Inbox and Environment News - Issue 191 

 November 30 - December 6, 2014: Issue 191

 Ancient future - saving the Wollemi pine

by NSW Nat Parks and Wildlife Published on 26 Nov 2014

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

 Weight stigma a daily experience for obese people

27 November 2014 - Overweight and obese people experience many more episodes of being stigmatised in their everyday lives than was realised, with most suffering almost daily negative treatment, a UNSW-led study shows.

UNSW psychologist Dr Lenny Vartanian and his research team gave 46 men and women in Sydney a personal digital assistant on which to record details about each incident of weight stigma during a two-week period.

Weight stigma was defined as any instance where the person felt they were being treated differently because of their weight, such as being made fun of, glared at in public, or having an unrelated physical problem blamed on their weight.

As well as recording these interpersonal experiences, participants also recorded their reactions to negative portrayals in the media of obese people as lazy, over-indulgent or targets of ridicule.

“One of our most striking findings was how common these experiences are. Nine out of 10 participants reported at least one episode during the fortnight. The average was almost one episode a day, with one individual experiencing stigma 11 times in a single day,” says Dr Vartanian.

“This high frequency of stigma experiences should be cause for concern. It can lead to lower self-esteem, depression and increased body dissatisfaction. And research shows that obese people who feel frequently stigmatised are less motivated to diet and exercise, and more likely to binge eat.”

The research is published in the Journal of Contextual Behavioural Science

Almost half the stigmatising episodes occurred at home, and parents, friends and partners were a common source of negative comments and behaviours.

“Overweight and obese people are vulnerable to experiencing stigma in the privacy of their own homes, and not only when they are out in public,” says Dr Vartanian.

“But we found that strangers are the most common source of daily stigma, and their comments and actions had a greater negative effect on the mood of the people than those made by family members or friends or by what they’ve seen in the media.”

“Given the diversity in sources of stigma our results suggest a variety of different strategies might be necessary to help people cope with weight stigma. What works when it comes to a family member might not work when the source of stigma is a stranger, and vice versa,” says Dr Vartanian.

Participants in the study experienced an average of 11 episodes of weight stigma in the fortnight, but the experiences of individuals varied a lot, with the number of episodes ranging from 1 to 49 during the two-week period

 Fragile X study offers hope of new autism treatment

November 27, 2014 - People affected by a common inherited form of autism could be helped by a drug that is being tested as a treatment for cancer, according to researchers from the University of Edinburgh and McGill University. Fragile X Syndrome is the most common genetic cause of autism spectrum disorders. It affects around 1 in 4,000 boys and 1 in 6,000 girls. Currently, there is no cure.

The scientists, who have identified a chemical pathway that goes awry in the brains of Fragile X patients, say a cancer drug candidate could reverse their behavioural symptoms. The researchers have found that a naturally occurring anti-fungal called cercosporamide can block the pathway and improve sociability in mice with the condition.

The team identified a key molecule -- eIF4E -- that drives excess protein production in the brains of Fragile X patients. This can cause behavioural symptoms that include learning difficulties. It can also lead to more serious intellectual disabilities, delays in speech and language development and problems with social interactions.

"We found that eIF4E regulates the production of an enzyme called MMP-9, which breaks down and re-orders the connections between brain cells called synapses," says Nahum Sonenberg, McGill professor in the Faculty of Medicine and the Goodman Cancer Research Centre and co-author of the study, "Excess MMP-9 disrupts communication between brain cells, leading to changes in behaviour."

The team found that treatment with cercosporamide blocks the activity of eIF4E, and therefore reduces the amounts of MMP-9, and reverses the behavioural symptoms in mice with a version of Fragile X Syndrome. The new findings suggest that it could have a use as a treatment for patients with Fragile X Syndrome. The study is published in the journal Cell Reports.

Findings open door to targeted treatments

McGill post-doctoral student and a co-first author of the study Arkady Khoutorsky said that "the enzyme MMP-9 has been implicated before in Fragile X Syndrome. What's new in our research is the demonstration that the symptoms of the disease can be controlled by manipulating eIF4E activity with available drug candidates."

"Our findings open the door to targeted treatments for Fragile X Syndrome," says Christos Gkogkas, of the University of Edinburgh's Patrick Wild Centre for Research into Autism, Fragile X Syndrome and Intellectual Disabilities. "By designing treatments that block just this pathway, it is hoped that we can limit the potential side-effects and develop therapies that are more efficient than general treatment approaches."

