NIF Annual Meeting 2019









The NIF Annual Meeting was held June 18 – 20th 2019. At the green St Lucia campus of the University of Queensland, Fellows, Directors, and Board Members from across the country gathered in the Centre for Advanced Imaging (CAI).

The Fellows’ Program kicked off with a FAIR data principles and Characterisation Virtual Laboratory (CVL) workshop. Here, Fellows were reminded about FAIR data principles and had assistance in opening CVL accounts.


A seminar room in workshop configuration filled with people focussed on laptops and a presenter at a lectern

If you’re interested in CVL, why not sign up for the CVL Champions Program? Applications close July 31st!


four images of people seated around various tables, eating and drinking

The first day was wrapped up by an informal BBQ in the fresh Brisbane air


On day 2, we enjoyed the Fellows Mini-Symposium boasting the theme of ‘collaboration’. These talks showcased the cutting-edge projects and facilities that 11 of our NIF Facility and Informatics Fellows have been working on. An open discussion followed lunch, spawning ideas to collaborate on a new atlasing project, enhance the utility of the CVL Program, and the identity of NIF as a go-to imaging brand.


People standing in groups chatting while holding plates of food

Morning and afternoon tea was always stimulating and delicious!


The three NIF Thematic Groups met in the afternoon of Day 2 to discuss their latest challenges, share expertise, and develop action plans for their National Initiatives. Each of the Themes is working towards a National Initiative relevant to their user base, improving research quality and availability across the country. These fascinating discussions and more continued on into the evening for our final dinner together.


Graham standing before a projection of a Powerpoint slide on the right with NIF Fellows and Associates seated seminar style on the left


Day 3 opened early with an address by the NIF CEO, Graham Galloway, congratulating the three NIF Professional Development Grant winners, Dr Karine Mardon, Dr Tom Close, and Ms Diana Patalwala. Their awards have taken them to laboratories and events around the globe! We also welcomed Dr Rob Smith, Dr Tonima Ali, and Dr Paula Martinez Villegas to the ranks. At the same time, we bid a fond farewell to Dr Kirk Feindel, and wish him every success in the next stage of his career. NIF has enjoyed great successes over the past year, including an additional $53m investment via the NCRIS program. With the transition from a representative Board to an independent governing Board only a few months ago, NIF can expect exciting challenges ahead. Watch this space to see how we plan to continue engaging and collaborating across Australia!


NIF Fellows seated in groups focusing on a brainstorming activity


Next, we all discussed ways of sharing our outcomes and facilitating reporting, wrapped up with some fun group activities to ignite creativity and collaborative communication!


An emoticon face with a question mark

What is informatics, and how can NIF help you with your data needs? Get in touch today! Email us at NIF Central or contact your local NIF Fellow:


The meeting was finished off with an open discussion focussed on informatics, data curation, and repository systems. Two great ideas came from this discussion; persistent identifiers for instruments, allowing researchers to cite the instrument in publications, and an online knowledge repository (such as a wiki) for sharing workflows and processes. We look forward to supporting these initiatives!


The NIF Group standing on the steps of CAI


It was sad to say goodbye to all the NIF Fellows, Node Directors, Board Members and Associates at the end of our three-day meeting, but we are reassured by the plan to meet again in April or May 2020 in Sydney! Until then, we will continue to share our stories and build on the initiatives that we’re so excited about.


NIF pays its respects to the traditional custodians of the land upon which we met. We acknowledge both the Jagera people and the Turrbul people and their Elders, past, present, and emerging, for they hold the hopes, dreams, traditions and cultures of Aboriginal Australia.

Messages inside Porites: Are corals exposed to repeated heatwaves coping?

Researchers at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, the University of Western Australia, Curtin University, Aix-Marseille University in France, and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wanted to know the history of coral bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef and how corals are responding to climate change.


Hard long-lived corals, such as Porites, are the backbone of reef ecosystems such as the Great Barrier Reef. Such reef-building corals are sensitive to light levels and temperature. Reef-building corals are already reaching their limits with every heatwave. With ocean temperatures rising, can they hope to survive more frequent extreme temperature events?


