Inbox and Environment News - Issue 187 

 November 2 - 8, 2014: Issue 187

 Greater inequality within UK, USA than some developing countries, trade 'footprint' shows

October 30, 2014 - Australia, with a comparable level of international trade activity, still maintains greater internal equality than the trading nations that 42 percent of our consumption depends on. Only nine percent of countries that we trade with have more egalitarian economies.

The results are published in the journal PLOS ONE from research led by the University of Sydney's Integrated Sustainability Analysis group in the School of Physics.

"The footprint maps the movement of commodities around the world. It is a new tool which can assist businesses, government and non-government organisations in understanding the complex dynamics of inequality and trade," said Ali Alsamawi, a PhD candidate in the School of Physics and lead author of the PLOS ONE paper.

The study uses the employment and household income accounts and (Gini) indexes of income distribution for 187 countries, from 1990 to 2010.

It introduces the concept of an inequality footprint -- taking into account the inequality of both the internal and external workforce required to satisfy the consumption demands of a given country.

The results show that most developed countries, with their international trade taken into account, have an inequality footprint higher than the inequality within their country.

"The United States and United Kingdom are notable exceptions to this. Among developed countries only these nations have within-country inequality higher than their inequality footprint," Alsamawi said.

Forty million of the 70 million workers from outside the USA who are responsible for many of the products Americans consume, come from countries with high inequality.

Despite this, America's internal inequality is still higher than the inequality footprint representing its international trade. The same applies to the United Kingdom.

The United States showed an increasing inequality footprint during the Bill Clinton era and especially after the NAFTA treaty came into force. It has slightly decreased during Obama's presidency.

In the United Kingdom the inequality footprint increased after Tony Blair left power and also jumped after the global financial crisis and recession.

Australia and Japan are the only countries with comparable levels of trade activity to the UK and USA. Forty percent of Australia's international trade activity is with China, a country with relatively high inequality.

"But compared to America and the UK our internal inequality is still much less, giving us an overall footprint of relatively high equality -- on a par with Germany but less equal than Japan or Canada," Alsamawi said.

By contrast Russia has high inequality within its border but in 2010 it had the lowest inequality footprint in the world because approximately 62 percent of its international trade was with Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, where inequality is low.

That situation will have greatly changed since trade sanctions have been imposed by some of its trading partners in the context of the war in the Ukraine (more than 20 percent of Russia's external workforce came from Ukraine in 2010).

Commodities that are inequality-intensive, affecting the internal inequality of the nations producing them and the footprint of the nations they trade with, include electronic components, chemicals, fertilizers, minerals, and agricultural products.

"In the past it was assumed that globalisation would raise the income of almost all nations and help redress inequality but evidence suggests no obvious relationship between a country's participation in globalisation and positive changes in inequality," said the University of Sydney's Dr Joy Murray, an author on the paper.

"We do not argue whether trade between more and less equal countries is a social good or ill but have provided a robust, global account of inequality and trade upon which further economic analysis may be built."

Ali Alsamawi, Joy Murray, Manfred Lenzen, Daniel Moran, Keiichiro Kanemoto. The Inequality Footprints of Nations: A Novel Approach to Quantitative Accounting of Income Inequality.PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (10): e110881 DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0110881


29 October 2014 - Australia’s Chief Scientist Professor Ian Chubb has used the 2014 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science to reiterate the importance of science and research to the nation’s future.

“Science is awesome and we are too often muted in our recognition of it. These awards celebrate excellence, not just in these individuals, but in the national science enterprise that they represent.

“Inspired teachers, passionate researchers at all stages of their careers, innovators in industry who see the possibility that knowledge creates, and people throughout the community trained for science jobs, sharing science skills and wanting to know something today that we did not know yesterday.

“We honour them all tonight.”

Professor Chubb said the knowledge Australians continue to gain through science is critical national infrastructure requiring alignment, focus and scale to fully support individual effort.

“The prizes we are celebrating tonight are for excellence at every stage of the supply line – primary school and secondary school teaching of science, early to mid-career research in the life and physical sciences and significant work contributing to a better world.

“Tonight’s award winners are inspiring. They have devoted themselves to a goal and worked hard to achieve it. Their passion, persistence and patience are an inspiration to the millions of Australians who will benefit.

“Our nation stands stronger on the platform of science and we should all find a place on that platform.”

2014 Prize Recipients

The 2014 Prime Minister's Prizes for Science are awarded at a presentation ceremony held on Wednesday 29 October 2014. The five prizes are awarded annually and are a tribute to the contributions that our scientists and science teachers are making to Australia's current and future scientific capabilities.

Prime Minister's Prize for Science 

jointly Professors Sam Berkovic AC and Ingrid Scheffer AO 

Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year 

Professor Ryan Lister

Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year 

Dr Matthew Hill 

Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools 

Mr Brian Schiller 

Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools 

Mr Geoff McNamara 

2014 Awards Presentation

The black tie celebratory dinner, held in the Great Hall of the Parliament House was attended by over 500 Members of Parliament, distinguished scientists, science educators, industry captains and prominent leaders of the science and education community.

This year’s $300,000 major prize, the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science was awarded jointly to Laureate Professor Sam Berkovic AC and Professor Ingrid Scheffer AO, both from the University of Melbourne, for their discoveries of links between epilepsy and genes which opened the way to better targeted research, diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy.

The Frank Fenner Science Minister’s Prize for Life Scientist of the Year, comprising $50,000 and a silver medallion, was awarded to Professor Ryan Lister of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology at the University of Western Australia. This award is in recognition of his contributions to the understanding of gene regulation and its potential ability to change agriculture and the treatment of disease and mental health.

The Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year, comprising $50,000 and a silver medallion was awarded to Dr Matthew Hill for his work on the development of metal-organic frameworks for practical industrial application. Dr Hill is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow and principal research scientist and leader of porous materials research at the CSIRO.

In recognition of their dedication to inspiring and educating Australia’s future generations of scientists, the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary and Secondary Schools were awarded respectively to Mr Brian Schiller from Seacliff Primary School in South Australia, for his contributions to science teaching and for taking it in new creative directions; and Mr Geoff McNamara from Melrose High School in the Australia Capital Territory for his inspiring science teaching taking the innovative approach. Each award comprises $50,000 and a silver medallion. The cash prize of $50,000 is being shared equally with their schools towards improving the schools’ capacity and ability to teach science.

 NUSHIP Canberra Leaves for Sydney C/- Royal Australian Navy 

October 29, 2014 - NUSHIP Canberra departed BAE Systems Dockyard, Williamstown today with hundreds of Defence industry personnel lining the pier and the decks of sister ship Adelaide as she reversed out of her berth and set sail for her home port in Sydney. She arrived Friday 31st of October.

Canberra’s hull arrived in Williamstown in October 2012 where her superstructure was fitted and combat and communications systems installed.

Canberra will be formally commissioned into service on 28 November 2014. 

The LHDs are the largest ships ever built for the Navy and is capable of carrying out a variety of roles including complex amphibious operations. The ship is also designed to be able to conduct large scale humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions.

Although they are the largest ships built for the navy but are not the largest ship in the Navy that title goes to HMAS Sirius o-266 Fleet oiler, coming in at 46,755 tonnes (full load) compared to the LHDs 27,500 tonnes (30,300 short tons; 27,100 long tons) at full load. However Canberra and Adelaide come in as the longest ships 230.82 m (757.3 ft.) 

 Anti-Turbulence System Inspired By Birds | RMIT University

Published on 27 Oct 2014

Inspired by nature’s own anti-turbulence devices – feathers – RMIT University researchers have developed an innovative system that could spell the end of turbulence on flights.

Researchers from RMIT’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Research Team have lodged a provisional patent on the system, which mimics the way feathers help birds detect disturbances in the air.

 Feathers in flight inspire anti-turbulence technology

October 27, 2014 - Inspired by nature’s own anti-turbulence devices – feathers – researchers have developed an innovative system that could spell the end of turbulence on flights. Researchers from the Unmanned Systems Research Team at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, have lodged a provisional patent on the system, which mimics the way feathers help birds detect disturbances in the air.

Research supervisor Professor Simon Watkins, said flight testing on a micro plane showed the system significantly reduced the effects of turbulence.

"By sensing gusts and disturbances in air flow through their feathers, birds are able to fly gracefully rather than bouncing around in turbulent air," he said.

"The system we have developed replicates this natural technology, with the aim of enabling planes to fly smoothly through even severe turbulence -- just like birds."

The system is based on the concept of phase-advanced sensing, in which flow disturbance is sensed before it results in aircraft movement.

This can be achieved by early sensing of the pressures from gust effects on the leading parts of the wing or by measuring the gusts ahead of the wing.

Professor Watkins said the system had great potential for all sizes of aircraft and could not only reduce the effects of turbulence on passengers but also reduce loads on plane wings, leading to lower fatigue and hence longer life.

"While we need to explore new sensor arrangements to apply this technology to larger and faster aircraft, we have proven the idea on the most challenging problem of keeping small, lightweight planes steady -- since these are the ones that get bounced around the most," he said.

The patent submission for a turbulence mitigation system for aircraft represents the successful outcome of PhD research by Abdulghani Mohamed, supervised by Professor Watkins and Dr Reece Clothier in RMIT's School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering.

Mr Mohamed's theoretical contributions in the field of turbulence and its effects on flight vehicles, aided the development of this invention.