1. Christos G. Gkogkas, Arkady Khoutorsky, Ruifeng Cao, Seyed Mehdi Jafarnejad, Masha Prager-Khoutorsky, Nikolaos Giannakas, Archontia Kaminari, Apostolia Fragkouli, Karim Nader, Theodore J. Price, Bruce W. Konicek, Jeremy R. Graff, Athina K. Tzinia, Jean-Claude Lacaille, Nahum Sonenberg. Pharmacogenetic Inhibition of eIF4E-Dependent Mmp9 mRNA Translation Reverses Fragile X Syndrome-like Phenotypes. Cell Reports, 2014; DOI:10.1016/j.celrep.2014.10.064

Toolkit for ocean health

November 26, 2014 – The ocean is undergoing global changes at a remarkable pace and we must change with it to attain our best possible future ocean, warns the head of The University of Western Australia's Oceans Institute. One of the global leaders in ocean science, Professor Carlos Duarte has shared his insights on the future of the world's oceans in a paper published in the international open-access journal Frontiers in Marine Science.

In the paper Professor Duarte explains the grand challenge researchers face in addressing global change and the future state of the ocean.

"The ocean is under significant impact by anthropogenic global pressures such as ocean acidification, warming, overfishing and pollution, resulting from the impact of human activity on major processes that regulate the functions of the planet," he said.

"Dependence on resources including water, energy and key elements has prompted a suite of changes at the global scale and we are now facing the impacts of climate change, a loss of biodiversity and deteriorating water quality.

"While human pressures such as overfishing have occurred for almost 200,000 years, the cumulative impact of these combined pressures in recent years is now significantly influencing ocean health through unprecedented pressures.

"Consequently, planning of infrastructure, resource management, industry operations and conservation policies all require the capacity to anticipate change and forecast the likely properties of the future ocean."

Professor Duarte explained that a number of conclusions can be forecast by analysing current ocean trends.

"By the end of the twenty-first Century the oceans will be warmer, with a reduced ice extent, higher sea levels, more acidic and with somewhat lower oxygen levels than at present," he said.

"Research effort must be directed to understanding the responses of marine systems to these multiple, cumulative pressures."

Professor Duarte advises that policy makers, the public and the scientific community should accept change as a prerequisite to manage it. He emphasises the need for partnerships to frame research findings in effective ways and foster widespread action.

"Close cooperation between these groups is needed to progress our capacity to manage ocean problems adaptively," Professor Duarte said.

"The future ocean will be, no doubt, different in many ways from the ocean we enjoy today, but we can still direct that change. In order to get back behind the steering wheel the goals of policy makers, the public and scientists must converge to guide this change in order to achieve our best possible future ocean."

Professor Duarte was recently appointed Editor-in-Chief of the newly launched journal and will maintain a position with the UWA as an Adjunct Professor following his departure from the UWA Oceans Institute.

The UWA Oceans Institute strives to deliver ocean-based solutions for humanity's grand challenges.

1. Carlos M. Duarte. Global Change and the Future Ocean: A Grand Challenge for Marine Sciences. Frontiers in Marine Science, November 2014 DOI:10.3389/fmars.2014.00063

Stranded Dolphin at Curl Curl Dies C/- ORRCA Inc

Friday November 28, 2014 - Unfortunately, on Tuesday night, the Risso's dolphin that had stranded at Curl Curl the previous day, restranded.  ORRCA rescuers, who had expected the animal to restrand, were quickly on site

Despite their best efforts, the female dolphin could not be saved. A necropsy was performed at Taronga, and revealed a plastic bag in its stomach, and a bad infection in its respiratory system.Thanks to all who tried to help this dolphin

Thanks to ORRCA's Wayne Reynolds for the photo.

 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:

 Join the conversation about Commonwealth Marine Reserves

28 November 2014 - Media Release

Written submissions to the independent review of Commonwealth Marine Reserves open today.

The co-Chairs of the Bioregional Advisory Panels, Professor Colin Buxton and Mr Peter Cochrane invite interested parties to provide them with ideas and suggestions on how marine reserves should be managed into the future.

“We are really keen to hear from a broad range of stakeholders and are hoping those with an interest will complete a simple online survey or provide a more detailed submission,” Professor Colin Buxton said.

The Review is focused on making sure that its work builds on the feedback and efforts that individuals and organisations have already made.

“We’re seeking new and additional information that address our terms of reference.  The government has reproclaimed the outer boundaries of the Commonwealth Marine Reserve networks and the Coral Sea, so our focus is on their zonation and internal management.”

