Inbox and Environment News- Issue 191 

November 23 - 29, 2014: Issue 190

 Australian Stingless bees (2002) - CSIRO - Published on 19 Nov 2014

Australian native stingless bees pollinate plants, give you honey, and they don't sting.

 Dr Megan Clark AC appointed to Rio Tinto Board

20 November 2014 - CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Megan Clark has been appointed a non-executive director of the board of Rio Tinto.

CSIRO Chairman Simon McKeon said the appointment to such a high profile international board was a credit to the reputation and achievements of both Dr Clark and CSIRO.

Dr Clark will step down from her Chief Executive position for the final few weeks of her tenure which is due to finish on December 31. She will remain in an advisory role in that time for the transition to the incoming CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall.

Mr McKeon said Dr Clark’s commitment to building a values-based organisation with a focus on safety performance has been outstanding. She has shown an unwavering focus on major projects which are delivering critical knowledge infrastructure to the nation - the new Marine National Facility (RV Investigator), the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder, the Pawsey Supercomputer and research precincts in Perth, Canberra and Melbourne.

As an advocate for CSIRO Dr Clark has overseen close research partnerships with companies such as Boeing, Orica and GE as well as supporting over 1000 small to medium enterprises each year.

Deputy Chief Executive Craig Roy will be acting Chief Executive effective immediately until the Christmas break, when Dr Anita Hill will step into the Chief Executive role until Dr Marshall begins on January 15, 2015.

Coastal Environment Centre Wins State Award

18 Nov 2014 - Pittwater Council’s Coastal Environment Centre (CEC) was awarded the top prize in the 2014 NSW Coastal Management Awards held in Ulladulla on 13 November.

The gala presentation saw the CEC take out the state award within the Local Government category.

Pittwater Council Mayor Jacqueline Townsend said she was delighted that the Coastal Environment Centre had received recognition for the great work that they do.

“The CEC has a team of energetic and professional educators who deliver a range of environmental programs for schools and the broader community.

“In fact the centre has been delivering educational programs for the last 23 years with close to 350,000 individuals participating,” she said.

Natural Environment Manager Mark Beharrell said one of the key programs offered by the CEC includes the popular Kids on the Coast holiday program.

“The programs are a great way for kids to learn how to value our natural environment while having fun,“ said Mr Beharrell.

 “The CEC also delivers targeted curriculum-based activities for primary and high school children, with over 10,000 students visiting in the last 12 months.

“They also offer a series of nature walks taking in the beauty of Pittwater along with talks ranging from being sustainable, to native bees and Indigenous heritage.

Mr Beharrell said the centre included a function facility with lecture theatre, along with many sustainable features including rainwater tanks, PV installation, passive solar design and an eco garden.

The CEC is located on Pelican Path, on the lagoon foreshore grounds of Sydney Lakeside Holiday Park, off Lake Park Road, North Narrabeen, 300m from North Narrabeen beach.

For more information visit

Below - Youth Leading the Way Conferences are held at the CEC - AJG Pic.


Rob Stokes MP Minister for the Environment Minister for Heritage Minister for the Central Coast Assistant Minister for Planning - MEDIA RELEASE -  Monday 17 November 2014

Environment Minister Rob Stokes has announced the NSW Government’s far-reaching reforms to coastal management in NSW. 

Mr Stokes said the Government will introduce simple new legislation, improved technical support for councils and clear funding arrangements. 

Mr Stokes said there are three major aspects to the reform package: 

• Replacing current laws with a new coastal management Act - which will be less complex, and a better fit with land use planning and local government legislation; 

• New arrangements to better support council decision making, including a new coastal management manual and improved technical advice; and 

• Developing a clear system for funding and financing coastal management actions. 

“Our coastline contains some of the most beautiful and unique environments in NSW, but it is facing unprecedented pressures,” Mr Stokes said. 

“The 35-year-old Coastal Protection Act no longer achieves the integrated and balanced management we need. 

“The new Act will require councils to undertake coastal zone management planning within the local government framework and put coastal management needs at the core of councils’ planning responsibilities. 

“Councils under ministerial direction to prepare coastal zone management plans should continue to do so, and the Government expects they will be submitted as soon as possible. 

“The reforms will also focus on improving support for councils to ensure they have the best available information and technical advice to make well-informed decisions for their communities. 

“We will establish a new independent advisory body to inform councils on solutions for their communities, while also improving the delivery of technical guidance and support we currently provide. 

“Finally, these reforms will address the key issue of funding for coastal management strategies, which can be expensive and go beyond councils capacity to pay.

“We will have a new approach with agreed cost sharing principles, options for financing and a new ‘tool kit’ to assist councils with these options. 

“The Government has promised to deliver a modern, coherent coastal management framework that can respond to our current needs and meet our future challenges. 

“The reforms I am announcing today deliver on that promise, allowing us to manage the coast’s unique environmental, social and economic values in a planned and strategic way for future generations.” 

The public will be invited to have their say when an exposure draft Bill is released in the middle of next year, before the legislation comes before Parliament by the end of 2015. 

For more information


Rob Stokes MP, Minister for the Environment, Minister for Heritage, Minister for the Central Coast, Assistant Minister for Planning - MEDIA RELEASE - Monday 17 November 2014

Environment Minister Rob Stokes today launched the World Harbour Project and announced $3.2 million for new projects to manage, enhance and protect NSW coasts and estuaries.

Mr Stokes said the funds had been allocated for 48 new coastal and estuary management projects across the state through the NSW Government’s Coastal Management and Estuary Management programs.

“Almost $800,000 will be spent in Sydney Harbour and the wider bioregion for a range of projects that will restore local habitats and improve stormwater treatment,” Mr Stokes said. 

“The coasts and estuaries of NSW support a huge variety of native wildlife, and are valued places of beauty and recreation.

“They are important to our economy and support commercial and recreational fishing, aquaculture and tourism. Our coasts and estuaries are under increasing pressure as populations grow and as coastal hazards such as coastal erosion increase.

“These grants will help councils protect and manage these important natural assets.

“The Coastal Management Program and Estuary Management Program provide funds to support local government manage erosion, restore degraded habitats and improve the health of their natural systems.

“A total of $2.4 million will go to 36 new projects under the Estuary Management Program, and over $800,000 is going to 12 new projects under the Coastal Management Program.

“The new projects are in addition to more than 70 ongoing projects valued at more than $4 million under the Coastal Management Program and more than 70 ongoing projects valued at more than $5 million under the Estuary Management Program.”

Estuary management grants 2014-15

 Birds In Danger - BirdLife Australia

November 20 - It's not so tough to save them if we try! BirdLife Australia has identified the key actions that our governments must take to protect our Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas and the endangered birds that call them home. Sign on to our campaign to show your support! See

And in more news on the Mallee Emu-wren, check out this article from last week in The Age: "The Victorian Government stands accused of all but guaranteeing the extinction of threatened Mallee birds as a consequence of its bushfire prevention policy. The Mallee Emu-wren, in particular, is just one fire away from being wiped from the planet..."