1. A. Mohamed, S. Watkins, R. Clothier, M. Abdulrahim, K. Massey, R. Sabatini. Fixed-wing MAV attitude stability in atmospheric turbulence—Part 2: Investigating biologically-inspired sensors. Progress in Aerospace Sciences, 2014; 71: 1 DOI: 10.1016/j.paerosci.2014.06.002

Barts Bash 2014 - Final Results

Final Results have been calculated and announced!!! An amazing 30,717 participants took to the water, sailing more than TWICE around the world, in over 60 countries from over 500 clubs, raising more than a quarter of a million pounds so far. Not bad for a first year....!

Overall winners were; Hans Wallen sailing at Cape Crow Yacht Club in Sweden in a M32 Catamaran, Riccardo Macchiavello sailing at Circolo Nautico Rapallo in Italy in an Altura 1101 and Grant Piggott sailing at Weston Sailing Club in Great Britain in a Nacra 17. For the final results table please visit

Event Manager for Bart’s Bash, Tim Anderton said “At no point could we ever have expected over five hundred (500) clubs in over sixty (60) countries to embrace the idea of getting on the water, racing, having fun and celebrating everything Bart stood for. This has to be one of the largest sailing participation events in the world. We would like to thank all those who took part in the event and a special thank you to the volunteers, over seven thousand of them, who made it possible.”

Bart's Bash Rookie Year Highlights

Published on 27 Oct 2014

The short highlights that take you around the globe during the first ever Bart's Bash sailing race. More than 30,000 sailors took part in this first race, sailing more than twice around the world, raising huge amounts of money and bringing new people into the world of sailing, all in memory of the wonderful Andrew 'Bart' Simpson.

 Puberty blues - are hormones really to blame?

28 October 2014 - Using a three-year longitudinal study design, the world-first ARCHER* study is investigating the effects of puberty hormones on adolescent health, wellbeing and mood in a study population of 350 adolescents from regional New South Wales. 

"Many people assume that 'raging puberty hormones' are to blame for many teenage behaviours, but there is really no good evidence for this claim," says Professor Steinbeck.

"There is a host of factors that affect teenagers' physical and mental health, including peers, family, biological and psychosocial changes, and environmental factors.

"We want to discover what is and isn't attributable to adolescent hormones. To dismiss adolescent behaviours as 'just hormones' might be very unwise."

"Why adolescents have unpredictable behaviour, sometimes this is due to rapidly changing brain development, peer influences and whatever else might be on their minds at the time," says Professor Steinbeck.

"Parents need to maintain solid communication lines with their children and remain clear about boundary settings."

The study findings will have implications for families, schools and teachers, health professionals who have a responsibility to guide young people on their path to adulthood. It will pinpoint for the first time how puberty hormones affect a range of psychological, emotional, social and behavioural issues that arise during adolescence.

"Puberty is a tremendously dramatic physical event," says Professor Steinbeck.

"Everyone goes through it, and it is a different experience for every person.

"We suspect that it is the speed of hormone change that has a significant impact on a range of mental, emotional and behavioural outcomes, and this will be different in every adolescent. For some, hormone levels rise slowly and steadily, others get walloped with a huge surge that occurs seemingly overnight.

"We've known for some time that the timing of puberty onset can have also long-term effects. For example, girls who start their periods earlier compared to their peers are more at risk of depression, obesity and breast cancer. And we know that those who describe a later puberty are more at risk for anxiety and possibly lower bone density.

"Adolescent health and wellbeing is everyone's business. Health trajectories for both mental health and physical health are set in adolescence.

"The worry with teenage health problems is that, rather than being transient, these often persist past adolescence, establishing a pattern for the rest of that young person's life.

"The major causes of morbidity and mortality in adults are tobacco, obesity and inactivity, and most of these damaging health behaviours start in adolescence. Physical activity levels fall off in the teenage years. Puberty is a risk time for overweight and obesity. And if you are a lifelong smoker, you most likely started as a teenager.

"Mental health problems are the most common morbidity in adolescence, followed by health risk behaviours and the impact of chronic illness. Injury is the most common cause of teenage death around the world, and is largely preventable," says Professor Steinbeck.

* (ARCHER stands for Adolescent Rural Cohort on Hormones, Health Environments Education, Relationships) that looks at the true longitudinal effects of puberty hormones on adolescent health, wellbeing and mood.

Fast facts:

- The start of puberty can vary between the ages of eight and 13 in girls, and nine and 14 in boys

- There is a wide variation in when puberty starts and in the time it takes to go through it

- Puberty hormones increase 20-30 times above childhood levels during that time

- For girls: a 20 centimetre height growth and a 20 kilogram weight gain

- For boys: a 30 centimetre height growth and a 30 kilogram weight gain

 Partnership to increase cultural competency

27 October 2014 - A new partnership between two leading Australian research institutions will allow Australians to better understand, strengthen and share Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, contexts and knowledge.

The collaboration will see the home of Australia's premier collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island cultures, traditions, languages and stories collaborate with Australia's oldest university.

The Memorandum of Understanding - between the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) and the University of Sydney - was officially signed by the University's Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence and Professor Mick Dodson in Canberra today.

The partnership will initiate activities that support AIATSIS' and the University of Sydney's National Centre for Cultural Competence's respective roles in increasing cultural competence in research and to promote the use of appropriate research methodologies when engaging with Indigenous communities.

University of Sydney Vice Chancellor Dr Michael Spence said the partnership will enable an exchange of materials, facilitate higher degree research and the exchange of faculty and research scholars.

"This agreement brings together the talent and creativity of two of the nation's leading institutions in a partnership that will hugely enrich our learning and teaching, our research and the maintenance of cultural resources essential to our nation's self-awareness and pride," Dr Spence said.

AIATSIS Chairperson Professor Mick Dodson said today's signing of will formalise a partnership that will further the impact and reach of the two organisations' existing work.

"AIATSIS and University of Sydney are committed to the ideal that building personal, professional and organisational cultural proficiency can lead to true reconciliation. The ability to identify our own cultural values and assumptions can lead us to genuine appreciation for others," Professor Dodson said.

"Cultural competence is the ability to participate ethically and effectively in personal and professional intercultural spaces," said the University's Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services) Professor Shane Houston.

"A closer relationship with the nation's premier preserver and maintainer of vital Aboriginal materials will inform the work of our students and staff and enhance the University's aim to become more culturally competent as an institution."

Find out more:


View on Georges River, 1947, image courtesy of SLNSW 

The Dictionary of Sydney is proud to launch eighteen new online entries on the history of the Georges River on the Dictionary of Sydney website! 

Funded by the Federal Government’s Your Community Heritage grant scheme, the new entries are laced with colourful characters and curious facts with stories of publicans and mill owners, encounters with sharks and cockatoos, and tragedies caused by flood.

Local historian Beverley Donaldson explores life in the internment camps at Holsworthy and Liverpool during World Wars I and II. Eminent historians Heather Goodall and Allison Cadzow look at Aboriginal communities along the Georges River from the 1820s, with fascinating profiles of Biddy Giles, Lucy Leane, Gogi and Ellen Anderson. Roger Robertson and Andrew Allen follow early attempts at farming and industry; from the ill‐fated attempts of wine grower Georges Frere to the thriving oyster farms of Oatley’s Neverfail Bay. Gary Darby and Rodger Robertson examine the history of swimming baths at Sans Souci and Jew Fish Bay and Oatley Park. Catie Gilchrist traces the transformation of the Casula Powerhouse from picnic pleasure ground to industrial landscape to thriving centre for arts and culture in western Sydney. Greg Jackson, Pam Forbes and Brad Duncan took to the water in nineteenth century rivercraft to explore how the maritime landscape of the river and its tributaries sustained the transport of wheat, flour and manpower between the Woronora and Brisbane Water mills. Karen Pentland traces the lives and legacy of the many publicans who ran the now demolished Prince of Wales Hotel on Sandringham Point. Then there is the extraordinary story of ‘Cocky Bennett’, a legendary cockatoo whose long life at sea was followed by many years on the bar of the Sea Breeze Hotel at Tom Ugly’s Point entertaining locals and raising money for charity. River advocate Sharyn Cullis looks at the history of encounters between swimmers and sharks in the river from the early days of the colony, as well as examining the consequences of urbanisation alongside one of the most flood‐prone rivers in NSW.

The Georges River Project places these histories within the wider picture of Sydney’s past. Both familiar and unexpected, they enrich our understanding of Sydney as both a place and a community.

 UWS welcomes NSW Government’s announcement on Western Sydney Light Rail Network

27 October  2014 - The University of Western Sydney warmly welcomes the State Government's further commitments to the Western Sydney Light Rail Network. 

UWS Vice-Chancellor, Professor Barney Glover, says this highly progressive transport infrastructure commitment complements the University's recent announcement of the development of a new multi-storey campus in the heart of Parramatta's CBD, which will be home to 10,000 UWS students in 2017.

"The proposed Light Rail routes will significantly enhance accessibility to, and exchange between the region's knowledge jobs, vital for ensuring Western Sydney's continued economic growth and competitiveness," says Professor Glover.

"The project will heighten the interface between our campuses and regional business and industry.

"These transport initiatives are critical to unlocking Western Sydney's potential. The University commends the State Government and, indeed Parramatta City Council, for their progressive thinking in this regard."

The UWS Parramatta campus at Rydalmere is currently home to approximately 14,500 students.

 Record-Breaking Near-Space Dive Leaps from 135,000 Feet 

Published on 24 Oct 2014

Alan Eustace dove from a high-altitude balloon soaring at approximately 135,000 feet. Felix Baumgartner held the record at 128,000 feet. FULL STORY:

 Horse racing position cuts drag up to 66 per cent

October 31, 2014 - Researchers from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, have revealed precisely how much different slipstreaming tactics reduce drag on a horse during a race.

