Inbox and Environment News - Issue 184 

 October 12 - 18, 2014: Issue 184


 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry: Super-resolved fluorescence microscopy

October 8, 2014 - The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2014 to Eric Betzig of Janelia Farm Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Ashburn, VA, USA; Stefan W. Hell of Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen, and German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, Germany; and William E. Moerner of Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA, "for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy."

Surpassing the limitations of the light microscope

For a long time optical microscopy was held back by a presumed limitation: that it would never obtain a better resolution than half the wavelength of light. Helped by fluorescent molecules the Nobel Laureates in Chemistry 2014 ingeniously circumvented this limitation. Their ground-breaking work has brought optical microscopy into the nanodimension.

In what has become known as nanoscopy, scientists visualize the pathways of individual molecules inside living cells. They can see how molecules create synapses between nerve cells in the brain; they can track proteins involved in Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and Huntington's diseases as they aggregate; they follow individual proteins in fertilized eggs as these divide into embryos.

It was all but obvious that scientists should ever be able to study living cells in the tiniest molecular detail. In 1873, the microscopist Ernst Abbe stipulated a physical limit for the maximum resolution of traditional optical microscopy: it could never become better than 0.2 micrometres. Eric Betzig, Stefan W. Hell and William E. Moerner are awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2014 for having bypassed this limit. Due to their achievements the optical microscope can now peer into the nanoworld.

Two separate principles are rewarded. One enables the method stimulated emission depletion (STED) microscopy, developed by Stefan Hell in 2000. Two laser beams are utilized; one stimulates fluorescent molecules to glow, another cancels out all fluorescence except for that in a nanometre-sized volume. Scanning over the sample, nanometre for nanometre, yields an image with a resolution better than Abbe's stipulated limit.

Eric Betzig and William Moerner, working separately, laid the foundation for the second method, single-molecule microscopy. The method relies upon the possibility to turn the fluorescence of individual molecules on and off. Scientists image the same area multiple times, letting just a few interspersed molecules glow each time. Superimposing these images yields a dense super-image resolved at the nanolevel. In 2006 Eric Betzig utilized this method for the first time.

Today, nanoscopy is used world-wide and new knowledge of greatest benefit to humankind is produced on a daily basis.

The above story is based on materials provided by Nobel Foundation. Picture: The principle of STED microscopy and the principle of single-molecule microscopy. Credit: Illustration © Johan Jarnestad/The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

 Father and son treatment program to reduce aggressive behaviour wins $2.6m grant

09 October 2014 - Fathers will be critical to the successful treatment of their sons’ aggressive and antisocial conduct in a UNSW-led project, which has today been awarded a $2.6 million grant from the Movember Foundation.

 “Disorders of violence, aggression and antisocial behaviour occur most commonly in males and often begin early in life. If left untreated, they signal a high-risk factor for mental disorders in adulthood,” says UNSW’s Professor Mark Dadds, who will lead the ‘Like Father Like Son’ project.

“But if conduct problems are caught early they can be treated relatively inexpensively using evidence-based parent-training programs. And outcomes are vastly improved when fathers participate.”

The project is one of three Movember grants awarded to UNSW reseachers. The largest – $2.8 million over three years – is led by UNSW's Dr Sam Harvey and delivered through the Black Dog Institute. It will see around 60,000 Australian men in high-risk workforces receive specialised and interactive mental health care via a proven yet anonymous source – their mobile phone.

The Movember Foundation is a leading global organisation committed to changing the face of men’s health. It challenges men to grow moustaches during the month of November to raise funds and awareness for prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health.

Jeremy Macvean, Movember’s Asia Pacific Director, said the partnership enabled the Foundation to reach men and boys across Australia from all walks of life.

“The investment in this project shows how important the support of the Movember community is to raise funds and awareness for men’s health.”

Professor Dadds is Director of the UNSW Child Behaviour Research Clinic in the School of Psychology, which has developed a treatment approach that enlists parents as therapists and trains them to manage their child’s difficult behaviours.

This evidence-based treatment, which requires about six to 12 sessions of one hour per week, featured earlier this year in a three-part documentary on ABC TV, called Kids on Speed?

The Movember Foundation will provide $2,634,400 over three years to Professor Dadds’ team. The project,Like Father Like Son: A National Approach to Violence, Antisocial Behaviour and the Mental Health of Men and Boys, will involve other researchers from UNSW as well as from the University of Sydney, the Australian Catholic University and the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.

There are many reasons why fathers are much less likely than mothers to be involved in mental health therapy for their children, says Professor Dadds.

“Many clinics only open 9 to 5 and this is hard for working people. Some men may also not feel comfortable doing the training, or feel it is women’s business.

 “Other men may be struggling with their own health and psychological problems and the program needs to address these in order to help them be more effective parents.”

The Movember funding will help equip mental health workers with the skills to customise interventions to meet each family’s unique needs. “The more severe the problems and the greater the range of problems, the more the treatment needs to be tailored for the child and the family,” says Professor Dadds.

The UNSW team will also use cutting-edge multimedia technology to develop web-based programs that fathers can access on all digital devices to learn advanced parenting strategies to manage their child’s aggression and antisocial behaviour.

Ancient Future - saving the Wollemi pine. by NSW Nat. Parks

Published on 8 Oct 2014

It's 20 years since the historic discovery of the ancient Wollemi Pine in a remote ravine in the Wollemi National Park west of Sydney. With only 100 individual plants in the wild the Office of Environment and Heritage in collaboration with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney and the Blue Mountain Botanic Garden has planted 200 advanced seedlings in a location in the Blue Mountains where conditions are close that of the existing wild colony. It's hope that this 'insurance colony' will be a back up should the original wild colony succumb to disease or any other major disturbance.

 Finalists announced for the 2014 Green Globe Awards

October 8, 2014 - The Office of Environment and Heritage would like to congratulate all 53 finalists in the NSW Government’s 2014 Green Globe Awards.

This year there was a record number of nominations and an impressive range of organisations and individuals finding new ways to make sustainability a part of everyday life and protect our unique NSW environment.

“The judging panel was impressed with the diverse range of nominations – from large-scale inner-city developments to small but remarkable regional projects, and from community hubs to council infrastructure – that underscores sustainability as a strategic business opportunity.  The outstanding leadership across all categories demonstrates that NSW continues to push the boundaries of best practice in sustainability,” says Robin Mellon, Judging Panel Chair.

Excellence in Energy, Water and Waste Efficiency 

Energy Efficiency Award 

Water Efficiency Award 

Waste and Recycling Award 

Excellence in Sustainability

Medium to Large Business Sustainability Award  

Small Business Sustainability Award 

Public Sector Sustainability Award 

Community Sustainability Award (3 finalists)  : OzGREEN – Youth leading the world: Through its youth leading the world (YLTW) initiative, OzGREEN offers learning and leadership programs that inspire people to tackle sustainability challenges and become leaders of positive social change. YLTW creates an interconnected global community of young change-makers who are tackling sustainability issues together. OzGREEN trains and supports local youth to run YLTW in their own region via a real-time, live, online facilitator training program, making YLTW accessible even in remote communities. YLTW begins with an annual three-day youth environmental leadership congress conducted in multiple locations connected by digital media, focusing on three ways to make a difference: Inform, Innovate, Involve. By training and supporting local people, YLTW becomes embedded as a locally owned and driven initiative that has proven to be sustainable in the long term. YLTW began in seven locations in 2009 and has grown in scope to 70 regions in 2013, directly involving 10,000 youths. OzGREEN has trained more than 500 YLTW facilitators globally.

Local Government Sustainability Award

Built Environment Sustainability: Commercial and Residential Properties Award 

Built Environment Sustainability: Infrastructure Award NEW in 2014: Warringah Council – Warringah creative space

Warringah Council needed a space where local artists could work on their art, run workshops and exhibit. Rebuilding quotes came in far above budget so an alternative approach was considered – retrofitting a disused building within John Fisher Park with 80–90 per cent recycled materials. A shift in thinking was required for architects, builders and the project manager as the design was developed daily to make use of second-hand materials as they became available, from both within the building and from the Kimbriki Resource Recovery Centre. In an inspired community collaboration, Council held a successful ‘Community Blitz’ day with over 50 volunteers turning up to help finish the building and surrounding gardens. At completion, Warringah Council had saved nearly $650,000 and only one cubic metre of waste had gone into landfill. Since opening, there have been five successful exhibitions, four artists in residence and continuous interest in hiring the spaces.