Underwater photograph with two scubba divers insertingg a longg metal rod into a large coral bed

Dr. Thomas DeCarlo drilling a 2+ meter core from a massive coral on the Great Barrier Reef


The team of researchers collected Porite core samples across the northern Great Barrier Reef, the Coral Sea, and New Caledonia, bring them to the WA NIF Node at the University of Western Australia, where they were scanned on the Bruker Skyscan 1176 in vivo micro-CT. 3-dimensional image stacks of density variations revealed ‘bands’ within the coral skeletons, corresponding to age. Also seen were high/low density ‘stress bands’, corresponding to environmental stressors such as exceptionally high water temperature.


CT images showing the bands inside coral cores from 1815 - 2017

μCT scans (dark/light shading = low/high density) reveal high-density stress bands and partial mortality scars preserved within the skeletons of long-lived Porites corals.


Some of the oldest (and longest) core samples had over 200 annual bands, meaning they were a living coral that has been growing for two centuries. By comparing stress bands to age, change-induced bleaching episodes were mapped, providing a timeline of coral bleaching events. Three striking observations followed: First, the researchers found the first piece of evidence that coral bleaching has occurred prior to the 1980s. Second, a significant increase in the frequency of stress bands was seen over time, consistent with the effects of global warming sparking more frequent coral bleaching events. Finally, recent (within the past few years) acclimatization was seen, whereby corals became less sensitive to heat stress follow repeated exposure to marine heatwaves. These results, published in early 2019, offer hope that reef-building corals surviving heatwaves may be able to adapt for future heatwaves.


This story was contributed by the University of Western Australia. For enquiries, please contact Ms Diana Patalwala.


Radiographers visit LARIF

In conjunction with the Australian Society of Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy (ASMIRT) conference, the International Association of Forensic Radiographers (IAFR) organised a site visit to the South Australian NIF Node, Large Animal Research and Imaging Facility (LARIF), on the 31st of March 2019 to view the facilities used for post-mortem imaging (CT & MRI). Presentations included the practical aspects of post-mortem imaging using CT & MRI by Mr Raj Perumal and using CT & MRI in forensic practice by A/Prof Neil Langlois.

The participants were keen to understand the CT & MRI protocols used by Forensic Science South Australia (FSSA). LARIF provides a unique opportunity for post-mortem MRI to assist forensic investigations and there was a lot of interest from the participants to learn about the technical aspects of forensic MRI imaging.

A group photo in front of NIF and IAFR banners

The day before, at the ASMIRT conference, presentations were given about imaging opportunities and translation research at SAHMRI including a site tour of the rodent imaging facility at SAHMRI North Terrace by Dr. Marianne Keller.


This story was contributed by LARIF. For more information, please contact Mr Raj Perumal

High-Resolution MRI for Exposing Cancer Spread in the Brain

Sunny Queensland has a high rate of skin cancer, with melanoma as the second most common cancer in Queenslanders. In the area of the head and neck, this can lead to invasion of facial nerves and spread via the base of the skull to reach the brain stem. The extent of the progression, the so-called perineural spread, defines the therapeutic approach, informing the extent of required resection, and the complexity and duration of the surgical procedure. Imaging the extent of nerve involvement is critical to guiding treatment decisions and MRI neurography is the accepted imaging modality of choice.

Standard MRI may underestimate disease extent, but a current clinical trial explores the improved resolution and sensitivity using the 7 Tesla ultra-high field MRI scanner at the Centre for Advance Imaging at UQ. This improves visualisation of cranial nerves (see Figure and insert with zoomed nerve fibres) and potentially improves the definition of the perineural spread. The clinical trial is led by Dr. Sommerville from the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, QLD, and involves a Brisbane-based multidisciplinary team of head and neck surgeons, radiologists and scientists in the UHF MR Research team (Head: Dr. Barth, NIF Fellows Dr. Bollmann and Dr. Ali) at the UQ Centre for Advanced Imaging. The first patient scan has been performed, with 20 patients more to follow after a successful funding application sponsored by the 2018 round of the RBWH Diamond Care Grants.


MRI images showing a slice of brain with perineural cancer spread. The images highlight a region which is blurry in 3T and well defined in 7T.


If you would like to know more about skin cancer, please check the Cancer Council website and speak to your GP.


This story was contributed by the University of Queensland. For further information, contact Dr Tonima Ali.

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