Read more: AM 11/23/2014

 Australia's commitment to the world with the Promise of Sydney

The Hon. Greg Hunt MP, Federal Minister for the Environment - Media release - 17 November 2014

Australia is proud to have co-hosted such a successful IUCN World Parks Congress and equally proud of our own commitments in its major outcome – the Promise of Sydney.

Our promises range from banning capital dredge disposal in the Great Barrier Reef and a historic agreement with China to ban mining in Antarctica, to new initiatives to recover the rainforests of the Asia-Pacific and to halt threatened species loss in our national parks.

It has been an inspirational Congress and now it is time to deliver the innovative solutions to the challenges facing our planet.

Australia's key commitments include:

• We will ban capital dredge disposal in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

• Yesterday we signed an historic agreement with China to ban mining in Antarctica.

• I have pledged Australia's support for the international effort to fight wildlife crime. We will help develop a resolution to the United Nations General Assembly to prevent poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking.

• We announced $2 million to boost threatened species protection in national parks, $6 million to support Coral Triangle marine protection and $6 million to combat illegal logging across the Asia-Pacific. We also announced $100,000 for a new university-led initiative to boost the skills of rangers, both in Australia and throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

• We committed $1.2 million for Bush Blitz – an innovative species discovery program borne out a partnership between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton and Earthwatch Australia. This programme has already uncovered more than 825 new species.

• We dedicated $700,000 from our $40 million Reef Trust to clean up marine debris across the Great Barrier Reef.

• We committed to working with the United Nations General Assembly to protect the biodiversity of the high seas.

• We announced a new initiative that will see Australian universities getting together to better plan out training, including business training, for rangers and park managers. By next year, the Protected Areas Learning and Research Collaboration will be offering these courses to students in Australia and across the Asia-Pacific region.

The Promise of Sydney captures the boldest and most strategic thinking of the past few days. It clearly states that nature really is the foundation of our lives, our economy and our aspirations.

Australia has had involvement in the World Parks Congress – both as co-host and through the many high-level discussions that have taken place.

The World Parks Congress only happens every 10 years and with more than 10,000 parks and protected areas in Australia, it was critical we played a major part.

Over 17 per cent of Australia's landscape is now part of our country's parks and protected area network, meeting global targets set for us in Aichi 2010.

I look forward to working with my colleagues from all walks of life to continue Australia's global contribution to parks and protected areas. Parks and protected areas are helping secure a healthier future for the world. It's important in turn we keep them healthy.

As the largest island nation in the world, we have a strong commitment to ocean conservation and management, particularly in our region, the Asia Pacific.

I commend everyone involved in making the 2014 World Parks Congress a great success.

 IUCN World Parks Congress 2014 - Closing Plenary

Streamed live on 18 Nov 2014

This session will bring together all the outcomes from the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014, including strategies and recommendations from the streams and cross-cutting themes, the perspectives flowing from the World Leaders’ Dialogues and the partnerships and commitments of the many organisations and individuals involved. These will be summarised in the high-level Promise of Sydney. This will also be the opportunity for high-level announcements to safeguard protected areas for future generations expected from leaders around the world. And here we will celebrate our work not only over the past few days of the Congress, but the beginning of our commitment to protected areas for the decades to come.

Includes: Permanent Ban on Mining in Antarctica and more!

Learn more:

 New Northern Beaches Plants Website

Pittwater native plants. PNHA member Gillian Gutridge is developing this website. Have a look!

Photo is Coachwood, cousin of NSW Christmas Bush, on Mullet Creek Warriewood.

 IUCN World Parks Congress 2014 - Closing Ceremony

Streamed live on 18 Nov 2014

The Closing Ceremony will mark the end of the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014 and provide an opportunity for all WPC participants to gather for the last time and celebrate the work accomplished during the congress.

The event will wrap up on the legacy of the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014 and farewell delegates from around the world with a music performance.


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

Environment Minister Rob Stokes today launched Google Street View imagery of some of the most picturesque and visited national parks in NSW. 

Mr Stokes said the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service is the first organisation in Australia to be part of the Google program, which sees organisations borrow the Trekker technology to collect imagery of hard to reach places and help map the world. 

“NPWS have captured 360-degree imagery of 25 parks from Kosciuszko to Cape Byron, covering over 400 kilometres of walking tracks and 700 kilometres of roads and trails,” Mr Stokes said. 

“This new service means people can scope out walks before they travel, or get a glimpse of places they would otherwise find inaccessible. 

“People who have been unable to make it to the bottom of that gorge or the top of that ridge can now see all the sites our national parks have to offer. 

"In conjunction with the NSW National Parks website, this imagery will give people another great way to plan their park visits, check walking tracks for suitability and learn about the area beforehand. 

“We have a lot to be proud of in NSW with some of the most beautiful and remote places on the planet. 

“These maps will ensure people who may not have the ability to walk in some of these popular locations will still have the opportunity to experience our vast natural beauty from their lounge rooms on the other side of the world.” 

The Street View imagery is available to the public via the NSW National Parks website and Google Maps and can be accessed 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!

Wetland Nightlife Walk

Come and join us after dark for an exciting evening looking for some of the nocturnal creatures that live in Pittwater. Our local wetlands are a unique environment supporting a great diversity of native animals. The wetlands are a wonder by night with many of our nocturnal creatures coming out to play. It’s a great night out for the whole family! The walk is suitable for children aged five and over. 

When: Friday 5 December, 7.30-9.30pm

Where: Meeting 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

Come and join us on a low-tide rock platform tour. Once the ocean retreats an amazing world becomes uncovered for us to enjoy. Summer is a great time to investigate the amazing diversity of life that lives between the land and the seas 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 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!

When: Saturday 6 December, 2 – 4pm

Where: Meeting 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)

Summerama in January 2015!

Summerama is a coastal activities program run by the Sydney Coastal Councils Group’s Member Councils throughout January in Sydney from Pittwater to Sutherland. It will get you out and about, discovering all the glorious treasures that lie just under the surface of Sydney’s beautiful blue shallows (and just above).

Pittwater Council’s Summerama events include: 

Rock Platform Tour

Come and join us on a low-tide rock platform tour. Once the ocean retreats an amazing world becomes uncovered for us to enjoy. Summer is a great time to investigate the diversity of life that lives between the land and the sea and how these creatures survive in such a unique and challenging environment. 

The tour is a great opportunity to learn about the abundant life that exists in these special places. Guided by local experts it’s a great way to learn about a world rarely seen. An amazing adventure for all the family!

When: Saturday 17 January, 11am – 1pm

Where: Meeting point provided on booking.

