Inbox and Environment News: Issue 261 

 May 1 - 7 2016: Issue 261

 NSW Government’s 2015/16 Genomics Collaborative Grants Program: Unlocking Treatments for Complex Diseases

 Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Six NSW genomics research teams working on unlocking the causes of some of the most debilitating genetic conditions will share in $1.54 million in funding as part of the NSW Government’s 2015/16 Genomics Collaborative Grants Program.

NSW Premier Mike Baird and Minister for Medical Research Pru Goward announced the grant recipients during a tour of the Kinghorn Centre for Clinical Genomics at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research today.

“Genomics has the potential to fundamentally change the way medical treatments are delivered and these grants will help NSW researchers continue to lead the nation in this field of research,” Mr Baird said.

“These cutting-edge researchers are helping answer the questions why only some people develop certain diseases, and the reasons may lie in their genetic makeup.”

Ms Goward said the 2015/16 grants are supporting research into genetic conditions including hereditary heart disease, genetic bone disorders, immune deficiencies and childhood epilepsy.

“These grants will help our researchers continue to advance how patients can benefit from this ground breaking science and the role genomics research can play in identifying individualised treatments based on a patient’s genetic makeup,” Ms Goward said.

The NSW Government is investing $24 million over four years in the Sydney Genomics Collaborative. As a result of this support, researchers have already explored better treatments for cancer, mitochondrial disease, inherited heart disease in babies and schizophrenia.


1. Associate Professor Robyn Jamieson, University of Sydney,$340,000 Blinding genetic retinal dystrophies lead to progressive irreversible and untreatable visual impairment and blindness. Inherited retinal disease is currently the most common cause of blindness in the working-age population.

This project will include genetic diagnosis for patients where none has been previously available and aim to facilitate avenues to treatment.

2. Dr Tony Roscioli, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, $200,000 Primary Immunodeficiency diseases (PIDs) involve a predisposition to infection or autoimmune disease. While individually rare, more than 250 different genes are known to cause these diseases, with more than 3,000 more predicted to do so. This project will use Whole Genome Sequencing to test 100 patients and their relatives who have a PID where a gene has not been found.

3. Dr Tony Roscioli, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, $200,000 Mendelian disorders affect 1% of the population and many cause devastating illness that can lead to early childhood death or a severe lifetime disability.

Whole genome sequencing provides a platform to identify new genes that cause disease and genetic diagnosis gives patients and families more accurate information about management or chances of recurrence. A group of 60 NSW families who’ve received extensive clinical investigation represent a significant resource for new disease gene identification. No causative gene has been identified in 70% of these families.

4. Dr Tony Roscioli, Garvan Institute of Medical Research,$180,000 Severe epilepsy is a devastating, life-threatening condition, usually caused by a new or inherited genetic change. Children are born healthy but start to have epileptic seizures, often before 18 months of age, resulting in delayed development. Underlying causes are rarely identified and not knowing the genetic cause means doctors are unable to best target treatment, or provide information about the child’s future or the risk of having future siblings affected. Whole genome sequencing of 15 children with early onset epilepsy who remain undiagnosed and 15 new children with later onset epilepsy and intellectual disability will take part in this study, helping doctors with diagnosis and improve the medical understanding of the cause of this condition, leading to improved treatments and better outcomes for children and their families.

5. Professor Andreas Zankl, Garvan Institute for Medical Research,  $300,000 Genetic Disorders of bone are rare and affect skeletal development and function. Patients can present at birth, in childhood, or later in life. Early life onset may present with bones that are malformed, fail to grow or fracture easily. Later life onset may present with unusual fractures that don’t heal properly. Both result in lifelong disability or even premature death. The study will fully genetically characterize 100 patients with different bone dysplasias.

Patients will be given a genetically confirmed diagnosis, allowing for accurate genetic counselling and diagnosis-specific management. The study will also provide new insight into the role of a multitude of genes on skeletal development, with a better understanding of bone and cartilage biology.

6. Professor Christopher Semsarian, Centenary Institute,$320,000 Genetic inherited heart diseases include cardiomyopathies which primarily affect the heart muscle, like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). These two inherited cardiomyopathies are common and can lead to heart failure, need for transplantation, stroke, and sudden death. While there has been significant progress in defining some of the genetic underpinnings of HCM and DCM, many questions remain unanswered. In most, the underlying disease causing gene mutations have not yet been identified in 30-70% of cases. This is a world-first comprehensive genetic and clinical analysis of patients, and their families that aims to improve the care of families with inherited cardiomyopathies.

2016 Eco School Grants Program open for applications

Media release: 26 April 2016 - NSW Office of Environment and Heritage

Eighty grants of $3,500 each are available to support a range of environmental projects and learning opportunities for students, teachers and school communities under the NSW Environmental Trust's Eco Schools Grants Program.

Terry Bailey, Chief Executive, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and Trust Secretary said the grants will help provide curriculum-based environmental education, awareness and knowledge to children.

"This Government investment aims to develop students' passion and commitment to protecting the environment," Mr Bailey said.

"The program recognises the important work of the community, no matter how old or young, in environmental conservation projects and I encourage educators and school communities to apply for one of the eighty grants.

"Twenty-five of the grants will be awarded to projects that work primarily with students with special needs.

"Seventy-eight schools were awarded Eco School grants last year and their projects help enhance the environment of NSW. Pennant Hills Public School used their grant funds to plant more small shrubs for their Small Bird Haven project.

"The additional shrubs provide much needed sanctuary for small birds to nest, feed and take shelter from predators. The project also taught students about environmental monitoring," Mr Bailey said.

All NSW primary and high schools, registered with the Sustainable Schools NSW program, can apply for funding, however please see the Program Guidelines for specific eligibility requirements.

Grant applications can be submitted until Friday 17 June, 2016.

Visit the Environmental Trust's website for further information:

Australia signs Paris Agreement on climate change

Joint media release -  Saturday, 23 April 2016: The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP Prime Minister,  The Hon. Julie Bishop MP Minister for Foreign Affairs, The Hon. Greg Hunt MP Minister for the Environment

Today Australia joined over 150 countries in signing the Paris Agreement, securing a global agreement to combat climate change.

Minister Hunt signed the Paris Agreement in New York. We will begin our process to ratify the Agreement immediately, and will seek to ratify this year.

The Paris Agreement is a turning point in the transition to a lower emissions global economy. The Agreement provides for five yearly reviews of national targets, underpinned by a rules based system that will assess whether countries are meeting their commitments.

Australia is playing its part to tackle climate change with effective policies to cut emissions by 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Australia is a partner to the Mission Innovation initiative and will double investment in clean energy research and development over the next five years.

The Turnbull Government's new $1 billion Clean Energy Innovation Fund will support emerging technologies to make the leap from demonstration to deployment.

We are working with a broad range of partners through our $1 billion climate finance commitment, the Asia-Pacific Rainforest Partnership, our International Partnership for Blue Carbon and the Montreal Protocol.

The latest estimate from the Department of the Environment confirms that Australia is on track to beat our 2020 target by 78 million tonnes of emissions. This is a 50 million tonne improvement on the last estimate in December last year.

The Turnbull Government is also today announcing a further $11 million investment in new projects to improve the health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef, which will help the Reef to withstand pressures such as the El Nino exacerbated high sea surface temperatures that are causing the current coral bleaching event.

This includes:

• $3.3 million to enhance farm management practices by improving nutrient and chemical management among early adopter sugar cane growers.

• $3.2 million for improve grazing land management to reduce erosion losses to the Reef.

• $4.8 million to improve the quality of water entering the Great Barrier Reef by facilitating the adoption of best practice management in agriculture.