The Review has established five Bioregional Advisory Panels (representing the South-west, North-west, North, Temperate East and Coral Sea marine regions) to facilitate consultation with interested parties.                                                               

Details about making a submission can be found on the Join the Conversation page at The online survey is expected to be available soon.

The submission period will remain open until 28 February 2015.

“We’d encourage everyone to get in early as this will help focus our efforts over the coming months,” Mr Peter Cochrane said.

“We’re looking for suggestions on how we can engage most effectively with affected parties and interests, to best explore options for zonation and management that will effectively and efficiently address concerns raised.”

The terms of reference can be found on the review .

For background:

The terms of reference for the Review task the Bioregional Advisory Panels with providing government with:

•Advice on areas of contention with the Commonwealth marine reserves

•Advice on options for zoning boundaries to address those areas of contention

•Recommendations for improving the inclusion of social and economic considerations into decision-making for marine reserves, with particular regard to their management

•Suggestions for ongoing engagement of regional stakeholders

•Advice on information received through consultations that the Panels may feel influence, contribute to or improve the drafting of future management plans

 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.


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)

 Australia's biosecurity may be shocked

24 November 2014A human disease pandemic, European honey bee colonies wiped out and an invasion of a devastating wheat disease are just three potential biosecurity threats facing Australia, according to a report released today.

These three events alone could devastate Australia’s agricultural industries, economy and environment, and could severely alter our way of life.  But, how can we ensure that we see them coming and are we prepared to respond if they occur?

As an island nation Australia has, largely been able to maintain an enviable biosecurity status. However, experts warn that the 12 biosecurity megashocks identified in a new report – Australia’s Biosecurity Future – could turn into reality if we become complacent with our nation’s biosecurity measures.  

CSIRO Biosecurity Flagship Science Director Dr Gary Fitt said it was much better to pre-empt and avoid biosecurity issues than have to deal with the consequences.

“Dominating the news right now is the Ebola virus crisis, which is an obvious global health concern,” he said. 

“Meanwhile farmers near Katherine, in the Northern Territory, are dealing with an outbreak of a new disease – Cucumber Green Mottle Mosaic Virus – and while not fatal to people like Ebola, this virus is devastating their crops which has severe financial impacts.”

The new report outlines a systematic examination and assessment of where we’re heading and what we need to do as a nation to protect our environment, industries, people and way of life over the next 20-30 years.

“If there was a significant decline in European honey bee populations across Australia in the future, for example, this would impact our economy with losses of around $4-6 billion,” Dr Fitt said.  “Losing this free pollination service would severely impact production of several fruit and vegetables including avocados and almonds.” 

In addition to considering the 12 potential megashocks, the report identifies a number of global megatrends that highlight significant change and the growing complexity relating to our nation’s biosecurity challenges.

“We have identified a number of important trends, such as the need to produce more food for a growing population while dealing with ongoing pressure on the key soil, water and biodiversity resources which sustain production,” Dr Fitt said.

“These trends will produce new challenges for all our plant and animal industries, our environment and human health.

“Understanding the biosecurity megatrends identified in the report will help Australia prepare for, and deal with the pests and diseases that threaten our farming sector, environment and people.”

These trends point towards a future where existing biosecurity processes and practices may not be sufficient to protect Australia.

“The management of biosecurity will require a step change towards smarter and more efficient strategies that are ideally ahead of the pace of change around the world,” Professor Kurt Zuelke, Director CSIRO Biosecurity Flagship and Australian Animal Health Laboratory, said. “Australia should not rely on its relatively fortunate history and become complacent in the face of growing biosecurity challenges.”

“Minimising and managing risks while taking advantage of the opportunities that a successful biosecurity system presents will only be possible through a coordinated approach involving government, industry, scientists and the general public – a shared responsibility.”

CSIRO partnered with Animal Health Australia, the Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) and the Invasive Animals CRC and consulted with various industry, government and scientific organisations to deliver the report – Australia’s Biosecurity Future.  An initiative that is striving for a biosecurity system that is pre-emptive, responsive, resilient, and based on cutting edge surveillance, informatics and new technologies.

Read the full report – Australia’s Biosecurity Future.


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

MEDIA RELEASE - Friday 28 November 2014

Environment Minister Rob Stokes today announced 122 grants worth nearly $2.4 million to build environmental knowledge in our schools and communities, and for environmental research across NSW.

Mr Stokes said the NSW Government awarded 50 Food Gardens in Schools grants worth $3,500 each to assist in students’ environmental education.

“These projects provide a practical way for young people to learn about land management, waste re-use, water conservation and other environmental lessons,” Mr Stokes said.

