Inbox and Environment News Issue 217

 June 7 - 13, 2015: Issue 217

Integrated Mining Policy

June 2nd, 2015 - EDO

The NSW Government is proposing a new whole-of-government approach to mining applications

Feedback is sought on the Integrated Mining Policy. The Policy proposes to:

• require information from mine applicants earlier in the assessment process, including the requirement to show how they arrived at their preferred project designs;

• provide one whole-of-government set of Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements for mining applications; and

• clarify Government policies so they are easier for the community to understand and industry to navigate, including policies around biodiversity offsets, impacts to endangered swamps, water regulation and voluntary land acquisition.

Community and industry consultation is happening in two stages, with the first stage now on exhibition until 9 July 2015. In this first stage the following items are on exhibition:

• Standard Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements FOR STATE SIGNIFICANT MINING DEVELOPMENTS - MAY 2015   (SEARs) : PDF 1.5 mb  HERE 

 Mine Application Guideline - Specific development application requirements for State Significant mining and extractive industry developments under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979  : PDF 678.11 kb HERE

• Policy Framework for Biodiversity Offsets for Upland Swamps and Associated Threatened Species - IMPACTED BY LONGWALL MINE SUBSIDENCE  MAY 2015: PDF: 360.39 kb HERE

The second stage of consultation will involve exhibiting the remaining Integrated Mining Policy documents and will occur in coming months.

The Integrated Mining Policy will apply to all State significant mining developments, including coal and mineral mines. It does not include petroleum operations or coal seam gas proposals, or any exploration activities, and it does not change existing legislation (further coal seam gas reforms are being developed as part of the NSW Gas Plan). 

Submissions are invited until 9 July 2015. Read more and have your say


Improving mining regulation in NSW

Media Release: Department of Planning and Environment

28 May 2015

A proposed whole-of-government approach applying stringent, consistent requirements to mining applications is on exhibition for community and industry feedback.

The improvements would mean better information for communities living near proposed mines and are part of the wider plan to improve mining regulation in NSW.

“The community and industry have raised concerns that the system is too complicated and difficult to navigate,” a Department spokesperson said.

“That’s why we want their feedback on this Integrated Mining Policy, which would introduce clear policies on important mining issues, would make information more accessible for the community and reduce costly duplication for industry.”

The Integrated Mining Policy (IMP) would maintain the existing high standards that minimise the impacts of mining, while: 

requiring information from mine applicants much earlier in the assessment process. This includes showing how they arrived at their preferred project designs so community members can better understand why planning decisions are made.

providing one, whole-of-government set of Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements for mining applications. This will be clearer for applicants to comply with and easier for the community to understand.

clarifying Government policies so they are easier for the community to understand and industry to navigate, including policies around biodiversity offsets, impacts to endangered swamps, water regulation and voluntary land acquisition.

“Mining is vital for NSW. It provides jobs for tens of thousands of people and helps unlock the state’s economic potential,” the spokesperson said.

“We want the community to be armed with better information to help them understand the impacts of mining and how mining companies are working with the Government to reduce them.”

Community and industry feedback will be essential to establishing the final shape of the IMP. Consultation is happening in two stages, with the first stage now on exhibition until Thursday 9 July 2015, consisting of the:

IMP overview

new standardised Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements

Swamp Offsets Policy

Mine application guidelines

To view the documents and provide your feedback,

The second stage of consultation will involve the remaining IMP documents will occur in coming months.


Direct link to documents: 

 Mine expansion would pump 35 tonnes of salt a day into Sydney’s drinking water 

May 26, 2015 - Nature Conservation Council NSW

Scientists and conservationist are calling on the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) to reject the expansion of a longwall coal mine near Lithgow because it would pump millions of litres of salty water into Sydney’s water supply and drain endangered swamps.

The PAC will conduct public hearings tomorrow (Wednesday, May 27) into Centennial Coal’s proposed expansion of its Springvale longwall, which water quality expert Dr Ian Wright says would increase water salinity in Sydney’s main water storages by 6 per cent.

The project would also significantly damage numerous nationally endangered swamps on the Newnes Plateau, according to sandstone geology specialist Dr Ann Young. 

Dr Young said: “My major concernis the hanging swamps will suffer severe impact from mine subsidence. The environmental assessment does not consider these swamps in any detail. Also, the shrub swamps we know will be drained. So both these kinds of nationally endangered swamps will suffer major damage.”

University of Western Sydney lecturer Dr Ian Wright said: “Springvale coal mine produces and releases large volumes of poorly treated waste water contaminated by salt, metals and nutrients. It is a major source of water pollution and stress to aquatic ecosystems in the Upper Coxs River, much to the frustration of the Environment Protection Authority. Springvale’s own modelling indicates an expansion of the coal mine could increase salinity in Sydney’s main water reservoir, Lake Burragorang and Warragamba Dam, by up to 6 per cent.”

Colong Foundation for Wilderness director Keith Muir said: “The Coxs River needs to be cleaned up and not degraded. Springvale’s proposal to dump 20 to 35 tonnes of salt in the Coxs River each day will have a devastating effect on this river downstream within Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.”

Lithgow Environment Group Vice President Chris Jonkers said: “LEG believes it is entirely feasible and in the state and national interest to modify the proposed mine plan to retain the coal underneath Newnes State Forest to protect these nationally endangered swamps and associated groundwater-dependant ecosystems.”

Blue Mountains Conservation Society Senior Vice President Tara Cameron said: 

“The Springvale projects should be rejected because they do not protect nationally endangered swamps or pristine Carne Creek from mining damage.”

Nature Conservation Council Campaigns Director Daisy Barham said: “The proposal poses a significant risk to the health of the Coxs River and ignores the objections of the Environment Protection Authority. Sydneysiders would be horrified if they knew that tonnes of saline mine water were being discharged into the city’s water supply each day. The company not only refuses to reduce the pollution, it is demanding to substantially increase discharges under this new proposal.”


* Springvale mine is an underground coal mine 15km northwest of Lithgow that supplies thermal coal to Mt Piper Power Station.

* Approval for a mine producing 4.5 million tonnes a year was granted in 1992. It began operating in 1995.

* The current consent expires in September 2015. The new application would permit the company to continue to extract 4.5 million tonnes a year for another 13 years.

* The PAC is currently reviewing a Planning Department’s recommendation that the project be approved.


