Inbox and Environment News - Issue 194 

 December 21 - 27, 2014: Issue 194


Katrina Hodgkinson MP, Minister for Primary Industries Rob Stokes MP Minister for the Environment

MEDIA RELEASE- Friday 19 December 2014

Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, and Minister for the Environment, Rob Stokes, have announced a decision on the future of line fishing from ocean beaches and headlands at 30 mainland marine park sanctuary sites in NSW.

Based on independent scientific advice and environmental, social and economic considerations, the NSW Government will:

• retain the amnesty at 10 sites, which will be permanently rezoned to allow this activity; and

• immediately remove the amnesty at 20 sites, where sanctuary zone rules will again be enforced.

Ms Hodgkinson said the changes are consistent with the NSW Government’s new approach to management of the marine estate.

“The amnesty to allow shore-based recreational line fishing from 30 ocean beaches and headlands in marine park sanctuary zones was put in place in 2013 in response to the findings of the independent scientific audit of NSW marine parks,” Ms Hodgkinson said.

“The audit found that information was lacking with respect to some no-take zones, including ocean beaches.

“The amnesty was announced as a temporary measure, while a thorough risk assessment of the impact of these activities was undertaken. 

“That assessment, completed by the independent Marine Estate Expert Knowledge Panel, found that recreational shore-based line fishing was a low-risk activity at 10 locations, which will be rezoned to permanently allow this activity.

“The panel’s findings have informed the NSW Government’s decision to retain the amnesty at 10 sites and lift it at 20 sites.

“The NSW Government has also consulted with community leaders and is acting to ensure marine protection on those beaches deemed to be at moderate or high risk.”

Mr Stokes said that enforcement of sanctuary zone provisions at the 20 sites will recommence immediately.

 “These areas will return to a more natural state to be enjoyed for activities such as snorkelling and diving, as well as being used for scientific reference sites and educational purposes,” he said.

“A six-month advisory period will accompany the lifting of the amnesty; during this period recreational fishers found to be in breach of the rules will receive a caution however repeat offenders will be subject to standard compliance action.

“Risks to threatened fish and bird species in several areas will be reduced.”

Mr Stokes said there remained information gaps in relation to the impacts of this type of fishing in marine waters.

“To help fill these, the NSW Government will implement an enhanced data collection program so that fishing pressure and ecological condition can be more readily compared,” he said.

“This additional science is vital to inform future management decisions, including the development of the Marine Estate Management Strategy and forthcoming marine park planning pilots,” Mr Stokes said.

Further consideration of economic, social and ecological values will occur in each of the areas as part of planned reviews of management arrangements in each marine park.

Further information, including advice to the NSW Government from the Marine Estate Expert Knowledge Panel and the Marine Estate Management Authority, can be found at

 Help stop the spread of pest fish Tilapia

17 Dec 2014

The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) is seeking assistance from the public to help stop the spread of Tilapia, one of the world's most invasive fish species, after they were recently detected in the far north east of the State.

DPI Strategy Leader Aquatic Biosecurity Melissa Walker said community assistance is urgently needed to control the spread these pest fish, which were recently found in Bogangar Canal and Cudgen Lake, south of Kingscliff.

"The highest risk for transporting Tilapia is via humans carrying live fish or eggs," Ms Walker said.

"If people catch or find a Tilapia, it is vital that the fish is not returned to the water.

"Our advice to anyone who catches or finds Tilapia is to humanely destroy and dispose of it appropriately.

"In any case of uncertainty about identification, we recommend taking a good quality photo then calling the Aquatic Pest Hotline immediately for confirmation."

Ms Walker said Tilapia have pale olive to silver-grey bodies, with a long continuous dorsal fin, and can grow to more than 36 centimetres and live up to 13 years.

"The fish are particularly threatening because they are such successful breeders," Ms Walker said.

"Mothers produce up to 1200 eggs a year and protect their young fry in their mouths for up to 14 days before releasing them.

"This technique, known as 'mouth brooding', ensures that even if the mother is not living, any eggs in the mouth have the potential to survive.

"Once established in a flowing river or creek, these fish are almost impossible to eradicate so it is important to stop the spread of tilapia now before it's too late."

Tilapia impact on native fish numbers by competing for habitat and food, behaving aggressively, disturbing aquatic vegetation and could potentially introduce disease and parasites.

DPI Fisheries and Biosecurity staff are working with local council to coordinate surveys of the surrounding areas to help inform potential management options for this invasive pest fish.