Built Environment Sustainability: Heritage Buildings Award 

Natural Environment Sustainability Award  NEW in 2014

Excellence in Leadership and Innovation

Sustainability Champion Award: Tim Silverwood – Take 3 a clean beach initiativeIn 2009, passionate surfer Tim Silverwood made a personal decision to clean up his local Central Coast beach of marine debris. Tim co-founded the not-for-profit organisation ‘Take 3 – A clean beach initiative’ that simply asks everyone to take three pieces of rubbish with them when they leave any beach or waterway. Tim travels around Australia to educate, inspire and activate schools, universities, councils, businesses and government departments to take action on reducing waste, increasing recycling, preventing pollution and stopping litter. In addition to his role in Take 3, Tim runs a successful consultancy and guest speaking business, is a spokesperson for the Boomerang Alliance, is co-founder of Circular Economy Australia, co-founder of Plastic Bag Free NSW, Director of ReChusable, and is currently developing a new project aimed at broad-scale activation of the community to reduce waste.

Matthew Wilson – WWF; Matthew Wilson leads WWF's strategic private sector partnerships and business engagement in Australia. His role is to engage, develop and oversee the management of relationships, partnerships and collaborations with major retailers, manufacturers and brands, plus traders and investors in agriculture, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture. This work forms part of WWF’s global market transformation initiative which seeks to change the way key global commodities – like palm oil, timber, pulp and paper, seafood, aquaculture, sugar and beef – are sourced, produced, processed, consumed and financed. Matt seeks out business alliances that help to catalyse the shift to sustainable supply chains, reduce the impacts of doing business and increase investment in conservation. Recent successes include partnerships with Blackmores, Coles Supermarkets, Simplot, Kimberly-Clark and Tassal – and ongoing engagements with ANZ Bank, Bunnings and Coca-Cola.

Young Sustainability Champion Award NEW in 2014;Holley Somerville-Knott – Stardust Entertainment; Holley is 11 years old, and already she is the CEO and founder of Stardust Entertainment – a charity foundation (which she started when she was eight), designed to help the planet, people and animals in need. Holley has a unique ability to engage a live audience and anyone she speaks with from any generation. She has raised thousands of dollars and awareness on many issues, including coal seam gas mining, climate change, sustainability, homelessness, koala populations and deforestation. Holley’s mission is to get people, youth in particular, to learn to live sustainably. She does this by singing and delivering message-driven performances at schools, events, fundraisers and rallies. One of her projects is to save the Ballina koalas from a proposed highway upgrade and she has made a documentary, presented at a school assembly and interviewed the local Member of Parliament on the subject. Holley has also formed partnerships with a global youth movement called Earth Guardians, the US TV network HBO, the Lock The Gate movement and the Uplift Festival.

Climate Change Leadership Award; Earthwatch Australia – ClimateWatch; In 2009, Earthwatch Australia launched ClimateWatch, a public monitoring program developed to help scientists understand how temperature and rainfall changes are affecting the location and behaviour of Australia’s plants and animals. Using a smartphone app, ClimateWatch simplifies the process of scientific data collection by the public. Data is archived and assessed for quality before being made available through the national biodiversity database, the Atlas of Living Australia. It utilises GPS, mobile camera capabilities, a software template and the provision of field guides and species call audio, where applicable. Since 2009, ClimateWatch has engaged over 13,000 people from across Australia in recording 60,000 sightings. In 2014, it has seen a 90 per cent increase in users from NSW, with a large number of these from three Sydney universities (Sydney, UTS, UWS) which are using ClimateWatch to teach biology and ecosystem science.

Environmental Innovation Award

There will be three other not-for-nomination awards handed out on the night:

Regional Sustainability Award

10-year Sustainability Award

Premier’s Award for Environmental Excellence

Winners will be announced at a gala event at Parliament House on Thursday 30 October 2014. The award ceremony will be hosted by the Hon. Robert Stokes MP, Minister for the Environment.

All finalists in each category listed

Down to Earth – Episode 6: Earthworms (1990) by CSIRO

Published on 8 Oct 2014

"Down to Earth" was a series of thirteen segments shown on the ABC's "Gardening Australia" programme. In each episode, Kevin Handreck from CSIRO's Division of Soils offers information and advice on soil and gardening for the home gardener.

This episode demonstrates how to set up an earthworm farm to turn kitchen scraps into compost where space is limited.

Visit CSIRO PUBLISHING - - to find books written by Kevin Handreck.

 20 Million Trees launched with first grants round now open

Media release: 2 October 2014 - The Australian Government is inviting communities across the country to get involved in the 20 Million Trees Programme with the first competitive grants round now open for applications.

The 20 Million Trees Programme was a key Coalition election commitment and is a vital part of the Australian Government's National Landcare Programme. The Government is investing $50 million over the next four years to re-establish Australia's green corridors and urban forests through the 20 Million Trees Programme.

It's an important part of the Government's total investment in natural resource management which amounts to over $2 billion over the next four years.

20 Million Trees projects can be undertaken in urban and regional Australia, on both public and private land, providing community and environmental benefit at the local level.

Communities, groups and individuals are invited to apply for grants between $20,000 and $100,000 to help set up their own 20 Million Trees project. Funding can be used to re-establish native vegetation, and create greener spaces to improve the liveability of local communities while increasing and improving habitat to support our threatened species.

A wide range of groups, organisations, and individuals in the community are encouraged to apply. This includes community groups, schools, landholders, landcare and conservation groups and local councils.

Applications for projects are now open and will close on 30 October 2014.

Project guidelines for the competitive grants round provide individuals and organisations with the information they need to apply for funding to start a tree planting project in their community.

As well as the grants, the Australian Government will also be running a tender process for Service Providers to undertake large-scale tree plantings. More details on the National Service Provider process will be available over the coming months.

More information about the 20 Million Trees programme is available at

 Solving the puzzle of ecosystem management by CSIRO

Published on 8 Oct 2014

Dr Beth Fulton has loved the ocean since she watched dolphins playing in the surf as a child. Now she leads a team creating computer models of marine ecosystems, and describes mapping complex ecosystems as like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Her team’s computer models are used world-wide in sustainable fisheries management, and Beth sees them as essential to strategic planning in managing resources – and coping with climate change and conservation issues.

This research was carried out as part of the Office of the Chief Executive (OCE) Science Leader program.

 A mid-term analysis of progress toward international biodiversity targets

In 2010 the international community, under the auspices of the Convention on Biological Diversity, agreed on 20 biodiversity-related “Aichi Targets” to be achieved within a decade. We provide a comprehensive mid-term assessment of progress toward these global targets using 55 indicator data sets. We projected indicator trends to 2020 using an adaptive statistical framework that incorporated the specific properties of individual time series. On current trajectories, results suggest that despite accelerating policy and management responses to the biodiversity crisis, the impacts of these efforts are unlikely to be reflected in improved trends in the state of biodiversity by 2020. We highlight areas of societal endeavour requiring additional efforts to achieve the Aichi Targets, and provide a baseline against which to assess future progress.

 “A mid-term analysis of progress towards international biodiversity targets," by D.P. Tittensor et al. was published online by the journal Science, at the Science Express website, on Thursday 2

 Comment on Threatened Species listing assessments

You are invited to provide public comment on the below items to assist the Threatened Species Scientific Committee (the Committee) with its assessment of whether the items are eligible for inclusion in an EPBC Act list of threatened species, key threatening processes or ecological communities and, if eligible, the category in which they are eligible to be included.

Listing Assessments open for public comment


Eastern Curlew (Numenius madagascariensis) -  until 14 November 2014

Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea) -  until 14 November 2014

Antechinus bellus (fawn antechinus) NT until 18 November 2014

Callistemon megalongensis (Megalong Valley bottlebrush) NSW- until 18 November 2014

Eucalyptus aggregata (black gum) NSW, ACT, VIC until 18 November 2014

Ecological community nominations

Central Hunter Valley eucalypt forest and woodland complex Endangered NSW until 29 October 2014

Posidonia australis seagrass meadows of the Manning-Hawkesbury ecoregion Endangered NSW until 5 November 2014

* The Australian Government has partnership agreements with the states and territories to share information and align threatened species lists where appropriate. Through these agreements, species that are endemic to (i.e. only found in) a particular state or territory are assessed first in that state, prior to them being assessed nationally under a streamlined assessment process.

If you wish to comment on any of the above nominations, please send your comments,  by mail, fax or email to the appropriate address listed

 Cane Toads that move in lines most responsible for their deadly spread

9 October 2014 - How are cane toads taking over Australia with such alarming haste? New research from the University of Sydney offers new insight into the pervasiveness of one of the nation's most reviled pests.

Latest findings from a team led by Professor Rick Shine from the University's School of Biological Sciences shed light on how those at the frontline of cane toad invasions make more headway than their established counterparts, making them responsible for the species' seemingly unstoppable spread.