Wind tunnel simulations showed jockeys who take advantage of slipstreaming, or drafting, by running their horse behind or alongside others can reduce aerodynamic drag force by up to 66 per cent -- saving their horse critical energy.

The simulations conducted in RMIT's wind tunnel -- using toy models that are exact miniature replicas of a racing horse and jockey -- are the first in the world to measure the effect of slipstreaming on horses through wind tunnel tests.

The study comes as jockeys consider their strategies ahead of Australia's biggest horse race -- the Melbourne Cup -- on November 4, part of the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival.

Co-Chief Investigator, Professor Franz "Tino" Fuss, said slipstreaming was a standard strategy in sports such as cycling and speed skating to save athletes' power and energy.

"In a horse race, jockeys can use this same principle to give their horses an edge and help them reserve energy for that crucial final burst," Professor Fuss said.

"Our research for the first time quantifies how much drag is reduced through different slipstreaming tactics in a horse race.

"Jockeys, trainers, punters and betting companies should keep these findings in mind during the big days ahead of the Spring Racing Carnival."

The research showed the impact of different horse packs on drag (on average):

· Two horses in front of one horse: drag of trailing horse reduced by 66 per cent

· Four horses in a row: drag of last horse reduced by 54 per cent

· Two horses running closely behind each other: drag of leading horse reduced by 6.5 per cent, drag of trailing horse reduced by 38.5 per cent

· Five horses side by side: drag of centre horse increases by 25 per cent

From these principles and further results, the energy expenditure can be calculated throughout the race of each individual horse, as well as the overall energy savings when slipstreaming.

The research was conducted in the SportzEdge program of RMIT's Platform Technologies Research Institute, with co-Chief Investigator Professor Simon Watkins and aerospace engineering student Kevin Stark.

The above story is based on materials provided by RMIT University. Researchers conducted wind tunnel simulations to measure aerodynamic drag force. Credit: Image courtesy of RMIT University


from Australian National Maritime Museum


A compilation of footage from the National Film and Sound  Archive of troops and transport ships of the first overseas convoy of Australian infantry, October and November 1914. (NFSA Title No 45988)

 One-third to receive scholarships under deregulation

27 October 2014 - Almost a third of the University of Sydney's domestic undergraduate students could receive scholarships if the Federal Government's higher education reforms are passed in the Senate this week, according to modelling released today.

Vice-Chancellor, Dr Michael Spence has previously emphasised his intention to use additional revenue from deregulated fees to fund a scholarship program as well as improve teaching and learning at the University of Sydney.

For students with the greatest financial need, the level of support is likely to mean they will be better off under the deregulated system, regardless of their course of study. For example, a teaching student receiving the top level of financial support would be able to cover the increased HECS with that scholarship while also having funds to assist with living expenses.

The University of Western Australia has proposed pricing in the context of the government's planned deregulation of student fees, advising a flat fee of $16,000 per year of undergraduate study in 2016. The University of Sydney's modelling reveals that if it were to apply a similar approach, it would be able to inject an additional $80 million into student financial support. The University currently provides $80 million in scholarships to coursework and research students, funded mainly by government schemes, private donors and University reserves.

The University believes the additional scholarship fund would be best provided to students in part as support for living costs while students are studying, and in part as a debt payoff upon graduation and said it would investigate this proposal further.

"We are deeply committed to ensuring that the brightest students, regardless of their social or cultural background, should have access to a world-class education," said Dr Spence.

"We are dedicated to playing a leadership role in Australia by not only sustaining, but also improving access to tertiary education for underrepresented groups.

"The University of Sydney was the first in the world to admit students on academic merit alone, and for more than 160 years we have held that principle as fundamental to our purpose.

"Our new, sector-leading scholarships guarantee that Australia's brightest students will continue to have a place at the University of Sydney."


Friday 31 October 2014 - The 2014 Green Globe Awards were held at Parliament House last night to celebrate leading environmental work across NSW. 

Environment Minister Rob Stokes congratulated the 25 award winners, recognising their environmental excellence, leadership and innovation. 

“This year’s winners are leading by example and represent our most environmental-minded companies and organisations that are making sustainability an integral part of their operations,” Mr Stokes said. 

“The awards showcase companies that have increased their triple bottom line through sustainable processes, producing happier staff and customers, a healthier environment, and increased financial returns. 

“The winners include Serendipity Ice Cream who won for showing us that small businesses can build sustainability into their work and benefit from making carbon neutral products that we all love, like ice-cream. 

“The Green Globe winners come from a wide-range of industries and regions and show that smart and resourceful people are making sustainability business-as-usual. 

“Large energy saving initiatives such as the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall’s lighting upgrade are leading iconic Australian buildings into a sustainable future. 

“Regional Award winners like South East Local Land Services are helping local oyster farmers to improve the management of estuaries and the profitability of the oyster industry, helping the South Coast become widely recognised as one of the most sustainable oyster producing regions in Australia. 

“Gosford City Council won the Regional Sustainability Award for their stormwater recycling project designed to conserve valuable Central Coast drinking water. 

“The boutique hotel The Observatory, Port Macquarie won the Premier’s Award for Environmental Excellence for their range of resource saving initiatives and environmental engagement with hotel guests.” 

For more information on the

Congratulations to the 2014 Sustainability Champion Award Winners:

Karen Retra – Seed Savers Albury-Wodonga

Albury resident Karen Retra provides leadership and innovation across a range of environmental and sustainability endeavours. Her primary achievement has been to engage, encourage and help people adopt positive environmental behaviours. She works as a sustainability consultant and permaculture teacher, and as a volunteer is the driving force behind two environment and sustainability websites, as well as being a passionate advocate for Australian native bees and growing local food. Karen is the creator and manager of the Ecoportal websiteexternal link – a comprehensive listing of the Albury-Wodonga region’s environment and sustainability groups that contains a perpetual calendar of ‘eco’ events. She is also the creator of ‘Little House On The Hillexternal link’, a website that shares her efforts on conserving water, waste and energy to promote biodiversity. She is an ambassador for Australian native bees – sharing her knowledge through presentations, film, radio, social media and print. As secretary of Seed Savers Albury-Wodonga, Karen promotes events to educate the public in seed saving and backyard food production.

Tim Silverwood – Take 3 – a clean beach initiative

In 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.

 Fantastic Fungi: The Forbidden Fruit

To learn more about the film, visit

Twitter: @FantasticFungi 


 Researchers celebrate koala chlamydia breakthrough

Wednesday 29 October 2014

Scientists at the University of the Sunshine Coast are celebrating the world’s first successful field trial of a vaccine against chlamydia in koalas.

The breakthrough was announced today by USC microbiologists Professor Peter Timms and Dr Adam Polkinghorne, who have spent five years leading a team of collaborators on the vaccine project.

Professor Timms said his team’s research, which began at the Queensland University of Technology, has been funded by two Australian Research Council Linkage grants totalling more than $550,000 and has received significant industry and government support.

While previous trials of the vaccine involved captive koalas, the field trial over the past year has involved wild koalas roaming in their natural habitat in the Moreton Bay region north of Brisbane.

Project partners have included QUT, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Moreton Bay Regional Council, City of Gold Coast, Endeavour Veterinary Ecology, Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital, Friends of the Koala (NSW Northern Rivers), the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads and the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.

As part of its Moreton Bay Rail project, the Queensland Government contributed to the funding of a koala tagging and monitoring program that incorporated the USC-led chlamydia vaccine trial. Funding also came from Moreton Bay Regional Council.

Sixty koalas captured as part of this tagging and monitoring program were included in the trial, with 30 animals receiving the vaccine and 30 remaining unvaccinated as a control group. All 60 koalas were fitted with radio collars so they could be monitored.

Professor Timms said the vaccinated animals all showed good immune responses to the vaccine and, importantly, decreased chlamydia infection levels compared with the unvaccinated controls.

“This large trial has confirmed that the vaccine is safe to give to not only captive koalas, but also koalas in the wild,” he said.

“While these results are very promising, the trial will extend for at least another year. We hope to specifically show a positive effect of the vaccine on disease, not just infection, as well as female reproductive rates.”

Professor Timms said his team was keen to evaluate the vaccine on further koala populations threatened by chlamydial disease, but would require additional funds.

“We feel compelled to start using this vaccine more broadly, especially when we know that it is safe and has some definite positive benefit to the animals,” he said.

“But a project of this size and cost requires a large team of people, including veterinarians and field teams, in addition to the laboratory aspects.”

People can contribute to this important research at USC by donating to a special fund established by the University’s Office of Development.

State Environment Minister Andrew Powell said the Queensland Government had provided $358,000 towards the research as part of a range of koala protection programs and congratulated the team on its success.

“Chlamydia is one of the major threats to our koala populations and that’s why we’ve invested significant funds into combating this disease,” he said.

“Among other things, chlamydia in koalas can lead to blindness and infertility, so it’s clear why we need to support research that can stem these conditions.”

Moreton Bay Regional Councillor Brian Battersby congratulated the research team for its breakthrough on koala chlamydia and said the council was proud to have played a part in this important project.

“Moreton Bay Regional Council has been a keen advocate of the chlamydia research project from its early stages and assisted with the development of field trials in the Moreton Bay Region through funding and in-kind support,” he said.

— Terry Walsh

From: HERE 

 Oysters – Natural Filters

The water in both tanks is from the same time and place. The tank on the right has oysters.