Springvale Mine Extension Project on NSW Planning and Environment:

Musk Lorikeets feeding on eucalypt flowers

May 31, 2015

Musk Lorikeets are gregarious, often mixing with other parrots when feeding, including Scaly-breasted Lorikeets, Little Lorikeets and Swift Parrots.

 Save Berowra Valley's Stringybark Ridge

There are plans afoot to destroy part of Berowra Valley National Park to make way for sports fields.

The national park was only created recently after years of community campaigning, a victory the plan of management threatens to undermine.

Local groups, including Save Stringy Bark Ridge, are determined to maintain the hard-fought protections afford by winning national park status, but they need your help.

Please sign their petition:

Help Save Stringybark Ridge

Published on May 26, 2015

See Submission HERE links you to the Berowra Valley National Park Draft Plan of Management and how to lodge submissions. 

Stringybark Ridge, Pennant Hills, in Berowra Valley National Park is threatened with development of sporting fields. This rare ridge top Shale Sandstone Transition Forest should be protected. Support the NPWS Masterplan for the area cleared several decades ago; support informal camping, particularly for the Great North Walk, and picnic areas for families.

Submissions must be lodged by July 6th - more in Have Your Say below

 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:

 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’:

 Many endangered species are back, but face new struggles

June 2, 2015 – A study of marine mammals and other protected species finds that several once endangered species, including the iconic humpback whale, the northern elephant seal and green sea turtles, have recovered and are repopulating their former ranges.

The research, published in the June edition of Trends in Ecology and Evolution, suggests that some species, including humpback whales, have reached population levels that may warrant removal from endangered species lists.

But returning species, which defy global patterns of biodiversity loss, create an urgent new challenge for policymakers and communities, the study suggests. While many people embrace the environmental and economic benefits of returning species -- many of them large predators -- others interpret the animals' recovery as a hostile invasion, encroaching on key fishing and recreation areas, researchers say.

"Most people support the idea of saving endangered species," says lead author Joe Roman of the University of Vermont's Gund Institute for Ecological Economics. "But when native species return, it can be a struggle for communities. After generations away, these forgotten species can suddenly be seen as newcomers -- or even pests."

The return of North Atlantic gray seals has been blamed in Massachusetts for declining fishery yields and attracting sharks to Cape Cod. Some fishermen in Alaska and Washington State blame returning whales for reducing black cod and salmon stocks. In California, harbor seal pupping has resulted in temporary closures of public beaches.

"The takeaways here are that conservation clearly can work, which is important to celebrate given the trend of declining global biodiversity," says Roman, who is also a professor at UVM's Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. "But wildlife managers need to do a better job of planning for the return of these species to avoid future conflicts."

Researchers make four recommendations, including: planning ahead for impacts and adaption with stakeholders; delisting species that no longer require protection to shift efforts to other species; improving policy decisions for "nuisance animal" killings by assessing the total costs and benefits -- economically, environmentally and culturally -- of returning species; and celebrating conservation successes with the public.

A recent analysis of 92 marine mammal populations by another team found that 42 per cent were increasing, the researchers add.


The study was conducted by four U.S. marine biologists, including lead author Joe Roman (University of Vermont) and co-authors Meagan Dunphy-Daly, David Johnston and Andrew Read (Duke University).

For the study, researchers looked at population data for marine mammals and other protected species. Of the 87 cetacean species (whales, dolphins and porpoises) examined, 22 are recovering, 15 are endangered, and 45 cannot be evaluated due to data limitations. Twenty-six species of pinnipeds (seals, sea lions, and walruses) are secure, and 13 are endangered.

Great whales represent a major conservation success, researchers say. Of the 14 species, four have seen dramatically recoveries, three are stable, and seven cannot be fully analyzed due to data availability. Ten of 14 populations of humpback whales could be removed from the U.S. endangered species list this July. This coastal species, popular among whale watchers, was recently seen off the coast of New York City for the first time in generations.

Researchers attribute the recovery of these species to global conservation efforts, especially national and international wildlife protection acts, such as the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species and the U.S. Endangered Species Act, which have reduced commercial hunting, protect habitats, control invasive species, and guide reintroduction efforts.


The report highlights success stories involving marine species, plus several notable recoveries of land mammals and birds. Examples include:

North Pacific Humpback Whale: After being reduced by commercial exploitation to fewer than 1,500 individuals in the 1970s, these whales have increased by about 6 percent per year and now number 21,000 whales. This increase is roughly 14 fold in less than 50 years.

Australian Humpback Whale: By the 1960s Australia's two populations of humpback whales dropped to fewer than 800 individuals. They have increased at or above 10 percent annually since the cessation of commercial whaling, and their population is now estimated at more than 40,000.

Northern Elephant Seal: Reduced to as few as 20 individuals through overexploitation in the late nineteenth century, these seals are now approaching their carrying capacity of more than 200,000 seals in the North Pacific.

Sea Otter: After more than 100 years of commercial exploitation, the North Pacific sea otter was reduced to about 1,000 individuals in 13 groups during the nineteenth century. After protections from hunting and reintroduction efforts from Alaska to Oregon, their population is now more than 107,000.

The American alligator, bald eagle, brown pelican, gray whale, and more than 20 other species have recovered and been removed from the U.S. list of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. These examples show that conservation efforts can lead to recovery of species and ecosystems, researchers say.


Fisheries scientists used the term "shifting baselines" to mark generational declines in species and stocks. The study authors say the conservation successes outlined above are important examples of "lifting baselines."

While these findings highlight several important conservation successes, the researchers note that more species are declining worldwide than growing. Large predatory fish have declined by two-thirds in the past century, and at least three species of marine mammals have gone extinct since the 1950s.

Joe Roman, Meagan M. Dunphy-Daly, David W. Johnston, Andrew J. Read. Lifting baselines to address the consequences of conservation success. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 2015; 30 (6): 299 DOI:10.1016/j.tree.2015.04.003

Top: Humpback Whale underwater shot - Kurzon


Ask a sustainability expert Steps to Sustainability Online

Architects, tradies and designers provided free advice on solar, water re-use, green roofs and native plants and native bees last month. Fifty residents took advantage of free 10 minute consultations with our experts.

We also launched the revised edition of “Steps to a Sustainable Home” available online for anyone looking to make improvements to their home and garden.