International Composting Awareness week: May 2 to 8


Kick off International Composting Awareness Week (ICAW) at Sustainability Lane at the Pittwater Food and Wine Fair. Visit our Waste Less Recycle More stall and see how you can make your own compost at home with your kitchen veggie scraps. Turn them into a valuable organic resource your own rich fertiliser for your garden. Composting can help to lower carbon pollution by avoiding landfilling organic materials and helping to build healthier soils. 

Be part of the Pittwater Loves Less Waste revolution. 

For your FREE or discounted compost bin or worm farm contact our Waste Education Team for more information atECEducation_Team@ or phone 9970 1194. 

More information about ICAW at


Pittwater Council is seeking volunteers interested in joining our cemetery gardening group, meeting the first and third Tuesday of every month, from 8:30 - 11:30am (weather permitting). It often gets more difficult for relatives who may have previously tended a grave to visit. Our volunteers carry out gentle weeding on these graves in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Please register your interest and availability by contacting Cemetery Administration on 9970 1341 or email


Well….. we love it in the right places and the best place is a pet poo compost bin. The Waste Education Team is seeking Pittwater puppy owners who would like to participate in a trial of pet poo composters in their very own back yard. You can convert your pets waste into rich organic fertiliser and reduce landfill, single use plastic bags and greenhouse gases. 

This project is a NSW Environment Protection Authority Waste Less Recycle More initiative funded from the waste levy. We have six Pet Poo Composters to be trialled. If you would like to participate contact Tanya Leishman, Education Officer for more information or phone 9970 1226

Mandalong Coal Mine: Modification to Mandalong Southern Extension Project

Modification application to modify the Mandalong Southern Extension Project (SSD-5144). For additional information refer to Statement of Environmental Effects.

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

Assessment Type SSD Mod

Project Type: Mining, Petroleum & Extraction

Exhibition Start 22/04/2016

Exhibition End 06/05/2016

Dept of Environment and Planning page: 

From Modification document:

"The Project involves the direct clearing of 8.5 hectares of native vegetation .."

Modification Document Application at: HERE 

18 Hectares of Hunter Wetlands to be Restored 

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Restoration work on 18 hectares of migratory wading bird habitat in the Hunter Wetlands National Park will start next month, NSW Environment Minister Mark Speakman said today.

The Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group will restore the area as an offset for the construction of a rail fly-over at Newcastle. The rail fly-over will affect approximately four hectares of habitat.

“The work will restore saltmarsh for shorebirds and migratory waders close to the internationally significant Hunter Estuary Wetlands Ramsar site,” Mr Speakman said.

Mangroves encroaching on the mudflats and saltmarsh will be removed.

Plans for the restoration work have been prepared in consultation with the Hunter Bird Observers Club. The club has been removing mangrove seedlings in adjoining saltmarsh areas for several years.

Hunter Bird Observers Club conservation officer Mick Roderick said there had been significant loss to shorebird habitats because mangroves had gradually overtaken saltmarsh and mudflats areas.

“Mangrove proliferation is one of the key threats to migratory shorebird habitat in the Hunter Estuary, which is the most important migratory shorebird site in NSW,” Mr Roderick said.

“It requires active management, including removal of mangroves from areas that were saltmarsh or open mudflats.”

Ramsar sites are internationally recognised as important habitats for migratory wading birds. Six shorebirds recorded in the Hunter Estuary are vulnerable and one is endangered. Restoration work is expected to be completed, weather permitting, by November. 

Department takes court action against Charbon Coal

Date: 26.04.2016 Type: Departmental Media Release  Author: Department of Planning and Environment

The Department of Planning and Environment has taken court action against Charbon Coal Pty Ltd, after a compliance investigation at the Charbon Coal Mine near Kandos, in the State’s central west. 

The company pleaded guilty in the Land and Environment Court for failing to comply with the project approval, specifically for constructing a coal truck haul road outside of the approved location.

A sentencing hearing for the matter has been listed for August 2016. 

A Department spokesperson said the company has cooperated with the compliance investigation. 

“Strict conditions are placed on all approved major projects and companies must follow these rules,” a spokesperson said.

“The Department’s compliance team has also fined Charbon Coal Pty Ltd for a separate matter. 

“A $3000 penalty has been issued to the company for stockpiling waste rock outside of the approved area, which is a breach of the company’s approval conditions.

“Our compliance officers work with communities across NSW to monitor major projects across industry, infrastructure, mining and quarries. 

“The team conducts audits and spot checks without warning, as well as works with companies to ensure they are complying.”

CSIRO Climate Science Centre in Hobart a win for Australia's future

26 April 2016

The CSIRO has today announced the establishment of a national climate research centre to be based in Hobart.

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said the CSIRO Climate Science Centre will focus on climate modelling and projections for Australia, drawing on both national and international research expertise.

“Our Strategy 2020 is focussed on collaboration, global connection, excellent science and innovation – all four of these pillars are at work in this Centre,” Dr Marshall said.

“As I indicated at the start of CSIRO’s current broader change process, it is critical that we retain the capability that underpins our national climate research effort.

“The announcement today is a culmination of the ongoing consultation and feedback we’ve had from our staff and stakeholders, and this new Centre is a reflection of the strong collaboration and support right across our system and the global community.”

Operating as part of CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, the new CSIRO Climate Science Centre has a guaranteed research capability for 10 years and will focus CSIRO’s climate measurement and modelling researchers and resources.

Collaboration and partnership will be a cornerstone of this decadal commitment for Australia. In recognition of this, the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science has agreed that an independent National Climate Science Advisory Committee will be established.

The Committee will have representation from CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology and other experts from Australia and overseas.

It will report at Ministerial level to inform the future direction of Australia’s climate science capability and research priorities.

The Minister will work with the Minister for the Environment in the Committee's establishment.

“The Centre, with support from the Advisory Committee, will allow scientists across the nation to provide a decadal commitment to climate research in the nation’s interest,” Dr Marshall said.

The foundation of the Centre will be 40 full time CSIRO scientists.

It will work closely with researchers from Australian universities and other stakeholders.

Working closely with the Bureau of Meteorology, the CSIRO is also planning to deepen its existing partnership with the UK Meteorology Office.

CSIRO will offer its unique Southern Hemisphere modelling capability and measurements to the UK’s global model, helping to build a model that is even more relevant for Australia and other Southern Hemisphere nations.

All of CSIRO’s critical measurement infrastructure, such as the ice and air libraries, ARGO float program and Cape Grim, will be guaranteed in the same manner as the other national facilities such as the RV Investigator, which is also centred in Hobart.

CSIRO thanks Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel AO, and its colleagues at the Bureau of Meteorology for their support in shaping this important national agenda.

Farmed fish found to be hard of hearing: contravenes 'Five Freedoms'

April 28, 2016: University of Melbourne

New research published in the journal Scientific Reports has revealed for the first time that half of the world's farmed fish have hearing loss due to a deformity of the earbone.

Like humans, fish have ears which are essential for hearing and balance, so the findings are significant for the welfare of farmed fish as well as the survival of captive-bred fish released into the wild for conservation purposes.

The University of Melbourne-led study found that half of the world's most farmed marine fish, Atlantic salmon, have a deformity of the otolith or 'fish earbone', much like the inner ear of mammals. The deformity was found to be very uncommon in wild fish.

Lead author Ms Tormey Reimer said farmed fish are 10 times more likely to have the deformity than wild fish.

"The deformity occurs when the typical structure of calcium carbonate in the fish earbone is replaced with a different crystal form. The deformed earbones are larger, lighter and more brittle, and the way they perform within the ear changes," Ms Reimer said.

