Inbox and Environment News: Issue 326

August 20 - 26, 2017: Issue 326

Asparagus Fern

Asparagus Fern is our worst weed in Pittwater. The Bush Invaders is by PNHA member and primary school teacher Sylvia Saszczak. Share to spread the message about this horror weed.

PNHA Birdwatching August 2017 

Sunday 27 August, 8am 
Chiltern Track, Ingleside (Birds and Wildflowers)
A great place to see some wonderful bushland, and birds such as yellow-tufted and white-eared honeyeaters we don't see on our other walks. We'll have an expert plant guide to answer your plant questions. Join us to celebrate the (almost) end of winter!

Meet at 8am at the Fire Trail gate, on the left near the end of Chiltern Rd, Ingleside. Bring binoculars, water, hat, insect repellent, and morning tea if you wish. Families welcome.

Bookings not essential, but you can reply or enquire

White-eared honeyeater Photo by Neil Fifer

Innovative Technology Converts Commercial Vehicles To Run On Electricity

Media release: 14 August 2017 - The Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for the Environment and Energy
The Turnbull Government, through the Clean Energy Innovation Fund, is providing $5 million in finance to help automotive technology manufacturer SEA Electric convert medium-duty trucks and commercial vans to run on electricity.

The Victorian based manufacturer has developed three electric vehicle drive system models that will convert fuel operated commercial vehicles to electric when fitted.

The investment will help SEA Electric increase their manufacturing capacity to support the growing demand for clean energy vehicle technologies.

This innovative technology would benefit freight, delivery and waste collection businesses looking to transition to lower emission vehicles.

Increasing the uptake of electric vehicles is an important part of the Turnbull Government’s broader strategy to reduce emissions.

The Clean Energy Innovation Fund is operated by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) in conjunction with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to drive innovation in clean energy technologies.

Transport-related emissions is a key area of focus for the CEFC, especially investing in projects that reduce carbon emissions, achieve industry-leading levels of energy efficiency and contribute to productivity and cleaner air in our cities and regions.

As part of the Turnbull Government’s technology neutral approach to emissions reduction, the Government is also providing support for the uptake of low emissions vehicles through the Green Vehicle Guide and the Emissions Reduction Fund.

Wetlands Reconnection Flow Murrumbidgee River And Yanco Creek - Environmental Water Delivery Now Complete

Media release: 15 August 2017: NSW OE&H
River users in the Murrumbidgee Valley are advised that the delivery of environmental water from Burrinjuck and Blowering dams, to enable a reconnection flow to Murrumbidgee wetlands, has now successfully ceased.

The flow commenced on 24 July 2017 with the peak of this release now approaching Hay.

Numerous wetlands have been re-connected using nearly 220 gigalitres of water held by the NSW Government and the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder.

This water has helped to improve breeding and foraging habitat for native fish and birds and to stimulate growth of wetland plants, which helps to improve water quality.

Water managers from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), along with WaterNSW will continue to monitor the flow as it reaches Balranald.

OEH ecologists have commenced monitoring the water delivery event and evaluating the responses of different animals and plants in the connected wetlands.

The delivery of this water has been a co-operative effort involving NSW OEH, WaterNSW, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, Murrumbidgee Irrigation Limited, Coleambally Irrigation, DPI Water and landholders along the Murrumbidgee River system. For additional information:

Real-time water data (for River heights).

Adding Silicon To Soil To Strengthen Plant Defenses

August 15, 2017
To help plants better fend off insect pests, researchers are arming them with stones. The University of Delaware's Ivan Hiltpold and researchers from the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment at Western Sydney University in Australia are examining the addition of silicon to the soil in which plants are grown to help strengthen plants against potential predators.

The research was published recently in the journal Soil Biology and Biochemistry and was funded by Sugar Research Australia. Adam Frew, currently a postdoctoral research fellow at the Charles Sturt University in Australia, is the lead author on the paper.

Hiltpold, assistant professor of entomology and wildlife ecology in UD's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said the basis of the project was to assess the impact of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi on a plant's nutritional quality and also on root pests, using sugar cane and root-feeding insects, primarily cane grubs -- the voracious larvae of the cane beetle.