Sightings of Tilapia can be reported to DPI by:

* Phone: 02 4916 3877 (24 hour hotline)

Online or via 


Top: Male and female Tilapea (photo Qld DAFF)

 A new agreement on environmental assessments for New South Wales

Joint media release - 15 December 2014: The Hon. Greg Hunt MP, Minister for the Environment, The Hon. Pru Goward MP, Minister for Planning

The Australian and New South Wales Governments has released for public comment an updated bilateral agreement on environmental assessments under national environment law.

The Australian Government is working with state and territory governments to streamline environmental regulation and develop a 'One-Stop Shop' for environmental assessment and approvals.

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt said that this new enhanced agreement will replace the assessment bilateral agreement currently in place and would deliver a more efficient process and greater certainty for business while maintaining the highest standards of environmental protection.

"This revised agreement builds upon the streamlining benefits of the current agreement, and introduces additional efficiency measures for environmental regulation in New South Wales.

"It is concrete evidence that our governments are progressively delivering on our shared objective to provide efficient, thorough and transparent environmental regulation in NSW while minimising duplication.

"Under this agreement, NSW will be accredited to conduct a project assessment under national laws and provide the Australian Government with a recommendation on whether to approve a project and what conditions should be attached to that decision under federal environment law," said Minister Hunt.

NSW Minister for Planning, Pru Goward, said that New South Wales will provide the Australian Government with rigorous and robust advice under national environment law.

"This will include jointly seeking expert advice from the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development for projects that are likely to have a significant impact on a water resource.

"Importantly, opportunities and timelines for the community to have a say about major developments are not proposed to change. This is about reducing needless hold-ups caused by two governments passing projects back and forth between them while they are being assessed.

"It means that projects in NSW will go through a single, NSW process, to ensure that high environmental standards are maintained."

A strong assurance framework ensures the best possible environmental protections remain in place including routine reporting, evaluation and review provisions, transparency and information sharing commitments and oversight of the agreement through a senior officers' committee.

Minister Goward said, “This new agreement reflects New South Wale’s determination to maximise the efficiency of the environmental assessment and approval process, and include a broader scope to ensure that more projects benefit from streamlined assessment.

"This agreement also recognises New South Wales' rigorous and transparent approach to determining offset requirements under its newly finalised NSW Biodiversity Offsets Policy for Major Projects."

The Australian Government remains committed to entering into approval bilateral agreements with all State and Territory Governments.

Approval bilateral agreements will ensure that only one decision is required for environmental approvals, accounting for both State matters and matters of national environmental significance.

This will further reduce the duplication of Federal and State planning processes which adds complexity, costs and delays to environmental approvals across the country.

Further information can be found

Deadline for comment: 5pm Monday 2 February 2015


Katrina Hodgkinson MP, Minister for Primary Industries Rob Stokes MP Minister for the Environment

MEDIA RELEASE - Monday 15 December 2014

NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, and Minister for the Environment, Rob Stokes, today announced the commencement of a study to assess the greater Sydney marine region.

The study will involve a comprehensive assessment of the Hawkesbury Shelf bioregion, which extends from Newcastle to Wollongong and includes Sydney Harbour, Broken Bay, Botany Bay and Port Hacking.

Ms Hodgkinson said the assessment will be conducted in accordance with the NSW Government’s new approach for marine estate management, as recently demonstrated with the passage of the Marine Estate Management Bill 2014 through NSW Parliament.

“It is important we continue to work to achieve a balance of social, economic and ecological needs when considering our marine estate,” Ms Hodgkinson said.

“Our approach is about committing to an evidence-based decision making process when it comes to the management of the marine estate, which considers social, economic and ecological impacts.

“There is no doubt that Sydney Harbour is an iconic and special place, but it is also a functional and working harbour.

“The project will be overseen by the Marine Estate Management Authority (the Authority) with input from the Marine Estate Expert Knowledge Panel, and will include consideration of the new approach as well as an assessment of threat and risks.”

The sites that will be monitored before a report to government in February 2016 are:

• Barrenjoey Head (existing aquatic reserve)

• Bronte-Coogee (existing aquatic reserve)

• Cape Banks (existing aquatic reserve)

• Chowder Bay (reference site)

• Long Reef (existing aquatic reserve)

• Narrabeen Head (existing aquatic reserve)

• North Harbour (existing aquatic reserve)

• North Harbour aquatic extension - Manly Wharf and Cove

• Magic Point Malabar (reference site)

• Wybung Head (reference site)

• Bouddi National Park Marine Extension (existing aquatic reserve)

Mr Stokes said monitoring and research at these priority sites will inform decision making about the creation of an integrated marine protected area along the metro coast by 2016.

