Inbox and Environment News - Issue 216 

 May 31 - June 6, 2015: Issue 216

 Pittwater Indian Myna Action Group Launched

May 25, 2015

As part of a public awareness campaign we have created this Facebook page to keep the residents of Pittwater (and anyone else who is interested) up-to-date on the community efforts to control the spread of this pest bird. We need volunteers to take traps from us and help us get rid of this very invasive bird. We will be posting lots of information on the site to help everyone better understand the effect this bird has on the community - not only all the other birds but humans as well. Please let your friends know what we are doing by following us and liking our page. The Pittwater Indian Myna Action Group has been set up as a sub-group to the widely known Pittwater Natural Heritage Association. If you have any questions please post them on here and I will get back to you asap. 

See and ‘like’:

 Farmers helping to save threatened fish

NSW Govt. Department of Primary Industries, 26 May 2015

Department of Primary Industries (DPI) staff have successfully relocated hundreds of Southern Pygmy Perch from Blakney Creek, just north of Yass, into two suitable farm dam habitats to create safe refuges for the threatened fish.

Recent surveys by DPI and the University of Canberra confirmed that the pest fish species Redfin Perch has migrated at least six kilometres upstream, since 2013, and are significantly threatening the Blakney Creek population of the endangered Southern Pygmy Perch.

DPI Senior Conservation Manager, Dr Trevor Daly said during the recent surveys DPI obtained evidence of direct predation of Southern Pygmy Perch by Redfin Perch.

"In areas where Redfin perch invade the Southern Pygmy Perch soon decline and disappear," Dr Daly said.

"The Southern Pygmy Perch were once widely distributed throughout the Murrumbidgee and Murray River Systems however there are now only three known remnant populations remaining in NSW

"To help protect the Southern Pygmy Perch population in Blakney Creek we have relocated 268 Southern Pygmy Perch into two suitable farm dam habitats and we are very grateful for landowner assistance with this essential and exciting project."

Allan Howard of 'Rocky Ridge', Blakney Creek said he and his wife were pleased their dams could be used to create refuges for the Southern Pygmy Perch.

"We are happy to assist with this important conservation work by allowing our dams to be stocked with rare native fish species," Mr Howard said.

The Southern Pygmy Perch in the Howards' dams will be monitored regularly and it is hoped they will breed and grow in numbers to the extent they can be stocked into other refuge areas in future.

The Department will investigate other suitable dam and waterway habitats within the Blakney Creek catchment where further potential refuges for Southern Pygmy Perch can be established with the support of local landowners.

There are heavy penalties for harming, possessing, buying or selling Southern Pygmy Perch, or for harming their habitat.

Information about the species can be obtained from the DPI website

 Biodiversity: New protected areas need to be more than 'paper parks,' experts urge

May 26, 2015

Protected areas are the cornerstone to prevent species extinctions. The Convention on Biological Diversity have set a target to protect 17% of all terrestrial land by 2020.

Many of the recommendations are provided for single countries to take action individually. Researchers in the University of Helsinki, Finland, stress the importance of international collaborations in the protected area expansion process.

"It has been shown that working at the country level is less efficient than promoting transnational collaborations. As a result, platforms that support international collaborations from planning based on improved data to effective management should be strengthened," says Dr. Tuuli Toivonen, a tenure track professor in geoinformatics.

The researchers conclude that mechanisms for international collaboration should be in place and strengthened quickly, as global change and other threats are quickly eroding biodiversity. Collaborations are crucial in specific key areas:

"More data are needed on the distribution of species, particularly for plants and for less known groups such as invertebrates. Creating and maintaining the core data resources should also be secured," says Dr. Enrico Di Minin, a researcher in conservation science.

There should also be an emphasis on protecting all species that are currently unprotected globally. Meeting a percentage target of protected area coverage within individual countries is not enough. "In addition, the international community should ensure that resources are available to effectively manage protected areas once they are established," Di Minin continues.

The researchers state that the current protected area network is biased towards higher lands and unproductive landscapes, missing many priority areas for conservation. As such, many species are currently not protected.

"Also, resources for management activities are woefully inadequate, making many of these protected areas exist only on paper," Di Minin says.

At the recent World Parks Congress organized by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Sydney, Australia, conservation professionals drafted twelve innovative approaches, as part of the 'Promise of Sydney', to help transform decision-making, policy, capacity and financing for protected areas in the next decade. The document includes a list of 20 important recommendations to help reach global conservation goals.

E. Di Minin, T. Toivonen. Global Protected Area Expansion: Creating More than Paper Parks. BioScience, 2015; DOI:10.1093/biosci/biv064

 Delivering on our commitment to plant 20 Million Trees

Media release 28 May 2015; The Hon. Greg Hunt MP, Minister for the Environment

The Coalition Government is continuing to deliver on its promise to plant 20 Million Trees with almost 10 million trees already committed for planting over the next three years.

CO2 Australia, Greening Australia and Landcare Australia will work with local communities to plant around 6.7 million trees by the middle of 2018 under the 20 Million Trees Programme.

The work of the service providers over the next three years will make significant inroads into the Government's 20 million tree target by 2020.

In addition, the Government has already announced 1.1 million trees as part of round one of the 20 Million Trees small grants round.

And the Government is delivering on its election commitments to plant one million trees to re-establish green areas across west Melbourne and to plant one million trees in the Cumberland Conservation Corridor.

The Government's 20 Million Trees programme will help to re-establish green corridors across our landscapes and provide habitat for threatened species, while also reducing Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.

The large scale projects delivered by the service providers will achieve local environmental outcomes and complement other components of the National Landcare Programme.

Local community groups interested in working with the service providers are invited to contact them directly to discuss ideas for future large-scale tree planting projects.

Initial projects will be delivered in Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

The Government will work with the service providers to deliver further projects across the country.

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

Further information about the service providers is available

 $10 million to support Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Values

Joint media release: 27 May 2015; The Hon. Greg Hunt MP, Minister for the Environment with The Hon. Matthew Groom, Tasmanian Minister for the Environment, Parks and Heritage

The Commonwealth and Tasmanian Governments are delivering improved outcomes for the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area with $10.2 million for the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and rehabilitation of the World Heritage values of the property.

The funding will be provided by the Commonwealth Government to support the Tasmanian Government's increased and ongoing management responsibilities in the areas added to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area in 2013.

The funding includes a one-off payment of $3.2 million next financial year to address identified priority issues such as road safety and biosecurity concerns including managing the spread of invasive species, pests and pathogens.

The funding also provides $575,000 to undertake further study and consultation with the Tasmanian Aboriginal community, as requested by the World Heritage Committee, in order to develop a more detailed understanding of the Aboriginal cultural heritage values of the property.

This work will document both tangible and intangible Aboriginal cultural values in the World Heritage Area and will ensure the Aboriginal cultural values of the property are properly documented, that the threats are identified, and provide recommendations for their ongoing management.

To date the work has focussed on identifying known cultural values within the Tasmanian Wilderness, including in the 2013 extension. Planning has commenced for the next phase, including detailed on-ground surveys in consultation with the Tasmanian Aboriginal community.

The Commonwealth and Tasmanian Governments are committed to working together to ensure that the Outstanding Universal Values of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area are fully and properly protected.