"This research demonstrated a cascading effect," said Hiltpold. "We have silicon and other plant nutrients in the soil, we have the fungi that is interacting with the plant and metabolites, and all that plant chemistry has an impact on insect development."

Silicon is the world's second most abundant element after oxygen in Earth's crust, but because it is in a stone or mineral form, it is not readily available for use by plants.

By amending the soil with silica, a form of silicon that plants can easily take up, the researchers helped the plants build up tiny particles called phytoliths, or "plant stones," to defend against herbivorous insects and possibly rodents.

"The plant builds up these sorts of stones in its tissues, which will reduce the digestibility of the plant material because digesting stones is not very easy," said Hiltpold. "Also, these stones wear the mouth parts of insects and possibly rodents. If your teeth are not really cutting any more, then you cannot eat as much as you could. All of that added together will reduce the impact of herbivory on the plant."

In experiments with two sugarcane varieties grown in a greenhouse, root-feeding insects, primarily the cane grub, fed on the plants. The immune function of the insects was assessed by measuring their immune response to entomopathogenic nematodes -- small organisms that kill insects in the soil -- while insect growth and root consumption were assessed in a feeding trial.

The researchers found that high levels of silicon concentrations decreased insect growth and root consumption, the latter by 71 percent.

Because the silicon doesn't affect grazing livestock, Hiltpold said that it also will not affect humans when, for example, a person consumes boiled carrots or sweet corn.

Hiltpold said they chose the cane grub for their study because it is a major pest in Australia.

"Sugar cane is a big industry in Australia, and these larvae are really causing a lot of damage to it. These grubs can be pretty big -- their diameter can be as big as my thumb," Hiltpold said. "As soil pests, they are really hard to control because they are hard to reach with insecticides and they are hard to monitor. We don't really know where they are before we see the damage on the plant, and then usually it's too late. Having options to control them is always good."

The option of using silicon to naturally strengthen the plant's defenses against the cane grub would be both environmentally friendly and economically attractive to growers, as they would not have to spray as much to protect their crops.

"The idea of amending crops with silicon in general is that, OK, we have this element that is naturally present. The only thing is that it's not bio-available so it cannot be taken up by the plant as is, but if we add a little bit of bioavailable silicon to the field, then it boosts the plant's biomass," said Hiltpold. "The plant productivity is increased and also the plant defenses are increased because the silicon accumulates in the tissue above and below ground and helps the plants to cope with insect as well as mammal herbivory."

Hiltpold said this research could be applicable to other types of plants besides sugarcane.

He also said that in addition to the plants' interaction with the silicon, the fungi had a surprising impact on the insects.

"We don't exactly know if it's via the plant or directly from the exposure to the fungi, but the insect immune system was triggered when the plants were treated with the fungi," said Hiltpold. "That could be useful in an integrated management view because triggering an immune system if there is no invader, no pathogen exposure, might have a cost on the growth or performance of the insect, so that will eventually have a beneficial impact on the plant because the insect is doing less well and doing less damage. I think that was an interesting finding that was never demonstrated before."

To help plants better fend off insect pests, researchers are considering arming them with silicon. 

Credit: Illustration by Jeff Chase/ University of Delaware
Article by Adam Thomas
Adam Frew, Jeff R. Powell, Ivan Hiltpold, Peter G. Allsopp, Nader Sallam, Scott N. Johnson. Host plant colonisation by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi stimulates immune function whereas high root silicon concentrations diminish growth in a soil-dwelling herbivore. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 2017; 112: 117 DOI: 10.1016/j.soilbio.2017.05.008

Urban Floods Intensifying, Countryside Drying Up

August 14, 2017: University of New South Wales
An exhaustive global analysis of rainfall and rivers shows signs of a radical shift in streamflow patterns, with more intense flooding in cities and smaller catchments coupled with a drier countryside.

Drier soils and reduced water flow in rural areas -- but more intense rainfall that overwhelms infrastructure and causes flooding and stormwater overflow in urban centres. That's the finding of an exhaustive study of the world's river systems, based on data collected from more than 43,000 rainfall stations and 5,300 river monitoring sites across 160 countries.

