Inbox and Environment News - Issue 224 

 July 26 - August 1, 2015: Issue 224

 Hyde Park Anzac memorial redevelopment plans unveiled

July 20, 2015 – NSW Government

The NSW Government will contribute $20.3 million to the project’s redevelopment plans, which includes:

• a second cascading water feature that was never completed due to the Great Depression

• education and interpretation facilities beneath the Anzac Memorial.

NSW Premier Mike Bair said the redeveloped memorial would be the legacy of our Centenary of Anzac commemorations.

“This project will allow our future generations to pay respect to those who fought for the freedoms we enjoy today.”

The NSW Government’s contribution joins the Federal Government’s $19.6 million funding.

The project’s design plans are now on public display in the memorial’s exhibition hall


21 July 2015 - Media Relese

Prime Minister; Minister for Industry and Science; Minister for Agriculture

Australians will benefit from clearer, simpler information about where products come from.

New country of origin food labels will begin to appear on supermarket shelves later this year.

It is important to ensure consumers have the information they need to make informed choices about the products they buy. Australians have made it clear they want better country of origin labelling and the Government is determined to deliver it.

In February, the Government established a review of Australia’s Country of Origin Labelling laws.

Today, the Government approved a new food labelling system which will show consumers where products are made, grown or packaged.

Foods processed locally will have a new label which includes the familiar green and gold kangaroo and triangle icon, with a bar chart showing what proportion of the ingredients are from Australia.

This will include, for example, “Made in Australia from 100% Australian ingredients”, “Packed in Australia, Made in Canada” and “Made in Australia from Australian carrots and French peas.”

Companies will be encouraged to provide additional information on their labels – identifying the origin of key ingredients, for example.

The green and gold triangle design was the overwhelming preference of more than 17,800 respondents to the Government’s food labelling community survey.

The new labels will be easy for shoppers to identify. Consumers will no longer have to search for country of origin information hidden in small print.

Consumers will be able to make a quick comparison of products on the shelves. Digital options are also being developed so consumers who want more detailed information can get it.

These reforms will also clarify the definition of “made in” Australia. Importing ingredients and simply slicing them will no longer qualify for a “made in” claim.  

Under the new scheme, if a product is imported into Australia and then re-packed, the label will identify where the item came from.

The Commonwealth Government will continue to work with the States and Territories, whose agreement is required to roll out the new labels. 

An initial voluntary take-up of the country of origin food labels will mean shoppers should see changes on the shelves later this year. 

The mandatory rollout will commence in 2016, providing manufacturers with time to implement the new scheme. There will be a phased implementation period for small business.

For further information on country of origin labelling

 Australia’s biggest wave research simulator goes live at Manly Vale


A new wave flume facility – essential to model coastal and inland water behaviour – has been opened by NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes at the UNSW Water Research Lab in northern Sydney.

From left - Professor Ian Turner, Stephen Foster, NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes and Professor Mark Hoffman

A new wave flume facility – essential to model coastal and inland water behaviour – has been opened by NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Water Research Lab in Manly Vale in Sydney's north.

The lab, considered the birthplace of coastal engineering in the country, has four instrument-laden laboratories across four hectares downstream from Manly Dam, where large-scale physical models of coastal and inland waterways are recreated for research. It is part of the largest coastal hydraulics research complex in Australia.

“In many ways, the Water Research Laboratory is a model for the kind of engagement we aim for in academia: doing research work of high excellence while also solving real-world problems for industry and government,” said Professor Mark Hoffman, Dean of Engineering at UNSW.

A small section of the new 44-metre-long Doug Foster Wave Flume facility at UNSW Water Research Laboratory in Manly Vale.

The new wave flume – a wave channel for the physical modelling of waves to study their properties and effects – is 44 m long, 0.9 m wide, and 1.4 m deep, making it the largest such facility in Australia. “Flumes are essential in fluid dynamics research, allowing engineers to understand coastal and offshore structures, sediment transport and other water transport phenomena,” said Professor Ian Turner, the newly appointed director of the laboratory.

This new facility will expand the Water Research Laboratory’s (WRL) coastal research programs that seek to improve fundamental understanding of the forces that are shaping coastlines now and in the future. Importantly, the facility will improve the WRL’s ability to deliver practical advice and better inform ‘best practice’ design and planning of future development around the NSW and Australian coastlines. 

Professor Turner said that even with the enormous computing power available today, no computer models can match the richness of data extracted from large-scale experimental laboratory facilities.

“A computer model is only as good as the physics the modeller understands,” said Professor Turner. “When you are working at the edge of existing knowledge, or in unique physical environments, your understanding of the physical processes will be incomplete.  Hence, to be at the forefront of hydraulic research, it remains fundamentally important to put real water in real tanks and pipes – while still making extensive use of computer modelling.”

A good example of this is the new wave flume, which is being use to examine – for the first time anywhere in the world – the interaction of coastal engineering structures as coastlines evolve (and most likely erode) in response to rising sea-levels, he added.

The flume was officially opened by NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes and named in the memory of Douglas Neil Foster (1930-2001), widely known by engineers and researchers in the field as ‘the father of coastal engineering in Australia’. A foundation staff member of WRL, he became its second director in 1973 and led it for 14 years. In recognition of Foster's contribution to coastal engineering, Engineers Australia created the Doug N. Foster Memorial Fellowship Fund in 2001 to encourage engineering students to take up careers in coastal or ocean engineering.

“This is an area of policy development that has vexed governments for many, many years,” said Mr Stokes. His hope was that the research at WRL would, he said, “provide some confidence to decision-makers and communities along the coast about how to plan for the future of their communities in light of existing coastal hazards, and the likelihood that those hazards will be amplified in the future as a result of future sea-level rise”.

 Rock theft in Sydney Basin destroying snake habitat

21 Jul 2015- UTS

One of the oldest and most spectacular animals found in the Sydney basin has become a casualty of the city’s love for bush gardens.

The black and yellow broad-headed snake, once common in suburbs such as Bondi, Randwick and Watsons Bay, is now found in only a few pockets of bushland within 200 kilometres of Sydney. The sandstone rocks that were integral to its habitat now dot the suburban landscape in people’s backyards.

The lucrative trade in bush rock, combined with relentless development, has contributed to the destruction of the species’ habitat to make Hoplocephalus bungaroides one of Australia’s most endangered snakes, says wildlife ecologist Dr Jonathan Webb.

Dr Webb has been monitoring broad-headed snake populations in locations south of Sydney for more than 20 years. The species is under such pressure that he will not reveal the precise location of his study sites.

Using mark-and-recapture techniques and radio telemetry, often in collaboration with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, he has identified an environmental problem that is bigger than one species. The animal’s decline is “the story of a whole ecosystem’s destruction”, says Dr Webb, a senior lecturer in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).

“The broad-headed snake’s ecology is so closely linked to one habitat resource, sandstone rocks, that if you take away the rocks you disrupt the whole ecosystem.

“People want to bring the bush into their backyard … people are taking rocks and selling them in landscape suppliers [and that] is what has really driven the decline in this species.”

Dr Webb says many outcrops in the Sydney region were stripped of their rocks in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s and “now rock collectors are targeting sites further afield”, including the last strongholds for broad-headed snakes.

It is one of many species – including reptiles, amphibians, insects and small mammals – that rely on sandstone rocks for shelter and food.

Bush rock collection has been a huge industry for many years. While it is an offence to disturb or remove bush rock, and the National Parks and Wildlife Service conducts protection and public education programs, it is not illegal to sell the rocks.

“It’s illegal to come into a national park and remove bush rock,” says Dr Webb, “but because nurseries are still selling the product for $60 a square metre – roughly three rocks, so about $20 a rock – a truckload of rocks is worth a couple of thousand dollars.”

Dr Webb says he has heard of vehicles with stolen number plates and people being run off the road in national parks after photographing illegal activity. The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage urges anyone who witnesses a suspected bush rock theft to contact the department but warns people not to approach suspected thieves.

“I’d love to see some laws in place that make it illegal to sell bush rock. I don’t think there is any reason we need to sell this product. There are plenty of alternatives,” says Dr Webb.

“Quarried rocks leave a much smaller footprint, and don’t result in loss of habitat across broad geographic areas.”

Linda Bell from the Office of Environment and Heritage says the Saving our Species program targets the removal of bush rocks and dead trees to protect or restore habitat for the broad-headed snake. She says limiting access to priority sites is one approach; creating more public awareness may also help.

Dr Webb says public knowledge of the negative effect of collecting bush rocks is very low. “People simply don’t understand that having these rocks in their gardens contributes to environmental degradation,” he says. “In most people’s eyes, a rock is simply a rock.”

He says an entire ecosystem is at risk unless consumers learn the importance of rocks to the health of Australia’s bushland.

To report suspected bush rock theft, phone the Environment Hotline on 131 555

The broad-headed snake, once common in Sydney’s suburbs, is now endangered. Photo: Jonathan Webb


Media release: 23 July 2015

An EPA commissioned report outlining the interim results of a study into visible dust in the Lower Hunter has been released today.

Concerns have been raised about the levels of visible black dust in the lower Hunter region.