We look forward to a constructive engagement with the World Heritage Committee and its advisory bodies as we finalise the management plan for the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and would welcome direct technical discussions in Tasmania to help ensure the final management plan is consistent with the proper protection of cultural and natural values of the Area.

Australia's experience with the Great Barrier Reef has demonstrated the value of close engagement with the World Heritage Committee to progress the effective governance, protection and management of our World Heritage properties.

We remain absolutely committed to the protection of the natural and cultural values of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and, as we have always stated, the plan will deliver on Australia's obligations under the World Heritage Convention.

 El Niño in the tropical Pacific continues to strengthen

26 May 2015

The Bureau of Meteorology’s latest update on the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) today confirms the El Niño in the tropical Pacific continues to strengthen. International climate models surveyed by the Bureau indicate sea surface temperatures will remain well above El Niño thresholds at least into the southern hemisphere spring.

Oceanic and atmospheric indictors show a clear El Niño signal. Sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean have exceeded El Niño thresholds for nearly two months, supported by warmer-than-average waters below the surface. Trade winds have remained consistently weaker than average since the start of the year, cloudiness at the Date Line has increased, and the 90-day average Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) is now below –10.

El Niño is often associated with below-average winter and spring rainfall over eastern Australia, and above-average daytime temperatures over the southern half of the country. However, the strength of El Niño doesn't directly relate to the strength of its effects on Australia's climate.

The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is currently neutral, with the majority of the Indian Ocean being warmer that average. Of the five international models that monitor the IOD, three suggest a positive IOD event is likely later in 2015. A positive IOD is typically associated with reduced winter and spring rainfall over parts of southern and central Australia.

 Blueprint for a thirsty world from Australia

May 26, 2015

The Millennium Drought in southeastern Australia forced Greater Melbourne, a city of 4.3 million people, to successfully implement innovations that hold critical lessons for water-stressed regions around the world, according to findings by UC Irvine and Australian researchers.

It wasn't a new pipeline over the mountains, special rate hikes or a $6 billion desalination plant that kept faucets running. Rather, integrated outreach by utilities and agencies required to work together led to a culture shift among ordinary water users, according to the work published online in the WIREs Water journal.

By the time Australia's worst-ever recorded drought ended in 2010, one in three Melbourne households had a rainwater tank, similar to a rain barrel in the U.S. Many had built retention ponds to contribute to the urban water supply -- for which they still earn credits on their bills. Highly treated sewage water was used to irrigate farm fields, and infusions of drinking water into bone-dry streams to help wildlife were halted.

All told, residents and commercial users slashed their water use to a miserly 41 gallons (155 liters) per person per day by 2010 -- half the rate of 1997, when the dry period began.

"Documenting what happened in Melbourne during the Millennium Drought was a real eye-opener," said senior author Stanley Grant, a UCI civil & environmental engineer. "It's like looking into what the future could be for California, if we got our act together."

Four years into the state drought, average residential water use in Los Angeles is twice as high as Melbourne's -- 83 gallons per day in January, according to published reports -- and the state average is 109 gallons Palm Springs residents average a whopping 347 gallons per day, more than eight times the rate in Melbourne.

The study is the first comprehensive examination of what worked and what didn't during Australia's decade-plus dry spell. The team documented when policies were implemented and combined that with data from water managers to pinpoint how demand was decreased.

Many of the aggressive programs begun during the drought are still in place, but others are not. The highly treated sewage water used on crops, while deemed safe, was saltier than regular freshwater. There are inconclusive findings on whether that, high heat or other factors led to stunted plants and reduced harvests. But the practice was discontinued with more normal rainfall.

The single most helpful factor in Melbourne was an integrated water management system, in sharp contrast to the highly decentralized water systems in California and elsewhere. Federal programs provided funds to the state of Victoria, whose officials then aided Melbourne. A regional water manager has the power to force disparate water utilities, reservoir managers and city agencies to work together during times of drought -- and he used it.

"You can't just come up with technical innovations and think that's going to do the trick. You need education, you need public outreach, and you need all these people working on it," said corresponding author David Feldman. "During the drought in Australia, if you watered your lawn, you heard about it from your neighbors."

It could be tough to replicate some of Melbourne's successes in the parched Golden State, noted Feldman, professor and chair of planning, policy & design at UCI. Despite the state's track record for innovation in energy and technology, he said, "water is so different. When it comes to water, California is still in the oasis stage," largely in denial of the problem.

The researchers note that Melbourne's process had fits and starts too, but overall, the region is much more prepared to grapple with climate change and future shortages.

"Come the next drought, they're going to be in far better shape," Feldman said. "That's probably the biggest lesson."

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Irvine


Mark Speakman Minister for the Environment Minister for Heritage Assistant Minister for Planning - MEDIA RELEASE Friday 22 May 2015 

Minister for Heritage Mark Speakman has made an Interim Heritage Order (IHO) over “Lansdowne”, a residence in Neutral Bay, in response to a request by North Sydney Council. Mr Speakman said the IHO was a temporary order to allow North Sydney Council the necessary time required to undertake further heritage assessment of the 3 Anderson Street residence to determine if it is of local heritage significance. 

The IHO last for 12 months unless revoked sooner. Lansdowne is said to be a Queen Anne residence from the 1890’s.

“The IHO will allow a full assessment of the site’s values to be explored. While the IHO is in force, the Heritage Council of New South Wales will be an approval body for any development on this site.” 

The property has been subject to an IHO previously made by North Sydney Council in April 2014. Council subsequently revoked that IHO in June last year but then requested the Minister to make a further IHO following new information coming to hand.

“Council is not permitted to make more than one IHO on a property, so it was up to the Government to step in and provide Council with the time it needs to determine the building’s level of significance, and whether it should be given heritage protection,” Mr Speakman said.

 NSW Govt.Office - HAVE YOUR SAY

Design of the Gas Community Benefits Fund

What is the Community Benefits Fund for Gas?

The Government has announced the establishment of the Gas Community Benefits Fund to benefit communities in which gas producers operate.

The Government doesn't have a fixed or pre–determined model (design) which it has committed to, in the development of the fund.

Seeking the view of the public and stakeholders will be critical to maximising the value of the fund for communities in NSW.

Have Your Say

NSW Trade and Investment, Resources and Energy is responsible for the establishment of the fund and has developed a discussion paper to facilitate the establishment of the Fund. 

You are invited to submit your view on the Gas Community Benefits Fund in writing by 5:00pm, 17 July 2015 via email or mail to:

Gas Community Benefits Fund, Strategy, Policy & Coordination,Division of Resources & Energy, Level 48, MLC Centre / 19 Martin Place, Sydney NSW 2000

Please note: in the discussion paper, questions are presented to provide feedback. The questions are a guide, and are not intended to restrict comments on any other issues that you consider relevant to the design of the Fund.

Email: Date: May. 21 - Jul. 17, 2015

Time: 9:00am — 5:00pm

More Information:   (02) 9338 6935 

Agency Website  Consultation Website 

Berowra Valley National Park and Regional Park Draft Plan of Management

The exhibition of the draft plan provides an important opportunity for the community to have a say on future management directions for Berowra Valley National Park and Berowra Valley Regional Park.