Associate Professor Rick Shine: "The research has implications for how we assess the impact of invasive species."

The findings build on research published last year which found that cane toads at the vanguard of invasions can move twice as quickly as those from established populations. These earlier findings explain why the cane toad population overall is now expanding at a rate of 55 kilometres a year. This is a more than five-fold increase over the rate of expansion when the species was introduced to Australia in 1935.

Published today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, these results reveal that toads at the front end of an invasion travel in straighter lines than established populations. They offer clues about how many invasive species' populations spread.

"The extent to which you move in a straight line - and therefore travel the greatest distance with the least amount of effort - is important," said co-author Dr Gregory Brown from the School of Biological Sciences. "Taking a straight trajectory can massively increase the distance you travel per day so the evolution of straighter paths might be a particularly effective way to achieve rapid dispersal."

The research studied the movements of cane toads in the Adelaide River, Northern Territory over a nine year period starting in 2005, when cane toads first arrived in that area. Vanguard toads were monitored with transmitters during the wet season, when they travel the greatest distances. Not only did the invasion-front toads move further and along straighter paths than toads arriving later, but the offspring of invasion-front toads inherited their parents' behavior.

"The offspring of parents on the invasion front moved in straighter lines than those of toads from long-colonised areas. We can conclude from this that the trait of travelling in a straight line can be inherited," Professor Shine said.

"These findings are worrying. They confirm that invasive animals can evolve quickly to move faster, which makes it even more difficult to manage the threat they pose to our native wildlife."

Cane toads were introduced to the north eastern coast of Australia to control pests in sugarcane plantations in 1935. Their spread is having a devastating impact on native species such as crocodiles, goannas and quolls, who eat the toads and are killed when by their powerful poisons. In some local populations more than 95 percent of these animals are killed within a few months of the toads' arrival.

The paper The straight and narrow path: the evolution of straight-line dispersal at a cane toad invasion front was co-authored by Dr Gregory Brown from the University of Sydney and Dr Ben Phillips from the University of Melbourne.


Aussie Backyard Bird count - Coming Soon to your Backyard


After spending the summer breeding and feeding in the Arctic, the shorebirds are now making their long, arduous journey back to Australian shores just in time for spring. The coming months are the perfect time to head outside and welcome them back. 


We’ve got just the thing to get you into the great outdoors and make their home coming count. From 20-26 October 2014, duringNational Bird Week, BirdLife Australia is encouraging every Australian to head out into their ‘backyard’, no matter what shape or size, and take part in the very first Aussie Backyard Bird Count.


We have specially designed an Aussie Bird Count app, featuring a Field Guide with almost 400 Australian birds to help you identify what you are seeing, do your 20-minute count on the spot in your favourite patch, and submit your checklist immediately. The app is a freely available in app stores.


We are setting a national community challenge for Australian’s to spot a total of 100,000 birds and we would like to count you in. Not only will you get to know your feathered friends, but you’ll be contributing to a vital pool of information from across the country that will help us see how Australian birds are faring. Birds are unique indicators of environmental health. If they are doing well, then so are we.So get your friends and family together, head out into nature and start counting! Check out for loads more information and FAQs

 INVADING OCTOPUS - Mosaic statue at A Coruña, Galicia, Spain.

 Chief Scientist CSG report leaves health concerns unanswered

08 October 2014

OPINION: The long-awaited independent review of coal seam gas (CSG) in New South Wales, released last week by the NSW Chief Scientist, highlighted many risks and uncertainties around human health from exposure to toxic CSG chemicals.

Despite this, the report concludes the risks can be managed through unprecedented regulation and monitoring.

But major health concerns remain unresolved. These include regulatory inadequacies, cumulative chemical and mental health risks, safety breaches, and climate change.

Hence, the report leaves many health concerns regarding human health effects from CSG activities in NSW unanswered. Here’s some evidence.

Health experts ignored

In 2013 former Premier Barry O’Farrell’s promised “actions [that] clearly place public health and safety at the heart of all CSG activities”. Despite this, few identified public health representatives were invited to meetings, Risk Workshops (Appendix 2, page 45-46), consultations or for commissioned papers for the review.

Several public health organisations made submissions and offers of support to the review, including the Doctors for the Environment Australia, the Public Health Association of Australia, the Climate and Health Alliance, and the National Toxics Network. But these organisations were not approached for further involvement.

While industry was clearly represented in substantial numbers, public health groups were not; a situation also experienced in the United States.

Unconventional gas extraction: a complex process

Unconventional gas mining involves the removal of difficult to reach methane gas trapped along shallower coal seams or deeper shale and tight gas deposits.

Preparing a site involves major clearing, road and pad construction and truck movements. Wells are then drilled and the naturally occurring water is removed from the coal seam to release the gas.

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, may also be required to speed up the release of CSG. Fracking involves pumping fluids with many added chemicals into coal seams, causing fractures which allow gas to flow.

The fluid produced during CSG extraction is called “produced water”. It always contains salt and other chemicals naturally occurring in the coal seam. If fracking was conducted, the fluid will also contain silica and a range “fracking” chemicals.

Between 7,000 and 300,000 litres of produced water each well each day must be managed.

Furthermore, as each well produces limited gas, this process is repeated until gas fields contain hundreds of wells. Depleted wells must be properly decommissioned for future safety.

Chemicals of concern

Few of the chemicals used for fracking have been assessed for human or environmental toxicity and some of these have potential health harms. The identity of some chemicals used is not disclosed.

Toxins of greatest concern in CSG water, poly-aromatic hydrocarbons, methane, heavy metals and radioactive materials. These toxins can affect the respiratory, endocrine, nervous and cardiovascular systems, impact foetal development and cause cancer.

The extensive use of trucks, drills and other machinery emits diesel exhaust, a carcinogen, containing fine and ultrafine particles and nitrogen oxides, and forms ground level ozone.

Flaring of gas to dispose of excess methane may also pose health risks.

Therefore people can potentially become exposed to a range of toxins through contaminated air, water and food.

The risk and levels of these exposures through errors, spills, leaks and accidents may accumulate over time and with each well.

‘Learning from mistakes’

The Chief Scientist’s review acknowledges many complexities and risks in extracting CSG, and that things can and, inevitably will, go wrong.

The review proposes that CSG mining can be safely regulated through an elaborate and comprehensive “whole-of-environment” regime to make decisions.

The regulations will seek to reduce system breeches, and involve continually check each well and monitoring emissions. An “adaptive management approach” will involve rapid identify-and-fix mechanisms and and liability insurance. This is essentially learning through mistakes.

The report does not identify any exclusion zones where CSG activities — and risks of contamination — can not occur. Water catchment areas, including Sydney’s water catchment area that supplies millions of Australians, may be open to CSG activities “under high order and particularly stringent requirements”.

Concerning evidence is mounting

While the review recommends a “learn from mistakes” approach, public health organisations, such as Doctors for the Environment Australia, Public Health Association of Australia, the Climate Health Alliance and the National Toxics Network all recommended a precautionary approach. The Australian Medical Association sums it up — “if in doubt, turn CSG off”.

A paper commissioned by the Chief Scientist by Pavla Vaneckova and Hilary Bambrickfrom the University of Western Sydney in 2013 described many health concerns associated with CSG mining. It reviewed some of the research from the US, where an estimated 15 million people live within 1 mile of a fracked well.

But since that paper over 30 more peer-reviewed papers examining unconventional gas health risks have been published. Some important examples are:

a rigorous analysis of hazards, exposure routes and health effects identified multiple potential health risks and impacts

a community study found significantly higher prevalences of self-reported respiratory (39% vs 18%) and skin (19% vs 3%) conditions among people living within 1 kilometre vs those living more than 2 kilometre away from CSG wells

a regional study involving 124,832 infants found positive links between congenital heart disease and increasing numbers of shale gas wells within 10 miles of residence in the infant’s birth year

a German analysis of water-related risks of coal seam and shale gas “fracking” concluded that “there is a general lack of basic information that would be needed for any well-founded assessment of the pertinent risks and the degree to which they can be controlled by technical means”.

The Chief Scientist report does not appear to take these, or previous human health studies into specific consideration.

Instead it adopts the position that research in the United States and on shale gas extraction cannot be directly applied to our knowledge of CSG in Australia.

However, the toxins and processes involved have many similarities, and new evidencesuggests produced water from coal seams may contain even higher levels of organic contaminants than produced water from shale.

The Australian story

The health effects documented overseas are now emerging in studies in Australia.

For example, a major CSIRO report this year identified that 55% of residents of four Queensland towns where CSG has progressed reported that their community is only just or not coping with or resisting the industry. Only 5.9% felt their community was changing to something better.