The EPA, at the request of the Newcastle Community Consultative Committee on the Environment, commissioned a study to examine the quantity, composition and likely sources of this dust.

The monitoring program began in October 2014 and runs for a full year, to ensure that seasonal variations in weather conditions and dust deposition are considered.

The project is overseen by a Lower Hunter Dust Deposition Project Reference Group comprising community and industry representatives and independent experts.

In the first six months of the study, 29 samples were taken between 15 October 2014 and 15 April 2015 from sites in proximity to the rail corridor and coal loaders between Hexham and Port Waratah.

The report released today provides a very preliminary summary of the sampling undertaken to date. The number of useable samples was limited by the wet weather during the period.

Conjoint Associate Professor Howard Bridgman from the University of Newcastle is a member of the Reference Group overseeing the project. Professor Bridgman said “This study is a great example of citizen involvement in decision making for air pollution science. There was a problem identified by the community and the EPA has responded.”

The preliminary results in the interim report suggest the following

• The six-month averages for dust deposition data collected from all twelve sites between October 2014 and April 2015 ranged from 0.7 g/m2.month to 1.4 g/m2.month. These values are well below the EPA criterion of 4 g/m2.month, which is as an annual average for an acceptable level of deposited dust,   measured as insoluble solids.

• Soil or rock dust comprised the greatest proportion of the samples (average of 73 %; maximum of 95 %).

• Coal was detected in measurable amounts in 22 of the 29 samples, and comprised between 5 – 20 % of the samples (average of 6.2 %). Coal was not detected in one sample,  and detected in trace amounts in the remaining six samples.

• Soot was detected in measurable amounts in 11 of the samples and comprised between 2 – 10 % of the samples (average of 2.1 %). Soot was found in trace amounts in all   but three of the remaining samples.

• Black rubber dust was detected in measureable quantities in 3 of 29 samples, and in trace levels in a further 13 samples.  Rubber averaged 0.7 % of each sample.

• Halite (rock salt)/salt was found in four of the brush samples in greater than trace amounts (comprising 5 – 10 % of the samples) and in six of the petri dish    samples, where it formed 5 - 20 % of the samples. On average, Halite accounted for 3.6 % of each sample.

• Insect debris, plant debris and miscellaneous fibres were found in many of the samples.

Associate Professor Bridgman said: “The report provides useful indicators for the community of the Lower Hunter who have concerns about the composition of visible dust in their neighbourhoods. However, we must wait for the 12 month results at the end of the study before drawing any final conclusions.”

Adam Gilligan, EPA Hunter Region Manager added “It is also pleasing to see that the overall levels of dust deposited were below guideline levels. The six-month rolling averages for data collected at the 12 monitoring sites were all well below 4 grams per square metre per month, which is the EPA guideline value for the acceptable annual average amount of deposited dust.”

Mr Gilligan noted that “These results will be important in directing our regulatory actions and responses on air quality in the Hunter. The results will also be of great value to the community by providing detailed information on air quality issues based on strong scientific evidence. In turn, this will enable informed debate and decision making.”

The EPA commissioned AECOM Australia Pty Limited to carry out the study, using 12 dust deposition gauges and random petri dish and brush sampling to monitor dust.

Locations for dust monitoring were selected on the basis of historical complaints data and feedback from the Newcastle Community Consultative Committee on the Environment and the Project Reference Group.

The dust deposition study will continue for another six months with another report to be released at the conclusion of the study. The interim report and the final report will be publicly available on the EPA website.

Lower Hunter Particle Characterisation Study (Download the fourth progress report - PDF 2.6MB at:

 Vale Felicity Wishart – Australia loses a true hero for the environment

Tue 21 July 2015: AMCS

The Australian Marine Conservation Society and the Australian environmental movement is in mourning over the sudden and unexpected loss of Felicity ‘Flic’ Wishart who passed away in her sleep on Sunday night aged 50.

Flic was one of Australia’s leading conservationists and was a great and inspiring champion for the planet, the cause she dedicated her life to.

For thirty years Flic played a fundamental role in many of the key environmental campaigns in Australia.

Flic was a leader of seminal campaigns to protect the rainforests, to stop land clearing in Queensland, to confront the threat of climate change and national campaigns to protect the marine environment through the creation of a national network of marine protected areas and in her last, greatest and yet unfinished campaign, to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

She was a hugely influential force in the Australian environmental movement working at the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Queensland Conservation Council, The Wilderness Society and the Australian Marine Conservation Society to tremendous effect. She mentored and inspired many newer campaigners, especially up and coming women in the environment movement.

None worked harder, with as much grace and achieved as many results to protect our heritage. As a leader she combined great warmth and humility, with an ability to understand and fearlessly challenge powerful forces that threatened our heritage.

All Australians, whether they realise it or not, owe a debt of gratitude for her work. We are all beneficiaries of her life and work.

As campaign director of the Australian Marine Conservation Society’s Fight for the Reef campaign she spearheaded the work that has led to a massive increase in protection for the Great Barrier Reef over the last three years.

She was a beloved mentor and guide, friend and confidant, inspiration and leader, mother and partner. Her intelligence, warmth, wisdom and energy are irreplaceable.

For someone with so much love and time for others it is now that we must continue her work to make Australia a better place for all.

Her legacy will endure. Her fight is our fight.

Our hearts are with her family, including her partner and two young sons at this tragic time.


National Tree Day 2015

26th Jul 2015: 9am - 9am

Come along to Whitney Reserve, Pittwater’s venue to participate in this year's National Tree Day. Come along and help plant areas of the creekline and adjacent slope with native plants.

Please wear appropriate clothing (long sleeves, trousers, sturdy shoes and a hat) and bring a bottle of water.

Council will provide you with refreshments and free native plants for you to plant in your own garden.

Venue: Whitney Reserve, Whitney Street, Mona Vale

Contact: Jenny Cronan at Pittwater Council - 9970 1357


Manly Vale Public School Upgrades Cause Conservation Concerns

A decision to to "remove" 4.37 hectares of high conservation bushland as part of a new development and upgrade of Manly Vale Public School, now approved by Warringah Council and slated to commence in November 2015, is why this community petition had been sent through to us this week.

Above is a Google Earth picture of the area (dated 1/1/2014)and the NSW Dept. of Finances, Service and Innovation fly-through video runs at base.

The upgrade is to increase the capacity of the school from 450 students to 1000.


Stop the Repeated Destruction of Bushland, Especially by a School Claiming "Environmental" Merits.

Government departments are continuing with the abuse of the incredible natural heritage of Australia, to further their financial and development agendas.

The repeated removal & fragmentation of bushland in urban areas has dire consequences for all. 

Manly Vale Public School, in NSW Premier Mike Baird’s electorate, claims they have "maintained an ongoing commitment to environmental education". The NSW Dy now want to "remove" 4.37 hectares of high conservation bushland as part of a new development, trashing their own conservation efforts & the heritage listed Manly Warringah War Memorial Park (Sydney’s Kakadu). 

Specifically, the planned upgrade of the school will: 

1. Destroy the habitat of threatened species found on site including the Eastern Pygmy Possum, Powerful Owl, Eastern Bent-Wing Bat & Grey Headed Flying Fox (plus the potential for 6 others), as well as numerous other native mammals (including the Swamp Wallaby), birds, reptiles & amphibians.

2. Destroy the potential habitat of 3 threatened flora species, including the critically endangered Seaforth Mintbush (present in the adjoining War Memorial Park).

3. Directly remove ancient, iconic & diverse vegetation including several species of Wattle, 5 species of Eucalyptus, Tea Tree, Myrtle, Bottle Brush, Banksia, Grevillea, Grass Trees, Boronia, Lesser & Common Flannel Flower (formally championed in the logo of Warringah Council). A total of 131 native flora species are at risk.

4. Threaten the already fragile Mermaid Pool, Manly Creek & Manly Lagoon which leads onto the celebrated beaches of the Manly area.

5. Increase the risk of invasive species in competition with native species, increasing the potential spread of the Noisy Miner as well as feral Rabbits, Foxes & Cats. 

6. Contribute to the possible extinction of a local population of the endangered Southern Brown Bandicoot - DEC (2009) states that the adjoining Garigal National Park population is at particular risk of extinction. The total area planned to be removed has been flagged as high quality habitat.

7. Lead to the loss or degradation (or both) of sites used for the mating ritual (hill-topping) of butterflies.

8. Increase the risk of the invasion of weeds into the neighbouring Warringah War Memorial Park, Manly Creek & surrounds.

9. Result in the direct loss of valuable hollow bearing trees, a crucial nesting place for many bird & mammal species - including the threatened Pygmy Possum & Powerful Owl present in this bushland. 

10. Impact neighbouring bushland, especially the adjoining War Memorial Park - as noted in the recent study removal will "contribute to the cumulative pressures adversely impacting large areas of undisturbed remnant vegetation and the connective links between them".

11. Finally, it will remove land that was saved from a Landcom housing development by the community in 1995!

There is a clear and positive alternative - it is entirely possible for the school to develop on their current "footprint".

The systematic trashing of what little remains of Australian bushland needs to end - once ancient bushland is gone, its history.