More information available

Events - June 2015

Littoral Rainforest Restoration of Newport Bilgola Escarpment

Join A New Porter Reserve Bushcare Group to Help Re-establish

New grant funding of $25000 from the Greater Sydney Local Land Services has been awarded to Pittwater Council to help in the restoration of Littoral or coastal rainforest at three sites within the Newport Bilgola Escarpment at Porter Reserve, Hamilton Estate and Hewitt Park over the next eight months. These funds will help consolidate and extend on ground works already undertaken by Council within these locations.

Pittwater LGA has a high percentage of Littoral Rainforest compared to other LGA within the Sydney Basin. Many are scattered small pockets with more substantial areas being located within the Newport Bilgola Escarpment. The Vulnerable Powerful Owls are known to frequent this area, roosting, feeding and nesting around the escarpment. More information about Powerful Owls is available

The project will include revegetation at Porter Reserve, of rainforest and coastal species within areas that are severely degraded.

A new Bushcare group has already been established at the southern area of Porter Reserve. This group meets on the 2nd Saturday of each month from 8 to 11am while a second Bushcare group is planned on the northern end of Porter Reserve within the grant location area. A community planting day will be organised in July with the date and time to be confirmed.

If anyone is interested in being part of the project please contact the Bushland Management Officer on 9970 1365.

 Sunday Morning Birdwatching with PNHA

Would you like to know more about our local birds? Our guides can help you discover the birdlife in these wonderful bushland reserves.

16 August, Chiltern Track (Wildflower study walk with a later start)

20 September, Irrawong Reserve, Warriewood

15 November, Warriewood Wetlands, Warriewood

Our birdwalks start at 7.30 or 8am and last for a couple of hours. Bring binoculars and morning tea for afterwards if you like. Older children welcome.

Contact us to book and get details for each walk. Email or ph: 0439 409 202 / 0402 605 721. 

 Draft National Recovery Plan for the Southern Bent-wing Bat Miniopterus schreibersii bassanii

Linda F. Lumsden and Micaela L. Jemison, 2015

Public comment

You are invited to comment on this draft recovery plan in accordance with the provisions of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

The public comment period closes 1 July 2015.

If you wish to comment on this draft plan, please send your comments, quoting the title of the plan, to:


Mail: Terrestrial Threatened Species Section, Protected Species and Communities Branch, Wildlife, Heritage and Marine Division, Department of the Environment, GPO Box 787, Canberra ACT 2601

About this document

This document constitutes the draft National Recovery Plan for the Southern Bent-wing Bat Miniopterus schreibersii bassanii. The recovery plan sets out the research and management actions necessary to stop the decline of, and support the recovery of, the threatened Southern Bent-wing Bat. The Southern Bent-wing Bat is listed as critically endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), listed as threatened under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 in Victoria where it is considered critically endangered and listed as endangered under theNational Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 in South Australia. It is also listed as endangered in the Action Plan for Australian Mammals 2012, under the revised taxonomic name of Miniopterus orianae bassanii. The long-term recovery objective is to ensure that the Southern Bent-wing Bat can survive, flourish and retain its potential for evolutionary development in the wild.

Documents at HERE

 Your chance to comment on plan to tackle feral cat threat

Feral cats threaten the survival of over 100 native species in Australia, and now is your chance to have your say on how best to reduce their impact.

The Department of the Environment is seeking public comment on proposed revisions to its national threat abatement plan for predation by feral cats.

Threatened Species Commissioner Gregory Andrews said the latest version of the plan sets out a national framework to guide and coordinate Australia’s response to the biggest single threat to our mammals.

“If you’re an Australian animal that’s small and spends time on the ground, feral cats are enemy number one. We need to look at different ways to stop feral cats pushing native mammals, reptiles, frogs and ground-dwelling birds to extinction, and that’s why this plan is important. It’s critical for iconic animals such as bilbies, bandicoots and wallabies, and the science shows even falcons and platypuses are now at risk from feral cats,” Mr Andrews said.

“The new draft plan recognises there have been significant advances in feral cat research and control since the current plan was adopted in 2008. The use of remote sensing cameras and GPS tracking collars have made monitoring easier, and new baits will provide extra tools to control feral cats. We’ve eradicated feral cats from three Australian islands (Tasman Island, Faure Island and Macquarie Island) and are working towards that goal on two more (Christmas Island and Dirk Hartog Island).”

There’s a greater emphasis in the revised plan on:

having a feral cat bait available for use across all conservation areas in Australia

researching how fire and grazing practice can change native vegetation and impact on feral cats’ ability to hunt effectively

investigating further the role of diseases like toxoplasmosis spread by feral cats and how it passes on and affects native species, and

eradicating feral cats from islands and establishing more fenced reserves free from feral cats to protect threatened species under pressure from feral cats.

“We want to effectively control feral cats in different environments, develop alternative strategies for threatened species recovery, and increase public support for feral cat management.

“Later this month, the Department and the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre will hold a national feral cat workshop in Canberra, where Australia’s leading feral cat experts will advise the department on performance indicators for tackling the impact of feral cats and present their latest research.

“I’ll be attending and expect the workshop will feed valuable comments and ideas into the revised draft of the plan. I am especially interested in ideas and comments on hard and measurable targets for reducing the impacts of feral cats. There will be plenty of opportunity for others to provide input as well, with the plan open for comment until 8 July 2015,” Mr Andrews said.

Find out how you can make a submission on the plan at Draft varied Threat abatement plan for predation by feral cats

 Queensland's koalas to be listed as vulnerable

Sunday, May 31, 2015 Media Release; JOINT STATEMENT:Premier and Minister for the Arts and The Honourable Annastacia Palaszczuk, Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection and Minister for National Parks and the Great Barrier Reef The Honourable Steven Miles

Queensland’s iconic marsupial, the koala, will soon be listed as 'vulnerable' across the state.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the decision today at the Daisy Hill Koala Centre’s 20th anniversary celebrations, alongside Environment and Heritage Protection Minister Steven Miles, Member for Springwood Mick de Brenni and Member for Capalaba Don Brown. 

Ms Palaszczuk said her Government was putting science at the centre of its decisions and had accepted the recommendation of the Species Technical Committee, an independent panel of scientists, to lift the conservation status of the koala.

"This decision, which is driven by scientific evidence, will bring Queensland's koala classification in line with the Commonwealth,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“Currently, koalas are only listed as vulnerable in south east Queensland.