“The NSW Government has also allocated a further 46 grants of $2,500 each for Eco Schools projects such as rainwater harvesting and planting native flora to mitigate traffic pollution.

“A total of $1,048,218 was awarded in 18 in Environmental Education Projects grants, funding government initiatives and community organisation projects.

“And finally, eight Research Program grants totalling more than $1 million have also been awarded to provide knowledge about native species, their habitat, the management of pest animals, forecasting air quality, reef health and coastal management.

“These grants help our young people and others across our community to learn about our natural environment, and support scientists in their quest for knowledge to benefit us all.

“I encourage educators, members of the community and researchers to apply for future rounds of Environmental Trust grants.”

The next round of Research Program grants will open in January, followed by Education and Eco Schools Program grants in March.

The NSW Government has awarded 134 grants totalling $35.2 million through the Environmental Trust’s contestable grants programs so far this financial year.

View this round’s recipients and read more about these programs:


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

MEDIA RELEASE - Thursday 20 November 2014

Environment Minister Rob Stokes today released three self-assessable native vegetation codes which place trust in landholders to manage their land sustainably while protecting the environment.

Mr Stokes said the NSW Government is continuing to reform native vegetation management and these codes are an important part of that process.

“The codes will help to make life easier for farmers to produce the food and fibre the state relies upon, and at the same time include environmental protections,” Mr Stokes said.

“After an extensive process which included public exhibition, careful consideration of submissions, and expert advice, I am satisfied in making these codes under the Native Vegetation Act and the Threatened Species Conservation Act.”

The three new self-assessable codes, which been tested on ground with rural landholders, are:

• Invasive native scrub – this code relates to native plants that have regenerated thickly or invaded vegetation communities where they did not previously occur. The code allows for management of these species by clearing of dense infestations, including by using heavy earth moving equipment. The goal is to create a ‘mosaic’ of native vegetation and allow the regeneration of a range of native plants, including native pastures.

• Isolated paddock trees in cropped areas – this code allows a paddock tree (or a group of three paddock trees) in a cropped area that is smaller than 80 centimetres in diameter and further than 50 metres away from another tree to be removed without any approval being required.

• Thinning of native vegetation – this code allows for the removal of trees and shrubs of thick native vegetation. A number of trees and shrubs are protected as part of the process. Thinning may also encourage native pasture and allow for stock to be grazed.

Minister for Natural Resources, Land and Water Kevin Humphries said the codes will cut red tape for farmers and allow landholders to get on with managing their farms without the need to wait for government assessment and approval.“These codes are a vital step in the NSW Government’s ongoing commitment to deliver a sensible set of changes that strike the right balance between conservation and efficient agricultural management,” Mr Humphries said.

“They are an important interim step that will deliver improved outcomes for landholders in the short-term while the NSW Government continues to move towards substantial and long-term reform through its review of the biodiversity legislation.

“The codes will be accompanied by online tools that step landholders through the process of determining if, and how, they can use the codes on their properties.

“If landholders are in any doubt about the operation of the codes and the management of native vegetation on their property then LLS staff will still be there to help.

“Landholders who wish to undertake clearing that is not permitted under the codes will still have the option of applying to the LLS for a property vegetation plan.”

The codes, report on submissions and submissions are available on the OEH website at

 Crookwell Potato Association lands top Biosecurity Award

Dr Bruce Christie, executive director Biosecurity NSW DPI with Matthew Gay, President of Crookwell Potato Association Inc and Dr Satendra Kumar, DPI Director Plant Biosecurity and Product Integrity.

27 Nov 2014 - The Crookwell Potato Association has been awarded the inaugural Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Plant Biosecurity Award 2014, recognising their contribution to plant biosecurity in NSW.

"The Association is being recognised for its outstanding efforts assisting the development of the in-harvester soil sampling methodology for the pest potato cyst nematode (PCN)," said Dr Satendra Kumar, DPI Director Plant Biosecurity and Product Integrity.

"The new methodology will significantly reduce the time and financial burdens of regular PCN soil testing."

President of Crookwell Potato Association Inc, Matthew Gay, received the award from Dr Bruce Christie, executive director Biosecurity NSW DPI and Dr Kumar at a recent meeting of the Plant Health Committee in Orange.

Dr Kumar said seed potatoes are required to be tested as free from PCN prior to movement across state borders, in accordance with market access regulations.

"Traditional soil sampling methods are time consuming and therefore costly for seed potato growers," Dr Kumar said.

"The in-harvester method uses a container placed under the potato harvester's top inspection table.