We must remember, the government is merely the trustee. Please use your voice and demand that more considered, ethical & environmentally sustainable choices are made, for now and the future.

Petition at: HERE

 Concept Design - Manly Vale Public School Upgrade

NSWDFSI: Published on Jul 7, 2015

[Updated 8 July 2015] 3D fly through of the concept design for the upgrade of Manly Vale Public School. 

 Katandra Sanctuary Open Days 2015

Katandra opens to the public every Sunday in July, August, September and October, from 10am to 4pm. The first will be Sunday July 5th with entry by donation.

See: Katandra Sanctuary Open Days 2015 by Marita Macrae

 Have your say on the proposed extension of Sunnyside Coal’s mining life

Media Release: Department of Planning and Environment

22 Jul 2015

A proposal to extend the approved duration of mining operations at the Sunnyside Coal Project will be on exhibition from today for community feedback.

The Department of Planning and Environment is keen to hear the community’s views on the application which seeks to:

 extend the completion date of mining operations at the Sunnyside Coal Project site for five years until 2020

 partially backfill the mine void with additional waste rock upon completing mining.

A spokesperson for the Department of Planning and Environment said the local community always has an opportunity to share their views.

“Community consultation is an integral part of the planning process and the applicant will have to respond to the feedback we receive and this is taken into consideration when we develop our recommendations,” the spokesperson said.

“It’s easy to participate by going online and we encourage everyone to take a look and have their say.”

To make a submission or view the environmental impact statement (EIS), visit Submissions can be made from Wednesday 22 July 2015 until Wednesday 5 August 2015.

Written submissions can also be made to:

Department of Planning, Attn: Planning Services, GPO Box 39Sydney NSW 2001

The application and EIS are also available to view in person at:

 Department of Planning and Environment, 23-33 Bridge Street, Sydney

 Gunnedah Shire Council, 63 Elgin Street, Gunnedah

 The Civic Centre, 83 Chandos Street, Gunnedah

 Nature Conservation Council, Level 2, 5 Wilson Street, Newtown.


Direct link to NSW Dept. P&E Page HERE 

 60 Years for Nature - Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales

Published on 14 Jul 2015: Breathe Studios generously produced this film for the Nature Conservation Council of NSW.

FEATURING In order of appearance: Kate Smolski | Chief Executive Officer, NCC, Daisy Barham | Campaigns Director, NCC, Leif Lemke | Bellingen Environment Centre, Caroline Joseph | Forest campaigner, Susie Russell | Forest campaigner, Noel Plumb | Executive Member, NCC; Professor Don White | Chair, NCC; Anne Reeves | Longstanding environmentalist; Bruce Diekman | Volunteer, NCC; Jonathon Heys | Volunteer, NCC


Breathe Studios | ; John Turnbull, Marine Explorer | ; Jimmy Malecki Photography | ; Greenpeace; NSW Tourism


Kentucky Mule, by Tate Peterson; EPV 174 Trailer, by Koen Daigaku; When the World Falls Down, by Kai Engel; Sputtering to Spin, by Alialujah Choir; Broken, by Alialujah Choir; The Temperature of the Air on the Bow of the Kaleetan, by Chris Zabriskie

 Have your say on proposed modifications to Mannering and Chain Valley collieries

Media Release: Department of Planning and Environment

15 Jul 2015

A proposal to make modifications to Mannering and Chain Valley collieries will be on exhibition from today for community feedback.

The Department of Planning and Environment is keen to hear the community’s views on the applications, which seek to:

 increase the rate of coal handling and dispatch at Mannering from 1.1 million tonnes per year to 1.3 million tonnes per year

 increase the rate of coal extraction at Chain Valley from 1.5 million tonnes per year to 2.1 million tonnes per year

 extend the completion date of Mannering by four years to 2022

 increase staff at Chain Valley by 60 to around 220 people

 change the design of Chain Valley’s northern mining area

 clear minor amounts of vegetation to protect infrastructure from bushfires.

A spokesperson for the Department of Planning and Environment said the local community always has an opportunity to share their views.

“Community consultation is an integral part of the planning process and the applicant will have to respond to the feedback we receive and this is taken into consideration when we develop our recommendations,” the spokesperson said.

“It’s easy to participate by going online and we encourage everyone to take a look and have their say.”

To make a submission or view the applications, can be made from Wednesday 15 July 2015 until Thursday 6 August 2015.

Written submissions can also be made to:

The Department of Planning and Environment

Attn: Planning Services, GPO Box 39, Sydney NSW 2001

The applications are also available to view in person at:

 Department of Planning and Environment, 23-33 Bridge Street, Sydney

 Lake Macquarie City Council, 126-138 Main Road, Speers Point

 Wyong Shire Council, 2 Hely Street, Wyong

 Nature Conservation Council, Level 2, 5 Wilson Street, Newtown


Direct link to Mannering: HERE

Direct Link to Chain Valley:  HERE

 Mystery Marsupial spotted at Nombinnie Nature Reserve

Media release: 14 July 2015

National Parks and Wildlife Service staff are excited after a positive sighting of an endangered Kultarr in Nombinnie Nature Reserve in Central Western NSW - the first time the marsupial had been seen in that area for 20 years.

 NPWS Ranger, David Egan was stunned to find clear images of the endangered marsupial on one of the reserve’s infrared cameras.

 “It is amazing to think that in over 270, 000 hectares of reserve, the camera captured one tiny Kultarr marsupial foraging its way through the reserve,” Mr Egan said.

 “It is a positive outcome for the conservation of the species and for the biodiversity of the Nombinnie Nature Reserve – it’s just great to know they are still out there”

 Listed as ‘endangered’ on the NSW Threatened Species Register, Kultarr’s are known for their large ears, long delicate legs and thin brushy tail.

 Comparable to the size of a large mouse, the Kultarr is an interesting creature that pivots on its front feet to change direction as it bounds rapidly through the scrub.

 Mr Egan said that the species’ small size and nocturnal qualities, rendered it notoriously difficult to track.

 “The installation of infrared cameras in the region have been instrumental to rediscovering threatened species in the Nombinnie Nature Reserve and have captured some great images of foraging Kultarr’s in the woodlands.

 “They have also picked up other small mammals such as Common Dunnarts and are proving a valuable resource for cataloguing fauna in such a large reserve,” Mr Egan said.

 “The main threats to the Kultarr are habitat destruction and predation by cats and foxes. NPWS, in cooperation with several park neighbours has endeavoured to reduce these threats by introducing a highly successful fox bating program”

 “With solid evidence of the Kultarr’s existence in Nombinnie, we can now build this into research and data collection currently underway and develop strategies to best approach future conservation and management practices,” Mr Egan said.

 A targeted strategy for managing the Kultarr is currently being developed under the Saving Our Species program managed by the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH).

The public is encouraged to report any sightings of the species to staff at our NPWS Western Rivers Office in Griffith on (02) 6966 8100. 

Picture: Kultarr, Antechinomys laniger, Alice Springs Desert Park by Mark Marathon 

 NSW Govt.Office - HAVE YOUR SAY

Snake Rock Aboriginal area draft plan

Draft plan of management for the Snake Rock Aboriginal area

What is the draft plan of management for?

The draft plan is on public exhibition until 25th September 2015, it provides members of the community with the opportunity to have a say on the future management direction/s for the Aboriginal area.

Have your say

Anyone can make a comment of the draft plan by sending a written submission by email to: online at NSW Office of Environment and Heritage's website or by post to:

The Planner - NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service

PO Box 144, Sutherland NSW 1499

Formal Submission

Date: Jun. 12 - Sep. 25, 2015: Time: 9:00am — 5:00pm

Submission address

The Planner NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service PO Box 144 Sutherland NSW 1499

More Information:  NSW NP&WS Planning Team  (02) 6841 0921 

 Agency Website  Consultation Website

 Pittwater YHA Envirofun Weekend August 28-30. 

Do something important and have fun too! PNHA assists with birding and botany activities. Eight years of Asparagus removal in Spotted Gum forest have transformed the bush. Go with friends, book through the hostel. 

Volunteer for two mornings’ bush regeneration and receive:

• Free accommodation

• 2 evening meals + 2 BBQ lunches + 2 morning teas

• Free use of kayaks

• Alternatively come for a Sat or Sun morning's bush regeneration

and enjoy a morning tea & bbq lunch & kayak

Cost: $20 contribution for a weekend of great company, food and activities.

Bookings Essential: $50 non-refundable booking fee with a $30 refund on arrival.

Phone: 9999 5748 Email:

 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. 

 Environmentally Hazardous Chemicals Act:  Review of environmentally hazardous chemicals legislation

What is the Regulation about?

The Environmentally Hazardous Chemicals Act and the Environmentally Hazardous Chemicals Regulation regulate hazardous chemicals at various points throughout their life-cycle, from manufacture to use and disposal. The Act commenced in 1985 and has not undergone a fundamental review since that time despite the development of new industrial chemicals and chemical processes and technologies over the intervening years. The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is undertaking a review of the environmentally hazardous chemicals legislation with a view to modernising it. A discussion paper has been prepared outlining proposed changes to the legislation. These changes seek to enhance the EPA’s ability to prevent adverse health and environmental impacts from hazardous chemicals as well as simplify some processes.

