Inbox and Environment News Issue 235 

 October 11 - 17, 2015: Issue 235

 Movember and Surfing Australia Team Up 

Image Credit: Movember   

October 6th, 2015

As upper lips begin to twitch in anticipation of the approaching hairy season and people across the country ready themselves for the onslaught of Movember moustaches, Surfing Australia is ready to Mo, today announcing a new partnership with the Movember Foundation.

The Movember Foundation’s quest to change the face of men’s health ties in perfectly with Surfing Australia’s purpose of creating a healthier and happier Australia through experiencing the joy of surfing for life.  

 Surfing Australia and Movember are challenging the surfing community and all Aussies to get involved as Mo Bros or Mo Sistas - encouraging men to grow and women to support a moustache this Movember.

Men can get involved by growing any style of moustache they see fit over the 30 days of the month. Some might even like to give the ‘Michael Peterson’ a go, as showcased by the legendary surfing cult figure during the height of his powers in the 1970’s.

Movember and Surfing Australia will work together across digital platforms including,, both social media and newsletters as well as at Surfing Australia events.

Movember Foundation’s Paul Villanti, Executive Director of Programs, said the partnership was a great opportunity for men and women in the surfing community to get involved at a grassroots level and make a difference to the health of men across the country. 

“Australians love the surf and the beach and a partnership with Surfing Australia will see more Mo’s than ever hit the sand and the waves this Movember,” said Villanti.

Surfing Australia’s CEO Andrew Stark said: “We are very proud to be partnering with Movember Foundation to help drive awareness for such an important national men’s health issue. We look forward to working with the team at Movember and towards achieving some fantastic Mo’s and excellent fundraising results for such an important health issue.”

Join the movement – sign up at to grow, give and support the moustache for the 30 days of Movember.

About the Movember Foundation

The Movember Foundation is a global men’s health charity. The Foundation raises funds that deliver innovative, breakthrough programs that allow men to live happier, healthier and longer lives. Millions have joined the men’s health movement, raising $680 million and funding over 1,000 projects, focusing on prostate cancer, testicular cancer, poor mental health and physical inactivity.

 For more information of the Movember Foundation’s programs and funding and to sign up for this year’s Movember, visit

 Codeine-related deaths in Australia double


Codeine-related deaths in Australia more than doubled between 2000 and 2009, largely due to accidental overdoses, new research from UNSW’s National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre has found.

According to the study, published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA), codeine-related deaths increased from 3.5 to 8.7 per million population.

The number of deaths due to accidental codeine overdose also increased significantly, with a 9.3% rise recorded each year, from 1.8 to 5.1 deaths per million persons.

Ms Amanda Roxburgh and colleagues from NDARC found of the 1437 deaths included in the study, just under half (48.8%) were attributed to accidental overdose, and a third (34.7%) to intentional self-harm.

More codeine is consumed in Australia than any other opioid and is available without a prescription.

Ms Roxburgh said the study found those who had intentionally overdosed were more likely to be older, female and have a history of mental health problems.

“Accidental overdoses were more likely as a result of substance use problems, chronic pain and injecting drug use,” Ms Roxburgh said.

“Our findings suggest that in the accidental deaths category there may be evidence of codeine being used to top up prescribed pain medication; stronger doses of codeine being used and the development of codeine dependence.

“These characteristics also highlight a complex patient population in need of specialist services.”

According to the researchers, the results suggest the need for different public health and clinical strategies to prevent fatal intentional and accidental codeine overdose.

“Patient education to better inform the public about the potential harms of chronic codeine use is clearly needed,” the NDARC team wrote.

“It is clearly necessary to increase the capacity to identify high-risk patients in primary care and to respond more effectively to their needs.

“Increasing the capacity of specialist pain, addiction and mental health treatment services in Australia should also be a priority.”

The study was conducted using data from the National Coronial Information System.

Click here to view the paper Trends and characteristics of accidental and intentional codeine overdose deaths in Australia


06 October 2015: Media release, Prime Minister, Minister for Trade and Investment,  The Hon Andrew Robb AO MP

The conclusion of negotiations today on the landmark Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement ushers in a new era of economic growth and opportunity across the fast-growing Asia-Pacific.

Australia and the Asia-Pacific region are undergoing significant economic transformation. The TPP allows us to harness the enormous opportunities this presents as we look to build a modern Australian economy that can face the challenges of the 21st century.

The TPP writes regional trade rules which will drive Australia's integration in the region and underpin our prosperity.   It builds on Australia's successes in concluding trade agreements with China, Japan and Korea and delivers more again.  As a regional trade agreement, the TPP creates benefits for consumers and businesses beyond those that can be achieved under bilateral FTAs – helping to create jobs and a stronger Australian economy. 

The 12 TPP countries make up about 40 per cent of global GDP.  Last year, one third of Australia's total goods and services exports – worth $109 billion – were sent to TPP countries.

The TPP market access outcomes are ambitious and comprehensive, with benefits across the Australian economy.

• The TPP will eliminate over 98 per cent of tariffs in the TPP region, removing import taxes on around $9 billion of Australian trade.

• The TPP will drive significant growth in our world-class services industries. Australian universities will be able to expand their education services into major southeast Asian export markets, including Vietnam, our third largest export market for those services.  Liberalisation of Malaysia's professional services markets will create major new opportunities for our lawyers, architects and engineers. The TPP secures new commercial opportunities and guaranteed access, including in the education, financial, legal, mining services, transport, telecommunications, health, and tourism services sectors.

• Our farmers will benefit from gains above and beyond our existing FTAs.  In 2014, around 40 per cent, or $14 billion, of Australia's agricultural exports were to TPP countries.  Improving on the outstanding results from the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement, the TPP will reduce tariffs on our beef even further – down to 9 per cent.  Significant new access into all TPP parties for dairy, including some of the most heavily protected markets in the world, will foster growth in our dairy exports to TPP countries, which are already $1 billion annually.

• For the first time in over 20 years, Australia has secured guaranteed new access to the US sugar market under the TPP.  Japan will eliminate tariffs and significantly reduce the levy on high polarity sugar, putting our exporters at a distinct competitive advantage.  Tariffs on seafood will also be eliminated along with the vast majority on horticulture products.  New preferential quota access will be created for grains and cereals and Australian rice

• For Australian manufacturers, the TPP creates new market access opportunities for exporters by eliminating or significantly reducing tariffs on iron and steel products, ships, pharmaceuticals, machinery, paper and auto parts.

• All remaining tariffs in TPP countries on Australian minerals, petroleum and LNG exports will be eliminated.

• Forty-five percent of Australia's outward investment is in TPP countries. The TPP will unlock new outward investment opportunities, and promote growth and diversification of foreign investment into Australia. A robust and modern investor-state dispute settlement mechanism will protect Australian investors overseas, as well as the government's right to regulate, including on public health.

Beyond market access, the TPP creates a single set of trade and investment rules between its members – making it easier and simpler for Australian companies to trade in the region.

• The TPP's new rules on state-owned enterprises will assist Australian businesses to compete on a more equal footing in TPP markets.

• State of the art e-commerce provisions will support the digital economy, promoting consumer protection and more a liberal cross-border environment for electronic commerce

• The TPP's labour, environment and anti-corruption chapters will support efforts to combat corruption and improve labour rights and environmental protection. 

Importantly, the TPP will not require any changes to Australia's intellectual property laws or policies, whether in copyright, pharmaceutical patents or enforcement.  Australia's five years of data protection for biological medicines will remain unchanged. The TPP will not increase the price of medicines in Australia.

The TPP countries are: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, New Zealand, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

For further information, refer to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website:

 Tweed Shire Koala Endangered Population Preliminary Determination



The Scientific Committee, established by the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, has made a Final Determination to REJECT a proposal to list a population of the Koala Phascolarctos cinereus (Goldfuss, 1817) in the Tweed local government area east of the Pacific Highway as an ENDANGERED POPULATION in the Schedules of the Act. NOTICE OF PRELIMINARY DETERMINATION 

The Scientific Committee, established by the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, has made a Preliminary Determination to support a proposal to list a population of the Koala Phascolarctos cinereus (Goldfuss, 1817) between the Tweed and Brunswick Rivers east of the Pacific Highway as an ENDANGERED POPULATION in Part 2 of Schedule 1 of the Act. 

Any person may make a written submission regarding the Preliminary Determination. Send submissions to: Scientific Committee, PO Box 1967, Hurstville BC 1481. Attention Suzanne Chate. Submissions must be received by 4 December 2015. 

Copies of these Determinations, which contains the reasons for these determinations, may be obtained free of charge on the Internet, by contacting the Scientific Committee Unit, PO Box 1967 Hurstville BC 1481. Tel: (02) 9585 6940 or Fax (02) 9585 6606, or in person at the Office of Environment and Heritage Information Centre, Level 14, 59–61 Goulburn Street, Sydney. 

Copies of the determination may also be obtained from National Parks and Wildlife Service Area Offices and Visitor Centres, subject to availability. 

Dr Mark Eldridge 

Chairperson NSW Scientific Committee.

From New South Wales Government Gazette – Published online October 9th, 2015:

 Indian Ocean reinforcing El Niño for October

07 October 2015

The Bureau has today issued a mid-cycle update to its Climate Outlook for October to December 2015, as a result of rapidly evolving changes in key climate drivers in the oceans around Australia.