The study, by engineers at University of New South Wales in Sydney and which appears in the latest issue of the journal Scientific Reports, explored how rising local temperatures due to climate change might be affecting river flows.

As expected, it found warmer temperatures lead to more intense storms, which makes sense: a warming atmosphere means warmer air, and warmer air can store more moisture. So when the rains do come, there is a lot more water in the air to fall, and hence, rainfall is more intense.

But there's been a growing puzzle: why is flooding not increasing at the same rate as the higher rainfall?

The answer turned out to be the other facet of rising temperatures: more evaporation from moist soils is causing them to become drier before any new rain occurs -- moist soils that are needed in rural areas to sustain vegetation and livestock. Meanwhile, small catchments and urban areas, where there are limited expanses of soil to capture and retain moisture, the same intense downpours become equally intense floods, overwhelming stormwater infrastructure and disrupting life.

"Once we sorted through the masses of data, this pattern was very clear," said Ashish Sharma, a professor of hydrology at UNSW's School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. "The fact that we relied on observed flow and rainfall data from across the world, instead of uncertain model simulations, means we are seeing a real-world effect -- one that was not at all apparent before."

"It's a double whammy," said Conrad Wasko, lead author of the paper and postdoctoral fellow at UNSW's Water Research Centre. "People are increasingly migrating to cities, where flooding is getting worse. At the same time, we need adequate flows in rural areas to sustain the agriculture to supply these burgeoning urban populations."

Global flood damage cost more than US$50 billion in 2013; this is expected to more than double in the next 20 years as extreme storms and rainfall intensify and growing numbers of people move into urban centres. Meanwhile, global population over the next 20 years is forecast to rise another 23% from today's 7.3 billion to 9 billion -- requiring added productivity and hence greater water security. The reduction in flows noted by this study makes this an even bigger challenge than before.

"We need to adapt to this emerging reality," said Sharma. "We may need to do what was done to make previously uninhabitable places liveable: engineer catchments to ensure stable and controlled access to water. Places such as California, or much of the Netherlands, thrive due to extensive civil engineering. Perhaps a similar effort is needed to deal with the consequences of a changing climate as we enter an era where water availability is not as reliable as before."

"Climate change keeps delivering us unpleasant surprises," said Mark Hoffman, UNSW's Dean of Engineering. "Nevertheless, as engineers, our role is to identify the problem and develop solutions. Knowing the problem is often half the battle, and this study has definitely identified a major one."

Rainfall data used in the study was collected from the Global Historical Climatology Network, which contains records from over 100,000 weather stations in 180 countries and is managed by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. River flow data came from the Global Runoff Database, run by Germany's Federal Institute of Hydrology, which relies on river discharge information collected daily or monthly from more than 9,300 stations in 160 countries.

Flood in the city of Gera in June 2016. Credit: © science photo

Conrad Wasko, Ashish Sharma. Global assessment of flood and storm extremes with increased temperatures. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-08481-1

Call For Community Comment On Mawson’s Huts Management Plan

The community is invited to comment on the management plan for the site considered the birthplace of Australia’s Antarctic endeavours, Mawson’s Huts. The Huts were home to the Australasian Antarctic Expedition led by Sir Douglas Mawson between 1911–14.

Raising the flag at Cape Denison after the erection of the hut, March 1912. (Photo: Frank Hurley)

The site is listed as a National Heritage place and Commonwealth Heritage place, with the Huts and surrounding area also protected under the Antarctic Treaty system.

The Australian Antarctic Division, which has responsibility for the management of the historic site, prepared the current version of the Mawson’s Huts Historic Site management plan in 2013. This plan is now up for its five year review and the public are invited to comment until 16 September.

Invitation to comment
Mawson’s Huts are a collection of buildings located at Cape Denison, Commonwealth Bay, in the far eastern sector of the Australian Antarctic Territory.

Mawson's Huts, Cape Denison
Mawson’s Huts are a collection of buildings located at Cape Denison, Commonwealth Bay, in the far eastern sector of the Australian Antarctic Territory. The buildings were built and occupied by the Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) of 1911–14, led by geologist and explorer Dr (later Sir) Douglas Mawson.