 World losing 2,000 hectares of farm soil daily to salt damage

October 28, 2014 - Every day for more than 20 years, an average of 2,000 hectares of irrigated land in arid and semi-arid areas across 75 countries have been degraded by salt, according to a study by UN University's Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health, published Oct. 28. Today an area the size of France is affected -- about 62 million hectares (20%) of the world's irrigated lands, up from 45 million hectares in the early 1990s.

Salt-degradation occurs in arid and semi-arid regions where rainfall is too low to maintain regular percolation of rainwater through the soil and where irrigation is practiced without a natural or artificial drainage system.

Irrigation practices without drainage management trigger the accumulation of salts in the root zone, affecting several soil properties and reducing productivity.

"To feed the world's anticipated nine billion people by 2050, and with little new productive land available, it's a case of all lands needed on deck," says principal author Manzoor Qadir, Assistant Director, Water and Human Development, at UN University's Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health. "We can't afford not to restore the productivity of salt-affected lands."

The study, "Economics of Salt-induced Land Degradation and Restoration,"is published Tuesday Oct. 28 in the UN Sustainable Development journal Natural Resources Forum.

Zafar Adeel, Director of UNU-INWEH, notes the UN Food and Agriculture Organization projects a need to produce 70% more food by 2050, including a 50% rise in annual cereal production to about 3 billion tonnes.

"Each week the world loses an area larger than Manhattan to salt-degradation. A large portion of the affected areas in developing countries have seen investments made in irrigation and drainage but the infrastructure is not properly maintained or managed. Efforts to restore those lands to full productivity are essential as world population and food needs grow, especially in the developing world."

Well known salt-degraded land areas include:

Aral Sea Basin, Central Asia,

Indo-Gangetic Basin, India

Indus Basin, Pakistan

Yellow River Basin, China

Euphrates Basin, Syria and Iraq

Murray-Darling Basin, Australia, and

San Joaquin Valley, United States

The paper, authored by eight experts based in Canada, Jordan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, details crop productivity losses at farm, regional, and global scales, the cost of doing nothing, and the net economic benefit of preventing and/or reversing land degradation.

The estimated cost of crop losses was drawn from a review of more than 20 studies over the last 20 years in Australia, India, Pakistan, Spain, Central Asia and the USA.

Globally, irrigated lands cover some 310 million ha, an estimated 20% of it salt-affected (62 million ha). The inflation-adjusted cost of salt-induced land degradation in 2013 was estimated at $441 per hectare, yielding an estimate of global economic losses at $27.3 billion per year.

In India's Indo-Gangetic Basin, crop yield losses on salt-affected lands for wheat, rice, sugarcane and cotton grown on salt-affected lands could be 40%, 45%, 48%, and 63%, respectively. Employment losses could be 50-80 man-days per hectare, with an estimate 20-40% increase in human health problems and 15-50% increase in animal health problems.

In the Indus Basin in Pakistan, wheat grain yield losses from salt-affected lands ranged 20-43% with an overall average loss of 32%. For rice, the crop yield losses from salt-affected lands ranged 36-69% with an overall average loss of 48%.

Even in the USA's Colorado River Basin, studies show the annual economic impact of salt-induced land degradation in irrigated areas at US $750 million.

"It is important to note that the above numbers on global cost of salt-induced land degradation refer to economic losses based on crop yield losses only," the paper says.

"However, the crop yields from irrigated areas not affected by salinization have increased since 1990 due to factors such as improved crop varieties, efficient on-farm practices, better fertilizer use, and efficient water management practices. Consequently, there may be larger gaps in crop yields harvested from salt-affected and non-affected areas under similar agro-ecosystems, suggesting an underestimation of the economic cost of salt-induced land degradation."

"These costs are expected to be even higher when other cost components such as infrastructure deterioration (including roads, railways, and buildings), losses in property values of farms with degraded land, and the social cost of farm businesses are taken into consideration. In addition, there could be additional environmental costs associated with salt-affected degraded lands as these lands emit more greenhouse gases, thus contributing to global warming."

Among methods successfully used to facilitate drainage and reverse soil degradation: Tree planting, deep plowing, cultivation of salt-tolerant varieties of crops, mixing harvested plant residues into topsoil, and digging a drain or deep ditch around the salt-affected land.

Reversing land degradation and bringing salt-affected lands back into highly productive state are expected to result in favorable environmental benefits in addition to economic gains, although functional markets for many of the ecosystem services are currently embryonic or nonexistent.

Although there is a cost of investing in preventing land degradation, reversing land degradation, or restoring degraded land into productive land, these costs of action are much less than the costs of letting land degradation continue and intensify.

Pertinent policies, well-designed salinity management plans, supportive institutions, skilled human resources, provision of facilities and infrastructure for disposal of salts, capacity development of farmers, and utilization of locally available resources and indigenous knowledge of communities are crucial in combating salt-induced land degradation.

Salt-induced land degradation may also affect the business sector negatively either directly or indirectly, targeting their inputs, outputs, or processes. The businesses in close connection with natural resources may be affected, such as those dealing with basic resources (forestry, wood, pulp, and paper), food and beverage, construction and materials, industrial goods and services (transportation and packaging), utilities (water and electricity), personal and household goods (clothing, footwear, and furniture), leisure and travel (hotels and restaurants), and real estate. Therefore, reversing salt-induced land degradation would help these sectors achieve potential economic gains by providing needed levels of materials and services.

1. M. Qadir, E. Quillérou, V. Nangia, G. Murtaza, M. Singh, R.J. Thomas, P. Drechsel, A.D. Noble. Economics of salt-induced land degradation and restoration. Natural Resources Forum, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/1477-8947.12054

 Have a say in the future of Kamay Botany Bay National Park

Media release: 31 October 2014

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is asking the community to comment on proposed amendments to the Plan of Management for Kamay Botany Bay National Park at La Perouse.

NPWS Director Mr Tom Bagnat said the public exhibition of the proposed amendments would seek comments on how visitors and the community want to enjoy the popular precinct.

“This area of Kamay Botany Bay National Park has an amazing history that tells the story of thousands of years of Aboriginal culture in the area, the story of European settlement and fortification, early exploration by the French and the importance to occupants of Happy Valley during the Great Depression and after,” Mr Bagnat said.

Mr Bagnat said the proposed amendments would aim to revitalise the La Perouse area by:

Improving the area for all visitors, encouraging more visitors to the Museum and providing better access for people wanting to explore the area and particularly better access for people who are less mobile; and

Exploring opportunities for leasing and adaptive reuse of the area and the existing buildings, including the potential for the use of the existing building as a café, kiosk or function and conference facility to make the area more attractive for visitors.

Discussions have commenced with Randwick City Council, who have expressed an interest in assuming an active management role in the precinct. Any lease will be guided by the updated PoM and ongoing public consultation.

“These are draft amendments for public discussion and allowing the public to have a say,” Mr Bagnat said.

 “Kamay Botany Bay National Park is significant to all Australians, which is why it was listed on the State Heritage Register in 2013.

“We are encouraging as many people as possible to look at the amendments and let us know what they think. Submissions are open until 17 December 2014.”

The draft amendments to the Plan of Management for Kamay Botany Bay National Park re available

 Agricultural Green Paper released: it’s time to have your say

The Australian Government has released the Agricultural Competitiveness Green Paper today and is asking everyone in agriculture to have their say on a range of new proposals and policy suggestions.

Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, said that the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper that the Coalition Government has carriage of is seminal to who we are, where we came from, and is a vital part of the puzzle of how we get out of our current financial bind.

"The Green Paper outlines fresh ideas on a range of vitally important issues for the future of our nation including infrastructure, drought support, trade and finance.

"The Green Paper is a reflection of the Coalition Government's commitment to maintaining family farming as the cornerstone of Australian agriculture and to support those on the land who engage in food and fibre production, an inherently noble and good occupation.

"People on the land feed and clothe people. You are on the land if you farm, if you work in an abattoir, if you transport produce in logistics, if you are a vet or a farm worker and if you are the family that owns the farm.

"I said I wanted to hear the big ideas, to shake things up—I was looking for new policies to truly support our farmers and our strong agricultural sector into the future. The Green Paper certainly delivers with options to consider 25 diverse policy themes," Minister Joyce said.

"Now it's about whittling these ideas down and deciding what’s really important to take into the future, particularly given the tight fiscal environment we are working in.

"As a nation, we need a competitive and innovative agricultural sector—a sector that increases farmgate profitability, has expanded export and trade opportunities, and strengthens our rural and regional communities.

"Some of the suggestions stakeholders had for drought support included increasing support for commercial multi-peril crop insurance, more accurate weather and climatic information and increased mental health support.

"In infrastructure, we want the views of producers on the costs and benefits of major investments ranging from road, rail and shipping terminals to regional air hubs, new dams, and communication services and programmes.

"Regarding water infrastructure, the government is seeking to identify new dam and infrastructure projects that can deliver Australia's water supply needs in the future.

"The paper suggests ways to reduce Commonwealth, state and territory regulatory burden and to improve market competition by strengthening domestic competition laws.

"Many of the submissions received through the issues paper consultations raised the need for greater investment in biosecurity information and intelligence gathering tools.

"In terms of taxation and finance, the government is also seeking input on proposals to amend income tax averaging provisions, alter non-commercial loss rules and change the eligibility boundaries for the Zone Tax Offset.

We're looking to farmers to tell us about the most important ideas and the policies we should focus on to take agriculture forward—so feedback will be very useful.

"Everyone has the opportunity to have their say on the Green Paper. Submissions are open online until 12 December 2014. Now is the time to help shape Australian agriculture into a stronger, more profitable and more sustainable sector," Minister Joyce said.

