Inbox and Environment News: Issue 253 

 February 28 - March 5, 2016: Issue 253

Stand Up For Nature protest in Manly on World Wildlife Day 2016

By: Stand Up For Nature Alliance


The NSW Government is rewriting our biodiversity and tree-clearing laws and the news isn't good for our bushland, wildlife and farmlands across NSW.

The Government's new tree-clearing laws, which will apply to both urban and country areas of NSW, are not about biodiversity conservation, they are simply about facilitating development at the cost of our environment and wellbeing.

On World Wildlife Day, please join us to #standup4nature and tell the NSW Premier that we will not accept the trashing of our wildlife, farmlands, climate and communities.

Thank you and see you there!

WHEN: Thursday, 3 March 2016 from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM (GMT+01:00) - Add to Calendar

WHERE: In front of The Hon. Mike Baird's Office - Shop 2. 2 Wentworth St. Manly

Stand Up For Nature Alliance:

World Wildlife Day 2016: The Future of Wildlife is in our Hands

by the United Nations

On 20 December 2013, at its 68th session, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) decided to proclaim 3 March, the day of signature of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), as UN World Wildlife Day to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants. The UNGA resolution also designated the CITES Secretariat as the facilitator for the global observance of this special day for wildlife on the UN calendar.

World Wildlife Day will be celebrated in 2016 under the theme “The future of wildlife is in our hands.” African and Asian elephants will be a main focus of the Day under the theme “The future of elephants is in our hands”. Countries around the world are encouraged to highlight species of wild animals and plants from their own countries, adapting the global theme to suit.

The world’s wildlife,  whether charismatic or lesser known,  is facing many challenges . The biggest threats to wildlife are habitat loss  as well as overgrazing, farming  and development . Poaching and trafficking in wildlife driven by transnational organized crime groups pose the most immediate threat to many iconic species.  Elephants, pangolins, rhinoceros , sharks, tigers and precious tree species are among the most critically poached and trafficked species across the world.

About 100,000 elephants were estimated to be slaughtered for their ivory between 2010-2012. While we are seeing positive progress to tackle illicit wildlife trafficking, more needs to be done by all of us. On this World Wildlife Day, we hope to see even more commitments coming from countries and citizens around the world.

Governments, law makers, enforcement officers, customs officials and park rangers across every region are scaling up their efforts to protect wildlife. It is also up to every citizen to protect wildlife and its habitat. We all have a role to play. Our collective conservation actions can be the difference between a species surviving or disappearing.

The future of wildlife is in our hands.

The future of elephants is in our hands.

How can you help protect wildlife every day?

Wildlife needs our protection every day. As some say, every day should be wildlife day. 

The challenges that wildlife is facing is large and complex—it's normal for individuals to feel powerless.  However, our individual conservation actions all add up and they can be the difference between a species surviving or disappearing forever. Ideas for actions can be countless, but here are 10.

Set a goal. You can set a basic goal in your day-to-day life for having  the smallest negative impact or “footprint” on wildlife and their habitat.

Mobilize. Encourage your school, club and friends to have talks and debates on the values of wildlife conservation, and what you can do to help.

Consume responsibly. By not purchasing products made from illegally-sourced protected wildlife or their parts and products, you can stop wildlife trafficking from being a profitable enterprise. Buying illegal wildlife products will not only be harming a species, you may get slapped with a fine or even risk jail terms.  Find more information from your national or local wildlife authorities or the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). If in doubt, check it out.

Speak up. Give your voice to the voiceless. Share your passion for wildlife conservation with your family and friends.  Ask everyone you know to pledge to do what they can and to say ‘no’ to illegal wildlife and their products in order to help stop wildlife trafficking. Make sure everyone understands that wildlife conservation includes protecting natural areas in perpetuity, and therefore development that does occur should be well planned and should not be at the cost of the loss, fragmentation and degrading of wildlife habitat. Development should be as people and wildlife-friendly as possible.

Visit.  Aquariums, botanic gardens, national parks,  nature reserves,  wildlife refuges and zoos are all home to wild animals.  See Earth’s most amazing creatures up close.  As you book your summer vacation, plan to visit a national park in your country or abroad. If traveling internationally, look into how hard the country you will visit is working to protect its wildlife and wild places. Vacations with a heart!

Open your mind. When most people hear the term endangered species, they think of elephants, rhinos,  tigers and other charismatic species. It’s easy to sympathize with these animals, but it can feel like the crimes facing these species are a world away from your own life.  If these animals don’t live in your area, you might think there is nothing you can do to help. But most likely you can get advice from your government or a conservation organization near you.

Volunteer. If you don’t have money to give, donate your time. Many organizations and zoos have volunteer programs. You can help clean beaches, rescue wild animals or teach tourists about your local habitat.

Join. Whether you’re more interested in protecting natural habitats or preventing wildlife trafficking, find the organization that speaks to your passion and join their efforts. If such an organization doesn’t exist in your community, create one!

Stay Informed:  Learn more about our planet’s species from experts. Do learn about ways to conserve the wildlife. Visit the websites of conservation organizations and their social media tools for the latest. Subscribe to a wildlife magazine and watch nature programmes on TV. Stay informed on the issues, know your impact in the ecosystem and take your part in protecting wildlife. Be informed and support local conservation. Think globally, act locally.

Be a whistleblower.  Whistleblowers play a critical role in detecting wildlife crimes and holding criminal smugglers accountable. They are the key to fighting fraud and corruption as well which are among the root causes of wildlife crime. If you have the information on illegal logging, fishing and wildlife trafficking, report to the relevant government authorities. Find the hotline or ask to create one if it doesn’t exist!

McCarrs Creek, Mona Vale and Bayview Flood Study

The draft McCarrs Creek, Mona Vale and Bayview Flood Study (2015) will be on exhibition for public comment from Monday 29 February until Friday 1 April. 

The draft study can be viewed online or at customer service centres and libraries at Avalon and Mona Vale and at the Coastal Environment Centre, North Narrabeen. For more information visit

Draft McCarrs Creek, Mona Vale and Bayview Flood Study Report and Map

Full Report - McCarrs Creek, Mona Vale and Bayview Flood Study - Download (40mb pdf)

Report and Appendices as individual downloads

Main document excluding appendices   Download  (8.5mb pdf)

Appendix A Note: All maps have windows A, B and C 

Peak Flood Depths - Figures A1 to A8 Download (10mb pdf)

Peak Flood Velocity, Provisional Flood Hazard, Hydraulic Categorisation - Figures A9 to A15 Download (9.5mb pdf)

Climate Change Mapping - Figures A16 to A23  Download (8.8mb pdf)

Development Control Mapping - Figures A24 to A25    Download (2.8mb  pdf)

Appendix B

Community Consultation Information Download (239kb pdf)

Appendix C 

Design Hydrographs Download (337kb pdf)

Community information sessions

You may book a 15 minute appointment with a flooding specialist to discuss what the draft study means for your property. You may choose in person or over the phone during these times: 

In Person                                          

Tuesday 8 March       1 - 3pm

Tuesday 8 March       4 - 8pm

Tuesday 16 March     1 - 3pm

Tuesday 16 March     4 - 8pm

Thursday 17 March    1 - 3pm

Thursday 17 March    4 - 8pm

Over the Phone

Wednesday 9 March 2pm - 4pm

Wednesday 9 March 10am - 12 noon

Wednesday 16 March 10am - 12 noon

Wednesday 16 March 2pm - 4pm

Note - The in person appointments are held in the Mona Vale Conference Room. It is located above Mona Vale Library, 1 Park Street, Mona Vale and is accessed via Council’s Customer Service office.

Book an appointment

You will need to provide your name, email address and a contact phone number. You will also need to supply the property address that has been identified as subject to flooding risk under the draft study.

Visit: www.mccarrs_creek,_mona_vale_and_bay_view_flood_stud

Shenhua court judgment: Liverpool Plains koalas left vulnerable

February 19, 2016

Liverpool Plains farmers from a local landcare group, who took legal action in the NSW Land and Environment Court arguing that the Shenhua mine approval failed to properly consider whether the open cut coal mine would place koalas at risk of extinction, say they hold grave fears for the threatened local population in light of today’s judgment which upholds the validity of the approval.

Heather Ranclaud, a local beef and egg farmer and spokesperson for the Upper Mooki Landcare Group says, “Despite this court judgment, a big question mark remains over China Shenhua’s plans to protect koalas in what is known as the ‘Koala Capital of the World’.

“There is considerable uncertainty swirling around Shenhua’s mine proposal right now and the fight against the mine continues. Upper Mooki Landcare will consider our options for appealing this decision.

“In the meantime we will keep working to publicly expose the risks to koalas and their unique habitat from Shenhua’s mine because the company’s protection plans in no way guarantee the animals’ continued existence.

“We know Gunnedah’s koala population has already been decimated by heatwaves and drought, with an estimated 70 per cent fewer than in 2009. 

“This open cut coal mine will clear 847 hectares of koala habitat, which no plan for offsetting or translocation can make good.

“It is not enough for the Baird government and mining giant Shenhua to cross their fingers and hope that koalas survive ‘translocation’, which experts judge carries a high risk of failure.

“Unleashing this mine on the remaining koalas ratchets up a notch what is already a desperate situation for the estimated 262 koalas that now live where Shenhua wants to put its mine.

“Premier Mike Baird and Shenhua should feel uncomfortable that history may judge them poorly for backing a mine, at the tail end of the coal era, which sees extinction of a precious population of koalas.

“A national Koala Protection Act is well overdue, and we will continue to campaign for this legislation.”

John Hamparsum, a second generation crops farmer from the Liverpool Plains, whose property borders the mine, said, “So much is being sacrificed for this foreign owned mine. You cannot put a price on this region’s rich farmland, precious water supplies and strong community. Wiping our iconic koalas off the map is really the last straw.

“It is heartbreaking to think that the koalas that I see regularly in the bush around my farm may well disappear.”

Kate Smolski, CEO of the NSW Nature Conservation Council said, “Today’s decision demonstrates again how the planning system in NSW is failing to protect our threatened species, even a species as iconic as our koalas.

“Once again, committed community members have been forced to take legal action to protect our vulnerable wildlife because state and federal governments are failing to do so.

“Until there is major reform to the way coal mining projects are assessed and regulated, community groups will be forced to do what they can to protect our natural heritage.”

Stakeholders Response to the publication of the RMS's Ballina Koala Plan

February 17, 2016

On Tuesday the NSW Road and Maritime Service’s (RMS) long awaited Ballina Koala Plan for Section 10 of the Pacific Highway upgrade appeared online, indicating that it had been submitted to Minister Hunt’s office for approval.

All stakeholders, including Save Ballina’s Koalas campaigners, Friends of the Koala, IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare), the local and indigenous community need adequate time to digest the 309-page document, including the critical population profile report which was completed months ago but not previously released to key stakeholders to review.

RMS has given a commitment to the community that the koala population will not be adversely impacted by construction of section 10. However, analysis of mortality data from Friends of Koala dating back 26 years proves that the population is already in dramatic decline, thanks to vehicle strike and domestic dog attacks. This fact is supported by the population study which also confirmed high rates of road kill.