What to bring: Sturdy covered shoes that can get wet, hat, sunscreen, water, camera (optional).

Indigenous Walk

Come on a guided bushwalk discovering cultural sites including rock engravings in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. This tour led by staff from the Coastal Environment Centre and an Indigenous guide offers a great opportunity to learn more about this amazing area. Learn about local flora and their uses as bushtucker and medicines. Look for native animals and their tracks as we explore. This event is suitable for the whole family!

When: Sunday 18 January, 9.30am-12pm

Where: Meeting point provided on booking

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

Koala Count 2014

The Great Koala Count is back for 2014 from Nov 7-17! Citizen scientists can use the smart phone app Bio Tag or the Koala Count website to log information about sightings, where you went to look for koalas and other animals you saw during your walk.

Get on board below.

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 


Rob Stokes MP, Minister for the Environment, Minister for Heritage, Minister for the Central Coast, Assistant Minister for Planning - MEDIA RELEASE Sunday 16 November 2014

The NSW Government will ban smoking in the state’s national parks, Environment Minister Rob Stokes announced today.

Mr Stokes said the ban would diminish the risk of bushfires and reduce litter in national parks, with surveys confirming cigarette butts form up to half of the measured litter across the nation. 

“Seven billion cigarette butts are littered in Australia every year, putting lives and property at risk, ruining beaches, spoiling the beauty of our parks and endangering wildlife,” Mr Stokes said.

“The Royal Commission into the devastating Victorian bushfires, where over 170 people died, singled out cigarette butts as one of the likely causes of bushfire in the Australian environment.

“Cigarette butts contain hazardous chemicals such as arsenic and lead, and when a butt is discarded these chemicals leach into the environment contaminating our waterways and land. 

“Butts can also be ingested by our wildlife and spoil the beauty of our natural places.”

Mr Stokes said the ban will apply to the national parks estate to include picnic areas, campgrounds, beaches, lookouts, walking tracks and on national parks roads.

“A community education and communication campaign will help make park visitors aware of the smoking ban,” Mr Stokes said.

“The NSW Government is serious about reducing fire risk and littering in NSW and this move will reduce litter and help to keep communities safer.

“We have 860 national parks in NSW which protect our most beautiful and most popular natural areas. We want to make sure they are safe and healthy for everyone.”

Police and Emergency Services Minister Stuart Ayres recently announced that the penalty for littering lighted cigarettes has doubled from $330 to $660.The fine has gone from $660 to $1320 if someone discards a lit cigarette on a Total Fire Ban day

 Saving lonely species is important for environment

The lemur, Javan rhino and Santa Cruz kangaroo rat are all lonesome animals. As endemic species, they live in habitats restricted to a particular area due to climate change, urban development or other occurrences. Endemic species are often endangered, and a University of Tennessee, Knoxville, study finds that saving them is more important to biodiversity than previously thought.

Joe Bailey, associate professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and his colleagues from the University of Tasmania in Australia looked at endemic eucalyptus found in Tasmania. They discovered that these rare species have developed unique characteristics to survive, and that these characteristics may also impact the survival of its neighbors in the ecosystem.

The findings are published in the academic journal PLOS One.

Using experimental forestry trials where plants were taken from the wild and replanted in a single location, the researchers investigated whether the evolution of endemic species was an important process that altered species interactions. The study is one of the first to compare the functions of endemic and nonendemics in an experimental setting.

The team discovered that these eucalypts have evolved traits that allow them to persist in harsh conditions where many other species can't. These traits include thick leaves that stay on the tree a long time. Much as we conserve money when times are tight, this growth strategy allows these plants to minimize the resources they invest in leaves. The leaves also lack nutrition and are hard to digest, making them unappealing to most herbivores. Variation in such characteristics can impact the entire ecosystem.

"Because endemic species' genes and traits are different relative to nonendemic species, the web of interactions those genes support is also different," said Bailey. "Therefore, the losses of those genes from ecosystems will likely ripple through and hurt the species interactions they create."

For example, the change in the eucalyptus leaves can negatively impact the specialist herbivores that adapted to the plants by negatively affecting their ability to find food and thus survive.

The study results contribute to a growing body of research that shows genes in plants can have direct and indirect effects on other species in the ecosystem. This has important implications for the conservation of biodiversity, as the loss of endemics as a group might also represent the loss of novel ecological interactions. These results are particularly important in the context of climate change.

"In the midst of a biodiversity crisis where species extinction rates are a hundred to a thousand times greater than the natural rate of extinction, understanding the biology of rare and endemic species is a priority rather than a pursuit of novelty," said Bailey, who added that endemic species act also as a repository for rare genes.

Preventing the extinction of such species should be a priority of the scientific community and the general public who enjoy nature, noted Bailey.

Courtney E. Gorman, Brad M. Potts, Jennifer A. Schweitzer, Joseph K. Bailey.Shifts in Species Interactions Due to the Evolution of Functional Differences between Endemics and Non-Endemics: An Endemic Syndrome Hypothesis.PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (10): e111190 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0111190

Endemic eucalyptus found on Tasmania has evolved to live in a variety of conditions that exist from sea level to tree line. These include hot, cold, wet, and dry habitats. Picture Credit: Joe Bailey

 IUCN summit delivers major commitments to save Earth’s most precious natural areas 

Wednesday 19 November 2014 (IUCN) – The IUCN World Parks Congress 2014, the once-in-a-decade global forum on protected areas, closes today with the release of The Promise of Sydney. The Promise sets out an ambitious agenda to safeguard the planet’s natural assets, ranging from halting rainforest loss in the Asia-Pacific and tripling ocean protection off Africa’s coasts to a business commitment to plant 1.3 billion trees along the historic Silk Road.

The Promise includes pledges from governments, international organizations, the private sector, Indigenous leaders, community groups and individuals, with many more still being recorded.

The document highlights the need to invigorate global efforts to protect natural areas, including scaling up the protection of landscapes and oceans. It includes commitments to boost investment in nature’s solutions to halt biodiversity loss, tackle climate change, reduce the risk and impact of disasters, improve food and water security and promote human health. It also aims to inspire people around the globe, across generations and cultures, to experience the wonder of nature through protected areas.

“Protected areas are by far the best investment the world can make to address some of today’s biggest development challenges,” says Julia Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN Director General. “The Congress has propelled major commitments from leaders across all levels of society to secure the benefits protected areas provide to humanity and ensure a sustainable future. Drawing on the collective knowledge of over five thousand top protected area experts – and many others who care about the future of our planet – the Promise of Sydney now captures innovative strategies to protect these exceptional places.”

Organized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and hosted by the Australian and New South Wales Governments, the Congress brought together more than 6,000 participants from over 170 countries.