To read the Green Paper, or provide a submission in response, visit:

 IUCN World Parks Congress Sydney 2014

The IUCN World Parks Congress 2014 is a landmark global forum on parks and protected areas held once every 10 years. The Congress will be hosted in Sydney, Australia from 12 – 19 November 2014, on the theme Parks, Planet, People: inspiring solutions. 

The Congress program consists of eight concurrent streams which are Reaching Conservation Goals, Responding to Climate Change, Improving Health and Well-being, Supporting Human Life, Reconciling Development Challenges, Enhancing Diversity & Quality of Governance, Respecting Indigenous & Traditional Knowledge and Culture and Inspiring a New Generation. One stream alone, the Improving Health and Wellbeing: Healthy Parks Healthy People will have over 150 speakers from around the world will contribute and between 3000 to 5000 delegates are expected to attend this very significant Congress. You will benefit from their expertise, practical lessons learnt and plans for positive change. 

Attendees will range from world leaders in environment, health, tourism, education and urban planning fields and more, to young people with a passion and interest in creating a better future. As well as an incredibly informative week-long program there will be opportunities to network at social events, field trips around Sydney and Australia, and opportunities to be involved in groups taking specific action after the Congress to deliver on commitments for positive change. 

For more information or to register go

Abbott Government decides dumping on Barrier Reef wetlands without environmental impact statement

Media-release- 29 Oct 2014 | Larissa Waters - Greens Senator

The federal Environment Minister is deciding whether dredge spoil can be dumped on or near wetlands on the Great Barrier Reef’s coastline without an environmental impact statement.

“It’s disgraceful that Minister Hunt is deciding whether millions of tonnes of dredge spoil can be dumped on or near the Caley Valley wetlands, bordering the Great Barrier Reef, without even properly assessing the environmental impacts.

“Disposal of the Abbot Point coal port dredge spoil on the shores of the Great Barrier Reef at the Caley Valley wetlands is the second cheapest, dirtiest option after dumping the sludge in Reef waters.

“Has the government learnt nothing from the leaking bund wall at Gladstone, when coastal dredge spoil dumping polluted the Reef’s World Heritage waters because of dodgy wall lining?    

“The stunning, internationally significant Caley Valley wetlands are habitat to threatened shorebird species, a fish breeding ground and an important filter for water running into the Great Barrier Reef.

“Not only is Minister Hunt failing to require an environmental impact statement to dump on or near these wetlands, and instead simply assessing it based on paperwork, he also hasn’t revoked the permit to dump the Abbot Point dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef.

“So it’s up to the proponent, Campbell Newman, who is no friend of the Reef’s, to decide whether to dump on the Reef or its wetlands.

“All of this reckless damage is being allowed to build the world’s largest coal port in the Great Barrier Reef, which would export millions of tonnes of fossil fuels to exacerbate climate change, the biggest threat facing our Reef.

 “The Abbott and Newman governments realised that the community was not going to let them dump dredge spoil into the Great Barrier Reef so now they’ve moved on to the second dirtiest option and are closing their eyes to its environmental impacts.

“The community, tourism operators, fishers, scientists and the World Heritage Committee will not stand for this. 

“The Abbott Government should revoke its entire approval of the world’s largest coal port in the Great Barrier Reef.

“At the very least it must revoke the offshore dumping permit and require a full environmental impact statement which includes considering onshore sites further inland,” Senator Waters said.


28th of October, 2014: Assessment Decision signed off by Deb Callister - Assistant Secretary, Queensland and Sea Dumping Assessment BranchHERE

Coastal Environment Centre

The Coastal Environment Centre (CEC) is a multi-award winning regional community environmental learning centre, and Pittwater Council's environmental flagship. CEC is celebrating its 20th year this December

More at:

Monthly Cooee Newsletter below. If you would like to receive Council's environmental newsletter via email, please

November 2014 Cooee Newsletter includes information on: BushCare Planting Activities (volunteers needed), Workshops and Events, and great articles HERE 

 Emissions Reduction Fund passes Senate

Media release - 31 October 2014

This morning the Senate has passed legislation to put in place the Emissions Reduction Fund.

For nearly five years the Emissions Reduction Fund has been the centrepiece of the Coalition’s plan to tackle climate change.

It is a cost-effective and practical approach that will reduce our national emissions without a multi-billion dollar carbon tax.

The Coalition took plans for an Emissions Reduction Fund to two elections. Labor never took plans for a carbon tax to an election. In fact, Labor promised never to introduce a carbon tax.

At the last election the Coalition was given a clear mandate to introduce the Emissions Reduction Fund and we are delivering on our commitment.

We are delivering on our promise to the Australian people to tackle climate change without a painful carbon tax.

The $2.55 billion Emissions Reduction Fund will help Australian businesses and communities enjoy the benefits of a cleaner environment and help Australia to meet its emissions reduction target of five per cent below 2000 levels by 2020.

We’re providing incentives for businesses and organisations to come forward with emissions reductions opportunities that they’ve identified across the Australian economy.

Competitive auctions will be held and the Government will enter into contracts to buy emissions reductions from successful bidders at lowest cost.

We will achieve emissions reductions that are real and significant. This is because payment for abatement will only be made when emissions reductions are actually delivered.

The contrast between the climate change policies of the Coalition and Labor could not be more stark. We want to provide incentives to create positive change. Labor wants to punish Australian families for going about their everyday lives.

The Carbon Farming Initiative Amendment Bill 2014, which puts in place the Emissions Reduction Fund, will now return to the House of Representatives.

 Demand justice for 150 wombats buried alive by a logging company

A logging company in New South Wales, Australia has buried at least 150 bare-nosed wombats while they were still alive. 

About 150 burrows were marked with GPS co-ordinates in bright paint by the Wombat Protection Society in the Glenbog State Forest, so loggers could avoid the burrows. The NSW Environment Protection Authority confirmed the Forestry Corporation had agreed to ensure entrances to the burrows weren’t obstructed.

However, the contractors ignored the markings, with some observers alleging they deliberately removed them, and buried the wombats alive by allowing debris to cover their burrows.

Wombat Protection volunteers found nine collapsed burrows, as well as four burrows that had been so compacted by machinery and logs that they couldn’t be re-opened. They also found a burrow where a road had been built right over the entrance.

Logging interests have tried to argue that bare-nosed wombats make various entrances to their burrows, however, wildlife experts say they just have one entrance in and out, so if it is ploughed over the wombats are subject to a slow death due to lack of food and water.

The callous disregard of the loggers is nothing less than animal cruelty – all of them must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Please sign and share the petition to demand justice for 150 wombats buried alive by a logging company. At HERE


Thursday 30 October 2014 - Environment Minister Rob Stokes today announced applications are now open for $700,000 of funding for community owned renewable energy projects.

Consistent with the Renewable Energy Action Plan, these grants will support local communities to set up their own renewable energy projects.

“These grants will minimise the upfront administrative costs of community energy projects, and unlock the potential that small-scale renewable energy has to offer,” Mr Stokes said.

“This funding will open up the benefits that decentralised electricity can provide to local communities. Projects that benefit low income families will receive priority.

Mr Stokes today joined Kiama MP Gareth Ward at Shoalhaven Heads Bowling Club to open their 99kW solar panel system, capable of meeting the power needs of 30 households, which was set up by not-for-profit community organisation RepowerShoalhaven.

Mr Ward said Repower Shoalhaven received $10,000 from the NSW Government to help develop community renewable energy models that can be used across the Shoalhaven region and surroundings.

“This project is Australia’s largest community owned commercial solar power system and I congratulate the bowling club and Repower Shoalhaven on this extraordinary achievement,” Mr Ward said.

“This project shows how we can meet the needs of today, without jeopardising the needs of future generations. That’s the power of renewable energy.”

For more information

 Deepwater Horizon spill: Much of the oil at bottom of the sea

October 27, 2014 - Due to the environmental disaster's unprecedented scope, assessing the damage caused by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been a challenge. One unsolved puzzle is the location of 2 million barrels of submerged oil thought to be trapped in the deep ocean.

UC Santa Barbara's David Valentine and colleagues from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) and UC Irvine have been able to describe the path the oil followed to create a footprint on the deep ocean floor. The findings appear today in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

For this study, the scientists used data from the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The United States government estimates the Macondo well's total discharge - from the spill in April 2010 until the well was capped that July - to be 5 million barrels.

By analyzing data from more than 3,000 samples collected at 534 locations over 12 expeditions, they identified a 1,250-square-mile patch of the deep sea floor upon which 2 to 16 percent of the discharged oil was deposited. The fallout of oil to the sea floor created thin deposits most intensive to the southwest of the Macondo well. The oil was most concentrated within the top half inch of the sea floor and was patchy even at the scale of a few feet.

The investigation focused primarily on hopane, a nonreactive hydrocarbon that served as a proxy for the discharged oil. Researchers analyzed the spatial distribution of hopane in the northern Gulf of Mexico and found it was most concentrated in a thin layer at the sea floor within 25 miles of the ruptured well, clearly implicating Deepwater Horizon as the source.

"Based on the evidence, our findings suggest that these deposits come from Macondo oil that was first suspended in the deep ocean and then settled to the sea floor without ever reaching the ocean surface," said Valentine, a professor of earth science and biology at UCSB. "The pattern is like a shadow of the tiny oil droplets that were initially trapped at ocean depths around 3,500 feet and pushed around by the deep currents. Some combination of chemistry, biology and physics ultimately caused those droplets to rain down another 1,000 feet to rest on the sea floor."

Valentine and his colleagues were able to identify hotspots of oil fallout in close proximity to damaged deep-sea corals. According to the researchers, this data supports the previously disputed finding that these corals were damaged by the Deepwater Horizon spill.

