May 18 - 24, 2014: Issue 163

Pittwater Online News receives a lot of information from various sources each week. For Your Interest and Bemusement:

 Accelerating NSW's position in the space race - 13 May 2014

Professor Iver Cairns (far left) and Dr Xiaofeng Wu (second from far left) are members of the University's SpaceNet, developing leadership in space research.

The chances of NSW companies being able to compete in the highly specialised global space industry have been strengthened with the creation of delta-V, Australia's first space startup accelerator.

The initiative brings together the University of Sydney's SpaceNet with NSW-based space technology companies Saber Astronautics and Launchbox Australia as well as the University of NSW's Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research.

This startup accelerator will provided mentoring, business and strategic advice, and access to investors, capital and other startups for inspiration and exchanges.

The collaboration between industry and the research sector is designed to -encourage the development and commercialisation of new technologies in NSW's fledgling space industry.

The delta-V announcement was made by the NSW Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner during the launch of the 2014 CeBIT ICT tradeshow, Asia Pacific's leading tech tradeshow, at Sydney Olympic Park this month.

The University of Sydney's SpaceNet brings a strong focus on Earth observations from space.

"Earth observation data and services are increasingly important to Australia's defence, economy, environmental stewardship, governance, security, and society. Imagine, for instance, modern Australia without earth observations and GPS data for accurate weather prediction, disaster and environmental monitoring, precision agriculture, and mineral exploration," said Professor Iver Cairns, leader of SpaceNet and from the University's School of Physics.

"Currently SpaceNet members are pursuing world-leading space technologies including robots, system miniaturisation, novel analyses of 'blue carbon' in marine tidal environments and quantification of global economic losses associated with space weather events," said Professor Cairns.

SpaceNet includes staff and students from six Schools, ranging from Aerospace Engineering to Geoscience and Physics, across the University's faculties of Agriculture and Environment, Engineering and IT, and Science. Research centres involved include the Australian Centre for Field Robotics, the Institute for Sustainability Research, and the Sydney Institute for Marine Science.

"We want to help develop a sustainable Australian space industry with our delta-V partners. With cubesats, miniature satellites made up of mostly off-the-shelf components in 10cm cubic modules weighing less than two kilograms, the barriers for Australian companies to enter the global space industry are very small, much less than $1 million," said Professor Cairns.

"This is our opportunity. We intend to use it and to help new start-ups and other Australian companies and universities use it too."

The NSW Government is supporting the industry-led formation of the accelerator through its Innovate NSW and Bridging the Gap programs.

 Global literacy award for University of Sydney educator - 16 May 2014

A University of Sydney educator has been awarded for his lifelong commitment to improving literacy and teaching excellence around the globe.

Peter Freebody, an honorary professor at the Faculty of Education and Social Work, has become just the third Australian to receive a William S Gray Citation of Merit from the International Reading Association.

Professor Robyn Ewing, Acting Pro Dean of the faculty, said the Citation of Merit recognises Professor Freebody's lifetime achievement and leadership contributions to reading and literacy.

"Peter Freebody is very deserving of this award as one of Australia's pre-eminent scholars in the field of literacy education, educational disadvantage, classroom interaction and research methodology. His research and scholarship span nearly 40 years and his work has been highly significant for educators in Australia and internationally," Professor Ewing said.

Professor Freebody, who received his citation at a ceremony in New Orleans last weekend, has produced research that has shaped curricula and policy in Australia and abroad.

His groundbreaking work with Professor Allan Luke in 1990 led to the Four Resources Reading Model, a game-changing framework for classroom literacy programs. It was adopted in all Australian states, and in schools in New Zealand, Britain, the United States, Canada, and Singapore.

"Throughout his career Professor Freebody has generously shared his knowledge, research and expertise with teachers," said Professor Ewing.

In its citation, the International Reading Association described Professor Freebody as "a scholar, a researcher, a mentor for teachers and academics".

It added: "Professor Freebody has been a strong advocate for the teaching profession and his close connections with teachers, schools and professional associations has challenged teachers' thinking about literacy and has resulted in improved professional practice in reading instruction."

 Ancient giant sperm discovered at Riversleigh World Heritage Fossil Site

May 13, 2014 - Preserved giant sperm from tiny shrimps that lived at least 17 million years ago have been discovered at the Riversleigh World Heritage Fossil Site by a team including UNSW Australia researchers. The giant sperm are thought to have been longer than the male's entire body, but are tightly coiled up inside the sexual organs of the fossilised freshwater crustaceans, which are known as ostracods.

"These are the oldest fossilised sperm ever found in the geological record," says Professor Mike Archer, of the UNSW School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, who has been excavating at Riversleigh for more than 35 years.

"The Riversleigh fossil deposits in remote northwestern Queensland have been the site of the discovery of many extraordinary prehistoric Australian animals, such as giant, toothed platypuses and flesh-eating kangaroos. So we have become used to delightfully unexpected surprises in what turns up there.

"But the discovery of fossil sperm, complete with sperm nuclei, was totally unexpected. It now makes us wonder what other types of extraordinary preservation await discovery in these deposits."

The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

A UNSW research team led by Professor Archer, Associate Professor Suzanne Hand and Henk Godthelp collected the fossil ostracods from Bitesantennary Site at Riversleigh in 1988.

They were sent to John Neil, a specialist ostracod researcher at La Trobe University, who realised they contained fossilised soft tissues.

He drew this to the attention of European specialists, including the lead author on the paper, Dr Renate Matzke-Karasz, from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany, who examined the specimens with Dr Paul Tafforeau at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, France.

The microscopic study revealed the fossils contain the preserved internal organs of the ostracods, including their sexual organs. Within these are the almost perfectly preserved giant sperm cells, and within them, the nuclei that once contained the animals' chromosomes and DNA.

Also preserved are the Zenker organs -- chitinous-muscular pumps used to transfer the giant sperm to the female. The researchers estimate the fossil sperm are about 1.3 millimetres long, about the same length or slightly longer than the ostracod itself.

"About 17 million years ago, Bitesantennary Site was a cave in the middle of a vast biologically diverse rainforest. Tiny ostracods thrived in a pool of water in the cave that was continually enriched by the droppings of thousands of bats," says Professor Archer.

UNSW's Associate Professor Suzanne Hand, who is a specialist in extinct bats and their ecological role in Riversleigh's ancient environments, says the bats could have played a role in the extraordinary preservation of the ostracod sperm cells.

The steady rain of poo from thousands of bats in the cave would have led to high levels of phosphorus in the water, which could have aided mineralisation of the soft tissues.

"This amazing discovery at Riversleigh is echoed by a few examples of soft-tissue preservation in fossil bat-rich deposits in France. So the key to eternal preservation of soft tissues may indeed be some magic ingredient in bat droppings," says Associate Professor Hand.