Over several years there have been reports of distressing symptoms coming from people living near a CSG gasfield in Tara in Queensland. Two reports (from Queensland Healthand Dr Geralyn McCarron) called for comprehensive follow up studies, but so far this has not occurred.

And papers published in Australia’s medical journals have alerted health professionals of the health uncertainties of CSG (see also here) and of an aquifer contamination incident in the Pilliga Forest.

Can we rely on regulation?

Perhaps in an ideal world, most contamination and some resulting health risks from CSG activities might be reduced by a plethora of dedicated and unwavering regulations. But this is well beyond what has been achieved in Australia and elsewhere.

As doctors and public health professionals, like the community, we expect public health to be a priority. We remind developers that it is their responsibility to demonstrate safety and we remind the government of their responsibility to ensure it.

And at a time when there are moves in Queensland and nationally to cut “green tape”, it is understandable that people are questioning whether their best interests are at the heart of the CSG industry.

Melissa Haswell is an Associate Professor (Public, Environmental and Indigenous Health), Muru Marri, School of Public Health and Community Medicine at UNSW.

David Shearman is Emeritus Professor of Medicine at University of Adelaide.

This opinion piece was first published in The Conversation.

 Mangroves protecting corals from climate change

October 8, 2014 - Certain types of corals, invertebrates of the sea that have been on Earth for millions of years, appear to have found a way to survive some of their most destructive threats by attaching to and growing under mangrove roots.

Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey and Eckerd College recently published research on a newly discovered refuge for reef-building corals in mangrove habitats of the U.S. Virgin Islands. More than 30 species of reef corals were found growing in Hurricane Hole, a mangrove habitat within the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument in St. John.

Corals are animals that grow in colonies, forming reefs over time as old corals die and young corals grow upon the calcium carbonate or limestone skeletons of the old corals. Coral reefs make up some of the most biologically diverse habitats on Earth, and face many threats such as coastal pollution, dredging and disease. However, some of their most widespread threats involve warming ocean temperatures, solar radiation and increased ocean acidification.

It is from these threats that corals are finding refuge under the red mangroves of Hurricane Hole. Red mangroves, subtropical or tropical trees that colonize coastlines and brackish water habitats, have networks of prop roots that extend down toward the seafloor, and corals are growing on and under these roots.

How does it work?

Mangroves and their associated habitats and biological processes protect corals in a variety of ways.

The shade provided by mangroves protects the corals from high levels of solar radiation. This in turn, may reduce some of the stress caused by warming ocean waters.

A combination of chemical, biological and physical conditions around the mangrove habitats helps protect the corals by keeping acidity in the water below harmful levels. With oceans becoming more acidic due to the increased amount of carbon dioxide absorbed from the atmosphere, ocean animals like corals are threatened by rising acidity levels, which can slow coral growth and impact reef structure.

The shade provided by the mangroves helps deter coral bleaching, a condition that essentially starves coral and can, in prolonged cases, result in their death. With climate change, coral bleaching episodes are becoming more frequent around the world.

Bleaching occurs when corals lose their symbiotic algae. Most corals contain algae called zooxanthellae within their cells. The coral protects the algae, and provides the algae with the compounds they need for photosynthesis. The algae, in turn, produce oxygen, help the coral to remove waste products, and, most importantly, provide the coral with compounds the coral needs for everyday survival. When corals are under prolonged physiological stress, they may expel the algae, leading to the condition called bleaching.

When examining corals for this study, researchers found evidence of some species thriving under the mangroves while bleaching in unshaded areas outside of the mangroves. Boulder brain corals, for example, were found in abundance under the mangroves and were healthy, while many of those in unshaded areas a short distance away were bleaching.

Adapting to Climate Change?

Organisms throughout the world are threatened as climate and other conditions change. If they can find ways to adapt, as it appears these coral have, they can continue to survive as part of an invaluable piece of this world's intricate ecological puzzle. It is not known how many other mangrove areas in the world harbor such a high diversity of corals, as most people do not look for corals growing in these areas. No coral reefs have been identified to date that protect from rising ocean temperatures, acidification and increased solar radiation like these mangrove habitats in St. John.

1. K. K. Yates, C. S. Rogers, J. J. Herlan, G. R. Brooks, N. A. Smiley, R. A. Larson. Diverse coral communities in mangrove habitats suggest a novel refuge from climate change.Biogeosciences, 2014; 11 (16): 4321 DOI: 10.5194/bg-11-4321-2014

Above: Red Mangroves are subtropical or tropical trees that colonize coastlines and brackish water habitats, have networks of prop roots that extend down toward the seafloor and corals are growing on and under these roots. Credit: Caroline Rogers, USGS

Katandra Sanctuary Open

Katandra opens to the public every Sunday in July, August, September and October 10am - 4pm.

New Trustee appointments The Lands Department has appointed a new Trust for the next 5 years which includes three of the current trustees: Jenny Talbot, Lyn McDougall and David Seymour; and four new trustees: David James, Lachlan Laurie, Marita Macrae and Tim Thurston. Many thanks to the outgoing trustees, Margaret Seymour, John Gale, Ros Andrews and Garry Hewitt.

 35-year plan for a healthier and more resilient Great Barrier Reef released for Comment - Feedback

A new long-term sustainability plan to protect and manage the Great Barrier Reef for the next 35 years has been released for comment by the Australian and Queensland governments. 

Queensland Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection Andrew Powell said the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan satisfied a longstanding requirement by UNESCO. 

"This has been a collaborative effort from key organisations, scientists and industry groups including Agforce, Australian Institute of Marine Science, Ports Australia, Queensland Conservation Council, Regional Natural Resource Management Groups and World Wildlife Fund," Mr Powell said. 

"As we promised we have done more than any other government to ensure the Great Barrier Reef remains an iconic World Heritage site now and into the future. 

"Its release is another illustration of meeting UNESCO's requirements and continuing the great work we have been doing in ensuring the Great Barrier Reef remains an iconic world heritage site." 

Mr Powell said the plan brought together a range of existing initiatives under the one umbrella to ensure greater efficiency and effectiveness. 

"While the management of the Great Barrier Reef is a collective responsibility, and a matter of global interest, the fact remains this icon is a part of Queensland and it is vital that it is protected and managed now and into the future," Mr Powell said. 

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan was an overarching framework for managing the Reef from 2015 to 2050. 

"This Reef Plan is the Queensland and Australian Governments' commitment to working with industry and the community to improve the health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef for future generations," Mr Hunt said. 

"The plan sets out targets and actions to help safeguard the Reef against threats such as poor water quality and crown-of-thorns starfish; improve its resilience to challenges like storms and cyclones; and conserve species such as turtles and dugongs while supporting existing sustainable activities including tourism, agriculture, shipping, fishing and more. 

"Maintaining and protecting this iconic World Heritage Area, while considering the needs for long-term sustainable development, is a critical priority. 

"I now encourage people to read the plan and take this opportunity to help shape the long term future of the Reef." 

Visit to download the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan, and make a submission online, by email or post. Supporting information to assist people to make a submission will also be available on the website.

The Australian and Queensland government has released the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan for public comment for a six week period until 27 October 2014

 Antarctic sea ice reaches new record maximum

October 8, 2014 - Sea ice surrounding Antarctica reached a new record high extent this year, covering more of the southern oceans than it has since scientists began a long-term satellite record to map sea ice extent in the late 1970s. The upward trend in the Antarctic, however, is only about a third of the magnitude of the rapid loss of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean.

The new Antarctic sea ice record reflects the diversity and complexity of Earth's environments, said NASA researchers. Claire Parkinson, a senior scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, has referred to changes in sea ice coverage as a microcosm of global climate change. Just as the temperatures in some regions of the planet are colder than average, even in our warming world, Antarctic sea ice has been increasing and bucking the overall trend of ice loss.

"The planet as a whole is doing what was expected in terms of warming. Sea ice as a whole is decreasing as expected, but just like with global warming, not every location with sea ice will have a downward trend in ice extent," Parkinson said.

Since the late 1970s, the Arctic has lost an average of 20,800 square miles (53,900 square kilometers) of ice a year; the Antarctic has gained an average of 7,300 square miles (18,900 sq km). On Sept. 19 this year, for the first time ever since 1979, Antarctic sea ice extent exceeded 7.72 million square miles (20 million square kilometers), according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. The ice extent stayed above this benchmark extent for several days. The average maximum extent between 1981 and 2010 was 7.23 million square miles (18.72 million square kilometers).

The single-day maximum extent this year was reached on Sept. 20, according to NSIDC data, when the sea ice covered 7.78 million square miles (20.14 million square kilometers). This year's five-day average maximum was reached on Sept. 22, when sea ice covered 7.76 million square miles (20.11 million square kilometers), according to NSIDC.