"The evidence is becoming clear that oily particles were raining down around these deep sea corals, which provides a compelling explanation for the injury they suffered," said Valentine. "The pattern of contamination we observe is fully consistent with the Deepwater Horizon event but not with natural seeps - the suggested alternative."

While the study examined a specified area, the scientists argue that the observed oil represents a minimum value. They purport that oil deposition likely occurred outside the study area but so far has largely evaded detection because of its patchiness.

"This analysis provides us with, for the first time, some closure on the question 'Where did the oil go and how?' " said Don Rice, program director in the National Science Foundation's Division of Ocean Sciences. "It also alerts us that this knowledge remains largely provisional until we can fully account for the remaining 70 percent."

"These findings should be useful for assessing the damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon spill as well as planning future studies to further define the extent and nature of the contamination," Valentine concluded. "Our work can also help to assess the fate of reactive hydrocarbons, test models of oil's behavior in the ocean and plan for future spills."

1. David L. Valentine, G. Burch Fisher, Sarah C. Bagby, Robert K. Nelson, Christopher M. Reddy, Sean P. Sylva, and Mary A. Woo.Fallout plume of submerged oil from Deepwater Horizon.PNAS, October 27, 2014 DOI:10.1073/pnas.1414873111 Picture: Controlled burning of surface oil slicks during the Deepwater Horizon event. Credit: David Valentine

 Sponges will thrive as many corals decline from ocean acidification

28th October 2014 - Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) scientists have revealed that some sponges may be able to adapt to ocean acidification while many corals may struggle to survive. The research was published in a new study this week in the Nature journal, International Society for Microbial Ecology (ISME). The study focused on the analysis of microorganisms that have a symbiotic relationship with sponges and corals at naturally-occurring volcanic seeps in Papua New Guinea, a site where there is a higher partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2) compared to other parts of the world’s ocean. 

“Our study showed that the microorganisms living in close association with corals do not particularly like ocean acidification. Shifts in the coral-associated microbes likely have detrimental effects on coral health at the seep sites. However, other animals such as sponges, which do not calcify and make hard skeletons, may actually benefit from the high carbon dioxide levels,  by using the by-products produced by their microbes to their benefit. For example, some cyanobacteria found in the sponge tissues likely consume the extra carbon dioxide, which improves their photosynthetic efficiency and passes more beneficial nutrients to the sponge” said AIMS scientist, Dr Kathleen Morrow.

Morrow explained that because of ocean acidification, where more carbon dioxide is being absorbed by the oceans, marine organisms and their microbial helpers will need to survive under conditions that are also more acidic (i.e. a lower pH).

“For many marine organisms such as corals that need to create their own skeleton, a lower surrounding pH makes this task much harder, thereby risking their long term growth and survival,” added Morrow.

The researchers found that some reef sponges (C. singaporensis and Cinachyra sp.) can survive in conditions with higher levels of carbon dioxide likely due to an increase in beneficial microbes. However, another sponge species (S. massa) and both study corals (A. millepora and P. cylindrica corals) do poorly at the CO2 seep sites, which  suggests they are more vulnerable to the long-term effects of ocean acidification.

These results provide important insights into how reefs may look in the future if human beings continue to burn fossil fuels at the current rate. This research, coupled with previous studies at the CO2 seeps by researchers at AIMS (Fabricius et al. 2011 and 2013), suggests that there will be a loss of hard corals and a shift to other marine species such as sponges and macroalgae that can better take advantage of future environmental conditions.

Journal: International Society for Microbial Ecology (ISME) Title:Natural volcanic CO2 seeps reveal future trajectories for host–microbial associations in corals and sponges

Authors: Kathleen Morrow, David Bourne, Craig Humphrey, Emmanuelle Botté, Patrick Laffy, Jesse Zaneveld, Sven Uthicke, Katharina Fabricius and Nicole Webster.

This study examined microbes of sponges and corals at naturally-occurring volcanic seeps 

 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 EndangeredNSW 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

 Long-nosed potoroo bounces back into Booderee

Media Release - 29 October 2014

After ten years of planning, this week Booderee National Park is welcoming back a small population of long-nosed potoroo. Fifteen of these tiny members of the kangaroo family were reintroduced into the park last night, after being extinct in the area for many years, and more will be released in Booderee today.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment, Senator Simon Birmingham, said the 15 potoroos were captured from state forests near Eden yesterday, before being delivered to Booderee further up the South Coast of NSW.

“The trapping this week has been a great success, with 15 potoroos already settling into their new home in Booderee National Park,” Senator Birmingham said.

“These wily potoroos have had us guessing - a few months back, the team tried trapping them for a full week without success, so it’s great to see so many captured in a single day.”

Dr Nick Dexter, Senior Project Officer with Parks Australia said the release of the charismatic native species was made possible by Booderee’s extensive fox control programme.

“After all the gloomy stories about the extinction of small mammals, we’re proud to be reversing the trend for this species,” Dr Dexter said.  

“Small mammals are vulnerable to predators like the introduced red fox. Our intensive fox control programme over the past ten years has paid off - predator numbers have been significantly lowered to the point that the reintroduction of the long-nosed potoroo is possible.

“But we couldn’t do this on our own - it’s a great story of scientific collaboration across a range of agencies.”

The animals that were brought to Booderee were previously living in the vast state forests south of Eden, where a number of threatened species are now flourishing thanks to predator control by the Forestry Corporation of NSW.

“In 2008 we changed our baiting from a traditional seasonal programme to ongoing landscape control over 100,000 hectares,” Forestry Corporations Senior Field Ecologist Peter Kambouris said.

“The long-nosed potoroo was one of the first species to increase.

“I was aware that Booderee wanted to reintroduce long-nosed potoroo into the park, so when our monitoring suggested that our numbers were robust enough to support a translocation, we gave them a call.”

Teams from Booderee, the Forestry Corporation, the Australian National University and the Southern Ark team from DEPI Victoria set traps in several areas in the state forests around Eden known to be inhabited by the species.

“We were specifically after a particular male to female ratio, reproductive status, age and condition,” Dr Dexter said.

“Once trapped, the animals were given a health check by a specialist vet from Taronga Zoo before being fitted with micro chips and radio trackers to ensure we can track their movements and monitor their health in their new environment.

“These potoroos were trapped, checked, and released into Booderee on the same day in order to minimise any stress on the animals.”

Over the next three years up to 36 long-nosed potoroos will be reintroduced into Booderee National Park where they should thrive once more.

Tony Carter, a member of the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community and Booderee staff member, said the long-nosed potoroo were once an important and abundant species for the local traditional owners.

“Our people recognise the important role these animals play in the health of our country. I am glad to see introduced pests managed to a level where important native species can be returned,” Mr Carter said.

NSW Department of Primary Industries Invasive Species Officer, Mr Paul Meek said it is a real credit to the Forestry Corporation and Parks Australia teams to have seen their predator control programmes through to this stage.

“This reintroduction of the long-nosed potoroo from State Forests back into the park is a pivotal milestone in the strategic management of pests and the species in New South Wales,” Mr Meek said.

Background Information

Small mammals such as bandicoots, bettongs and long-nosed potoroos perform a vitally important function in forest ecosystems.  They consume large amounts of hypogeal fungi which are better known as truffles. The truffles are high in nutrients and have a strong smell. The small mammals are attracted to these truffles and eat them and then deposit the spores from the fungi in their faeces. As the scattered spores grow into fungi they form a mutually beneficial relationship with forest trees. When the fungi infest the roots of trees, the trees provide water and carbon to the fungi and the fungi extract nutrients from the soil for the trees. Scientists believe this is probably the reason why large trees were able to grow at Booderee despite the very poor soil. Reintroducing the potoroos may help spread these beneficial fungi further and more efficiently through Booderee’s forests.

It is unclear when the long-nosed potoroo disappeared from the Jervis Bay region. However, we know they were present in the area for thousands of years before the introduction of foxes because of their abundant presence in Aboriginal middens dating back to historic times. Adult long-nosed potoroos weigh up to 1.6kg and have a head and body length of about 360mm and a tail length between 200-260mm. Their fur is greyish brown on their backs and light brown on their belly.

Common Myna Control Campaign 

Have you noticed myna birds invading your neighbourhood? 

Do you want to do something about them?

The Pittwater Natural Heritage Association is seeking expressions of interest from members who would like to be involved in setting up a Pittwater Myna Control Group. 

There are a number of strategies that can be employed to control the spread of these pests and a number of towns and cities around Australia have been able to reduce the numbers of myna birds in their localities. 

If you are interested please email David Palmer

 Calling all Landcare and Bushcare Groups!

Did you know that Landcare NSW provides a space for individual Landcare and Bushcare groups to have their own webpage? You can use the page to provide information on your group, share photos and provide updates on current works. It’s a great way to show the rest of the New South Wales, Australia and even the world all the amazing work you do. 

Find out more at:


Mona Vale Dunes Bushcare Group

Recent weed control funding has enabled a large area to be replanted with local native species on the Mona Vale dunes behind the Mona Vale Golf Course. This work may have encouraged a recent visit from a family of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos. The Bushcare group was given a lovely insight into the birds’ family life, where the mother listened for sounds of caterpillars in dead wattle branches while a juvenile begs nearby. Meanwhile the father sat up on a higher branch keeping watch. 

If you’d love the opportunity to see these beautiful birds up close and personal or just want to give some of your time to help keep Pittwater beautiful, then please contact Council’s Bushcare Officer on 9970 1367.