“This decision will apply the “vulnerable” status across the State.

"The koala is an iconic species that faces many threats including climate change, habitat reduction, disease, motor vehicle strike and attacks by dogs.

“The reclassification will mean that more consideration will need to be given to koala habitats across Queensland, particularly in regard to potential impacts from development and resource activities.”

Dr Steven Miles said the decision would be welcomed by koala lovers and conservationists, and bring renewed focus to the koala’s plight.

He said the Daisy Hill Koala Centre had been instrumental in shaping visitors’ awareness and understanding of Australia’s most popular native animal for the last 20 years.

“Thanks to Daisy Hill’s dedicated staff and its resident koalas, generations of Queenslanders have been inspired to take an active role in protecting and caring for our unique wildlife,” he said.

“From today that will be even easier with a new web-based app that will empower users to become directly involved in species conservation.

“Spot Our Species allows people to contribute photos of wildlife sightings to the Atlas of Living Australia, a national database of all known native species, and access detailed information on species, threats and actions to help make a difference.

“Users will also be able to connect with local community groups and get involved with conservation work in their own backyards.

“The initiative aims to increase awareness and understanding of the role that each of us can play in conserving our precious wildlife, such as the koala, for generations to come,” Dr Miles said.

Spot Our Species is easily accessed


Mark Speakman Minister for the Environment Minister for Heritage Assistant Minister for Planning MEDIA RELEASE Sunday 31 May 2015 

Environment Minister Mark Speakman today launched the 2015 whale watching season as thousands of whales began one of the world’s largest wildlife migrations. Launching the season at one of the premier whale watching locations at Cape Solander in the Kamay Botany Bay National Park, Mr Speakman said 20,000 whales were expected to make the journey north along the NSW coastline. 

“With the whales already on their way north from Antarctica to warmer waters, now is the time to plan a winter coastal whale watching adventure in a NSW national park by,” Mr Speakman said. 

“National parks make up almost 50 per cent of the NSW coastline and provide the best vantage points to spot the ocean’s most majestic creatures.” 

National Parks and Wildlife Services whale migration expert Geoff Ross said with an additional 10 per cent of whales expected along the coast this season due to increased breeding, the opportunity to see a mother and its calf resting in a coastal inlet had increased. Whales usually stop to feed their calves in inlets and a Humpback calf needs a staggering 600 litres of milk each day. 

The Minister also acknowledged the tremendous work done by the Cape Solander Whale Migration Study volunteers who will now spend dawn to dusk each day for the next six weeks recording the number and species of whales that swim past this Sydney landmark. 

“These volunteers will donate an astounding 18,000 hours of their own time to help create a better understanding of these amazing creatures, demonstrating their incredible commitment to the conservation of whales,” he said. 

We’re encouraging people to share their whale sightings on Twitter with the @wildaboutwhales community using #whaleon, or log a sighting using our mobile app or on Facebook

Anyone on the water who comes across a whale is reminded boats must remain at least 100 metres from a whale and 300 metres if there is a calf present. The regulations can be viewed

 Annual trout fishing closure starts 9 June

02 Jun 2015

Anglers looking to catch trout are reminded that the June long weekend is their last opportunity to fish in designated trout streams and rivers across the State, as the fishing season closes in these waters over winter.

Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Supervising Fisheries Officer, Peter Tilbrook said the annual closure starts on Tuesday 9 June 2015.

"This closure allows brown and rainbow trout to breed uninterrupted during their annual spawning run, while also allowing trout fishers to drop in a line over the June long weekend," Mr Tilbrook said.

"Anglers can continue fishing at any of the NSW trout dams without breaching the rules during the annual closure.

"Popular winter fishing spots include Lake Jindabyne, Lake Eucumbene, Oberon Dam, Tantangara Dam, Talbingo Dam, Lake Wallace and Thompson's Creek Dam."

During the 2014-15 season, approximately 2.9 million trout and salmon were stocked in NSW waterways as part of the renowned DPI fish stocking program, including approximately two million rainbow trout, 600,000 brown trout and 150,000 Atlantic salmon.

Mr Tilbrook reminded fishers that it is an offence to fish in trout rivers and streams during the closed season for any species of fish.

"Fisheries officers will be patrolling NSW waterways to ensure that fishers are adhering to the trout closure," Mr Tilbrook said.

"Any persons found fishing or in possession of fishing gear adjacent to trout rivers and streams can be issued with on-the spot fines of $500.

"Recreational fishers heading to one of the State's trout dams this winter are reminded that they are required to have a current NSW recreational fishing fee receipt on them at all times while fishing."

The NSW trout season will re-open on Saturday 3 October 2015 for the October long weekend.

Recreational fishers are encouraged to use the NSW Recreational Freshwater Fishing Guide, available from DPI Fisheries Offices, most tackle shops or online

Anyone with information about illegal fishing or suspected illegal fishing should contact the Fishers Watch phoneline on free call 1800 043 536 or online

 50 shades of endangered: Marsupial mating habits to die for

June 1, 2015 - Queensland scientists have discovered two more species of suicidally-sexed marsupials and one is already destined for the threatened list.

Queensland University of Technology's (QUT) Dr Andrew Baker and his team have named two new species of Dusky Antechinus. One new species was discovered in remote, south-eastern Tasmania and another mainland form was raised to species status.

The team has now discovered five new species of antechinus in the past three years, a 50 per cent increase in diversity within this long-known genus of mammals.

However, the researchers believe three of the new antechinus are already under threat from climate change, feral pests and habitat loss.

"We discovered the Tasman Peninsula Dusky Antechinus not far from the old European settlement town of Port Arthur in Tasmania," said Dr Baker, a mammologist from QUT's Science and Engineering Faculty.

"Most of its limited habitat falls within state forest, which is being logged. This species now apparently only lives in tiny, fragmented stands of intact forest that are under threat.

"Uncovering new mammals in developed countries like Australia is pretty rare and the fact we've found even more antechinus species hints at the biodiversity jewels still waiting to be unearthed.

"It's a shame that mere moments after discovery, these little Tasmanian marsupials are threatened with extinction at human hands."

The team's latest discoveries have been published in the peer-reviewed journal Memoirs of the Queensland Museum -- Nature.

Dr Baker has already sought to have two of his previously-discovered Queensland antechinus put on the state's threatened list, the Black-tailed and the Silver-headed Antechinus.