Mawson’s Huts are of national and international heritage significance. They are rare in a world context as one of just six complexes surviving from the ‘Heroic Era’ of Antarctic exploration: a period of great human adventure, exploration, research and discovery on the last continent to be explored.

The buildings are unique in the context of Australian history as the only surviving site representing the work of an Australian Antarctic expedition during this period. The site also has great heritage values for Australia’s Antarctic interests, since Douglas Mawson’s AAE was the foundation of the modern Australian Antarctic science program.

Mawson’s huts have suffered over the years from the effects of wind, ice and time. A number of recent expeditions by the AAD and the Mawson’s Huts Foundation (a non-profit organisation whose expeditions have been largely funded by the Australian Government) have sought to stabilise the remains.

Explore the Home of the Blizzard website to find out more about Mawson’s Huts and the Australasian Antarctic Expedition.

Mawson's main hut at Cape Denison, Commonwealth Bay (Photo: Peter McCabe)

Mawson's Huts Historic Site Management Plan 
In 2001, the Mawson’s Huts Foundation commissioned a conservation management plan for the site, which guided works at the site for several years. In 2007, the AAD developed a management plan, to meet its obligations arising from the inclusion of the site on the National Heritage List (in 2005) and Commonwealth Heritage List (in 2004), and to reflect the provisions of the Antarctic Treaty management plans for the Cape Denison Antarctic Specially Protected Area (ASPA) and Antarctic Specially Managed Area (ASMA).

This plan was reviewed and revised in 2013 and a management plan is available: Mawson’s Huts Historic Site Management Plan 2013–18 [PDF].

In 2014, ASMA No. 3 was de-designated and the boundary of ASPA No. 162 expanded to coincide with the previous ASMA boundary.

The Department of the Environment and Energy, Australian Antarctic Division, is conducting a review of the Mawson’s Huts Historic Site Management Plan. Public comments are now being sought. Please send your comments on the management plan by Saturday 16 September 2017.


Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
Notice under sections 324W and 341X
Invitation to comment on a Management Plan for a National Heritage place and Commonwealth Heritage place - Mawson’s Huts Historic Site

The Department of the Environment and Energy, Australian Antarctic Division, is conducting a review of The Mawson’s Huts Historic Site Management Plan. Public comments are now sought:

(i) as to whether this management plan is consistent with the National Heritage management principles;

(ii) on the effectiveness of the management plan in protecting and conserving the National Heritage management values of the site;

(iii) whether this management plan is consistent with the Commonwealth Heritage Management Principles; and

(iv) on the effectiveness of the plan in protecting and conserving the Commonwealth Heritage.

Download the Mawson’s Huts Management Plan 2013-2018 [PDF: 4.01MB].

Please send your comments on the management plan by Saturday 16 September 2017, by emailing or writing to:

Mawson’s Huts Historic Site Management Plan review
Territories, Environment and Treaties Section
Australian Antarctic Division
203 Channel Highway
Kingston TAS 7050

Update On Baleen 2D HR Seismic Survey 

(The survey comprises 46 2D lines of total length 208km.) - 
NOPSEMA 'Not reasonably satisfied – opportunity to modify EP'
Decision date: 03/08/2017 
Titleholder action Resubmission due date3: 02/09/2017

From Decision notification:
Basis of decision 
NOPSEMA has assessed the environment plan in accordance with its assessment policies and procedures. 

On completion of assessment, NOPSEMA has decided that it is not reasonably satisfied that the environment plan meets the criteria below as set out in regulation 10A of the Environment Regulations: 
(a) is appropriate for the nature and scale of the activity 
(b) demonstrates that the environmental impacts and risks of the activity will be reduced to as low as reasonably practicable 
(c) demonstrates that the environmental impacts and risks of the activity will be of an acceptable level 
(d) provides for appropriate environmental performance outcomes, environmental performance standards and measurement criteria 
(e) includes an appropriate implementation strategy and monitoring, recording and reporting arrangements 
(g) demonstrates that: 
(i) the titleholder has carried out the consultations required by Division 2.2A 
(ii) the measures (if any) that the titleholder has adopted, or proposes to adopt, because of the consultations are appropriate 