"The deformity occurs at an early age, most often when fish are in a hatchery, but its effects on hearing become increasingly more severe as the fish age.

"Our research suggests that fish afflicted with this deformity can lose up to 50% of their hearing sensitivity."

To test if the deformity was a global phenomenon, researchers from the University of Melbourne and the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research sampled salmon from the world's major salmon producing nations: Norway, Canada, Scotland, Chile and Australia.

The team compared the structure of the otoliths from farmed and wild salmon. They also compared the hearing of the fish using a model that predicts what a fish can hear.

Regardless of the country where salmon were farmed, the deformity was much higher in farmed fish than wild fish.

"This study raises questions about the welfare of farmed animals and could explain why some conservation programs aren't working" said co-author Assoc. Prof. Tim Dempster from the School of Biosciences, University of Melbourne.

"Something about the farming process is causing the deformity. We now need to work out what is the root cause to help the global salmon industry produce fish with acceptable welfare standards." Over two million tons of farmed salmon are produced every year, with more than a billion fish harvested.

"We estimate that roughly half of these fish have the earbone deformity, and thus have compromised hearing. We don't yet know exactly how this hearing loss affects their performance in farms.

However, producing farmed animals with deformities contravenes two of the "Five Freedoms" that forms the basis of legislation to ensure the welfare of farmed animals in many countries," added Ms Reimer.

Deformed earbones could also explain why many fish conservation programs aren't performing as expected.

Every year, billions of captive-bred juvenile salmon are released into rivers in North America, Asia and Europe to boost wild populations, but their survival is 10-20 times lower than that of wild salmon.

Hearing loss may prevent fish from detecting predators, and restrict their ability to navigate back to their home stream to breed.

Study co-author Prof Steve Swearer from the University of Melbourne said that the poor performance of restocked fish has been a long-standing mystery.

"We think that compromised hearing could be part of the problem. All native fish re-stocking programs should now assess if their fish have deformed earbones and what effect this has on their survival rates," Prof. Swearer said.

"If we don't change the way fish are produced for release, we may just be throwing money and resources into the sea."

T. Reimer, T. Dempster, F. Warren-Myers, A. J. Jensen, S. E. Swearer. High prevalence of vaterite in sagittal otoliths causes hearing impairment in farmed fish. Scientific Reports, 2016; 6: 25249 DOI: 10.1038/srep25249

Pittwater Councils Environment Newsletter - Cooee May/June 2016

A Compilation of current local Environment News and upcoming Events issued bi-monthly

May to June 2016 HERE (PDF - 2.65 MB) - Subscribe to receiveHERE

A few Important Extracts from the Current - March/April edition:


Native to tropical America and member of the Asteraceae family, Singapore Daisy (Sphagneticola trilobata) is a vigorous ground cover with lush glossy green leaves in pairs up the stem, usually three lobed (hence the species name) but mostly with irregular toothed margins. Yellow to orange-yellow single daisy flowers about two centimetres across are produced from spring to summer and although variable amounts of seeds are produced, it is mainly spread vegetatively by cuttings via slashing and pruning.

Singapore Daisy colonises rapidly with stems rooting at the nodes, forming thick spreading mats up to two metres in length and 70 centimetres high that smother native groundcover, shrubs and seedlings.

Sphagneticola trilobata - photo by Wedelia

This garden escapee is already a declared Class 3 noxious weed in Queensland and well established in a variety of different environments including riparian areas, drains, roadside, wetlands and rainforest edges. However, in NSW Singapore Daisy has only recently been documented in a drainage area in Wyong Council and most recently in Pittwater, colonising a section of native groundcover in the Bush to Bay reserve, Careel Bay. This first known local incursion is highlighted for control as soon as funding is available to halt spreading.

If you think you have seen Singapore Daisy and certainly before commencing weed control, please contact Council’s Noxious Weed Officer on 9970 1111 to ensure that you have correctly identified this new weed as there are a few similar native daisy plants includingEnhydra fluctuans and Melanthera biflora that may be mistaken for this aggressive weed species. 



Saturday 14 May, 9 – 11am

Avalon. Meeting point provided on booking.

Join us for a relaxing morning walk taking in the beautiful views and coastal bushland of Bangalley Head.

Bangalley Head stands as the highest point and one of Pittwater’s largest bushland reserves on its clifftop coastline. This – together with the great variety of native plants and beautiful ocean views – makes Bangalley Head a haven for bushwalkers and wildlife alike. Native birds and marsupials – such as ringtail possums, honeyeaters, spinebills, finches and wrens – feed, breed and shelter among the dense thickets of coastal scrub and pockets of rainforest plants.

This is a fun walk for all the family and a great opportunity to learn more about our amazing flora and fauna!

Bookings essential for all events!

Online -

In person: Coastal Environment Centre, Lake Park Road, North Narrabeen Phone: 1300 000 232

Solar Solutions Workshop- Batteries

May 26th: 7pm to 8pm

Want to know more about solar PV and battery systems? Do you already have a Solar System installed?

Come along to this informative session presented by Pittwater Council in partnership with the Australia Solar Councils Sydney Chapter and hear from a panel of speakers providing an overview on different technologies available and advice.

The session will include a Q&A with the expert panel. 

Where: Meeting point provided on booking.

Cost: Free!

Bookings Essential!  Online

In person: Coastal Environment Centre, Lake Park Road, North Narrabeen Phone: 1300 000 232

NRMA Pittwater Active Learning Series

Community Planting Day - South Bilgola Headland

May 28th: 8am to 11am

Come and join us for a morning of planting to assist the Council in caring for beautiful South Bilgola Headland. 

All tools and equipment will be provided as well as morning tea. An enjoyable event for all the family!

Where: Bilgola Beach Carpark - base of track to southern headland.

Bring: Comfortable shoes or boots, hat, sunscreen and water.

The Sydney Coastal Councils Group and Pittwater Council have committed to this grant program to help restore the Bilgola catchment and bushland. We need your support! For further information please conact the Bushland Management Officer on 9970 1363.

Community Field Day - Upper Mullet Creek

May 29th: 9am to 12pm

Come and join us for a morning of bush regeneration to assist the Pittwater Environmental Foundation and Pittwater Council in caring for Upper Mullet Creek in beautiful Ingleside Chase Reserve. 

All tools and equipment will be provided as well as morning tea.

An enjoyable event for all the family!

Where: Ingleside Chase Reserve entrance between 47 & 51 Wesley Street, Ingleside.

Bring: Comfortable shoes or boots, hat, sunscreen, water 

The NSW Environmental Trust and Pittwater Council have committed to a six year program to help restore the Mullet Creek area within Ingleside Chase Reserve.

We need your support! For further information please contact the Bushland Management Officer on 9970 1363. 

Bookings Online -

In person: Coastal Environment Centre, Lake Park Road, North Narrabeen Phone: 1300 000 232

Ku-ring-gai Chase Indigenous Walk

May 29th, 2016: 9.30am to 11.30am

Come and join A guided bushwalk discovering cultural sites including rock engravings in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. This tour led by staff from the Coastal Environment Centre and an Indigenous guide offers a great opportunity to learn more about this amazing area. The walk will give you information on the local flora and their uses as bushtucker and medicines. Look for native animals and their tracks as we explore.

This event is suitable for the whole family!

Where: Meeting point provided on making a booking.

Bookings Essential!

Online -

In person: Coastal Environment Centre, Lake Park Road, North Narrabeen Phone: 1300 000 232

Breakfast with the Birds

June 12th: 7.30am to 9.30am

Wake up to share your morning and breakfast with the birds.