Previous discoveries of extraordinary preservation at Riversleigh include insects with internal muscles that have been preserved because bacteria became fossilised as they attempted to consume the soft tissues of these creatures.

Perfectly preserved cells of leaves have been found, as well as the preserved soft tissue of eyeballs in the eye sockets of some of the extinct marsupials.

 Cruise Ship playing Seven Nation Army - Published on 10 May 2014

MSC Magnifica plays seven nation army during Hamburg's "harbour-birthday" celebration on May 9th 2014

 Marine scientists create world’s first global jellyfish database

May 15, 2014 - An international study has led to the creation of the world’s first global database of jellyfish records to map jellyfish populations in the oceans. The debate regarding future trends, and subsequent ecological, biogeochemical and societal impacts, of jellyfish and jellyfish blooms in a changing ocean is hampered by a lack of information about jellyfish biomass and distribution from which to compare. To address this knowledge gap, scientists used the Jellyfish Database Initiative, or JeDI, to map jellyfish biomass in the upper 200m of the world’s oceans and explore the underlying environmental causes driving the observed patterns of distribution.

"The successful development of this first global‐scale database of jellyfish records by the Global Jellyfish Group was due, in large part, to the incredible generosity of members in the international jellyfish research and wider scientific communities," says lead author of the study Dr Cathy Lucas, a marine biologist from the University of Southampton.

"With this resource, anyone can use JeDI to address questions about the spatial and temporal extent of jellyfish populations at local, regional and global scales, and the potential implications for ecosystem services and biogeochemical processes," adds Dr Rob Condon of the University of North Carolina Wilmington in the USA.

Using data from JeDI, the authors were able to show that jellyfish and other gelatinous zooplankton are present throughout the world's oceans, with the greatest concentrations in the mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. In the North Atlantic Ocean, dissolved oxygen and sea surface temperature were found to be the principal drivers of jellyfish biomass distribution.

The spatial analysis carried out by the researchers is an essential first step in the establishment of a consistent database of gelatinous presence from which future trends can be assessed and hypotheses tested, particularly those relating multiple regional and global drivers of jellyfish biomass. It complements the findings of a 2013 study, led by Dr Condon, in which global jellyfish populations were shown to exhibit fluctuations over multidecadal time-scales centred round a baseline. "If jellyfish biomass does increase in the future, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere, this may influence the abundance and biodiversity of zooplankton and phytoplankton, having a knock-on effect on ecosystem functioning, biogeochemical cycling and fish biomass," says Dr Condon.

The Jellyfish Database Initiative, or JeDI, is the first scientifically-coordinated global-scale database of jellyfish records, and currently holds over 476,000 data items on jellyfish and other gelatinous taxa. JeDI has been designed as an open‐access database for all researchers, media and public to use as a current and future research tool and a data hub for general information on jellyfish populations. It is housed at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) USA, a cross-discipline ecological and data synthesis research centre affiliated with the University of California, Santa Barbara, can be accessed and searched at

The continued development of JeDI and a re-analysis several decades from now will enable science to determine whether jellyfish biomass and distribution alter as a result of anthropogenic climate change.

Cathy H. Lucas, Daniel O. B. Jones, Catherine J. Hollyhead, Robert H. Condon, Carlos M. Duarte, William M. Graham, Kelly L. Robinson, Kylie A. Pitt, Mark Schildhauer and Jim Regetz. Gelatinous zooplankton biomass in the global oceans: geographic variation and environmental drivers. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 2014 DOI: 10.1111/geb.1269

Image shows golden jellyfish (Mastigias) in Jellyfish Lake, Palau. Credit: Chris Lubba

 Farewell Shorebirds: The Eastern Curlew - Published on 12 May 2014

"This Spokesbird appears by arrangement with Birdlife Australia and The Pan-National Association of Eastern Curlews."

Bryan continues with his excellent project for Birdlife Australia, interviewing various migratory waterbirds before they fly to Northern Asia. Here he speaks to an Eastern Curlew.

 Scientists reveal new picture in the evolution of flightless birds

May 13, 2014 - Because of their far-flung geography and colorful examples including the African ostrich, Australian emu, New Zealand kiwi and long lost giants such as the New Zealand moa, Baker, et. al. have examined a fascinating part in the story of the avian tree of life: flightless birds, or ratites.

Straddling the middle ground is the South American tinamous which can fly, and thus were not grouped within the flightless ratites but rather considered as close relatives according to the shared structure of their palate bones. In contrast, recent molecular studies have suggested they may be more closely related to the extinct moa within the ratites.

To help pin down the evolutionary debate, Baker's research team utilized ancient moa DNA (from the extinct little bush moa) along with DNA from emus and other flightless birds to assemble the largest dataset to date (1448 genetic loci and 8 corroborating rare genomic events).

Their results, published in the advanced online edition of Molecular Biology and Evolution, found convincing evidence that tinamous are indeed most closely related to the wingless extinct moa, and thus flight has been lost independently in ratite lineages. They showed that morphological characters of ratites interpreted on their molecular tree are mostly convergent, evolving independently, probably as an adaptation to a cursorial, "on-the-run" lifestyle.

The above story is based on materials provided by Molecular Biology and Evolution (Oxford University Press). Emu. Scientists have examined a fascinating part in the story of the avian tree of life: flightless birds or ratites. Credit: Copyright Michele Hogan

 Australian first: tackling mental health issues in people with an intellectual disability - 13 May 2014

A new resource is being launched to tackle mental health problems among people with an intellectual disability and to improve the system that is currently failing them.

The Accessible Mental Health Services for People with an Intellectual Disability: A Guide for Providers (otherwise known as The Guide) has been developed by UNSW researchers and will provide a national framework for action for all frontline mental health service professionals. It is being launched at the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists 2014 Congress in Perth.

“Approximately 400,000 Australians live with an intellectual disability and they are two to three times more likely than the general population to experience mental health problems, like depression and schizophrenia,” says UNSW Chair of Intellectual Disability Mental Health Associate Professor Julian Trollor, who is one of the Guide’s authors.

“Despite this, many Australian mental health professionals report that they feel ill-equipped and lack confidence in assessing, supporting and managing people with an intellectual disability,” says Associate Professor Trollor, who also heads the Department of Developmental Disability Neuropsychiatry (3DN) at UNSW Medicine.

“The current services are not meeting the needs of patients. This new Guide, which is a practical resource underpinned by human rights principles, will go some way to tackle this by supporting mental health practitioners to provide the highest quality of care and timely access to services for people with an intellectual disability.”