Why is a plan being prepared now?

A new plan of management is being prepared, following the reclassification of most of Berowra Valley Regional Park to Berowra Valley National Park, in recognition of the park’s high conservation value.

What has been updated?

Under national park status, conservation measures are a strong point of focus. National park status also allows for sustainable visitor use, subject to strict controls. Nine hectares of the original Berowra Valley Regional Park have been retained in order to accommodate local dog walkers on existing management trails.

What opportunities will the community have to comment?

The draft plan of management is on public exhibition until 6th July 2015 and anyone can make a comment.

Members of the public are invited to comment by submitting a via email submission to

or by post to:

The Planner, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, PO Box 3031. Asquith NSW 2077

Draft plan of management (POM) on page of Consultation website:HERE 

Draft second edition of Environmental Guidelines: Solid Waste Landfills – public consultation

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has released a draft second edition of the Environmental Guidelines: Solid Waste Landfills.

The previous edition was released in 1996. It has several limitations associated with its age, including out-of-date legislation and policy, as well as not providing detailed treatment of a number of technical issues.

This draft second edition aims to address these limitations and to provide an updated set of minimum standards for design, construction and operation of a modern landfill facility. Further details about the main changes are outlined in the Questions and Answers below.

Download the Draft Environmental Guidelines: Solid waste landfills (Second edition, 2015) (PDF 1MB).

The EPA is seeking comments from industry, government agencies and the community on the draft guidelines and welcomes any comments by 30 June 2015.

Submission address

Environment Protection Authority Attention: Waste Operations PO Box A290 Sydney South NSW 1232

See all documents at:

 Legal challenge seeks documents on seismic testing in whale zones

May 29, 2015 By EDO NSW Solicitor Elaine Johnson

EDO NSW has launched a legal action on behalf of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) which seeks to gain access to documents relating to Bight Petroleum’s plans to conduct seismic exploration in whale breeding grounds near Kangaroo Island, off South Australia.

IFAW is asking the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) to order the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) to release the documents. NOPSEMA is a federal marine regulatory body and has so far refused all requests to release the information under Freedom of Information exemptions. An initial conciliation meeting, as part of the AAT process, has been set down for 14 July.

This is an important case which will test the transparency and accountability of NOPSEMA, the new regulator of the offshore oil and gas industry.

Seismic testing involves using high-powered air-gun arrays to fire intense blasts of air into the ocean, every 10 seconds, up to 24 hours a day over periods of weeks and months. This can interfere with marine animals which use sound in communication, navigation, orientation, feeding and the detection of predators and prey.

summary of scientific research on the impacts of underwater noise on marine animals found a variety of impacts on marine species, including significant behavioural disturbances, hearing loss, physical injury and death. It said the power of air-gun arrays has generally increased during the past decades, as exploration has moved into deeper waters. Sound signals from seismic air-gun surveys can be received thousands of kilometres away from the source.

Bight Petroleum’s seismic exploration area covers 3,000 square km and is located about 100 km west of Kangaroo Island and 70 km south of Cape Carnot on the Eyre Peninsula, in South Australia. The exploration area includes the Western Eyre Commonwealth Marine Reserve, which is zoned multiple use, thereby allowing oil and gas exploration.  This area is a calving habitat for the Southern Right Whale (listed as an endangered species), as well as important foraging habitat for the Blue Whale (listed as endangered), Sperm Whale (listed as threatened), the Great White Shark (listed as vulnerable), the Australian Sea Lion and migratory seabirds.

The seismic exploration area is also 75 km west of the Western Kangaroo Island Marine Park which contains colonies of Australian Sea Lions, New Zealand Fur Seals, whales, dolphins, and seabirds.

NOPSEMA has so far refused to release documents about how it assessed Bight Petroleum’s seismic exploration proposal or the full Environment Plan (EP). Instead, it has released a summary of the exploration proposal. NOPSEMA refused to release its own assessments on the basis the documents would reveal its deliberative process while Bight Petroleum objected to the release of the full EP on the grounds that the release would adversely affect its business affairs.

IFAW will argue that the documents should be released because, without the full EP, there is no way for the public to ensure the company is meeting its obligations under the law. And without NOPSEMA’s own assessment of Bight Petroleum’s EP there is also no way for the public to verify if NOPSEMA is properly fulfilling its regulatory functions.  

The Bight seismic exploration license was the first to be assessed and approved by NOPSEMA since Environment Minister Greg Hunt handed over his department’s approval powers to the industry regulator as part of the Abbott Government’s “one-stop-shop” environmental approvals process in February last year. According to its website, NOPSEMA currently has 28 seismic exploration proposals either approved or listed for assessment around Australia.

The broader “one stop shop” agenda of the Abbott Government is to hand over Federal environmental approval powers for major projects to state and territory governments. An audit by EDOs of Australia of threatened species laws found that “no state or territory biodiversity or planning laws currently meet the suite of federal environmental standards necessary to effectively and efficiently protect biodiversity.” The Bill to implement the “one stop shop” policy is currently stalled in the Senate.

As one of the first examples of the Abbott Government’s proposed handover of environmental powers, it will give the public little confidence in this process if NOPSEMA fails to administer its portfolio with openness and transparency.

Top: Blue Whale - photo courtesy of NOAA via Wikimedia Commons

 Climate engineering may save coral reefs, study shows

May 26, 2015

Coral reefs are considered one of the most vulnerable ecosystems to future climate change due to rising sea surface temperatures and ocean acidification, which is caused by higher atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide.

Mass coral bleaching, which can lead to coral mortality, is predicted to occur far more frequently over the coming decades, due to the stress exerted by higher seawater temperatures.

Scientists believe that, even under the most ambitious future CO2 reduction scenarios, widespread and severe coral bleaching and degradation will occur by the middle of this century.

The collaborative new research, which includes authors from the Carnegie Institution for Science, the University of Exeter, the Met Office Hadley Centre and the University of Queensland, suggest that a geoengineering technique called Solar Radiation Management (SRM) reduces the risk of global severe bleaching.

The SRM method involves injecting gas into the stratosphere, forming microscopic particles which reflect some of the sun's energy and so help limit rising sea surface temperatures.

The study compared a hypothetical SRM geoengineering scenario to the most aggressive future CO2 reduction strategy considered by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and found that coral reefs fared much better under geoengineering despite increasing ocean acidification.

The pioneering international study is published in leading scientific journal,Nature Climate Change.

Lead author Dr Lester Kwiatkowski of the Carnegie Institution for Science said "Our work highlights the sort of climate scenarios that now need to be considered if the protection of coral reefs is a priority."

Dr Paul Halloran, from the Geography department of the University of Exeter added: "The study shows that the benefit of SRM over a conventional CO2reduction scenario is dependent on the sensitivity of future thermal bleaching thresholds to changes in seawater acidity.

This emphasises the need to better characterise how warming and ocean acidification may interact to influence coral bleaching over the 21st century."

Professor Peter Cox, co-author of the research and from the University of Exeter said: "Coral reefs face a dire situation regardless of how intensively society decarbonises the economy. In reality there is no direct choice between conventional mitigation and climate engineering but this study shows that we need to either accept that the loss of a large percentage of the world's reefs is inevitable or start thinking beyond conventional mitigation of CO2 emissions."