What the government should be doing is putting in strong measures to either maintain or improve this significant population of koala which is the standard measurement for other conservation issues.’

Yet, the RMS seems to be intent on going ahead without any changes to its proposed route. This is despite previous data indicating that the current Section 10, Pacific Highway upgrade would exacerbate and increase the rate of decline towards a potential localised extinction of the Ballina 200 [the estimated remaining population of the colony].’

Lorraine Vass, President of the  Friends of the Koala said, "The plan’s sole purpose was to enable RMS to realise its decade-long investment in a route that’s in the wrong place. You only have to look at the scale of destruction, fragmentation and loss that’s already occurred at Halfway Creek and in other upgraded sections to know that Ballina’s koalas are doomed. You can’t mitigate against extinction – it’s forever."

Josey Sharrad, IFAW native wildlife campaigner says, "The Section 10 Pacific Highway Upgrade and the fate of the Ballina 200 has garnered world-wide attention and there are lots of people watching the process closely.

"Over the next few weeks all the stakeholders will be working together to closely review the plan with a view to passing on our input to the minister. "

Save Ballina’s Koalas spokesperson Jeff Johnson stated it was, "madness that the RMS ‘won’t even consider an alternative route that protects our critical koala populations and irreplaceable Aboriginal sites."

Wildlife Carers and Organisations in Pittwater:

Sydney Wildlife rescues, rehabilitates and releases sick, injured and orphaned native wildlife. From penguins, to possums and parrots, native wildlife of all descriptions passes through the caring hands of Sydney Wildlife rescuers and carers on a daily basis. We provide a genuine 24 hour, 7 day per week emergency advice, rescue and care service.

As well as caring for sick, injured and orphaned native wildlife, Sydney Wildlife is also involved in educating the community about native wildlife and its habitat. We provide educational talks to a wide range of groups and audiences including kindergartens, scouts, guides, a wide range of special interest groups and retirement villages. Talks are tailored to meet the needs and requirements of each group.

Sydney Wildlife's Wallaby and Kangaroo Rehabilitation Facility at Waratah Park

Found an injured native animal? We're here to help.

Keep the animal contained, warm, quiet and undisturbed. Do not offer any food or water.

Call Sydney Wildlife immediately on 9413 4300, or take the animal to your nearest vet. Generally there is no charge. 

Find out more at:

Southern Cross Wildlife Care was launched over 6 years ago. It is the brainchild of Dr Howard Ralph, the founder and chief veterinarian. SCWC was established solely for the purpose of treating injured, sick and orphaned wildlife. No wild creature in need that passes through our doors is ever rejected. 

People can assist SCWC by volunteering their skills ie: veterinary; medical; experienced wildlife carers; fundraising; "IT" skills; media; admin; website etc. We are always having to address the issue of finances as we are a non commercial veterinary service for wildlife in need, who obviously don't have cheque books in their pouches. It is a constant concern and struggle of ours when we are pre-occupied with the care and treatment of the escalating amount of wildlife that we have to deal with. Just becoming a member of SCWC for $45 a year would be a great help. Regular monthly donations however small, would be a wonderful gift and we could plan ahead knowing that we had x amount of funds that we could count on. Our small team of volunteers are all unpaid even our amazing vet Howard, so all funds raised go directly towards our precious wildlife. SCWC is TAX DEDUCTIBLE.

Find out more at:

Report illegal dumping

22nd February 2016: NSW Government

The RIDonline website lets you report the types of waste being dumped and its GPS location. Photos of the waste can also be added to the report.

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA), councils and Regional Illegal Dumping (RID) squads will use this information to investigate and, if appropriate, issue a fine or clean-up notice.

Penalties for illegal dumping can be up to $15,000 and potential jail time for anybody caught illegally dumping within five years of a prior illegal dumping conviction.

This is the first time RIDonline has been opened to the public. Since September last year, the EPA, councils, RID squads and public land managers have used it to report more than 20,000 tonnes of illegally dumped waste across more than 70 local government areas.

The NSW Government has allocated $58 million over five years to tackle illegal dumping as part of its $465.7 million Waste Less Recycle More initiative. NSW Premier Mike Baird has also committed to reducing the volume of litter by 40%, by 2020 to help keep NSW's environment clean.

Ballina Koala Plan now available for Pacific Highway Upgrade

16 February 2016

Pacific Highway General Manager Bob Higgins today announced the Ballina Koala Plan and Population Viability Analysis (PVA) prepared for the Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway upgrade has been endorsed by the Koala Expert Advisory Committee and is now available.

Mr Higgins said the plan and PVA had been submitted to the Federal Minister for the Environment and the Federal Department of the Environment for consideration and approval after months of careful research.

“As part of the conditions of approval, Roads and Maritime Services is required to complete the Ballina Koala Plan and PVA before major work can start on the section between Broadwater and Coolgardie,” he said. 

“Months of work, including a thorough review by independent experts has led to the preparation and submission of the documents.

“The PVA found extra mitigation measures on existing roads near the project would offset any impact of the upgrade on the local koala population and further proposed mitigation could improve the situation for koalas based on current predictions.

“The study found the Ballina koala population will decline with or without the upgraded highway due to disease, predators and koala deaths on roads other than the highway.

“The upgrade would be fully fenced to prevent animals from entering the road corridor and koala grids would be installed on interchange ramps to stop animal strikes from occurring.

“Additional fencing will also be provided on key sections of Wardell Road near the new highway and the existing Pacific Highway north of Wardell and Coolgardie where the risk of koala strikes is higher.

“About 26 wildlife crossings would also be installed as part of the upgrade, substantially increasing safe crossing points and about 130 hectares of koala feed trees will be planted to provide additional habitat.

“The koala feed trees will be planted early so there can be good growth before the highway opens in 2020.”

Meetings will be held with community groups to discuss the outcomes of the PVA and Ballina Koala Plan.

See the Woolgoolga to Ballina Koala page for more information.

Ballina Koala Plan January 2016 (309 pages; 13.2MB PDF)   

Title of report ' Ballina Koala Plan Koala Population Viability Analysis of the proposed Pacific Highway Upgrade near Wardell, NSW' Prepared for NSW Roads and Maritime Services January 2016 – by Niche Environment and Heritage

Draft Joint Management Agreement for the Shark Meshing (Bather Protection) Program - Have Your Say

What's this about?

The Department of Primary Industries and the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) have reviewed the 2009 Joint Management for the Shark Meshing (Bather Protection) program and drafted a new agreement, which is now on public exhibition.

In accordance with the Joint Management Agreements, those agreements from 2009 have been reviewed after five years, which recommended numerous amendments to the agreements, including consolidating the two agreements into one draft agreement  and updating the Management Plan.

Before entering into a Joint Management Agreement, the Minister for Primary Industries and the Chief Executive of the Office of Environment and Heritage must give the public an opportunity to make submissions on the draft agreement. All written submissions received before the closing date must be considered prior to finalising the Joint Management Agreement. The draft agreement may be amended to take into account any submissions received.

For more information visit the NSW Department of Primary IndustriesShark Meshing Page

Have your say

Submit your feedback by 5pm Thursday 31 March 2016 via email or post to:

JMA Review Submissions, NSW DPI, Locked Bag 1, Nelson Bay NSW 2315

Antarctica could be headed for major meltdown

February 23, 2016

Antarctica's glaciers are the size of the United States and Mexico combined, and they contain enough water to raise the world's sea level by 180 feet. (Stock image) Credit: © pranodhm / Fotolia

In the early Miocene Epoch, temperatures were 10 degrees warmer and ocean levels were 50 feet higher -- well above the ground level of modern-day New York, Tokyo and Berlin.

It was more than 16 million years ago, so times were different. But there was one important similarity with the world we live in today: The air contained about the same amount of carbon dioxide. That parallel raises serious concerns about the stability of ice sheets in Antarctica, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

All told, Antarctica's glaciers are the size of the United States and Mexico combined, and they contain enough water to raise the world's sea level by 180 feet. And although no humans live permanently in Antarctica, what happens there impacts everyone, said Aradhna Tripati, a geochemist at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability who collaborated on the research.

"The ice sheets serve as huge stores of water," Tripati said. "As the ice melts, it gets dumped in the ocean and the sea level rises."

The study is the latest revelation of ANDRILL, a $20 million research project focused on the South Pole. The effort, now 12 years old, has involved 100 researchers from seven countries. ANDRILL researchers were the first to bore holes through Antarctic ice shelves and sea ice to sample the ocean floor below.

Previous research showed that ice shelves -- the parts of the ice sheets that extend over water -- are vulnerable to even small increases in greenhouse gases. But the new study, which was written by Richard Levy of GNS Science, a New Zealand research organization, was the first to demonstrate that the huge, land-based glaciers are also vulnerable.

David Harwood, a University of Nebraska paleontologist who led the study, said the project's goal was to see what prehistoric environments could tell us about the modern era of climate change.

"We're drilling back into the past to understand the future and how dynamic our planet can be," he said.

To do that, researchers set 90 tons worth of drilling equipment on a floating sea ice in McMurdo Sound, where conditions can be particularly harsh: The average August temperature is minus 23 degrees Fahrenheit, and savage windstorms can occur at a moment's notice. Using a diamond-tipped tubular drill, researchers bored through 24 feet of ice, 1,200 feet of water and 3,300 feet of ocean floor. The rock samples they collected preserve a chronological record of environmental conditions dating back 20 million years.

The samples were sent to Tripati for analysis. As she looked at the sedimentary layers, a story began to emerge. Samples that were formed during warmer times, when the ice shelf was gone or unstable, were tan-colored and rich with fossils. But samples drawn from years when the sea was covered with ice, were mostly rock with fossils from only a few deep sea organisms.

Looking even closer, Tripati examined individual molecules from the samples to determine air and water temperatures at different times in history. Warmer times correlated with higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, melting ice shelves and the loss of parts of the East Antarctic ice sheet.

According to Tripati, scientists are seeing early signs of the same conditions today.

"If carbon dioxide is sustained at current levels, we run the risk of Antarctic ice shelf disappearance," she said.

The ice shelves are critical because they act like a cork in a Champagne bottle, holding back the huge, land-based flows of glacial ice on the Antarctic continent, Tripati said. But they are particularly sensitive to temperature changes. Just a few degrees of increased warmth can make them disappear because they are warmed by both the air and the sea.

And disappearing ice shelves lead to even more warming because of something called the albedo effect: Light-colored ice reflects the sun's radiation away from Earth. After it melts, the darker-colored seas absorb more radiation and more heat.

That process could take hundreds of years, but signs of rapid change are already here. In 2002, the Larsen B ice shelf -- which was made up of more than 1,250 square miles of 720-foot-thick ice -- disintegrated into the ocean over the course of a month, shocking scientists and observers. Over the past several decades, seven out of 12 ice shelves on the Antarctic Peninsula have collapsed.

"They've just been going like dominoes," Tripati said.