A warming climate changes weather patterns, said Walt Meier, a research scientist at Goddard. Sometimes those weather patterns will bring cooler air to some areas. And in the Antarctic, where sea ice circles the continent and covers such a large area, it doesn't take that much additional ice extent to set a new record.

"Part of it is just the geography and geometry. With no northern barrier around the whole perimeter of the ice, the ice can easily expand if conditions are favorable," he said.

Researchers are investigating a number of other possible explanations as well. One clue, Parkinson said, could be found around the Antarctic Peninsula -- a finger of land stretching up toward South America. There, the temperatures are warming, and in the Bellingshausen Sea just to the west of the peninsula the sea ice is shrinking. Beyond the Bellingshausen Sea and past the Amundsen Sea, lies the Ross Sea -- where much of the sea ice growth is occurring.

That suggests that a low-pressure system centered in the Amundsen Sea could be intensifying or becoming more frequent in the area, she said -- changing the wind patterns and circulating warm air over the peninsula, while sweeping cold air from the Antarctic continent over the Ross Sea. This, and other wind and lower atmospheric pattern changes, could be influenced by the ozone hole higher up in the atmosphere -- a possibility that has received scientific attention in the past several years, Parkinson said.

"The winds really play a big role," Meier said. They whip around the continent, constantly pushing the thin ice. And if they change direction or get stronger in a more northward direction, he said, they push the ice further and grow the extent. When researchers measure ice extent, they look for areas of ocean where at least 15 percent is covered by sea ice.

While scientists have observed some stronger-than-normal pressure systems -- which increase winds -- over the last month or so, that element alone is probably not the reason for this year's record extent, Meier said. To better understand this year and the overall increase in Antarctic sea ice, scientists are looking at other possibilities as well.

Melting ice on the edges of the Antarctic continent could be leading to more fresh, just-above-freezing water, which makes refreezing into sea ice easier, Parkinson said. Or changes in water circulation patterns, bringing colder waters up to the surface around the landmass, could help grow more ice.

Snowfall could be a factor as well, Meier said. Snow landing on thin ice can actually push the thin ice below the water, which then allows cold ocean water to seep up through the ice and flood the snow -- leading to a slushy mixture that freezes in the cold atmosphere and adds to the thickness of the ice. This new, thicker ice would be more resilient to melting.

"There hasn't been one explanation yet that I'd say has become a consensus, where people say, 'We've nailed it, this is why it's happening,'" Parkinson said. "Our models are improving, but they're far from perfect. One by one, scientists are figuring out that particular variables are more important than we thought years ago, and one by one those variables are getting incorporated into the models."

For Antarctica, key variables include the atmospheric and oceanic conditions, as well as the effects of an icy land surface, changing atmospheric chemistry, the ozone hole, months of darkness and more.

"Its really not surprising to people in the climate field that not every location on the face of Earth is acting as expected -- it would be amazing if everything did," Parkinson said. "The Antarctic sea ice is one of those areas where things have not gone entirely as expected. So it's natural for scientists to ask, 'OK, this isn't what we expected, now how can we explain it?'"

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. Above: On Sept. 19, 2014, the five-day average of Antarctic sea ice extent exceeded 20 million square kilometers for the first time since 1979, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. The red line shows the average maximum extent from 1979-2014. Credit: NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio/Cindy Starr


Rob Stokes MP, Minister for the Environment, Minister for Heritage, Minister for the Central Coast, Assistant Minister for Planning

Environment Minister Rob Stokes today welcomed the announcement of Federal Government funding for new environmental science research hubs, and urged NSW universities and research institutions to apply for the programme.

The National Environmental Science Programme will provide $102 million over four years to fund six research hubs focusing on:

 Clean Air and Urban Landscapes

 Earth Systems

 Marine Biodiversity

 Northern Australia Environmental Resources

 Threatened Species Recovery

 Tropical Water Quality

Mr Stokes encouraged NSW institutions to apply for funding through the programme, which has been established to help policy makers protect Australia’s environment with world-class class biodiversity and climate science.

“These research hubs will play a vital role in protecting and preserving our marine life, our threatened species and making sure we keep our air clean,” Mr Stokes said.

“The Clean Air and Urban Landscapes hub in particular will complement the NSW Government’s ongoing efforts through the NSW Environment Protection Authority.

“NSW has one of the largest air quality monitoring networks in Australia, and the Government has opened new monitoring stations in the Hunter, Central Coast and Western Sydney.

“The network now totals 43 monitoring stations located in strategic areas and towns across the state.

“I encourage all NSW institutions to throw their hat in the ring to host these hubs.”

The programme will be implemented through a competitive process in which groups of research institutions will apply to form research hubs. The hubs are planned to commence operating early next year.

For information go to close November 5.

 Low-carbon energy future is clean, feasible

October 6, 2014 – A future where electricity comes mostly from low-carbon sources is not only feasible in terms of material demand, but will significantly reduce air pollution, a study published in the 6 October Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says. An international team led by Edgar Hertwich and Thomas Gibon from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology conducted the first-ever global comprehensive life cycle assessment of the long-term, wide-scale implementation of electricity generation from renewable resources.

"This is the first study that has assembled and scaled up the assessment of individual technologies to the whole world and assessed technology implementation to 2050, taking the environmental impacts of production into account," Hertwich said.

The researchers did the study because so little is known about the environmental costs of a widespread global shift to renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar power, and what the effect of this shift might have on material requirements. "

Would the shift to low-carbon energy systems increase or decrease other types of pollution?" the researchers asked.

Previous efforts to answer this question have typically looked at single issues, such as selected pollutants, or the effects on land use or need for raw materials, such as metals. Previous studies have also neglected to look at the interactions between different technologies, the researchers said.

To address these shortfalls, Hertwich and his colleagues developed an integrated hybrid life cycle assessment model.

An important aspect of the model was that "it allowed the integration of electricity produced by these prospective technologies back into the economic model," Gibon said.

The researchers looked at concentrating solar power, photovoltaics, wind power, hydropower, and gas- and coal-fired power plants with carbon capture and storage (CCS). They also assumed that the efficiency of the production of important raw materials, such as aluminum, copper, nickel, iron and steel, for example, would improve over time.

The researchers used two different energy scenarios developed by the International Energy Agency to assess how renewable energy would perform.

The first of these was the Baseline scenario, in which global electricity production is assumed to increase by 134% between 2007 and 2050, and where fossil fuels maintain their high share in the electricity generation mix, accounting for two-thirds of the total. Under this scenario, coal-based generation is 149% higher in 2050 than in 2007, accounting for 44% of all power generation.

The other was the BLUE map scenario, which assumes that electricity demand in 2050 is 13% lower than in the Baseline scenario because of increased energy efficiency, and that the power sector emits less pollutants from fossil fuels by reducing their use and adopting carbon capture and storage technologies, along with an increase in the use of renewable energies.

Low carbon technologies can demand much more use of raw materials per unit of power generation than conventional fossil fuel plants, the researchers noted. For example, photovoltaic systems need 11-40 times more copper than fossil fuel production, while wind power plants need 6-14 times more iron than fossil fuel production.

The researchers characterized these material demands from a broader perspective as "manageable but not negligible." For example, the amount of copper needed to build out photovoltaic systems by 2050 represents just 2 years of current copper production. The demand for iron and steel would increase by a mere 10 percent, while the demand for aluminum will decrease.

The shiftover will also decrease air pollution and reduce fossil fuel extraction.

"Energy production-related climate change mitigation targets are achievable, given a slight increase in the demand for iron or cement, as two examples, and will reduce the current emission rates of air pollutants," Gibon said.

The human health benefits are clear, Hertwich said.

"Pursuing climate mitigation will limit the human health impacts from air pollution, while continuing with business as usual will increase it," he said.

1. Hertwich et al. Integrated life cycle assessment of electricity supply scenarios confirms global environmental benefit of low-carbon technologies.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, October 2014 DOI:10.1073/pnas.1312753111

Health Papers Published this week:

Cancer drug destroys tumours in pre-clinical trials

07-October-2014 - Scientists at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute have used an experimental drug produced from the seeds of a rainforest plant to cure solid cancer tumours in pre-clinical trials.

The study led by Dr Glen Boyle at QIMR Berghofer’s Cancer Drug Mechanisms group found a single injection of the drug EBC-46 led to rapid breakdown of tumours in a range of human tumour models. 

Dr Boyle says the findings of the pre-clinical trials at QIMR Berghofer suggest the drug could be effective in human patients.  