"Both these species are found on remote mountaintops in south-east Queensland. They each possess perhaps the smallest distributions of any Australian mammal, just a few square kilometres.

"These species have already retreated to their misty mountain summits -- in the face of ongoing climate warming, they have nowhere left to run."

Dr Baker said the annual suicidal sexcapades of antechinus makes them more vulnerable to population extinctions.

Every year, all antechinus males fight ferociously for sex -- then die.

"The breeding period is basically two to three weeks of speed-mating, with testosterone-fuelled males coupling with as many females as possible, for up to 14 hours at a time," he said.

"Ultimately, the testosterone triggers a malfunction in the stress hormone shut-off switch; the resulting rise in stress hormones causes the males' immune systems to collapse and they all drop dead before the females give birth to a single baby.

"This yearly male suicide mission, which halves each antechinus population, means the mums have enough spiders and insects to eat while they raise the next precious generation. But the future of each species is entrusted to the mothers alone. "

Dr Baker is currently applying to the Tasmanian Government for a threatened species listing for the Tasman Peninsula Dusky Antechinus.

His team is also seeking to have all three threatened antechinus species added to Australia's federal threatened species list, which will help ensure their protection.

"Nine in 10 Australian mammal species are unique to the world, yet they are vanishing before our very eyes," Dr Baker said.

"In a country with the worst mammal extinction rate anywhere on earth, Australia is in the midst of unprecedented loss of its biological treasures.

"Millions of native mammals likely fall victim every night to feral cats alone. Other introduced ferals, such as European foxes and poisonous cane toads, account for the deaths of millions more.

"These threats, together with global warming, fires and habitat loss, may cause local population extinctions of our unique mammals almost weekly."

The researchers will be seeking extra funding to conduct further crucial research on these iconic yet mysterious mammals, including mapping their true geographical range, identifying measures that could help protect them and searching for as-yet undiscovered antechinus species.

Meet Australia's newest suicidally-sexed marsupials

Tasman Peninsula Dusky Antechinus (threatened); AKA Antechinus vandycki - Found in south-eastern Tasmania

Mainland Dusky Antechinus; AKA Antechinus mimetes - Found in south-eastern Australia (New South Wales and Victoria)

Black-tailed Dusky Antechinus (threatened; endangered species listing at state level pending); AKA Antechinus arktos - Found in remote sections of Springbrook National Park in south-east Queensland

Silver-headed Antechinus (threatened; vulnerable species listing at state level pending); AKA Antechinus argentus - Found in the eastern escarpment of Kroombit Tops National Park, south-west of Gladstone, Queensland

Buff-footed Antechinus; AKA Antechinus mysticus - Found in scattered populations in coastal areas of south-east and central Queensland.

Andrew Baker, T. Mutton, E. Mason, E. Gray. A taxonomic assessment of the Australian Dusky Antechinus Complex: a new species, the Tasman Peninsula Dusky Antechinus (Antechinus vandycki sp. nov.) and an elevation to species of the Mainland Dusky Antechinus (Antechinus swainsonii mimetes (Thomas)). Memoirs of the Queensland Museum - Nature, 2015; 59: 75 DOI:10.17082/j.2204-1478.59.2015.2014-10

 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!

Register here

 Five Reasons To Thank Plankton

Published on 2 Jun 2015

For too long plankton have slaved away in obscurity, making the world a better place for generations of ungrateful humans. Until now. Find out how much you owe these little guys with Nature Video’s Five Reasons To Thank Plankton.

For more videos of super photogenic plankton, check out or try to find out more about the new book ‘Plankton: Wonders of the Drifting World’ by Christian Sardet (BioDev, Observatoire Océanologique Villefranche sur Mer UPMC/CNRS).

 Researchers create new combination vaccine to fight Streptococcus A

June 1, 2015 - Griffith University

Griffith University's Institute for Glycomics has developed a groundbreaking, combination vaccine that may finally beat Streptococcus A infections.

Human trials are set to begin, early as next year, for the vaccine which combines the protein, SpyCEP, with a previously developed vaccine J8-DT.

Infections caused by Streptococcus pyogenes are responsible for the deaths of almost 500,000 people worldwide each year. It is particularly prevalent in developing countries and Indigenous populations, including Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders.

Infections can range from tonsillitis and what is commonly known as 'schools sores', to life threatening diseases where deep tissues are infected.

If left untreated infections can give rise to the very serious condition of rheumatic heart disease.

Principal Research Leader at the Institute for Glycomics, Professor Michael Good said the team's latest research, which is published in the current issue of the Journal of Immunology, shows that they are getting closer to beating Strep A once and for all.

"We have successfully vaccinated mice with a vaccine that we believe will be suitable for humans," he said.

"We will spend the next six months developing that vaccine at a high level of purity suitable for humans and hope to start a clinical trial next year."

The inspiration to use SpyCEP came to Professor Good during a conference in Rome three years ago. He then thought of combining it with the J8-DT vaccine.

"While Strep A can cause tonsillitis or school sores, it can sometimes develop a mutation in its DNA which causes the organism to spread to other tissues in your body," he said.

"This is when it becomes dangerous and 10-15 per cent of infected people will die when that happens. But we have worked out how to combat that virulence.

"We vaccinated the mice with a protein which induces antibodies that protect the white cells that are needed to battle the infection when a mutation occurs.

"When the white cells can work, they can attack the organism as long as there are other antibodies there. And this is when the J8-DT vaccine comes in."

Professor Good said it was the combination of the two vaccines that he believes will be highly effective.

M. Pandey, E. Langshaw, J. Hartas, A. Lam, M. R. Batzloff, M. F. Good. A Synthetic M Protein Peptide Synergizes with a CXC Chemokine Protease To Induce Vaccine-Mediated Protection against Virulent Streptococcal Pyoderma and Bacteremia. The Journal of Immunology, 2015; DOI: 10.4049/jimmunol.1500157

Top: Griffith University Professor Michael Good, of the Institute for Glycomics has developed a groundbreaking combination vaccine that may finally beat Strep A infections. Credit: Griffith University

 New AITSL board appointed

Monday 1 June 2015 Media Release: The Hon Christopher Pyne MP, Minister for Education and Training, Leader of the House

The Minister for Education and Training, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP, has welcomed new appointments to the Board of the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL).

“The Australian Government is absolutely committed to improving the quality of teacher training – the most important factor affecting student performance,” Mr Pyne said.