This work shows the very different impacts on coral bleaching of different measures to tackle climate change. These different techniques will also have different effects on other impacts such as regional crop growth or water availability.

Andy J. Wiltshire et al. Coral bleaching under unconventional scenarios of climate warming and ocean acidification. Nature Climate Change, May 2015 DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2655

Top: Current coral bleaching in Fiji. Credit: Professor Peter J Mumby, University of Queensland

 Government of Mozambique Releases Elephant Population Numbers

May 26, 2015 - A major decline in elephant numbers in Mozambique was announced by the Minister of Land, Environment and Rural Development, Minister Celso Correia, at a signing ceremony for trans-boundary conservation cooperation between Mozambique and Tanzania in Maputo last night.

The Tanzanian Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, Minister Lazaro Nyalundu, announced that Tanzania will release the results of their national elephant census on June 1 in Arusha.

The Mozambique survey revealed that criminal gangs are decimating elephant populations and forests prompting new government measures to stop the devastation.

The survey showed a dramatic estimated 48 percent decline in elephant numbers in Mozambique in the last five years, from just over 20,000 to the current estimate of 10,300. This decline is due to rampant elephant poaching in the country’s most important elephant populations.

The surveys were led by the Government of Mozambique in partnership with WCS, and were funded by Paul G Allen, as part of the Great Elephant Census®, WCS, and USAID.

Organised criminal gangs are decimating Mozambique’s biodiversity and undermining governance in remote border areas. This is destroying one of the key development options for local communities and regional government in these remote, wild areas where wildlife thrive.

Ninety-five percent of the total loss occurred in northern Mozambique where the elephant population declined from an estimated 15,400 to an estimated 6,100. Niassa National Reserve was hardest hit, and the population has fallen from an estimated 12,000 in 2012 to an estimated 4,440 – 43% of all elephants seen in Niassa Reserve on this survey were dead. In Quirimbas National Park the current elephant population is small, just over 600 animals, but there is significant poaching, with 45% of all elephants seen on the survey dead.

The Tete area, and Limpopo National Park and surrounds – Mozambique’s second and third largest elephant populations – have seen a 20 percent decline in each site. In Tete 1,600 elephants remain; and in Limpopo National Park and the areas to the south, 1,100 elephants remain. But poaching is occurring in both of these populations with 290 carcasses in Tete, and 230 in Limpopo National Park and the area to the south.

In addition, the surveys detected significant illegal logging operations within protected areas – in the eastern part of Niassa National Reserve near the Unity bridge, in Quirimbas National Park, as well as in Tchuma Tchato and surrounding areas in Tete.

In Gorongosa National Park and Marromeu Special Reserve small elephant populations – 535 in Gorongosa and 600 in Marromeu – are increasing slowly in size.

In response to this widespread criminal activity, the Government of Mozambique’s Minister for Land, Environment and Rural Development (Minister Celso Correia) declared that tackling ivory poaching and rhino horn trafficking is a major priority for his new ministry, and, together with other ministries, is taking the following measures to combat this rampant criminal activity:

• Focusing on implementing the law and bringing poachers and traffickers to justice:

-  On June 20, 2014, then Mozambique President Armando Guebuza signed into existence a new Biodiversity law, which criminalises poaching, imposes deterrent sentences, and allows asset seizure,

-  Mozambique’s Attorney-General’s office is also taking wildlife crime seriously, and the Attorney-General herself recently appointed one of her deputies to focus on improving the prosecution of wildlife crime cases.

• Deploying the new Mozambican environmental police unit to work with scouts from the National Agency for Conservation Areas (ANAC) to implement the law and stop poaching and illegal logging

• Developing intelligence-led law enforcement capability, and improving training, equipping and leadership of protected-area scouts, including establishing specialist units that are properly equipped and armed

• Strengthening partnerships with international organizations, including: WCS in Niassa Reserve, the Peace Parks Foundation in Limpopo National Park, and the Carr Foundation in Gorongosa National Park. In addition, donor partners have responded and are helping including: USAID who recently committed to support Niassa Reserve and Gorongosa National Park; the World Bank supporting the MozBio program to strengthen the national conservation areas network; Germany’s KfW; the French Development Agency, and others

• Working with CITES to conduct a national inventory of ivory stocks, securing the stocks and implement a transparent audit system

• Mozambique signed an MoU with Tanzania on 25 May 2015, and with South Africa in 2014, to strengthen cross-border collaboration to tackle poaching and trafficking

Some positive results are already being seen. In the first quarter of 2015, in Niassa Reserve, two elephant poachers were arrested, five illegal firearms collected (two AK47’s and three hunting rifles, with 336 rounds of ammunition), and 18 tusks recovered. In April 2015, a policeman who had been renting his AK47 to a poacher in Niassa Reserve was imprisoned for five years. In April/May 2015, the new environmental police unit arrested six army officers who were poaching elephants between Niassa Reserve and Quirimbas National Park with four AK47’s. In response to illegal logging activities detected during the elephant survey, joint ANAC and WCS teams destroyed three logging camps and impounded 1,200 cubic meters (42,377 cubic feet) of wood in Niassa Reserve.

Cristián Samper, WCS President and CEO said: “These survey results are sobering; criminals have taken a staggering toll on Mozambique’s wildlife and natural resources. But I am hopeful that the Government of Mozambique, working with partners in the NGO and development community, as well as neighboring nations, will bring criminals to justice so elephants can thrive once again here.”

Alastair Nelson, WCS Mozambique Country Director said: “We still have a long way to go to stop rampant elephant poaching, illegal hardwood logging, and rhino horn trafficking. We will continue to partner with the government of Mozambique to work together to stop poaching and wildlife trafficking across the country. In Niassa Reserve we will do whatever we can to bring more outside support to respond to this tragedy. Niassa is one of the few remaining wildernesses on our planet that can, and must, hold tens of thousands of elephant one day again.”

Dr. Carlos Lopes Pereira, ANAC Head of Law Enforcement and WCS Mozambique Technical Director said: “To reverse this situation, we have to act now, in five years it will be too late.”

 Shen Neng 1 grounding: statement

Published: 27/05/2015

The following statement is provided by Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Chairman, Dr. Russell Reichelt:

On 3 April 2010, the Chinese-registered bulk carrier Shen Neng 1 caused the largest known direct impact on a coral reef by a ship grounding.

When the ship ran aground at Douglas Shoal, north-east of Gladstone, it damaged an area covering 0.4 square kilometres — of this, we estimate 115,000 square metres of the shoal were severely damaged or destroyed.

It also left toxic anti-fouling paint on the reef and on substantial areas of loose coral rubble created by the grounding.

However, despite ongoing attempts to have the ship’s owner pay for damages, the Commonwealth was unsuccessful in securing funds from the ship owner or its insurer to clean-up and remediate the site.

This has been a great disappointment, particularly given the nature and scale of the incident, and GBRMPA remains concerned about the long-term health of the shoal.

This is why the Commonwealth has had no alternative but to take legal action in the Federal Court.

The proceeding has been listed for trial for 15 days commencing in April 2016 in Brisbane.