The Mona Vale Dunes Bushcare Group meets regularly on the 3rd Thursday and 2nd Saturday of each month from 8:30 – 11:30am at the end of Golf Avenue. New volunteers are always welcome!

Bushcare Workshops

Saturday 22 November, 1 to 4pm

Are you new to Bushcare in Pittwater or thinking about getting involved? Or are you simply looking for some skills and techniques for identifying and removing weeds from your backyard? If you answered ‘Yes’ then this is an essential workshop to learn the tips, tricks and identification skills to conduct bush regeneration work in our local reserves or your native garden. 

The workshop will be split into two components, a theory session and a field trip to nearby bushland. 

In the theory session participants will be guided through a provided booklet in order to learn some of the most common weeds and native plants, including those extra tricky ‘look-a-like plants’. Some live samples of plants will help aid the learning process. Correct removal techniques for specific weeds will also be shown, along with some of the core principles of bush regeneration and conducting safe work practices in the bush. The field trip will put this newly found knowledge into practice, identifying natives and weeds in a bushland setting, and discussing strategies for managing weed infested areas. 

When: Saturday 22 November, 1 to 4pm

Where: North Narrabeen - This is a free workshop for Pittwater residents only. Bookings Essential! Online In person: Coastal Environment Centre, Lake Park Road, North Narrabeen Phone: 1300 000 232 (Reception - Option 1)

Escarpment Walk 

Sunday 26 October, 9am – 12pm

We’re inviting local residents to join us on a walk through one of Pittwater’s spectacular reserves. This walk takes you through Pittwater’s largest continuous piece of bushland which contains many beautiful plant communities and threatened fauna. After the spring rains it is an outstanding time to experience our bushland come alive with wildlife and flowering plants. 

The walk is 1.5km one-way and is a little steep in parts, so although we will be taking it at a gentle pace a reasonable level of fitness is required. Bring a pair of walking shoes, snacks, water and sense of adventure!

Where: Meet point provided on booking. Bookings Essential!Online - In person: Coastal Environment Centre, Lake Park Road, North Narrabeen Phone: 1300 000 232 (Reception - Option 1)

Frog Watch Night! 

Thursday 6 November, 7 to 9:30pm

Frogs are some of our most secretive and sensitive water creatures. Come and learn more about our local frogs and how important they are for telling us the level of health of our creeks and wetlands. 

Pittwater Council will be hosting a workshop with frog expert Dr. Arthur White. This workshop includes an information session followed by a tour of a local wetlands site. We will use spotlights and listening to frog calls to identify our local froggy friends. It’s a great adventure for all the family. Children must be over eight years of age and accompanied by an adult. Bring a torch, a headlamp (optional) and walking shoes. 

Where: Meet point provided on booking. Bookings Essential!Online - In person: Coastal Environment Centre, Lake Park Road, North Narrabeen  Phone: 1300 000 232 (Reception - Option 1)

Snake and Spider Awareness Seminar 

Sunday 16 November, 1pm – 3pm

We live in an area that has such a variety of natural beauty however, it’s also home to many snakes and spiders. Learn more about these creatures at our upcoming seminar on snake and spider awareness.

Presenter Craig Adams is an expert in the field and provides a highly informative session which includes practical and easily understood information relating to Australia’s venomous snakes and spiders including: 

Safety awareness and preventative measures

First aid treatment for snake and spider bites

Emergency response procedures

Snake and spider identification, habitat and behaviours

This is a fantastic free activity and a great opportunity for the whole family to learn more about these amazing creatures. 

Where: Meet point provided on booking.  Cost: Free! Bookings Essential! Online - In person: Coastal Environment Centre, Lake Park Road, North Narrabeen Phone: 1300 000 232 (Reception - Option 1)

Rock Platform Tour  

Saturday 22 November, 2 – 4pm

Come and join us on a low-tide rock platform tour. Once the ocean retreats an amazing world becomes uncovered for us to enjoy. Investigate the amazing diversity of life that lives between the land and the sea and how these creatures survive in such a unique and challenging environment. Sea stars, sea hares, limpets and crabs are some of the amazing creatures that call these rock platforms home. The tour is a great opportunity to learn about the amazingly abundant life that exists in these special places. Guided by local experts it’s a great way to learn about a world that is rarely seen. 

An amazing adventure for all the family!

Where: Meet point provided on booking. What to bring: sturdy covered shoes that can get wet, hat, sunscreen, water, camera (optional) Bookings Essential! 

Online -

In person: Coastal Environment Centre, Lake Park Road, North Narrabeen Phone: 1300 000 232 (Reception - Option 1)

Bird Watching with Pittwater Natural Heritage Association (PNHA)

Sunday Birdwatching with PNHA

Would you like to know more about local birds? Our guides can help you see and hear them in these wonderful bushland reserves, and learn about their lives.

Our birdwalks start about 7.30 and end about 10am. Bring Binoculars and some morning tea for afterwards if you like. Older children welcome. 

16 November Irrawong Reserve, Warriewood

Contact us to book and get details of each birdwalk.

Email or ph: 0439 409 202/0402 605 721

 History Week 5- 13 September 2015 – War, Nationalism and Identity

We are delighted to announce the new theme for History Week 2015 - War, Nationalism and Identity. Registrations for events and speaker connect will open in early November, 2014.

How does war shape ideas of nation and identity? Is baptism on the battlefield a prerequisite of nationhood and a sense of national identity? What are the roles of ideas and political movements in creating and shaping nation states? In 2015 the theme of History Week will focus on the history of nation building, nationalism and national identity as the products of both peaceful and violent processes, focussing on generals and politicians, constitution makers and revolutionaries.

History Week will take place between 5- 13 September 2015.

It is often argued that the Australian was born of War, on the slopes of Gallipoli to be precise. But historians have also suggested that the cost of the war was so great- the country was left internally divided, a generation of men was lost on the battlefields of the Western Front and the economy was left shattered- that in 1919 Australia was a broken nation.

The Second World War  was also seen as a nation building exercise, especially in the dark days of late 1941, early 1942, when invasion seemed imminent and political leaders argued that Australia’s capacity for resistance would be a measure of the strength of nationhood. But World War II proved less costly both in economic and human terms, and this time the country was not left divided by sectarian or political issues. In 1945 Australia was better prepared for growth and prosperity than at any time in its history.

How then does war shape ideas of nation and identity? Is baptism on the battlefield a prerequisite of nationhood and a sense of national identity? What are the roles of ideas and political movements in creating and shaping nation states? In 2015 the theme of History Week will focus on the history of nation building, nationalism and national identity as the products of both peaceful and violent processes, focussing on generals and politicians, constitution makers and revolutionaries.

Find out more at:

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.

 University's men's crew shine at Australian Boat Race

26 October 2014 - The University of Sydney male eights crew took line honours over the University of Melbourne at the Australian Boat Race.

Sydney Harbour glistened and the home crowd cheered from water and land as the University of Sydney male eights crew took line honours at the Australian Boat Race. The women's eight crew also improved on last year's performance, but were beaten by Melbourne rivals by less than 30 seconds.

The Sydney men's crew took the lead early and cox Will Raven successfully navigated the tough harbour conditions to beat the University of Melbourne titleholders by less than ten seconds. Sydney University men's captain and 2014 World Championships bronze medallist Sasha Belonogoff said all four crews got an honest taste of the Harbour.

"The sun was out and it was a beautiful morning, but the conditions were definitely rolley. We knew we had to keep our rhythm and I think efficiency won it for us in the end," he said.

"This win was a year in the making. The loss last year down in Melbourne really fired us up."

University of Sydney women's captain Rebecca Humphries said that despite the loss, she was incredibly proud of her crew.

"We are really proud of what we pulled off today. Last year the Melbourne crew won by a minute, this year it was 28 seconds. We feel we are really building and setting the trajectory for next year," she said.

University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence said: " It was a fantastic day in a fabulous city."

The Oxford vs. Cambridge style race builds on a rivalry established in the early 1900s when the annual intervarsity boat race for eight-oared crews between Australian universities was a major event on the national rowing calendar. In 2009, to mark the 150th anniversary of the first race between the two old rowing clubs, a time trial was held on the Yarra. In 2010 the Australian Boat Race became an annual head-to-head feature, with each city hosting biannually.

The crews consist of both graduate and undergraduate rowers, with at least seven members of each crew (nine including coxswain) required to be current students.

For a more comprehensive history of the race visit the Australian Boat Race.


29 OCTOBER 2014 - New software which offers scientists and researchers an easy way to analyse, model and visualise scientific datasets has been released by CSIRO.

The free software, known as Workspace, is purpose-built for scientific applications and allows researchers to present their findings through stunning visualisations.

Developed over the past eight years at CSIRO, Workspace has already been used for a wide range of projects, including natural disaster modelling, human movement and industrial and agricultural research.

One CSIRO team has already used the software to model and visualise simulations for storm surges and flash flooding, helping with disaster management planning.

Working with the Australian Institute of Sport, another team has produced a 3D biomechanical computer model of different swimming strokes, allowing athletes to adjust their technique for maximum performance.

Dr John Taylor from CSIRO's Digital Productivity Flagship said the software offered huge efficiency savings for researchers from all fields who work with datasets and complex analysis, freeing them up to spend more time focused on their scientific expertise.

"In institutions all around the world, researchers operate within similar workflows; sourcing data, analysing it, processing it - often using high-performance computing environments," Dr Taylor said.

"Very often, this involves a number of manual repetitive steps.

"Workspace makes these steps easy to automate. In one application, analysis that had previously taken two weeks to conduct manually was carried out in less than an hour.