“The NSW Government supports well located marine protected areas that improve marine biodiversity, enhance fish stocks and provide great recreational opportunities,” Mr Stokes said.

“This research will enable decisions about enhanced and integrated marine protection along the entire Hawkesbury Shelf Bioregion, including Sydney's harbour, estuaries and the metro coastline.

“Rather than making grand, empty promises about vast new marine parks with no detail, we believe that the creation of new marine protected areas that enjoy long term community support should be done from the ground up on the basis of scientific evidence and community engagement.”

Mr Stokes also announced that a report prepared for the NSW Government which collates existing information on the ecological assets, threats, and economic and social values of Sydney Harbour will provide background information into the study.

“The report by the Sydney Institute of Marine Science provides a good grounding for the Hawkesbury Shelf bioregion study to begin,” Mr Stokes said.

Further information can be found at


Troy Grant MP, Deputy Premier of NSW Rob Stokes MP, Minister for the Environment

MEDIA RELEASE - Thursday 18 December 2014

NSW Deputy Premier Troy Grant and Environment Minister Rob Stokes today welcomed the independent expert panel report on the review of native vegetation and threatened species laws.

Mr Grant said the independent panel’s recommendations included replacing the Native Vegetation Act, Threatened Species Act and parts of the National Parks and Wildlife Act with a new single piece of legislation that will ensure a balanced approach is taken in managing biodiversity, using a triple bottom line approach.

“The NSW Government is yet to form a response to the review but it’s pretty clear that based on this independent review, the Native Vegetation Act should be abolished,” Mr Grant said.

“I am confident the independent review’s findings will help us chart a path forward.

“For too long, farmers have been treated differently to all other landholders in the State and have faced many regulatory burdens in managing their land.

“Farmers are some of the best possible custodians of our land as they have a direct interest in ensuring biodiversity is sustained into the future.

“Government action on this has taken far too long, but we are firmly committed to fixing the mess left by Labor.”

Mr Stokes welcomed the panel’s recommendations and a proposal to draft a new, integrated Biodiversity Conservation Act.

“The proposals set out in the report will modernise and simplify a fragmented and aging set of biodiversity laws that have never been comprehensively reviewed,” Mr Stokes said.

“The proposals in this report offer a once-in-a-generation opportunity to implement transformational reforms and put in place a new law that will drive positive biodiversity conservation outcomes in NSW.

“I particularly acknowledge the recommendations that the Government must consider significant additional investment in private land conservation and our threatened species programs.

“The panel has made it clear that their recommendations should be implemented as an integrated package of reforms. This is necessary to ensure that we achieve our dual objectives to facilitate ecologically sustainable development and to conserve our environment.”The NSW Government will now consider the report and provide a response before the 2015 election.

To view the report,

 Packaging Waste and Litter Analysis Released

Media release - 19 December 2014

The Australian Government, in conjunction with State and Territory Governments today released the Packaging Impacts Decision Regulation Impact Statement. This statement analyses ten options to manage packaging waste and litter, including container deposit and industry-based approaches.

The release of the Packaging Impacts Decision Regulation Impact Statement finalises an investigation by Australia’s Environment Ministers on the costs and benefits of different national approaches to managing packaging waste and litter.

The release allows all stakeholders to draw on the information to guide future activities.

State and Territory Environment Ministers have been considering the Packaging Impacts Decision Regulation Impact Statement since April 2014. No consensus has been reached by State and Territory Governments regarding the need for additional national-level regulation in this area.

The Packaging Impacts Decision Regulation Impact Statement shows that existing arrangements, that include the Australian Packaging Covenant, have delivered improved outcomes over time. However, we can always be working towards improving our rates of recycling and recovery.

The Packaging Impacts Decision Regulation Impact Statement can be accessed at

 Proposed trial to reduce turtle deaths: A modified witches hat to reduce interaction with turtles

18 Dec 2014

The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) is proposing to undertake a trial in Port Stephens to reduce the incidence of marine turtles drowning in recreational crab catching gear.

The proposed trial will require witches hats and some crab traps used in Port Stephens to be modified to limit unintentional interactions of turtles with this gear.

DPI Acting Director Recreational and Indigenous Fisheries, Cameron Westaway, said monitoring data in Port Stephens since 2011 has shown a relatively high incidence of turtle drownings in recreational crab gear compared to other areas.