The Commonwealth is seeking damages from the ship’s owner for the cost of remediation of the shoal or, as an alternative, orders requiring remediation of the shoal by the ship’s owner.

GBRMPA has continued to closely monitor the state of the shoal and to assess what is required for recovery of the shoal.

GBRMPA’s first priority in remediating the shoal would be to attempt to remove the remaining anti-fouling paint and residue. This would allow some natural recovery processes to begin.

In the meantime, the Commonwealth remains committed to making every attempt to obtain a negotiated outcome with the ship’s owner for the clean-up and remediation of the shoal.

 Cooee: Issue 60 - May/June 2015


 Pittwater YHA Backpacker Hostel - Nature & Wildlife Heaven

Pittwater YHA hostel is nestled on the hillside of Morning Bay in Ku-ring-gai National Park. This hostel is an easy escape from the busy city life of Sydney and ideal for groups. 


Never grown a beard before? This is your chance to grow a new beard this Winter!

Already got a beard? Get it sponsored and keep it growing!

Register Today and set up your page for The Winter Blanket Challenge 2015 today.’s aim is to start a Conversation about Conservation using the beard as the talking point. You can be part of this movement by growing your very own Winter Blanket for free in support of conservation and help raise $20,000 for Landcare Australia to plant native Australian trees.

Starting your beard on the 1st June and finishing on the 31st August, you will have the opportunity to create a very warm winter blanket for your face and raise funds at the same time! It’s free to grow and you will save a lot of money on shavers for three months! Already got a beard? Great! Get it sponsored and keep on growing!

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Clever Fish: Cooperation on the reef

Published on 26 May 2015

Fake eels could show that we are underestimating the brain power of our gilled relatives. Redouan Bshary of the University of Neuchatel explains how his observations of grouper fish hunting together with moray eels plus inventive experiments with fake eels led him to discover fish abilities known previously only in primates. Footage from Bshary, Hans Fricke and Alex Vail shows off the groupers' sea-smarts in the lab and in the wild.

Learn more about Bshary's work in the Nature feature 'Animal behaviour: Clever fish'

 Better fine motor skills with delayed cord clamping

May 26, 2015 - The importance of the umbilical cord not only for the fetus but for newborn infants too was shown by Swedish researchers several years ago, in a study that received great international acclaim. In a follow-up study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics they have now been able to show an association between delayed cord clamping (DCC) and children's fine motor skills at the age of four years, especially in boys.

Several years ago, in a clinical study comprising 400 newborns, Dr Ola Andersson and colleagues demonstrated that the risk of iron deficiency at the age of four months was considerably lower in infants whose umbilical cords were clamped and cut three minutes after birth ('delayed cord clamping', DCC) than in those whose cords were removed within ten seconds ('early cord clamping', ECC). The newborns in the study were well-nourished babies born after full-term pregnancies to healthy mothers.

'If the cord is left in place for three minutes, the blood continues to flow into the newborn's circulation. The baby receives about a decilitre of extra blood, which corresponds to two litres in an adult,' says Dr Andersson, a researcher at Uppsala University and paediatrician in Halmstad.

In much of the world, cord clamping and cutting takes place immediately after birth and the baby is thus deprived of an important iron supplement from the umbilical blood. In poor countries, according to scientists, this iron deprivation due to the practice of stopping the placental transfusion before its completion may have a particularly serious impact on the child's development.

The JAMA Pediatrics article in question describes a four-year study following up a total of 263 (69%) of the babies from the first study. These children's development was investigated by means of IQ and cognitive tests, and also questionnaires for the parents.

The results reveal no difference in IQ or overall development between the children whose cords were cut early and those who underwent delayed cord clamping (DCC). On the other hand, both the tests and the questionnaire responses were able to show that the children in whom DCC had taken place had slightly better fine motor skills when they were four years old. The difference became clearer when the researchers looked at sex differences: it was in the boys, above all, that DCC exerted an impact on fine motor skills.

'Right from birth, girls generally have better iron stores, so boys have an elevated risk of iron deficiency. We hope our study will result in new recommendations around the world.'

Ola Andersson, Barbro Lindquist, Magnus Lindgren, Karin Stjernqvist, Magnus Domellöf, Lena Hellström-Westas. Effect of Delayed Cord Clamping on Neurodevelopment at 4 Years of Age. JAMA Pediatrics, 2015; DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.0358

 Hospice use linked to fewer depressive symptoms for surviving spouses

May 26, 2015

Spouses of patients receiving hospice for three or more days more frequently reported reduced depression symptoms, compared to surviving spouses of patients who did not receive hospice, according to a study led by researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai published online in JAMA Internal Medicine.

This is the first national study to examine depressive symptoms as an outcome for spouses of people with all types of serious illnesses that used hospice care, which is designed to improve quality of life as opposed to offering "curative" disease treatments. Until now, studies demonstrating the benefits of hospice use on caregivers have been largely limited to cancer patients and their families, but hospice use has increased among those with other life-limiting illnesses. Currently, forty-five percent of terminally ill patients in the U.S. die while receiving hospice care -- an increase of more than 20 percent over the past decade.

After matching the sample of hospice users to a similar group that did not receive hospice, the research team found that improvement in depressive symptoms was more common among those who had used hospice, a benefit that was even more pronounced a year after a spouse's death. It is unknown which specific aspects of hospice care are associated with improved symptoms for spouses.

"We know hospice provides high quality care to patients, but now we're also seeing a benefit for spouses," said Katherine Ornstein, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and lead author of the study. "If we want to understand the impact of hospice care, we should consider the potential benefit not just to the patient, but to the caregiver, and perhaps, the entire family and social network. We need to remember that care near the end of life affects not only patients, but also their loved ones."

Researchers analyzed data from 1,016 deceased patients and their surviving spouses using the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a national sample of adults over age 50 linked to Medicare claims. Surviving spouses were then followed through bereavement up to two years after death. Hospice services included medical services, symptom management, spiritual counseling, social services and bereavement counseling delivered by an interdisciplinary team of professionals for patients with a prognosis of six months or less to live and who agree to forego curative treatments.

"Although our research suggests that hospice may help alleviate depression symptoms among some spouses, we also found that the majority of bereaved spouses have increased symptoms of depression overall compared to earlier time points," said Amy Kelley, MD, Assistant Professor of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine, and senior author of the study. "Additional support is needed for families and caregivers throughout the often long course of serious illness. We need to promote the high quality caregiver support and bereavement services offered in hospice and expand access to palliative care for people who are not hospice eligible."

Katherine A. Ornstein, Melissa D. Aldridge, Melissa M. Garrido, Rebecca Gorges, Diane E. Meier, Amy S. Kelley. Association Between Hospice Use and Depressive Symptoms in Surviving Spouses. JAMA Internal Medicine, 2015; DOI:10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.1722

 Taking remote control of your electricity

29 May, 2015 - Householders may soon be able to keep real-time track of their electricity usage and remotely switch on and off appliances through their phones, tablets and computers.

The technology, known as Eddy, was developed by CSIRO and is being commercialised by Australian company HabiDapt which is trialing it in Perth, and in conjunction with Ergon Energy Retail in regional Queensland.

Using an online interface – on a computer, smartphone or tablet – Eddy keeps track of electricity use, collects and analyses the data, and makes recommendations to help users save money.