We will take you for a fantastic guided walk to learn more about our feathered friends. Our birding mornings are guided by local experts and are a great opportunity to get a better look at out local bird life.

A great activity for those people interested to learn more as well as passionate birdwatchers. 

Where: Deep Creek. Meet point provided on booking.

Bookings Essential!

Online -

In person: Coastal Environment Centre, Lake Park Road, North Narrabeen Phone: 1300 000 232

Work underway to address mine seepage issue

Media release: 20 April 2016

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is working with Centennial Newstan Pty Ltd and the Division of Resources and Energy (DRE) to address water quality impacts arising from historic mining activities at Awaba.

Centennial Newstan advised the EPA that the underground workings of its Awaba underground operations have been filling with water since mining ceased in 2012. This natural process is occurring as a result of rainfall infiltration through cracks, sink holes and other recharge processes but has resulted in discharges from the old workings.

EPA Hunter Manager, Adam Gilligan, said that such discharges can contain high levels of pollutants. These can have an impact on the environment. As a result, the EPA collected water quality samples from the area.

“Analysis was undertaken which confirmed that high concentrations of dissolved metals, salinity and acidity were present in the water. The EPA also observed iron precipitate downstream of the seepage,” Mr Gilligan said.

“The EPA has worked with Centennial and DRE to identify a series of actions to address the issue. These have now been formalised into a legally enforceable clean-up notice. The EPA is pleased with the pro-active approach taken by Centennial.”

The clean-up notice requires Centennial to provide a report to the EPA by July this year that includes all of the monitoring and analysis that has been undertaken by Centennial to-date. Centennial must also provide a detailed review of best practice techniques available to address the seepage.

Subsequently, a report detailing strategies to mitigate or control the seepage must be prepared by the company and submitted to the EPA by September 2016.

“The EPA will continue to engage with Centennial and DRE to ensure the environmental impacts arising from the seepage are addressed,” Mr Gilligan said.

Clean-up notices are just one of a number of tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance. Others include formal warnings, additional notices and directions, mandatory audits, enforceable undertakings, legally binding pollution reduction programs and prosecutions.

For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools, see the EPA Compliance Policy:

EPA to release findings of Lower Hunter Air Quality Studies

Media release: 27 April 2016

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has released the findings of two major studies looking at air pollution in the Lower Hunter.

The Particle Characterisation Study and the Dust Deposition Study were carried out in 2014 and 2015 and were designed to provide clear, scientific information to the local community about air quality.

Taken together the two studies show that levels of air particles and dust in the region overall are good by world standards, but that occasionally particle levels will spike as a result of industrial activities or seasonal weather patterns.

EPA Chief Executive Barry Buffier said the studies were a great outcome for the community. 

“The EPA has been working closely with the Newcastle Consultative Committee over the years to gather solid and scientific evidence about air quality in the Lower Hunter   Mr Buffier said.

“These results will be invaluable in helping to target our resources as well as ensure we develop specific air quality programs that address the key areas of concern”.

The Particle Characterisation Study was a three-year study managed through a partnership between the EPA, the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) and NSW Health. 

OEH, CSIRO and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) jointly carried out the study.

The study sampled fine particles at four key sites: Newcastle, Beresfield, Mayfield and Stockton and coarse particles at Mayfield and Stockton over a 12 month period.

Findings from the Lower Hunter Particle Characterisation Study show:

Sea salt was found to be the largest contributor of both fine and coarse inhalable particles particularly at sites closest to the coast.

All sites had similar levels of particles across the year except Stockton which had higher levels of fine and coarse particles.

Air quality in the Lower Hunter is good by world standards but particle pollution can exceed national air standards at times at Stockton.

Other sources of fine particles included sulfates and nitrates from fossil fuel burning industries, wood smoke, soil and vehicles.

Seasonal trends, with winter seeing higher levels of wood smoke across the region and higher ammonium nitrate at Stockton, while warmer months bring higher levels of sea salt and less wood smoke.

Coarse particles were found to be highest at Stockton due to the fresh sea salt and further investigation is being undertaken to clarify the contribution of coal, which appears to contribute up to 10 per cent of inhalable coarse particles.

The EPA’s Dust Deposition Study was a community-led project, initiated in response to concern about visible dust in the Lower Hunter.

Carried out last year, the study was designed to complement the Particle Characterisation Study. However instead of sampling the fine PM2.5 particles, the dust deposition study focused on identifying the major sources and composition of the larger particles, visible to the human eye.

The EPA established a reference group of local community, industry and technical representatives to oversee the project.

Sample sites were selected based on where air pollution complaints had been received including; Waratah, Islington, Tighes Hill and Hamilton.

Sampling was completed over a 12 month period by AECOM, and found that deposited dust measured at 12 sites was below EPA criteria levels of 4 grams per square metre per month

Analysis of 72 dust samples found that soil or rock was the primary component, averaging 69 per cent of all samples. Other components were, on average, coal 10 per cent, rubber 4 per cent and soot 3 per cent. The remainder included insect and plant debris, salt and ash.

More information about the two studies is available on the EPA website:

Widespread loss of ocean oxygen to become noticeable in 2030s

April 27, 2016

A reduction in the amount of oxygen dissolved in the oceans due to climate change is already discernible in some parts of the world and should be evident across large regions of the oceans between 2030 and 2040, according to a new study led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

Scientists know that a warming climate can be expected to gradually sap oceans of oxygen, leaving fish, crabs, squid, sea stars, and other marine life struggling to breathe. But it's been difficult to determine whether this anticipated oxygen drain is already having a noticeable impact.

"Loss of oxygen in the ocean is one of the serious side effects of a warming atmosphere, and a major threat to marine life," said NCAR scientist Matthew Long, lead author of the study. "Since oxygen concentrations in the ocean naturally vary depending on variations in winds and temperature at the surface, it's been challenging to attribute any deoxygenation to climate change. This new study tells us when we can expect the impact from climate change to overwhelm the natural variability."

The study is published in the journal Global Biogeochemical Cycles, a publication of the American Geophysical Union. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, NCAR's sponsor.

Cutting through the natural variability

The entire ocean--from the depths to the shallows--gets its oxygen supply from the surface, either directly from the atmosphere or from phytoplankton, which release oxygen into the water through photosynthesis.

Warming surface waters, however, absorb less oxygen. And in a double whammy, the oxygen that is absorbed has a more difficult time traveling deeper into the ocean. That's because as water heats up, it expands, becoming lighter than the water below it and less likely to sink.

Thanks to natural warming and cooling, oxygen concentrations at the sea surface are constantly changing--and those changes can linger for years or even decades deeper in the ocean.

For example, an exceptionally cold winter in the North Pacific would allow the ocean surface to soak up a large amount of oxygen. Thanks to the natural circulation pattern, that oxygen would then be carried deeper into the ocean interior, where it might still be detectable years later as it travels along its flow path. On the flip side, unusually hot weather could lead to natural "dead zones" in the ocean, where fish and other marine life cannot survive.

To cut through this natural variability and investigate the impact of climate change, the research team--including Curtis Deutsch of the University of Washington and Taka Ito of Georgia Tech--relied on the NCAR-based Community Earth System Model, which is funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy.

The scientists used output from a project that ran the model more than two dozen times for the years 1920 to 2100 on the Yellowstone supercomputer, which is operated by NCAR. Each individual run was started with miniscule variations in air temperature. As the model runs progressed, those tiny differences grew and expanded, producing a set of climate simulations useful for studying questions about variability and change.

Using the simulations to study dissolved oxygen gave the researchers guidance on how much concentrations may have varied naturally in the past. With this information, they could determine when ocean deoxygenation due to climate change is likely to become more severe than at any point in the modeled historic range.