“We were able to achieve very strong results injecting EBC-46 directly into melanoma models, as well as cancers of the head, neck and colon,” Dr Boyle said.

“In most cases the single injection treatment caused the loss of viability of cancer cells within four hours, and ultimately destroyed the tumours.” 

Dr Boyle says EBC-46 works in part by triggering a cellular response which effectively cuts off the blood supply to the tumour.  

“In more than 70 per cent of pre-clinical cases, the response and cure was long-term and enduring, with very little relapse over a period of 12 months.”

EBC-46 is a compound extracted from the fruit of the Blushwood tree which is found in north Queensland rainforests. 

EBC-46 was discovered by the Queensland biotechnology company EcoBiotics. The drug is being developed as a human and veterinary pharmaceutical through EcoBiotics’ subsidiary company QBiotics. 

The experimental drug has been used by practising veterinarians to successfully destroy or shrink tumours in pets – including dogs, cats and horses. QBiotics is currently undertaking formal veterinary clinical trials with EBC-46 in Australia and the USA. A final regulatory approval is still required for a human Phase I clinical trial.

Dr Boyle says QIMR Berghofer is keen to pursue further research to determine if EBC-46 could be made more effective. 

“We must stress at this point that EBC-46 will only be trialled in the short-term for tumours which can be accessed by direct injection or topical application,” Dr Boyle said. “There is no evidence to suggest EBC-46 would be effective against metastatic cancers.”

The pre-clinical trials at QIMR Berghofer have been largely funded by QBiotics with additional support from the NHMRC. The results have been published this week, and can be viewed online at:  HERE Report retrieved from: HERE 

Testosterone promotes prostate cancer in rats

October 7, 2014 – A researcher who found that testosterone raised the risk of prostate tumors and exacerbated the effects of carcinogenic chemical exposure in rats is urging caution in prescribing testosterone therapy to men who have not been diagnosed with hypogonadism, according to a new study published in the Endocrine Society's journal Endocrinology.

Testosterone use has soared in the last decade among older men seeking to boost energy and feel younger. One study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that the number of American men who started testosterone therapy has nearly quadrupled since 2000, despite concerns about potential cardiovascular risks.

The Endocrine Society's Clinical Practice Guidelines on testosterone therapy in adult men recommend prescribing testosterone only to men who have unequivocally low levels of the hormone and decreased libido, erectile dysfunction or other symptoms of hypogonadism, a condition that results from low testosterone, and can be found online at: HERE 

"This research demonstrates that testosterone on its own is a weak carcinogen in male rats," said the study's author, Maarten C. Bosland, DVSc, PhD, of the University of Illinois at Chicago. "When it is combined with cancer-causing chemicals, testosterone creates a hospitable environment for tumors to develop. If these same findings hold true in humans, there is serious cause for public health concern."

Two dose-response studies examined the incidence of prostate cancer in rats. The rats were given testosterone through slow-release implant devices. Before the rats were dosed with testosterone, some of the animals were given injections of the carcinogenic chemical N-nitroso-N-methylurea (MNU). These rats were compared to a control group that received MNU but had empty slow-release devices implanted.

Among the rats that received testosterone without the carcinogenic chemical, 10 to 18 percent developed prostate carcinomas. Testosterone treatment alone did not induce specific tumors at other sites, but compared with control rats, it caused a significant increase in the number of rats with malignant tumors at any site. When rats were exposed to testosterone and the carcinogen, the treatment caused prostate cancer in 50 to 71 percent of the rats. Even when the hormone dose was too low to elevate testosterone levels in the bloodstream, half of the rats developed prostate tumors. Animals that were exposed to the carcinogenic chemical but not testosterone did not develop prostate cancer.

"Since the growth of testosterone therapy is relatively recent and prostate cancer is a slow-moving disease, there are at present no data to determine if testosterone could heighten the risk of prostate cancer in humans," Bosland said. "While human studies are conducted, it would be prudent to limit testosterone prescriptions to men with symptomatic clinical hypogonadism and avoid testosterone use by men for non-medical purposes, including addressing normal signs of aging."
The study, "Testosterone Treatment is a Potent Tumor Promoter for the Rat Prostate," was published online, ahead of print.
Maarten C. Bosland. Testosterone Treatment Is a Potent Tumor Promoter for the Rat Prostate. Endocrinology, 2014; en.2014-1688 DOI: 10.1210/en.2014-1688

New vaccines targeting adults, teens are best chance to eliminate TB by 2050
October 6, 2014 - Targets to eliminate tuberculosis (TB) by 2050 are more likely to be met if new vaccines are developed for adults and adolescents instead of for infants, according to new research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the Stop TB Department at the World Health Organization found that a vaccine given to adolescents and adults in low- and middle-income countries could have a much larger impact on the burden of TB worldwide and is more likely to be cost-effective, even if the vaccine has low efficacy and short duration or carries a high price.
TB mostly affects young adults and kills more than one million people every year, 95% of whom are in low- and middle-income countries. The World Health Organization has set the goal of eliminating TB by the year 2050.

The researchers used a mathematical model to estimate the impact and cost-effectiveness of a range of vaccination strategies in low- and middle-income countries. Assuming these vaccines become available in 2024, they identified which strategy would have the greatest impact on TB worldwide over the years 2024 to 2050.

Lead author Gwen Knight, research fellow in infectious disease modelling at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: "Dramatic levels of control are needed to eliminate TB and new vaccines need to be developed now. But because trials of TB vaccines are hugely expensive, their development needs very clear guidance. If elimination by 2050 is the goal, our study provides evidence that new vaccines should focus on targeting adolescents and adults rather than children."
The current TB vaccine, bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG), is widely given to infants. But despite this, TB cases and deaths remain extremely high. Previous studies have suggested that TB elimination can only be achieved through the use of new vaccines.

The authors note the limitations of the study include large levels of uncertainty for their estimates and these should be interpreted as magnitudes of difference rather than precise predictions.

Gwenan M. Knight, Ulla K. Griffiths, Tom Sumner, Yoko V. Laurence, Adrian Gheorghe, Anna Vassall, Philippe Glaziou, Richard G. White. Impact and cost-effectiveness of new tuberculosis vaccines in low- and middle-income countries. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, October 2014 DOI:10.1073/pnas.1404386111

Stroke-fighting drug offers potential treatment for traumatic brain injury
October 7, 2014 - The only drug currently approved for treatment of stroke's crippling effects shows promise, when administered as a nasal spray, to help heal similar damage in less severe forms of traumatic brain injury. In the first examination of its kind, researchers Ye Xiong, Ph.D, Zhongwu Liu, Ph.D., and Michael Chopp, Ph.D., Scientific Director of the Henry Ford Neuroscience Institute, found in animal studies that the brain's limited ability to repair itself after trauma can be enhanced when treated with the drug tPA, or tissue plasminogen activator.

"Using this novel procedure in our earlier stroke studies, we found significant improvement in neurological function," said Michael Chopp, Ph.D., scientific director of the Henry Ford Neuroscience Institute. "So we essentially repeated the experiment on lab rats with subacute traumatic brain injury, and with similar remarkable results.

"As in stroke treated intra-nasally with tPA, our subjects showed greatly improved functional outcome and rewiring of the cortical spinal tract."

The new study was recently published in the Public Library of Science's peer-reviewed online journal PLOS ONE.
Commonly called a "clot-buster," tPA is the only FDA-approved treatment for acute ischemic stroke.
Acute ischemic stroke occurs when oxygen-rich blood flow to the brain is blocked by a clot. Resulting damage to oxygen-starved brain cells can lead to physical impairment, mental disabilities and sometimes death. In the case of traumatic brain injury, damage is due to a violent blow or other external assault.

It has been known for some time that stroke damage can be reduced if tPA is given intravenously within 4.5 hours. But tPA administered through the bloodstream also has potentially harmful side effects, including swelling of the brain and hemorrhage.

More recently, however, Henry Ford researchers found that the effective treatment window could be extended to as much as two weeks for lab rats dosed with tPA in a nasal spray, while avoiding the harmful side effects of intravenous injection.
Although scientists do not yet fully understand how it works, earlier research has shown that drugs administered through the nose directly target both the brain and spinal cord.

Traumatic brain injury is a leading cause of death and disability throughout the world. While the new Henry Ford study offers hope of a drug treatment, so far no effective pharmacological therapy is available.

These most recent findings suggest that tPA has the potential to be a noninvasive treatment for subacute traumatic brain injury, helping the brain restore function to damaged cells.