Have your say

The EPA welcomes comments from the community on the proposed changes.

The discussion paper and further information about the review are available at

Formal Submission

Date: Jul. 9 - Aug. 21, 2015

Time: 9:00am — 5:00pm

Submission address

Manager Chemicals Reform Environment Protection Authority Po Box A290 Sydney South NSW 1232

More Information:

Agency Website 

 Consultation Website 


Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Environment Minister Mark Speakman today announced a grant of almost $1 million to four groups to help protect and preserve the critically endangered Regent Honeyeater. Mr Speakman said the long term goal of the funding was to secure the future of the Regent Honeyeater in the wild, to a point where captive breeding programs are no longer needed. “Nevertheless, Taronga Zoo remains committed to continuing its captive breeding and release program, if it is necessary to protect the species’ future.” 

The four groups are BirdLife Australia, The Nature Conservation Trust, Taronga Zoo and the Central Tablelands Local Land Services. BirdLife Australia has received almost $410,000 to conduct surveys, colour-band and release birds into the wild and control native pests that are implicated in the Regent Honeyeaters’ decline. The Nature Conservation Trust has received more than $470,000 to secure conservation agreements for properties with vital Regent Honeyeater habitats. Taronga Zoo has received $80,000 to extend its successful Regent Honeyeater breeding program. A fourth group, the Central Tablelands Local Land Services, will restore important woodland nesting areas, as part of the project. The grant is part of the Saving Our Species Partnership Grants program, which is funded by the NSW Environmental Trust. The grants program will help the Office of Environment and Heritage’s Saving our Species Program achieve its objective of maximising the number of threatened species that can be secured in the wild in NSW for 100 years. It is in addition to the $100 million allocated to the Saving Our Species over the next five years, and the re-wilding program where the government is re-introducing animals into area where they have been extinct for almost 100 years. For more information

 Have your say on proposed modifications to the Moolarben coal mine

Concurrent proposals to modify Stages 1 and 2 of the Moolarben coal mine are on exhibition for community feedback.

The Department of Planning and Environment is keen to hear the community’s views on the two applications, which seek to:

 Increase the size of longwall panels in an already approved mining area and relocate underground mine access arrangements, allowing an additional 3.7 million tonnes of coal to be recovered over the life of the mine

 change the size of one coal stockpile and the location of another coal stockpile

 build mine support infrastructure, including a coal conveyor and ventilation shaft

 increase the approved production and transportation limits.

A spokesperson for the Department of Planning and Environment said the local community always has an opportunity to share their views.

“Community consultation is an integral part of the planning process and the applicant will have to respond to the feedback we receive and this is taken into consideration when we develop our recommendations,” the spokesperson said.

“It’s easy to participate by going online and we encourage everyone to take a look and have their say.

“The Department is obliged to address all proposals it receives, and consistently applies strict rules in assessing applications.”

To make a submission or view the environmental assessment, can be made from Friday 3 July 2015 until Friday 31 July 2015.

Written submissions can also be made to:

Attn: Planning Services

GPO Box 39

Sydney NSW 2001

The EA is also available to view in person at:

 Department of Planning and Environment, 23-33 Bridge Street, Sydney

 Mid-Western Regional Council, Administration Centre, 86 Market Street, Mudgee

 Nature Conservation Council, Level 2, 5 Wilson Street, Newtown

Direct link here

Producing a vaccine to save the Tasmanian devil

July 21, 2015 - New research, led by University of Southampton biological scientist Dr Hannah Siddle, is aiming to develop an effective vaccine against an infectious cancer that is eradicating the Tasmanian devil, the world's largest remaining marsupial carnivore.

Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) is a rare contagious facial tumour, which emerged from a neural (Schwann) cell in a single Tasmanian devil more than 18 years ago.

The tumour cells pass between individuals during biting behaviour and tumours form predominantly around the face and neck, grow rapidly and cause close to 100 per cent mortality. What began with one individual has now spread rapidly throughout the population of devils in Tasmania, killing almost all the animals and threatening survival of the species in the wild.

Thanks to £183,759 funding from the Leverhulme Trust to the University, Dr Siddle will lead a three-year research project to understand how the disease moves between the animals and then use this information to design a vaccine against the tumour.

The research will also enhance understanding of how cancers avoid the immune system, which could have implications for cancer treatment in humans.

Dr Siddle says: "This contagious cancer is very unusual in that the cancer cells can move between animals. We are looking for the proteins that make the tumour cells different to the host devils that they infect and then use these 'tumour specific' proteins to design a vaccine that will save the devil from extinction.

"We have an opportunity to develop an effective vaccine against a disease that is rapidly destroying a unique and important species. The Tasmanian devil is the top carnivore in Tasmania and its loss would be a disastrous outcome for the ecosystem. It has proven impossible to prevent the spread of DFTD and only a successful vaccine will allow captive, immunised animals to be released into the wild, eventually eradicating the disease."

The grant will finance further study by a postdoctoral researcher and a PhD student who will study the disease at a molecular level. Dr Siddle will also collaborate with an interdisciplinary team of experts -- Professor Tim Elliott and Dr Paul Skipp from the University of Southampton, Professor Anthony Purcell at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia and Professor Greg Woods at the University of Tasmania in Hobart, Australia.

The above is reprinted from materials provided by University of Southampton.

Below: Karawinna, a one-year old devil, picture credit: Hannah Siddle


Monday, 20 July 2015

Environment Minister Mark Speakman has officially re-opened the Three Sisters walking track in the Blue Mountains after a $1.5 million upgrade. The National Parks and Wildlife Service, along with local contractors, have resurfaced the track’s pathways, upgraded landscaping and signage and improved visitor safety. The work, which took 12 months to complete, also involved upgrading Spooner’s, Oreades and Lady Game Lookouts. 

“The Three Sisters walking track is part of the Echo Point and Three Sisters visitor precinct, which receives close to two million visits per year and is one of Australia’s top 10 tourist destinations”, Mr Speakman said. 

“I’m delighted to re-open this site to ensure many more visitors can enjoy this ancient and spectacular landscape and add another world-class experience to their Blue Mountains visit. “I’m also delighted that this has been a collaborative project involving the local Aboriginal community”. 

In early 2014, the Three Sisters became the 98th Aboriginal Place declared in NSW. The declaration recognised the special cultural, social and spiritual significance of the site to the Aboriginal community. The project received widespread support from other local stakeholders including Blue Mountains City Council, Federal Member Louise Markus MP, and Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon Tourism. Mr Speakman acknowledged that while there has been some short-term disruption to visitors and the Katoomba community, local stakeholders were excited about improving local tourism opportunities and the flow-on benefits for local businesses and the community. The upgraded walking track complements other improvements in the Blue Mountains, including the Honeymoon Bridge that links Echo Point to the Three Sisters and which was replaced two years ago. The walking track links Echo Point Lookout to Lady Game Lookout, both of which overlook the Three Sisters. 

“The NSW Government is committed to increasing visitor access and enjoyment of the state’s parks and reserves,” he said. Visit the national parks website for more information on where to go, what to do and where to stay in our national parks.

 Bee covered in pollen – Northern Hemisphere Summer 2015

 It's dating and mating season for the Eastern Grass Owl

Media release: 20 July 2015

Love is in the air for the Eastern Grass Owl as they begin their search for a mate before heading off to nest and settle down with their new family.

The ground-nesting owls are listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the NSW Threatened Species list by the independent Scientific Committee. 

Jill Smith, Conservation Officer at the Office of Environment and Heritage, said the ghostly night birds mainly inhabit open tussock grasslands, grassy heathland and agricultural crops such as sugar cane in the coastal plains of the NSW north coast with occasional records on the north-western slopes and south to Sydney and vagrant records farther south.

“Because they are rare, sparsely distributed and nocturnal, the Eastern Grass Owl remains largely unstudied, but what we do know is they’re interesting and strikingly beautiful birds,” Ms Smith said.

“After finding their mate, they’ll build a nest in grasslands where they will form a system of grass tunnels to get to and from their nest.

“They will defend their family against predators by bursting out of one of their passageways, flying low and slowly, before dropping straight down again into the safety of their grass tunnels.”

Eastern Grass Owls are ground-nesting and about 35 centimetres tall when perched. They are closely related to barn owls, as seen in their large pale facial disc highlighting their eyes, while their feathers are a combination of white, browns, yellow-orange with silvery spots.

The Office of Environment and Heritage is seeking to learn more about these fascinating birds with a view of one day implementing a strategy for them so they can survive for years to come.

Anyone who spots what they believe to be an Eastern Grass Owl should contact their local National Parks and Wildlife Service office.

A survival strategy may fall under the Saving our Species conservation program where already 75 threatened species are being managed to help their survivability in the future.

Threatened fauna and flora including the koala, brush-tailed rock wallaby and Wollemi pine are assigned to different management streams so the individual requirements of each species can be met.

The NSW community and businesses are invited to participate, because projects to save threatened species are best when they are collaborative efforts.