"Soil accumulates in the container during harvest and can then be used to test for PCN."

Dr Kumar said by combining testing with the normal harvest operation, the time investment in PCN testing is now virtually non-existent.

"Trials being carried out have shown the in-harvester method to be more effective at detecting PCN than traditional soil core samples."

 Problem gambling, personality disorders often go hand in hand

November 25, 2014 - The treatment of people who cannot keep their gambling habits in check is often complicated because they also tend to suffer from personality disorders. So says Meredith Brown of Monash University in Australia, in a review in Springer's Journal of Gambling Studies.

Problem gambling creates a multitude of intrapersonal, interpersonal and social difficulties for the roughly 2.3 percent of the population internationally that suffers from this behavior. Previous research has shown that people with gambling problems suffer from a range of psychiatric disorders affecting their mood, levels of anxiety and their use of substances.

Brown and her colleagues reviewed existing research to establish patterns and factors that link problem gambling and various personality disorders. They found that people with gambling problems share similar characteristics to people with antisocial, borderline, histrionic and narcissistic personality disorders. In particular, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is found more among people with gambling problems than those who can control their gambling. This personality disorder is associated with unstable interpersonal relationships and self-image, and marked impulsivity.

The review shows that the same biological and social factors are at play in causing problem gambling and personality disorders. These include poor parental relationships during childhood, possible abuse, difficulty in controlling emotions, substance abuse, depression and anxiety disorders. Members of both groups tend to be socially isolated, have problematic relationships with their peers, lower self-esteem and feelings of hopelessness and dissociation. They are also emotionally more vulnerable, and struggle with anger issues and feelings of shame. People with gambling problems, like people suffering from BPD, also tend to be impulsive, revert to interpersonal violence and often commit suicide.

Brown advises that routine screening for personality disorders be part of any treatment option considered for people with gambling problems. This could alert clinicians to potential difficulties in treatment, and to the need to set more stringent behavioral limits. Screening will help clinicians to adjust their expectations of what treatment may achieve, and how long it may take. Because people with both problem gambling and personality disorders are three times more likely to drop out of treatment than those with problem gambling but no personality disorders, screening could also help practitioners to be more tolerant towards poor compliance and to encourage adherence to treatment.

The review highlights that Dialectical Behavior Therapy, which is used successfully to treat BPD, could also help a subgroup of problem gambling. It is based on Eastern principles and teaches clients the core skills of mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation and interpersonal effectiveness, in combination with more traditional behavioral and motivational strategies.

"The fact that problem gambling and high levels of psychopathology often go together indicates a need to undertake routine and systematic screening and assessment of problem gamblers who sign up for treatment," says Brown. "Because the clinical picture of people with gambling problems who also suffer from personality disorders is more complicated, their successful treatment is also more difficult."

1. Meredith Brown, J. Sabura Allen, Nicki A. Dowling. The Application of an Etiological Model of Personality Disorders to Problem Gambling. Journal of Gambling Studies, 2014; DOI:10.1007/s10899-014-9504-z

 Australian Incomes fall as stressed economy struggles

November 25, 2014 - Australian average incomes are falling with the country's population growth "masking underlying economic weakness," according to a QUT economist.

Dr Mark McGovern, a senior lecturer in QUT's Business School, said while it was regularly proclaimed Australia had experienced positive economic growth for more than 20 years, there had been periodic per capita declines, indicating the economy was not as healthy as assumed.

"Looking at national income figures in recent years shows our economy is under stress," Dr McGovern, whose research was recently published in theEconomic Analysis and Policy journal, said.

"For example, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita peaked in the June 2008 quarter, fell for three periods then took six further quarters to revisit the 2008 high in the September 2010 quarter.

"But if you look at Real net National Disposable Incomes per capita, which is how much money people are receiving, the 2011 December quarter income peak was at $13,406 with $13,156 estimated for June 2014. This is a per capita income drop of $250, or two per cent over ten quarters.

"The overall GDP has continued to increase slightly, but that is the result of population growth, which is masking underlying economic weakness."

Dr McGovern said GDP was growing while national incomes were falling because investment earnings were flowing out of the country to overseas investors.

"Australian GDP does not fully accrue to Australians due to this net outflow of money," he said.

"If these funds continue to leave the country, we could suffer the same financial fate as Ireland and others, where incomes fell despite GDP increasing.

"The Celtic Tiger prided itself on attracting foreign investors who inflated asset values, paid little tax and then left insolvent banks and depressed incomes across the nation."