The Guide, which is the first document of its type in Australia, has been developed by 3DN at UNSW Medicine with funding from the Australian Government Department of Health. It is informed by extensive background work, including evidence-based practice and clinical consultation.

"This Guide is a product of comprehensive consultation, research and collaboration, and is a valuable contribution to our understanding of the service needs of people with intellectual disability and mental illness. Supporting frontline mental health providers to improve service accessibility and delivery will achieve better health and wellbeing outcomes for this important client group," says Jane Halton, Secretary of the Australian Government Department of Health.

The pioneering resource encourages a co-ordinated approach across various service sectors and is available at the 3DN website

 This is your brain on meditation: Brain processes more thoughts, feelings during meditation, study shows

May 15, 2014 - Meditation is more than just a way to calm our thoughts and lower stress levels: our brain processes more thoughts and feelings during meditation than when you are simply relaxing, a coalition of researchers from Norway and Australia has found.

Mindfulness. Zen. Acem. Meditation drumming. Chakra. Buddhist and transcendental meditation. There are countless ways of meditating, but the purpose behind them all remains basically the same: more peace, less stress, better concentration, greater self-awareness and better processing of thoughts and feelings.

But which of these techniques should a poor stressed-out wretch choose? What does the research say? Very little - at least until now.

A team of researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), the University of Oslo and the University of Sydney is now working to determine how the brain works during different kinds of meditation. Their most recent results were published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

Different meditation techniques can actually be divided into two main groups. One type is concentrative meditation, where the meditating person focuses attention on his or her breathing or on specific thoughts, and in doing so, suppresses other thoughts.

The other type may be called nondirective meditation, where the person who is meditating effortlessly focuses on his or her breathing or on a meditation sound, but beyond that the mind is allowed to wander as it pleases. Some modern meditation methods are of this nondirective kind.

"No one knows how the brain works when you meditate. That is why I'd like to study it," says Jian Xu, who is a physician at St. Olavs Hospital in Trondheim, Norway and a researcher at the Department of Circulation and Medical Imaging at NTNU.

Fourteen people who had extensive experience with the Norwegian technique Acem meditation were tested in an MRI machine. In addition to simple resting, they undertook two different mental meditation activities, nondirective meditation and a more concentrative meditation task.

The research team wanted to test people who were used to meditation because it meant fewer misunderstandings about what the subjects should actually be doing while they lay in the MRI machine.

Nondirective meditation led to higher activity than during rest in the part of the brain dedicated to processing self-related thoughts and feelings. When test subjects performed concentrative meditation, the activity in this part of the brain was almost the same as when they were just resting.

"I was surprised that the activity of the brain was greatest when the person's thoughts wandered freely on their own, rather than when the brain worked to be more strongly focused," said Xu. "When the subjects stopped doing a specific task and were not really doing anything special, there was an increase in activity in the area of the brain where we process thoughts and feelings. It is described as a kind of resting network. And it was this area that was most active during nondirective meditation."

"The study indicates that nondirective meditation allows for more room to process memories and emotions than during concentrated meditation," says Svend Davanger, a neuroscientist at the University of Oslo, and co-author of the study.

"This area of the brain has its highest activity when we rest. It represents a kind of basic operating system, a resting network that takes over when external tasks do not require our attention. It is remarkable that a mental task like nondirective meditation results in even higher activity in this network than regular rest," says Davanger.

Most of the research team behind the study does not practice meditation, although three do: Professors Are Holen and Øyvind Ellingsen from NTNU and Professor Svend Davanger from the University of Oslo.

Acem meditation is a technique that falls under the category of nondirective meditation. Davanger believes that good research depends on having a team that can combine personal experience with meditation with a critical attitude towards results.

"Meditation is an activity that is practiced by millions of people. It is important that we find out how this really works. In recent years there has been a sharp increase in international research on meditation. Several universities in the US spend a great deal of money to research in the field. So I think it is important that we are also active," says Davanger.

Jian Xu, Alexandra Vik, Inge R. Groote, Jim Lagopoulos, Are Holen, Øyvind Ellingsen, Asta K. Håberg, Svend Davanger. Nondirective meditation activates default mode network and areas associated with memory retrieval and emotional processing.Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2014; 8 DOI:10.3389/fnhum.2014.00086

Above: The left images show the brain during concentrative meditation, while images to the right show the brain during nondirective meditation. Credit: NTNU

 Matron Shaw Guardian Angel To 100,000 Babies.Australian Diary 34. - Published on 11 May 2014

Made by The National Film Board 1950. Directed by Jack S Allan. A look at the work of Matron Edna Shaw from the Crown Street Women's Hospital in Sydney. At the time Crown Street was the largest maternity hospital in New South Wales. Opened in 1893 it was closed in 1983.

 Professional surfer back in the water after successful surgery to treat rare bone cancer

May 13, 2014 - When professional surfer Richie Lovett began experiencing hip pain at 31, he attributed it to his athletic lifestyle. But after months of discomfort and preliminary tests, the Australian native learned the pain was caused by a cancerous tumor in his femur or thigh bone.

"As a professional athlete, I was blindsided by the news that I had cancer," said Lovett. "I realized very quickly that cancer would have a profound effect on my life. I knew I needed an experienced oncologist to tackle this disease, so I began an international search to find the very best options and care."

The search led him from Australia to the Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute and the care of surgical oncologist Earl Warren Brien, MD.

Brien, director of Musculoskeletal Tumor Service at the Orthopaedic Oncology Program in the Cedars-Sinai Orthopaedic Center and a lifelong surfer himself, is an expert in treating bone cancer and has pioneered many of the most groundbreaking surgical procedures in orthopedic oncology, one of which would benefit Lovett.

Brien diagnosed Lovett with a tumor called clear cell chondrosarcoma, an uncommon form of bone cancer that rarely responds to chemotherapy or radiation. Instead of therapeutic treatments, Lovett would undergo a state-of-the-art surgery to give him the best chance at surfing again.

The surgical technique, described recently in the journal Orthopedics, required Brien to remove Lovett's tumor and damaged bone in its entirety, replace it with a prosthetic and then reconnect his hip and surrounding muscle to the prosthetic implant. This innovative approach provides the greatest range of movement possible.

With standard procedures, healing can be slow and patients often need multiple follow-up surgical procedures. But when damaged bone is removed and replaced with a metal prosthesis, patients may get back to their daily activities more quickly and easily, Brien said.

"The surgical approach Richie received is unique due to the prosthetic," said Brien. "The prosthesis is made of a combination of cobalt-chrome and titanium and has a three-piece head that allows for more range of motion and greater stability. This technique gave Richie, and patients like him, a faster recovery, more predictable outcomes and better overall quality of life."

