire, low intensity fire and high intensity fire.

[Image changes to show slides of pictures taken of Namadgi National Park in 1997 then in 2003 and now in 2013]

Glen Paul: The survey also involved keeping a photographic record of the land’s regeneration, which detailed how the landscape looked before the fire, sooner afterwards, and how it appears now.

[Image has changed back to Michael]

Michael Doherty: Essentially plants have two methods of response after a fire.  They can either re-sprout either along the trunk or from the base, or they can be killed by fire but come back from the seed bank, so both of those methods of recovery are apparent in the Brindabella’s after the 2003 fires.

Glen Paul: The vegetation plots are sorted into low and high severity, and focus on differences in response and recovery between the vegetation types.

[Image changes to Michael walking through the bush and then stopping next to a snow gum]

Michael Doherty: Here we have an example of a snow gum that was burnt in 2003 at high intensity, which means that the entire crown was scorched and the main trunk is dead, however the tree itself isn’t dead because it’s re-sprouted at the base, so this trunk here coming from the base of the old stem, is now ten years old, and it’s almost about three quarters back to the height of the original canopy, and it soon will actually be back at the original canopy height.

[Camera pans up a snow gum]

Glen Paul: Scientists have been able to map the recovery of the bush over the ten years since the fire by comparing it with the vegetation that was there in 1996 when the survey sites were first set up.

[Image has changed back to Michael]

Michael Doherty: The information to date that we’ve recorded indicates we haven’t actually lost any species from the area, all the species that we’ve recorded before the fires have recovered, and some species are actually favoured in the short term by high intensity fire.

[Pictures of images comparing the bushland from 1997 and then post fires in 2003 appear on screen]

Some species further the south in the Namadgi National Park have actually become much more common after the fires than they were before the fires, but now ten years after we’re actually seeing those becoming rarer again.  So what happens is they disappear into the seed bank and await the next fire to emerge and germinate.

[CSIROnow logo appears]

[Image changes to show Dr Megan Clark, CSIRO Chief Executive Officer addressing a roomful of people seated at tables with the title: BHP Billiton Science and Engineering Awards, Melbourne VIC]

Jasmine: Australia’s most prestigious school science awards, the BHP Billiton Science and Engineering Awards, were recently held at Federation Square in Melbourne, to recognise young people who have undertaken practical research projects which demonstrate innovative approaches and thorough scientific procedures. 

[Images changes to show the young participants with their projects]

Managed by CSIRO, entrants are judged on scientific procedure, ingenuity, and value of project.

[Image changes to a male]

Male: I love all forms of science.

[Image changes to a female]

Female: In one word, if I were to describe science, it would be development.

[Image changes to a male]

Male: I like the innovation.

[Image changes to a female]

Female: It’s always changing.

[Image changes to a male]

Male: Create something that can benefit mankind.

[Image changes to a male]

Male: Science is my life I would say.

[Images changes to show the young participants viewing the projects]

[Image changes to a female]

Female: My project looked at a malfunctioning gene in cancer cells.

[Image changes to a male]

Male: Monopole magnets, which are magnets that only have one pole.

[Image changes to a male]

Male: This is completely new research.

[Image changes to a female]

Female: Could be very beneficial to many quadriplegics around the world.

[Image changes to a female]

Female: You get to discover so many new ideas.

[Image changes to a male]

Male: I’m just passionate about it, and I just love it.

[Images changes to show the young participants viewing the projects]

[Image changes to a male]

Male: I think it is curiosity, because that’s what brings us to want to know things, and I think that’s a very human thing, and that’s where science comes from.

[Image changes to a female]

Female: Hmm, that is a very difficult question – what does science mean to me – truth.

[Image changes to show the finalists with their awards]

Jasmine: To see the full list of winners visit

[CSIROnow logo appears]

[Image changes to show a roomful of people with the title: Professor Martyn Jeggo retires. Australian Animal Health Laboratory]

Glen Paul: In January a farewell get-together was held at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong, Victoria, to honour outgoing Director Professor Martyn Jeggo, who was hanging up his biosecure laboratory suit and heading off into retirement. 

[Image changes to show people standing around a table while Professor Martyn Jeggo cuts a cake]

Since 2002 Martyn has been responsible for the operation of the Animal Health Laboratory, a frontline defence helping to protect Australia from the threat of exotic and emerging infectious diseases.

[Image changes to show the outside of the Australian Animal Health Laboratory]

During his time at the facility Martyn oversaw major engineering upgrades, and the construction of two new laboratories, placing it as the most advanced high containment laboratory in the world. 

[Image changes to show Scientists working on computers in the laboratory]

We thank Martyn for his contributions during the past 11 years to Australian science, and wish him all the best for the future.

[Image changes to show a man unveiling a portrait of Professor Martyn Jeggo on the wall. The crowd applauds]

[CSIROnow logo appears]

[Image changes to show people walking in the woods with the title: VegNET forest vegetation monitoring, Sustainable Agriculture Flagship]

Jasmine: If you go down to the woods today you’re in for a big surprise. Deep in the woods of regional Victoria laser scanners are setting the global standard in forest vegetation monitoring. These world first scanners are known as VegNET, and have been developed by CSIRO.

[Image changes to show Scientists setting up and working with the scanners in the woods]

They’re adapted from commercial off the shelf laser range finders and are being used to take regular canopy measurements at night, to detect changes over time. When calibrated with satellite information it will allow users to monitor forest health and condition on a large scale with great ease.

The scanners have been developed as part of a collaboration with the Department of Sustainability and Environment Victoria, as part of their Victorian forest monitoring program. This will see about 500 plots set up in forests across the State and allow forest managers to see how they’re responding to things like climate change.

[Image changes to show three cars travelling along a dirt road]

Aside from acting as the lungs of the earth, our forests are important to protect biodiversity and provide clean water.  Rapid monitoring of forest health can alert land managers to bushfires, disease outbreaks and plagues, buying precious time to take action.

[CSIROnow logo appears]

[Image changes to show the radio telescope lit up at night time]

Glen Paul: In an exciting turn of events, CSIRO’s 64 metre Parkes radio telescope has detected and mapped monster outflows of charged particles from the centre of our Milky Way Galaxy, that stretch more than halfway across the sky.

[Image changes to Dr Ettore Carretti, Astronomy and Space Science]

Dr Caretti: They are rising up above the Galactic Plane, up to in the halo, so up to the outskirts of the Galaxy, so they are very, very big structures.

[Image changes back to the radio telescope lit up at night time]

Glen Paul: Astronomers from Australia, the USA, Italy, and the Netherlands, detected these outflows as part of a larger project to map the large scale magnetic field of the Milky Way Galaxy.

[Image has changed back to Dr Ettore Carretti]

Dr Caretti: It took us 2.5 years to complete observations, so it’s a long time, and at the end when we did up the maps we saw this something that was completely new and huge, and it was not seen before, and that was exciting.

[Image changes back to the radio telescope lit up at night time]

Glen Paul: The outflows contain an extraordinary amount of energy, about a million times the energy of an exploding star, but pose no danger to earth or the solar system. The speed of the outflow is supersonic, about 1000 kilometres a second, which is fast even by Astronomers standards.

[Image has changed back to Dr Ettore Carretti]

Dr Caretti: The telescope is scanning back and forth continuously for all night long because we wanted to keep the system as stable as possible. 

[Image changes to pictures of the outflows from the Milky Way]

This is a type of strategy, observing strategy, that’s not available at all telescopes. The Parkes telescope is one of the few in the world that can offer this one, and I would say at the moment it is the biggest radio telescope in the world that can offer such type of scanning strategies.

[CSIROnow logo appears]

Jasmine: And that’s CSIROnow. For more information on these stories, or to follow us on other social media, go to

[CSIRO website appears]