More immediately, Dr McGovern said the drop in disposable income per capita helped explain why the Federal Government's budget had been badly received by many in the population.

"People rejected the budget and the calls for belt-tightening and there is a general financial ill-ease evident within Australians," he said.

"While the Federal Government is preoccupied with servicing the modest government debt, households are receiving falling incomes to service their own greater debts. All are struggling to make ends meet, and the income drain to overseas only makes things more difficult.

"All will be much worse off if this depressive synchronisation is allowed to continue. Actions need to be taken to rebalance household and government balance sheets, as well as those of some businesses. Interest rates are increasingly unserviceable so they must be further reduced.

"Recognition of problems allows them to be addressed sensibly so we need to refresh public and commercial policies so that the preoccupations of some do not undermine the interests of all.

"There are good ways forward and we need to understand and adopt them."

1. Mark McGovern. Subprime agriculture, and Australia?Economic Analysis and Policy, 2014; 44 (3): 243 DOI:10.1016/j.eap.2014.09.003

 Australia’s living skin bared in stunning three dimensions

26 November 2014 - Australia’s vast and complex land surface has been exposed in new ways thanks to the most comprehensive nation-wide digital maps of our soils and landscapes yet produced.

The entire country is now represented as a digital grid with two billion ‘pixels’ that are about 90 by 90 metres, down to a depth of two metres below the surface.

The Soil and Landscape Grid of Australia, launched today at the National Soil Science Conference in Melbourne, is the result of a partnership between CSIRO, the University of Sydney, several federal, state and territory government agencies and the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN).

The Grid draws information from the partner agency databases weaving together both historical and current data generated from sampling, laboratory sensing, modelling and remote sensing.

The Grid also includes estimates of reliability and is designed to integrate new data in the future – even data generated by technology that has not yet been invented.

Soil and landscape attributes such as soil water, nutrients and clay, affect the sustainability of Australia’s natural resources and the profitability of sectors such as agriculture, mining and infrastructure.

"From exploring new land use options, to making the most of water, to finding habitats for endangered native species, this technology has applications we are only just beginning to imagine."


CSIRO Research Director Mike Grundy said the Grid had already woven together hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of past soil and landscape science into a new ‘digital tapestry’.

"The research community has known we need better ways to make this diverse information available; new science and technology has let us make the most of the rich data we have," Mr Grundy said.

The Grid will be beneficial to a wide range of applications and users including urban and regional planners, land managers, farming groups, scientists and engineers.

Alexandra Gartmann, CEO at Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal and former CEO of Birchip Cropping Group, has worked with rural industries for almost two decades. Ms Gartmann said she was excited by the new technology.

"Knowledge is power, and our agricultural industries have a very narrow margin for error these days, so the more knowledge to reduce poor decisions, the better," Ms Gartmann said.

"Agribusiness will benefit from this technology, both at the farm scale — with data to inform production models and risk management decisions — and industry scale, as it draws together many years of past research and knowledge for future investment decisions.

"The Soil and Landscape Grid is a huge leap forward. With its national datasets and consistent and comparable data, it has huge potential for regional development, informing planning and decision-making."

The Soil and Landscape Grid of Australia

Published on 25 Nov 2014

This animation explores the science and technology behind the Soil and Landscape Grid of Australia. The Grid is the most comprehensive nation-wide soil and landscape mapping product produced yet. The CSIRO, Geoscience Australia, several state and territory agencies and the University of Sydney worked together to produce the Grid, which was supported by the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN) under the Australian Government's National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy.

 $1.4 million gift celebrates an astronomer's life at Sydney University

26 November 2014 - "We are morning and evening sky watchers. We live right on the sea front and see the most superb skies with all the constellations. We have wonderful views of the moon over the sea and every sunrise," says Penny Hunstead.

Penny and Dick Hunstead met on Newport Beach. They still live there and have been watching its changing skies together for over 47 years. That's when Dick, also known as Professor Richard Hunstead of the University of Sydney, is not sky-watching professionally.

For nearly 50 years, just slightly longer than his marriage, Professor Hunstead has been researching astronomy and teaching physics to students at the university.

"I was lucky to join the university just at the time radio astronomy was an up-and-coming science, which offered a different way of viewing the cosmos. It was a thrill during my PhD to work with the Mills Cross radio telescope, then one of the newest instruments to change the face of the discipline."

Professor Hunstead went on to make several important discoveries and has published over 200 articles, with quasars, black holes, galaxy formation and evolution just some of his areas of interest.

For his contribution and dedication, especially to his students, Penny Hunstead decided that any money they gave to the university should be in Dick's name.