Bureau of Meteorology Climate Prediction Manager, Dr Andrew Watkins, said the Bureau monitors its rainfall and temperature model outlooks very closely.

“Since we released the Climate Outlook, there has been a significant shift toward a drier October for much of Australia. It’s highly likely this is related to a rapidly strengthening positive Indian Ocean Dipole,” said Dr. Watkins.

“We have been watching the waters to Australia’s northwest for signs of sea surface cooling that could reinforce the impact of the current strong El Niño. We are now seeing these signs, and their impact has been reflected in the most recent model outlooks for October.

“Recent upgrades to the Bureau's Climate Outlook service have provided the capability to issue more frequent updates in exceptional circumstances, and we urge all stakeholders who rely on these outlooks in their planning to monitor our website for further updates,” he said.

The Bureau has recently upgraded its climate outlook service to enable special updates when necessary. An update of the October and October–December climate outlooks has been issued due to a significant shift in the October outlook nation-wide, related to a strengthening positive Indian Ocean Dipole reinforcing the impacts of the strong El Niño.

The update indicates:

• October likely to be drier across Australia.

• September rainfall for Australia was third lowest on record.

• Warmer days and nights are likely for large parts of Australia.

• Climate influences include a mature El Niño in the Pacific Ocean and an emerging positive Indian Ocean Dipole.

 Community Birdwatchers for the Annual Nationwide Big White Bird Count

Media release: 7 October 2015

People all over Australia are being asked to help count some of our most loved and loathed big white birds.

On Sunday 11 October, the community is invited to participate in the annual Australian white ibis and sulphur-crested cockatoo census coordinated by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

Dr John Martin, Wildlife Ecologist for the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney said the survey aims to better understand the numbers of these native birds, where they breed, and their habitats across Australia.

“The community are invited to participate in a fun day by observing native Australian birds and being more aware of local environment,” Dr Martin said.

“Getting a more accurate assessment of the ibis and cockatoo populations is only possible with community assistance, so people from all walks of life are asked to participate.

“People normally have a good knowledge of their local areas so they can help us by reporting the number of ibis and cockies they observe on this day.

“Cockatoos and ibis are native to Australia and both species have increased in numbers along the coast over the last 40 years. This increase is believed to be in response to drought and changes to the inland woodlands and wetlands.

“Both species have adapted to living within close proximity to humans and have altered their diet to include hand-outs such as bread.

“The ibis survey began in 2003, and since that time more than 2000 ibis have been colour-banded and wing-tagged to enable us to learn more about their movement behaviour.

“They have been recorded moving 30 kilometres between daily foraging sites, with fledglings found as far away as Townsville – 2500 kilometres from Sydney.”

“Since 2011, a similar study has wing-tagged 100 cockatoos at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, and from this it appears that the cockies have only moved within 30 kilometres,” he said.

Participating in the survey is easy. Just head out on Sunday 11 October to wherever you may see ibis or cockatoos, count them and fill in the on-line form at:



 NOAA declares third ever global coral bleaching event

October 8, 2015

As record ocean temperatures cause widespread coral bleaching across Hawaii, NOAA scientists confirm the same stressful conditions are expanding to the Caribbean and may last into the new year, prompting the declaration of the third global coral bleaching event ever on record.

Waters are warming in the Caribbean, threatening coral in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, NOAA scientists said. Coral bleaching began in the Florida Keys and South Florida in August, but now scientists expect bleaching conditions there to diminish.

"The coral bleaching and disease, brought on by climate change and coupled with events like the current El Niño, are the largest and most pervasive threats to coral reefs around the world," said Mark Eakin, NOAA's Coral Reef Watch coordinator. "As a result, we are losing huge areas of coral across the U.S., as well as internationally. What really has us concerned is this event has been going on for more than a year and our preliminary model projections indicate it's likely to last well into 2016."

While corals can recover from mild bleaching, severe or long-term bleaching is often lethal. After corals die, reefs quickly degrade and the structures corals build erode. This provides less shoreline protection from storms and fewer habitats for fish and other marine life, including ecologically and economically important species.

This bleaching event, which began in the north Pacific in summer 2014 and expanded to the south Pacific and Indian oceans in 2015, is hitting U.S. coral reefs disproportionately hard. NOAA estimates that by the end of 2015, almost 95 percent of U.S. coral reefs will have been exposed to ocean conditions that can cause corals to bleach.

The biggest risk right now is to the Hawaiian Islands, where bleaching is intensifying and is expected to continue for at least another month. Areas at risk in the Caribbean in coming weeks include Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, and from the U.S. Virgin Islands south into the Leeward and Windward islands.

The next concern is the further impact of the strong El Niño, which climate models indicates will cause bleaching in the Indian and southeastern Pacific Oceans after the new year. This may cause bleaching to spread globally again in 2016.

"We need to act locally and think globally to address these bleaching events. Locally produced threats to coral, such as pollution from the land and unsustainable fishing practices, stress the health of corals and decrease the likelihood that corals can either resist bleaching, or recover from it," said Jennifer Koss, NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program acting program manager. "To solve the long-term, global problem, however, we need to better understand how to reduce the unnatural carbon dioxide levels that are the major driver of the warming."

This announcement stems from the latest NOAA Coral Reef Watch satellite coral bleaching monitoring products, and was confirmed through reports from partner organizations with divers working on affected reefs, especially the XL Catlin Seaview Survey and ReefCheck. NOAA Coral Reef Watch's outlook, which forecasts the potential for coral bleaching worldwide several months in the future, predicted this global event in July 2015.

The current high ocean temperatures in Hawaii come on the heels of bleaching in the Main Hawaiian Islands in 2014?only the second bleaching occurrence in the region's history?and devastating bleaching and coral death in parts of the remote and well-protected Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

"Last year's bleaching at Lisianski Atoll was the worst our scientists have seen," said Randy Kosaki, NOAA's deputy superintendent for the monument. "Almost one and a half square miles of reef bleached last year and are now completely dead."

Coral bleaching occurs when corals are exposed to stressful environmental conditions such as high temperature. Corals expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues, causing corals to turn white or pale. Without the algae, the coral loses its major source of food and is more susceptible to disease.

The first global bleaching event was in 1998, during a strong El Niño that was followed by an equally very strong La Niña. A second one occurred in 2010.

Satellite data from NOAA's Coral Reef Watch program provides current reef environmental conditions to quickly identify areas at risk for coral bleaching, while its climate model-based outlooks provide managers with information on potential bleaching months in advance.

The outlooks were developed jointly by NOAA's Satellite and Information Service and the National Centers for Environmental Prediction through funding from the Coral Reef Conservation Program and the Climate Program Office.

The above is reprinted from materials provided by NOAA Headquarters.

Top: This is an extensive stand of severely bleached coral at Lisianski Island in Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument (Hawaii) documented during an August 2014 NOAA research mission. Credit: NOAA

 Encouraging signs as Orange-bellied parrots return to Tasmania

Joint media release - 8 October 2015

The early arrival of the 13 Orange-bellied parrots recorded returning to Tasmania are an encouraging sign for the breeding season ahead, Minister for Environment Greg Hunt said today.

Mr Hunt said he was delighted to report the sightings of the seven males and six females after a busy few months of work to assist the species.

"Last year a total of 35 wild, adult birds returned to Melaleuca at the start of the last season, including captive-bred birds that had been released the previous breeding season. That was 94 percent increase on the number of adult birds returning from the season before."

"These fantastic outcomes are thanks to the collaboration of a wide range of specialists.

"Australian, Tasmanian, Victorian and South Australian governments with members of the Recovery Team, BirdLife Australia, Friends of the Orange-bellied parrot, university, zoos and diseases and wildlife scientists are working to give the species the greatest chance of survival," Mr Hunt said.

Threatened Species Commissioner Gregory Andrews said following the workshop he chaired earlier this year, a range of actions to be implemented to assist the species was identified.

"These are focused on: boosting the captive breeding and release program; adjusting management practices in the species habitat and in the captive breeding facilities; investing in more science to better understand beak and feather disease and its effect on the parrot; improving the governance among the group and communicating together.

"There has been a wonderful response from all areas of the team to assist the species and it is encouraging for all of us to have these early arrivals."

Environment Parks and Heritage Minister Matthew Groom said Tasmania was pleased to be playing such an important role in the co-operative program.

"Departmental staff have just completed a range of preparations at the wild breeding ground at Melaleuca including actions which incorporated advice from a Veterinary Technical Reference Group formed out of the emergency response workshop.

"The work undertaken at Melaleuca includes installation of re-designed artificial nesting boxes, installation of additional nest boxes on trees and a trial of nesting boxes on poles as well as preparation of supplementary feeding infrastructure.

"There is also work underway to prepare captive bred birds for release, which as well is being undertaken based on the latest advice from the Veterinary Technical Reference Group.

"Captive bred birds identified for release are currently in quarantine and final decisions on numbers for release will be based on ongoing health screening results.

"While it is recognised that the beak and feather disease is an ongoing risk for the species, a range of measures have been identified and implemented that can assist in minimising the risk as far as possible.

"The wild population and captive release birds will be monitored throughout the breeding season by Departmental staff and a band of dedicated volunteers. A range of other actions will also be implemented to assist the survival and boost the productivity of the birds in both wild and captive populations.

"Our Government and Department staff are very pleased to be able to work as part of the overall team working to ensure the ongoing survival of this endangered species.


Eric Woehler from Birds Tasmania said it was unusual to see 13 birds so early in the season.