“Australia is proud to have co-hosted such a successful Congress and equally proud of our own commitments in the Promise of Sydney,” says Greg Hunt, Australian Environment Minister. “They range from banning capital dredge disposal in the Great Barrier Reef and a historic agreement with China to ban mining in Antarctica, to new initiatives to recover the rainforests of the Asia-Pacific and to halt species loss in our national parks. It has been an inspirational Congress – now it is time to deliver the innovative solutions to the challenges facing our planet.”

The Promise of Sydney outlines a pathway for achieving the global target to protect at least 17% of land and 10% of oceans by 2020.

The Protected Planet report, launched in Sydney by IUCN and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), showed that while the world is on track to meet the target, more work is needed to ensure that areas of importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services are well and equitably managed. The Promise of Sydney also called for an urgent increase in ocean protection, including areas beyond national jurisdiction.

The meeting highlighted the need to scale up investment and the quality of governance and management of protected areas. Diversity, quality and vitality of governance emerged as a key prerequisite for ensuring the effectiveness and long-term success of protected areas. Delegates called for a stronger recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples through policies and management practices of protected areas. They acknowledged the critical role of traditional wisdom and management systems in long-term conservation outcomes and community well-being. 

Best-practice examples of equitable governance were recognized by the IUCN Green List of Protected Areas – the first global standard set to define excellence in protected area management, presented at the Congress. This award was granted to 23 sites in Australia, China, Colombia, France, Italy, Kenya, Spain and South Korea, including a number of Indigenous Protected Areas. Croatia, Ecuador, Mexico, Nepal, Peru and Russia expressed their commitment to undergo the IUCN Green List assessment in the next phase of the initiative.

The Congress also highlighted the need to ensure that protected areas are established in the right places to prevent further species extinctions. The world’s largest-known earwig was among species declared extinct at the Congress by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, with the Pacific Bluefin Tuna, Chinese Pufferfish and American Eel among those listed as threatened due to the growing appetite for resources.

A key focus was on economic benefits and cost-effectiveness of conserving the world’s natural areas, including their contribution to climate change mitigation and adaptation. It also called for new financing models to maintain them, combining public and private funding. Modern technology emerged as a new player in nature conservation, with the launch of Google’s underwater street view and a tool to track illegal fishing. NASA provided cutting-edge satellite imagery to improve the monitoring of protected areas.

Photo: Coastal Tidal Flats, Kakadu National Park, NT, Australia, photo by Tracy Ryan

 Extinction risk not the answer for reef futures

November 17, 2014 - Leading coral reef scientists in Australia and the USA say there needs to be a new approach to protecting the future of marine ecosystems, with a shift away from the current focus on extinction threat.

"Extinction is the final endpoint, but coral reefs are in deep trouble long before we get to that point. We need to take action much earlier," says Professor David Bellwood from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE) at James Cook University.

"The goal should be to maintain reefs that can support corals, fish and humans" Professor Bellwood says.

In a world first study published in the journal, Current Biology, researchers tested the concept of 'double jeopardy', which is widely used to assess extinction risk. It is based on the assumption that the risk of extinction is greater if a species has both a small geographic range and low numbers.

The researchers counted the numbers of individuals of more than 400 species of fishes and corals across a 10,000km swath of the Pacific Ocean, from Indonesia to French Polynesia.

Professor Terry Hughes from the Coral CoE says they found no relationship between each species abundance' and its geographic range. To the contrary, the researchers found that some species with a small range had large numbers while some with a vast range spanning the Indo-Pacific Ocean were quite rare. The widely held assumption of double jeopardy is false.

"Our findings call into question the growing practice of assessing extinction risk of coral reef species without knowing how many of them are out there," says Professor Hughes. This is the first study to systematically count corals and reef fishes at a geographic scale."

The researchers argue that coral reef systems are threatened long before individual species are in danger of extinction. They say extinction threat is a poor approach to take to ensure the future of coral reefs.

"Many species on coral reefs are critically important for maintaining ecosystem health. Many reefs are in serious decline, even if the chances of individual species going extinct are slim."

Professors Bellwood and Hughes argue that the criteria for the IUCN threatened species Red List, used to assess extinction threat, are inappropriate for widespread marine species.

"The vast majority of marine plants and animals are comparatively resistant to global extinction because of their high rates of reproduction, ability to disperse widely, and huge geographic ranges which span up to tens of millions of square kilometres," Professor Hughes says.

"Rather than guessing at which species are threatened, we need a focus on local action to avert or recoup the loss of ecosystem function caused by habitat destruction and severe depletion of key species," Professor Hughes says.

Professor Bellwood says "This paper calls for caution when identifying species at risk of extinction on coral reefs. It highlights the potential weaknesses in current approaches and offers an alternative approach where species are valued for the services they provide for both reefs and humans."

Terry P. Hughes, David R. Bellwood, Sean R. Connolly, Howard V. Cornell, Ronald H. Karlson. Double Jeopardy and Global Extinction Risk in Corals and Reef Fishes. Current Biology, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.10.037

These are a giant humphead parrotfish: a species not regarded at risk of extinction, but one which has suffered severe decline. Credit: Image: JP Krajewski

 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:

 STEM Academy to inspire teaching excellence

20 November 2014 - A new academy that aims to inspire teaching excellence in mathematics, science and technology skills among Australian high school teachers will enrol its first class this weekend at the University of Sydney.

The first of its kind in Australia, the STEM Teacher Enrichment Academy for science, technology, engineering and mathematics will stimulate the nation's teachers and develop their confidence by drawing on expertise from three of the University's faculties: Education and Social Work, Science, and Engineering and Information Technologies

Made possible by an anonymous donation of $5 million, the STEM Academy will see participating teachers from both metropolitan and regional schools explore cutting-edge discoveries and emerging technologies, and engage with STEM innovations pioneered at the University

Professor Diane Mayer, Dean of the Faculty of Education and Social Work, said the contribution from three different faculties is exciting.

"The Faculty of Education and Social Work has a longstanding reputation for producing outstanding science and maths teachers and we look forward to sharing that expertise with the wider teaching community," said Professor Mayer.

Adam Spencer, the University's ambassador for Science and Maths said: "My lifelong love of mathematics was first nurtured by a great 2nd grade teacher Ms Russell. I was getting frustrated at not being allowed to answer every question and she made one simple suggestion; "Adam I bet if you went down to the library now you couldn't answer 50 questions in the time it takes us to do 10".

"Off I charged with a point to prove!

"I can't wait to meet the teachers who will inspire the next generation of students to pursue the vital calling of science, maths, engineering or technology," said Spencer.

"The Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies has been contributing to high school curriculum development and teacher training initiatives across engineering, IT and computer science for a number of years," says Dean, Archie Johnston.

"It is particularly exciting that we can now build on this experience and inspire a team of cross-faculty academic experts that will deliver a world-class STEM teacher enrichment program.