Titleholder requirements 
For OMR decision In accordance with regulation 10, the titleholder is required to modify and resubmit the environment plan. Upon resubmission of the plan, NOPSEMA will continue to assess the submission in 
accordance with its assessment policies and make a decision under regulation 10. After a titleholder has been provided with reasonable opportunity to modify and resubmit an environment plan, NOPSEMA will 
make a final decision on whether to accept or refuse to accept the environment plan. 
Animated photo

Seven Complete Specimens Of New Flower, All 100 Million Years Old

August 15, 2017: Oregon State University
A Triceratops or Tyrannosaurus rex bulling its way through a pine forest likely dislodged flowers that 100 million years later have been identified in their fossilized form as a new species of tree.

George Poinar Jr., professor emeritus in Oregon State University's College of Science, said it's the first time seven complete flowers of this age have been reported in a single study. The flowers range from 3.4 to 5 millimeters in diameter, necessitating study under a microscope.

Poinar and collaborator Kenton Chambers, professor emeritus in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences, named the discovery Tropidogyne pentaptera based on the flowers' five firm, spreading sepals; the Greek word for five is "penta," and "pteron" means wing.

"The amber preserved the floral parts so well that they look like they were just picked from the garden," Poinar said. "Dinosaurs may have knocked the branches that dropped the flowers into resin deposits on the bark of an araucaria tree, which is thought to have produced the resin that fossilized into the amber. Araucaria trees are related to kauri pines found today in New Zealand and Australia, and kauri pines produce a special resin that resists weathering."

This study builds on earlier research also involving Burmese amber in which Poinar and Chambers described another species in the same angiosperm genus, Tropidogyne pikei; that species was named for its flower's discoverer, Ted Pike. Findings were recently published in Paleodiversity.

"The new species has spreading, veiny sepals, a nectar disc, and a ribbed inferior ovary like T. pikei," Poinar said. "But it's different in that it's bicarpellate, with two elongated and slender styles, and the ribs of its inferior ovary don't have darkly pigmented terminal glands like T. pikei."

Both species have been placed in the extant family Cunoniaceae, a widespread Southern Hemisphere family of 27 genera.

Poinar said T. pentaptera was probably a rainforest tree.

"In their general shape and venation pattern, the fossil flowers closely resemble those of the genus Ceratopetalum that occur in Australia and Papua-New Guinea," he said. "One extant species is C. gummiferum, which is known as the New South Wales Christmas bushbecause its five sepals turn bright reddish pink close to Christmas."

Another extant species in Australia is the coach wood tree, C. apetalum, which like the new species has no petals, only sepals. The towering coach wood tree grows to heights of greater than 120 feet, can live for centuries and produces lumber for flooring, furniture and cabinetwork.

So what explains the relationship between a mid-Cretaceous Tropidogyne from Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, and an extant Ceratopetalum from Australia, more than 4,000 miles and an ocean away to the southeast?

That's easy, Poinar said, if you consider the geological history of the regions.

"Probably the amber site in Myanmar was part of Greater India that separated from the southern hemisphere, the supercontinent Gondwanaland, and drifted to southern Asia," he said. "Malaysia, including Burma, was formed during the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras by subduction of terranes that successfully separated and then moved northward by continental drift."

Tropidogyne pentaptera. 100-million-year-old fossilized flower identified and named by OSU researchers George Poinar Jr. and Kenton Chambers.
Credit: Image courtesy of George Poinar Jr., Oregon State University

George O. Poinar, Kenton L. Chambers. Tropidogyne pentaptera, sp. nov., a new mid-Cretaceous fossil angiosperm flower in Burmese amber. Palaeodiversity, 2017; 10 (1): 135 DOI: 10.18476/pale.v10.a10

Look Out For Those Below During Whale Season — Even If You’re Way Above

15/08/2017: Media Release - Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
With the whale migration season well underway for 2017, whale-watching enthusiasts and visitors to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park are reminded to keep a safe distance, for the safety of the whales and onlookers.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority operations support manager Dr Mark Read said thousands of humpback whales migrate to the Reef’s warmer waters around this time of year to mate, calve and socialise.