Eight years later, Lovett is free from the rare bone cancer and back in the water, surfing and enjoying a full life with his two young children and wife.

"I am committed to staying healthy and living a positive life," said Lovett. "I influence people wherever I can and am forever grateful to Dr. Brien for getting me back into the water."

Muhammad Umar Jawad, Earl W. Brien. Proximal Femoral Reconstruction With a Constrained Acetabulum in Oncologic Patients. Orthopedics, 2014; 37 (2): e187 DOI:10.3928/01477447-20140124-24

Above: This is Richie Lovett competing after recovering from cancer surgery. Credit: Jon Frank

 New study recommends watching your waistline as a first step to maintaining good health - May 14, 2014

An expanding waistline is one of the main predictors of whether people will go on to develop serious and potentially life-threatening diseases such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, according to new research from the University of Western Sydney. 

The study, published in Circulation Journal, the official journal of the Japanese Circulation Society, was led by Dr Evan Atlantis, Senior Research Fellow together with colleagues from the School of Medicine at The University of Adelaide. 

The study provides new evidence that weight gain, particularly around the abdomen, is now the major physical risk factor, compared to lifestyle factors, of whether people will eventually go on to develop a cluster of potentially life-threatening conditions that together doctors refer to as Metabolic Syndrome. 

With a rise in obesity rates among adults, Metabolic Syndrome is becoming a growing public health concern for doctors who are seeing more and more patients showing some or all of its symptoms. 

Dr Atlantis and his team investigated the independent effect of weight gain as opposed to lifestyle and risk factors such as smoking exposure, physical inactivity and high fat diet. On average for an 80kg person, every 2-kg weight gained over a 6-year period increased the risk of developing metabolic syndrome by 10 per cent.

They concluded that weight gain would likely be the main predictor of Metabolic Syndrome independent of, and compared to, lifestyle risk factors.

While the news may be depressing for many people who see their waistlines gradually expanding, there is some good news, according to Dr Atlantis. It is possible to prevent or at least delay Metabolic Syndrome – mainly with making some lifestyle changes, he says.

"You can certainly control some of the causes such as overweight and obesity, an inactive lifestyle and insulin resistance, but it requires a long-term effort. So when you notice your waistline beginning to expand, it’s probably time to start paying more attention to making sure you maintain a healthy diet as much as possible and also get an appropriate amount of exercise," he says. 

Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome which doctors look for include:

A large waistline. Excess fat in the stomach area is a greater risk factor for heart disease as compared to other parts of the body such as the hips. 

High triglyceride levels. Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood.

A low HDL cholesterol level.  HDL Cholesterol is sometimes called the good cholesterol because it helps remove fat from the arteries.

High blood pressure. The force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as the heart pumps blood. If blood pressure stays too high over time, it can damage the heart and lead to plaque build-up.

High fasting blood sugar. Mildly high blood sugar may be an early sign of diabetes.

 High-intensity interval workouts might be a 'HIIT' but they don't fight flab - 13 May 2014

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is touted as the fastest way to get lean, but according to ground-breaking new research from the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre, only endurance exercise goes the distance if you are chasing fat loss.

The world-first controlled trial led by exercise physiologists Shelley Keating and Dr Nathan Johnson from the Faculty of Health Sciences reveals regular continuous aerobic exercise yields better fat loss results than HIIT workouts for overweight people looking to shed weight and achieve a slimmer waistline.

"A growing number of people are substituting HIIT for regular aerobic workouts in their exercise routine, but high-intensity interval training is not a fast track to quick fat loss if you're overweight," said Ms Keating.

"High-intensity burst training does deliver important benefits like increased fitness, but it doesn't have a 'fat furnace' effect if you carry weight around the middle.

"The message is if you're hitting the gym to lose weight and trim your waistline, stick with steady aerobic exercise to shift abdominal fat and see better results on the scales."

The new research from the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre is the first controlled study of its kind to compare the effects of HIIT and continuous aerobic exercise on body fat levels among overweight adults.

"Some trainers spruik high-intensity workouts as the most efficient training method, but this doesn't mean HIIT translates to fat loss if you're overweight," Dr Johnson said.

"Until now the only evidence to support claims for the effectiveness of high-intensity workouts as an efficient weight loss method was research examining ; younger people or people who were already lean and healthy.

"HIIT can be used as a time-efficient training method to improve fitness, but if you're overweight you can't afford to dump aerobic exercise if you want to see fat loss."

Lead researcher Shelley Keating said the study, published in the Journal of Obesity, had implications for the management of weight loss.

"Some trainers emphasize HIIT workouts over continuous exercise to target body fat and trim the waistline, but the evidence is if you're overweight you're better off focusing on continuous aerobic exercise to slim your core and positively improve your body fat composition," Ms Keating said.

"Forget the claims HIIT workouts can whip overweight people into shape in less time than regular aerobic exercise - it's more efficient to workout regularly at a continuous intensity to achieve a fat loss goal."

The Charles Perkins Centre study examined the effects of HIIT versus endurance exercise training three days a week on body fat levels in overweight adults seeking improved fat distribution. The HIIT workout consisted of bursts of high-intensity output (120 percent of VO2peak) interspersed with lower intensity activity while the continuous aerobic exercise was a consistent workout at a steady intensity (65 percent of ; VO2peak).

The Charles Perkins Centre is a world-leading initiative that brings together international leaders across a broad spectrum of academic disciplines to find real-world solutions to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and related conditions. ;

The state-of-the-art Charles Perkins Centre building, a $385 million teaching and research hub on the University of Sydney's Camperdown Campus, is set to officially launch in June.

 The heart that regenerates itself - 12 May 2014

A UNSW researcher based at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, in collaboration with colleagues at Emory University in the United States, have discovered that heart muscle cells retain the ability to replicate long after birth.

In a study published in Cell, the scientists have overturned more than a century of scientific theory, which proposed that heart muscle cells in mammals stopped replicating just after birth, limiting the organs ability to repair itself after injury.

The study, carried out on mice, also showed that in response to a surge in thyroid hormone, heart muscle cells undergo an intense 24 hour ‘burst’ of division in preadolescence.

During this burst, the number of heart muscle cells increase by more than 40 per cent, or half a million cells, and compared with later in development, the ability of the heart to recover after injury was enhanced. 

This response is essential for the heart to meet the increased circulatory needs of the body during a period of rapid growth in preadolescence, in which the heart increases almost four-fold in size. 

The findings suggest that thyroid hormone therapy could stimulate the process, and may even enhance the heart's ability to regenerate in patients with heart disease. 

Professor Bob Graham, Executive Director, Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute and Des Renford Professor of Medicine at UNSW, with colleague Professor Ahsan Husain at Emory University, led the study.