It also allows users to remotely control major appliances such as air conditioners, hot water systems and pool pumps.

To reduce demand on the grid during peak periods, users can also take part in demand management programs offered by their energy company and receive rewards in return, such as discounts on their energy bill.

"This unique tool is all about giving people more control over their energy and helping them to save money," CSIRO Research Leader Glenn Platt said.

"Using a simple online dashboard, people can see how their energy use is tracking and make adjustments to reduce costs.

"The tool really highlights how easy it is for people to make big savings on their energy bill without impacting on their lifestyle.

"By viewing when their home is exporting excess energy to the grid, households with solar PV systems can save additional money by programming their system to run certain appliances when the sun is shining.

"With the option of taking part in demand management schemes, the system can also reward households for using less electricity during peak energy periods."

The technology was developed at CSIRO’s energy centre in Newcastle, where scientists are working with some of the most sophisticated energy technology found anywhere in the world.

The system uses cloud-based software and mini smart meters that look just like the regular circuit breakers found in your meter box.

The smart meters connect to the cloud via a small internet communication device in the house. Once connected, the appliances linked to the meters can be remotely controlled.

The technology is based on CSIRO’s sophisticated Energy Management System, which has also been adapted for use on King Island’s Smart Grid.

"We want to give households an energy management tool that is simple to use and unlocks lasting benefits," HabiDapt CEO Stephen Kubicki said.

"Eddy gives households control over their energy and saves them money.

"As well as giving households tools to understand and manage their energy, Eddy lets people participate in the energy market by reducing peak demand in ways that, until now, have only been available to large-scale commercial consumers."

HabiDapt is currently trialling the technology in homes with solar PV systems in Perth, and is also rolling the system out with Ergon Energy in Townsville, where it is being offered to customers as 'HomeSmart'.

 New measures to strengthen Australian citizenship

26 May 2015 - Prime Minister 

Minister for Immigration and Border Protection E&OE 

The Commonwealth Government intends to update the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 so dual nationals who engage in terrorism can lose their citizenship.

The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection will be able to exercise these powers in the national interest where a dual citizen betrays our country by participating in serious terrorist-related activities.

The new powers will apply to dual citizens who fight with or support groups such as ISIL, or Daesh, as well as so-called ‘lone wolves’, whether in Australia or on foreign soil.

The changes will be consistent with our international legal obligation not to leave a person stateless. There will also be safeguards, including judicial review, to balance these powers.

These new powers are a necessary and appropriate response to the terrorist threat. They modernise our laws and bring them closer to those of the UK, Canada, France, the United States and other countries.

Since 1949, Australians with dual citizenship who fight for a country at war with Australia have forfeited their citizenship.

There should be no difference in how we treat Australians who join a hostile army and those engaged in terrorism – both are betraying our country and don’t deserve to be citizens of Australia.

Regardless of how we gain our citizenship, it is an extraordinary privilege with rights and responsibilities for all of us.

Our success as a nation is underpinned by a commitment by all Australians to a law abiding, peaceful and open society. In an environment in which terrorism is reaching out to our community, we need to ensure this is well understood.

So the Commonwealth Government will launch a national consultation to improve understanding of the privileges and responsibilities of Australian citizenship.

I have asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Social Services, Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, and the Hon Philip Ruddock MP to lead the consultation.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells will undertake this task as the newly appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Attorney-General, in addition to her current role.

This alignment of Senator Fierravanti-Wells’ duties will strengthen the link between existing Department of Social Services programmes and the Government’s broader strategy for countering violent extremism.

I have asked Mr Ruddock to undertake this task as my Special Envoy for Citizenship and Community Engagement.

A national conversation about citizenship will enable us to consider whether the rights and responsibilities of citizenship are well understood and how we can better promote these, including among young Australians.

The consultation will seek the public’s views on further possible measures, including the suspension of certain privileges of citizenship for those involved in serious terrorism.

A consultation paper on Australian citizenship and further information on the submissions process can be found at

 Introduction of the Medical Research Future Fund Bill 2015

27 May 2015 Joint Media Release: Hon J B Hockey, Treasurer Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann, Minister for Finance Hon Sussan Ley Minster for Health

The Australian Government is focused on ensuring Australia’s best and brightest medical researchers remain at the forefront of developing treatments and cures that will improve the lives of Australians and millions of people around the world.

Today, we introduce legislation to create the $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund – the biggest endowment fund of its kind in the world.

The Medical Research Future Fund is a landmark Coalition Government initiative. This is a game-changer for Australia and for Australians.

Subject to the passage of the legislation, the Medical Research Future Fund will be established from 1 August 2015. 

The Fund will receive an initial contribution of $1 billion from the uncommitted balance of the Health and Hospitals Fund. In addition, the estimated value of savings from the Health portfolio will be contributed until the Fund reaches a target capital level of $20 billion, projected, to be in 2019-20.

The first $10 million in additional medical research funding is to be distributed in 2015-16 and over $400 million is estimated for distribution over the next four years. 

The Fund will be invested and managed by the Future Fund Board of Guardians, which has a proven track record in managing investment portfolios on behalf of the Government and maximising returns over the long term. 

The Government will separately establish an expert advisory board to provide advice on the medical research strategy and priorities to inform how annual distributions from the Medical Research Future Fund are to be spent.

 Severe ozone depletion avoided

May 26, 2015 - We are already reaping the rewards of the Montreal Protocol, with the ozone layer in much better shape than it would have been without the UN treaty, according to a new study in Nature Communications.

Study lead author Professor Martyn Chipperfield, from the School of Earth & Environment at the University of Leeds, said: "Our research confirms the importance of the Montreal Protocol and shows that we have already had real benefits. We knew that it would save us from large ozone loss 'in the future', but in fact we are already past the point when things would have become noticeably worse."

Although the Montreal Protocol came into force in 1987 and restricted the use of ozone-depleting substances, atmospheric concentrations of these harmful substances continued to rise as they can survive in the atmosphere for many years. Concentrations peaked in 1993 and have subsequently declined.

In the new study, the researchers used a state-of-the-art 3D computer model of atmospheric chemistry to investigate what would have happened to the ozone layer if the Montreal Protocol had not been implemented.

Professor Chipperfield said: "Ozone depletion in the polar regions depends on meteorology, especially the occurrence of cold temperatures at about 20km altitude -- colder temperatures cause more loss. Other studies which have assessed the importance of the Montreal Protocol have used models to predict atmospheric winds and temperatures and have looked a few decades into the future. The predictions of winds and temperatures in these models are uncertain, and probably underestimate the extent of cold winters.

"We have used actual observed meteorological conditions for the past few decades. This gives a more accurate simulation of the conditions for polar ozone loss."

The researchers suggest that the hole in the ozone layer over the Antarctic would have grown in size by an additional 40% by 2013. Their model also suggests that had ozone-depleting substances continued to increase, the ozone layer would have become significantly thinner over other parts of the globe.

Professor Chipperfield said he undertook this study because of the exceptionally cold Arctic winter of 2010/11.

"We could see that previous models used to predict the impact of the Montreal Protocol in the future would not have predicted such extreme events and we wondered how much worse things could have been if the Montreal Protocol had not been in place," he said.