Saving our Species:

Eastern Grass Owl:

 Australian Environment Ministers agree on clean air, feral cats and koalas

Media release: 17 July 2015, The Hon. Greg Hunt MP, Minister for the Environment

All states and territories have joined with the Commonwealth in reaching agreement on several high profile environmental issues.

At a meeting of state and territory environment ministers I chaired this week, crucial progress was made towards finalising the National Clean Air Agreement, prioritising the development of a national recovery plan for koalas, and taking action on feral cats.

I am delighted with the progress towards establishing a National Clean Air Agreement.

We have committed to finalise the Agreement and its initial work plan before the end of 2015, over six months ahead of schedule. The Agreement will deliver actions to reduce air pollution and establish a new process for jurisdictions to work cooperatively to address emerging air quality issues, to ensure Australians continue to enjoy clean air into the future.

Recent public consultations to inform the development of the Agreement saw broad and positive engagement from industry and the community with over 300 submissions received, highlighting the importance of air quality as a key issue in Australia.

My colleagues and I agreed in-principle to two key actions under the Agreement's initial work plan.

In recognising the health impacts of airborne particles, it is our intent to strengthen the reporting standards for particles (PM2.5 and PM10) in the National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure.

We agreed in-principle to adopt annual average and daily PM2.5 reporting standards of 8 µg/m3 and 25 µg/m3, respectively, with a move to 7 µg/m3 and 20 µg/m3 in the longer term.

We also signalled our intention to establish pollution standards for new non-road spark ignition engines, such as garden equipment and marine outboard motors. As a next step, a working group of experts will be established to provide advice on the design of standards with the aim of implementing framework legislation in the first half of 2016.

In another long-heralded move, ministers agreed that, as a priority, the Commonwealth lead the development of a recovery plan for the koala. As a result the Commonwealth and Victoria will co-lead work on national koala translocation guidelines, consistent with the koala recovery plan and in consultation with relevant jurisdictions, with a focus on health, welfare and genetic implications of translocations.

Last but by no means least, I am especially delighted that ministers endorsed the national declaration in relation to feral cats.

This means that all states and territories will now review arrangements within their respective jurisdictions and, where required, remove unnecessary barriers to effective and humane control of feral cats.

This opens the doorway for new feral cat eradication programmes to access the $50 million for management of established pest animals recently announced as part of the national Agriculture Competitiveness White Paper.

The communique is available online:


The NSW Government is improving the management of our precious marine estate with the launch of a new Threat and Risk Assessment Framework.

Minister for Primary Industries, Niall Blair, and Minister for the Environment, Mark Speakman, today released new guidelines on how the NSW Government will assess the threats and risks to our marine estate.

“Last year, an historic bill passed the NSW Parliament to make sure the state’s marine estate is managed based on science and not politics,” Mr Blair said.

“This is the first step in implementing this Marine Estate Management Act 2014, which sets out a robust legal requirement to assess economic, social and environmental threats, such as pollution, loss of biodiversity, restricted access, anti-social behaviour, and impacts of pests and diseases.

“This framework, developed by the Marine Estate Management Authority with expert guidance from the Marine Estate Expert Knowledge Panel, is at the heart of the NSW Liberals & Nationals Government’s new era in marine estate management.”

Mr Speakman said the framework will consider not only the imminent threats to our coasts and marine waters, but also the cumulative impacts and potential threats over the coming decades.

“This will allow the NSW Government to focus its efforts around the key threats to the marine environment, and deliver on its vision for a healthy coast and sea,” Mr Speakman said.

“We are committed to managing our marine environment for the greatest well-being of the community, now and into the future.”

Initially the framework will be applied to two key projects:

- a state-wide Marine Estate Threat and Risk Assessment; and

- the Hawkesbury Shelf Marine Bioregion Assessment, covering the area from Newcastle to Shellharbour.

The community is encouraged to have their say about both of these projects and the framework in the coming months, and the Authority may refine the framework over time after it has been applied to the first two projects.

The Ministers also today launched an interactive web portal to allow the community to have input into the Hawkesbury Shelf Marine Bioregion Assessment by providing local information on benefits and threats associated with their favourite sites within the bioregion. 

The NSW Government is now seeking crucial information from the public regarding sites within the bioregion, the benefits they gain from their use of these sites, and what they see as key threats and ideas on how to manage those threats.

Along with expert input, the information people provide will help identify management options to enhance marine biodiversity conservation whilst maximising community benefits.”

Eleven sites in the Hawkesbury marine bioregion have already been identified for priority assessment and the community is invited to nominate additional sites via the web portal that they would like to see considered:

• Barrenjoey Head (an existing Aquatic Reserve)

• Bouddi National Park Marine Extension

• Bronte-Coogee (an existing Aquatic Reserve)

• Cape Banks (an existing Aquatic Reserve)

• Chowder Bay

• Long Reef (an existing Aquatic Reserve)

• Narrabeen Head (an existing Aquatic Reserve)

• North Harbour (an existing Aquatic Reserve)

• North Harbour extension – Manly Wharf and Manly Cove

• Magic Point, Malabar

• Wybung Head

The web portal, framework and more information can be accessed at

Direct Link to page:

The web portal will be open until 28 August 2015.

The Slackers reunite for Cosmic Love Wonder Lust Exhibition

22 July 2015 Leading contemporary artists from the radical Imperial Slacks artist collective of the late 1990s will reunite next month in a new exhibition jointly presented by Sydney College of the Arts (SCA) and Campbelltown Arts Centre.

Cosmic Love Wonder Lust: The Imperial Slacks Project, co-curated by Nicholas Tsoutas, Zelda Stedman Lecturer at the University of Sydney's SCA and Campbelltown Arts Centre Director Michael Dagostino, reconnects 15 artists known as 'The Slackers' who formed the Imperial Slacks Project between 1999 and 2002.

Imperial Slacks formed as a social and cultural experiment that functioned as the home, studio and gallery in the Imperial Slacks warehouse in Surry Hills, Sydney, at the turn of the new millennium.

At the time, several artists exhibited their work at Imperial Slacks with many going on to lead successful and significant careers, including the core group that will feature in Cosmic Love Wonder Lust. Those exhibiting artists are: Shaun Gladwell, Angelica Mesiti, Emma Price, Sean Cordeiro and Claire Healy, Wade Marynowsky, Alex Davies, Techa Noble, Michael Schiavello, Chris Fox, Melody Willis, Lea Donnan, Simon Cooper, Laura Jordan and Monika Tichacek.

"We suffer amnesia when it comes to pinnacle moments in Australian culture. Imperial Slacks galvanized the energy of a group of emerging artists that challenged the moral values and boundaries of Australian culture in the late 1990s. These experimental artists produced exciting, seductive and socially-relevant art that gave a new impetus to the role of artists in society.

"The artists' collective success has rewritten the rules of contemporary art. The influence that the Slackers had in redefining contemporary art should not be forgotten," said Nicholas Tsoutas, SCA's Zelda Stedman Lecturer in Visual Arts, University of Sydney.

"Imperial Slacks was a new and challenging model of artist run space that generated a new form of cultural production, a model that was refreshing and inspired a new set of possibilities for contemporary art in Australia. They knew no boundaries and they set their independent agenda's while claiming a special place in Australia Contemporary Art," said Michael Dagostino, Director, Campbelltown Arts Centre.

The artists will present artworks previously exhibited during the Imperial Slacks Project alongside new works responding to their practice at that time at both SCA Galleries and Campbelltown Arts Centre.

Newly-commissioned works in the exhibition include a new installation by Sean Corderio and Claire Healey consisting of the fuselage of an aeroplane, enclosed within the gallery and attached with crochet made by the artists with community support. Simon Cooper takes a piece of clothing from each of the Slackers, and using embroidery techniques, creates a tactile sculpture installation. Laura Jordon creates an installation of robotic bats that communicate by mobile phone.

The Slackers - an ironic term given they were extraordinarily active and generative - used Imperial Slacks as a critical space to test alternate attitudes towards curating.

Their collective incandescent energy and alternate way of thinking created a pulse beyond the gallery, bringing an intensity and sense of chaos to life beyond the space.

Cosmic Love Wonder Lust is also an archive project representing several videos from the personal collections of all the artists. The project will provide an important resource that will allow audiences, many for the first time, access to the history of Imperial Slacks.

Cosmic Love Wonder Lust: The Imperial Slacks Project will be presented at Sydney College of the Arts and Campbelltown Arts Centre from 14 August until 18 October 2015.

In association with the exhibition, a forum on artist-run spaces, collectives and collectivity as a mode of working will be held on 15 August at the Gunneries Seminar Room at NAVA (National Association of Visual Arts) in Woolloomooloo.

Exhibition Details

SCA Galleries, University of Sydney

Opening Night | Thursday 13 August, 6pm

Exhibition | Friday 14 August - Saturday 12 September 2015

Campbelltown Arts Centre

Opening Night | Friday 14 August, 6pm

Exhibition | Saturday 15 August - Sunday 18 October 2015

 Elderberry benefits air travelers

July 21, 2015 - The negative health effects of international air travel are well documented but now it seems that the common elderberry can provide some relief.

Associate Professor Evelin Tiralongo and Dr Shirley Wee from Griffith's Menzies Health Institute Queensland (MHIQ) have completed a clinical trial showing that an elderberry supplement can provide some protection from cold and flu-like symptoms following long-haul flights.