“Heart muscle cells retain the ability to divide and make new cells for a long time after birth, at least until preadolescence, equivalent to eight to ten years of age in humans," says Professor Graham.

“The implications of our findings could be huge, as it may give us a significant window of opportunity in which to repair the hearts of babies born with heart defects, or even to reactivate heart muscle cells damaged after a heart attack in adults."

The scientists also believe the brevity of the burst may explain why it has previously gone undetected, taking place over just 24 hours in mice, equating to around five weeks in humans.

“I think this research has given us some really important and significant insights, including that the heart is not as static as we previously thought. It is actually a very dynamic organ, which is something we may be able to use to our advantage as we continue the fight against heart disease,” he says.

Read the story in the Sydney Morning Herald.

 Australian first for trauma research - 12 May 2014

Trauma and mental health, particularly post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), will have a dedicated research focus with the establishment of the first clinical professorial chair of its type in Australia.

Internationally respected clinical psychologist UNSW Professor Zachary Steel has been appointed the inaugural St John of God Professorial Chair for Trauma and Mental Health, which is a partnership between the Hospital based at Richmond and UNSW. 

The role aims to bring together clinical and academic excellence to help determine best practice and evidence-based care for treating patients, with the aim of better understanding trauma, mental health and recovery.

“PTSD will affect one in 10 Australians at some time during their lives and is one of the most prevalent mental disorders in Australia,” says Professor Steel, who shares his time between UNSW and St John of God Richmond Hospital.

“A key challenge is to identify those factors that support recovery and return to normal functioning after a person has been exposed to severe trauma and to find ways to support individuals before they become disabled by chronic PTSD symptoms,” says Professor Steel from UNSW Medicine’s School of Psychiatry.

“Unless we get to sufferers early on, they typically isolate themselves, further reducing their functionality and compounding the symptoms of the disorder, such as anger and irritability. This affects not only the sufferer but also those who support them,” says Professor Steel.

St John of God Richmond Hospital (SJGRH) is a not-for-profit psychiatric facility that has been specialising in PTSD, early intervention and inpatient care for 20 years.

“In recent years, we have seen an increase in younger patients seeking treatment for PTSD, because of Australia’s military involvement in recent conflicts and peacekeeping and the growing recognition of PTSD in other special services like Fire, Police and Ambulance,” says SJGRH Chief Executive Officer Strephon Billinghurst.

“With the return of many of our soldiers, now is a critical time to be addressing this growing problem,” says Mr Billinghurst.

St John of God is committing more than 1.8 million dollars over five years to the Chair.

The role builds on the success of a previous research Chair in Perinatal and Women’s Mental Health based at St John of God Hospital Burwood.

The Dean of UNSW Medicine Professor Peter Smith says it is a unique opportunity to capitalise on the growing need and awareness of PTSD.

“While people are beginning to understand and talk about mental health, it is still one of the most stigmatised illnesses in our community,” says Professor Smith. “This position will enable us to turn research into practice quickly, so that it can help some of our most vulnerable people to recover more quickly.”

Bio: Zachary Steel

Professor Steel is an internationally respected clinical psychologist with more than 20 years’ experience in research and clinical practice. He has researched the mental health and well-being of population’s exposed to mass conflict globally as well as among refugees and asylum seekers in Australia. He has worked in Australia and internationally in places such as Aceh, Indonesia, East Timor and Vietnam.

 NATIONAL PARKS AWARDED HERITAGE CONSERVATION AWARDS - MEDIA RELEASE - Wednesday, 14 May 2014 - Rob Stokes MP, Minister for the Environment, Minister for Heritage, Minister for the Central Coast, Assistant Minister for Planning 

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service today received three accolades at the National Trust Heritage Awards for work at the Hartley Historic Site, Bradleys Head Mast and Smoky House Lighthouse Keepers Cottages. 

Environment and Heritage Minister Rob Stokes congratulated the winners and said the awards highlight NPWS’s commitment to conserving and caring for our state’s heritage sites. 

“Adaptive reuse of our heritage assets, like the Hartley project, contributes greatly to the conservation and care of our significant heritage sites,” Rob Stokes said.  

The winners included:  

• Hartley Historic Site’s revitalisation project, which was the winner in the Adaptive Re-Use category. 

• Bradley’s Head Mast Conservation project within the Sydney Harbour National Park won the Conservation, Interiors and Objects category. 

• Revitalisation of Smoky Cape Lighthouse Keepers’ Cottages and Smoky Cape Lighthouse Precinct project was given a Highly Commended Award in the category for Conservation, Built Heritage. 

Member for Oxley Andrew Stoner said the revitalisation of Smoky Cape Lighthouse Keepers’ Cottages and Lighthouse Precinct project had resulted into a stunning enhancement to the site and improvement to the quality of the guest accommodation.  

“Smoky Cape Lighthouse stands on a narrow headland, surrounded by the spectacular coastal scenery of Hat Head National Park and this conservation work has resulted in an invigorated facility almost as beautiful as the views.” 

Member for North Shore Jillian Skinner said the Bradley’s Head Mast Conservation project is of enormous historical significance as the only formal naval memorial in Australia to which all ships must render ceremonial honours when entering Sydney Harbour. 

“The conservation and repair work was undertaken in time for the International Fleet Review and demonstrates high quality engineering and conservation skills,” Mrs Skinner said. 

 “The work, which involved metal repairs, rigging and repainting of the entire monument, was co-funded by the NSW Government, Royal Australian Navy and contributions from the local community.”  

Member for Bathurst Paul Toole said the adaptive reuse at the Hartley project transformed a ruined and unrecognisable timber building into a new amenities facility,  whilst preserving the integrity of the original style and architecture. 

 West Antarctic glacier loss appears unstoppable

May 12, 2014 – A new study by researchers at NASA and the University of California, Irvine, finds a rapidly melting section of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet appears to be in an irreversible state of decline, with nothing to stop the glaciers in this area from melting into the sea. The study presents multiple lines of evidence, incorporating 40 years of observations that indicate the glaciers in the Amundsen Sea sector of West Antarctica "have passed the point of no return," according to glaciologist and lead author Eric Rignot, of UC Irvine and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The new study has been accepted for publication in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

These glaciers already contribute significantly to sea level rise, releasing almost as much ice into the ocean annually as the entire Greenland Ice Sheet. They contain enough ice to raise global sea level by 4 feet (1.2 meters) and are melting faster than most scientists had expected. Rignot said these findings will require an upward revision to current predictions of sea level rise.

"This sector will be a major contributor to sea level rise in the decades and centuries to come," Rignot said. "A conservative estimate is it could take several centuries for all of the ice to flow into the sea."