The research team found that deoxygenation caused by climate change could already be detected in the southern Indian Ocean and parts of the eastern tropical Pacific and Atlantic basins. They also determined that more widespread detection of deoxygenation caused by climate change would be possible between 2030 and 2040. However, in some parts of the ocean, including areas off the east coasts of Africa, Australia, and Southeast Asia, deoxygenation caused by climate change was not evident even by 2100.

Picking out a global pattern

The researchers also created a visual way to distinguish between deoxygenation caused by natural processes and deoxygenation caused by climate change.

Using the same model dataset, the scientists created maps of oxygen levels in the ocean, showing which waters were oxygen-rich at the same time that others were oxygen-poor. They found they could distinguish between oxygenation patterns caused by natural weather phenomena and the pattern caused by climate change.

The pattern caused by climate change also became evident in the model runs around 2030, adding confidence to the conclusion that widespread deoxygenation due to climate change will become detectable around that time.

The maps could also be useful resources for deciding where to place instruments to monitor ocean oxygen levels in the future to get the best picture of climate change impacts. Currently ocean oxygen measurements are relatively sparse.

"We need comprehensive and sustained observations of what's going on in the ocean to compare with what we're learning from our models and to understand the full impact of a changing climate," Long said.

The above is reprinted from materials provided by National Center for Atmospheric Research/University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. 

BirdLife Australia's Indigenous Grant for Bird Research and Conservation 

BirdLife Australia: April 14, 2016  

Indigenous knowledge of native Australian birds, their life cycle, and habitat is profound and has made a substantial contribution to the scientific study of birds in this country. 

BirdLife Australia's Indigenous Grant for Bird Research and Conservation wishes to acknowledge this contribution and facilitate further engagement of Indigenous Australians in research and conservation of our native birds.

The 2016 grant is focused on migratory birds and Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas. The grant is funded from the proceeds of print sales from The Flyway Print Exchange.

Check out our website to find out more:

Applications close 31 May.

2016 Annual World Oceans Day Oceanic Photo Competition

New York, USA: United Nations 

24 March 2016 - 20 May 2016

Photography is a powerful medium of expression that can be used to communicate strong positive messages about a subject. This open and free photo competition seeks to inspire the creation and dissemination of such positive imagery, which conveys the beauty and importance of the ocean and humankind’s relation to it.

CLICK HERE to enter contest 

The photo competition has five thematic categories open for photographic submissions:

 - Underwater seascapes

 - Underwater life

 - Above water seascapes

 - Human Interaction: Making a Difference

 - Youth Category: open category, any image of the ocean (above or below the surface)

(Youth is defined as under 16 years of age as of 1 April 2016)

The entries must be submitted electronically through the World Oceans Day Photo Competition portal in accordance with the competition guidelines and subject to the competition rules. Winning images will be recognized at the United Nations on Wednesday, 8 June 2016 during the United Nations event marking World Oceans Day 2016. 

Winning images and finalists will form part of an information exhibit in which the photos will be paired with narratives explaining the importance of the oceans to humanity and relating humankind’s positive relationship with the ocean.

Information and more HERE

Report illegal dumping

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.


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

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.

Hollows as Homes Citizen Scientist Project: Sydney and NSW

Launched March 3rd, 2016: Royal Botanic Garden Sydney and University of Sydney

With the help of the community this project aims to assess the availability of tree hollows and their use by wildlife across the Sydney region. The Hollows as Homes team wants you to report tree hollow(s) in your backyard, street, park and/or paddock through

Find out more and Register at:

Facebook page

Participants will take measurements of the hollow-bearing tree and periodically conduct monitoring and report wildlife using the hollow(s). Training is available through workshops and the website.


Around 300 animal species rely on tree hollows in Australia, including birds, possums, gliders, microbats, frogs, lizards, snakes, insects and spiders. Changes to the landscape from urbanisation and agriculture not only reduce the amount of trees and homes for animals, but also create big gaps between the remaining trees and bushland. In New South Wales, of terrestrial vertebrate species that are reliant on tree hollows for shelter 40 species are listed as threatened with extinction.

Why does tree hollow loss matter?

Tree hollows are so important to our native wildlife, that their loss has been classed as a Key Threatening Process to biodiversity in New South Wales. It can take decades for a tree hollow to form. In Australia, there are no animals that are able to create tree hollows (e.g. wood pecker), thus hollow creation is a slow process that relies on fungus to eat away at the tree. What can we do to help?Cities and agricultural areas provide habitat for endangered animals and plants. We can encourage animals to share our cities, suburbs and farms by retaining:

Large, hollow bearing trees

Remnant patches of bushland that surround these trees which make it easier for them to move through the environment

Dead trees which provide important habitat whether they are standing or on the ground.

Top: Lorikeet in Angophora, McKay Reserve, Palm Beach

New Traps have Arrived: Pittwater Indian Myna Action Group 


We have traps available now for would-be trappers in Pittwater to join the Campaign. It's very simple to become a trapper and if you want to do something positive in controlling this introduced species please contact us NOW!! 


That's right - we have access to traps for all Northern Beaches residents who want to do their bit. Please message us and we will give you details how to acquire your own trap.

We are looking for people to get involved with our trapping program in Pittwater. We now have 18 traps out in Pittwater!! So if you would like to do something positive about ridding our community of this pest bird please contact us. We will also be rolling out our monthly update program to record trapping numbers and generally making sure you are all happy trappers!


Nutrient supplements can give antidepressants a boost

April 26, 2016: University of Melbourne

An international evidence review has found that certain nutritional supplements can increase the effectiveness of antidepressants for people with clinical depression.

Omega 3 fish oils, S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), methylfolate (bioactive form of folate) and Vitamin D, were all found to boost the effects of medication.

University of Melbourne and Harvard researchers examined 40 clinical trials worldwide, alongside a systematic review of the evidence for using nutrient supplements (known as nutraceuticals) to treat clinical depression in tandem with antidepressants such as SSRIs, SNRIs^ and tricyclics^^.

Head of the ARCADIA Mental Health Research Group at the University of Melbourne, Dr Jerome Sarris, led the meta-analysis, published in theAmerican Journal of Psychiatry.

"The strongest finding from our review was that Omega 3 fish oil -- in combination with antidepressants -- had a statistically significant effect over a placebo," Dr Sarris said.

"Many studies have shown Omega 3s are very good for general brain health and improving mood, but this is the first analysis of studies that looks at using them in combination with antidepressant medication.

"The difference for patients taking both antidepressants and Omega 3, compared to a placebo, was highly significant. This is an exciting finding because here we have a safe, evidence-based approach that could be considered a mainstream treatment."

The University of Melbourne research team also found good evidence for methylfolate, Vitamin D, and SAMe as a mood enhancing therapy when taken with antidepressants. They reported mixed results for zinc, vitamin C and tryptophan (an amino acid). Folic acid didn't work particularly well, nor did inositol.

"A large proportion of people who have depression do not reach remission after one or two courses of antidepressant medication," Dr Sarris said.

"Millions of people in Australia and hundreds of millions worldwide currently take antidepressants. There's real potential here to improve the mental health of people who have an inadequate response to them."

Dr Sarris said medical professionals may be hesitant to prescribe nutraceuticals alongside pharmaceuticals, simply because there has been a lack of scientific evidence around their efficacy.

"Medical practitioners are aware of the benefits of omega 3 fatty acids, but are probably unaware that one can combine them with antidepressant medication for a potentially better outcome," he said.

The researchers found no major safety concerns in combining the two therapies, but stressed that people on antidepressants should always consult with their health professional before taking nutraceuticals and should be aware these supplements can differ in quality.