"Given that 75 percent of the fastest-growing occupations require significant STEM skills, it is vital for Australia to improve our participation in and uptake of STEM subjects at school."

With every gift to the University of Sydney, donors become part of the INSPIRED Campaign, which aims to raise $600 million by 2017.

 Worldwide action needed to address hidden crisis of violence against women and girls

November 20, 2014 - Current efforts to prevent violence against women and girls are inadequate, according to a new Series published in The Lancet. Estimates suggest that globally, 1 in 3 women has experienced either physical or sexual violence from their partner, and that 7 percent of women will experience sexual assault by a non-partner at some point in their lives.

Yet, despite increased global attention to violence perpetrated against women and girls, and recent advances in knowledge about how to tackle these abuses (Paper 1, Paper 3), levels of violence against women -- including intimate partner violence, rape, female genital mutilation, trafficking, and forced marriages -- remain unacceptably high, with serious consequences for victims' physical and mental health. Conflict and other humanitarian crises may exacerbate ongoing violence.

Between 100 and 140 million girls and women worldwide have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM), with more than 3 million girls at risk of the practice every year in Africa alone. Some 70 million girls worldwide have been married before their eighteenth birthday, many against their will (Paper 1, Paper 5).

Although many countries have made substantial progress towards criminalising violence against women and promoting gender equality, the Series authors argue that governments and donors need to commit sufficient financial resources to ensure their verbal commitments translate into real change. Even where laws are progressive, many women and girls still suffer discrimination, experience violence, and lack access to vital health and legal services.

Importantly, reviewing the latest evidence, the authors show that not enough is being done to prevent violence against women and girls from occurring in the first place (Paper 1). Although resources have grown to support women and girls in the aftermath of violence (e.g., access to justice and emergency care), research suggests that actions to tackle gender inequity and other root causes of violence are needed to prevent all forms of abuse, and thereby reduce violence overall (Paper 4).

"Globally, one in three women will experience intimate partner and/or sexual violence by non-partners in their lifetime, which shows that more investment needs to be made in prevention. We definitely need to strengthen services for women experiencing violence, but to make a real difference in the lives of women and girls, we must work towards achieving gender equality and preventing violence before it even starts," explains Series co-lead Professor Charlotte Watts, founding Director of the Gender Violence and Health Centre at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK. "No magic wand will eliminate violence against women and girls. But evidence tells us that changes in attitudes and behaviours are possible, and can be achieved within less than a generation."

Ultimately, say the authors, working with both the perpetrators of violence (men and boys) and women and girls will be essential to achieve lasting change, by transforming deeply entrenched societal norms on gender relations and the insidious belief that women are inferior (Paper 3).

Violence is often seen as a social and criminal justice problem, and not as a clinical or public health issue, but the health system has a crucial part to play both in treating the consequences of violence, and in preventing it (Paper 2).

"Health-care providers are often the first point of contact for women and girls experiencing violence,"says Series co-lead Dr Claudia Garcia-Moreno, a physician at WHO, Geneva, who coordinates research and policy on violence against women.

"Health-care providers are often the first point of contact for women and girls experiencing violence," adds Dr Garcia-Moreno. "Early identification of women and children subjected to violence and a supportive and effective response can improve women's lives and wellbeing, and help them to access vital services. Health-care providers can send a powerful message -- that violence is not only a social problem, but a dangerous, unhealthy, and harmful practice -- and they can champion prevention efforts in the community. The health community is missing important opportunities to integrate violence programming meaningfully into public health initiatives on HIV/AIDS, adolescent health, maternal health, and mental health."

The Series urges policy makers, health practitioners and donors worldwide to accelerate efforts to address violence against women and girls by taking five key actions (Paper 5). First, governments must allocate necessary resources to address violence against women as a priority, recognising it as a barrier to health and development.

Second, they must change discriminatory structures (laws, policies, institutions) that perpetuate inequality between women and men and foster violence.

Third, they must invest in promoting equality, non-violent behaviours and non-stigmatising support for survivors.

Fourth, they must strengthen the role of health, security, education, justice, and other relevant sectors by creating and implementing policies for prevention and response across these sectors, and integrating violence prevention and response into training efforts.

Finally, they must support research and programming to learn what interventions are effective and how to turn evidence into action.

According to Series co-ordinator, Dr Cathy Zimmerman, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, UK, "We now have some promising findings to show what works to prevent violence. Our upcoming challenge is to expand this evidence on prevention and support responses to many more settings and forms of violence. Most importantly, we urgently need to turn this evidence into genuine action so that women and girls can live violence-free lives."*

In a Comment accompanying the Series, former US President Jimmy Carter, founder of The Carter Center says, "It is my hope that political and religious leaders will step forward and use their influence to communicate clearly that violence against women and girls must stop, that we are failing our societies, and that the time for leadership is now."

The Lancet:

 Trade Agreement with China

November 18, 2014 - Australia has just concluded a historic free trade agreement with the world’s second largest economy, China. This agreement, with our largest trading partner, will add billions to our economy, create jobs and drive higher living standards for Australians.

Freer trade, means more jobs and a stronger economy – it’s that simple. 

This is good news for Australia – because it will mean more investment and more jobs.

It's also good for consumers, because when trade barriers fall, prices fall with them. 

Families will benefit from lower prices for essential family goods.

This agreement greatly improves Australia’s competitive position, providing significant benefits to Australian farmers – particularly for producers of dairy, beef, sheep meat, wine, seafood, grains and horticulture.

Australia’s services industries such as legal services, education, telecommunications, tourism and travel, construction and engineering, and health and aged care services will all benefit from being able to do business in China more easily.

Along with agreements signed with Korea and Japan earlier this year, this agreement with China forms part of a powerful trifecta of agreements with our major trading partners in North Asia.

These economies account for more than 60 per cent of our exports of goods.

These agreements are a major part of the Government’s Economic Action Strategy to build a strong and prosperous economy and a safe and secure Australia. 

Find out more about the agreement here

Tony Abbott 

Prime Minister

 Up to 80 million bacteria sealed with a kiss

As many as 80 million bacteria are transferred during a 10 second kiss, according to new research. The study also found that partners who kiss each other at least nine times a day share similar communities of oral bacteria.

The ecosystem of more than 100 trillion microorganisms that live in our bodies -- the microbiome -- is essential for the digestion of food, synthesizing nutrients, and preventing disease. It is shaped by genetics, diet, and age, but also the individuals with whom we interact. With the mouth playing host to more than 700 varieties of bacteria, the oral microbiota also appear to be influenced by those closest to us.

Researchers from Micropia and TNO in the Netherlands studied 21 couples, asking them to fill out questionnaires on their kissing behaviour including their average intimate kiss frequency. They then took swab samples to investigate the composition of their oral microbiota on the tongue and in their saliva.