Three major lines of evidence point to the glaciers' eventual demise: the changes in their flow speeds, how much of each glacier floats on seawater, and the slope of the terrain they are flowing over and its depth below sea level. In a paper in April, Rignot's research group discussed the steadily increasing flow speeds of these glaciers over the past 40 years. This new study examines the other two lines of evidence.

The glaciers flow out from land to the ocean, with their leading edges afloat on the seawater. The point on a glacier where it first loses contact with land is called the grounding line. Nearly all glacier melt occurs on the underside of the glacier beyond the grounding line, on the section floating on seawater.

Just as a grounded boat can float again on shallow water if it is made lighter, a glacier can float over an area where it used to be grounded if it becomes lighter, which it does by melting or by the thinning effects of the glacier stretching out. The Antarctic glaciers studied by Rignot's group have thinned so much they are now floating above places where they used to sit solidly on land, which means their grounding lines are retreating inland.

"The grounding line is buried under a thousand or more meters of ice, so it is incredibly challenging for a human observer on the ice sheet surface to figure out exactly where the transition is," Rignot said. "This analysis is best done using satellite techniques."

The team used radar observations captured between 1992 and 2011 by the European Earth Remote Sensing (ERS-1 and -2) satellites to map the grounding lines' retreat inland. The satellites use a technique called radar interferometry, which enables scientists to measure very precisely - within less than a quarter of an inch - how much Earth's surface is moving. Glaciers move horizontally as they flow downstream, but their floating portions also rise and fall vertically with changes in the tides. Rignot and his team mapped how far inland these vertical motions extend to locate the grounding lines.

The accelerating flow speeds and retreating grounding lines reinforce each other. As glaciers flow faster, they stretch out and thin, which reduces their weight and lifts them farther off the bedrock. As the grounding line retreats and more of the glacier becomes waterborne, there's less resistance underneath, so the flow accelerates.

Slowing or stopping these changes requires pinning points - bumps or hills rising from the glacier bed that snag the ice from underneath. To locate these points, researchers produced a more accurate map of bed elevation that combines ice velocity data from ERS-1 and -2 and ice thickness data from NASA's Operation IceBridge mission and other airborne campaigns. The results confirm no pinning points are present upstream of the present grounding lines in five of the six glaciers. Only Haynes Glacier has major bedrock obstructions upstream, but it drains a small sector and is retreating as rapidly as the other glaciers.

The bedrock topography is another key to the fate of the ice in this basin. All the glacier beds slope deeper below sea level as they extend farther inland. As the glaciers retreat, they cannot escape the reach of the ocean, and the warm water will keep melting them even more rapidly.

The accelerating flow rates, lack of pinning points and sloping bedrock all point to one conclusion, Rignot said.

"The collapse of this sector of West Antarctica appears to be unstoppable," he said. "The fact that the retreat is happening simultaneously over a large sector suggests it was triggered by a common cause, such as an increase in the amount of ocean heat beneath the floating sections of the glaciers. At this point, the end of this sector appears to be inevitable."

Because of the importance of this part of West Antarctica, NASA's Operation IceBridge will continue to monitor its evolution closely during this year's Antarctica deployment, which begins in October. IceBridge uses a specialized fleet of research aircraft carrying the most sophisticated suite of science instruments ever assembled to characterize changes in thickness of glaciers, ice sheets and sea ice.

E. Rignot, J. Mouginot, M. Morlighem, H. Seroussi, B. Scheuchl.Widespread, rapid grounding line retreat of Pine Island, Thwaites, Smith and Kohler glaciers, West Antarctica from 1992 to 2011.. Geophysical Research Letters, 2014; DOI:10.1002/2014GL060140  Picture: Thwaites Glacier. Credit: NASA

 Ocean winds keep Antarctica cold, Australia dry

May 11, 2014 - New Australian National University-led research has explained why Antarctica is not warming as much as other continents, and why southern Australia is recording more droughts. Researchers have found rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are strengthening the stormy Southern Ocean winds which deliver rain to southern Australia, but pushing them further south towards Antarctica.

Lead researcher Nerilie Abram, from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences, said the findings explained the mystery over why Antarctica was not warming as much as the Arctic, and why Australia faces more droughts.

"With greenhouse warming, Antarctica is actually stealing more of Australia's rainfall. It's not good news - as greenhouse gases continue to rise we'll get fewer storms chased up into Australia," Dr Abram said.

"As the westerly winds are getting tighter they're actually trapping more of the cold air over Antarctica," Abram said. "This is why Antarctica has bucked the trend. Every other continent is warming, and the Arctic is warming fastest of anywhere on earth."

While most of Antarctica is remaining cold, rapid increases in summer ice melt, glacier retreat and ice shelf collapses are being observed in Antarctic Peninsula, where the stronger winds passing through Drake Passage are making the climate warm exceptionally quickly.

Until this study, published in Nature Climate Change, Antarctic climate observations were available only from the middle of last century.

By analysing ice cores from Antarctica, along with data from tree rings and lakes in South America, Dr Abram and her colleagues were able to extend the history of the westerly winds back over the last millennium.

"The Southern Ocean winds are now stronger than at any other time in the past 1,000 years," Abram said.

"The strengthening of these winds has been particularly prominent over the past 70 years, and by combining our observations with climate models we can clearly link this to rising greenhouse gas levels."

Study co-authors Dr Robert Mulvaney and Professor Matthew England said the study answered key questions about climate change in Antarctica.

"Strengthening of these westerly winds helps us to explain why large parts of the Antarctic continent are not yet showing evidence of climate warming," said Dr Mulvaney, from the British Antarctic Survey.

"This new research suggests that climate models do a good job of capturing how the westerly winds respond to increasing greenhouse gases," added Professor England, from the Climate Change Research Centre at UNSW.

"This isn't good news for farmers reliant on winter rainfall over the southern part of Australia."

Nerilie J. Abram, Robert Mulvaney, Françoise Vimeux, Steven J. Phipps, John Turner, Matthew H. England. Evolution of the Southern Annular Mode during the past millennium. Nature Climate Change, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2235

Above: Dr. Nerilie Abram is shown working on an ice core.

 Surprising global species shake-up discovered

May 13, 2014 - The diversity of the world's life forms - from corals to carnivores - is under assault. Decades of scientific studies document the fraying of ecosystems and a grim tally of species extinctions due to destroyed habitat, pollution, climate change, invasives and overharvesting.

Which makes a recent report in the journal Sciencerather surprising.

Nick Gotelli, a professor at the University of Vermont, with colleagues from Saint Andrews University, Scotland, and the University of Maine, re-examined data from one hundred long-term monitoring studies done around the world - polar regions to the tropics, in the oceans and on land. They discovered that the number of species in many of these places has not changed much - or has actually increased.