“AITSL plays a pivotal role in implementing the Government’s response to the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group report Action Now: Classroom Ready Teachers.

“As part of the 2015-16 Budget, we are providing $16.9 million over the next four years to implement the Government’s response to the TEMAG report to improve teacher education in Australia.

“It’s also critical that the AITSL Board has the right mix of skills and expertise to deliver this very important work.

“In recognition of this, three new Directors with expertise in key areas, including teacher education, course accreditation and school leadership have been appointed to the Board.

“Professor John Hattie will continue in his role as Chair of the Board, while Mr John Fleming will remain in his role as Deputy Chair.

“While the focus of the new board is on skills and expertise, AITSL will also continue to consult broadly across the sector with peak bodies as it implements changes to initial teacher education.”

The new AITSL Board, as of 2 June 2015, is:

Name                                  Position 

Professor John Hattie         Chair

Mr John Fleming                 Deputy Chair

Dr Michele Bruniges         Leadership and management of government school systems

Mr Rob Nairn                         School leadership

Dr Geoff Newcombe         Leadership and management of non- government school systems

Mr Stephen Elder                 Governance, including audit, risk and finance

Ms Melanie Saba                  Regulation and accreditation of initial teacher education courses

Professor Tania Aspland  Initial teacher education

Mr Trevor Fletcher                  Teacher practitioner

Dr Jennifer Buckingham   Public policy

Mr Tony Cook                   Government liaison

 Bacteria may cause type 2 diabetes

June 1, 2015 - Bacteria and viruses have an obvious role in causing infectious diseases, but microbes have also been identified as the surprising cause of other illnesses, including cervical cancer (Human papilloma virus) and stomach ulcers (H. pylori bacteria).

A new study by University of Iowa microbiologists now suggests that bacteria may even be a cause of one of the most prevalent diseases of our time -- Type 2 diabetes.

The research team led by Patrick Schlievert, PhD, professor and DEO of microbiology at the UI Carver College of Medicine, found that prolonged exposure to a toxin produced by Staphylococcus aureus (staph) bacteria causes rabbits to develop the hallmark symptoms of Type 2 diabetes, including insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, and systemic inflammation.

"We basically reproduced Type 2 diabetes in rabbits simply through chronic exposure to the staph superantigen," Schlievert says.

The UI findings suggest that therapies aimed at eliminating staph bacteria or neutralizing the superantigens might have potential for preventing or treating Type 2 diabetes.

Obesity is a known risk factors for developing Type 2 diabetes, but obesity also alters a person's microbiome -- the ecosystem of bacteria that colonize our bodies and affect our health.

"What we are finding is that as people gain weight, they are increasingly likely to be colonized by staph bacteria -- to have large numbers of these bacteria living on the surface of their skin," Schlievert says. "People who are colonized by staph bacteria are being chronically exposed to the superantigens the bacteria are producing."

Schlievert's research has previously shown that superantigens -- toxins produced by all strains of staph bacteria -- disrupt the immune system and are responsible for the deadly effects of various staph infections, such as toxic shock syndrome, sepsis, and endocarditis.

The team's latest study, published recently in the journal mBio, shows that superantigens interact with fat cells and the immune system to cause chronic systemic inflammation, and this inflammation leads to insulin resistance and other symptoms characteristic of Type 2 diabetes. In examining the levels of staph colonization on the skin of four patients with diabetes, Schlievert's team estimate that exposure to the bacterial superantigens for people who are heavily colonized by staph is proportional to the doses of superantigen that caused the rabbits to develop diabetes symptoms in the team's experiments.

"I think we have a way to intercede here and alter the course of diabetes," Schlievert says. "We are working on a vaccine against the superantigens and we believe that this type of vaccine could prevent the development of Type 2 diabetes."

The team also is investigating the use of a topical gel containing glycerol monolaurate, which kills staph bacteria on contact, as an approach to eliminate staph bacteria from human skin. They plan to test whether this approach will improve blood sugar levels in patients with pre diabetes.

Bao G. Vu, Christopher S. Stach, Katarina Kulhankova, Wilmara Salgado-Pabón, Aloysius J. Klingelhutz, Patrick M. Schlievert. Chronic Superantigen Exposure Induces Systemic Inflammation, Elevated Bloodstream Endotoxin, and Abnormal Glucose Tolerance in Rabbits: Possible Role in Diabetes. mBio, 2015; 6 (2): e02554-14 DOI: 10.1128/mBio.02554-14

 Inactivity in childhood linked to poor health outcomes in adolescence

1 June 2015

How active you are as a child could have an impact on your weight and risk of chronic disease from as early fifteen years of age, according to new research led by the University of Sydney.

The landmark study followed more than 4,600 children for four years and found that those who were more active in late childhood were healthier teens, with lower body fat and reduced risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis from the University's Charles Perkins Centre and Faculty of Health Sciences, has called for a robust long-term national policy to get children moving.

"Our study provides clear evidence that the negative effects of inactivity in childhood are evident well before adulthood," said Associate Professor Stamatakis.

"We found that by age 15 more active children showed consistently better health outcomes.

"For example, an increase of 60 minutes of daily activity in childhood was linked to two percent less body fat.

"If inactivity patterns persist into adulthood, which is very likely, we expect an increased risk for developing heart disease, diabetes, and obesity."

Associate Professor Stamatakis believes parents cannot carry sole responsibility for providing opportunities for children to get active.

"With technology today meaning excessive sitting and screen time, we urgently need a serious long-term health policy which promotes strategies in schools and communities to give young people more opportunities for walking, cycling, play, and sports on a daily basis," he said.

The research, published in Pediatrics, is the longest running study to objectively measure children's physical activity and sedentary behavior against a comprehensive range of health measures relating to heart health, obesity, and diabetes.

Motion sensors were used to measure children's physical activity levels at 11 years of age, which was compared to their health outcomes at 15 years of age.

The research is an important step forward as long-term studies into the effects of children's activity levels are very limited.

"Research looking at the health implications of inactive lifestyles in adulthood is rapidly expanding, but if we want to focus on prevention we must start with a better understanding of its impact in the early years," Associate Professor Stamatakis said.

The study did not show any association between sitting time and negative health consequences; however the researchers speculate that a longer-term follow up into adulthood could reveal different results.