The results showed that when couples intimately kiss at relatively high frequencies their salivary microbiota become similar. On average it was found that at least nine intimate kisses per day led to couples having significantly shared salivary microbiota.

Lead author Remco Kort, from TNO's Microbiology and Systems Biology department and adviser to the Micropia museum of microbes, said: "Intimate kissing involving full tongue contact and saliva exchange appears to be a courtship behavior unique to humans and is common in over 90% of known cultures. Interestingly, the current explanations for the function of intimate kissing in humans include an important role for the microbiota present in the oral cavity, although to our knowledge, the exact effects of intimate kissing on the oral microbiota have never been studied. We wanted to find out the extent to which partners share their oral microbiota, and it turns out, the more a couple kiss, the more similar they are."

In a controlled kissing experiment to quantify the transfer of bacteria, a member of each of the couples had a probiotic drink containing specific varieties of bacteria including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria. After an intimate kiss, the researchers found that the quantity of probiotic bacteria in the receiver's saliva rose threefold, and calculated that in total 80 million bacteria would have been transferred during a 10 second kiss.

The study also suggests an important role for other mechanisms that select oral microbiota, resulting from a shared lifestyle, dietary and personal care habits, and this is especially the case for microbiota on the tongue. The researchers found that while tongue microbiota were more similar among partners than unrelated individuals, their similarity did not change with more frequent kissing, in contrast to the findings on the saliva microbiota.

Commenting on the kissing questionnaire results, the researchers say that an interesting but separate finding was that 74% of the men reported higher intimate kiss frequencies than the women of the same couple. This resulted in a reported average of ten kisses per day from the males, twice that of the female reported average of five per day.

To calculate the number of bacteria transferred in a kiss, the authors relied on average transfer values and a number of assumptions related to bacterial transfer, the kiss contact surface, and the value for average saliva volume.

Remco Kort, Martien Caspers, Astrid van de Graaf, Wim van Egmond, Bart Keijser, Guus Roeselers. Shaping the oral microbiota through intimate kissing.Microbiome, 2014; 2 (1): 41 DOI: 10.1186/2049-2618-2-41

 Spiral laser beam creates quantum whirlpool

November 17, 2014 - Physicists at Australian National University (ANU) have engineered a spiral laser beam and used it to create a whirlpool of hybrid light-matter particles called polaritons. 

"Creating circulating currents of polaritons -- vortices -- and controlling them has been a long-standing challenge," said leader of the team, theoretician Dr Elena Ostrovskaya, from the Research School of Physics and Engineering .

"We can now create a circulating flow of these hybrid particles and sustain it for hours."

Polaritons are hybrid particles that have properties of both matter and light. The ability to control polariton flows in this way could aid the development of completely novel technology to link conventional electronics with new laser and fibre-based technologies.

Polaritons form in semiconductors when laser light interacts with electrons and holes (positively charged vacancies) so strongly that it is no longer possible to distinguish light from matter.

The team created the spiral beam by putting their laser through a piece of brass with a spiral pattern of holes in it. This was directed into a semiconductor microcavity, a tiny wafer of aluminium gallium arsenide, a material used in LEDs, sandwiched between two reflectors.

"The vortices have previously only appeared randomly, and always in pairs that swirl in opposite directions," said Dr Robert Dall, who led the experimental part of the project.

"However, by using a spiral mask to structure our laser, we create a chiral system that prefers one flow direction. Therefore we can create a single, stable vortex at will."

These vortices are an example of quantum fluid behaviour in which the polaritons coalesce into a rare state of matter known as a Bose-Einstein condensate.

"As well as being a window into the quantum world, these polaritonic vortices could be used to construct extremely sensitive detectors of electromagnetic fields, similar to SQUIDS (Superconducting QUantum Interference Devices)," Dr Ostrovskaya said.

"They could also be employed as quantum information carriers."

The ANU team has pioneered the study of microcavity polaritons in Australia and hope their success will inspire other research groups around the country.

"Polaritonics is a rapidly developing research field all around the world. We hope we can build a network of groups researching these devices across Australia and joining the international effort," Dr Ostrovskaya said.

1. Robert Dall, Michael D. Fraser, Anton S. Desyatnikov, Guangyao Li, Sebastian Brodbeck, Martin Kamp, Christian Schneider, Sven Höfling, Elena A. Ostrovskaya.Creation of Orbital Angular Momentum States with Chiral Polaritonic Lenses. Physical Review Letters, 2014; 113 (20) DOI:10.1103/PhysRevLett.113.200404

Robert Dall with the spiral laser beam. Credit: Image Stuart Hay

Adam Melling's Winning Wave - GoPro Challenge Portugal

Published on 20 Nov 2014

Adam Melling's sunset barrel in Portugal earned him $10,000 as the winner of the ASP GoPro Challenge Portugal.

 Salinity counts when it comes to sea level

November 20, 2014 - Using ocean observations and a large suite of climate models, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists have found that long-term salinity changes have a stronger influence on regional sea level changes than previously thought.

"By using long-term observed estimates of ocean salinity and temperature changes across the globe, and contrasting these with model simulations, we have uncovered the unexpectedly large influence of salinity changes on ocean basin-scale sea level patterns," said LLNL oceanographer Paul Durack, lead author of a paper appearing in the November issue of the journal Environmental Research Letters.

Sea level changes are one of the most pronounced effects of climate change impacts on Earth and are primarily driven by warming of the global ocean along with added water from melting land-based glaciers and ice sheets. In addition to these effects, changes in ocean salinity also can affect the height of the sea, by changing its density structure from the surface to the bottom of the ocean.

The team found that there was a long-term (1950-2008) pattern in halosteric (salinity-driven) sea level changes in the global ocean, with sea level increases occurring in the Pacific Ocean and sea level decreases in the Atlantic. These salinity-driven sea level changes have not been thoroughly investigated in previous long-term estimates of sea level change. When the scientists contrasted these results with models, the team found that models also simulated these basin-scale patterns, and that the magnitude of these changes was surprisingly large, making up about 25 percent of the total sea level change.

"By contrasting two long-term estimates of sea level change to simulations provided from a large suite of climate model simulations, our results suggest that salinity has a profound effect on regional sea level change," Durack said. "This conclusion suggests that future sea level change assessments must consider the regional impacts of salinity-driven changes; this effect is too large to continue to ignore."

Other collaborators include LLNL's Peter Gleckler, along with Susan Wijffels, an oceanographer from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO). The study was conducted as part of the Climate Research Program at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory through the Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison, which is funded by the Department of Energy's Regional and Global Climate Modeling Program.

Paul J Durack, Susan E Wijffels, Peter J Gleckler. Long-term sea-level change revisited: the role of salinity. Environmental Research Letters, 2014; 9 (11): 114017 DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/9/11/114017

Above: Lined with bottles triggered at different levels of the ocean, this conductivity, temperature and depth profiler bearing a suite of sampling bottles is a mainstay of oceanography. It can be deployed to depths of 6,000 meters to study changes in ocean temperature and salinity. Photo courtesy of Ann Thresher/CSIRO.