Now wait a minute. A global extinction crisis should show up in declining levels of local biodiversity, right? That's not what the scientists found. Instead they discovered that, on average, the number of species recorded remained the same over time. Fifty-nine of the one hundred biological communities showed an increase in species richness and 41 a decrease. In all the studies, the rate of change was modest.

But the researchers did discover something changing rapidly: which species were living in the places being studied. Almost 80 percent of the communities the team examined showed substantial changes in species composition, averaging about 10 percent change per decade - significantly higher than the rate of change predicted by models.

In other words, this new report shows that a huge turnover of species in habitats around the globe is under way, resulting in the creation of novel biological communities. "Right under our noses, in the same place that a team might have looked a decade earlier, or even just a year earlier, a new assemblage of plants and animals may be taking hold," Gotelli says.

Jellyfish world

The causes of this shift are not yet fully clear, but the implications for conservation and policy could be significant. Historically, conservation science and planning has focused on protecting endangered species more than on shifts in which plants and animals are assembled together. "A main policy application of this work is that we're going to need to focus as much on the identity of species as on the number of species," Gotelli says. "The number of species in a place may not be our best scorecard for environmental change."

For example, the scientists write that disturbed coral reefs can be replaced by a group of species dominated by algae. This replacement might keep the species count the same, but not necessarily provide the fisheries, tourism ("algae diving" doesn't have quite the same appeal as "reef diving") or coastal protections that the original coral reef did.

"In the oceans we no longer have many anchovies, but we seem to have an awful lot of jellyfish," says Gotelli. "Those kinds of changes are not going to be seen by just counting the number of species that are present."

Almost unrecognizable

The new research, led by Maria Dornelas at Saint Andrews University in Scotland, carefully looked for previous studies that had tracked and tallied species over many years. The team selected 100 that contained six million observations of more than 35,000 different species - including datasets that go back to 1874 and many over the last 40 years. Given widespread observation of habitat change and individual species declines - and knowing that extinction rates are many times higher than normal - the scientists predicted a drop, over time, in the number of species observed in most of these studies.

Why they didn't find this drop could be driven by many forces. One is related to what science writer David Quammen semi-famously termed our "planet of weeds." In other words, invasive species or successful colonists or weedy generalists - think kudzu and rats - may be spreading into new places, keeping the local species tally up, even as the planet's overall biodiversity is degraded.

"We move species around," Gotelli says. "There is a huge ant diversity in Florida, and about 30 percent of the ant species are non-natives. They have been accidentally introduced, mostly from the Old World tropics, and they are now a part of the local assemblage. So you can have increased diversity in local communities because of global homogenization."

And sampling issues may conceal important realities: some species may have become so rare - think white rhinos - that they're highly unlikely to be found in a general species survey and so don't show in the initial results nor disappear in later ones.

Range shifts associated with climate change could be at work, too, quickly pushing species into new terrain. On May 6, the White House released its National Climate Assessment noting that, as a result of human-caused warming, "species, including many iconic species, may disappear from regions where they have been prevalent or become extinct, altering some regions so much that their mix of plant and animal life will become almost unrecognizable."

This study in Science, published on April 18, underlines this emerging reality, giving it a new and worrisome precision and leading Nick Gotelli and his co-authors to conclude that there "is need to expand the focus of research and planning from biodiversity loss to biodiversity change."

M. Dornelas, N. J. Gotelli, B. McGill, H. Shimadzu, F. Moyes, C. Sievers, A. E. Magurran. Assemblage Time Series Reveal Biodiversity Change but Not Systematic Loss. Science, 2014; 344 (6181): 296 DOI: 10.1126/science.1248484

Public comment on final stage for the One-Stop Shop in NSW - Joint media release, 14 May 2014

The Federal Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, and the NSW Minister for Planning, Pru Goward, today released a New South Wales draft bilateral agreement on environmental approvals for public comment.

Minister Hunt said the One-Stop Shop reforms are a key Coalition election commitment that will reduce duplication of environmental assessment and approval processes between the Australian Government, states and territories.

"The Australian Government's One-Stop Shop reform has today taken a major step forward with the release of the approval bilateral agreement with New South Wales for public comment."

"Business efficiency will be improved while maintaining the strong environmental standards under federal law. This will help to grow the economy, reduce costs for business, boost productivity and create jobs."

Minister Goward said NSW and the Commonwealth are now one step closer to a more sensible system that removes the kinds of unnecessary duplication and overlap that add delays and costs without any further environmental protection.

"This is an important step, and I look forward to finalising resourcing arrangements at the time the bilateral agreement is signed.

"Having two sets of assessment and approval requirements adds costs that proponents just shouldn't have to bear."

"That's why the Baird and Abbott governments are getting on with the job of making the planning system simpler and more efficient to deliver the job-creating infrastructure and investment our State needs sooner and at lower cost."

The Australian and New South Wales Governments have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish the One-Stop Shop and have already entered into a new bilateral agreement to streamline environmental assessments. The approval bilateral agreement is the final stage in the process.

The draft bilateral agreement further identifies additional streamlining measures, including strategic assessments, to further reduce duplication in environmental assessment and approval processes. The draft approval bilateral agreement with NSW is open for public comment until Friday 13th June.

For further information see

 Bird Watching with Pittwater Natural Heritage Association (PNHA)

Come Birdwatching with us Sunday July 6, Warriewood Wetlands, one of Sydney's premier bird spots. Book thru

Sunday Birdwatching with PNHA

Would you like to know more about local birds? Our guides can help you see and hear them in these wonderful bushland reserves, and learn about their lives.

Our birdwalks start about 7.30 and end about 10am. Bring Binoculars and some morning tea for afterwards if you like. Older children welcome. 

6 July Warriewood Wetland, Warriewood

21 September Deep Creek, off Wakehurst Parkway

16 November Irrawong Reserve, Warriewood

Contact us to book and get details of each birdwalk.

Email or ph: 0439 409 202/0402 605 721

 Up Close with a Welcome Swallow by Birds in Backyards TV - Published on 14 May 2014

This video is about Up Close with a Welcome Swallow

 Parliament gives Green Army the green light - Media release, 15 May 2014: The Hon. Greg Hunt MP, Minister for the Environment

The creation of a Green Army to deliver environmental projects in Australian communities is now one step closer, with legislation passing the House of Representatives today.

This important milestone follows the commitment of $525 million over 4 years in the Federal Budget.

The Green Army will generate real benefits for the Australian environment and give young Australian aged 17-24 the opportunity to gain training and experience in environmental and heritage conservation projects.

The Green Army is a key Coalition election commitment and will support practical, grassroots environment and heritage conservation projects across urban, regional and remote Australia. 