"That represents a little bit under 20 per cent of the known global population in the wild," he said.

Orange-bellied parrot: Early Tasmanian sightings raise hopes for bird's survival By Tamara Glumac - ABC Online Thursday 8th October, 2015


With only 44 wild birds known to be alive after the summer 2012/13 breeding season,[1] it is regarded as a critically endangered species.[2]

Orange-bellied parrots are being bred in a captive breeding program with parrots in Taroona, Tasmania, Healesville Sanctuary, Adelaide Zoo, Melbourne Zoo, Halls Gap Zoo, Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park and Priam Parrot Breeding Centre. The captive population consists of around 300 birds, with a target of 350 birds by 2016–17.[4] Because of the decline in the wild population in recent years, an additional 21 birds from the wild population were captured in 2010–2011 to improve the genetic diversity of the species' captive breeding program. Taken as a whole, the captive population, an example of ex situ conservation, is termed an "insurance population" against extinction.[3]

The orange-bellied parrot (Neophema chrysogaster) is a small broad-tailed parrot endemic to southern Australia, and one of only two species of parrot that migrate. It was described by Latham in 1790. A small parrot around 20 cm (8 in) long, it exhibits sexual dimorphism. The adult male is distinguished by its bright grass-green upperparts, yellow underparts and orange belly patch. The adult female and juvenile are duller green in colour. All birds have a blue frontal band and blue outer wing feathers.

1.Background and implementation information for the Orange-bellied Parrot Recovery Plan, The Orange-bellied Parrot Recovery Team (2006), Department of Primary Industries and Water (DPIW), Hobart, p. 13

2.Orange-bellied Parrot National Recovery Team Annual Report 2012/13 (October 2013), p 6

3.Pritchard, Rachel. "Update on the Orange-bellied Parrot Recovery Program" (PDF). Orange-bellied Parrot Recovery Team.

Top: Orange-bellied Parrot (Neophema chrysogaster) female, Melaleuca, Southwest Conservation Area, Tasmania, Australia. Photo courtesy J J Harrison.

 Wongawilli mine extension application referred to Planning Assessment Commission

Date: 07.10.2015 Type: Departmental Media Release  Author: Department of Planning and Environment

An application to extend the life of the Wongawilli coal mine south of Wollongong has been referred to the independent Planning Assessment Commission.

A spokesperson for the Department of Planning and Environment said the mine’s current approvals run out on 31 December this year and the mine has applied to extend the approval for mining operations until 31 December 2020. 

“Mining has been undertaken in this area since 1912 and the mine project would employ 110 people as well as generating $47 million royalties for NSW.” 

All other aspects of the mining operations will remain as currently approved, including the area of the underground mines, production rates and surface activities like coal transportation and water management. 

“The mine operators have only extracted about 15 per cent of the available coal resource since 2011, partly due to the trapping of a long-wall mining machine inside the mine.

“Wollongong Coal is currently undertaking mine planning and environmental studies for potential future projects and they are also seeking this modification to continue operations at the Wongawilli Colliery until those applications have been prepared.

“The application was exhibited for community feedback in June and July this year and there were 90 submissions. 

“The Department has recommended the Commission approve the project, subject to strict conditions including environmental controls,” the spokesperson said.

 Appointment of National Wind Farm Commissioner and Independent Scientific Committee on Wind Turbines

Media release 9 October 2015: The Hon. Greg Hunt MP, Minister for the Environment

In line with the Government's commitment to respond to community concerns about wind farms, it has appointed the National Wind Farm Commissioner along with members to the Independent Scientific Committee on Wind Turbines.

Mr Andrew Dyer has been appointed as the National Wind Farm Commissioner for a period of three years. His role will be to facilitate resolution of complaints from concerned community residents about, and to provide greater transparency on the operations of, wind farms. An annual report by the Commissioner will be made to the Australian Parliament.

A former Chairman of the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Council, Mr Dyer has an extensive background as an executive, consultant and company director in a range of industries including the services, renewable energy and information technology sectors.

The Independent Scientific Committee on Wind Turbines has been established to build on the work of the National Health and Medical Research Council and provide advice on the science and monitoring of potential impacts of wind turbine sound on health and the environment. It will provide an Annual Report to the Australian Parliament.

It will be chaired by RMIT Adjunct Professor Jon Davy, one of Australia's leading acoustics researchers. Other members of the Committee are:

Associate Professor Simon Carlile, Head of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, School of Medical Science, University of Sydney and Senior Director of Research at the Starkey Hearing Research Centre, University of California Berkeley, USA.

Clinical Professor David Hillman, Department of Pulmonary Physiology and Sleep Medicine

Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital Perth, WA.

Dr Kym Burgemeister, Acoustics Associate Principal, Arup.

National Wind Farm Commissioner

Terms of Reference

The negotiated settlement of the Renewable Energy Target in mid 2015 is expected to lead to increased construction of wind turbines in the next five years.

The Senate Select Committee on Wind Turbines, held during 2015, identified many issues of concern relating to the standards, monitoring and operation of wind farms.

The Government responded positively to the recommendations of the Committee's Interim Report, including creation of the role of a National Wind Farm Commissioner.

The Commissioner will work collaboratively with all levels of government, scientists, industry and the community to resolve complaints from communities about the operations of wind farms.

The Commissioner will refer complaints about wind farms to relevant state authorities and help ensure that they are properly addressed.

The Commissioner will work with stakeholders to identify needs and priorities for monitoring wind farms.

The Commissioner will lead efforts to promote information availability, providing a central, trusted source for dissemination of information.

The Commissioner, sitting within the Australian Government Department of the Environment, will report to the Minister for the Environment and provide an Annual Report to the Australian Parliament on delivering against these Terms of Reference.

The work of the Commissioner will not seek to duplicate or override the important statutory responsibilities of other jurisdictions.

The Commissioner is to draw on the work of the Independent Scientific Committee on Wind Turbines.

The role of the National Wind Farm Commissioner will be established for an initial period of three years and will be reviewed by the Australian Government.

 Ocean beaches and headlands assessment

The NSW Government has announced its decision on the recreational fishing amnesty in NSW marine parks. Based on the Marine Estate Expert Knowledge Panel's advice and further consideration of social values and use conflicts, the NSW Government proposes to:

• rezone 10 sites from sanctuary zone to habitat protection zone to make shore-based recreational line fishing lawful, and to continue the amnesty at these sites until the rezoning process is finalised.

The amnesty has been removed from all 20 remaining sites and enforcement of sanctuary zone rules has recommenced. All forms of fishing are prohibited in sanctuary zones and significant penalties apply including on-the-spot fines of up to $500.

Current arrangements in marine parks 

Community and stakeholder engagement  

Have your say on the draft management rules for marine parks for inclusion in the Marine Estate Management (Management Rules) Regulation 1999. The changes will:

• rezone 10 sites within the Solitary Islands, Cape Byron, Port Stephens–Great Lakes and Batemans marine parks from sanctuary zone to habitat protection zone and to allow recreational line fishing from the shore in those areas,

• update the maps for marine parks. There are a small number of amendments that make corrections to various descriptions and spellings and ensure that the maps are consistent.

For more information please read: 

• Draft Regulation

• Consultation paper

Make a submission

It is recommended that you read the consultation paper, alongside the draft regulation, before making a submission.

• Online submission  or • Hard copy of submission form (PDF)

You can lodge your submission online, via email at or through the post at:

Ocean Beaches and Headlands- Draft Regulations, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Locked Bag 1, Nelson Bay NSW 2315

Submissions close on Friday 13 November 2015.

See all document and submission form at: ocean-beaches-assessment

 Have your say on modifications to Narrabri Coal Mine

Date 29.09.2015, Departmental Media Release: Department of Planning and Environment

A proposal to make modifications at Narrabri Coal Mine 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:

• reduce the number of longwall panels from 26 to 20

• increase the longwall panel widths from 295 metres to 400 metres

• extend the underground mining area by 60 metres to the west

• increase production of run-of-mine coal at the mine from 8 million tonnes per year to 11 million tonnes per year

• increase the average number of train movements from the site from 3 to 4 trains per day

• make associated ancillary infrastructure changes.

 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 Tuesday 29 September to Friday 16 October 2015. 

Written submissions can also be made to:

 Department of Planning and Environment - Attn: Executive Director – Resource Assessments and Business Systems. GPO Box 39,Sydney NSW 2001

The EIS is also available to view in person at:

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

• Narrabri Shire Council, 46-48 Maitland Street, Narrabri

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




Ingleside Escarpment Walk

18th Oct 2015: 9am - 12pm

Come and join us for a spring walk through Ingleside Chase Reserve.

Ingleside Chase Reserve is Pittwater's largest continuous piece of bushland. It contains many beautiful plant communities and threatened fauna. Spring is an outstanding time to experience our bushland come alive with wildlife and flowering plants. 

The walk will commence at Irrawong-Epworth Reserve and climb to Ingleside Park. At the park we will have a morning tea break and then head back down. The track is 1.5km one-way and is a little steep in parts so although we will be taking it at a gentle pace a reasonable level of fitness is required.

Where: Ingleside Chase Reserve (meeting point provided on booking).

Cost: Free!  Bookings Essential! Online In person: Coastal Environment Centre, Lake Park Road, North Narrabeen Phone: 1300 000 232 (Reception - Option 1)

Caring for Mullet Creek

Saturday 31 October, 8:30am – 12noon

Bushcare planting day at Irrawong Reserve. Come and join us for a fun family morning and help plant a tree. It’s a great opportunity to get involved with this positive environmental project. 