"We're not telling people to rush out and buy buckets of supplements. Always speak to your medical professional before changing or initiating a treatment," Dr Sarris said.

The researchers are currently conducting a National Health and Medical Research Council study using a combination of these nutraceuticals for depression.

Jerome Sarris, Jenifer Murphy, David Mischoulon, George I. Papakostas, Maurizio Fava, Michael Berk, Chee H. Ng. Adjunctive Nutraceuticals for Depression: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analyses. American Journal of Psychiatry, 2016; appi.ajp.2016.1 DOI:10.1176/appi.ajp.2016.15091228

Australia on track to eliminate blinding trachoma, but remote hotspots remain


Overall prevalence of trachoma in Australia is declining as a result of strengthened control programs, according to a surveillance report released today by UNSW’s Kirby Institute.

Trachoma is the leading infectious cause of preventable blindness in the world. While many countries have succeeded in substantially reducing the burden of trachoma, in Australia it continues to be found in remote and very remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia.

The infection occurs most commonly in young children and can be passed on through discharge from the eyes of an infected child and spread through personal contact and clothing. It can be easily treated by antibiotics, but early treatment is vital to prevent blindness which occurs after repeated episodes of infection, that ultimately lead to scarring of the cornea.

Professor John Kaldor, head of Australian trachoma surveillance at UNSW's Kirby Institute, said early findings from 2015 show that trachoma in at-risk communities is down by 9.4 per cent since 2009 (currently at 4.6 per cent).

"So we are really seeing the results of health promotion and treatment activities in these regions,” Professor Kaldor said.

“While trachoma is declining overall, the data has revealed ‘hot-spots’ that will require continued focused efforts. We look forward to seeing these communities join the many others in central and northern Australia that have been declared trachoma free.”

These results come as experts from across the globe gather in Sydney for the 20th meeting of the World Health Organization Alliance for the Global Elimination of Trachoma, to take stock of progress and discuss the roadmap to eliminate trachoma globally by 2020.

The full 2015 Australian Trachoma Surveillance Report will be released in June 2016. For the full Kirby Institute media release and a copy of the early release findings visit their website.

Probiotics stop menopause-like bone loss in mice

April 27, 2016

Probiotic supplements protected female mice from the loss of bone density that occurs after having their ovaries removed, researchers at Emory University School of Medicine and Georgia State University have shown.

The results were published Monday, April 25 in Journal of Clinical Investigation.

In mice, ovary removal induces the hormonal changes that occur with menopause in women. The findings suggest that probiotic bacteria may have potential as an inexpensive treatment for post-menopausal osteoporosis. However, clinical evidence that probiotics can have a lasting effect on the mix of bacteria in the body is limited.

The immune system was known to be involved in post-menopausal osteoporosis, but the mechanism was previously unclear. Emory and Georgia State researchers found that in mice, the loss of estrogen increases gut permeability, which allows bacterial products to activate immune cells in the intestine. In turn, immune cells release signals that break down bone. Probiotics both tighten up the permeability of the gut and dampen inflammatory signals that drive the immune cells, the team found.

"Our findings highlight the role that intestinal microbes play in modulating gut permeability and inflammation in the context of sex steroid depletion," says senior author Roberto Pacifici, MD. "We think there are direct implications for the treatment of osteoporosis that should be tested clinically."

Researchers led by Pacifici treated female mice twice a week with Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG), a type of bacteria found in some yogurts, or with a commercially available mix of eight strains of bacteria known as VSL#3.

A month after ovary removal, mice that were not treated with probiotic bacteria had lost half of their bone density. But the bone density in probiotic-treated mice stayed the same, the researchers observed.

The type of bacteria was important; treating mice with a laboratory strain of E. coli bacteria lacking probiotic properties did not help, and a mutant LGG bacteria with a defect in sticking to intestinal cells provided a weakened protective effect. In mice that did not have their ovaries removed, probiotic treatment actually led to an increase in bone density.

The scientists also tested the role of gut bacteria in bone loss by studying mice that were raised under germ-free conditions. In this situation, surgical ovary removal is not feasible so the research team used the drug leuprolide, which reduces hormone production by the ovaries. Germ-free mice treated with leuprolide do not have a reduction in bone density.

"What this means is that the presence of some intestinal bacteria is required for sex steroid depletion-induced bone loss," says co-author Rheinallt Jones, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics. "We observed increased gut permeability following sex steroid depletion. As a result, it is likely that more particles from intestinal bacteria enter the gut tissue and activate immune cells that are known to cause bone loss."

Jones says current investigations are focused on assessing the diversity of the gut microbiome following sex steroid depletion.

"One possibility is that sex steroid deficiency leads to decreased microbiota diversity that exacerbate bone loss, and that probiotics preserve greater diversity," he says.

Jau-Yi Li, Benoit Chassaing, Abdul Malik Tyagi, Chiara Vaccaro, Tao Luo, Jonathan Adams, Trevor M. Darby, M. Neale Weitzmann, Jennifer G. Mulle, Andrew T. Gewirtz, Rheinallt M. Jones, Roberto Pacifici. Sex steroid deficiency–associated bone loss is microbiota dependent and prevented by probiotics. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2016; DOI: 10.1172/JCI86062

Fossils may reveal 20-million-year history of penguins in Australia

April 26, 2016

Multiple dispersals of penguins reached Australia after the continent split from Antarctica, including 'giant penguins' that may have lived there after they went extinct elsewhere, according to a study published April 26, 2016 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Travis Park from Monash University, Australia, and colleagues.

Penguin evolution in Australia following the continent's pre-historic split from Antarctica is not well-understood, but the fossil record shows that Australia was home to a number of penguin species. Only the little penguin remains today, and pre-Quarternary evidence of this species and its ancestors in Australia is lacking. To update our understanding of Australian penguin evolutionary history, the authors of the study analysed recently collected penguin fossils and compared them to known species, including now-extinct 'giant penguins,' and presented a new phylogenetic tree in the context of biogeographical events on the Australian continent.

The authors propose that Australia's unique biogeographical history allowed for multiple dispersals of penguins to the continent during the Cenezoic or Age of Mammals, and that ancestors of the modern little penguins arrived in Australia with the help of a strengthened Antarctic Circumpolar Current.

While evolutionary trees are constructed as best estimates based on sometimes-limited fossil records, the authors suggest these findings shed new insights into the evolutionary trajectory of penguins in Australia.

Travis Park, Erich M. G. Fitzgerald, Stephen J. Gallagher, Ellyn Tomkins, Tony Allan. New Miocene Fossils and the History of Penguins in Australia. PLOS ONE, 2016; 11 (4): e0153915 DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0153915

New technologies to eliminate fossil fuel use in Australian sugar industry

28 April 2016

QUT researchers are leading the way in developing and testing new technologies as part of a $5.7 million three-year project with the potential to eliminate the use of fossil fuels in the sugar industry.

Associate Professor Ian O’Hara, from QUT’s Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities, said the project would see new technologies developed and demonstrated to turn sugarcane trash into renewable fuels for use in sugarcane farming, processing and transportation.

The project has received funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), and partners including Griffith University, Sunshine Sugar and Utilitas Pty Ltd.

“While the sugar industry produces large amounts of bioenergy from sugarcane bagasse with surplus electricity exported to the grid, significant quantities of fossil-based fuels are used in the growing, harvesting and transport of sugarcane, and in certain factory operations,” Professor O’Hara said, who is speaking at the Australian Society of Sugar Cane Technologists conference in Mackay today (Thursday).