“The humpback whale population has been increasing steadily for the last 40 to 50 years, with an estimated 30,000 whales expected to migrate along the east coast of Australia this season,” he said.

“With this population increase it has become increasingly important for people to abide by approach distances — there are more whales around, more people out on the water and whale watching is more popular.

“We’ve also seen an increase in drone users in the Marine Park which has resulted in an influx of great aerial photos of whales, however visitors must remember safe approach distance rules still apply to drones; as it currently stands they are considered aircraft.

“Aircraft including drones are prohibited from operating below 1000 vertical feet, or within a horizontal distance of 300m of a whale.”

A recent interaction between a humpback whale and a Whitsundays fishing vessel left several people hospitalised, highlighting the need for people to be mindful of safe boating practices during whale season.

“Posting an extra watch person when in areas frequented by whales, reducing speed, and taking extra care when travelling at night are some of the simple things people can do to reduce the risk,” Dr Read said.

“Boat strikes are a serious issue for both the whales and people, and we want Marine Park users to take extra caution on the water during whale season.”

This season has also seen a number of humpback whale strandings.

“As with any wild population, a certain number of deaths can be expected, and some will be calves. Whale calves are sometimes separated from their mothers and become stranded,” Dr Read said.

“Unfortunately natural strandings do happen, and will occur more frequently as the humpback population continues to increase.”

Marine Park users can report sick, injured, stranded or dead whales using the free Eye on the Reef app which will automatically alert wildlife rangers and rescuers to the location using the app's GPS function. You can also email or call 1300 ANIMAL (1300 264 625).

Whale sightings can also be reported to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Sightings Network using the Eye on the Reef App.
Key points to remember:
  • Know the law — legally, vessels must stay at least 100 metres from whales in the Marine Park and 300 metres in the Whitsunday Whale Protection Area. It’s also a requirement to stay at least 300 metres away from a whale calf throughout the Marine Park. Disturbing a calf may cause it to stop feeding and leave its mother, who may become aggressive if she feels her calf is under threat.
  • Reduce your vessel speed to minimise the risk of collision in areas where whales have been sighted.
  • Jet skis must stay at least 300 metres away from the animals throughout the Marine Park.
  • Do not get in the water if you see a whale — if you are already in the water do not disturb, chase or block the path of a whale and if possible, return to your vessel.
Further information about responsible Reef practices is available here.

Muogamarra Season 2017

Hidden wildflower garden open for just six weekends
31 July 2017: NPWS and NSW OE&H
A hidden wildflower garden with a rare collection of botanical treasures and native plant species will open its gates this August and September for six weekends only.

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Area Manager Michele Cooper said Muogamarra Nature Reserve-just north of Sydney-is home to more than 900 species of native plants as well as the remnants of an ancient volcano.

"Muogamarra is home to a vast range of Australian wildflowers such as native orchids, towering Gymea lily, pink Boronia, eriostemon and old-man Banksia, which makes it a spectacular wildflower destination," said Ms Cooper.

"This unique array of flora and fauna is one reason why we need to limit the opening times to just six weekends each year to allow it to flourish, to preserve the fragile ecosystems and to protect the reserve's Aboriginal cultural heritage.

"This year during our open season, visitors can join a Discovery guided tour on foot or on a kayak and discover the secrets of this special place," she said.

Some of the walking tracks in the reserve provide outstanding views of the Hawkesbury, Aboriginal rock engravings and convict built roads, and other tracks wind through rainforest and historic relics.

One of the guided walks leads people down to Peat's Crater, which is an unusual volcanic structure called a diatreme that is not found in many parts of Australia.

"By joining a guided walk you'll will see and learn all the secrets of the reserve that you might miss by going on your own," said Ms Cooper.

The launch weekend (12-13 August) will also mark the 50th anniversary of NPWS.

"The Muogamarra open season will launch on Saturday 12 August with a Welcome to Country by Uncle Ray Davison, cultural workshops throughout the day delivered by Aboriginal Discovery Ranger Jess Sinnott, and activities for young children including free show bags for the first 50 children," said Ms Cooper.

"While visitors can certainly come along on any of the weekends during our open season and explore the park at their own pace, keep in mind that the Discovery walks and kayak tours will need to be pre-booked online as numbers are limited and places can fill up quickly," she said.