The $1.4 million Dick Hunstead Fund for Astrophysics will support the Sydney Institute for Astronomy (SIfA). The Institute, based in the School of Physics, is one of the most diverse astrophysics groupings within Australia, spanning optical, radio, infrared, X-ray, theoretical and computational astrophysics.

"We'd previously given small amounts of $500 or $1000 to the university, but this was a chance to give this crucial institute the support it deserves. The money will help current students and encourage more to take up study in this area," said Professor Hunstead.

There has been a substantial growth in astrophysics internationally, driven largely by the developments of new observational facilities.

SIfA's most valuable instrument is the Molonglo Observatory Synthesis Telescope, a forerunner of the international Square Kilometre Array project.

"It is crucial that the institute positions itself to make the most of opportunities. As part of lifting its profile I want prominent astronomers such as Martin Rees, Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at Cambridge, to visit."

Whenever Dick takes students out to Siding Spring Observatory they are transfixed, astronomers and non-astronomers alike, by the beauty of its night sky.

"That wonder and fascination is what I still feel for astronomy. The field is on the cusp of a new era of discoveries across the whole electromagnetic spectrum. But of course the most exciting discoveries are the ones we cannot yet name or even imagine."

Dick and Penny share many interests, including a love of native plants (Penny is a trained botanist) and a shared life-long commitment to philanthropy, including volunteering.

A favourite saying of Penny's is one of Mahatma Gandhi's: 'The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.'

This gift celebrates Professor Hunstead's service to the University and the couple's shared philosophy as embodied in Gandhi's quote.

Gifts to the University contribute to INSPIRED - the campaign to support the University of Sydney which aims to raise $600 million from 50,000 donors to fund the pursuit of ideas that will shape the world in which we live.


Australians pose for their photograph on a captured German gun, image courtesy of the SLNSW 

War censorship secrets, Anzac nurses, and events on the home front are just some of the themes explored in the new website, Discovering Anzacs, launched on the 28th of October by the Governor-General, His Excellency  General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd).

A joint project by the National Archives of Australia and Archives New Zealand, the website will include digitised service dossiers of every Australian and New Zealander who served in World War I as well as many from the Boer War, creating a unique online profile for each. ‘We’re proud to be able to bring together the official records of our two archival institutions in this way,’ said David Fricker, Director-General of the National Archives of Australia.  ‘Discovering Anzacs builds on the success and popularity of our earlier website Mapping our Anzacs, and encourages members of the public to upload their own family stories, photos and mementoes.’

The National Archives of Australia has also expanded the range of records beyond that available on Mapping our Anzacs. Postcards about love and war, photographs of internees and cultural aspects of the time provide a detailed picture of life beyond the official war history. In all, the site includes the records of more than 600,000 people involved in conflicts or behind the scenes, including those of munitions workers, internees and merchant marines, as well as servicemen and women.

‘We hope members of the public will post their own photographs, news clippings and tributes to their relatives,’ said Mr Fricker.  ‘I’m sure many people will also enjoy playing an active role in transcribing records online to make them more searchable – as many have done already.’ ‘All of these records help us discover the reality of war – what happened behind the public face of national pride and heroism,’ said Mr Fricker. ‘As well as the heroes, there were those whose achievements went largely unrecognised. We see this website as a tribute to them all and a valuable resource for future research.’

Discovering Anzacs was launched at the National Archives of Australia on 28 October 2014 by the Governor-General, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove. Students from Campbell High School in Canberra, who have used National Archives records for their own World War I projects, also attended. The website can be explored at 

 Murray cod season opens December 1

27 Nov 2014 - Freshwater fishers will again be able to target Murray cod this summer when the season opens on Monday 1 December following the annual three-month breeding closure.

Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Inland Fisheries Manager Cameron Westaway said the native Murray cod is a prized catch for recreational fishers in the Murray-Darling system.

"Murray cod is one of Australia's largest freshwater fish, growing up to 1.8 metres and weighing more than 100 kilograms," Mr Westaway said.

"A ban on taking or attempting to take Murray cod is in place between September and November to protect this important species during its breeding season."

Mr Westaway said recreational fishers also need to remember the new recreational slot limit of 55 to 75cm for Murray cod in NSW.

"Recent changes now mean that while catch and release is allowed, it is a requirement to release all Murray cod caught outside the slot limit with the least possible harm," Mr Westaway said.

"The new rules should increase the number of larger cod in the system, improving both the long term sustainability of this great recreational fishery as well as increasing the chance of catching that fish of a lifetime."