“This project seeks to reduce or eliminate the use of fossil fuels in sugarcane production by developing technologies for biogas production from sugarcane residues that convert the residues to renewable fuels suitable for farming use and transportation.

“The major sources of fossil fuel use in the sugar industry are diesel use for planting, cultivation, harvesting and transporting sugarcane, and coal use in factories.”

Professor O’Hara said while sugarcane waste could be collected, separated, and burnt in cogeneration boilers for electricity production, research had shown it was generally not an economically viable option.

“Instead, we want to develop technologies that allow sugarcane trash and surplus bagasse to be economically biodigested to produce biogas which can be upgraded to biomethane to replace diesel use in sugarcane farming and transportation and replace coal use in factories,” he said.

“It is about turning a waste disposal problem into a bioenergy opportunity for the sugar industry and as a result reducing the carbon footprint of raw sugar production, and increasing income from bioenergy.”

As part of the project, Professor O’Hara said the new technologies would be tested at the laboratory, pilot and factory scale.

“Trials will be conducted initially in laboratories at QUT and Griffith University, before being trialled at the Mackay Pilot Plant and on-site at the Broadwater Sugar Mill in northern NSW,” he said.

Professor O’Hara said the use of fossil fuel in Australian’s $2 billion sugar industry, resulted in greenhouse gas emissions and were a major cost burden on the industry.

“The project will develop technologies that offer the opportunity to reduce or perhaps even completely replace the use of these fossil fuels with fuels derived from sugar processing wastes,” he said.

Professor O'Hara is with QUT's Science and Engineering Faculty.

Vale Thomas Lancelot (Tom) Lewis AO

Thomas Lancelot (Tom) Lewis AO (23 January 1922 – 25 April 2016) was a New South Wales politician, Premier of New South Wales and Minister in the cabinets of Sir Robert Askin and Sir Eric Willis. He became Premier following Askin's retirement from politics and held the position until he was replaced by Willis in a party vote. Lewis was first elected to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly for the Electoral district of Wollondilly for the Liberal Party of Australia from 1957 until his resignation in 1978.

He was born in Adelaide, the son of Lancelot Ashley and Gretta Lewis, and was educated at St Peter's College, Adelaide, from 1931 to 1940. Subsequently he managed the property of his uncle, Essington Lewis, Managing Director of BHP and Director-General of Munitions during World War II. 

Mr. Lewis was a member of the Australian Imperial Force from 1940 to 1946 and served in Sydney, Celebes, Java and Borneo as a lieutenant. He was on the staff of the Embassy of Australia, Washington, D.C., from 1946 to 1951.

Lewis was elected as the member for Wollondilly representing the Liberal Party of Australia in 1957. When the Askin Government came to power in 1965, Lewis was given relatively junior portfolios of Lands and Mines. As lands minister he was responsible for setting up the National Parks and Wildlife Service in 1967. In 1970, he set up the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife as an independent not-for-profit organisation, in order to be the fundraising arm of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. In 1972, Tourism was added to his ministerial responsibilities when Eric Willis moved to Education.

Late in 1974, Askin announced his resignation and Lewis was chosen as leader over Willis and Justice Minister John Maddison. He was sworn in on as Premier on 3 January 1975. He was elected during an uneasy time for the Liberal government, being engaged in almost daily warfare with the Whitlam Labor Government in Canberra, most notably over the Medibank health care scheme, to which New South Wales was the last state to sign.

He was made an Officer of the Order of Australia on 26 January 2000 "For service to the Parliament of New South Wales, to the environment as the founder of the National Parks and Wildlife Service of New South Wales, and to the community".[8] On 1 January 2001 he was awarded the Centenary Medal. Mr Lewis died on Anzac Day 2016.

Cactus-inspired skin gives electric cars a spike

Published on 27 Apr 2016: CSIRO

Inspired by the humble cactus, a new type of membrane has the potential to significantly boost the performance of fuel cells and transform the electric vehicle industry. The membrane, developed by scientists from CSIRO and Hanyang University in Korea, has been described in the journal Nature. The paper shows that in hot conditions the membrane, which features a water repellent skin, can improve the efficiency of fuel cells by a factor of four.

UNSW takes lead in race for non-toxic, thin-film solar cells

27 April, 2016  - WILSON DA SILVA: UNSW

Dr Xiaojing Hao of UNSW's Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics holding the new CZTS solar cells.

The promise of ‘zero-energy’ buildings – which generate as much power as they consume – has been held back by two hurdles: the cost of the thin-film solar cells (used in façades, roofs and windows), and the fact they’re made from scarce, and highly toxic, materials.

That’s about to change: a UNSW team, led by Dr Xiaojing Hao of the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics at the UNSW School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering, have achieved the world’s highest efficiency rating for a full-sized thin-film solar cell using a competing thin-film technology, known as CZTS.

NREL, the USA’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, confirmed this world leading 7.6% efficiency in a 1cm2 area CZTS cell this month.

Unlike its thin-film competitors, CZTS cells are made from abundant materials: copper, zinc, tin and sulphur. And CZTS has none of the toxicity problems of its two thin-film rivals, known as CdTe (cadmium-telluride) and CIGS (copper-indium-gallium-selenide). Cadmium and selenium are toxic at even tiny doses, while tellurium and indium are extremely rare.

“This is the first step on CZTS’s road to beyond 20% efficiency, and marks a milestone in its journey from the lab to commercial product,” said Hao, named one of UNSW’s 20 rising stars last year. “There is still a lot of work needed to catch up with CdTe and CIGS, in both efficiency and cell size, but we are well on the way.”

“In addition to its elements being more commonplace and environmentally benign, we’re interested in these higher bandgap CZTS cells for two reasons,” said Professor Martin Green, a mentor of Dr Hao.

“They can be deposited directly onto materials as thin layers that are 50 times thinner than a human hair, so there’s no need to manufacture silicon ‘wafer’ cells and interconnect them separately,” he added. “They also respond better than silicon to blue wavelengths of light, and can be stacked as a thin-film on top of silicon cells to ultimately improve the overall performance.”

By being able to deposit CZTS solar cells on various surfaces, Hao’s team believe this puts them firmly on the road to making thin-film photovoltaic cells that can be rigid or flexible, and durable and cheap enough to be widely integrated into buildings to generate electricity from the sunlight that strikes structures such as glazing, façades, roof tiles and windows.

However, because CZTS is cheaper – and easier to bring from lab to commercialisation than other thin-film solar cells, given already available commercialised manufacturing method – applications are likely even sooner. UNSW is collaborating with a number of large companies keen to develop applications well before it reaches 20% efficiency – probably, Hao says, within the next few years.

“I’m quietly confident we can overcome the technical challenges to further boosting the efficiency of CZTS cells, because there are a lot of tricks we’ve learned over the past 30 years in boosting CdTe and CIGS and even silicon cells, but which haven’t been applied to CZTS,” said Hao.

Currently, thin-film photovoltaic cells like CdTe are used mainly in large solar power farms, as the cadmium toxicity makes them unsuitable for residential systems, while CIGS cells is more commonly used in Japan on rooftops.

First Solar, a US$5 billion behemoth that specialises in large-scale photovoltaic systems, relies entirely on CdTe; while CIGS is the preferred technology of China’s Hanergy, the world’s largest thin-film solar power company.

Thin-film technologies such as CdTe and CIGS are also attractive because they are physically flexible, which increases the number of potential applications, such as curved surfaces, roofing membranes, or transparent and translucent structures like windows and skylights.

Thin-film technologies such as CdTe and CIGS are also attractive because they are physically flexible, which increases the number of potential applications, such as curved surfaces, roofing membranes, or transparent and translucent structures like windows and skylights.