Muogamarra Nature Reserve will open to the public every Saturday and Sunday from Saturday 12 August until Sunday 17 September 2017.

What's on
  • Discovery tours include the Muogamarra Highlights Walk (new in 2017), Muogamarra Bird Gully Walk, Muogamarra Lloyd Trig Walk and Muogamarra Peats Bight Walk.
  • A kayaking tour is also available: Paddle our Parks Muogamarra, the first of which will take place on Saturday 12 August.
  • An event in celebration of the NPWS 50 Year Anniversary will take place on the first weekend (12 - 13 August).
More information
Prior bookings are essential for the guided walks and kayak tours and can be made by visiting the NPWS website: 

Muogamurra Nature Reserve is located on the western side of the Pacific Highway, 3.35 kilometres north of Cowan Station.

A park access fee applies during the 6 annual open weekends of $15 for adults, $10 for children, and $40 for families of 2 adults and 2 children.

Have Your Say On Marine Park Draft Plans 

21 July 2017: Media release - Australian Government, Director of National Parks
Australia is surrounded by magnificent oceans and a marine environment that is the envy of the world. Our marine parks are distinctive and diverse, home to marine life found nowhere else.
And from today you can have your say on how we will manage our marine parks into the future.

The Director of National Parks Sally Barnes has released five draft plans to manage 44 Australian Marine Parks over the next 10 years.
“Our marine parks protect important marine habitats and species,” Ms Barnes said.

“They also support people’s livelihoods and the Australian lifestyle. They provide places for people to watch wildlife, dive and snorkel, go boating, and fish. They create jobs in industries like fishing and tourism, and are a source of food and energy.”

Ms Barnes said Australian Marine Parks recognised our oceans as a shared resource -– protecting our environment and supporting the sustainability of our fishing industry and the communities whose livelihoods rely on it.

“I’d encourage everyone to take a look at these five plans my team at Parks Australia have put together,” she said.

“This is your chance to influence how we’ll manage a large area of our marine environment over the next 10 years. We want to hear from you, all of you. It’s your passion that will make marine parks work for everyone.”

Australian Marine Parks (also known as Commonwealth marine reserves) were established in 2012 to protect our oceans. This was a significant contribution to Australia’s marine parks which now cover more than 3.3 million square kilometres of ocean – that’s an area the size of India.

“Before creating these plans, my team and I met with many of you from across our country. We listened to many people, fishers, conservationists, tourism operators, traditional owners and coastal communities before writing these plans,” Ms Barnes said.

“These draft plans balance our commitment to protect the marine environment, while supporting a sustainable fishing industry, promoting tourism and providing cultural, recreational and economic benefits for coastal communities.”

Australian Marine Parks are located in Commonwealth waters that start at the outer edge of state and territory waters, generally no less than three nautical miles (5.5 km) from the shore, and extend to the outer boundary of Australia’s exclusive economic zone, 200 nautical miles (about 370 km) from the shore. The draft plans cover Commonwealth waters off the coast of New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory.

Individual marine parks have been carefully zoned to include representative examples of Australia’s marine habitats and features. This builds the resilience of our marine environment to withstand pressures, including some of the impacts of climate change, cyclones, marine pollution, and invasive species.

Ms Barnes has considered comments from over 54,000 submissions providing feedback on the preparation of draft plans. She has also considered the recommendations from the independent review of Commonwealth marine reserves released in 2016; the best available science; the expertise of traditional owners on managing sea country; and experiences from those managing Australian and international marine parks.

“Finalising these plans makes us one of the world’s leaders in marine protection. Already our country’s marine parks cover 36 per cent of waters around this country. That’s more than comparable to many similar countries, like the United States, France, Canada, Mexico or Chile,” Ms Barnes said.

“I truly believe that we will enhance our international reputation as marine park managers with these plans. But I want to hear your thoughts on whether we’ve got that balance right. Doing nothing is not an option for anyone – we want to provide certainty to all. So please have a read of the plans, and let us know what you think.”
To reduce any impacts on commercial fishers, the Australian Government will make funding available to assist those directly affected by the new arrangements.