From July this year, 250 Green Army projects will be established, providing employment and training to around 2,500 participants.

The Green Army will become Australia's largest-ever team supporting environmental action across the country, building to 15,000 young Australians by 2018.

The Green Army will make a real difference to the environment and local communities through projects such as restoring and protecting habitat, weeding, planting, cleaning up creeks and rivers and restoring cultural heritage places. 

Participants will be eligible to receive an allowance and have the opportunity to gain Certificate I or Certificate II qualifications in areas such as land management, park management, landscaping or horticulture.

Projects announced during the election campaign will be rolled out from July.

Applications for additional first round projects are currently being assessed and I look forward to announcing these in the coming months.

The passing of this legislation today is great news for communities across Australia that will benefit from the rollout of very worthwhile environmental projects.

Further details are available online 


Environment Events

Community Stream Watch Program

The Coastal Environment Centre is offering an exciting opportunity to learn more about our local freshwater ecosystems and take part in a citizen science project observing and collecting data from our local waterways. 

Pittwater Council and Streamwatch will be holding an information  session and training day on Sunday 22 June at the Coastal Environment Centre. 

As a part of a Streamwatch group you will learn more about freshwater ecosystems, help to collect data from local waterways and network with other groups from across Sydney. 

Key highlights: 

 Learn a host of new skills

 Learn more about our local freshwater creeks and rivers

 Meet and network with likeminded individuals across Sydney

Who should attend? Anyone with an interest in the local freshwater waterways. 

To register or for further information please phone 1300 000 232 or visit

Free Native Plants for Elanora & Ingleside Residents

If you’re looking for an excuse to get involved in your local native bushland, Pittwater Council has a give-away you won’t be able to resist!

Council is providing free native plants for all Elanora and Ingleside residents to help support the bushland of the Deep Creek Catchment area.

This follows Council’s success in securing grant funding from Greater Sydney Local Land Services for the Deep Creek Riparian Ecosystem Catchment project, which will support bush regeneration, habitat creation and riparian restoration within Deep Creek, Bilarong Reserve and the Elanora Bushcare site.

The project will be funded for 12 months; ensuring Council will keep a close hold on bush regeneration maintenance and hazard reduction work, which is already underway at the site.

Part of the project is to encourage locals to be more aware of environmental issues in their area. With this in mind, Council is kicking off three special events with free native plants giveaway and planting at various locations.

Saturday 24 May, 10am-1pm at Elanora Shopping Village, Kalang Rd, Elanora Heights. This is where residents will be given free native plants in a bid to encourage the plantings of locally native species on private properties.

Sunday 1 June, 9am-12pm Community Planting Event at Woorarra Ave, opposite Allawah Ave, Elanora Heights of the Deep Creek catchment reserve. Residents are invited to help restore the natural habitat and come along and meet your neighbours.

Sunday 15 June, 9am-12pm – another Community Planting event, meet adjacent to the driveway of 15 Elanora Rd, Elanora Heights in the bushcare site.

Morning tea, tools and instruction will be provided.

Free native plants will also be on offer for Elanora and Ingleside residents

Details: or call 9970 1367.

Guringai Festival - Indigenous Walk   Sunday June 15, 2014

Join us for 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 bush tucker and medicines. Look for native animals and their tracks as we explore. This event is suitable for the whole family! 

When: Sunday 15 June, 10am to 12pm. Where: Meet point to be provided upon booking. Bookings Essential!  Online -  In person: Coastal Environment Centre, Lake Park Road, North Narrabeen. Phone: 1300 000 232 (Reception - Option 1)

Aboriginal Heritage Talk - Thursday 12 June, 7pm to 8:30pm

Come and learn more about our amazing local Aboriginal heritage. As part of the Guringai Festival Pittwater Council will be hosting a guest speakerfrom the Aboriginal Heritage Office presenting an engaging talk about Pittwater’s Aboriginal heritage.  This is a great talk for the whole family. 

When: Thursday 12 June, 7pm to 8:30pm. Where: Location to be provided upon booking.  Cost: Free! Bookings Essential! Online - In person: Coastal Environment Centre, Lake Park Road, North Narrabeen. Phone: 1300 000 232 (Reception - Option 1)

Friends of Mona Vale Cemetery Gardening Group

Pittwater Council is seeking volunteers interested in joining our recently established

Cemetery gardening group, meeting the first and third Tuesday of every month, from 8.30am to 11.30am (weather permitting). 

Presently Council staff do not have the resources to tend individual graves and as the years go by relatives who may have tended the grave in the past grow old themselves and are unable to visit. The graves can become quite untidy and weed infested. 

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


Clean Chimneys Mean Cleaner Air 

With the cooler weather approaching, Pittwater residents with wood heaters are being urged to check their chimneys for excessive smoke.

Pittwater Mayor, Jacqui Townsend said smoky chimneys could be a real problem in Pittwater during the winter months, when woodsmoke haze is trapped over built up areas.

“Through our Woodsmoke Reduction Program we’re looking to gather information from our residents about how they use their wood heaters via our online survey.

Cr Townsend said that participants in the online survey would be in the running to win a chimney clean, just one of the ways to reduce woodsmoke.

“We will also be providing information and education to help reduce woodsmoke pollution and help clear the air.

“Unfortunately woodsmoke pollution can harm the environment and your health and can be upsetting for neighbours,” added Cr Townsend.

“As part of our Woodsmoke Reduction Program we are also offering cash incentives up to $1,000 to reduce wood smoke pollution and help Pittwater residents breathe easy.

Environmental Compliance Manager, Jeff Lofts encouraged all residents with wood heaters to examine the air being emitted from their chimney.

“Ideally, chimneys should not vent any smoke, just a heat haze. Some older models may vent a thin wispy smoke.

“However, if your chimney has obvious smoke this means it’s not operating as efficiently as it could be, regardless of its age. Residents can follow some simple steps to reduce woodsmoke, including:

Don’t let your heater smoulder overnight

Burn only dry, aged hardwood in your wood heater

Store your wood under cover in a dry, ventilated area

Never burn rubbish, driftwood or painted or treated wood

When lighting a cold heater, use plenty of dry kindling to establish a good fire quickly

Use several small logs rather than one large log and stack them loosely in your heater, so air can circulate around them. Don’t cram the firebox full

Keep the flame lively and bright

Check your chimney regularly to see how well your fire is burning. If there is smoke coming from the chimney, increase the air supply to your fire

Have the chimney cleaned every year to prevent creosote build-up

Purchase heaters that have a compliance plate showing it meets the Australian Standard (AS/NZS 4013:1999),” said Mr Lofts.

Find out more about reducing woodsmoke or participate in the online survey