The researchers cautioned that further animal studies will be required to discover the best dose and the best time window for optimal intranasal treatment.
Yuling Meng, Michael Chopp, Yanlu Zhang, Zhongwu Liu, Aaron An, Asim Mahmood, Ye Xiong. Subacute Intranasal Administration of Tissue Plasminogen Activator Promotes Neuroplasticity and Improves Functional Recovery following Traumatic Brain Injury in Rats. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (9): e106238 DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0106238

What 20 years of research on cannabis use has taught us
October 7, 2014 - In the past 20 years recreational cannabis use has grown tremendously, becoming almost as common as tobacco use among adolescents and young adults, and so has the research evidence. A major new review in the scientific journal Addiction sets out the latest information on the effects of cannabis use on mental and physical health.

The key conclusions are:
Adverse Effects of Acute Cannabis Use
Cannabis does not produce fatal overdoses.
Driving while cannabis-intoxicated doubles the risk of a car crash; this risk increases substantially if users are also alcohol-intoxicated.
Cannabis use during pregnancy slightly reduces birth weight of the baby.

Adverse Effects of Chronic Cannabis Use
Regular cannabis users can develop a dependence syndrome, the risks of which are around 1 in 10 of all cannabis users and 1 in 6 among those who start in adolescence.

Regular cannabis users double their risks of experiencing psychotic symptoms and disorders, especially if they have a personal or family history of psychotic disorders, and if they start using cannabis in their mid-teens.

Regular adolescent cannabis users have lower educational attainment than non-using peers but we don't know whether the link is causal.

Regular adolescent cannabis users are more likely to use other illicit drugs, but we don't know whether the link is causal.

Regular cannabis use that begins in adolescence and continues throughout young adulthood appears to produce intellectual impairment, but the mechanism and reversibility of the impairment is unclear.

Regular cannabis use in adolescence approximately doubles the risk of being diagnosed with schizophrenia or reporting psychotic symptoms in adulthood.

Regular cannabis smokers have a higher risk of developing chronic bronchitis.
Cannabis smoking by middle aged adults probably increases the risk of myocardial infarction.

Wayne Hall. What has research over the past two decades revealed about the adverse health effects of recreational cannabis use? Addiction, 2014; DOI:10.1111/add.12703

Disclaimer: These articles are not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Pittwater Online News or its staff.

 Smoking cannabis doesn't make you more creative, study suggests

October 8, 2014 - Some people think that smoking cannabis makes them more creative. However, research by Leiden psychologists Lorenza Colzato and Mikael Kowal shows that the opposite is true. They published their findings on 7 October inPsychopharmacology.

Strong cannabis doesn't work

The findings show that cannabis with a high concentration of the psychoactive ingredient THC does not improve creativity. Smokers who ingested a low dose of THC, or none at all (they were given a placebo), performed best in the thinking tasks that the test candidates had to carry out. A high dose of THC was actually shown to have a negative effect on the ability to quickly come up with as many solutions as possible to a given problem.

Increased creativity is an illusion

The research findings contradict the claims of people who say that their thinking changes and becomes more original after smoking a joint. There's no sign of any increased creativity in their actual performance, according to Colzato. 'The improved creativity that they believe they experience is an illusion.'

Too much cannabis is counterproductive

Colzato said, 'If you want to overcome writer's block or any other creative gap, lighting up a joint isn't the best solution. Smoking several joints one after the other can even be counterproductive to creative thinking.'

The research method

Colzato and her PhD candidate Kowal were the first researchers to study the effects of cannabis use on creative thinking. For ethical reasons, only cannabis users were selected for this study. The test candidates were divided into three groups of 18. One group was given cannabis with a high THC content (22 mg), the second group was given a low dose (5.5 mg) and the third group was given a placebo. The high dose was equivalent to three joints and the low dose was equal to a single joint. Obviously, none of the test candidates knew what they were being given; the cannabis was administered via a vaporizer. The test candidates then had to carry out cognitive tasks that were testing for two types of creative thinking:

Divergent thinking: generating rapid solutions for a given problem, such as: "Think of as many uses as you can for a pen?"

Convergent thinking: Finding the only right answer to a question, such as: "What is the link between the words 'time', 'hair' and 'stretching'. (The answer is 'long'.)

Mikael A. Kowal, Arno Hazekamp, Lorenza S. Colzato, Henk van Steenbergen, Nic J. A. van der Wee, Jeffrey Durieux, Meriem Manai, Bernhard Hommel. Cannabis and creativity: highly potent cannabis impairs divergent thinking in regular cannabis users. Psychopharmacology, 2014; DOI:10.1007/s00213-014-3749-1

Save the New Zealand dolphin

Published on 6 Oct 2014

The New Zealand dolphin is the smallest dolphin in the world. In 1970 there were around 30,000. Now there are around 7,000. In just a few years they will be gone - FOREVER. You can help save them. Sign our petition now.


7 OCTOBER 2014 Australia needs to play to its strengths and transition from traditional manufacturing into new areas of competitive advantage.

CSIRO proposes the direction for such a move in its discussion paper Equipping Australian Manufacturing for the Information Age: iManufacturing - Is Australia Ready? which aims to generate discussion among Australian industry to prepare them for the move away from 20th Century modes of production and allow them to compete on the world market.

The CSIRO said opportunities exist both domestically and internationally in the market for high valued, niche manufactured goods and associated services produced here if Australian industry were to adopt and utilise modern information technology and develop the associated skills to make best use of it.

Recognising the worldwide trend towards smaller batches of production, customised products, rapid prototyping, agile manufacturing processes and an emphasis on increased 'servitisation', the report's authors warn that Australian manufacturers must develop appropriate business models and prepare themselves for increasingly innovative and competitive offerings in terms of price and flexibility in their domestic and international market niches.

The discussion paper talks about businesses growing and evolving from the use of traditional IT-based technologies and into eManufacturing (dependent on cloud-based services) or progress further into iManufacturing (or informatics-linked manufacturing).

To compete globally, the report says, enterprises need to have the right skills and tools to do business, adapt to the future, including:

Develop workers which combine not only eSkills (general computer/internet abilities) but also iSkills (understanding data, connectedness, the Internet of Things, servitisation) and manufacturing expertise

Encourage and develop Materialisation technologies that more rapidly turn digital, customised data into physical outputs

Develop collaborations and networks at local and global scales that are not only engaged at the human communications level but are sharers of data, resources, and processes

Improve supply chain interoperability and material flow efficiencies Move manufacturing industries increasingly into the service spaces - the servitisation of Manufacturing

Develop appropriate business models that maximise the potential that these new technologies provide.

Link to: Equipping Australian Manufacturing for the Information Age: iManufacturing - Is Australia Ready?

 Beautiful lightning

funny pictures

 Cyclists break road rules to stay safe

08 October 2014 - Most cyclists who use bicycles as a form of transport admit to breaking road rules at some time while riding but they do it mostly to guard their own safety on the roads, UNSW research has found. 

Riding on the footpath and going through a red light are the most common infringements reported by cyclists, who were surveyed by UNSW and University of Sydney researchers as part of the Safer Cycling Study involving 2000 cyclists across New South Wales and led by Associate Professor Roslyn Poulos from the UNSW School of Public Health and Community Medicine. 

Cyclists who rode for transport reported that they are primarily trying to protect themselves against the speed of cars and the behaviour of other road users, and are aiming to get to their destination in a safe and timely manner. 

“The most frequently identified reasons for breaking road rules are associated with safety,” says researcher Louise Shaw, a PhD student at UNSW, and lead author of the paper published in the journal Injury Prevention. 

“As vulnerable road users, cyclists are motivated to ensure their own safety by avoiding perceived danger from fast-moving vehicles in traffic and ensuring minimal conflict with drivers. The desire for comfort is also clear, with cyclists trying to save both time and energy,” Shaw says. 

A total of 770 transport cyclists participated in this aspect of the study, in which the majority were experienced male riders with an average age of 42 years. Only 5.1% of them reported never breaking road rules while cycling. 

The reasons they gave about why they broke the rules included:  the high speed differential between vehicles and bikes; the road being dangerous, busy, or too narrow; to avoid perceived impatience, frustration, or aggravation of drivers; and insufficient or poorly connected bike infrastructure. 

“The study suggests cyclists are influenced by a road network that could benefit from more coherence and safety. Cyclists in this study commonly cited lack of infrastructure or poorly connecting infrastructure as influencing their decision to infringe road rules,” Associate Professor Poulos says. 

“This suggests that modifications to the existing network are necessary and more bicycle-inclusive infrastructure is required for New South Wales.” 


9 OCTOBER 2014 - The appointment of Dr Larry Marshall as the new Chief Executive of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) was announced today by the Chairman of the CSIRO Board, Simon McKeon.

"Dr Marshall has an impeccable record as a scientist, a technology innovator and business leader," Mr McKeon said.