Still, researchers say the PNAS findings offer a glimmer of hope. Policymakers rely on computer models to predict future climate change, and the models now can be refined based on the new information about changes that occurred millions of years ago, Tripati said.

The big question that remains is how fast melting will occur. Harwood said the ANDRILL findings emphasize the fragility of ice shelves and the urgency of taking action on a global scale.

"The models simulate thresholds, points of no return," he said. "It's good for policymakers to know how fast we have to get off this train or turn it in a new direction."

Richard Levy, David Harwood, Fabio Florindo, Francesca Sangiorgi, Robert Tripati, Hilmar von Eynatten, Edward Gasson, Gerhard Kuhn, Aradhna Tripati, Robert DeConto, Christopher Fielding, Brad Field, Nicholas Golledge, Robert McKay, Timothy Naish, Matthew Olney, David Pollard, Stefan Schouten, Franco Talarico, Sophie Warny, Veronica Willmott, Gary Acton, Kurt Panter, Timothy Paulsen, Marco Taviani. Antarctic ice sheet sensitivity to atmospheric CO2variations in the early to mid-Miocene. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2016; 201516030 DOI:10.1073/pnas.1516030113

Reforms to Better Manage Our Coast

Planning Minister Rob Stokes today (13.11.2015) released draft reforms for consultation to make coastal management in NSW simpler, forward-thinking and easier to implement. 

“The NSW Government recognises the importance of our state’s saltwater economy and we want to see thriving, resilient communities living, working and playing on a healthy coast now and into the future,” Mr Stokes said. 

“We want to replace and improve on the outdated and complex web of laws managing our coast. The current Act is complex, difficult to navigate, and its one-size-fits all approach is no longer fit for purpose. 

“Since the original Coastal Protection Act was enacted in 1979 our understanding of coastal processes has improved dramatically. We know our coastline is not a fixed object, but a dynamic, ever-changing environment with a range of natural processes.” 

The reforms include:  

• A draft Bill for a new Coastal Management Act.

• Key elements of a new Coastal Management Manual.

• Proposals for a new Coastal Management State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP). 

The draft Bill redefines the coast as four distinct areas of coastal wetlands and littoral rainforests; coastal vulnerability areas; coastal environment areas and coastal use areas to identify each area’s unique management requirements. 

The manual will provide guidance to local councils and clear, step-by-step instructions to support them to manage their coast using the new Coastal Management Act. 

The new SEPP will help manage the legacy of existing coastal hazards and help plan to ensure new hazards are avoided. 

A three-month consultation period will run to ensure everyone has a chance to have their say. Go to 


Our future on the coast: NSW coastal management reforms

The public consultation package includes a draft Coastal Management Bill, an Explanation of Intended Effect for the proposed new Coastal Management State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP), and key elements of a draft coastal management manual.

Additional elements of the proposed new framework will be released later for public comment, including further components of the manual, maps of the coastal zone that will form part of the SEPP and proposals concerning the effects of coastal erosion on coastal boundaries.

Have your say

The public is invited to read the documents for consultation and provide feedback about the new approach.

Submit feedback by 29 February 2016 via consultation form or post to:

Office of Environment and Heritage, PO Box A290 , Sydney South. NSW 1232


Would you like to know more about our local birds and explore our bushland reserves? Then join us on one of our bird walks:

17 April, Deep Creek Reserve, near Narrabeen Lagoon

21 August, Chiltern Track, Ingleside (birds and wildflowers)

25 September, Irrawong Reserve, North Narrabeen

27 November, Warriewood Wetlands

Most walks start at 7.30 or 8am and last a couple of hours. Bring binoculars and morning tea for afterwards if you like. for details of each walk.

 Call to environmental groups for grant applications

The NSW Environmental Trust is calling on peak environmental groups to apply for a grant to support them in working with communities to conserve the environment as the Lead Environmental Community Groups (LECG) Grants Program opens for applications.

The Secretary of the Environmental Trust Terry Bailey said a total of $1.8 million in funding is available under the 2016 LECG Grants Program.

“This program is offering grants to support new or existing education or capacity building activities that develop the community’s knowledge and participation in protecting the environment and undertaking sustainable behaviour,” Mr Bailey said.

“The grants will deliver long-term funding to eligible groups over a three year period - 2016, 2017 and 2018 - reducing the need for applicants to apply each year.

“This Government investment aims to utilise the community reach of peak environmental organisations to develop and widen community environmental skills and knowledge and help them deliver activities that work to improve our environment.

“In the 2015 round of LECG funding, 15 projects were awarded a total of $600,000. This included grants to such organisations as Landcare NSW, Keep NSW Beautiful and WIRES to deliver a broad range of community education and engagement activities across NSW.”

The program offers grants under two funding streams for organisations of different sizes:

• Stream 1 for larger non-government organisations seeking funding between $20,000 and $80,000 each year (maximum of $240,000 in total over the 3 year funding period)

• Stream 2 for smaller groups seeking less than $20,000 each year (max $60,000 in total over 3 years).

Organisations that are eligible to apply must be a non-government, not-for-profit organisation, with a full-time presence in NSW, and have the protection and enhancement of the environment as one of their primary objectives. These organisations are usually either the peak community representative of a specific field of environmental activity across NSW or an umbrella organisation providing the full spectrum of activities expected of a peak environment organisation within NSW.

Further information and applications forms are available at Lead Environmental Community Groups Program: Call for applications. Visit: 

Applications close on Friday 11 March 2016.

El Niño prolongs longest global coral bleaching event

February 23, 2016

The top images show the maximum thermal stress levels measured by NOAA satellites in 2014 and 2015 along with locations where the worst coral bleaching was reported. The bottom image shows the Four Month Bleaching Outlook for February-May 2016 based on the NOAA Climate Forecast System model along with locations. Credit: NOAA

Global warming and the intense El Niño now underway are prolonging the longest global coral die-off on record, according to NOAA scientists monitoring and forecasting the loss of corals from disease and heat stress due to record ocean temperatures. The global coral bleaching event that started in 2014 could extend well into 2017, researchers report at the Oceans Sciences Meeting here this week.

Coral bleaching happens when corals are stressed by conditions such as high temperatures. The bleaching, or whitening, occurs when the corals expel the symbiotic algae that live in their tissues. Without the algae, corals lose a significant source of food and are more vulnerable to disease. In a severe bleaching event, large swaths of reef-building corals die. This causes reefs to erode, destroying fish habitat and exposing previously protected shorelines to the destructive force of ocean waves.

Warmer ocean temperatures caused by El Niños and global warming can lead to coral bleaching. The first mass bleaching occurred during the 1982-83 El Niño. A global bleaching event was then confirmed in 1998 during a strong El Niño that was followed by a very strong La Niña, which brings warmer waters to places like Palau and Micronesia. A second global bleaching event occurred in 2010, during a less powerful El Niño.

Scientists first observed the current global coral bleaching event beginning in mid-2014 when bleaching began in the western Pacific Ocean. In October 2015, as the current El Niño was still strengthening, NOAA scientists declared the third global bleaching event on record was underway.

New research finds that this bleaching event has persisted for 20 months and could reach into 2017, said Mark Eakin, a biological oceanographer at NOAA in College Park, Maryland, and coordinator of NOAA's Coral Reef Watch.

"This time we're in the longest coral bleaching event," Eakin said. "We're maybe looking at a 2- to 2-1/2-year-long event. Some areas have already seen bleaching two years in a row."

Eakin and his colleagues will be presenting the latest update and outlook for the global bleaching event Friday at the 2016 Ocean Sciences Meeting co-sponsored by the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, The Oceanography Society and the American Geophysical Union.

The length of the event means corals in some parts of the world have no time to recover before they are hit by another bleaching event, Eakin said. The current global bleaching event is hammering some reefs repeatedly. Reefs bleached in 2015 in the Caribbean and Florida Keys, for instance, have just started to recover, but may start bleaching all over again as early as July, according to Eakin. In the Pacific, reports are just coming in that corals in Fiji's nearshore waters are bleaching with lots of dead coral.

"This is now two years in a row for Fiji and it's looking like 2016 may be worse than 2015," Eakin said.

The rate of return of bleaching events has been faster than some reefs can recover, he noted. In 1998 in Southeast Asia, for example, there was a severe bleaching event, followed by twelve years of recovery that allowed some of the more rapid-growing, branching corals to grow back. However, the slower-growing corals that build the backbone of reefs did not recover. In 2010, the same area was hit again by a global bleaching event, killing off newly-grown branching corals and many of the surviving massive corals. These reefs may see bleaching again later this year, Eakin said.

"That was only six years ago," he said. "We're seeing global bleaching again now. The frequency of mass bleaching events are going up because of global warming. We are hitting the corals, then we are hitting them again, and then again."

The above is reprinted from materials provided by American Geophysical Union.

Travel advice protects plants and people

People travelling back home from interstate, visitors to NSW and businesses bringing fresh fruit, vegetables and plants into the state now have access to the latest online advice detailing what and how they can legally transport plant material.

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has developed a comprehensive manual so travellers and businesses can easily check where and what produce they can transport.

DPI industry liaison officer, Bev Zurbo, said plant quarantine is protecting people, industry and the environment.

That lovely ficus from Queensland could harbour red imported fire ants in the soil – these pests are a threat to human health and adversely affect the environment,” Ms Zurbo said.

Your potted plant may carry diseases which could impact on our valuable fruit, vegetable and wine industries.

Seemingly innocuous leftover fruit from a camping holiday in Western Australia could be wriggling with Mediterranean fruit fly larvae – it is better to be safe than sorry and check the manual first.

Our commitment to maintaining biosecurity relies not just on government legislation, regulatory officers and inspectors – it’s up to everyone to help support our quarantine strategies.

Ms Zurbo said interstate businesses importing fresh fruit, vegetables and plants into NSW also need to meet requirements such as treating and certifying fruit, vegetables and plant material before it is permitted to be brought into NSW.

Movement of some plant material is not permitted within NSW to protect production areas of important crops including rice, potatoes and bananas.

It’s all about managing risk to ensure our valuable food production areas are kept free from unwanted pests and diseases that could devastate industry and our economy.

The manual is a ready reference for regulatory staff who frequently provide market access information and advise people travelling or moving from interstate.

The NSW Plant Quarantine Manual is now available as a quick reference to help everyone better understand what produce can be brought into or moved within NSW and under what conditions this can occur.

Have your say on 

Proposal to convert oil at a facility in Rutherford

16.02.2016: Departmental Media Release - Department of Planning and Environment

A modification request to enable the conversion of oils at the Cleanaway Waste Oil Processing Facility in Rutherford 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 proposal which seeks to make additions to the existing facility to convert oil from Grade I to the higher quality Grade II by:

• installing a new Oil Polishing System

• installing a new multi-fuel burner to the existing Low Pressure Steam Boiler

• installing six new tanks

• increasing existing firefighting capabilities

• increasing the height of a fuel burner stack from eight metres to 14 metres.

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,” the spokesperson said

“This feedback is taken into consideration when we develop our recommendations.

“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 application, visit

Submissions can be made from Tuesday, 16 February 2016 until Tuesday, 1 March 2016. 

Written submissions can also be made to:

Department of Planning and Environment, Attn: A/ Director – Modification Assessments, GPO Box 39, Sydney NSW 2001

Direct link : 

Woodlawn Mine Modification 1

Proposed Modification to Project Approval 07 0143 For the Relocation of the Underground Mine Entry

Project is currently on public exhibition and opportunity for public submissions is available

Assessment Type Part3AMod

Project Type Mining, Petroleum & Extraction > Mining > Metals

Exhibition Start 17/02/2016

Exhibition End 03/03/2016

Direct Link:

Public invited to review Kosciuszko's carrying capacity

Media release: 17 February 2016

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is exploring ways to manage the environmental carrying capacity of Kosciuszko National Park's alpine resorts and is encouraging the community to have their say.

Mick Pettit, NPWS Regional Manager, said this timely review will look at the best ways to ensure the economic and social benefits continue to flow from visitation to the resorts without compromising the environment.

“Up until now the carrying capacity of the resorts has been guided by bed numbers and while they are an easily understood means to limit the number of people and their impacts in an area, sustainable visitation and environmental management needs a multifaceted approach,” said Mr Pettit.

“The review delivers on actions in the Kosciuszko National Park Plan of Management that recognises that bed numbers alone don't comprehensively reflect the environmental footprint of the resorts and their visitors.

“NPWS want to work with the community to develop a new way to manage environmental carrying capacity, one that may include thresholds for a range of parameters such as water quality, habitat condition, soil health and the quality of the visitor experience.

“The review commences this month and will initially involve scoping the views of the community, before moving to Stage 2 when a carrying capacity framework will be prepared for comment.

“The review will also take into consideration the impact of increasing summer tourism and day visitors, which are not adequately addressed under the existing carrying capacity limits.

“The unique economic and cultural values of the area require a robust framework that will sustainably manage the impacts of park visitors on the environment now and into the future,” Mr Pettit said.

Stage one of the review marks the release of a discussion paper.

“I invite all interested parties to participate in the review, to discuss and provide comment on alternative methods and approaches for establishing carrying capacity,” said Mr Pettit.

Further information on the review and how to have your say can be found at:

Kosciuszko National Park draft cycling strategy – public consultation

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is seeking comments on its draft cycling strategy for Kosciuszko National Park.

The draft strategy sets out  the objectives, vision and recommended actions for the future of cycling within the park, which includes road cycling and mountain biking.

There has been a significant increase in the popularity of cycling across Australia with Kosciuszko National Park becoming a leading cycling destination with outstanding cycling experiences and facilities available within the park and the surrounding area.

NPWS recognises the increasing demand for access and cycling in Kosciuszko National Park and hopes to increase visitation by providing high quality cycling experiences while ensuring that the natural and cultural heritage values of the park are protected. 

The draft strategy has been prepared with a round of community consultation and input from stakeholder groups including shire councils, resort operators, commercial tour operators and cycle clubs.

• Kosciuszko National Park Cycling Strategy: Consultation draft (PDF 2.5MB)

Related material:

• Kosciuszko National Park Overview map (JPG 7.6MB)

• Kosciuszko National Park Zoning Scheme map (JPG 2.5MB).

The community is invited to make a submission on the draft strategy with submissions closing on 15 March 2016.

Provide your comments in the following ways:

• by emailing

• by posting your submission to Project Manager, Kosciuszko National Park – Draft Cycling Strategy, PO Box 2228, Jindabyne NSW 2627

• by filling out the form below.


Government secures 38 hectares of endangered Mulgoa bushland for Cumberland Conservation Corridor

Joint Media Release: 16 February 2016 - The Hon. Greg Hunt MP, Minister for the Environment and Fiona Scott MP, Federal Member for Lindsay

The Australian Government has secured more than 38 hectares of endangered Mulgoa bushland as part of its commitment to establish a Cumberland Conservation Corridor in Greater Western Sydney.

The Mulgoa Road property will create an important link between the Cumberland Plains Woodland and Mulgoa Creek to help boost the resilience of critically endangered ecosystems.

“It is vital that we continue to protect our native bushland and create green corridors for the long-term survival of our native plants and animals, and to preserve urban green spaces in Western Sydney for future generations,” Minister Hunt said.

“The Mulgoa Road property contains intact native vegetation, including Shale Gravel Transition Forest (Cumberland Plain Woodland) which is listed as critically endangered under national environment law. The property also includes state listed threatened habitat and vulnerable species.”

“This announcement is part of the Government's commitment to restore or protect approximately 700 hectares of Cumberland Plains woodlands through future land covenants, land acquisition and activities under the Green Army and the 20 Million Trees Programme.”

“The Australian Government is delivering on its $15 million election commitment to establish a Cumberland Conservation Corridor through three actions.”

“First, applications have been opened for grants to plant one million trees and rehabilitate 400 hectares within the Cumberland Conservation Corridor as part of the 20 Million Trees Programme.”

“Second, fifteen Green Army teams will restore over 250 hectares of habitat in the Cumberland Conservation Corridor.”

“Third, the remaining part of the 700 hectares will be placed under conservation covenants through Commonwealth purchases and this land will be held in public hands forever. Today's announcement brings this goal one step closer.”

“I particularly want to thank Fiona Scott for her leadership, along with Wayne Olling and Lisa Harrold.”

Federal Member for Lindsay, Fiona Scott MP, said the Mulgoa Road property will make a significant contribution to conservation efforts in the Cumberland Plain Woodlands.

“The local community and I have a deep personal connection to this land. Preserving green urban spaces is an important step in connecting communities with the environment and making our growing cities more livable,” Ms Scott said.

The land will be managed by the Nature Conservation Trust of NSW and the Cumberland Land Conservancy.

This funding is part of a $15 million commitment over three years to protect the Cumberland Conservation Corridor under the National Landcare Programme and Green Army Programme.

More information is available is available online

Community feedback sought for the Wilpinjong Extension Project

27.01.2016: Departmental Media Release - Department of Planning and Environment

A proposal to expand the Wilpinjong Coal Mine located approximately 40 kilometres northeast of Mudgee 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 proposal which seeks to create a new open cut pit to the east of existing operations, extend various existing open cut pits and extend the life of the mine by seven years (to 2033). 

The project will be subject to a comprehensive merit assessment process and will include reviews by State government agencies and the Commonwealth Independent Expert Scientific

Committee. The Department of Planning and Environment will also be engaging a number of experts to provide independent advice on the project. 

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. 

Submissions we receive are taken into consideration when we develop our recommendations,” the spokesperson said.

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

The Department will hold a community information session in the local area to assist residents in preparing their submissions and understanding the development assessment process.

Further details about the meeting will be provided shortly.

To make a submission or view the EIS, visit

Submissions can be made from Wednesday, 27 January 2016 until Thursday, 10 March 2016. 

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 application and EIS are 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, 109 Herbert Street, Gulgong

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


Direct link: 

Project Summary – retrieved from EIS:

ES3.2 PROJECT SUMMARY The main activities associated with the Project would include: • open cut mining (Plate ES-1) of ROM coal from the Ulan Coal Seam and Moolarben Coal Member in Mining Lease 1573 and in new Mining Lease Application areas in Exploration Licences 6169 and 7091; • open cut extensions (Figure ES-3), including: - approximately 500 hectares of incremental extensions to the existing open cut pits in areas of Mining Lease 1573 and Exploration Licence 6169; and - development of a new open cut pit of approximately 300 hectares in Exploration Licence 7091 (Pit 8); • continued production of up to 16 Mtpa of ROM coal; • extension of the approved mine life by approximately seven years (i.e. from approximately 2026 to 2033); • a peak operational workforce of approximately 625 people; • continued use of the approved Wilpinjong Coal Mine CHPP and general coal handling and rail loading facilities and other existing and approved supporting mine infrastructure; • rail transport of approximately 13 Mtpa of thermal product coal to domestic and export customers (within existing maximum and annual average daily rail limits); • relocation of a section of the TransGrid Wollar to Wellington 330 kilovolt electricity transmission line to facilitate mining in Pit 8; • various local infrastructure relocations to facilitate the mining extensions (e.g. realignment of Ulan-Wollar Road and associated rail level crossing, relocation of local electricity transmission lines and services); • construction and operation of additional mine access roads to service new mining facilities located in Pits 5 and 8; • construction and operation of new ancillary infrastructure in support of mining including mine infrastructure areas, ROM pads, haul roads, electricity supply, communications installations, light vehicle roads, access tracks, remote crib huts, up-catchment diversions, dams, pipelines and other water management structures; • ongoing exploration activities; and • other associated minor infrastructure, plant and activities.

Bat 'super immunity' could help protect people

February 22, 2016: CSIRO

Black-headed flying fox amongst a grey-headed colony. Credit: Michelle Baker CSIRO

For the first time researchers have uncovered a unique ability in bats which allows them to carry but remain unaffected by lethal diseases.

Unlike humans, bats keep their immune systems switched on 24/7 and scientists believe this could hold the key to protecting people from deadly diseases like Ebola.

Bats are a natural host for more than 100 viruses, some of which are lethal to people, including Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Ebola and Hendra virus, however, interestingly bats do not get sick or show signs of disease from these viruses.

Published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences(PNAS), this new research examines the genes and immune system of the Australian black flying fox, with surprising results.

"Whenever our body encounters a foreign organism, like bacteria or a virus, a complicated set of immune responses are set in motion, one of which is the defense mechanism known as innate immunity," leading bat immunologist at CSIRO's Australian Animal Health Laboratory Dr Michelle Baker said.

"We focused on the innate immunity of bats, in particular the role of interferons -- which are integral for innate immune responses in mammals -- to understand what's special about how bats respond to invading viruses.

"Interestingly we have shown that bats only have three interferons which is only a fraction -- about a quarter -- of the number of interferons we find in people.

"This is surprising given bats have this unique ability to control viral infections that are lethal in people and yet they can do this with a lower number of interferons."

The team also compared two type 1 interferons -- alpha and beta.

The research showed that bats express a heightened innate immune response even when they were not infected with any detectable virus.

"Unlike people and mice, who activate their immune systems only in response to infection, the bats interferon-alpha is constantly 'switched on' acting as a 24/7 front line defence against diseases," Dr Baker said.

"In other mammalian species, having the immune response constantly switched on is dangerous -- for example it's toxic to tissue and cells- whereas the bat immune system operates in harmony."

While we are familiar of the important role bats play in the eco-system as pollinators and insect controllers, they are also increasingly demonstrating their worth in potentially helping to protect people from infectious diseases.

"If we can redirect other species' immune responses to behave in a similar manner to that of bats, then the high death rate associated with diseases, such as Ebola, could be a thing of the past," Dr Baker said.

This work builds on previous research undertaken by CSIRO and its partners to better understand bat immunity to help protect Australia and its people from exotic and emerging infectious diseases.

Led by CSIRO, this international research effort included expertise from CSIRO, Duke-NUS Medical School and the Burnet Institute.

Peng Zhou, Mary Tachedjian, James W. Wynne, Victoria Boyd, Jie Cui, Ina Smith, Christopher Cowled, Justin H. J. Ng, Lawrence Mok, Wojtek P. Michalski, Ian H. Mendenhall, Gilda Tachedjian, Lin-Fa Wang, and Michelle L. Baker. Contraction of the type I IFN locus and unusual constitutive expression of IFN-α in bats.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2016; DOI:10.1073/pnas.1518240113

Historic medicinal cannabis legislation passes Parliament

24 February 2016: Federal. Govt. Dept. of Health

Parliament has today passed the Turnbull Government’s historic legislation delivering the “missing piece” for Australian patients and their doctors to access a safe, legal and reliable supply of medicinal cannabis products for the management of painful and chronic conditions.

Minister for Health Sussan Ley today thanked her Parliamentary colleagues from across both Chambers and the political spectrum for the fast passage of the Government’s legislation in a bi-partisan fashion.

Ms Ley also thanked the Department of Health, Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), State and Territory Governments, and patient representatives for their constructive consultation on the legislation prior to its introduction into Parliament, which ensured it passed quickly without amendment.

“This is an historic day for Australia and the many advocates who have fought long and hard to challenge the stigma around medicinal cannabis products so genuine patients are no longer treated as criminals,” Ms Ley said.

“This is the missing piece in a patient’s treatment journey and will now see seamless access to locally-produced medicinal cannabis products from farm to pharmacy.

“I would particularly like to acknowledge the many patient advocates who have played a tremendous and tireless role in bringing this important issue to the attention of the nation.

“Today's outcome is a demonstration of this Parliament's commitment to not only ensure we get access to a safe, legal and reliable supply of medicinal cannabis products for Australian patients, but we also get it right.”

Today’s passing of amendments to the Narcotic Drugs Act will, for the first time, provide a pathway of legally-grown cannabis for the manufacture of suitable medicinal cannabis products in Australia.

“A national regulator will allow the Government to closely track the development of cannabis products for medicinal use from cultivation to supply and curtail any attempts by criminals to get involved,” Ms Ley said.

“The legislation also ensures Australia meets all of its international obligations under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.”

It is recognised that, while there are existing mechanisms by which medicinal cannabis products from overseas can be accessed under Australian law, limited supplies and export barriers in other countries have made this difficult.

Under this scheme, a patient with a valid prescription can possess and use a medicinal cannabis product manufactured from cannabis plants legally cultivated in Australia, where the supply is appropriately authorised under the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 and relevant state and territory legislation.

To support this, Ms Ley also announced the Department of Health, in conjunction with the TGA, was currently well-advanced in having cannabis for medicinal purposes considered for down-scheduling to Schedule 8 of the Poisons Schedule.

“This will simplify arrangements around the legal possession of medicinal cannabis products, placing them in the same category as restricted medicines such as morphine, rather than an illicit drug. This will in turn reduce any barriers to access, no matter what state a patient lives in,” Ms Ley said.

The TGA undertook public consultation on down-scheduling cannabis for medicinal purposes in January 2016, with an interim decision due in March 2016. Further consultation will then follow.

Ms Ley also announced an independent Advisory Committee would be established to oversee the next stage of the rollout of the national regulator now legislation has passed.

Ms Ley reminded Australians today’s announcement did not relate to the decriminalisation of cannabis for general cultivation or recreational use, which remained a law enforcement issue for individual states and territories.

Japanese earthenware time capsules contain 4,300-year-old cockroach egg case impressions

February 22, 2016

Scanning electron microscope (SEM) image of a cockroach egg case silicone replica. Credit: Prof. Hiroki Obata

Long ago, in a field far away...

Impressions of cockroach egg cases from 4,300 year old Japanese potsherds (broken pottery fragments) have been found in southern Japan. X-ray, computed tomography (CT) and scanning electron microscopy were used to image the impressions and reveal aspects about ancient Japanese life in this latest archeological survey from Kumamoto University.

These are impressions you are looking for

To archeologists, ancient earthenware is almost always packed full of treasure. This may seem logical since the pots may have held water, food or other historically valuable items. This time, however, the "treasure" was found not in the pot, but inside the pottery itself.

"Countless vacant holes on the surface of potsherds had been all but ignored until about 25 years ago," said Professor Hiroki Obata, researcher of archeology from Kumamoto University, Japan. "Since then, however, the meaning and importance of these holes has become well understood. They can be the impression of seeds, nuts, insects or shells."

From the cavities left by soybeans or adzuki beans which were mixed in the pottery during creation, it is possible to more correctly estimate the beginning of cultivation in the district. Impressions are an important key to understanding the lifestyle of those who lived in a particular area during a particular period. Furthermore, with a quantitative survey of the impressions, it is possible to extrapolate the range of the propagation and cultivation of the plants.

Professor Obata's group examined impressions on the surface and from the inside of the potsherds from the Odake shell mound site in Toyama Prefecture, which contains artifacts from the early Jomon Period of Japan (5,300 -- 3,500 BC). Using X-ray, CT and scanning electron microscopy they found more than 500 impressions, even though only 66 could be visually confirmed, of Egoma -- Perilla frutescens var. frutescens -- seed related imprints on the surface. The impressions within the potsherds were unique to the period making them easily distinguishable from potsherds that had been created at another time.

That's no seed. That's a cockroach impression

In their latest survey the research group employed an "impression replica" method of investigation, where a silicon replica cast is made of an item's surface and then scanned with a scanning electron microscope producing a detailed examination of the original surface. Cockroach egg case impressions found during the examinations were about 11 mm (0.43 in) long, and it was determined that the egg cases were from the smokybrown cockroach (Periplaneta fuliginosa) native to the southern area of China. In Japan, smokybrown cockroaches have been portrayed in 18 century (Edo Period) literature and art work, with literary and artistic appearances by cockroaches previous to that period considered to be a domestic species.

The two of the potsherds which contained the egg case impressions were unearthed from the Motonobaru archeological site which dates back to the late Jomon Period of Japan (2,500 -- 1,300 BC). The impressions were found from fragments that were about 4,000 and 4,300 years old respectively. This shows that smokybrown cockroaches have existed in Japan nearly 3,700 to 4,000 years longer than had ever been considered from literary and artistic works.

Maize weevils be with you

One year previously, Professor Obata and colleagues presented results of their research from the same site in which they found 173 impressions of an insect called the maize weevil. At that time, it was about half of all ancient maize weevils that had ever been discovered in Japan.

"The maize weevil is a type of harmful insect that eats stored starch food materials such as acorns or chestnuts, which are known to be typical stored food for that period in Japan. The existence of many maize weevils and cockroaches shows that these ancient humans lived settled lifestyles," said Professor Obata. "With this latest research, we have revealed that there were cockroaches in human living areas from a period older than was previously believed. More and more information about ancient human life is being found from potsherds. Soft and small items have some difficulty remaining in the soil for a significant amount of time, but they can be kept safe within these pottery fragments. Like little time capsules, potsherds are packed full of treasures which help to reveal the story about the living conditions of ancient humans."

Further investigations are currently being performed on ancient potsherds and more discoveries are expected in the future.

The above is reprinted from materials provided by Kumamoto University.

Top Three Finalists Announced For 2016 Australian Surfing Awards

Wed 24th February 2016: Surfing Australia

The cream of the crop have risen to the top with the finalists in each category at the 2016 Australian Surfing Awards announced today.

Big names like Wilson, Fanning, Fitzgibbons and Wright join rising stars of our sport, legendary waterman, lens men and surf community leaders as finalists heading to Australian surfing’s night of nights in Manly on Thursday March 3rd.

Awards to be presented on the night include the Male Surfer of the Year, the Female Surfer of the Year, Rising Star Award, Milwaukee Waterman of the Year, ASB Surfing Spirit Award, Peter Troy Lifestyle Award, Surf Culture Award and the Simon Anderson Club Award.

Operated with the support of Destination NSW, the NSW Government’s Tourism and major events agency, the Australian Surfing Awards is renowned for recognising the best in surfing talent.

The Awards will also feature the Nikon Surf Photo of the Year and Nikon Surf Movie of the Year, which will showcase the finest work taken by Australia’s best surf photographers and filmmakers during the past 12 months.

Twenty of the best images have been selected in the Nikon Surf Photo of the Year category and feature plenty of fresh faces and old favourites.

The judging panel included 11 members of the surfing community including competitor, industry and media representatives.

2016 Australian Surfing Awards - Finalists

Male Surfer of the Year: Owen Wright, Julian Wilson, Mick Fanning

Female Surfer of the Year: Sally Fitzgibbons, Felicity Palmateer, Tyler Wright

Rising Star Award: Isabella Nichols, Jack Robinson, Russel Bierke

Milwaukee Waterman of the Year Award: Mark Mathews, Jamie Mitchell, Mick Corbett

Australian Surf Business Surfing Spirit Award: Andrew McKinnon, OneWave, Waves for Water

Peter Troy Lifestyle Award: Andrew McKinnon, Bruce Channon, Mark ‘Mono’ Stewart

Surf Culture Award: Becoming Westerly, Duke’s Day, White Horses Magazine

Simon Anderson Club Award: Burleigh Heads Boardriders Club, Coffs Harbour Boardriders Club, Culburra Beach Boardriders Club

Nikon Surf Movie of the Year: ASMF Rough Cuts, Cluster, Nix Nic Noley

Nikon Surf Photo of the Year: Top 20 finalists can be viewed here

The winner of the Nikon Surf Photo of the Year will be awarded with a Nikon Photography Kit valued at $7,000. The winner of the Nikon Surf Movie of the Year will be awarded with a Nikon Film Kit valued at $7,500.

The Australian Surfing Awards incorporating the Hall of Fame is proudly supported by the NSW Government through its tourism and major events agency Destination NSW, the Australian Sports Commission, Nikon, Milwaukee, Toyota, Original Source, Australasian Surf Business Magazine, XXXX Summer Bright Lager, DrinkWise, OnStone and Andrew Peace Wines.

Solved! First distance to a ‘fast radio burst’

25 February 2016: CSIRO

For the first time a team of scientists has tracked down the location of a fast radio burst (FRB), confirming that these short but spectacular flashes of radio waves originate in the distant universe.

The breakthrough, published today in the journal Nature, was made using CSIRO radio telescopes in eastern Australia and the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan’s Subaru telescope in Hawaii.

“Our discovery opens the way to working out what makes these bursts,” Dr Simon Johnston, Head of Astrophysics at CSIRO and a member of the research team said.

FRBs emit as much energy in one millisecond as the sun emits in 10,000 years, but the physical phenomenon that causes them is unknown.

This, and their apparently huge distances, have tantalised scientists since their discovery in 2007. Only 16 bursts have ever been found but astronomers estimate that they might occur 10,000 times a day across the entire sky.

Today’s paper in Nature records a burst from a host galaxy around six billion light-years away.

Importantly, it also confirms that FRBs can be used to find matter in the universe that had ‘gone missing’.

Astronomers think the contents of the universe are 70 per cent dark energy, 25 per cent dark matter and 5 per cent ordinary matter.

But when they add up the matter they can see in stars, galaxies and hydrogen gas, they still only find half as much ordinary matter as should be there - the rest has not been seen directly and so has been described as ‘missing’.

Using the burst (FRB 150418) as a tool, the team were able to ‘weigh’ the universe, or at least the normal matter it contains.

"The good news is our observations and the model match — we have found the missing matter," explained Dr Evan Keane from the SKA Organisation, lead author on the Nature paper.

"It's the first time a fast radio burst has been used to conduct a cosmological measurement."

Most FRBs have been found by sifting through recorded data months or even years after it was taken, by which time it was too late for follow-up observations.

To remedy this, Dr Keane and his international team developed a system to detect FRBs within seconds, immediately alerting other telescopes with a view to pinpointing their location.

The Parkes telescope detected the new FRB on 18 April 2015 and two hours later, CSIRO’s Compact Array telescope (above), 400km north of Parkes, homed in on the patch of sky the flash had come from.

It saw a radio source that lasted for six days before fading — the FRB’s radio afterglow.

This let the researchers zoom in on the FRB about 1000 times more precisely than any of the 16 previously detected bursts.

Meanwhile, in Hawaii the 8.2m optical Subaru telescope was also at work. Looking at the FRB field, it found a galaxy that could be matched with the radio source seen by the Compact Array.

More sleuthing showed that this object was an elliptical galaxy — a huge football-shaped mass of stars. Its redshift (0.492) means that it is about six billion light-years away. 

The galaxy is old, well past its prime period for star formation.

“This is not what we expected,” Dr Johnston said.

“It might mean that the FRB resulted from, say, two neutron stars colliding rather than anything to do with recent star birth.”

But there could be more than one road to an FRB, he added.

“In the near future, using CSIRO’s Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) should be ideal and ASKAP will be able to start looking for FRBs this year,” he said.

“We expect to find several a week, and really clean up.”

 CSIRO’s Compact Array telescope picked the FRB’s afterglow. © Alex Cherney

Google Science Fair 2016

Competition overview

The Google Science Fair is a global online science and engineering competition open to individuals and teams from ages 13 to 18. Submit a science or engineering project and win unbelievable prizes.

Science Is Everywhere

Google Science Fair 

There's inspiration all around us. By asking questions about the world and testing what's (im)possible, we can find the science in everything. So, what will you try? Get your ideas ready for Google Science Fair 2016

To find out more about exactly what you need to do to enter, check out the For Participants section.

Competition open for projects

21/2/2016 - 22:00 (NCT)

Competition closed for projects

18/5/2016 - 16:59 (EST)

We’re extremely lucky to partner with LEGO Education, National Geographic, Scientific American and Virgin Galactic to offer some unbelievable awards.

If your Science Fair submission is something you built to solve an engineering challenge, you’ll be eligible to win the Virgin Galactic Pioneer Award or the LEGO® Education Builder Award.

If your project offers a new way to look at the world, asking questions and answering them with experimentation, you’ll be eligible to win the National Geographic Explorer Award or Scientific American Innovator Award.

The 16 global finalists, along with a parent or guardian, will travel to Google headquarters in Mountain View, CA to present their project to the judges and compete for the awards listed above.

Grand Prize

The Grand Prize winner will receive $50,000 in scholarship funding.

The $50,000 Google scholarship is intended to further the Grand Prize winner’s education. If a team wins the prize, the scholarship’s value will be divided equally among the teammates.

The Scientific American Innovator award honors an outstanding project with an experimental approach to answering some of the greatest questions in our natural world.

The winner will receive: $15,000 educational scholarship. + A year-long mentorship.

The winner, along with a parent or guardian, will also take a Scientific American Cruise to one of the fascinating destinations to which we travel. This one-of-a-kind experience includes seminars and discussions with scientists on board. Recent cruises have been to the Panama Canal and the Mediterranean. More information at

In addition, the winner’s school will receive digital access to Scientific American magazine Archives for 12 months.

If a team wins the prize, the scholarship’s value will be divided equally among the teammates.

The National Geographic Explorer Award honors an outstanding project with an experimental approach to answering some of the greatest questions in our natural world.

The winner will receive: $15,000 educational scholarship. + A year-long mentorship.

The winner, along with a parent or guardian, will also travel on a 10-day National Geographic Expedition to the Galápagos Archipelago, “Darwin’s living laboratory” and home to an abundance of wildlife. Isolated from the mainland for millions of years, these unique islands offer the opportunity to walk among animals unfazed by your presence.

Traveling in a Category 2 cabin aboard the National Geographic Endeavour, the winner (and a parent or guardian) will have exciting, up-close encounters with species such as domed giant tortoises, marine iguanas, and flightless cormorants. You’ll go kayaking in secluded coves, where sea lions frolic in the shallows; snorkel amid shimmering fish, sea turtles, penguins, and playful sea lions; and cruise to pristine islands to walk among colonies of animals and birds that have no instinctive fear of humans. Explore with a diverse team of experts—from naturalists to regional specialists—who will share their knowledge and insights on the wildlife, landscapes, and local culture. All in all, a once in a lifetime trip for nature lovers.

If a team wins the prize, the scholarship’s value will be divided equally among the teammates.

The LEGO® Education Builder Award honors a student who uses an innovative, hands-on approach to solve some of the greatest engineering challenges.

The winner will receive: $15,000 educational scholarship. + A year-long mentorship.

The winner, along with a parent or guardian, will also travel to The LEGO Group headquarters in Billund, Denmark, where the student will meet with LEGO Education employees and designers. The student will tour the LEGO® Manufacturing facilities, LEGO Idea House and receive tickets to LEGOLAND Denmark. They will also receive a custom LEGO brick build designed by one of the LEGO Education designers in Billund, Denmark. The student will also receive a scholarship to further their education as well as have access to work with a LEGO Education executive for one year as a mentor to learn how to launch a business and the art of entrepreneurship.

If a team wins the prize, the scholarship’s value will be divided equally among the teammates.

The Virgin Galactic Pioneer award honors a student who uses an innovative, hands-on approach to solve some of the greatest engineering challenges.

The winner will receive: $15,000 educational scholarship. + A year-long mentorship.

The winner, along with a parent or guardian, will also be taken on a tour of Virgin Galactic, Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California to meet the extraordinary group of engineers turning the Virgin Galactic dream into reality, as well as given the unique opportunity to get acquainted with our new spaceship.

If a team wins the prize, the scholarship’s value will be divided equally among the teammates.

The Community Impact Awards honor five projects that make a practical difference in his or her community by addressing an environmental, health or resources challenge.

To help develop their project, each winner will be awarded $1,000 in an educational scholarship and a year-long mentorship from a Google Science Fair partner organization. Each winner, along with a parent or guardian, will also be invited to our Global Finalist event in Mountain View, CA in September.

One winner from each of the following regions will be announced during our Regional Finalist announcement:

Africa and the Middle East

Asia Pacific


Latin America

North America

If a team wins the prize, the scholarship’s value will be divided equally among the teammates.

The 16 global finalists will receive a variety of exciting prizes. Prizes for the finalists include: A LEGO Education Goodie Bag

Including: A LEGO Education backpack, accompanied by one LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 core set, charger and single software license. Offered by LEGO + Scientific American subscription - A free 12-month subscription to Scientific American magazine, in both print and digital Offered by Scientific American + National Geographic subscription A free 12-month subscription. Offered by National Geographic + A Virgin Galactic Goodie Bag Fun swag from Virgin Galactic Offered by Virgin Galactic + A Google Goodie Bag Fun giveaways from Google

New species couldn't hop, but outlived its fanged kangaroo contemporaries

February 22, 2016

Fossil skull of the ancient kangaroo, Cookeroo hortusensis. Credit: Kaylene Butler

A University of Queensland (UQ)-led study has discovered a new genus and two new species of extinct kangaroos which couldn't hop, but may have been ancestral to all kangaroos and wallabies living today.

Lead author Kaylene Butler of UQ's School of Earth Sciences said the new kangaroo species were discovered in ancient fossil deposits at the Riversleigh World Heritage Area in north-western Queensland, Australia.

"They lived around 15-23 million years ago and were the size of very small wallabies or pademelons," she said.

"They moved on all fours, scurrying across a densely forested landscape quite different from the dry outback we see in western Queensland today.

"It also appears that our new species were direct competitors with a second group of kangaroos at Riversleigh, the even weirder 'balbarid' or fanged kangaroos.

"It seems likely that the fanged cousins were out-competed by our new species and their descendants."

The new species may have been better adapted than their fanged cousins to the environmental change from rainforest to more open forest and woodland environments. They are described in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Ms Butler worked on fossil material as part of her PhD research supervised by study co-authors former UQ Robert Day Fellow, Dr Kenny Travouillon, now of Western Australian Museum, and Dr Gilbert Price of UQ.

Riversleigh research leaders Professors Michael Archer and Suzanne Hand, of the University of New South Wales, are also study authors.

She said that by taking measurements and comparing skulls and teeth with known species, it was discovered that they were looking at both a new genus (taxonomic rank) and two new species within the genus.

She said the new genus was named Cookeroo, in honour of Dr Bernard Cooke, a distinguished Queensland Museum researcher who led much of the research program focused on the evolution of Riversleigh's ancient kangaroos.

The two new species within the genus are Cookeroo bulwidarri, which lived about 23 million years ago, and Cookeroo hortusensis which lived 20 million to 18 million years ago.

Bulwidarri means "white" in the Aboriginal Waanyi language, and is named for White Hunter Site at the Riversleigh World Heritage Area where specimens of this species were obtained. Hortusensis is Latin for "belonging to the garden," in reference to Neville's Garden Site at Riversleigh where specimens of this species were found.

Kaylene Butler, Kenny J. Travouillon, Gilbert J. Price, Michael Archer, Suzanne J. Hand. Cookeroo, a new genus of fossil kangaroo (Marsupialia, Macropodidae) from the Oligo-Miocene of Riversleigh, northwestern Queensland, Australia. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 2016; e1083029 DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2016.1083029

Solved! First distance to a ‘fast radio burst

25 February 2016: CSIRO

For the first time a team of scientists has tracked down the location of a fast radio burst (FRB), confirming that these short but spectacular flashes of radio waves originate in the distant universe.

The breakthrough, published today in the journal Nature, was made using CSIRO radio telescopes in eastern Australia and the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan’s Subaru telescope in Hawaii.

“Our discovery opens the way to working out what makes these bursts,” Dr Simon Johnston, Head of Astrophysics at CSIRO and a member of the research team said.

FRBs emit as much energy in one millisecond as the sun emits in 10,000 years, but the physical phenomenon that causes them is unknown.

This, and their apparently huge distances, have tantalised scientists since their discovery in 2007. Only 16 bursts have ever been found but astronomers estimate that they might occur 10,000 times a day across the entire sky.

Today’s paper in Nature records a burst from a host galaxy around six billion light-years away.

Importantly, it also confirms that FRBs can be used to find matter in the universe that had ‘gone missing’.

Astronomers think the contents of the universe are 70 per cent dark energy, 25 per cent dark matter and 5 per cent ordinary matter.

But when they add up the matter they can see in stars, galaxies and hydrogen gas, they still only find half as much ordinary matter as should be there - the rest has not been seen directly and so has been described as ‘missing’.

Using the burst (FRB 150418) as a tool, the team were able to ‘weigh’ the universe, or at least the normal matter it contains.

"The good news is our observations and the model match — we have found the missing matter," explained Dr Evan Keane from the SKA Organisation, lead author on the Nature paper.

"It's the first time a fast radio burst has been used to conduct a cosmological measurement."

Most FRBs have been found by sifting through recorded data months or even years after it was taken, by which time it was too late for follow-up observations.

To remedy this, Dr Keane and his international team developed a system to detect FRBs within seconds, immediately alerting other telescopes with a view to pinpointing their location.

The Parkes telescope detected the new FRB on 18 April 2015 and two hours later, CSIRO’s Compact Array telescope (above), 400km north of Parkes, homed in on the patch of sky the flash had come from.

It saw a radio source that lasted for six days before fading — the FRB’s radio afterglow.

This let the researchers zoom in on the FRB about 1000 times more precisely than any of the 16 previously detected bursts.

Meanwhile, in Hawaii the 8.2m optical Subaru telescope was also at work. Looking at the FRB field, it found a galaxy that could be matched with the radio source seen by the Compact Array.

More sleuthing showed that this object was an elliptical galaxy — a huge football-shaped mass of stars. Its redshift (0.492) means that it is about six billion light-years away. 

The galaxy is old, well past its prime period for star formation.

“This is not what we expected,” Dr Johnston said.

“It might mean that the FRB resulted from, say, two neutron stars colliding rather than anything to do with recent star birth.”

But there could be more than one road to an FRB, he added.

“In the near future, using CSIRO’s Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) should be ideal and ASKAP will be able to start looking for FRBs this year,” he said.

“We expect to find several a week, and really clean up.”

Top: CSIRO’s Compact Array telescope picked the FRB’s afterglow. © Alex Cherney

Open letter to PM questions the ethical principles behind asylum seeker policy

22 February 2016:  UNSW MEDIA

Seventy-five medical academics and community leaders have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister condemning the "unethical" treatment of asylum seekers and likening the Pacific Solution to a medical experiment that puts participants in harm's way without consent.

Dear Prime MInister,

The Pacific Solution is working. The number of unscheduled boat arrivals has slowed. This has come about by a policy which incarcerates refugees who arrive by boat, including children, in harsh conditions on Manus Island or Nauru.

The basis of the Pacific Solution seems to be that future asylum seekers will be deterred from coming by boat because they know that harsh mistreatment awaits them.

If Manus Island and Nauru were pleasant places where families thrive in good health in an untroubled and nurturing environment the deterrent effect would of course not exist. 

We understand that, despite vociferous denials, Manus and Nauru have repeatedly been shown to be unsafe places and this is in fact part of the strategy.

Effectively then one group of people is being mistreated for the benefit of another group which might otherwise undertake a perilous journey by boat from an Asian port.

We are confident that our government would not condone participation in research or treatment without the consent of persons who themselves can derive no benefit, even if those persons were unlikely to be harmed in the process.

The problem with this strategy is that it is unethical to subject people who have not provided consent to harsh treatment for the benefit of others. The extent of the benefit to the other group is irrelevant. The people being sent to these islands have not consented to be used for the government’s deterrent purpose.

In medical research these principles are laid down in the Declaration of Helsinki. An example of such ethical principles operating in healthcare is in organ donation. A person with two good kidneys cannot be conscripted without consent to donate one kidney for transplantation even when that transplant would likely be lifesaving. The principle is the same. In the current government offshore detention strategy people, particularly children, are placed at serious risk of mental and physical health problems to protect others.

We are confident that our government would not condone participation in research or treatment without the consent of persons who themselves can derive no benefit, even if those persons were unlikely to be harmed in the process. When innocent people are clearly being harmed without consent for the benefit of others the ethical implications are clear.

Ethical principles are not established by legislation but are identified as self-evident truths. We fail to understand how government decisions can bypass or negate well established and universally recognised ethical principles.

The argument that refugee security assessment procedures keep people on these islands is spurious. These processes can readily be undertaken in Australia.

For our government to be seen to follow well established ethical principles, the forced detention of asylum seekers in environments with a risk of harm must cease.

Signed by:

1. Emeritus Professor Kim Oates AM, University of Sydney

2. Professor David Isaacs, University of Sydney

3. Dr Sue Packer AM, Community Paediatrician, ACT

4. Professor John Ziegler AM, School of Women’s & Children’s Health, UNSW

5. Dr Avril Alba, University of Sydney

6. Scientia Professor David A. Cooper AO, Director, Kirby Institute, UNSW

7. Professor David Burgner, Paediatrician, Melbourne

8. Dr Hilton Immerman OAM, UNSW

9. Emeritus Professor Simon Chapman AO, University of Sydney

10. Dr Alex Wodak AM, President, Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation and Director, Australia21

11. Deborah Linker

12. Emeritus Professor Konrad Kwiet, Sydney Jewish Museum

13. Prof Louise Baur AM, University of Sydney

14. Joanna Kalowski, Mediator and facilitator

15. Dr Stephen Adelstein, Clinical Immunologist, Sydney

16. Dr Sue Woolfenden, Community/Developmental Paediatrician, UNSW

17. Dr Sarah Dalton, Paediatric Emergency Physician, Sydney

18. Professor Kevin Forsyth, Academic paediatrician

19. Associate Professor Alyson Kakakios OAM, University of Sydney

20. Professor Andrew Carr, Head of Clinical Research, AMR, St Vincent’s Hospital, and UNSW

21. Heather Mitchell, Actress

22. Professor Andrew Rosenberg, Head of Paediatrics, School of Medicine, University of Notre Dame, Sydney

23. Dr Joseph Toltz, Musicology Unit, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, University of Sydney

24. Professor Ian Kerridge, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney

25. Professor Stuart Tangye, Head, Immunology Division, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, UNSW

26. Professor Wayne Hall, Director, Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research, University of Queensland

27. Professor Merrilyn Walton  AM, School of Public Health, Sydney Medical School, University  of  Sydney

28. Dr Christopher Blyth, Paediatrician, Infectious Diseases Physician and Clinical Microbiologist

29. Dr Tri Giang Phan, Immunology Division, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, UNSW

30. Professor Jonathan Sprent FAA FRS

31. Rodrigo Vazquez-Lombardi, Immunology Division, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, UNSW

32. Dr Elissa Deenick, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, UNSW

33. Dr. Christopher Sundling, Garvan Institute of Medical Research

34. Irving Wallach, Barrister, Forbes Chambers, Sydney

35. Dr David Langley

36. Professor Mark Ferson, UNSW

37. Dr Cindy Ma, Garvan Institute of Medical Research and UNSW

38. Claudia Loetsch, PhD candidate, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Sydney

39. Dr Vinny Mamo

40. Dr Genevieve Brady

41. Professor Tuan V. Nguyen, UNSW and University of Technology Sydney

42. Professor Philip Boyce, University of Sydney

43. Martin Mcgrath, Director of Photography, ACS

44. Dr Dimitra Tzioumi, Paediatrician

45. Professor Emerita Suzanne Rutland OAM, Dept. of Hebrew, Biblical & Jewish Studies, University of Sydney

46. John Kaldor, Scientia Professor, Kirby Institute, UNSW

47. A/Professor Anne Mijch OAM, Monash University

48. Dr Miranda Johnson, Department of History, University of Sydney

49. Debbie Burnett, Immunology Division, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, UNSW

50. Professor Jenny Gunton, Garvan Institute of Medical Research and University of Sydney

51. Jeffrey B. Kamins, Senior Rabbi, Arno & Hella Seefeldt Rabbinic Chair, Emanuel Synagogue

52. Rabbi Jacqueline Ninio, Emanuel Synagogue

53. Dr Paul Gray, Paediatric Immunologist, Sydney

54. Son Nghiem, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Health & Biomedical ‎Innovation, QUT

55. Professor Lynne Madden, Associate Dean, Teaching and Learning, School of Medicine, UND, Sydney

56. Professor Fiona Stanley AC, UWA and University of Melbourne, Patron of Telethon Kids Institute

57. Laureate Professor Nick Talley, RACP President

58. Alfred Linker, Solicitor & Regional General Counsel

59. Linh Anh Le, University of Adelaide

60. Associate Professor Julian Grant, Flinders University

61. Dr Andrew Kelly, Paediatric Cardiologist, Adelaide, South Australia

62. Dr Arjun Rao, Paediatric Emergency Physician

63. Ansha Malik, Garvan Institute of Medical Research

64. Mahmoud Abdelatti, Pharmacist, Garvan Institute of Medical Research

65. Thu Phuong Dinh Thi, School of Psychology, Flinders University

66. Dr Marcel Batten, Garvan Institute of Medical Research

67. Dr Tatyana Chtanova, Garvan Institute of Medical Research

68. Dr Dat Ma, University of Queensland

69. Dr Lam Tran, Dentist, Forest Lake, Queensland

70. Dr Deirdre White, Paediatrician, South Australia

71. Dr David Everett, Consultant Paediatrician, Adelaide

72. Dr Nicola Poplawski, Paediatrician and Clinical Geneticist, Adelaide

73. Professor Jon Jureidini, Disciplines of Psychiatry and Paediatrics, University of Adelaide

74. Professor John Carlin, University of Melbourne

75. Professor Elizabeth Elliott AM, Discipline of Paediatrics & Child Health, The University of Sydney

Note: The Declaration of Helsinki is a set of ethical principles regarding human experimentation developed for the medical community by the World Medical Association. It is widely regarded as the cornerstone document on human research ethics.

Diamonds shine and Pocock popular as AIS award winners revealed

23 February, 2016

Australian Wallabies rugby union star David Pocock has been crowned the ABC Sports Personality of the Year and the Australian Diamonds netball team has collected two major trophies at the AIS Sport Performance Awards in Sydney.

Golfer Jason Day and swimmer Emily Seebohm were named male and female athletes of the year respectively, while Michelle Payne’s historic Melbourne Cup victory was determined as the best sporting moment of 2015.

More than 300 of Australia’s sporting personalities gathered at The Star in Sydney for the annual AIS Sport Performance Awards, or ASPAs. But Australian sporting fans had already cast thousands of votes to elect Pocock and the Diamonds as their big winners on the night.

Recognised for his humanitarian work off the field as well as his tenacity on it, the public voted Pocock as ABC Sports Personality of the Year.

The Diamonds, who won a third consecutive netball World Cup in 2015, were equally popular with voting fans and took out the Destination NSW Team of the Year.

As a measure of their dominance, the Diamonds also shared the Team of the Year award voted on by the AIS panel of judges.

The team award was shared with Australia’s Women’s team pursuit, who remarkably crushed the world record by almost three seconds at the 2015 track world championships.

Cycling was also represented by Alistair Donohoe, who was awarded Para Performance of the Year and shapes as a major gold medal chance at the Rio Paralympics this year.

Australian swimming also celebrated its resurgence on the international scene, receiving three awards across categories for athletes, coaching and administration.