This six year project, now in its 4th year, aims to protect the biodiversity of Mullet Creek and tributaries from Elanora Heights down to Warriewood through Ingleside Chase and Irrawong Reserves. 

Where: Meet at the end of Irrawong Road near the main walking track. 

Please bring a hat, water bottle and wear enclosed shoes. Morning tea provided. No bookings are required for this activity. 

Wetlands to waterfall walk 

Saturday 31 October, 9 – 11am

Come and join us for a spring walk through the Warriewood Wetlands. Spring is an outstanding time to experience our wetlands come alive with wildlife and flowering plants. With a range of native vegetation communities this area provides significant habitat for many larger fauna species now lost in the Sydney region. This is a great opportunity to discover more about our amazing plants and wildlife from our expert guide. If interested you can also be part of the bushcare planting day. 

Where: Warriewood Wetlands and Irrawong Reserve (meet point provided on booking) Bookings Essential! 

Online: In person: Coastal Environment Centre, Lake Park Road, North Narrabeen. Phone: 1300 000 232 (Reception – Option 1)

 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.

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. 


19-25 OCTOBER 2015

Celebrate National Bird Week 2015 by taking part in the biggest citizen science project to hit Aussie shores! From 19-25 October, thousands of people from across the country are heading out into their backyards, local parks or favourite open spaces to take part in the second annual AUSSIE BACKYARD BIRD COUNT!

To get involved all you need is 20 minutes, your ‘green patch’ of choice, and some keen eyesight (or binoculars!) And it doesn’t matter if you’re a novice or an expert—we’ll be there to help you out along the way. Simply record the birds you know and look up those you don’t on our Aussie Bird Count app (updated version available for download in September) or our website. You’ll instantly see live statistics and information on how many people are taking part near you and the number of birds and species counted across your neighbourhood and the whole of Australia!

Register now and we’ll keep you up to date with exciting Aussie Backyard Bird Count news!

Register at:

 Shoalhaven's Orchids to Recover From Brink of Extinction

Friday, 9 October 2015 

The future of the last remaining Pretty Beard Orchids and nine other Shoalhaven  plants on the brink of extinction is looking brighter thanks to a $650,000 grant from  the NSW Government’s Environmental Trust and Saving our Species partnership  program.

There are only 28 of the green and maroon-flowering Pretty Beard Orchid plants left in the wild and all are in the Shoalhaven region of NSW.

Environment Minister Mark Speakman said that if these plants are not protected now, ours might be the last generation of Australians to see this species bloom.

“Work to protect threatened species is not a quick fix; saving species from extinction is a long-term, enduring commitment made by the NSW Government and its partners,” Mr Speakman said.

“This grant supports the Office of Environment and Heritage which is working with partner organisations including Shoalhaven Council, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Australian Orchid Council, the Australian Plant Society, Wollongong and Mount Annan Botanic Gardens and Bomaderry Creek Landcare.

Gareth Ward, Member for Kiama and Parliamentary Secretary for the Illawarra and South Coast, said that this $650,000 grant will mean that the future of a number of Shoalhaven plants looks a little brighter.

“It is very important that we continue this type of conservation work to preserve these special orchids and allow them to thrive for future generations to enjoy.

“Protecting our natural environment including our threatened orchids requires an ongoing and collaborative partnership between the NSW Government, Councils and our local community,” Mr Ward concluded.

“Species targeted under this partnership are the Pretty Beard Orchid, Thick-lip Spider Orchid, Jervis Bay Leek Orchid, Bauer's Midge Orchid, the Bomaderry Zieria and five other threatened plant species found in the Shoalhaven.

“OEH’s threatened species officers are leading this partnership, carrying out practical, on-ground works to secure the survival of these rare plants.

“Work has already begun on surveying, collecting seed and type specimens and identifying areas for fencing to prevent damage to the plants.

“The grant will also help the partnership team undertake additional weed control and ecological burning that will reduce competition and allow more space and light for the orchids to thrive.

“This particular project has a life of at least ten years and the NSW Government’s grant is supplemented with further cash and in-kind support from partners,” Mr Speakman said. 

Top: Calochilus paludosus, Red Beard Orchid. Not far from the start of Elvina Track, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, Australia. Photo courtesy Peter Woodard.


07 October 2015

A new study has delivered an unprecedented account of water resources in Western Australia's Pilbara region, providing an in-depth understanding of local water systems and the potential impacts of climate change on water availability.

The Pilbara Water Resource Assessment project, a $3.5 million partnership between CSIRO, BHP Billiton and the Government of Western Australian, will allow water managers and local industry to plan for future water use in an area rich in resources and environmental assets.

"Knowing how the water systems operate right across the region, such as how groundwater is affected by rainfall and storm events, helps with the planning and management of local water use," said CSIRO's Dr Don McFarlane, the project leader. 

"By helping to put a lot of smaller local water resource investigations into a broader context, this study provides a strong framework for water managers and local industries well into the future."

BHP Billiton said its contribution to the project reflected the Company's commitment to responsible and sustainable water use at its Pilbara-based iron ore operations.

"The study provided an opportunity to discuss our regional water resource key considerations and highlight the areas requiring further investigation," said Blair Douglas, BHP Billiton Iron Ore's Water Practice Lead.

"The collaboration between industry and scientists in both the state and federal governments has delivered a comprehensive outcome. The fundamental science delivered by the study can be applied by industry to achieve practical and sustainable water management solutions."

The study revealed some of the mechanisms responsible for filling the Pilbara's groundwater stores. It found that between 8 and 30 millimetres of rainfall is required before runoff starts in most catchments, which leaks through streambeds to provide the main source of aquifer replenishment. Water from these shallow alluvial aquifers then recharges deeper paleochannels or dolomite aquifers, which can store large quantities of water in inland areas.

It also examined how ecosystems dependent on the region's groundwater sources have changed as a result of wet and dry periods, finding they expand during wet periods and contract during dry periods but have remained relatively stable in number over the past 23 years.

The Assessment was funded by a $0.5 million contribution from BHP Billiton and $1.5 million each from CSIRO and the Government of Western Australia through the Royalties for Regions program. The research project was led by CSIRO and overseen by officers from the Department of Water, BHP Billiton, the Pilbara Development Commission and the Water Corporation.

View the final assessment reports at Pilbara Water Resource Assessment.

Top: Water discharging from fractured rock into a gorge in the Hamersley Range.

Below: BHP Billiton’s Mount Whaleback mine near the town of Newman.

 Appointment of new Members to the Climate Change Authority

Media release - 8 October 2015

The Government is pleased to announce the appointment of five new Members to the Climate Change Authority (the Authority).

Ms Wendy Craik AM will serve as the new Chair of the Authority. Ms Craik, Deputy Chancellor of the University of South Australia, brings with her a wealth of experience to the role. Her distinguished record of service includes work with the Productivity Commission, the Murray-Darling Basin Commission, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the National Farmers' Federation. Ms Craik was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2007.

Mr Stuart Allinson, Ms Kate Carnell AM, Mr Danny Price and the Hon John Sharp will also take up new roles as Members of the Authority.

Mr Allinson is the CEO of Bid Energy, a company that provides innovate energy contract services to large energy users. He has 20 years experience working with energy utilities on energy deregulation and carbon management.

Ms Carnell is the CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and was previously CEO of the Australian Food and Grocery Council. A Member of the Order of Australia and a former Chief Minister of the ACT, she has extensive experience on the boards of various government and non-government organisations.

Mr Price is the Managing Director of Frontier Economics, an acknowledged expert in electricity sector economics.

Mr Sharp is the former Commonwealth Minister and currently a company director and corporate adviser with specialist expertise in the aviation sector.

All members will commence their positions immediately. Ms Craik will shortly take up her position as Chair and Mr Stuart Allinson will act as Chair of the Authority in the interim.


29 September 2015

The Harbour Trust is repairing and improving the walking track (between Middle Head Rd and Georges Head Lookout) from September – December 2015.

The track will be temporarily closed in stages:

Stage 1 (Late September – October): Middle Head Road to Artists Precinct

Stage 2 (Late October - December): Artists Precinct to Georges Head Lookout

Please use an alternative route to reach your destination– as marked on the map    

The Harbour Trust apologises for any inconvenience.


Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Uralla today saw the launch of the blueprint for what could be Australia’s first renewable energy self-sufficient town. The first town-scale energy blueprint has been developed for Uralla on the NSW Northern Tablelands, with energy savings of up to 70 per cent through energy efficiency and on-site generation. 

“The aim of the blueprint is to identify how an Australian community could satisfy all its energy needs from renewable energy, in a way that is competitive in terms of price, quality, security and reliability,” Environment Minister Mark Speakman said in Uralla today. “Funded through the Government’s Renewable Energy Action Plan, the Zero Net Energy Town (ZNET) blueprint has the potential to attract renewable energy investment, to build community support and to increase local renewable energy expertise.

“The Uralla project has been an exciting and ambitious challenge, with the blueprint providing a model for other NSW towns. Uralla has about 2,500 energy customers spending approximately $12 million each year to meet their energy needs,” Mr Speakman said. 

Minister for Industry, Resources and Energy, Anthony Roberts, said this initiative is a demonstration of the commitment of the NSW Government to a secure, reliable, affordable and clean energy future for households and businesses in NSW. 

“The share of renewable energy in NSW’s electricity generation mix has almost doubled in the past 5 to 6 years. In 2013, almost 13 percent of our energy generation came from renewable sources. There are currently estimated to be more than 13,000 jobs supported by renewable energy in NSW. This includes 4,400 direct renewable energy jobs”. 

Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall said the blueprint suggests that by applying cost-effective energy efficiency actions such as the replacement of hot water units and combining these with the installation of residential solar panels, Uralla could save up to $2.2 million per year. 

“For Uralla, these measures could save 15.7 per cent of its total energy consumption, with a significant portion of remaining energy consumption being sourced from on-site generation. The most financially attractive options are residential solar, lighting and hot water unit upgrades which could result in savings of up to $1,000 per household and $3,000 per business,” Mr Marshall said. 

The blueprint suggests that Uralla could generate 40-70 per cent of its energy needs within 5 years, through energy efficiency and small scale renewable energy generation. The blueprint also outlines how Uralla could become energy self-sufficient, by developing town-scale renewable energy generation. The project has gained interest from other towns, with more than 20 contacting the project coordinator, Starfish Initiatives, to express interest in taking part in a similar project. Mr Speakman congratulated all involved in the development of the blueprint. Their efforts will place Uralla at the forefront of energy innovation in Australia.

 Have your say on the proposed Bylong Coal Project

Date: 23.09.2015: Departmental Media Release; NSW Department of Planning and Environment

A proposal to construct and operate an open cut and underground mine in mid-western NSW will be on exhibition from today for community feedback.

The proposed project would be located approximately 55 kilometres northeast of Mudgee. 

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

• construct and operate an open cut and underground mine to extract up to 6.5 million tonnes of coal a year for 23 years

•construct and operate a range of infrastructure including:

o plant for washing and preparing coal to be transported

o rail loading facility and rail loop

o mine access roads

o accommodation for workers

o ventilation shafts

o water supply and water management

o electricity supply

o communications and administration infrastructure

• transport coal from the mine by rail

• progressively rehabilitate the site.

The proposal and its environmental, social and economic impacts will be thoroughly assessed against rules set out in the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act.

It will also be subject to an independent review by the Commonwealth Independent Expert Scientific Committee.

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

A public information session on how to make a submission will be held by the Department during the exhibition period. 

“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, visit Submissions can be made from Wednesday 23 September until Friday, 6 November 2015. 

Written submissions can also be made to:

Department of Planning and Environment

Attn: A/Director- Resource Assessments and Compliance

GPO Box 39, Sydney NSW 2001

The EIS is also available to view in person at:

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

• Mid-Western Regional Council, 86 Market Street, Mudgee

• Mid-Western Regional Council, 77 Louee Street, Rylstone

• Mid-Western Regional Council, 109 Herbert Street, Gulgong

• Kandos Library, Angus Avenue, Kandos

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




Cooee! Environmental Newsletter - September/October 2015

Did you know that Pittwater Council’s Coastal Environment Centre has its own facebook page? It’s a great way to keep up to date with environmental news and events happening in the area. Whether it’s a rock platform walk, the Kids on the Coast holiday program or environmental videos by local schools – there’s something for everyone.

Like us at:

 Habitat Stepping Stones project now in Pittwater!

Create a Habitat Stepping Stone

Our local wildlife are doing it tough! You can create a habitat stepping stone to help them out. It’s easy – just add a few beautiful habitat elements to your backyard or balcony to create a valuable wildlife-friendly stopover. 

How it works

1. Discover: Visit the website below to find dozens of beautiful plants, nest boxes and water elements you can add to your backyard or balcony to help our local wildlife. 

2. Pledge: Select three or more elements to add to your place. You can even show you care by choosing to have a bird appear on our online map. 

3. Share: Join the Habitat Stepping Stones Facebook community to find out what’s happening in the natural world, and share your pics, tips and stories. 

What you get

 .Enjoy the wonders of nature, right outside your window

 .Free and discounted plants for your garden

 .A Habitat Stepping Stone plaque for your front fence

 .Local wildlife news and tips

Become part of the Pittwater Habitat Stepping Stones community

Get the kids involved and excited about helping out!

No computer? No problem!

Just write to the address below and they’ll mail you everything you need. 

Habitat Stepping Stones, Department of Environmental SciencesMacquarie University NSW 2109

This project is assisted by the NSW Government through its Environmental Trust and supported by Pittwater Council.

More information at:

 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

 Citizen scientists needed to help save sick wombats

As wombats fight for survival against a deadly skin disease that kills in months, University of Western Sydney scientists are asking Australians to help take a census of wombats using an innovative new app.

WomSAT, launched by the University of Western Sydney, allows everyday citizens to report wombat sightings and record the animal's health.

Chief investigator on the project, Associate Professor Julie Old, says wombats across the country are under threat from a parasitic mite which causes sarcoptic mange.

The mites initially burrow into the skin causing the wombats to become itchy. In the longer term, they are likely to become blind, deaf and die due to the secondary effects of the infestation. Early physical signs of the infestation include missing patches of fur and scratching.

"Wombats across eastern and southern Australia are dying in the thousands because of this deadly disease," says Associate Professor Old, a biologist from the UWS School of Science and Health.

"To fully understand the challenges facing wombats and ensure their future survival, we need to take a comprehensive census of wombat numbers, their distribution and their health."

"And the best way to adequately monitor the vast and often remote habitat of wombats is through the eyes and phones of millions of Australians."

UWS is calling on everyone around the country to join the fight by using WomSAT, a new website and app allowing anyone to easily record the exact location of a wombat using a phone's inbuilt GPS.

The app and website have images and text to guide people on how to identify the wombat and how to visually diagnose mange.

"Wombats severely affected by mange suffer painful skin infections and are often seen during the day," says Associate Professor Old.

"It's likely these wombats are venturing out during the day to spend more time foraging to compensate for the energy used scratching."

"By taking the time to log onto WomSAT every time a wombat is spotted, Australians can participate in science and help monitor the population and alert experts about changes and threats to the population."

WomSAT is supported by Emirates Airlines and Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley.

The WomSAT website is hosted by the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

Get involved here:

  Crucial hurdle overcome for quantum computing

Published on Oct 5, 2015 by UNSWTV: http//

The world’s first calculation using two quantum bits in silicon has been demonstrated by a team of engineers at UNSW Australia.

The manufacturing techniques used are the same as those employed in today’s silicon chip industry, opening the way to ultra-powerful quantum computers. 

Crucial hurdle overcome in quantum computing

06 Ooctober, 2015:  Wilson Da Silva, UNSW

A team of Australian engineers has built a quantum logic gate in silicon for the first time, making calculations between two qubits of information possible – and thereby clearing the final hurdle to making silicon quantum computers a reality.  

Lead author Menno Veldhorst (left) and project leader Andrew Dzurak (right) in the UNSW laboratory where the experiments were performed.

A team of Australian engineers has built a quantum logic gate in silicon for the first time, making calculations between two qubits of information possible – and thereby clearing the final hurdle to making silicon quantum computers a reality.

The significant advance, by a team at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney appears today in the international journal Nature.

“What we have is a game changer,” said team leader Andrew Dzurak, Scientia Professor and Director of the Australian National Fabrication Facility at UNSW.

“We’ve demonstrated a two-qubit logic gate – the central building block of a quantum computer – and, significantly, done it in silicon. Because we use essentially the same device technology as existing computer chips, we believe it will be much easier to manufacture a full-scale processor chip than for any of the leading designs, which rely on more exotic technologies.

“This makes the building of a quantum computer much more feasible, since it is based on the same manufacturing technology as today’s computer industry,” he added.

The advance represents the final physical component needed to realise the promise of super-powerful silicon quantum computers, which harness the science of the very small – the strange behaviour of subatomic particles – to solve computing challenges that are beyond the reach of even today’s fastest supercomputers.

In classical computers, data is rendered as binary bits, which are always in one of two states: 0 or 1. However, a quantum bit (or ‘qubit’) can exist in both of these states at once, a condition known as a superposition. A qubit operation exploits this quantum weirdness by allowing many computations to be performed in parallel (a two-qubit system performs the operation on 4 values, a three-qubit system on 8, and so on). 

“If quantum computers are to become a reality, the ability to conduct one- and two-qubit calculations are essential,” said Dzurak, who jointly led the team in 2012 that demonstrated the first ever silicon qubit, also reported in Nature.

Until now, it had not been possible to make two quantum bits ‘talk’ to each other – and thereby create a logic gate – using silicon. But the UNSW team – working with Professor Kohei M. Itoh of Japan’s Keio University – has done just that for the first time.

The result means that all of the physical building blocks for a silicon-based quantum computer have now been successfully constructed, allowing engineers to finally begin the task of designing and building a functioning quantum computer.

"Despite this enormous global interest and investment, quantum computing has – like Schrödinger’s cat – been simultaneously possible (in theory) but seemingly impossible (in physical reality),” said Professor Mark Hoffman, UNSW's Dean of Engineering. 

“The advance our UNSW team has made could, we believe, be the inflection point that changes that Schrödinger’s paradigm," he added. "The technology – devised, tested and patented by our team – has the potential to take quantum computing across the threshold from the theoretical to the real.”

A key advantage of the UNSW approach is that it reconfigured the ‘transistors’ used to define the bits in existing silicon chips, and turned them into qubits. “The silicon chip in your smartphone or tablet already has around one billion transistors on it, with each transistor less than 100 billionths of a metre in size,” said Dr Menno Veldhorst, a UNSW Research Fellow and the lead author of the Nature paper.

“We’ve morphed those silicon transistors into quantum bits by ensuring that each has only one electron associated with it. We then store the binary code of 0 or 1 on the ‘spin’ of the electron, which is associated with the electron’s tiny magnetic field,” he added.

Dzurak noted that the team had recently “patented a design for a full-scale quantum computer chip that would allow for millions of our qubits, all doing the types of calculations that we’ve just experimentally demonstrated".

He said that a key next step for the project is to identify the right industry partners to work with to manufacture the full-scale quantum processor chip.

Such a full-scale quantum processor would have major applications in the finance, security and healthcare sectors, allowing the identification and development of new medicines by greatly accelerating the computer-aided design of pharmaceutical compounds (and minimising lengthy trial and error testing); the development of new, lighter and stronger materials spanning consumer electronics to aircraft; and faster information searching through large databases.

Other researchers from UNSW’s School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications who contributed to the work include Dr Henry Yang and Associate Professor Andrea Morello, who leads the quantum spin control research team. Professor Kohei M. Itoh from Keio University in Japan provided specialised silicon wafers for the project.

Dzurak’s research is supported by the Australian Research Council via the Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology, the U.S. Army Research Office, the State Government of New South Wales in Australia, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, and the University of New South Wales. Veldhorst acknowledges support from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research. The quantum logic devices were constructed at the Australian National Fabrication Facility, which is supported by the federal government’s National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS).

A two-qubit logic gate in silicon. M. Veldhorst, C. H. Yang, J. C. C. Hwang, W. Huang, J. P. Dehollain, J. T. Muhonen, S. Simmons, A. Laucht, F. E. Hudson, K. M. Itoh, A. Morello & A. S. Dzurak. Nature (2015) doi:10.1038/nature15263 . Received 07 November 2014 Accepted 22 July 2015  Published online  05 October 2015

 NSW Cancer Plan 2016-2020 - Invitation for review and comment

The Cancer Institute NSW provides statewide strategic direction for cancer control in NSW and has a 12 year history in developing and implementing activities that support the community to decrease their risk of cancers, utilise cancer screening services and access world class treatment services.

The Cancer Institute NSW is seeking your comments on the draft NSW Cancer Plan 2016-2020. This draft has been developed following a substantial consultation process to date on key areas of cancer control in NSW with a range of partners and stakeholders, via nine workshops held in February-May 2015, including two consultation and formative research processes with Aboriginal communities and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse communities. Thank you to those that have contributed as part of this process.

The current NSW Cancer Plan 2011-2015 reflected an integrated and collaborative approach to reducing the burden of cancer in NSW by coordinating priorities, resources and efforts among individuals, organisations and governments agencies involved in cancer control. We will be building on these efforts in the NSW Cancer Plan 2016-2020 where we will continue to focus on:

• reducing the incidence of cancer,

• improving the survival of people with cancer

• improving the quality of life of people with cancer

The draft plan also highlights the importance of focusing particular attention on priority populations and priority cancers to both improve cancer outcomes and lessen the gap for groups within the community who experience poorer outcomes.  

Thank you for your support and involvement in the implementation of the current NSW Cancer Plan 2011-2015. We look forward to receiving your feedback on the draft state-wide Cancer Plan for 2016-2020 and working with you to further reduce the burden of cancer in our community.

A copy of the draft NSW Cancer Plan 2016-2020 is available on the Department of Premier and Cabinet’s ‘Your Say’ website. ANDHERE 

Please provide your comments and feedback on the draft plan via our online survey by 30 October 2015.

Additional comments can be sent 

Thank you for taking the time to complete this survey and review the draft NSW Cancer Plan 2016-2020. Your assistance is greatly appreciated.

 Chernobyl: At site of world's worst nuclear disaster, animals have returned

October 5, 2015

In 1986, after a fire and explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant released radioactive particles into the air, thousands of people left the area, never to return. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on October 5 have found that the Chernobyl site looks less like a disaster zone and more like a nature preserve, teeming with elk, roe deer, red deer, wild boar, and wolves.

The findings are a reminder of the resilience of wildlife. They may also hold important lessons for understanding the potential long-term impact of the more recent Fukushima disaster in Japan.

"It's very likely that wildlife numbers at Chernobyl are much higher than they were before the accident," says Jim Smith of the University of Portsmouth in the UK. "This doesn't mean radiation is good for wildlife, just that the effects of human habitation, including hunting, farming, and forestry, are a lot worse."

Earlier studies in the 4,200 km2 Chernobyl Exclusion Zone showed major radiation effects and pronounced reductions in wildlife populations. The new evidence, based on long-term census data, now shows that mammal populations have bounced back.

The relative abundance of elk, roe deer, red deer, and wild boar within the exclusion zone are now similar to those in four uncontaminated nature reserves in the region, the researchers report. The number of wolves living in and around the Chernobyl site is more than seven times greater than can be found in those nature reserves.

Helicopter survey data also reveal rising trends in the abundance of elk, roe deer, and wild boar from 1 to 10 years after the accident. A dip in the wild boar population at one point was traced to a disease outbreak unrelated to radiation exposure.

"These results demonstrate for the first time that, regardless of potential radiation effects on individual animals, the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone supports an abundant mammal community after nearly three decades of chronic radiation exposure," the researchers conclude. They note that these increases came at a time when elk and wild boar populations were declining in other parts of the former Soviet Union.

"I've been working, studying, and taking photos of the wonderful wildlife in the Chernobyl area for over 20 years and am very pleased our work is reaching an international scientific audience," says Tatiana Deryabina from the Polessye State Radioecological Reserve in Belarus, a few miles from the site of the Chernobyl accident.

"These unique data showing a wide range of animals thriving within miles of a major nuclear accident illustrate the resilience of wildlife populations when freed from the pressures of human habitation," says Jim Beasley, a study co-author at the University of Georgia.

T.G. Deryabina, S.V. Kuchmel, L.L. Nagorskaya, T.G. Hinton, J.C. Beasley, A. Lerebours, J.T. Smith. Long-term census data reveal abundant wildlife populations at Chernobyl. Current Biology, 2015; 25 (19): R824 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.08.017

Top: This photograph shows wild boar in a former village near the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Credit: Valeriy Yurko

 Ancient alga knew how to survive on land before it left water and evolved into the first plant

October 5, 2015

A team of scientists led by Dr Pierre-Marc Delaux (John Innes Centre / University of Wisconsin, Madison) has solved a long-running mystery about the first stages of plant life on earth.

The team of scientists from the John Innes Centre, the University of Wisconsin -- Madison and other international collaborators, has discovered how an ancient alga was able to inhabit land, before it went on to evolve into the world's first plant and colonise the earth.

Up until now it had been assumed that the alga evolved the capability to source essential nutrients for its survival after it arrived on land by forming a close association with a beneficial fungi called arbuscular mycorrhiza (AM), which still exists today and which helps plant roots obtain nutrients and water from soil in exchange for carbon. The previous discovery of 450 million year old fossilised spores similar to the spores of the AM fungi suggests this fungi would have been present in the environment encountered by the first land plants. Remnants of prehistoric fungi have also been found inside the cells of the oldest plant macro-fossils, reinforcing this idea. However, scientists were not clear how the algal ancestor of land plants could have survived long enough to mediate a quid pro quo arrangement with a fungi. This new finding points to the alga developing this crucial capability while still living in the earth's oceans!

Dr Delaux and colleagues analysed DNA and RNA of some of the earliest known land plants and green algae and found evidence that their shared algal ancestor living in the Earth's waters already possessed the set of genes, or symbiotic pathways, it needed to detect and interact with the beneficial AM fungi.

The team of scientists believes this capability was pivotal in enabling the alga to survive out of the water and to colonise the earth. By working with the fungi to find sustenance, the alga was able to buy time to adapt and evolve in a very different and seemingly infertile environment.

Dr Delaux said: "At some point 450 million years ago, alga from the earth's waters splashed up on to barren land. Somehow it survived and took root, a watershed moment that kick-started the evolution of life on earth. Our discovery shows for the first time that the alga already knew how to survive on land while it was still in the water. Without the development of this pre-adapted capability in alga, the earth could be a very different place today.

"This finding has filled a gap in our collective knowledge about the origins of life on earth. None of this would have been possible without the dedication of a world-wide team of scientists including a tremendous contribution from the 1KP initiative led by Gane KS Wong ."

Professor Jean-Michel Ané, from the University of Wisconsin said: "The surprise was finding the mechanisms in algae which allow plants to interact with symbiotic fungi. Nobody has studied beneficial associations in these algae."

This research was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the US based National Science Federation.

Pierre-Marc Delaux, Guru V. Radhakrishnan, Dhileepkumar Jayaraman, Jitender Cheema, Mathilde Malbreil, Jeremy D. Volkening, Hiroyuki Sekimoto, Tomoaki Nishiyama, Michael Melkonian, Lisa Pokorny, Carl J. Rothfels, Heike Winter Sederoff, Dennis W. Stevenson, Barbara Surek, Yong Zhang, Michael R. Sussman, Christophe Dunand, Richard J. Morris, Christophe Roux, Gane Ka-Shu Wong, Giles E. D. Oldroyd, Jean-Michel Ané. Algal ancestor of land plants was preadapted for symbiosis.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2015; 201515426 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1515426112

Top: Closterium strigosum is one of the green algae the scientists analyzed. Credit: Michael Melkonian

 Hog-nose rat discovered

October 6, 2015

Museum of Natural Science Curator of Mammals Jake Esselstyn at Louisiana State University and his international collaborators have discovered a new genus and species on a remote, mountainous island in Indonesia. This new discovery is the third new genus described by this group of scientists since 2012, and identifies a rodent with features never seen by the scientific community before.

On the second morning of their field season in 2013, Esselstyn and Museum Victoria Senior Curator of Mammals Kevin Rowe set out in opposite directions from their field camp to check their traps. Unbeknownst to each other, they both caught the same type of animal in their respective traps and immediately knew they were looking at a new species.

"We had never seen anything like this. It was obviously a new species. We came back to camp and were both surprised that the other one had it as well," Esselstyn said.

The animal is a shrew rat with a large, flat, pink nose and forward-facing nostrils for which they named the Hog-nosed rat, or Hyorhinomys stuempkei. With extremely large ears, long hind legs that may be used for hopping, long white incisors and very long urogenital hairs, the Hog-nosed rat is so genetically different from any other species that the scientists described it as a new genus. This discovery is the cover story of the Journal of Mammalogythis month.

Long incisors are a trait of shrew rats. But the Hog-nosed rat has especially long incisors. Another distinct characteristic of the Hog-nosed rat is that it lacks a jaw muscle attachment point found in most mammals called the coronoid process on the dentary bone.

"I don't know of any other rodents that have lost the coronoid process completely," Esselstyn said.

The loss of the coronoid process indicates a weak jaw musculature and a diet that does not require vigorous chewing. The scientists found that the new species eats earthworms and beetle larvae.

Challenging Study Site

The island of Sulawesi in Indonesia is geographically complex, mountainous and challenging to scientifically sample. Little research has been conducted on the island since the early 20th century.

"On Sulawesi, there is a lot of ground to cover and most of it hasn't been surveyed before, especially at high elevation," Esselstyn said.

He and his collaborators from Australia and Indonesia have been studying the region since 2010. Inundated by constant rain, the study site for this discovery was a moss-covered habitat on Mt. Dako at about 1,600 meters elevation and a two-day trek from the nearest village.

"There's a lot of biogeographic complexity at Sulawesi. So we're not too surprised that we're finding new things. But our team has been a bit surprised by the degree to which these animals are really novel. They are not just subtly different organisms, but really charismatically different," Rowe said.

The scientists described the Few-toothed shrew rat, or Paucidentomys vermidax, in 2012. One of the reasons why scientists have thought that rodents have been evolutionarily successful is they have incisors for gnawing and molars for grinding.

"However, this rat we described in 2012, doesn't have molars and they really can't gnaw because of the shape of their incisors. Interestingly, this species has lost the two things that we think made rodents successful," Esselstyn said.

In 2014, the scientists described the Sulawesi water rat, Waiomys mamasae, which was known to villagers and their guides but not to the scientific community. Villagers use this animal as a talisman to protect their homes against fire.

"Our guides didn't tell us right away that they had caught it. We were asleep and they were up late at night discussing whether they should give it to us or keep it for themselves. We were very glad that they eventually decided to give it to us, because otherwise we would have left and never had known about this animal," he said.

These animals Esselstyn and his colleagues have described are new species within new genera, because the animals could not be placed within any existing group. After sequencing the DNA from the specimens, the scientists had the molecular evidence to confirm the species' unique distinctions.

Jacob A. Esselstyn, Anang S. Achmadi, Heru Handika, Kevin C. Rowe. A hog-nosed shrew rat (Rodentia: Muridae) from Sulawesi Island, Indonesia. Journal of Mammalogy, 2015; 96 (5): 895 DOI: 10.1093/jmammal/gyv093

Top: This is the Hog-nosed rat, Hyorhinomys stuempkei, discovered by LSU Museum of Natural Science Mammal Curator Jake Esselstyn and colleagues on Sulawesi Island, Indonesia. Credit: Photo by Kevin C. Rowe, Senior Curator of Mammals, Museum Victoria.

 Surprise: Your visual cortex is making decisions

October 5, 2015

The part of the brain responsible for seeing is more powerful than previously believed. In fact, the visual cortex can essentially make decisions just like the brain's traditional "higher level" areas, finds a new study led by a Michigan State University neuroscientist.

The findings, published in Nature Neuroscience, provide another piece of the puzzle in the relatively new quest to unlock the brain's secrets. Jan Brascamp, MSU assistant professor of psychology and lead investigator of the study, noted that the first cognitive psychology textbook didn't come out until the late 1960s.

"As a field, we're only at the beginning of trying to figure out how the brain works, and the visual system is a very good place to start," said Brascamp. "In that light, the current findings, which show that the visual system has a capacity we previously didn't expect, are an important step in the right direction."

Study participants were placed in an MRI scanner and shown two adjacent patterns of dots on a projection screen while their brain activity was monitored. By using a set of prisms, the researchers made sure that, unlike in normal situations, the participant's eyes were each looking at a different dot pattern, each presented on a different part of the screen.

The combination of differing patterns seen by the two eyes creates an optical illusion and perception switches between the two patterns as the brain tries to make sense of the contradictory information the eyes are providing. Previous research using MRI readings indicated the decision to switch perceptions is controlled by the association cortex, which is known for higher-level functions such as making choices, while the visual cortex handles the simpler task of processing visual information.

But in those past studies, participants knew the moment their perception changed because the illusion was obvious (such as the famous duck-rabbit image, meaning they were surprised. And the areas of the brain known to be involved with surprise and those involved with making decisions are very similar.

So Brascamp and colleagues took away the element of surprise by assuring their participants weren't aware the two patterns of dots were different. Although participants' perception went back and forth between the two patterns, the participants didn't notice. Among these participants, the increase in brain activity in the association cortex was gone, indicating the visual cortex was making the choice between perceptions on its own.

"That is one sense in which our study is counterintuitive and surprising," Brascamp said. "The part of the brain that is responsible for seeing, for the apparently 'simple' act of generating the picture in our mind's eye, turns out to have the ability to do something akin to choosing, as it actively switches between different interpretations of the visual input without any help from traditional 'higher level' areas of the brain."

Jan Brascamp, Randolph Blake, Tomas Knapen. Negligible fronto-parietal BOLD activity accompanying unreportable switches in bistable perception. Nature Neuroscience, 2015; DOI:10.1038/nn.4130

 National Opera Review discussion paper released for comment

1 October 2015

In a major review of Australian opera, a panel chaired by Dr Helen Nugent AO has delivered an extensive analysis of the four major opera companies funded by the Australian Government.

The National Opera Review was commissioned by the Government to consider the financial viability, artistic vibrancy and audience access of Opera Australia, Opera Queensland, State Opera of South Australia and West Australian Opera.

Opera companies are hugely important to the creative life of our nation but they face challenges. The panel has consulted broadly and undertaken in-depth analysis to understand the pressures that face the major opera companies and why those challenges have arisen.

The National Opera Review discussion paper outlines a range of options for addressing the major issues facing the companies.

This is an important piece of work that has significant implications for ensuring the ongoing artistic vibrancy not just of Australia's major opera companies but also performing arts companies more broadly.

Interested parties are encouraged to engage with the review and provide their submissions to the review panel.

I thank the members of the review panel — Helen Nugent AO (Chairman), Kathryn Fagg, Andrew McKinnon, and Moffatt Oxenbould AM — for their commitment and diligence in producing work of this quality and detail. It is a landmark document that will have an influence on the performing arts in Australia into the future.

To view the discussion paper and find out how to make a submission, visit:

Submissions close 26 October 2015.


The National Opera Review Discussion Paper was prepared by the review panel Helen Nugent AO (Chairman), Kathryn Fagg, Andrew McKinnon, and Moffatt Oxenbould AM. Public comments on the discussion paper are invited by 26 October.

The National Opera Review is examining the artistic vibrancy, engagement with audiences and financial positions of Opera Australia, State Opera of South Australia, West Australian Opera and Opera Queensland. These organisations are funded by the Australian Government through the Australia Council as major performing arts companies.

Part A of the discussion paper provides an analysis of the major opera companies.

It shows that Australia's major opera companies make a significant contribution to Australia culturally and economically:

• They put on 576 performances in 2014, with Opera Australia being among the most performed opera companies in the world. Collectively, the companies staged 23 mainstage productions, around half of which were either new to the company or undertaken with an international or Australian partner.

• Close to 700,000 attendees were present at the companies' performances

• They generated $86.5 million in earned revenue, with 88 percent of that coming from box office. They employed the equivalent of over 600 full time singers, craftspeople, and technical, marketing and administrative staff.

Australian and state governments recognise the significance of the major opera companies in building Australia's recognition at home and abroad for its cultural heritage and its creativity as a nation. But, the viability of the companies is likely to be threatened without government funding. In 2014, total government funding for the companies, including core and one-off project funding, was $36.8 million.

Evolving sector dynamics present challenges to opera companies in Australia and overseas:

• On the demand side, the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) adversely affected all artforms both in Australia and elsewhere. For opera in Australia, that impact continued as consumers reacted to the high and increasing cost of an opera ticket.

• Better educated and travelled consumers, who use technology to access productions from the world's leading opera houses, have also increased their expectations for what they expect to see on stage.

• Audiences have changed their buying patterns: the number of subscribers has reduced; fewer performances are being taken in their packages; and they are buying tickets later.

• At the same time, a diversity of supply of opera and other performing arts productions (from venues, festivals and individual entrepreneurs presenting opera, musicals, leading opera singers and other innovative product) provides audiences with a richness of choice that has increased competition for the major opera companies.

These factors have challenged the major opera companies' cost-revenue dynamics, which are characterised by long lead times; high production, staging, performance, touring and in some instances overhead costs; and demanding venue economics.

The major opera companies have responded to these challenges in strategic and operational ways that are understandable. Faced with the evolving sector dynamics, the major opera companies have diversified their strategic approaches by:

• Changing what programs are delivered. While the responses differ by company, they have offered a higher proportion of popular operas and long-run Broadway musicals; while reducing the number of mainstage productions and performances. Some companies have increased their commitment to innovation.

• Changing where programs are delivered. Greater emphasis has been placed on offering events; touring to interstate capitals; and being involved with festivals and regional touring.

• Changing how programs are delivered. There has been an increase in the physical production values put on stage; the number of international partnerships; and the commitment to digital delivery. At the same time, because of divergent strategic responses, collaboration through Opera Conference has proven more difficult. Historically, Opera Conference has offered a mutually advantageous way of working together.

• Changing who is delivering their programs. In particular, there has been an increased use of non-Australian international singers.

At the same time, the major opera companies have moved responsibly to increase private sector income and to generate additional project funding. Government initiatives to encourage additional private sector support have been successful, with support from individual donors growing strongly despite the GFC. Generous support has been received from individuals and governments, which is often attached to new initiatives, such as the staging of The Ring or Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour (HOSH).

In addition, the major opera companies have worked to improve their operational effectiveness and efficiency by increasing their marketing spend to reach new and existing audiences, and by achieving operating cost efficiencies and economies of scale in overhead costs.

However the responses of the major opera companies, while understandable, have created unintended pressure on their financial, artistic and access performance in different ways.

To varying degrees, each of the major opera companies is experiencing financial pressures. Chapter 6 of the discussion paper provides a detailed analysis of the financial situation of each company.

The major opera companies are under significant artistic pressure which may put their artistic vibrancy at risk. More specifically, this is manifesting itself in the reduced number of productions; fewer new productions being sourced in Australia; a narrowing of the repertoire; and fewer new works. In addition, there are reduced artistic opportunities, reflecting a decreased number of principal roles due to fewer productions and opera performances; greater use of non-Australian international singers; fewer ongoing principal roles in Australia's only full-time ensemble; fewer opportunities in the chorus and Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra; a reduced requirement for experienced technical staff; and fewer opportunities for younger artists.

From an access perspective, while overall attendances for the major opera companies have significantly increased, mainstage opera attendances have declined. Growing overall audiences reflect the increased offering and attendances at musicals, and HOSH.

As a consequence of these developments, the companies are at a tipping point where a cycle of success could become a cycle of decline. The challenge will be to ascertain what initiatives can be taken to address this situation.

Part B of the discussion paper outlines the nature of these challenges, the options for dealing with them, and the pros and cons of a range of different options. It should be noted that these are not recommendations, they are issues for discussion. Seven key areas are addressed.

1. Where the companies should head

2. How the major opera companies should operate.

3. Improving artistic vibrancy

4. Improving access

5. Addressing financial stability

6. Proving strong governance and management

7. Providing Government funding

The review panel looks forward to receiving submissions and consulting with stakeholders on these important issues and the options proposed.

To read the National Opera Review discussion paper and for information on making a submission, visit the Ministry for the Arts website at close 26 October 2015.

 Mammoth Excavation Near Chelsea, Michigan

Published on 2 Oct 2015: University of Michigan

An ancient mammoth unearthed in a farmer's field southwest of Ann Arbor this week may provide clues about the lives of early humans in the region. Learn more:

 Fluorescence is a state of mind: Stefan Hell

Published on 7 Oct 2015: Nature Video

How to break a fundamental law of physics and win a Nobel Prize to boot. Stefan Hell explains super-resolved fluorescence microscopy for which he shared the 2014 Nobel Prize in chemistry.

 Gut bacteria population, diversity linked to anorexia nervosa

October 5, 2015 

Researchers at the UNC School of Medicine found that people with anorexia nervosa have very different microbial communities residing inside their guts compared to healthy individuals and that this bacterial imbalance is associated with some of the psychological symptoms related to the eating disorder.

The findings, published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, provide more evidence that the abundance and diversity of the gut microbiota -- the trillions of bacteria that affect digestive health and immunity -- could also affect the so-called "gut-brain axis." This research suggests that gut bacteria could play a prominent role in the debilitating symptoms of anorexia nervosa, a serious eating disorder that affects more than 3 million Americans and has the highest mortality rate of any psychological disorder.

"Other studies have linked gut bacteria to weight regulation and behavior," said Ian Carroll, PhD, senior author of the paper and assistant professor of medicine in the UNC Center for Gastrointestinal Biology and Disease. "Since people with anorexia nervosa exhibit extreme weight dysregulation, we decided to study this relationship further."

Carroll added, "We're not able to say a gut bacterial imbalance causes the symptoms of anorexia nervosa, including associated symptoms, such as anxiety and depression. But the severe limitation of nutritional intake at the center of anorexia nervosa could change the composition of the gut microbial community. These changes could contribute to the anxiety, depression, and further weight loss of people with the disorder. It's a vicious cycle, and we want to see if we can help patients avoid or reverse that phenomenon. We want to know if altering their gut microbiota could help them with weight maintenance and mood stabilization over time."

For this study, Carroll's team collected fecal samples from 16 women with anorexia nervosa after they were first admitted into the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders and then again after their weight was restored -- when they were discharged from UNC. Then Susan Kleiman, a graduate student in Carroll's lab and first author of the paper, characterized the composition and diversity of the gut microbiota in each sample.

Kleiman found significant changes in the gut bacteria populations between admission and discharge. The samples taken at clinic admission had fewer different types of bacteria, making the intestinal communities much less diverse. Microbial diversity is a sign of better overall health. Upon hospital discharge, the microbial diversity had increased, but was still significantly less diverse than that of 12 healthy individuals, whose gut microbiotas were analyzed for this study.

As the microbial communities in patients with anorexia improved during clinical care and weight gain, the moods of patients also improved. Thus, the researchers noted an association between the gut microbiota and a central symptom of people with anorexia nervosa.

The question remains whether improving microbial abundance and diversity could help relieve symptoms related to the eating disorder. To find out, Carroll formed a team of researchers including Cynthia Bulik, PhD, director of the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders; John Cryan, PhD, professor at University College Cork; Lisa Tarantino, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at UNC-Chapel Hill; Anthony Fodor, PhD, a bioinformatics expert at UNC-Charlotte, and Hunna Watson, PhD, a psychologist and biostatistician at UNC-Chapel Hill.

This month, they received a five-year, $2.5-million grant from the National Institutes of Mental Health to further study the relationship between the gut microbiota and anorexia nervosa.

"Over the past 10 years, prominent researchers have learned that when you take gut microbial communities of an obese person and put it in germ-free mice -- which are maintained in sterile conditions and lack intestinal microbiota -- the mice gain more weight than germ-free mice that have been colonized with a gut microbiota from a lean individual," Carroll said. "This suggests that gut microbes mediate weight gain or loss."

Other animal studies showed that adding gut bacteria to previously germ-free mice altered their behavior, especially in relation to anxiety and stress.

"We're not saying that altering gut bacteria will be the magic bullet for people with anorexia nervosa," Carroll said. "Other important factors are at play, obviously. But the gut microbiota is clearly important for a variety of health and brain-related issues in humans. And it could be important for people with anorexia nervosa."

As part of the new NIH grant, his team will characterize the microbiotas of a large number of people with anorexia nervosa as they enter UNC's clinic and when they are discharged, which typically happens when they reach about 85 percent of their ideal body weight. Then his team will put those gut bacteria in germ-free mice. This will help Carroll learn how the microbiota from anorexia nervosa patients affects the biology and behavior of the mice.

If Carroll's team learns that the bacteria has a detrimental effect on the mice, then this might suggest that cultivating a healthy microbiota could serve as a therapeutic route to help people with anorexia nervosa.

"Currently available treatments for anorexia nervosa are suboptimal," Bulik said. "In addition, the process of weight gain and renourishment can be extremely uncomfortable for patients. Often, patients are discharged from the hospital, and within months and sometimes weeks they find themselves losing weight again and facing readmission. If specific alterations in their microbiota could make renourishment less uncomfortable, help patients regulate their weight, and positively affect behavior, then we might see fewer readmissions and more cures."

Susan C. Kleiman, Hunna J. Watson, Emily C. Bulik-Sullivan, Eun Young Huh, Lisa M. Tarantino, Cynthia M. Bulik, Ian M. Carroll. The Intestinal Microbiota in Acute Anorexia Nervosa and During Renourishment. Psychosomatic Medicine, 2015; 1 DOI:10.1097/PSY.0000000000000247

 Magpie-lark pair on their mud nest

Published on 3 Oct 2015: BIBY TV

This video shows a female (white face) and male (black face) attending to their mud nest in a Casuarina tree above the Hawthorne Canal in Sydney's inner west. The calls of Willie Wagtails and Australasian Figbirds can be heard in the background.

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.