"Recent changes to recreational fishing rules – including reducing the number of witches hats from five to four and increasing the number of crab traps from one to two – is expected to have some impact in reducing interaction between turtles (and other non-target species) and set crab gear across the state," Mr Westaway said.

"However, given the significantly higher reported drowning rate of turtles in Port Stephens and in recognition of its importance as a habitat area for turtles, additional management action is considered necessary to address this specific issue in Port Stephens."

"DPI is proposing to implement a trial requiring witches hats to be modified to operate as lift nets. Rather than acting as inverted entanglement nets, the modified nets will be required to lie flat on the seabed, significantly reducing the interaction potential with non-target species."

The trial would also require fishers to reduce the entrance size of collapsible rectangular crab traps, which will still enable crabs to enter the trap but restrict entry of non-target species such as turtles.

"Every year more than one million recreational anglers wet a line in NSW – it is important we have current rules in place which ensure the long-term sustainability of our fisheries and minimise impacts on the environment," Mr Westaway said.

A local consultation paper is available on the DPI website  and the NSW Government is asking the community to provide feedback on the proposed trial.

Submissions close on 2 February 2015.

For more information on how to modify crab traps to reduce the chance of impacting on non-target species, visit the DPI website 

 Watch out for Superb Parrots on the roads over Christmas

Media release: 18 December 2014

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) and local community members are concerned about recent reports of Superb Parrots being killed by vehicles on roads in the Boorowa and Young Shires. The birds were apparently feeding on spilled grain.

Grain spillage from trucks is one of the main threats facing the Superb Parrot, a threatened birds.  About 15 years ago, a statewide campaign commenced to increase awareness of the issue.  This included providing signage at grain silos and weighbridges throughout the NSW wheatbelt where Superb Parrots are known to occur.

This initiative was well supported by local grain growers and GrainCorp and most grain trucks now cover their loads, which has reduced roadkill of Superb Parrots and other birds that feed on spilled grain.

OEH Threatened Species Team Leader Damon Oliver said he had recently received two reports of dead Superb Parrots at Monteagle and Bendick Murrell. The reports came from members of a community-based Superb Parrot survey program. 

Dr Oliver also recently saw a dead female Superb Parrot on a road near Murringo. The reports of dead Superb Parrots appear to be connected with grain trucks travelling along country roads in the Boorowa and Young areas.

“The birds land to feed and they fill up on grain. Birds are weighed down and have little chance of avoiding being hit by vehicles traveling at high speed,” Dr Oliver said.

“Unfortunately, Superb Parrots do not have the same road sense as Crows and other birds that often feed on roads and road verges.

“With a total population of only about 8000 birds, loss of birds from grain spill is a serious issue.”

Dr Oliver said many farmers in the NSW wheatbelt were aware of the Superb Parrot. He said some were protecting paddock trees and other vegetation the birds used for breeding habitat.

“It is very clear that the community cares for the Superb Parrot and is concerned to see birds getting hit on country roads.

“If you see a flock of Superb Parrots along a country road please slow down and consider sounding your horn when approaching.

“We are losing thousands upon thousands of native birds across the country to vehicles and if motorists safely slow down it will assist.”

Superb Parrot by Rosemary Stapleton

 Australia's coastal observation network may aid in understanding of extreme ocean events

December 17, 2014 – A network of nine reference sites off the Australian coast is providing the latest physical, chemical, and biological information to help scientists better understand Australia's coastal seas, according to a study published December 17, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Tim Lynch from CSIRO, Australia and colleagues.

Sustained oceanic observations allow scientists to track changes in oceanography and ecosystems. To address this, the Australian Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) implemented a network of nine National Reference Stations (NRS). The network builds on three long-term locations, where monthly water sampling has been ongoing since the 1940s and 50s. These moored sensors now collect more than 50 data streams, including sampling for temperature, salinity and nutrients, carbon, currents, and both phytoplankton and zooplankton.

The authors of this study evaluated the utility of this network and found that it may aid in observation of extreme events, such as marine heat waves, rare events, such as plankton blooms, and allow for consistent large scale sampling and analysis of coastal zooplankton and phytoplankton communities. The NRS may provide scientists with an understanding of how large-scale, long-term change and variability in the global ocean are affecting Australia's coastal seas and ecosystems.

Lead author, Dr Tim Lynch from CSIRO's Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship, says, "For the first time in Australia, we have combined forces across our various marine institutes and research organisations to build a continent-wide sampling of our coastal seas and ecosystems, so we can continuously track and understand variation at daily, seasonal, and annual time scales."