Intercontinental air travel can be stressful and affect a passenger's physical and psychological wellbeing. Whilst jet lag and fatigue remain the best known problems, holidaymakers also often experience upper respiratory symptoms.

Presenting their results at the 21st Annual International Integrative Medicine Conference in Melbourne, the research team showed how elderberry appears to reduce the duration and severity of the cold.

The randomised, double-blind placebo controlled clinical trial was conducted with 312 economy class passengers travelling from Australia to an overseas destination. Cold episodes, cold duration and symptoms were recorded in a daily diary and participants also completed surveys before, during and after travel.

"We found that most cold episodes occurred in the placebo group, but the difference between the placebo and active group was not significant. However, the placebo group had a significantly higher number of cold episode days, and the symptom score in the placebo group over these days was also significantly higher," says Associate Professor Tiralongo.

"Complementary medicines are used by two in three Australians, thus increasing the evidence base of these medicines should be at the forefront of our efforts. It's often forgotten that the evidence for various herbal medicines is extract specific," says Associate Professor Tiralongo.

The trial used capsules containing 300mg of a standardised, proprietary membrane-filtered elderberry extract which has shown to be effective in working against respiratory bacteria and influenza viruses.

The Griffith study follows recent European research published in the open access journal Current Therapeutic Research which suggests that a combination of Echinacea herb and root extract supplemented with elderberry can be as effective as the conventional antiviral medicine Tamiflu for the early treatment of influenza. 

Top; Elderberries. Credit: Iprona AG

 Bust up big kidney stones with tamsulosin

July 21, 2015 - Tamsulosin works no better than placebo on small kidney stones, but does improve passage of more large kidney stones than placebo does. The results of this large clinical trial evaluating tamsulosin versus placebo were published online Friday in Annals of Emergency Medicine.

"Kidney stones bring more than a million Americans a year to emergency departments because they are excruciatingly painful," said lead study author Jeremy Furyk, MBBS, MPH and TM of The Townsville Hospital in Townsville, Queensland, Australia. "The news on small kidney stones isn't positive, but tamsulosin appears to offer benefit to those unlucky people whose kidney stones are really big."

Within 28 days of a visit to the emergency department, kidney stone passage occurred in 87 percent of patients treated with tamsulosin and 81.9 percent of those treated with placebo, a difference not considered significant. However, 83.3 percent of patients treated with tamsulosin whose kidney stones measured between 5 and 10 millimeters in length passed their stones, compared to only 61 percent of those who were treated with placebo.

"For patients with small kidney stones, time seems to be the one sure cure," said Dr. Furyk. "However, when treating patients with large kidney stones, emergency physicians should definitely consider tamsulosin."

Jeremy S. Furyk, Kevin Chu, Colin Banks, Jaimi Greenslade, Gerben Keijzers, Ogilvie Thom, Tom Torpie, Carl Dux, Rajan Narula. Distal Ureteric Stones and Tamsulosin: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Randomized, Multicenter Trial. Annals of Emergency Medicine, 2015; DOI: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2015.06.001

 New treatment for severe depression with far fewer side effects

July 21, 2015 - Electroconvulsive therapy remains one of the most effective treatments for severe depression, but new UNSW research shows ultra-brief pulse stimulation is almost as effective as standard ECT, with far fewer cognitive side effects.

The study, published today in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, is the first systematic review to examine the effectiveness and cognitive effects of standard ECT treatment, brief pulse stimulation, versus the newer treatment, known as ultra-brief pulse right unilateral (RUL) ECT.

It comes after previous trials had shown conflicting results. The latest study reviewed six international ECT studies comprising 689 patients with a median age of 50 years old.

It found while standard ECT was slightly more effective for treating depression and required one less treatment, this came at a cost with significantly more cognitive side effects.

"This new treatment, which is slowly coming into clinical practice in Australia, is one of the most significant developments in the clinical treatment of severe depression in the past two decades," according to UNSW Professor of Psychiatry Colleen Loo.

"Our analysis of the existing trial data showed that ultra-brief stimulation significantly lessened the potential for the destruction of memories formed prior to ECT, reduced the difficulty of recalling and learning new information after ECT and was almost as effective as the standard ECT treatment," Professor Loo said.

ECT delivers a finely controlled electric current to the brain's prefrontal cortex, an area that is underactive in people with depression. The current is delivered via electrodes on a patient's scalp while the patient is under general anaesthesia.

Ultra-brief stimulation delivers staccato pulses of electricity, with each pulse on for only a very short time. As the pulses are so short, the stimulation of brain tissue is reduced by a third.

It is estimated that up to 10,000 Australians with severe depression and who have not responded to first line treatments, such as medication, could benefit from the new treatment. Less than half of Australia's hospitals currently offer ultra-brief stimulation.

Professor Loo, who is also director of ECT at Sydney's Wesley Hospital and a researcher with the Black Dog Institute, said she hopes the study will result in an improved uptake of the new treatment for people with severe depression.

"We are still working hard to change the broader medical profession's and general public's perception of ECT, which has struggled to shake off the tarnished image given to it by popular movies such as the 1975 film 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest'," Professor Loo said.

While the benefits of ultra-brief stimulation are significant, the study authors concluded that standard ECT treatment should still be considered over the new treatment, where urgency of response was paramount.

The study only analysed the short-term effectiveness and side effects of ultra-brief stimulation. Studies into the long-term effects of ECT are ongoing. The study was conducted in partnership with the Institute of Mental Health, Singapore.

1. Phern-Chern Tor, Alison Bautovich, Min-Jung Wang, Donel Martin, Samuel B. Harvey, Colleen Loo. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Brief Versus Ultrabrief Right Unilateral Electroconvulsive Therapy for Depression. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2015; DOI: 10.4088/JCP.14r09145

Centuries-old shipwreck discovered off North Carolina coast

July 17, 2015 - Scanning sonar from a scientific expedition has revealed the remains of a previously unknown shipwreck more than a mile deep off the North Carolina coast. Artifacts on the wreck indicate it might date to the American Revolution.

Marine scientists from Duke University, North Carolina State University and the University of Oregon discovered the wreck on July 12 during a research expedition aboard the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) research ship Atlantis.

They spotted the wreck while using WHOI's robotic autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) Sentry and the manned submersible Alvin. The team had been searching for a mooring that was deployed on a previous research trip in the area in 2012.

Among the artifacts discovered amid the shipwreck's broken remains are an iron chain, a pile of wooden ship timbers, red bricks (possibly from the ship cook's hearth), glass bottles, an unglazed pottery jug, a metal compass, and another navigational instrument that might be an octant or sextant.

The wreck appears to date back to the late 18th or early 19th century, a time when a young United States was expanding its trade with the rest of the world by sea.

"This is an exciting find, and a vivid reminder that even with major advances in our ability to access and explore the ocean, the deep sea holds its secrets close," said expedition leader Cindy Van Dover, director of the Duke University Marine Laboratory.

"I have led four previous expeditions to this site, each aided by submersible research technology to explore the sea floor -- including a 2012 expedition where we used Sentry to saturate adjacent areas with sonar and photo images," Van Dover said. "It's ironic to think we were exploring within 100 meters of the wreck site without an inkling it was there."

"This discovery underscores that new technologies we're developing to explore the deep-sea floor yield not only vital information about the oceans, but also about our history," said David Eggleston, director of the Center for Marine Sciences and Technology (CMAST) at NC State and one of the principal investigators of the science project.

After discovering the shipwreck, Van Dover and Eggleston alerted NOAA's Marine Heritage Program of their find. The NOAA program will now attempt to date and identify the lost ship.

Bruce Terrell, chief archaeologist at the Marine Heritage Program, says it should be possible to determine a date and country of origin for the wrecked ship by examining the ceramics, bottles and other artifacts.

"Lying more than a mile down in near-freezing temperatures, the site is undisturbed and well preserved," Terrell said. "Careful archaeological study in the future could definitely tell us more."

James Delgado, director of the Marine Heritage Program, notes that the wreck rests along the path of the Gulf Stream, which mariners have used for centuries as a maritime highway to North American ports, the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico and South America.

"The find is exciting, but not unexpected," he said. "Violent storms sent down large numbers of vessels off the Carolina coasts, but few have been located because of the difficulties of depth and working in an offshore environment."

Bob Waters of WHOI piloted Alvin to the site of the newly discovered shipwreck after Sentry's sonar-scanning system detected a dark line and a diffuse, dark area which they thought could be the missing scientific mooring. Bernie Ball of Duke and Austin Todd of NC State were aboard Alvin as science observers.

The expedition has been focused on exploring the ecology of deep-sea methane seeps along the East Coast. Van Dover is a specialist in the ecology of deep-sea ecosystems that are powered by chemistry rather than sunlight, and Eggleston studies the ecology of organisms that live on the seafloor.

"Our accidental find illustrates the rewards -- and the challenge and uncertainty -- of working in the deep ocean," Van Dover said. "We discovered a shipwreck but, ironically, the lost mooring was never found."