Academics from the University of Sydney, University College London, University of Southampton, University of Bristol and University of Cambridge collaborated on the study. It is based on the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) cohort that has been running in the United Kingdom since 1991.

Threatened tribe inspires ceramic range

June 1, 2015:  FRAN STRACHAN: UNSW

Ceramic tableware inspired by the spirituality of the South American Sanema tribe has won UNSW Art & Design student Jaimee Paul an internship with Royal Doulton.

Jaimee won the Royal Doulton and UNSW Art & Design Award for her tableware range, Hom-age, inspired by the spiritual lives of the tribe who live on the Venezuelan and Brazilian border.

Royal Doulton launched the award with Art & Design last year as part of the company’s 200th anniversary celebrations.

Third and fourth-year undergraduate design students were required to conduct research into the brand while considering designs that explored global food trends.

“I’m really interested in how globalisation is threatening self-sustaining communities,” said Jaimee.

“Deforestation and mining have impacted on the Sanema tribe to the point that they are losing their land, food sources and spirituality. The feather in my design is significant because it symbolises the fragility of their future,” she said, referring to the hand-painted motif on her tableware.

Royal Doulton were impressed by the undergraduate’s work because it provides a “positive and meaningful” conversation at the dinner table.

Jaimee, who majors in graphics and textiles, had never worked in ceramics before entering the competition.

I bought the ceramic ware from Brookvale Ceramics Studio and painted it – I don’t have to reinvent the wheel, I’m not a ceramicist so I worked to my strengths.

Jaimee is one of many contemporary designers and artists without a ceramics background who have worked with Royal Doulton in recent years.

Urban street artists, Nick Walker, Pure Evil, and celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey have all added their signature style to Royal Doulton ranges.

Dik Delaney, Royal Doulton’s Global Design director said other disciplines offer different attitudes and perspectives to their craft.

“It’s one of the qualities that keeps Royal Doulton fresh,” he said, when meeting with the six finalists at Art & Design’s Paddington campus on a recent visit to Australia.

Mr Delaney said he was amazed by the quality of the work. “Everyone at Royal Doulton was impressed with the overall standard.”

Jaimee leaves for the UK at the end of this month to take up a one-month residency at the company’s design department in Staffordshire where she will work closely with the 17-person studio on a ‘live’ project.

“I hope to learn as much as I can – I’ve never worked in a corporate environment before but I know Royal Doulton value people from other disciplines and the perspectives they bring so I’m really looking forward to it.”

The Award is the result of initial contact with Royal Doulton from an enterprising student, Larissa Silva.

School of Design Studies senior lecturer, Rod Bamford said the partnership with Royal Doulton has been “a very rewarding journey, with a great partner who is very committed to the educational aspect of the venture.”

View the other five UNSW finalist’s entries:

Jessica MacCulloch – Tao

Elizabeth Hackney – Found

Annie Xu – Euphoria

Genevieve Flynn – Plate for London

India Rae Witzand – Ripen

 Our new Reconciliation Action Plan paves a way towards cultural awareness 

1 Jun 2015

Our new Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) was launched last week by our Director General with Auntie Matilda and Alison Page. Read our RAP or watch our video of the launch.

Patricia Kelly launched IP Australia’s new Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) last week. The plan demonstrates practical ways we can offer opportunities and respect for Australia’s first peoples. The launch coincided with National Reconciliation Week which is held each year from 27 May to 3 June, marking the anniversary of the 1967 referendum and the Mabo High Court decision. 

The ceremony started with Aunty Matilda House offering a heart-warming welcome to country. Alison Page, spokesperson for IP Australia’s Dream Shield public education programme, also shared what reconciliation means to her. 

Some of the key features of IP Australia’s RAP include: 

• The Jarwun Indigenous Secondment Program   

• Dream Shield   

• Indigenous Knowledge Consultation

• Indigenous Recruitment

Relevant protocols, cultural awareness training, and greater participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples will build a more culturally aware organisation for the benefit of all our stakeholders. 

Find all documents and more by visiting here

IP Australia's Reconciliation Action Plan - Alison Page

National Reconciliation Week

 Cosmic cinema: astronomers make real-time, 3D movies of plasma tubes drifting overhead

1 June 2015

By creatively using a radio telescope to see in 3D, astronomers have detected the existence of tubular plasma structures in the inner layers of the magnetosphere surrounding the Earth.

"For over 60 years, scientists believed these structures existed but by imaging them for the first time, we've provided visual evidence that they are really there," said Cleo Loi of the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO) and School of Physics at the University of Sydney.

Ms Loi is the lead author on this research, undertaken as part of her award-winning undergraduate thesis and recently published in Geophysical Research Letters. In collaboration with international colleagues, she identified the structures.

"The discovery of the structures is important because they cause unwanted signal distortions that could, as one example, affect our civilian and military satellite-based navigation systems. So we need to understand them," Ms Loi said.

The region of space around the Earth occupied by its magnetic field, called the magnetosphere, is filled with plasma that is created by the atmosphere being ionised by sunlight.

The innermost layer of the magnetosphere is the ionosphere, and above that is the plasmasphere. They are embedded with a variety of strangely shaped plasma structures including, as has now been revealed, the tubes.

"We measured their position to be about 600 kilometres above the ground, in the upper ionosphere, and they appear to be continuing upwards into the plasmasphere. This is around where the neutral atmosphere ends, and we are transitioning to the plasma of outer space," explained Ms Loi.

Using the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA), a radio telescope located in the Western Australian desert, Ms Loi found that she could map large patches of the sky and even exploit the MWA's rapid snapshot capabilities to create a movie - effectively capturing the real-time motions of the plasma.

"We saw a striking pattern in the sky where stripes of high-density plasma neatly alternated with stripes of low-density plasma. This pattern drifted slowly and aligned beautifully with the Earth's magnetic field lines, like aurorae," Ms Loi said.

"We realised we may be onto something big and things got even better when we invented a new way of using the MWA."

The MWA consists of 128 antenna 'tiles' spread over an area roughly three by three kilometres that work together as one instrument - but by separating the signals from tiles in the east from the ones in the west, the astronomers gave the MWA the power to see in 3D.

"This is like turning the telescope into a pair of eyes, and by that we were able to probe the 3D nature of these structures and watch them move around," said Ms Loi.

"We were able to measure the spacing between them, their height above the ground and their steep inclination. This has never been possible before and is a very exciting new technique."