"His wealth of experience in developing and applying science and technology makes him an excellent fit.

"The Chief Executive of CSIRO is probably the most important position in national science administration, so we conducted an extensive global search for an innovative scientist with strong business leadership qualities, and more than 70 candidates were considered.

"Dr Marshall combines commercial and scientific credentials with extensive global experience, making him the world class leader we were seeking for CSIRO.

"The Board is confident that Dr Marshall will lead CSIRO in a manner which ensures that it continues to provide advice of the highest quality to Government as well as provide best practice collaboration with the private sector."

Mr McKeon also thanked current Chief Executive Dr Megan Clark for her leadership of CSIRO for the past six years. Dr Clark will leave CSIRO at the end of December this year.

"Dr Clark leaves CSIRO with a legacy to be proud of, most notably for her long term commitment to the global competitiveness of Australian science through the establishment of research precincts; and to major knowledge infrastructure projects such as the new research vessel," Mr McKeon said.

Dr Marshall will join CSIRO in January 2015. He is currently Managing Director of Southern Cross Venture Partners, an early stage venture capital firm specialising in creating Australian technology companies and growing them globally in Asia and the United States.

Dr Marshall was educated at Macquarie University (Sydney) where he took a doctorate in physics. He began his career in the Defence Science and Technology Organisation and has 25 years experience as an international technology entrepreneur and holds 20 patents protecting commercial products. He has founded six successful United States companies in biotechnology, photonics, telecommunications and semiconductors.

Dr Larry Marshall - Biography

Dr. Larry R Marshall is Managing Director of Southern Cross Ventures, a venture capital firm based in Silicon Valley, Shanghai and Sydney, specialising in growing Australian technology companies in Asia and US. He has a longstanding partnership with SoftBank China, China's most successful VC firm, and co-manages the Renewable Energy Fund, founded in 2012, with them. He has lived in the US for 25 years and founded and/or was CEO of Light Solutions, Iridex (Nasdaq:IRIX), Iriderm, Lightbit, Translucent, AOC, Arasor (ASX: ARR), and the Renewable Energy Fund; driving two of them to successful IPOs.

Larry began his career as an engineer with a PhD in Physics and over 100 publications and presentations; He became an inventor, with 20 patents protecting numerous commercial products generating over $200M in revenue; then became an entrepreneur, raising over $100M in funding and creating companies with over $1B in market cap, and now an investor with $400M under management. He has served on 20 boards of high tech companies operating in US, Australia and China.

Larry is currently on the boards of Mocana, Quantenna, Wave, Nitero, SBA, Advance, SXVP, REVCF, Laser Focus World and serves as Chairman of RIO, Crossfiber and Advance Innovation. He is co-Chairman of Blackbird and Brismat. He is a passionate supporter of Australian innovation and Australian entrepreneurs. 

 The unexamined diversity in the 'Coral Triangle'

October 7, 2014 - Research on zoantharians, a group of animals related to corals and anemones, by researchers James Reimer of the University of the Ryukyusin Okinawa, Japan, Angelo Poliseno of Universita Politecnica delle Marchein Italy, and Bert Hoeksema from Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Netherlands, has demonstrated how little we know about marine diversity in the so-called "center of marine biodiversity" located in the central Indo-Pacific Ocean.

The researchers utilized previously collected specimens from Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea, combined with field images from Dr. Hoeksema to examine species of Zoantharia, marine cnidarians commonly found in shallow subtropical and tropical oceans throughout the world. The study was published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

"The central Indo-Pacific is commonly called the "Coral Triangle" due to its high hard coral diversity, in fact the highest in the world" said Reimer, "but in fact for many groups of marine animals we really have little concrete information on diversity, or numbers of species, in this region."

Previous research included brief reports on a few species of Zoantharia, but until now no formal attempts had been made to list species from this region. Surprisingly, of the 24 potential species identified by the researchers, at least 9 are undescribed.

Much of the work was performed by Dr. Reimer in the Netherlands in 2012, when he visited the Naturalis Museum and Dr. Hoeksema to examine their Zoantharia collection. "What struck me as particularly amazing was the fact that Naturalis housed over 600 Zoantharia specimens collected over the years, and in many cases, even specimens from 1930 had not yet been formally examined," stated Reimer. "This research demonstrates the real importance of museum collections, as well as the lack of expert researchers for many taxonomic groups."

"Unfortunately, for many regions of the world, we are only just beginning to examine diversity, despite some of these areas being among the most threatened," added Reimer. It is hoped future specimen collections will allow further analyses and formal descriptions of these previously unreported species.

James Reimer, Angelo Poliseno, Bert Hoeksema. Shallow-water zoantharians (Cnidaria, Hexacorallia) from the Central Indo-Pacific. ZooKeys, 2014; 444: 1 DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.444.7537

This image shows a species from the genus Zoanthus. Credit: James D. Reimer; CC-BY 4.0

 Killer whales learn to communicate like dolphins

October 7, 2014 - From barks to gobbles, the sounds that most animals use to communicate are innate, not learned. However, a few species, including humans, can imitate new sounds and use them in appropriate social contexts. This ability, known as vocal learning, is one of the underpinnings of language.

Vocal learning has also been observed in bats, some birds, and cetaceans, a group that includes whales and dolphins. But while avian researchers have characterized vocal learning in songbirds down to specific neural pathways, studying the trait in large marine animals has presented more of a challenge.

Now, University of San Diego graduate student Whitney Musser and Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute senior research scientist Dr. Ann Bowles have found that killer whales (Orcinus orca) can engage in cross-species vocal learning: when socialized with bottlenose dolphins, they shifted the types of sounds they made to more closely match their social partners. The results, published in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, suggest that vocal imitation may facilitate social interactions in cetaceans.

Killer whales have complex vocal repertoires made up of clicks, whistles and pulsed calls - repeated brief bursts of sound punctuated with silence. The acoustic features of these vocalizations, such as their duration, pitch and pulse pattern, vary across social groups. Whales that are closely related or live together produce similar pulsed calls that carry vocal characteristics distinct to the group, known as a dialect.

"There's been an idea for a long time that killer whales learn their dialect, but it isn't enough to say they all have different dialects so therefore they learn. There needs to be some experimental proof so you can say how well they learn and what context promotes learning," said Bowles.

Testing vocal learning ability in social mammals usually requires observing the animal in a novel social situation, one that might stimulate them to communicate in new ways. Bottlenose dolphins provide a useful comparison species in this respect: they make generally similar sounds but produce them in different proportions, relying more on clicks and whistles than the pulsed calls that dominate killer whale communication.

"We had a perfect opportunity because historically, some killer whales have been held with bottlenose dolphins," said Bowles. By comparing old recordings of vocalization patterns from the cross-socialized subjects with recordings of killer whales and bottlenose dolphins housed in same-species groups, Bowles and her team were able to evaluate the degree to which killer whales learned vocalization patterns from their cross-species social partners.

All three killer whales that had been housed with dolphins for several years shifted the proportions of different call types in their repertoire to more closely match the distribution found in dolphins - they produced more clicks and whistles and fewer pulsed calls. The researchers also found evidence that killer whales can learn completely new sounds: one killer whale that was living with dolphins at the time of the experiment learned to produce a chirp sequence that human caretakers had taught to her dolphin pool-mates before she was introduced to them.

Vocal learning skills alone don't necessarily mean that killer whales have language in the same way that humans do. However, they do indicate a high level of neural plasticity, the ability to change circuits in the brain to incorporate new information. "Killer whales seem to be really motivated to match the features of their social partners," said Bowles, though the adaptive significance of the behavior is not yet known.

There are immediate reasons to study the vocal patterns of cetaceans: these marine mammals are threatened by human activities through competition for fishery resources, entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with vessels, exposure to pollutants and oil spills and, ultimately, shrinking habitats due to anthropogenic climate change. If their social bonds are closely linked to their vocalizations, killer whales' ability to survive amidst shifting territories and social groups may be tied to their ability to adapt their communication strategies.

"It's important to understand how they acquire [their vocalization patterns], and lifelong, to what degree they can change it, because there are a number of different [cetacean] populations on the decline right now," said Bowles. "And where killer whales go, we can expect other small whale species to go - it's a broader question."

Whitney B. Musser, Ann E. Bowles, Dawn M. Grebner, and Jessica L. Crance.Differences in acoustic features of vocalizations produced by killer whales cross-socialized with bottlenose dolphins. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 2014 DOI: 10.1121/1.4893906

Killer whales (Orcinus orca) can engage in cross-species vocal learning: when socialized with bottlenose dolphins, they shifted the types of sounds they made to more closely match their social partners. Credit: © RKP / Fotolia