The above is reprinted from materials provided by Duke University. Top: Photo of the remnants of the shipwreck in the seabed off of the North Carolina coast. Credit: Image courtesy of Duke University 

 Small oxygen jump in atmosphere helped enable animals take first breaths

July 23, 2015 – If oxygen was a driver of the early evolution of animals, only a slight bump in oxygen levels facilitated it, according to a multi-institutional research team that includes a Virginia Tech geoscientist.

The discovery, published in the journal Nature, calls into question the long held theory that a dramatic change in oxygen levels might have been responsible for the appearance of complicated life forms like whales, sharks, and squids evolving from less complicated life forms, such as microorganisms, algae, and sponges.

The researchers discovered oxygen levels rose in the water and atmosphere, but at lower levels than was thought necessary to trigger life changes.

"We suggest that about 635 million to 542 million years ago, Earth passed some low, but critical, threshold in oxygenation for animals," said Benjamin Gill, an assistant professor of geoscience in the College of Science. "That threshold was in the range of a 10 to 40 percent increase, and was the second time in Earth's history that oxygen levels significantly rose."

The scientists estimated oxygen levels by analyzing iron found in shale rock, which was once mud on ancient seafloors. The location and amounts of iron in the rock gave important clues about ancient ocean water chemistries over time.

Rock data from across the world were collected by the research team, analyzed, compiled, and statistically modeled.

Many organisms on Earth, including animals, need oxygen to produce energy and perform other life functions.

"Going forward we will need much more precise constraints on the magnitude of oxygenation and the physiological requirements of early animals to continue testing the impact of oxygenation on Cambrian animal life," said Erik Sperling, an assistant professor of geological and environmental sciences at Stanford University, and first author on the paper.

1. Erik A. Sperling, Charles J. Wolock, Alex S. Morgan, Benjamin C. Gill, Marcus Kunzmann, Galen P. Halverson, Francis A. Macdonald, Andrew H. Knoll, David T. Johnston. Statistical analysis of iron geochemical data suggests limited late Proterozoic oxygenation. Nature, 2015; 523 (7561): 451 DOI:10.1038/nature14589

 How to cut worrying levels of arsenic in rice that is eaten all over the world

July 22, 2015 – Researchers at Queen's University Belfast have made a breakthrough in discovering how to lower worrying levels of arsenic in rice that is eaten all over the world.

After many laboratory experiments, they have discovered that a simple, shop-bought coffee percolator is the best method for removing the carcinogen, inorganic arsenic, from all types of rice, including white and wholegrain. The results are published in the PLOS ONE journal.

Rice is the only major crop grown under flooded conditions. It is this flooding that releases inorganic arsenic, normally locked up in soil minerals, which is then absorbed by the plant. Too much arsenic is associated with a range of health problems including, at worst, bladder and lung cancer.

Rice has, typically, ten times more inorganic arsenic than other foods and according to the European Food Standards Authority, people who eat a lot of rice, as is the case in many parts of the developing world, are exposed to worrying concentrations. Children and infants are of particular concern as they eat, relatively, three times more rice than adults -- baby rice being a popular food for weaning -- and their organs are still developing.

In this new study, researchers at Queen's tested two methods of percolating technology, one where the cooking water was recycled through condensing boiling-water steam and passing the freshly distilled hot water through the grain in a lab setting, and one where tap water was used to cook the rice held in an off-the-shelf coffee percolator in a domestic setting.

Both approaches proved highly effective, with up to 85% of arsenic removed from a variety of different rice types and brands, including wholegrain and white.

Andy Meharg, Professor of Plant and Soil Sciences at Queen's Institute for Global Food Security said: "This is a very significant breakthrough as this offers an immediate solution to decreasing inorganic arsenic in the diet.

"In our research we rethought the method of rice cooking to optimise the removal of inorganic arsenic and we discovered that by using percolating technology, where cooking water is continually passed through rice in a constant flow, we could maximise removal of arsenic.

"Chronic exposure to inorganic arsenic can cause a range of health problems including developmental problems, heart disease, diabetes and nervous system damage. However, most worrying are lung and bladder cancers. This new breakthrough is the latest example of the commitment of researchers at Queen's to changing lives and advancing knowledge that will have a lasting impact around the globe."

Queen's is at the patent stage for the development of a bespoke rice cooker based on a percolation system which means consumers could soon have this technology in their own kitchen.

Manus Carey, Xiao Jiujin, Júlia Gomes Farias, Andrew A. Meharg.Rethinking Rice Preparation for Highly Efficient Removal of Inorganic Arsenic Using Percolating Cooking Water. PLOS ONE, 2015; 10 (7): e0131608 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0131608

 First evidence of farming in Mideast 23,000 years ago

July 22, 2015 - Until now, researchers believed farming was "invented" some 12,000 years ago in the Cradle of Civilization -- Iraq, the Levant, parts of Turkey and Iran -- an area that was home to some of the earliest known human civilizations. A new discovery by an international collaboration of researchers from Tel Aviv University, Harvard University, Bar-Ilan University, and the University of Haifa offers the first evidence that trial plant cultivation began far earlier -- some 23,000 years ago.

The study focuses on the discovery of the first weed species at the site of a sedentary human camp on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was published inPLOS ONE and led by Prof. Ehud Weiss of Bar-Ilan University in collaboration with Prof. Marcelo Sternberg of the Department of Molecular Biology and Ecology of Plants at TAU's Faculty of Life Sciences and Prof. Ofer Bar-Yosef of Harvard University, among other colleagues.

"While full-scale agriculture did not develop until much later, our study shows that trial cultivation began far earlier than previously believed, and gives us reason to rethink our ancestors' capabilities," said Prof. Sternberg. "Those early ancestors were more clever and more skilled than we knew."

Evidence among the weeds

Although weeds are considered a threat or nuisance in farming, their presence at the site of the Ohalo II people's camp revealed the earliest signs of trial plant cultivation -- some 11 millennia earlier than conventional ideas about the onset of agriculture.

The plant material was found at the site of the Ohalo II people, who were fisher hunter-gatherers and established a sedentary human camp. The site was unusually well preserved, having been charred, covered by lake sediment, and sealed in low-oxygen conditions -- ideal for the preservation of plant material. The researchers examined the weed species for morphological signs of domestic-type cereals and harvesting tools, although their very presence is evidence itself of early farming.

"This uniquely preserved site is one of the best archaeological examples worldwide of the hunter-gatherers' way of life," said Prof. Sternberg. "It was possible to recover an extensive amount of information on the site and its inhabitants."

"Because weeds thrive in cultivated fields and disturbed soils, a significant presence of weeds in archaeobotanical assemblages retrieved from Neolithic sites and settlements of later age is widely considered an indicator of systematic cultivation," according to the study.

Early gatherers

The site bears the remains of six shelters and a particularly rich assemblage of plants. Upon retrieving and examining approximately 150,000 plant specimens, the researchers determined that early humans there had gathered over 140 species of plants. These included 13 known weeds mixed with edible cereals, such as wild emmer, wild barley, and wild oats.

The researchers found a grinding slab -- a stone tool with which cereal starch granules were extracted -- as well as a distribution of seeds around this tool, reflecting that the cereal grains were processed for consumption. The large number of cereals showing specific kinds of scars on their seeds indicate the likelihood of those cereals growing in fields, and the presence of sickle blades indicates that these humans deliberately planned the harvest of cereal.

The new study offers evidence that early humans clearly functioned with a basic knowledge of agriculture and, perhaps more importantly, exhibited foresight and extensive agricultural planning far earlier than previously believed.

Ainit Snir, Dani Nadel, Iris Groman-Yaroslavski, Yoel Melamed, Marcelo Sternberg, Ofer Bar-Yosef, Ehud Weiss. The Origin of Cultivation and Proto-Weeds, Long Before Neolithic Farming. PLOS ONE, 2015; 10 (7): e0131422 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0131422

 Summer in Northern Hemisphere: A walrus asleep on a Russian submarine

"In late spring and summer, for example, several hundred thousand Pacific walruses migrate from the Bering Sea into the Chukchi Sea through the relatively narrow Bering Strait."

 The walrus is the only living species in the Odobenidae family and Odobenus genus. This species is subdivided into three subspecies: the Atlantic walrus (O. r. rosmarus) which lives in the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific walrus (O. r. divergens) which lives in the Pacific Ocean, and O. r. laptevi, which lives in the Laptev Sea of the Arctic Ocean.-Wikipedia Ref.

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.

 Genetic studies link indigenous peoples in the Amazon and Australasia

July 21, 2015 - Native Americans living in the Amazon bear an unexpected genetic connection to indigenous people in Australasia, suggesting a previously unknown wave of migration to the Americas thousands of years ago, a new study has found.

"It's incredibly surprising," said David Reich, Harvard Medical School professor of genetics and senior author of the study. "There's a strong working model in archaeology and genetics, of which I have been a proponent, that most Native Americans today extend from a single pulse of expansion south of the ice sheets--and that's wrong. We missed something very important in the original data."

Previous research had shown that Native Americans from the Arctic to the southern tip of South America can trace their ancestry to a single "founding population" called the First Americans, who came across the Bering land bridge about 15,000 years ago. In 2012, Reich and colleagues enriched this history by showing that certain indigenous groups in northern Canada inherited DNA from at least two subsequent waves of migration.