Seebohm was recognised as female athlete of the year for her three gold medals at last year’s FINA swimming world championships, while coach Michael Bohl guided athletes to five gold, two silver and three bronze at the same event.

Swimming Australia chief executive Mark Anderson was given the Award for Leadership.

Former AIS basketball scholarship holder Ben Simmons, now starring in US college basketball and touted as an NBA star, was named Emerging Athlete of the Year.

AIS Director Matt Favier said the calibre of finalists and winners showed Australia’s high performance sporting system was healthy ahead of another huge year.

“These awards are a reminder that our Australian athletes are in fine form, especially approaching the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Australian Sports Commission and AIS are pleased with the progress in Australian sport and we remain committed to working with sports, athletes and key partners to ensure we can repeat this amazing success in 2016.”

AIS Sport Performance Awards winners

• David Pocock (ABC Sports Personality of the Year) – Public vote

• Australian Diamonds (Destination NSW Team of the Year) – Public vote

• Jason Day (2XU Male Athlete of the Year)

• Emily Seebohm (Berlei Female Athlete of the Year)

• Australian Diamonds, Women’s Team Pursuit, cycling (Gatorade Team of the Year)

• Michelle Payne (Lion, The Complete Dairy Sporting Moment of the Year) – Media vote

• Ben Simmons (Nestle Emerging Athlete of the Year)

• Alistair Donohoe (Dairy Australia Para Performance of the Year)

• Michael Bohl (Melbourne Business School Coach of the Year)

• Mark Anderson (Melbourne Business School Award for Leadership) 

Iron in the Southern Ocean

Published on 18 Feb 2016: CSIRO

An update on iron in the Southern Ocean from aboard the RV Investigator

Reef sharks prefer bite-size meals

February 22, 2016

Reef sharks, like this black-tip shark, typically eat small fishes, mollusks and crustaceans. Black-tip sharks, in turn, are eaten by larger sharks such as tiger and hammerhead sharks. Credit: Simon Gingins

Sharks have a reputation for having voracious appetites, but a new study shows that most coral reef sharks eat prey that are smaller than a cheeseburger.

Researchers from James Cook University's ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies examined stomach contents of reef sharks and conducted chemical analyses of shark body tissue to find out what they had been eating.

Lead author, Dr Ashley Frisch said that after pumping a shark's stomach to identify the contents of its last meal, the most common thing to find was in fact, nothing.

"We were surprised to find a broad range of small prey items such as fish, molluscs, sea snakes, crabs and more often than not, nothing at all."

"These results suggest that reef sharks eat small meals infrequently and opportunistically," Dr Frisch said.

To understand what the sharks were eating over longer periods, the researchers analysed shark body tissue.

"Although black-tip, white-tip and grey reef sharks have long been thought of as top predators, we found that the chemical structure of the sharks' body tissue actually matched closely with that of large reef fishes such as groupers, snappers and emperors," Dr Frisch said.

"This result tells us that reef sharks and large fishes have a similar diet, but they don't eat each other. So rather than eating big fish, reef sharks are eating like big fish."

Understanding 'who eats who' on coral reefs is important in helping scientists better predict how changes in one population impact another.

Co-author of the study, Dr. Justin Rizzari, said the new research changes how scientists think about food webs on coral reefs and acts as a reminder that large, conspicuous predators are not always at the top of the food chain.

"We now know that reef sharks are an important link in the food chain, but they are not the last link in the food chain. In most cases, the top predators are tiger sharks, hammerhead sharks, or people," Dr Rizzari said.

"Coral reef ecosystems are very complex. The more we look, the more we realise that each and every species plays an important role. Sharks are no exception. They help to keep coral reefs healthy and should be managed wisely."

With coral reefs around the world in decline and humans killing an estimated 100 million sharks every year, understanding the exact role sharks play in coral reef ecosystems is more urgent now than ever.

The article entitled "Reassessing the trophic role of reef sharks as apex predators on coral reefs" was recently published by the journal Coral Reefs.

Ashley J. Frisch, Matthew Ireland, Justin R. Rizzari, Oona M. Lönnstedt, Katalin A. Magnenat, Christopher E. Mirbach, Jean-Paul A. Hobbs.Reassessing the trophic role of reef sharks as apex predators on coral reefs. Coral Reefs, 2016; DOI: 10.1007/s00338-016-1415-2

Australia and Hungary sign work and holiday arrangement

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Hungary has today become the latest country to sign a reciprocal arrangement with Australia, allowing young people from both countries to visit each other’s nations under the Australian Government’s work and holiday arrangements.

The arrangement was signed today at Parliament House between the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton and Hungarian Ambassador to Australia, His Excellency Dr Attila Laszlo Gruber.

Mr Dutton said this was a great development as it would encourage young people to add Australia or Hungary as another holiday destination when going abroad to travel, work and study for a short term.

“Under the arrangement, people aged 18 to 30 years will be able to travel to each other’s country for one year and undertake short-term work and study under the Work and Holiday subclass 462 visa,” Mr Dutton said.

“We will be working closely with our Hungarian counterparts to establish a mutually agreed start date for this arrangement as soon as possible.

“Once the arrangement has commenced, eligible young people from Hungary and Australia will be able to apply for this visa programme.”

The arrangement will be capped at 200 places each year.

The commencement date will be announced on the Department’s website: and on the Australian Embassy in Germany’s website:

Gulf of Mexico historic shipwrecks help scientists unlock mysteries of deep-sea ecosystems

February 22, 2016

The ROV collects sediment cores for microbiological and geochemical analysis during the Gulf of Mexico Shipwreck Study expedition in July 2014. Credit: Credit: BOEM

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill significantly altered microbial communities thriving near shipwrecks in the Gulf of Mexico, potentially changing these diverse ecosystems and degrading the historically and culturally significant ships they live on, according to new research being presented here. The findings are also revealing how decades-old, or even centuries-old, shipwrecks could be used to monitor the health of deep-ocean ecosystems, and the effects of oil and gas activity in the Gulf, according to the researchers.

There are more than 2,000 known historic shipwrecks sitting on the ocean floor in the Gulf of Mexico, spanning some 500 years of maritime history: from the time of the 16th century Spanish explorers to the American Civil War and through the World War II era. In addition to their historical and cultural significance, historic shipwrecks also serve as artificial reefs, supporting a rich deep-sea ecosystem.

In 2014, a multidisciplinary team of scientists launched a project investigating the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on shipwrecks that lie hundreds to thousands of feet underwater and the microbial communities forming the base of these ecosystems. The project is the first of its kind to study deep-sea shipwreck microbiomes, and the long-term impacts of an oil spill on shipwrecks and their microbial inhabitants, according to the researchers.

"We are filling a huge void in our scientific understanding of the impacts of the spill," said Melanie Damour, a marine archaeologist at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in New Orleans, Louisiana, and a co-leader of the project.

Scientists found that the presence of a shipwreck influences which microbes are present on the seafloor, and the release of 4 million barrels of oil from the Macondo well for 87 days significantly altered nearby shipwreck microbial communities. Even four years after the event, the oil was still affecting the community structure and function of these microbes, potentially impacting other parts of the ecosystem. Laboratory studies found that the dispersant used to clean up the oil spill significantly alters the shipwreck microbial community that forms the foundation for other life, like coral, crabs and fish, which thrive there.

Not only did these studies show that the spill affected these ecosystems, but they also provide a new way to monitor the spill's effects, said Leila Hamdan, a microbial ecologist at George Mason University in Manassas, Virginia and co-leader of the project.

"The microorganisms in these deep-water habitats, where these artificial reefs are present, they make life habitable, make it luxurious, in a place that is cold and dark and permanently separated from light," she said. "If we are performing activities in the ocean that potentially change these extremely important communities, we should know about that."

The laboratory studies also found that oil exposure increases metal corrosion caused by microbes, showing that the oil spill could potentially speed up degradation of the steel-hulled shipwrecks, according to Jennifer Salerno, a microbial ecologist at George Mason University.

The team also used innovative 3-D laser and sonar technology to obtain high-resolution images of the vessels to document their current state of preservation. In one case, a World War II German U-boat that has been previously examined several times since its discovery in 2001 was found to be buried by more sediment than was observed prior to the spill, although the researchers are working to determine if it was a natural process or related to the oil spill. The team plans to repeatedly scan the shipwrecks to document how they change over time.

"These are pieces of our collective human history down there and they are worth protecting," said Damour, adding that in some cases these ships may still contain human remains. "We are concerned that the degradation of these sites a lot faster than normal will cause the permanent loss of information that we can never get back."

Members of the project team will be presenting their new research today at the 2016 Ocean Sciences Meeting co-sponsored by the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, The Oceanography Society and the American Geophysical Union.

The new findings show that deep-sea shipwrecks could be used for long-term monitoring of deep-sea ecosystems, according to the researchers. Understanding this unique ecosystem could aid in protecting and conserving it -- both the animals that live on the shipwrecks, and the ships themselves, they said. Information about these shipwrecks could also aid scientists who research the deep sea, and companies performing activities there, the researchers said.

For Hamdan, the experience of working on the shipwreck project has been transformative. "I will never forget the sensation I had when the ROV flew across the dark seafloor, an already beautifully muddy landscape, and suddenly there was a shipwreck, with all of its history and ecology before my eyes," she said recalling the project's first expedition in 2014. "It really changed me as a scientist ... In a single instant I knew that there was more to the seafloor than I ever really considered."

The above is reprinted from materials provided by American Geophysical Union.

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.

Digital Storytelling: Filmmaking for the Web: FREE Online Course

Combine theory and practice to tell powerful stories through film online. Unleash your potential in this free online course.

Starts February 29th: 


The University of Birmingham, the BBC Academy and Creative Skillset have combined forces, to create this four-week, free online course.

It will look at filmmaking theory and practice, and how they interact to produce good and even meaningful stories, helping you develop short films for digital platforms.

Whether fact or fiction, there are many principles and processes that make a story work on film, so that what viewers see is more than just a sequence of events, but is instead a compelling narrative, which holds their attention, makes them think and keeps them coming back for more.

We will cover all aspects of production – from how to research your story to adding the finishing touches in the edit. The course will address many issues along the way, including critical thinking; story structure; style; genre; ethics; legalities; practical techniques for camera, sound and lighting; and more.

About Future Learn

Our courses

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.

Our partners

We’re a private company wholly owned by The Open University, with the benefit of over 40 years of their experience in distance learning and online education.

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Our learners

We launched our first courses in September 2013 and since then 3,145,585 people have joined FutureLearn.

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Boats gifted to AC Endeavour kids

Oracle Racing Team: February 2016

ORACLE TEAM USA has teamed up with AC Endeavour to get 15 Optimist dinghies into the hands of recent Endeavour 'graduates'. The Optimists were old and disused boats, donated by the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club in Bermuda, and restored to 'as new' condition by ORACLE TEAM USA boatbuilders. While 15 boats have been recycled to date, hopefully this is just the start and more yacht clubs and sailing programs around the world take on this kind of recycling project to get more kids out on the water.