Without the Montreal Protocol, the new study reveals that a very large ozone hole over the Arctic would have occurred during that cold winter and smaller Arctic ozone holes would have become a regular occurrence.

The Montreal Protocol has been strengthened over time through amendments and adjustments, supported by ongoing research. The researchers behind the new study say that scientists must continue to monitor the situation to ensure all potential threats to the ozone layer are mitigated.

M. P. Chipperfield, S. S. Dhomse, W. Feng, R. L. McKenzie, G.J.M. Velders, J. A. Pyle. Quantifying the ozone and ultraviolet benefits already achieved by the Montreal Protocol. Nature Communications, 2015; 6: 7233 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms8233

Top: Arctic ozone without the Montreal Protocol (left) and following its implementation (right) on 26 March 2011. Credit: Sandip Dhomse

 Lab 22: adding a new dimension to 3D printing

Published on 24 May 2015

Our Lab 22 Innovation Centre provides Australian companies with easy access to cutting edge additive manufacturing technologies (or 3D printing) that can enhance their productivity and global competitiveness.

 What is the best way to kill a cane toad?

26 May 2015

Like many pests, cane toads are killed in their thousands in Australia every year, especially by community-based 'toad-busting' groups. New research has now revealed the most humane way to do it.

"We need to offer a humane death to the toads - it's not their fault they were brought to Australia 80 years ago - but until now nobody has been sure how to do it," said Professor Rick Shine, from the University of Sydney's School of Biological Sciences.

He is lead author on research showing that a once-popular method, currently outlawed nationally and internationally by animal ethics committees as inhumane, is actually a simple and ethical way to kill a toad. The research by the University of Sydney, Monash University and the University of Wollongong is published today in the journal Biology Open.

The researchers implanted small data-loggers in the brains of cane toads to measure any pain responses. They then put the toads into a refrigerator for a few hours, before transferring them to a household freezer. The toads quietly slipped into unconsciousness as they froze, and their brains did not register any evidence of pain during the process.

Professor Shine said: "This procedure was a widespread method for humanely killing amphibians and reptiles for many years until about 20 years ago, but animal ethics committees decided it was inhumane because the animals' toes might freeze while their brains were still warm enough to detect pain. However, our work shows that in cane toads at least, the toad just drifts off into torpor as it cools down, and its brain is no longer functioning by the time its body begins to freeze."

Researchers generally kill animals like cane toads humanely by using specialised chemicals, but these chemicals are not available to the general public. The research provides a simple solution to a difficult dilemma for the Australian community in areas that struggle with large populations of cane toads, such as in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, the Darwin region of the Northern Territory, and coastal Queensland.

"Current ethics regulations recommend that the general public kill cane toads by hitting them on the head with a hammer - but a slight misjudgement may result in severe pain for the toad, and a splash of toxic poison up into the hammer-wielder's eyes," Professor Shine said.

"Popping toads into the fridge for a few hours to cool down then moving them to the freezer beside the ice cream is kinder and safer for everyone involved."

Top: Professor Rick Shine from the University of Sydney, Australia, has led research into how to humanely kill cane toads. Credit: Terri Shine

 New kind of wood chip: Biodegradable computer chips made from wood

May 26, 2015 - Portable electronics -- typically made of non-renewable, non-biodegradable and potentially toxic materials -- are discarded at an alarming rate in consumers' pursuit of the next best electronic gadget.

In an effort to alleviate the environmental burden of electronic devices, a team of University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers has collaborated with researchers in the Madison-based U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) to develop a surprising solution: a semiconductor chip made almost entirely of wood.

The research team, led by UW-Madison electrical and computer engineering professor Zhenqiang "Jack" Ma, described the new device in a paper published today (May 26, 2015) by the journal Nature Communications. The paper demonstrates the feasibility of replacing the substrate, or support layer, of a computer chip, with cellulose nanofibril (CNF), a flexible, biodegradable material made from wood.

"The majority of material in a chip is support. We only use less than a couple of micrometers for everything else," Ma says. "Now the chips are so safe you can put them in the forest and fungus will degrade it. They become as safe as fertilizer."

Zhiyong Cai, project leader for an engineering composite science research group at FPL, has been developing sustainable nanomaterials since 2009.

"If you take a big tree and cut it down to the individual fiber, the most common product is paper. The dimension of the fiber is in the micron stage," Cai says. "But what if we could break it down further to the nano scale? At that scale you can make this material, very strong and transparent CNF paper."

Working with Shaoqin "Sarah" Gong, a UW-Madison professor of biomedical engineering, Cai's group addressed two key barriers to using wood-derived materials in an electronics setting: surface smoothness and thermal expansion.

"You don't want it to expand or shrink too much. Wood is a natural hydroscopic material and could attract moisture from the air and expand," Cai says. "With an epoxy coating on the surface of the CNF, we solved both the surface smoothness and the moisture barrier."

Gong and her students also have been studying bio-based polymers for more than a decade. CNF offers many benefits over current chip substrates, she says.

"The advantage of CNF over other polymers is that it's a bio-based material and most other polymers are petroleum-based polymers. Bio-based materials are sustainable, bio-compatible and biodegradable," Gong says. "And, compared to other polymers, CNF actually has a relatively low thermal expansion coefficient."

The group's work also demonstrates a more environmentally friendly process that showed performance similar to existing chips. The majority of today's wireless devices use gallium arsenide-based microwave chips due to their superior high-frequency operation and power handling capabilities. However, gallium arsenide can be environmentally toxic, particularly in the massive quantities of discarded wireless electronics.

Yei Hwan Jung, a graduate student in electrical and computer engineering and a co-author of the paper, says the new process greatly reduces the use of such expensive and potentially toxic material.

"I've made 1,500 gallium arsenide transistors in a 5-by-6 millimeter chip. Typically for a microwave chip that size, there are only eight to 40 transistors. The rest of the area is just wasted," he says. "We take our design and put it on CNF using deterministic assembly technique, then we can put it wherever we want and make a completely functional circuit with performance comparable to existing chips."

While the biodegradability of these materials will have a positive impact on the environment, Ma says the flexibility of the technology can lead to widespread adoption of these electronic chips.

"Mass-producing current semiconductor chips is so cheap, and it may take time for the industry to adapt to our design," he says. "But flexible electronics are the future, and we think we're going to be well ahead of the curve."

Yei Hwan Jung, Tzu-Hsuan Chang, Huilong Zhang, Chunhua Yao, Qifeng Zheng, Vina W. Yang, Hongyi Mi, Munho Kim, Sang June Cho, Dong-Wook Park, Hao Jiang, Juhwan Lee, Yijie Qiu, Weidong Zhou, Zhiyong Cai, Shaoqin Gong & Zhenqiang Ma. High-performance green flexible electronics based on biodegradable cellulose nanofibril paper.Nature Communications, 2015 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms8170

Top: A cellulose nanofibril (CNF) computer chip rests on a leaf. Credit: Yei Hwan Jung, Wisconsin Nano Engineering Device Laboratory

 A Ray of Hope for World’s Most Endangered Turtle

(NEW YORK- May 25, 2015) – The Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), San Diego Zoo Global and WCS’s Bronx Zoo announced today that working in conjunction with Changsha Zoo, Suzhou Zoo and the China Zoo Association, a female Yangtze giant softshell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei)—potentially the last female of her species—has been artificially inseminated. The procedure, which brought together top scientists from China, Australia and the United States, provides a ray of hope in a continuing effort to save the world’s most endangered turtle.