The new study, published July 21 in Nature, indicates that there's more to the story.

Pontus Skoglund, first author of the paper and a postdoctoral researcher in the Reich lab, was studying genetic data gathered as part of the 2012 study when he noticed a strange similarity between one or two Native American groups in Brazil and indigenous groups in Australia, New Guinea and the Andaman Islands.

"That was an unexpected and somewhat confusing result," said Reich, who is also an associate member of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT and a Howard Hughes Medical Investigator. "We spent a really long time trying to make this result go away and it just got stronger."

Skoglund and colleagues from HMS, the Broad and several universities in Brazil analyzed publicly available genetic information from 21 Native American populations from Central and South America. They also collected and analyzed DNA from nine additional populations in Brazil to make sure the link they saw hadn't been an artifact of how the first set of genomes had been collected. The team then compared those genomes to the genomes of people from about 200 non-American populations.

The link persisted. The Tupí-speaking Suruí and Karitiana and the Ge-speaking Xavante of the Amazon had a genetic ancestor more closely related to indigenous Australasians than to any other present-day population. This ancestor doesn't appear to have left measurable traces in other Native American groups in South, Central or North America.

The genetic markers from this ancestor don't match any population known to have contributed ancestry to Native Americans, and the geographic pattern can't be explained by post-Columbian European, African or Polynesian mixture with Native Americans, the authors said. They believe the ancestry is much older--perhaps as old as the First Americans.

In the ensuing millennia, the ancestral group has disappeared.

"We've done a lot of sampling in East Asia and nobody looks like this," said Skoglund. "It's an unknown group that doesn't exist anymore."

The team named the mysterious ancestor Population Y, after the Tupí word for ancestor, "Ypykuéra."

Reich, Skoglund and colleagues propose that Population Y and First Americans came down from the ice sheets to become the two founding populations of the Americas.

"We don't know the order, the time separation or the geographical patterns," said Skoglund.

Researchers do know that the DNA of First Americans looked similar to that of Native Americans today. Population Y is more of a mystery.

"About 2 percent of the ancestry of Amazonians today comes from this Australasian lineage that's not present in the same way elsewhere in the Americas," said Reich.

However, that doesn't establish how much of their ancestry comes from Population Y. If Population Y were 100 percent Australasian, that would indeed mean they contributed 2 percent of the DNA of today's Amazonians. But if Population Y mixed with other groups such as the First Americans before they reached the Americas, the amount of DNA they contributed to today's Amazonians could be much higher--up to 85 percent.

To answer that question, researchers would need to sample DNA from the remains of a person who belonged to Population Y. Such DNA hasn't been obtained yet. One place to look might be in the skeletons of early Native Americans whose skulls some researchers say have Australasian features. The majority of these skeletons were found in Brazil.

Reich and Skoglund think that some of the most interesting open questions about Native American population history are about the relationships among groups after the initial migrations.

"We have a broad view of the deep origins of Native American ancestry, but within that diversity we know very little about the history of how those populations relate to each other," said Reich.

Pontus Skoglund, Swapan Mallick, Maria Cátira Bortolini, Niru Chennagiri, Tábita Hünemeier, Maria Luiza Petzl-Erler, Francisco Mauro Salzano, Nick Patterson, David Reich. Genetic evidence for two founding populations of the Americas. Nature, 2015; DOI:10.1038/nature14895

 Lack of knowledge on animal disease leaves humans at risk

21 July 2015 - Researchers from the University of Sydney have painted the most detailed picture to date of major infectious diseases shared between wildlife and livestock, and found a huge gap in knowledge about diseases which could spread to humans.

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences(PNAS), the world-first study has found that just ten diseases account for around 50 per cent of all published knowledge on diseases at the wildlife-livestock interface. It is based on an analysis of almost 16,000 publications spanning the last century.

In the wake of recent virus outbreaks of wildlife origin, such as Hendra virus in Australia, Ebola virus in West Africa, and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus in the Arabian Peninsula, more research must focus on this wildlife-livestock interface to evaluate risks and improve responses to disease epidemics in animals and humans, the researchers argue.

"Oftentimes we don't prioritise animal health until it impacts on human health, which means we miss the opportunity to manage diseases at the source," said co-author Dr Siobhan Mor from the Faculty of Veterinary Science.

"In the case of emerging diseases, we tend to react to large outbreaks of disease in humans, rather than preventing or managing the infection in animals, likely because we still don't know a lot about the role of these microbes in the ecology of wildlife and livestock disease."

Researchers applied new methods only recently used in the animal health realm to identify which diseases and types of animals were most prevalent in available published literature. They measured how research has changed over time and how the diseases and animals involved differ by geographic region.

The results show the bulk of published research over the past century has focused on known zoonoses - diseases that are shared between animals and humans - to the detriment of studies on diseases affecting only animals.

"We know far less about the range of diseases that impact on animal health and welfare. This is particularly true for wildlife, which remains very poorly funded," said co-author Dr Anke Wiethoelter.

"Paradoxically, this also means we know less about the diseases that could be a precursor to infectious diseases in humans."

"In the case of Hendra virus in Australia, for instance, there are still big question marks around how the virus is transmitted between bats and horses, and factors influencing its transmission. And we now know that bats can harbour many germs, but the research investment into wildlife disease ecology simply isn't there."

The study also revealed strong links between publication rates, media coverage and funding levels for certain diseases. Two diseases in particular - avian influenza and bovine tuberculosis - were found to have a strong association between frequency of publication, media attention and funding levels, highlighting social and political influences on available research.

"Public interest comes and goes, but without sustained investments, research on this important interface suffers," said Dr Mor.

The study was co-authored by Dr Anke and Dr Siobhan Mor from the University of Sydney's Faculty of Veterinary Science and Marie Bashir Institute, Dr Daniel Beltrán-Alcrudo from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and Professor Richard Kock from the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London.

Summer in Northern Hemisphere: 

Batman Sand Sculpture in Parksville 2015 Beachfest, British Columbia - Canada - Canadian Open Sand Sculpting Competition

 Kiwi bird genome sequenced

July 23, 2015 - Its unusual biological characteristics make the flightless kiwi a unique kind of bird. Researchers of the University of Leipzig and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have now sequenced the genetic code of this endangered species and have identified several sequence changes that underlie the kiwi's adaptation to a nocturnal lifestyle: They found several genes involved in colour vision to be inactivated and the diversity of odorant receptors to be higher than in other birds -- suggesting an increased reliance on their sense of smell rather than vision for foraging. The study was published in the journal Genome Biology.

Kiwi have a number of features that make them interesting for study: They only have rudimentary wings, no tail and a very long beak with nostrils. They are mainly nocturnal with a low basal metabolic rate and the lowest body temperature among birds. To date there has been little genetic information available for this species that might help scientists to understand their unusual biology better.

An international team led by Torsten Schöneberg of the Institute of Biochemistry of the Medical Faculty at the University of Leipzig and Janet Kelso of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology have now sequenced the genome of the brown kiwi (Apteryx mantelli). Their analyses show genetic changes that likely reflect adaptation to nocturnal life. Although mutations have inactivated some of the key genes involved in colour vision, the number of odorant receptor genes is expanded suggesting that the kiwi sense of smell is highly developed. These changes happened about 35 million years ago which is after the kiwi's arrival in New Zealand.

"Already French botanist and zoologist Jean Baptiste de Lamarck, who lived in the 18th century, hypothesized that evolution works in accordance with a 'use it or lose it' principle. It is therefore very likely that the kiwi lost its colour vision since this was no longer needed for its new nocturnal lifestyle," says first author Diana Le Duc, MD, at the University of Leipzig. "The kiwi's sense of smell -- which was required for foraging in the dark of the night -- became more acute and the repertoire of odorant receptors increased adapting to a wider diversity of smells."

DNA analyses of two kiwi individuals show, however, that according to first estimates there is little genetic variability in the population. This could further endanger the survival of this species and will have to be taken into account when planning future breeding programs. "The genome of the kiwi is an important resource for future comparative analyses with other extinct and living flightless birds," says computational biologist Janet Kelso of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

The kiwi is the national symbol of New Zealand and belongs to a group of birds called ratites that also includes the extinguished New Zealand moa as well as flightless birds like ostrich, emu and rhea. Following human migration to New Zealand around 800 years ago, many of the local bird species became extinct. Despite intensive protection efforts the kiwi is highly endangered.

Diana Le Duc, Gabriel Renaud, Arunkumar Krishnan, Markus Sällman Almén, Leon Huynen, Sonja J. Prohaska, Matthias Ongyerth, Bárbara D. Bitarello, Helgi B. Schiöth, Michael Hofreiter, Peter F. Stadler, Kay Prüfer, David Lambert, Janet Kelso, Torsten Schöneberg. Kiwi genome provides insights into evolution of a nocturnal lifestyle. Genome Biology, 2015; 16 (1) DOI:10.1186/s13059-015-0711-4

Top: Te Tuatahi a nui, on Maungatautari mountain. (North Island brown kiwi, Apteryx mantelli). Courtesy Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust