Students discover spider species

Apr 23, 2010, 17:04 PM by User Not Found

Source: WA Today

Two Year 10 students who uncovered a new species of trap-door spiders and identified a seed species that can be grown locally will travel to the United States to represent WA in a BioGENEius Challenge.

The Shenton College students, Frances Harvey and Emily Phillimore, made the major and biodiversity discoveries and will now take part in the international finals in Chicago next month against North America's best biotechnology students.

One of the projects uncovered seven new species of trap-door spiders in the Pilbara and the other identified the opportunity for an oilseed species to be grown in Australia as a health-food oil and biofuel feedstock.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Commerce, Science and Innovation Helen Morton said said the BioGENEius Challenge paired high school students with a mentor from WA's science and innovation community to complete a high-level biotechnology project.

"Each and every BioGENEius student has been given the remarkable opportunity to work one-on-one with some of the State's best researchers and scientists using some of the most advanced equipment in the world," she said.  

Ms Horton said there had been a rapid decline in Australian university enrolments in science disciplines in the last few years.

"If this continues there will be a shortage of people with the appropriate skills to enter science-related careers and this could potentially impact the research being completed now and in the future," she said.

Frances's project examined the structure and DNA of trap-door spiders to determine the number of species found on prospective mine sites in the Pilbara region while Emily's project characterised the mainly Russian and Ukrainian-derived UWA collection of the oil crop, Camelina sativa...

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