Katrina Hodgkinson MP Minister for Primary Industries Troy Grant MP Deputy Premier - MEDIA RELEASE -  Tuesday 18 November 2014 

NSW Deputy Premier, Troy Grant, and Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, last night released the highly anticipated NSW Liberals & Nationals Government’s Agriculture Industry Action Plan – a strategic roadmap to ensure the continued growth of the State’s $12 billion primary industries sector. 

The NSW Agriculture Industry Action Plan (IAP) “Primed for growth: Investing locally, connecting globally” is the first of its kind in the history of NSW Agriculture, developed between industry and the NSW Government. 

Mr Grant said the Agriculture IAP built on the success of several action plans in other NSW key sectors, including manufacturing, professional services and the visitor economy. 

“Over the last three years the NSW Government has released seven IAPs, which have recommended actions that will continue to grow our most high-achieving sectors both domestically and overseas,” Mr Grant said. 

“The Agriculture IAP recommends a broad range of actions to be implemented by industry and government – all of which are supported by the NSW Government. 

“Backed by this strategic roadmap, we will help producers capitalise on opportunities stemming from rapid increases in global demand and population growth.” 

Announcing the Agriculture IAP at the 2014 NSW Farmer of the Year award presentation last night, Ms Hodgkinson said the plan identified priorities and opportunities for the industry and outlined strategies to drive innovation. “The Agriculture IAP cements this Government’s commitment to grow the sector by identifying ground-breaking global opportunities, including in Asia, and puts in place the appropriate tools and infrastructure,” Ms Hodgkinson said. 

“The Agriculture IAP is targeting new partnerships and supply chain models to capitalise on market and export opportunities for the NSW primary industries sector.” 

The Plan is a result of recommendations from the IAP Taskforce, led by livestock industry leader Lucinda Corrigan, which suggested a broad range of actions to be rolled out by industry and government. 

Minister Hodgkinson said the recommendations for driving growth are based on: 

• Driving productivity into the future through innovation and partnering in research and development, 

• Building capacity to do business by cutting red tape, growing exports, attracting investment and connecting with the community, and 

• Developing a dynamic workforce and businesses through training to build the skill-base and improve capability. 

“This is the first time in the State’s history that the Government has worked so closely with industry to develop a clear agricultural action plan that will achieve the best results for NSW producers and the economy, over the next 10 years,” Ms Hodgkinson said. 

“It is a reflection of the Liberals & Nationals election commitment to reduce red tape and will make it easier to do business in NSW, positioning industry for long term global competitiveness.” 

To view the Agriculture Industry Action Plan Primed for Growth: Investing locally, connecting globally, visit


The Hon Katrina Hodgkinson MP, Minister for Primary Industries - MEDIA RELEASE - 17 November 2014

A beef cattle farming couple from the Liverpool Plains in northern NSW have been named the 2014 NSW Farmers of the Year.

Derek and Kirrily Blomfield manage “Colorado” near Quirindi, a 980 hectare grazing farm producing steers and heifers that are grass fed on perennial pastures and sold direct to consumers under their brand “The Conscious Farmer”. 

NSW Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson and NSW Farmers’ President Fiona Simson presented the Blomfields with the 2014 NSW Farmer of the Year award tonight at a function attended by more than 100 people at Sydney’s MLC Centre.

“Derek and Kirrily are showing great innovation, tapping into the latest science, seeking expertise from outside their enterprise and connecting with their customers,” Minister Hodgkinson said.

“They impressed the judges with their commitment to improving and regenerating soils, pastures and biodiversity while optimising beef production and profitability.”

Minister Hodgkinson also congratulated the other finalists present on the night, Dorrigo potato and beef producer Scott Beaumont and Goulburn turkey grower James Mifsud.

“James Mifsud operates “Trilla”, an intensive 50,000 turkey farm near Goulburn, growing turkeys from day old poults to market age birds of 18 weeks. 

“The turkeys are free to roam in open sheds naturally ventilated with computer controlled shutters and curtains – and achieve excellent feed conversion rates along with growth rates at times exceeding world’s best practice. 

“Scott Beaumont runs a 635 hectare diversified enterprise over three properties near Dorrigo on the NSW mid north coast. He produces yearling cattle for Woolworths and grows 700 tonnes of crisping potatoes each year as well as operating a contract planting business.

“Both James and Scott are at the forefront of their industries and I congratulate them on their achievements.”

NSW Farmers’ President Fiona Simson was very impressed with this year’s finalists.

“The Blomfields, Scott Beaumont and James Mifsud are clearly very hard working, innovative and passionate about the job they’re doing,” she said.

“They are helping us show the broader community the incredible diversity, enterprise and business management skills of our farming men and women,” Ms Simson said. 

“It’s these skills that ensure the food and fibre we all get to enjoy are of a high standard, using the latest sustainable production practises and making a valuable contribution to our national economy.“

The annual NSW Farmer of the Year award recognises the best farmers in NSW, focussing on their agricultural management skills, their use of innovation, profitability, environmental sustainability and community involvement. 

The Award is an initiative of the NSW Farmers’ Association and NSW Department of Primary Industries, with support from The Land, the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW and WorkCover NSW. 

The Blomfields win a cash prize of $10,000 and the two other finalists receive $2000 each.

 Chlamydia knock out body's own cancer defense

November 17, 2014 - Infections due to the sexually transmitted bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis often remain unnoticed. The pathogen is not only a common cause of female infertility; it is also suspected of increasing the risk of abdominal cancer. A research team at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin has now observed the breakdown of an important endogenous protective factor in the course of chlamydial infection. By activating the destruction of p53 protein, the bacterium blocks a key protective mechanism of infected cells, the initiation of programmed cell death. This protective function of p53 is also impaired in many forms of cancer. The new insights underpin the suspected relationship between chlamydial infection and the occurrence of certain types of cancers.

Hundreds of mutations occur every day in almost every cell in our body. The protein p53 is then activated in order to limit these changes in the genome: either the cell repairs the damaged DNA or, if that is not possible, it triggers the cellular suicide program. In this way, cells are normally protected against the development of cancer.

As the Berlin-based team at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology reported last year, chlamydial infections lead to a drastic increase in the mutation rate. Activation of the suicide program would be fatal forChlamydia, however, as the bacteria are only able to multiply inside their host cells from which they draw their nutrients. To protect themselves, Chlamydia therefore block activation of the cellular suicide program.