This ability adds yet another accolade to the MWA's name after it had already proven its worth as a powerful precursor instrument to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), and now the MWA's 3D vision has the potential to provide many more in-depth analyses of the formation of plasma structures.

"It is to Cleo's great credit that she not only discovered this but also convinced the rest of the scientific community. As an undergraduate student with no prior background in this, that is an impressive achievement," said Ms Loi's supervisor Dr Tara Murphy, also of CAASTRO and the School of Physics at the University of Sydney.

"When they first saw the data, many of her senior collaborators thought the results were literally 'too good to be true' and that the observation process had somehow corrupted the findings, but over the next few months, Cleo managed to convince them that they were both real and scientifically interesting."

Ms Loi has been awarded the 2015 Bok Prize of the Astronomical Society of Australia for her work.

Cosmic cinema: astronomers make real-time, 3D movies of plasma tubes drifting overhead

Published on May 31, 2015

By creatively using a radio telescope to see in 3D, astronomers have detected the existence of tubular plasma structures in the inner layers of the magnetosphere surrounding the Earth. 

“For over 60 years, scientists believed these structures existed but by imaging them for the first time, we’ve provided visual evidence that they are really there,” said Cleo Loi of the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO) at the University of Sydney. 

Ms Loi is the lead author on this research, undertaken as part of her award-winning undergraduate thesis and published in Geophysical Research Letters today. In collaboration with international colleagues, she identified the structures.

Read more:

 Patient information too high for patients' literacy: New Australian research

June 1, 2015 - More than 90 per cent of educational materials written for kidney disease patients is higher than an average patient's literacy, according to a new study published in the June issue of the National Kidney Foundation's American Journal of Kidney Diseases.

"Our study suggests most patient information materials are not fit for their intended purpose, and that organisations are producing materials that may be too difficult for their intended audience to understand," said Angela Webster, lead researcher and an Associate Professor Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Sydney.

The average adult patient has an 8th grade literacy level but over 20 per cent of patients read at or below a 5th grade level. Of patients over the age of 65, 40 per cent read at or below a 5th grade level.

In the study, researchers looked at 80 English-language educational materials that were designed to be printed and read by patients in the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom. These free educational materials were analyzed using both the Lexile Analyzer and the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level formula.

Analysis suggested that most materials required a minimum of a 9th grade health literacy level. Only 5 per cent of materials were pitched at the recommended 5th grade level.

"These findings suggested that patient information materials aimed at patients with chronic kidney disease are pitched well above the average patient's literacy level, so that most patients wouldn't be able to read and understand the health messages," Webster said.

Providing patients with reading materials outside their level of understanding could make it difficult to follow medication directives, dietary restrictions, and necessary lifestyle modifications for disease management.

Poor health literacy is a particular problem for elderly, ethnic minority, and socially disadvantaged people, all of whom are more likely to have chronic kidney disease.

People with low health literacy are less likely to feel engaged with their healthcare providers, and are less likely to participate in their treatment decisions and have significantly higher mortality and morbidity rates. Materials that are written above a patient's health literacy level can contribute to poor management and outcomes.

"Developing patient education materials that are appropriate for all literacy levels is a challenge, but a very important challenge for improving health outcomes. All organisations need to make a thorough assessment on the readability of their patient information materials," said Thomas Manley, Director of Scientific Activities for the National Kidney Foundation.

"Conducting formal readability testing, as suggested by the study authors, along with use of patient reviewers from a variety of educational and cultural backgrounds may provide important feedback to enhance the value of materials across a larger spectrum of health literacy levels."

Suzanne Morony, Michaela Flynn, Kirsten J. McCaffery, Jesse Jansen, Angela C. Webster. Readability of Written Materials for CKD Patients: A Systematic Review. American Journal of Kidney Diseases, 2015; 65 (6): 842 DOI: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2014.11.025

 Welcome home - check out the ORACLE TEAM USA Bermuda base

Published on 2 Jun 2015

Our new base in Bermuda went up in record time. The team has been operating from here for a month now, and all the bells and whistles are coming on stream.

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.

 Discovery could improve radiotherapy for wide range of cancers

May 31, 2015 - Cancer Research UK scientists have discovered how giving a class of drugs called AKT inhibitors in combination with radiotherapy might boost its effectiveness across a wide range of cancers, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation today.

Tumours often grow so quickly that some of the cells do not have access to the body’s blood supply, causing them to become oxygen-starved. This rapid growth usually sends signals to the cells to die, but in cancers with faults in a gene called p53 – present in at least half of all cancers – this signal is blocked meaning the cells carry on growing.

In this study, the researchers found that six genes that help protect the body against cancer were less active in oxygen-starved cancer cells when p53 was also faulty.

In the absence of two of these genes – PHLDA3 and INPP5D – a gene called AKT becomes permanently switched on preventing the cells from dying despite being oxygen-starved.

When drugs designed to block AKT were given to mice with tumours and lab-grown cancer cells lacking p53, the radiotherapy killed more tumour cells.

Importantly, lower activity in these genes was also linked to poorer survival in patients with a variety of different cancers. This suggests that adding AKT inhibitors to radiotherapy could be an effective way to treat many cancers.

Study leader Dr Ester Hammond, a Cancer Research UK scientist at the University of Oxford, said: “This exciting discovery sheds light on the role of oxygen-starvation in cancer development and suggests that drugs already being trialled in cancer patients could potentially boost the effectiveness of radiotherapy across a range of cancers. We hope that this important piece of the jigsaw will support ongoing efforts to develop drugs that enhance radiotherapy, so that even more patients can benefit from this cornerstone of cancer treatment.”

Eleanor Barrie, Cancer Research UK’s senior science information manager, said: “Advances in how we give radiotherapy and use it in combination with other treatments have the potential to improve survival for thousands of cancer patients. More than half of all cancer patients receive radiotherapy as part of their treatment, so anything that can be done to improve its effectiveness is potentially great news for patients.”

Katarzyna B. Leszczynska, Iosifina P. Foskolou, Aswin G. Abraham, Selvakumar Anbalagan, Céline Tellier, Syed Haider, Paul N. Span, Eric E. O’neill, Francesca M. Buffa, and Ester M. Hammond. Hypoxia-induced p53 modulates both apoptosis and radiosensitivity via AKT. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2015 DOI:10.1172/JCI80402