1. Lynch TP, Morello EB, Evans K, Richardson AJ, Rochester W, et al. IMOS National Reference Stations: A Continental-Wide Physical, Chemical and Biological Coastal Observing System.PLoS ONE, 2014 DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0113652

 Elephant caught on CCTV cleaning up the trash

Published on 10 Dec 2014

Amazing CCTV footage - What this elephant does will blow your mind, if they can do it why cant we?

 Join the conversation about Commonwealth Marine Reserves

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

 Military Voices - 1914 - The Carol of Christmas

Published on 28 Nov 2014

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This charity single is raising funds for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity, ABF The Soldiers' Charity and the RAF Benevolent Fund. This moving song honours those who served and the millions who died in the First World War. It features an ensemble of singers including the RAF Spitfire Choir, Flight Lieutenant Matt Little, Abby Scott and 12-year-old Canterbury Cathedral chorister and BBC Radio 2's Young Chorister of the Year Finalist William Inscoe.

This video was filmed at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey. Every attempt was made to ensure the upmost of respect was shown to what is a truly sacred grave. We wish to extend our thanks to the Dean and staff of Westminster Abbey for granting us the opportunity to tell this story at such a sacred and poignant place.


Courtesy Royal Australian Historical Society

The Sobraon, a Scottish built ship was launched in 1866. She was a composite built full rigged ship constructed of solid teak with iron beams and frames; she was copper fastened. She sailed between Sydney (1866-1871), Melbourne (1872-1891) and London via the Cape of Good Hope before being sold to the New South Wales Government.

For the next twenty years she lay moored in Sydney Harbour as a reformatory ship until 1911 when handed over to the Federal Government to be converted into a training ship for boys entering the Australian Navy. She was renamed the Tingara. (See our eNewsletter 22 May for further information on the training ships).

The clientele who chose to travel on her proved her popularity as a passenger ship; Lord & Lady Belmore and the vice-regal suite on their way to assume the Governorship of New South Wales and Mr Ducane, the Governor of Tasmania all sailed on her. Whilst entertained aboard her in Sydney Harbour, Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh asked that the Sobraon, "the finest ship in port," be made the flagship for the Anniversary Regatta in January 1868.

This is the menu for Christmas feast aboard the Sobraon on her last journey.


Soup - Mock turtle. Mutton cutlets ‘a la Reform.’ Stewed oysters. Curried prawns. Oxford sausages. Jugged hare and jelly. Cutlets ‘a la Prince de Galles.’ Curried eggs. Roast duck (stuffed). Boiled fowl and bread sauce. Braised ham and sauce piquant. Roast haunch of mutton and jelly. Corned leg of pork and peas - Pudg. Green peas - French beans. Mashed and baked potatoes. Plum pudding. Mince pies. Gooseberry meringue. Trifles - jellies.

This menu was made possible because the ship had an icebox capable of holding 10 tons of ice for perishable foods and carried a regular farmyard - 3 bullocks, 90 sheep, 50 pigs, 3 milking cows, and 300 head of poultry. [Menu extracted from - Glassford, R. W. A fleet of hulks. JRAHS Vol. 39 Pt 5, 1953].

Image: Tingira (Sobraon) Berry's Bay, 10 Nov. 1935 [RAHS Photograph Collection]

 NASA Goddard instrument makes first detection of organic matter on Mars

December 16, 2014 - The team responsible for the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite on NASA's Curiosity rover has made the first definitive detection of organic molecules at Mars. Organic molecules are the building blocks of all known forms of terrestrial life, and consist of a wide variety of molecules made primarily of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. However, organic molecules can also be made by chemical reactions that don't involve life, and there is not enough evidence to tell if the matter found by the team came from ancient Martian life or from a non-biological process. Examples of non-biological sources include chemical reactions in water at ancient Martian hot springs or delivery of organic material to Mars by interplanetary dust or fragments of asteroids and comets.

The surface of Mars is currently inhospitable to life as we know it, but there is evidence that the Red Planet once had a climate that could have supported life billions of years ago. For example, features resembling dry riverbeds and minerals that only form in the presence of liquid water have been discovered on the Martian surface. The Curiosity rover with its suite of instruments including SAM was sent to Mars in 2011 to discover more about the ancient habitable Martian environment by examining clues in the chemistry of rocks and the atmosphere.

The organic molecules found by the team were in a drilled sample of the Sheepbed mudstone in Gale crater, the landing site for the Curiosity rover. Scientists think the crater was once the site of a lake billions of years ago, and rocks like mudstone formed from sediment in the lake. Moreover, this mudstone was found to contain 20 percent smectite clays. On Earth, such clays are known to provide high surface area and optimal interlayer sites for the concentration and preservation of organic compounds when rapidly deposited under reducing chemical conditions.

While the team can't conclude that there was life at Gale crater, the discovery shows that the ancient environment offered a supply of reduced organic molecules for use as building blocks for life and an energy source for life. Curiosity's earlier analysis of this same mudstone revealed that the environment offered water and chemical elements essential for life and a different chemical energy source.

"We think life began on Earth around 3.8 billion years ago, and our result shows that places on Mars had the same conditions at that time -- liquid water, a warm environment, and organic matter," said Caroline Freissinet of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "So if life emerged on Earth in these conditions, why not on Mars as well?" Freissinet is lead author of a paper on this research submitted to the Journal of Geophysical Research-Planets.

The organic molecules found by the team also have chlorine atoms, and include chlorobenzene and several dichloroalkanes, such as dichloroethane, dichloropropane and dichlorobutane. Chlorobenzene is the most abundant with concentrations between 150 and 300 parts-per-billion. Chlorobenzene is not a naturally occurring compound on Earth. It is used in the manufacturing process for pesticides (insecticide DDT), herbicides, adhesives, paints and rubber. Dichloropropane is used as an industrial solvent to make paint strippers, varnishes and furniture finish removers, and is classified as a carcinogen.

It's possible that these chlorine-containing organic molecules were present as such in the mudstone. However, according to the team, it's more likely that a different suite of precursor organic molecules was in the mudstone, and that the chlorinated organics formed from reactions inside the SAM instrument as the sample was heated for analysis. Perchlorates (a chlorine atom bound to four oxygen atoms) are abundant on the surface of Mars. It's possible that as the sample was heated, chlorine from perchlorate combined with fragments from precursor organic molecules in the mudstone to produce the chlorinated organic molecules detected by SAM.

In 1976, the Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer instrument on NASA's Viking landers detected two simple chlorinated hydrocarbons after heating Martian soils for analysis (chloromethane and dichloromethane). However they were not able to rule out that the compounds were derived from the instrument itself, according to the team. While sources within the SAM instrument also produce chlorinated hydrocarbons, they don't make more than 22 parts-per-billion of chlorobenzene, far below the amounts detected in the mudstone sample, giving the team confidence that organic molecules really are present on Mars.

The SAM instrument suite was built at NASA Goddard with significant elements provided by industry, university, and national and international NASA partners.

For this analysis, the Curiosity rover sample acquisition system drilled into a mudstone and filtered fine particles of it through a sieve, then delivered a portion of the sample to the SAM laboratory. SAM detected the compounds using its Evolved Gas Analysis (EGA) mode by heating the sample up to about 875 degrees Celsius (around 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit) and then monitoring the volatiles released from the sample using a quadrupole mass spectrometer, which identifies molecules by their mass using electric fields. SAM also detected and identified the compounds using its Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer (GCMS) mode. In this mode, volatiles are separated by the amount of time they take to travel through a narrow tube (gas chromatography -- certain molecules interact with the sides of the tube more readily and thus travel more slowly) and then identified by their signature mass fragments in the mass spectrometer.

The first evidence for elevated levels of chlorobenzene and dichloroalkanes released from the mudstone was obtained on Curiosity Sol 290 (May 30, 2013) with the third analysis of the Cumberland sample at Sheepbed. The team spent over a year carefully analyzing the result, including conducting laboratory experiments with instruments and methods similar to SAM, to be sure that SAM could not be producing the amount of organic material detected.

"The search for organics on Mars has been extremely challenging for the team," said Daniel Glavin of NASA Goddard, a co-author on the paper. "First, we need to identify environments in Gale crater that would have enabled the concentration of organics in sediments. Then they need to survive the conversion of sediment to rock, where pore fluids and dissolved substances may oxidize and destroy organics. Organics can then be destroyed during exposure of rocks at the surface of Mars to intense ionizing radiation and oxidants. Finally, to identify any organic compounds that have survived, we have to deal with oxychlorine compounds and possibly other strong oxidants in the sample which will react with and combust organic compounds to carbon dioxide and chlorinated hydrocarbons when the samples are heated by SAM."

As part of Curiosity's plan for exploration, an important strategic goal was to sample rocks that represent different combinations of the variables thought to control organic preservation. "The SAM and Mars Science Laboratory teams have worked very hard to achieve this result," said John Grotzinger of Caltech, Mars Science Laboratory's Project Scientist. "Only by drilling additional rock samples in different locations, and representing different geologic histories were we able to tease out this result. At the time we first saw evidence of these organic molecules in the Cumberland sample it was uncertain if they were derived from Mars, however, additional drilling has not produced the same compounds as might be predicted for contamination, indicating that the carbon in the detected organic molecules is very likely of Martian origin."

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. The original article was written by Bill Steigerwald.

Photo: MSL Curiosity rover at "John Klein" drill site. This self-portrait of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of exposures taken by the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager on Feb. 3, 2013 plus three exposures taken May 10, 2013 to show two holes (in lower left quadrant) where Curiosity used its drill on the rock target "John Klein". Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Give the gift of speech and language development

18 December 2014

Researchers from the Kids Talk Lab at the University of Sydney are encouraging parents to give children books as gifts this Christmas to help develop vital speech, language and communication skills.

Speech pathologist Dr Elise Baker said many parents worry about their children's speech, but reading together is an easy and effective way to focus on improving speech and language skills.

"Reading together gives children the opportunity to hear speech sounds in words, to talk about new words and meanings and to have conversations about ideas, feelings and events - all of which are critical to communication development," said Dr Baker.

Dr Baker and Dr Natalie Munro from the University of Sydney's Faculty of Health Sciences studied book reading interactions between parents and children and found the way parents read with their children was the most important factor influencing the development of speech and language skills.

"It's not about the quantity of books read, but about the quality of the interaction," said Dr Munro.

"It's the conversation that happens between the pages of the book that turns book reading into a real learning experience."

Expert tips on using story time to develop your child's speech and language skills:

1.Spend quality time reading with your children

It takes time to read with your kids. Parents shouldn't rush through the book from front to back, you need to give children the chance to make comments about what they see and think.

2.Encourage interaction

If your child points to the text, read the word aloud and talk about the letter sounds that make up the word.

3.Stop and summarise

Define any new words that your child may be unfamiliar with and check in to see how much your child understands.

4.Ask good questions

Open-ended questions are a great way to actively engage children. Begin with simple questions like "what's happening here?" or "what can you see?" and then move onto more challenging ones like "what do you think will happen next?".

5.Choose books that focus on your kids' problem areas

If your child is having difficulty pronouncing the "k" sound and says "tar" or "dar" for the word "car," read loads of books about cars, cows, castles, kings or kangaroos.

"With so many children's books on the market it can be hard to know what to choose, but the best book is the one that is read together," said Dr Baker.

If you are concerned about your child's speech, language or communication skills, seek the advice of your local speech pathologist.

 Investigator tour

Join voyage manager Max McGuire on a tour of Investigator.

 An Exploration of the Motives and Historical Understanding of Family History Researchers

A message from Emma Shaw, doctoral candidate in the School of Education at the University of Newcastle, Australia:

"I am conducting research into the current phenomenon of family history research, and I am seeking to understand why people undertake their family history research, how they learn their research skills, and what they learn from the process. This particular study is an Australian first, and is an exciting opportunity to contribute to the knowledge about the way people who undertake family history research explore the past. I would welcome your participation in my study.

Thank you for your time,

Emma Shaw"

Click on the following link to take part in the survey (the survey will take approx. 10 minutes to complete):

 Düsseldorf Mural

Artists: Klaus Klinger - Kübra Sirinyurt

Economic Miracle mural, Düsseldorf, Germany

The mural was painted in 2007 with local residents.

Sponsored By: Fonds Soziokultur, Hausbesitzer Lamertz, Tigges, Carlsberg Brauerei, Elpass Automaten, Asta der Fachhochschule, Helga Zimmer

 More babies born in Australia

For the first time in five years, there has been an increase in the rate of births in Australia, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Australia's mothers and babies 2012, shows that a total of 307,474 women gave birth to 312,153 babies in 2012, a 3.4% increase from 2011 and a 21.5% increase since 2003.

The overall birth rate of women aged 15 to 44 years was 65.0 per 1,000 women which is the highest rate in the last decade and similar to the birth rate 64.9 per 1,000 women in 2007. An estimated 4% of women who gave birth received assisted reproductive technology in the 5 jurisdictions for which data on ART were available.

The average age of mothers in Australia steadily increased, from 29.5 years in 2003 to 30.1 years in 2012.