There are four living Yangtze giant softshell turtles remaining in existence—two in Vietnam (both thought to be males) and two in China at the Suzhou Zoo (a male and female). The male and female—both believed to be greater than 100 years of age—were brought together in 2008 as part of a captive breeding program initiated by TSA and the WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) China program. The female was transported from the Changsha Zoo to the Suzhou Zoo through the efforts of four partners (Changsha Zoo, Suzhou Zoo, TSA, and WCS). 

WCS China Reptile Program Director and coordinator of the Rafetus swinhoeibreeding program, Dr. Lu Shunqing, mediated the program agreement among the partners and has coordinated the program during the past 8 years.

 “It now appears that artificial insemination is the only possible option for the pair of Rafetus swinhoei in Suzhou Zoo to reproduce successfully,” said Dr.Lu Shunqing. “The fate of the most endangered softshell turtle of the world is now in the balance.”

Though the two turtles have before displayed courting behavior, eggs laid by the female have been infertile.

“We had to find out if the last known male in China no longer produces viable sperm due to old age or an inability to inseminate the female,” said Dr. Gerald Kuchling, organizer of the artificial insemination effort and Rafetus breeding program leader for the TSA.

To determine the cause of the infertility, Suzhou Zoo, Changsha Zoo, and the China Zoo Association requested TSA assemble a team of scientists to conduct a reproductive evaluation of the male, collect semen, determine if he had viable sperm, and, if viable sperm could be demonstrated, artificially inseminate the female.

“At first we tried semen collection through manual stimulation and the use of a vibrator, but as previously found in another softshell turtle, the only way was through sedation of the male and electro-ejaculation—risky procedures due to his old age,” Dr.Kuchling said.

During the process, the male was determined to have damaged sex organs, perhaps due to a fight with another male decades ago. For this reason, the scientists believe the male incapable of inseminating the female, and therefore, fertilizing the eggs.

Dr. Barbara Durrant, Director of Reproductive Physiology at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research said, “Normal semen parameters for Rafetus are unknown as this was the first attempt to collect and examine sperm from this species. The semen evaluation revealed that approximately half of the sperm were motile.” Based on the results, it was determined the female could be artificially inseminated.

This attempt marks the first time artificial insemination has been tried with any softshell turtle species and based on results of insemination with other turtles, the odds are not good for success. With natural breeding unsuccessful however, the scientists felt it was time to explore this option. Both turtles recovered from the procedure in good condition.

“The attempts to breed this critically endangered species, and overcome obstacles to natural breeding by this global consortium of experts is a great example of international cooperation to save endangered species,” said WCS Chief Veterinarian and Bronx-Zoo based Director of Zoological Health Dr. Paul P. Calle, who worked with Chinese veterinarians on the delicate sedation process. “We are grateful to our Chinese partners at the Suzhou Zoo, Changsha Zoo, and the China Zoo Association for inviting us to work with them in our collective attempt to save this species. “

 “This was a great exploration to advance the conservation of Rafetus swinhoei, however, we cannot yet determine if the exploration was successful or not,” said Director Chen Daqing of Suzhou Zoo. The female will lay the eggs in a few weeks and in a couple of weeks after that, the scientists will know if the eggs are fertile.

Listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List, the Yangtze giant softshell turtle is the most critically endangered turtle in the world. Its status in the wild has long been recognized as grim, but extinction risk now is believed higher than ever. Much of its demise has been attributed to over-harvesting and habitat degradation.

Fort Worth Zoo Biologist and TSA President Rick Hudson said, “The conservation world will once again be holding its collective breath until we know if this was successful. The optimism we felt back in 2008 when the pair was mating and laying eggs has slowly faded as reality sank in that this pair would not breed without intervention.”

“This autumn, the female Rafetus swinhoei will be moved back to Changsha Zoo. We hope some  children move together with her,” said Vice Director Yan Xiahui of Changsha Zoo.

Top: Yangtze giant softshell turtle 

 Why Do We Only See One Side of the Moon?

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

 Professor Holmes, new fellow of the Australian Academy of Science on predicting the next pandemic

25 May 2015

Decades after his high school biology teacher forbade him from reading about evolution Professor Edward Holmes, from the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre, is a world-leading expert on viral evolution and has today been named a fellow of the Australian Academy of Science for his significant contributions to this field.

The Academy's honour recognises how Professor Holmes' research "has revealed the fundamental processes of microbial evolution, determined the origin and evolution of major human pathogens including influenza, dengue and the AIDS virus."

"His work has enabled more accurate assessments of what types of viruses, and from which animal species, are most likely to emerge in human populations, and how they will evolve in response to our attempts to control them." To do this Professor Holmes compares the genome sequences of microbes. Most recently he has used the deliberate release of viruses as biological controls against invasive pests to understand basic aspects of pathogen evolution.

The prohibition an anti-evolution high school teacher placed on Eddie Holmes' class learning anything about it had the counter-effect, in Eddie's case, of spurring him to explore the 'taboo' subject. It started a fascination which determined the course of his distinguished career including the previously thwarted student becoming University Lecturer in Evolutionary Biology at the University of Oxford.

Discussing his work, including the attempt to predict the next pandemic Professor Holmes said:

Viruses are a fantastic natural laboratory for studying the history of evolution because they evolve so incredibly quickly. The AIDS virus and the flu virus would have evolved about one million times faster than our own DNA does, which is how they become resistant to our vaccines and drugs so easily. They give us an incredible speeded-up picture of evolutionary change that we can capture in real time.

That insight into their evolution and spread means having more information about their eventual control, including how we design and distribute better vaccines and antivirals.

Every few years now, most recently with Ebola, we seem to be experiencing a major pandemic somewhere in the world. Our research tries to use evolutionary ideas to predict what the next pandemic will be and when and where it will happen. By understanding the rules by which diseases appear and emerge we can try to predict how we might stop their spread.

Whether we'll predict exactly the next pandemic is very unclear - I think of it more like predicting earthquake zones than next week's weather. We can look at fault lines for where things are likely to appear and what they'll be like but …we can't say accurately what it is going to be.

The possible pandemic we should be concerned about most is still influenza. It ticks all the boxes for a pandemic; it can be extremely virulent, moves quickly because it can spread through the air and is extremely infectious. These are all the right things to allow a pathogen to spread globally and cause great devastation.

The vaccines and drugs we have are not as good as we would like them to be, so flu is still the hardy perennial of disease emergence.

While Australia has in place plans for handling a pandemic such as influenza, it still needs a national centre for disease control and prevention. We've had a state-based system that has worked up until now, but it may be more luck than judgment that we haven't yet had a novel disease that has rapidly spread across state boundaries.

Professor Holmes is one of 21 fellows being admitted into the Academy in a formal ceremony today.

He joined the University of Sydney in 2012 as an NHMRC fellow and is affiliated with the Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity, the School of Biological Sciences and Sydney Medical School.