But their toxicity has made the construction industry – mindful of its history with asbestos – wary of using them. Scarcity of the elements also renders them unattractive, as price spikes are likely as demand rises. Despite this, the global market for so-called Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) is already valued at US$1.6 billion.

Hao believes CZTS’s cheapness, benign environmental profile and abundant elements may be the trigger that finally brings architects and builders onboard to using thin-film solar panels more widely in buildings.

Until now, most architects have used conventional solar panels made from crystalline silicon. While these are even cheaper than CZTS cells, they don’t offer the same flexibility for curved surfaces and other awkward geometries needed to easily integrate into building designs.

The new high-efficiency, low-toxicity solar cells developed by UNSW's Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics.

Fewer young people under youth justice supervision, but Indigenous young people are still over-represented

Canberra, 27th April 2016 

The overall numbers of young people under youth justice supervision fell by 23%, however, Indigenous over-representation is still high, a new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has shown.

The report, Youth justice in Australia 2014–15, shows that the rate of young people aged 10–17 under the youth justice supervision, dropped from 28 per 10,000 in 2010–11 to 21 in 2014–15.

‘This decrease occurred in both community-based supervision (where the rate dropped from 24 to 18 per 10,000 aged 10–17) and detention (from 4 to 3 per 10,000),’ said AIHW spokesperson Mr Mark Cooper-Stanbury.

On an average day in 2014–15, there were around 5,600 young people (aged 10 and older) who were under youth justice supervision.

‘Most of the young people under supervision were male (82%), aged 14–17 years (79%), and 2 in 5 (43%) were Indigenous,’ said Mr Cooper-Stanbury.

Of the young people under supervision, 16% were in detention, and of these more than half (54%) were unsentenced (awaiting the outcome of their legal matter or sentencing).

‘Over the 5-year period to 2014–15, rates of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous young people under supervision fell, although the fall was proportionally greater for non-Indigenous young people,’ said Mr Cooper-Stanbury.

Non-Indigenous rates of supervision fell from 17 to 12 per 10,000 and Indigenous young people rates fell from 213 to 180 per 10,000 resulting in an increase in the level of over-representation of Indigenous young people.

More specifically, the rate of Indigenous young people aged 10–17 under supervision went from 13 times as likely as non-Indigenous young people in 2010–11, to 15 times as likely in 2014–15.

The rate of young people aged 10–17 under supervision on an average day in 2014–15 was lowest in Victoria at 14 per 10,000 and highest in the Northern Territory at 54 per 10,000.

Over the 5-year period to 2014–15, rates of supervision decreased in most states and territories except Queensland and the Northern Territory where there was no consistent trend.

Variations in the rates of supervision among the states and territories reflect differences in legislation, policy and practices in the respective youth justice systems, including types of supervised orders and options for diversion that are available.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.  

Full publication: Youth justice in Australia 2014–15 

New land snail species from Australia 

April 26, 2016

Living land snail of the new species Bothriembryon (B.) sophiarum.  Credit: Dr Abraham S.H. Breure; CC-BY 4.0

Dissection might prove unnecessary when identifying new molluscs after scientists Corey Whisson, Western Australian Museum, and Dr Abraham Breure, Naturalis Biodiversity Centre, the Netherlands, and Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Belgium, described a previously unknown land snail based on its genitalia, yet without damaging the specimen in the slightest. The new species ispublished in the open access journal ZooKeys.

The biologists described the first new Australian land snail species of this family for the last 33 years thanks to micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) and reconstruction with specialised software. This novel method, likely applied for identification of molluscs for the first time in history, uses X-rays to create cross-sections of the genitalia, so that a 3D model can be created without damaging the specimen. This can be then compared to known related taxa's genitalia in order to show if there are enough differences to prove species delimitation.

The scientists note that despite the satisfying results, micro-CT is time-consuming and "quite laborious" approach. "However, in the case of a single or just a few specimens, this may be an alternative to destructive dissection," says Dr Abraham Breure in his personal blog.

The new land snail, called Bothriembryon sophiarum after Dr Abraham Breure's wife Sophie J. Breure and Corey Whisson's first daughter Sophie Jade Whisson, can only be found along a 180-kilometre line running across the escarpment and cliff tops of the Baxter Cliffs and Hampton Ranges in Western Australia. Given its restricted distributional range, it is considered a short-range endemic.

The mollusc is characterised with a slender high-spired shell, built specifically for the demanding nature of its habitat. Dwelling in rocky limestone substrate, which is often fractured with narrow cracks and fissures, the snail has developed a slender shell, so that it can move easily through cavities and under rocks. On the other hand, being predominantly cream in colour with reddish or greyish brown blotches, it successfully blends with the limestone.

Abraham S.H. Breure, Corey S. Whisson. A new species of Bothriembryon (Mollusca, Gastropoda, Bothriembryontidae) from south-eastern Western Australia. ZooKeys, 2016; 581: 127 DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.581.8044

A curious exodus from Europe for Mesozoic dinosaurs

April 25, 2016

A map showing the migration of dinosaurs from Europe during the Early Cretaceous period (125-100 million years ago). Credit: Alex Dunhill, University of Leeds

Researchers have used 'network theory' for the first time to visually depict the movement of dinosaurs around the world during the Mesozoic Era -- including a curious exodus from Europe.

The research, published today in the Journal of Biogeography, also reaffirms previous studies that have found that dinosaurs continued to migrate to all parts of the world after the 'supercontinent' Pangaea split into land masses that are separated by oceans.

Study lead Dr Alex Dunhill from the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds, said: "We presume that temporary land bridges formed due to changes in sea levels, temporarily reconnecting the continents."

"Such massive structures -- spanning, for example, from Indo-Madagascar to Australia -- may be hard to imagine. But over the timescales that we are talking about, which is in the order of tens of millions of years, it is perfectly feasible that plate tectonic activity gave rise to the right conditions for such land bridges to form."

In the study, the researchers used the Paleobiology Database that contains every documented and accessible dinosaur fossil from around the world. Fossil records for the same dinosaur families from different continents were then cross-mapped for different periods of time, revealing connections that show how they have migrated.

Some regions of the world, such as Europe, have extensive fossil records from a long history of palaeontology digs, while other parts of the world have been largely unexplored. To help account for this disparity in fossil records, which could otherwise skew the findings, the researchers applied a filter to the database records to only count the first time that a dinosaur family connection occurred between two continents.

The findings support the idea that, although continental splitting undoubtedly reduced intercontinental migration of dinosaurs, it did not completely inhibit it.

Surprisingly, the research also showed that all connections between Europe and other continents during the Early Cretaceous period (125-100 million years ago) were out-going. That is, while dinosaur families were leaving Europe, no new families were migrating into Europe.

Dr Dunhill said: "This is a curious result that has no concrete explanation. It might be a real migratory pattern or it may be an artefact of the incomplete and sporadic nature of the dinosaur fossil record."

While network theory is commonly used in computer science for quantifying internet data, such as friend connections on Facebook, it has only recently been applied to biology research and this is the first study to use it to on dinosaur research.

Study co-author Dr James Sciberras, from the Department of Biology and Biochemistry at the University of Bath, said: "Network theory has been studied in physics for a number of years, however it is finally permeating into other disciplines. This idea that most things can, and should, be considered in the context of the whole system will lead to some exciting new findings in a wide range of fields."

Alexander M. Dunhill, Jordan Bestwick, Holly Narey, James Sciberras. Dinosaur biogeographical structure and Mesozoic continental fragmentation: a network-based approach. Journal of Biogeography, 2016; DOI: 10.1111/jbi.12766

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