'About 42% of women who gave birth in 2012 had their first baby, and the average age for first time mothers was 28.4 years,' said Dr Georgina Chambers, of the AIHW National Perinatal Epidemiology and Statistics Unit.

'Over the last decade the proportion of older women giving birth continued to rise, while the proportion of teenage births continued to fall. Mothers aged 35 years and older made up more than 22.4% of all women giving birth in 2012 compared to 18.8% in 2003. Conversely teenage births declined from 4.6% in 2003 to 3.6% in 2012.'

In 2012, 4% of women who gave birth identified as Indigenous. Indigenous mothers were younger than non-Indigenous mothers with an average age in 2012 of 25.2 years compared with 30.3. The average age of first time Indigenous mothers was 21.5 compared to 28.6 for non-Indigenous mothers.

Smoking during pregnancy was reported by 12.5% of all mothers in 2012 and in almost 35% of teenage mothers.

Overall, 6% of liveborn babies were of low birthweight (less than 2,500 grams) and this doubled (12%) among mothers who smoked during pregnancy.

The overall proportion of women giving birth by caesarean section in 2012 was 32.4% and similar to the proportion (32.3%) in 2011.

Caesarean section rates increased over the decade from 28.5% in 2003 to 32.4% in 2012.

'In 2012, caesarean sections rates ranged from 17.1% for teenage mothers to 49.9% for mothers aged 40 and over,' Dr Chambers said.

The perinatal death rate was 9.6 per 1,000 births, with 7.2 stillbirths per 1,000 births and 2.4 neonatal deaths (death of a liveborn infant within 28 days of birth) per 1,000 live births.

For the first time, an overview of perinatal data and information about the demographics of mothers are available in a dynamic and interactive portal on the AIHW website, where further releases are planned.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 16 December 2014

Full publication: Australia's mothers and babies 2012


18 DECEMBER 2014- Here's something for the Christmas wish-list for Australia's reported one million sleep apnoea sufferers - a new Australian-made solution - a 3D-printed titanium mouthguard to help let air flow freely.

Sleep apnoea is a condition where the air passage in the throat becomes blocked during sleep and causes people to stop breathing.

Severe sufferers experience hundreds of such events per night, leading to high blood pressure, stroke, irregular heartbeats, heart attacks and diabetes.

Brisbane-based dentist Chris Hart had an idea for a mouthguard with airways that would assist airflow past the sleep apnoea sufferer's soft palette. He approached the CSIRO for help developing a device printed from titanium with a soft medical grade plastic mouthguard,

The result is the Oventus Clearway Device, a 'duckbill' which extends from the mouth like a whistle and divides into two separate airways that allows air to flow through to the back of the throat, which bypasses obstructions that cause the problems.

"Chris Hart and his company had the great ideas, we just enabled them to become a reality," CSIRO's John Barnes said.

Mr Barnes and his team worked with Dr Hart on both the physical device, some bespoke scanning software, and provided the business modelling support which led to the release of the Oventus Clearway Device to the market.

"The team from the CSIRO have helped us take advantage of the unique benefits of 3D printing technologies to build an Australian product that stands a good chance of making a big impact on the world market, but also on people's everyday wellbeing," Oventus Chief Executive Neil Anderson said.

Gold Coast retiree Maurice Hrovat, 57, said the device has been not just life-changing but relationship changing, his wife having long ago sent him to sleep down the hallway or suffer through a night's sleep with ear plugs.

Now in to his second week with the Oventus Clearway Device, Mr Hrovat reports not only a return to his own bedroom, but an increase in energy levels.

"I used to need an afternoon nap, I was so exhausted from a bad night's sleep, but I find I am getting up earlier, exercising more, and no more afternoon naps," Mr Hrovat said.

As the Clearway Device is initially only available through the Turbot Street, Brisbane practice of Chris Hart, with practices in Sydney and Melbourne introducing the product in the New Year, Santa might have to save your device until Christmas 2015, but interested patients or dental or medical practices can find more information on the Oventus website

Pricing for the device is around $1500 but depends on the patient's individual requirements and their healthcare funding and insurance cover.

 David Coffin - "Roll the Old Chariot"

Shot at the 2010 Portsmouth Maritime Folk Festival, David Coffin leads the crowd at the "Grand Finale Shanty Blast" in singing "Roll the Old Chariot"

Shot by videographer Stephan Smith of Piscataqua Productions.

 Amazing!!!The tortoise turned over by smart companion - saving it

By AuDi Yu Published on 25 Nov 2014