With the help of colleagues from the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine and from Australia, the Max Planck team has now shown that Chlamydia ensure the survival of host cells by breaking down p53. They do so by activating a breakdown pathway that is already present in cells. The pathogens thereby gain enough time to successfully reproduce inside the cells. However, this has potentially fatal consequences for the host organism: destruction of p53, the central "guardian of the genome," increases the risk of mutant cells surviving and developing into cancer cells.

Degradation of p53 is also observed in infections with human papillomavirus, the cause of cervical cancer. Chlamydia may play a role in this disease as well. However, they penetrate much deeper into the genital tract and can cause inflammation of the fallopian tubes, where they often reside unnoticed for a long time. Ovarian cancer, one of the deadliest cancers in women, is now also believed to originate within the fallopian tubes.

"The impact of Chlamydia on p53 is an important part in the complex puzzle of cancer development. The more substantiated the relationship between infection and cancer becomes, the more important it will be to promote the development of effective vaccines and antibiotics to prevent cancer," says Thomas F. Meyer, Director at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin.

1. Erik González, Marion Rother, Markus C. Kerr, Munir A. Al-Zeer, Mohammad Abu-Lubad, Mirjana Kessler, Volker Brinkmann, Alexander Loewer, Thomas F. Meyer.Chlamydia infection depends on a functional MDM2-p53 axis. Nature Communications, 2014; 5: 5201 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms6201

 Women's fertility linked to detox element in diet

November 17, 2014 - University of Adelaide research has for the first time shown how much of a critical role the natural antioxidant selenium plays at the earliest stages of a woman's fertility.The discovery has been made in joint research involving the University's School of Chemistry and Physics and the Robinson Research Institute.

For her PhD in Chemistry at the University of Adelaide, Melanie Ceko investigated the role and location of selenium in the ovary, and a specific protein that includes selenium. The results of her study show how important selenium is to the development of healthy ovarian follicles, which are responsible for the production of eggs in women.

"Selenium is an essential trace element found in protein-rich foods like red meat, seafood and nuts. It is important for many biological functions, such as immune response, thyroid hormone production, and acts as an antioxidant, helping to detoxify damaging chemicals in the body," Ms Ceko says.

"We've known for some time that selenium is important to men's fertility, but until now no-one has researched how this element could be involved in healthy reproduction in women."

Thanks to the use of facilities at the Australian Synchrotron in Victoria, the research team, led by Associate Professor Hugh Harris and Professor Ray Rodgers, was able to pinpoint exactly where selenium is located in the ovary. They then turned their attention to the selenoprotein known as GPX1.

"Our findings are important, because they show that selenium and selenoproteins are at elevated levels in large, healthy ovarian follicles. We suspect they play a critical role as an antioxidant during the late stages of follicle development, helping to lead to a healthy environment for the egg," Ms Ceko says.

"We found that gene expression of GPX1 was significantly higher -- in some cases double -- in egg cells that yielded a pregnancy."

Selenium deficiency is not usually a problem in Western diets, although people who avoid certain food groups or eat food mainly grown on selenium-deficient soils are at risk.

"Infertility is a significant problem in our society. Further research is needed to better understand how selenium levels could be optimized, helping to improve women's chances of conceiving. Too much selenium can also be toxic, so it isn't just a case of taking multiple supplements," Ms Ceko says.

This research, published in the international journal Metallomics.

1. M. J. Ceko, K. Hummitzsch, N. Hatzirodos, W. M. Bonner, J. B. Aitken, D. L. Russell, M. Lane, R. J. Rodgers, H. H. Harris. X-Ray fluorescence imaging and other analyses identify selenium and GPX1 as important in female reproductive function.Metallomics, 2014; DOI: 10.1039/C4MT00228H

 Predicting droughts and flooding rains for the sunburnt country - CSIRO

Published on 19 Nov 2014

Many Australians have vivid memories of the damage and distress caused by the Queensland floods in 2010 and 2011 floods, and of the devastation the Millennium Drought caused in rural areas. Water forecasting helps predict water availability, enabling better management of responses to floods and drought conditions. QJ Wang and his colleagues create mathematical models which forecast floods and river flows. These models are available on the Australian Bureau of Meteorology website.

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

 New clue in celiac disease puzzle: Cause of oat toxicity explained

November 18, 2014 - Melbourne researchers have identified why some people with celiac disease show an immune response after eating oats. The researchers have identified the key components in oats that trigger an immune response in some people with celiac disease. The findings may lead to better tests for oat toxicity, and have implications for new treatments being developed for celiac disease.

As many as one in 60 women and one in 80 men in Australia have celiac disease, an autoimmune condition caused by consuming gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. The abnormal immune response to gluten damages the small intestine and is associated with gastrointestinal symptoms including vomiting and diarrhea, lethargy, and an increased risk of osteoporosis and cancer. People with celiac disease must adhere to a lifelong gluten free diet that excludes wheat, barley and rye.

The question of whether oats are toxic for people with celiac disease is controversial, but because oats contain proteins, called avenins, that are similar to gluten, oats are excluded from the gluten-free diet in Australia.

Researchers from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Monash University and US biotechnology company ImmusanT, led the 10-year study, published this month in theJournal of Autoimmunity. They revealed that oat consumption triggered an immune response in eight per cent of the 73 participants with celiac disease.

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute researcher Dr Melinda Hardy said the research was the first of its kind to comprehensively profile immune responses to oats in people with celiac disease. "The significance of previous studies performed in test tubes was unclear," she said. "By studying people with celiac disease who had eaten oats, we were able to undertake a detailed profile of the resultant immune response in their blood stream. Our study was able to establish the parts of oat avenins that cause an immune response in people with celiac disease."

Dr Jason Tye-Din, head of celiac research at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and a gastroenterologist at The Royal Melbourne Hospital, said the study showed oats were well tolerated by most people with celiac disease, but in a proportion of people with celiac disease oat consumption could trigger immune responses similar to those caused by eating barley.

"This study provides specific detail on the parts of oats stimulating immune responses, and highlights the relevance of grains other than wheat in celiac disease," Dr Tye-Din said. "This is a vital piece of the puzzle that informs the development of targeted tests for oat toxicity and the design of new treatments for people with celiac disease."

President of celiac Australia, Mr Tom McLeod, said the good health of people with celiac disease depended on strict removal of dietary gluten. "celiac disease is not a dietary fad, but a serious health condition," he said. "This study adds to our understanding of oats in celiac disease, and sets the scene for definitive evaluation on what can be safely consumed by people with celiac disease."

1. Melinda Y. Hardy, Jason A. Tye-Din, Jessica A. Stewart, Frederike Schmitz, Nadine L. Dudek, Iresha Hanchapola, Anthony W. Purcell, Robert P. Anderson.Ingestion of oats and barley in patients with celiac disease mobilizes cross-reactive T cells activated by avenin peptides and immuno-dominant hordein peptides. Journal of Autoimmunity, 2014; DOI:10.1016/j.jaut.2014.10.003