DPI Acting Director Fisheries Compliance Patrick Tully said fisheries officers will continue to monitor inland waterways, particularly during the holiday season, to ensure fishers follow all recreational fishing rules.

"A daily bag limit of two Murray cod per person per day and a total possession limit of four applies when fishing in any inland waters," Mr Tully said.

"It is important that freshwater fishers are fully aware of the fishing rules in relation to Murray cod before dropping a line.

"Fishers are encouraged to report suspected illegal fishing by contacting your local fisheries office or by phoning the Fishers Watch Phoneline on 1800 043 536."

Other rules relating to the Murray cod include:

* Set lines cannot be used in any inland waters and are totally prohibited.

* Two attended lines may be used in all inland waters except some trout and closed waters, but these lines must be within 50 metres and in your line of sight.

* Live finfish including carp, birds and mammals cannot be used as bait.

More information can be found in the NSW Recreational Fishing Freshwater Fishing Guide, which is available from DPI offices and most places where NSW recreational fishing licences are sold.

 Underwater robot sheds new light on thick, deformed, Antarctic sea ice

November 24, 2014 - The first detailed, high-resolution 3-D maps of Antarctic sea ice have been developed using an underwater robot. Scientists from the UK, USA and Australia say the new technology provides accurate ice thickness measurements from areas that were previously too difficult to access.

The results, published this week in the journal Nature Geoscience (Monday 24 November 2014), step up the pace of research in the polar regions aimed at understanding the dramatic sea ice changes in the context of climate change.

Scientists use a range of technologies and techniques to measure sea ice thickness. Satellite observations can measure large-scale thickness from space, but interpreting the data accurately can be difficult due to snow cover on the ice. Measurements made on the sea ice by drilling holes, together with visual observations from ships are critical for building a more complete picture, but difficulties in getting access to thicker areas of sea ice leaves gaps in the data. Now, with the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) known as SeaBED, scientists have an invaluable new tool to fill this gap.

While most oceanographic survey instruments look down at the seafloor, SeaBED was fitted with an upward-looking sonar in order to measure and map the underside of sea ice floes. The AUV operated at a depth of 20 to 30 meters and was driven in a lawnmower pattern. These lines of data were merged to form high-resolution 3D bathymetric surveys of the underside of the ice.

The yellow SeaBED robot, which is approximately two meters long and weighs nearly 200 kilograms, has a twin-hull design that gives the robot enhanced stability for low-speed photographic surveys.

"Putting an AUV together to map the underside of sea ice is challenging from a software, navigation and acoustic communications standpoint," says Hanumant Singh, an engineering scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) whose lab designed, built and operated the AUV.

"SeaBED's maneuverability and stability made it ideal for this application where we were doing detailed floe-scale mapping and deploying, as well as recovering in close-packed ice conditions. It would have been tough to do many of the missions we did, especially under the conditions we encountered, with some of the larger vehicles."

Co-author Dr Guy Williams from Institute of Antarctic and Marine Science adds:

"The full 3-D topography of the underside of the ice provides a richness of new information about the structure of sea ice and the processes that created it. This is key to advancing our models particularly in showing the differences between Arctic and Antarctic sea ice."

The data from SeaBED, combined with airborne measurements of sea-ice surface elevation, ice coring surveys, and satellite observations, vastly improves scientists' estimates of ice thickness and total sea ice volume.

Co-author Dr Jeremy Wilkinson from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) says, "The AUV missions have given us a real insight into the nature of Antarctic sea ice -- like looking through a microscope. We can now measure ice in far greater detail and were excited to measure ice up to 17 metres thick."

The team deployed AUVs as part of two Antarctic cruises (IceBell and SIPEX-2) in 2010 and 2012 in the austral spring. First on the British Antarctic Survey's RRS James Clark Ross and the second on the Australian icebreaker the RSV Aurora Australis. Three locations around the Antarctic Peninsula were mapped -- the Weddell, Bellinghausen and Wilkes Land sectors covering an area of 500,000 square metres, the size of 100 football pitches.

The next steps are for the scientists to do large-scale surveys that can be compared to large-scale observations from aircraft and satellites.

"What this effort does is show that observations from AUVs under the ice are possible and there is a very rich data set that you can get from them," says Ted Maksym, a WHOI scientist and co-author of the paper. "This work is an important step toward making the kinds of routine measurements we need in order to really monitor and understand what's happening with the ice and the large scale changes that are occurring."

The above story is based on materials provided by British Antarctic Survey. This is the AUV SeaBED robot under the Antarctic sea ice. Credit: WHOI