"Scientists also need to publish the outcomes of their research. Workspace allows them to easily release the software and analysis that backs up their findings."

According to Dr Taylor, another advantage of Workspace is that users don't need advanced programming skills and it runs on many different platforms and environments.

"At the moment, scientists often have to write their own purpose-built code from scratch - even when this is not their primary skill set," he said.

"This approach is inefficient, prone to error, difficult to reproduce by other scientists and unsuitable to take into the commercial world.

"Workspace can be used by non-software experts, allowing scientists from all over the globe to use the same platform and collaborate seamlessly on projects."

As well as these benefits, Workspace's data visualisations can help scientists make their research more understandable and accessible.

"If others can easily grasp what your science means, this opens it up to brand new audiences," Dr Taylor said.

"This not only helps researchers engage with the public, but it also allows them to reach out to other collaborators in the science community and industry."

Workspace has already been used successfully by scientists at University College London, and locally by research institutions including the Australian National University, Macquarie University and the University of New South Wales.

Workspace is being launched today at the 2014 eResearch Australasia Conference. It is free to download for research purposes and can be licensed for commercial applications.

Software available for download at:

Top: Simulated liquid flow with velocity magnitude information mapped onto meshed surface.

 Solution for Big Data

28 October 2014 - Australian cloud-computing experts based at the University of Sydney will work with researchers in the United Arab Emirates to find better methods for exploring and exploiting large quantities of stored data.

Professor Albert Zomaya, Chair of High Performance Computing and Networking, and his colleague Dr Young Choon Lee from the School of Information Technologies have been awarded a $920,000 ICT Fund grant to support their work into the design and development of scalable solutions for the storage and accessing of large volumes of data. The pair will work in collaboration with researchers from Khalifa University, UAE, headed by Dr. Paul Yoo.

According to Professor Zomaya 90 percent of the globe 's current data was created over the past few years and with emerging internet technologies and associated devices the upward trend will continue for the foreseeable future.

"Over the past decade, intelligent data models have been widely used in a number of massive and complex data-intensive fields such as astronomy, biology, climatology, medicine, and finance," he says.

However, 60 percent of industry executives report they are not effectively using their company 's stored data.

"Our models will maintain if not improve the predictive and scalable performances of data storage.

The underlying principle of our work is to increase locality and minimise data movement to reduce network traffic," says Professor Zomaya.

To minimise energy consumption the group plans to design models and algorithms with the least processing and memory requirements.

The research team also plans to optimise the processing of big data by integrating intelligent machine-learning research with clouds, giving it more flexibility to rely on sites in the cloud to provide a computation-hosting framework to support virtual machine-hosting services.

Both of these says Professor Zomaya represent basic Cloud infrastructure.

This will allow users to apply their own applications to the data and their resources can be accessed as and when users need them," states Professor Zomaya.

"It is important to provide scalability that will allow businesses to gauge cloud resources up/out or down depending on their enterprise 's need."

This would free the business from procuring resources for peak or future needs as cloud resources would be available in minimal time.

Professor Zomaya is a lecturer in IT Research Methods at the School of Information Technologies.

 Breathe easier: Get your vitamin D

October 28, 2014 - Asthma, which inflames and narrows the airways, has become more common in recent years. While there is no known cure, asthma can be managed with medication and by avoiding allergens and other triggers. A new study by a Tel Aviv University researcher points to a convenient, free way to manage acute asthmatic episodes - catching some rays outside.

According to a paper recently published in the journalAllergy, measuring and, if need be, boosting Vitamin D levels could help manage asthma attacks. The research, conducted by Dr. Ronit Confino-Cohen of TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Meir Medical Center, and the Clalit Research Institute, and Dr. Becca Feldman of the Clalit Research Institute drew on the records of millions of patients and used physician diagnoses, rather than self-reports, for evidence of asthma episodes.

"Vitamin D has significant immunomodulatory effects and, as such, was believed to have an effect on asthma - an immunologically mediated disease," said Dr. Confino-Cohen. "But most of the existing data regarding Vitamin D and asthma came from the pediatric population and was inconsistent. Our present study is unique because the study population of young adults is very large and 'uncontaminated' by other diseases."

A broad study

Dr. Confino-Cohen and her team of researchers analyzed the medical records of nearly four million members of Clalit Health Services, Israel's largest health care provider. The Vitamin D levels of 307,900 people were measured between 2008 and 2012. Researchers also took into account key predictors of asthma, such as obesity, smoking, and other chronic diseases. Of some 21,000 asthma patients in Israel studied, those with a Vitamin D deficiency were 25 percent more likely than other asthmatics to have had at least one flare-up in the recent past.

The researchers found that Vitamin D-deficient asthmatics were at a higher risk of an asthma attack. "Uncontrolled asthma" was defined as being prescribed at least five rescue inhalers, one prescription of oral corticosteroids, or visiting the doctor for asthma at least four times in a single year.

"Our results add more evidence to the link between Vitamin D and asthma, suggesting beneficial effects of Vitamin D on asthma exacerbations," said Dr. Confino-Cohen. "We expect that further prospective studies will support our results. In the meantime, our results support a recommendation for screening of Vitamin D levels in the subgroup of asthma patients who experience recurrent exacerbations. In those with Vitamin D deficiency, supplementation may be necessary."

Sunny side up?

While most of the Vitamin D in people's bodies comes from exposure to the sun, dermatologists recommend obtaining the ingredient from other sources - fish, eggs, cod liver oil, fortified milk, or a dietary supplement - due to the dangers of overexposure to the sun.

"We know a lot about this disease and many therapeutic options are available. So it's quite frustrating that the prevalence of asthma is not decreasing and many patients suffer exacerbations and significant impairment in their quality of life," Dr. Confino-Cohen, an allergy and clinical immunology specialist, said. "Increasing Vitamin D levels is something we can easily do to improve patients' quality of life."

Based on the findings, the researchers recommend that people whose asthma cannot be controlled with existing treatments have their Vitamin D levels tested. For those with a vitamin D deficiency, supplements may make sense.

"This study provided an exceptional opportunity to research asthma. I received a research grant from Clalit Health Services, which provided us with the opportunity to use their very large database and to conduct the study with the professional staff of Clalit Research Institute," said Dr. Confino-Cohen. "We anticipate further prospective research that will support our findings and open a new treatment modality to the population of uncontrolled asthmatics."

R. Confino-Cohen, I. Brufman, A. Goldberg, B. S. Feldman. Vitamin D, asthma prevalence and asthma exacerbations: a large adult population-based study. Allergy, 2014; DOI:10.1111/all.12508

 First time-lapse images of exploding fireball from a 'nova' star

27 October 2014 - Astronomers at the University of Sydney are part of a team that has taken images of the thermonuclear fireball from a 'nova star' for the first time tracking the explosion as it expands.

The research is published online in the journal Nature today.

The eruption occurred last year in the constellation ofDelphinus (the Dolphin).

Professor Peter Tuthill, from the University's Sydney Institute for Astronomy and co-author on the paper says astronomers are excited about the achievement:

"Although novae often play second fiddle in the popular imagination to their more famous big cousins - the supernovae - they are a truly remarkable celestial phenomenon."

The term nova (Latin for new) was coined when the famous 16th century Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe first realised that on rare occasions the unchangeable patterns of the fixed stars could be suddenly joined by bright interlopers which took days or weeks to gradually fade from sight.

Astronomers eventually traced the culprit responsible for these stellar conflagrations - an exotic, compact star called a white dwarf whose intense gravitational field is able to strip matter from a larger nearby companion star.

"Like a little stellar mosquito, the white dwarf continually sucks hydrogen from its partner, forming an ocean on its surface. After drawing about as much mass as the entire planet Saturn, the pressure reaches a critical point, then boom! The stellar surface turns into one titanic hydrogen bomb hurling a fireball out into space and propelling a formerly dim, obscure star system into prominence as a nova in our night skies," Professor Tuthill said.

"The ferocity of the expansion is breathtaking, engulfing a region the size of the Earth's orbit within a day, and passing Jupiter's orbit in less than two weeks. Despite the enormous size of the fireball, at the remote distance to this star of fifteen thousand light years, it took very special technology to be able to image it at all."

Dr Vicente Maestro of the University of Sydney, who also participated in the research, said "We are really lucky to be collaborating with the team running the CHARA array in Southern California. They are able, using its state of the art technology, to make the exquisitely fine measurements necessary to witness this event."

"The technical challenge posed requires magnification equivalent to watching a flower in my Spanish hometown of Algeciras unfold from here in Sydney, a distance of 12,000 kilometres away," Dr Maestro said.

The leader of the scientific team taking the measurements, Dr Gail Schaefer from Georgia State University, was on-hand as the data came in.

"It was hugely exciting to see the nova grow a little bigger than before with each night's observation. This is the first time astronomers have been able to witness an expanding fireball as if it were in the local neighborhood, rather than way out in the galaxy," Dr Schaefer said.

The significance, as Dr Theo ten Brummelaar of Georgia State University explains, is that "These new data allow us to study in detail exactly how the fireball evolves as the gas expands and cools. It seems like the ride is a lot more complicated and bumpy for the gas than the simple models used previously would have predicted."

Perhaps most surprising of all, despite the fury of the detonation on the white dwarf's surface, the star itself escapes relatively unscathed and continues to buzz around its host like a persistent mosquito accumulating more matter for a repeat performance at a future date.

For this particular nova, an encore is unlikely to occur in our lifetimes; but the galaxy is rich with other systems like this one, awaiting their moment to shine anew in the night sky. And when they do, the researchers say they will be ready.