The draft plans can be found at .

We are seeking your feedback on whether we have the balance right in these draft plans.  Please send your feedback on these draft plans or the proposed renaming by 20 September 2017, by:

1. Filling in our feedback form, available at: 

3. Writing (free of charge) to: 
Australian Marine Parks Management Planning Comments
Department of the Environment and Energy
Reply Paid 787
Canberra ACT 2601
To help us to consider your feedback, please: 
• Say what you would like to see kept or changed in the plan/s and why
• Refer your points to a specific marine park or use, where appropriate
• Give sources of any information you refer to, where possible.
 Please note, comments sent after 11.59 pm AEST Wednesday 20 September 2017 or to an address other than those listed above cannot be considered.
 Comments may be made public. Personal information provided to us will be dealt with in accordance with the Australian Privacy Principles. 

Further information and our privacy notice is available Your personal information may be disclosed to the Minister, relevant government agencies, the Australian Parliament and where required by law. 

Your submission may also be published online by the Director of National Parks. Please tell us in your submission if you do not want it published. Your submission will still be considered in the Director’s Report on the Preparation of the Management Plans, and may be provided to the Minister and tabled before Parliament.

Important facts and figures
With 36 per cent of Australia’s waters included in marine parks, we are well ahead of both the international benchmark ‘Aichi target’ of 10 per cent by 2020, and a recent World Conservation Congress resolution calling for 30 per cent by 2030.

According to data from the IUCN’s World Database on Protected Areas, we compare very favourably with the United States of America (41 per cent), New Zealand (30 per cent), the United Kingdom (28 per cent), Mexico (22 per cent), Canada (less than 1 per cent), and France (15 per cent).

Under the zoning proposed in the draft plans, the portion of green (or no take) zones within all of the marine parks managed by the Commonwealth would be 25 per cent.

There is no reliable ‘league table’ against which we can compare this with other nations as methodology and reporting differ considerably, but we are among the closest nations to meeting the 2016 call by the World Conservation Congress four countries to designate 30 per cent of their marine parks to have no extractive activities.

Thanks to our carefully targeted approach to zoning, the same number of conservation features are protected in green zones in the plans released today as those in 2012.

Australia’s biodiversity hotspots and sites of ecological significance, including Coral Sea reefs and the Bremer Reserve are protected in these plans.

97 per cent of waters within 100 kilometres of the coast are open for recreational fishing.

By intelligently zoning conservation areas like this, we have halved the economic impact on commercial fishers compared with 2012, from $8.2 million to $4.1 million a year (that’s less than 0.3 per cent of total income generated by Australia’s wild catch fisheries). This zoning will also enable a continued Australian tuna fishing industry based out of northern Queensland.

The Australian Government has committed an additional $56.1 million over four years to fund the management of Australian Marine Parks.
Our more balanced approach means there is a significant increase in yellow zones – where the seafloor is protected, but activities like diving and fishing are allowed. Our green zones are based on the best available science – while minimising impacts on our important tourism and fishing industries.

Gear Up For The Tour De Gorge

Media release: 16 August 2017 - NSW OE&H
Pump up your tyres and gear up for the annual Tour de Gorge bike ride through the remarkable Pilliga Forest and Timmallallie National Park near Baradine on Saturday 2 September.

The Pilliga Forest is an iconic Australian landscape offering rugged beauty on a grand scale and Tour de Gorge riders get exclusive access to peddle through parts of the forest not often seen by the public.

National Parks and Wildlife (NPWS) Manager, John Whittall said the tour has grown every year since it launched in 2013 and 50 riders took part in the challenge last year.

"Riders get the opportunity to take in the remarkable bush scenery on a 45km or 10km route and may even spot some of the park's wildlife, including turquoise parrots, emus and wallabies," Mr Whittall said.

"We also time the bike ride to coincide with the emergence of a myriad of stunning wildflowers.

"For those who prefer to tour on foot, it's still a great opportunity to come out to the park and enjoy the barbecue, various food stalls and take a walk around the Sculptures in the Scrub, while the riders have their adventure," Mr Whittall said.

The guided bike ride starts at 8.30am at the Dandry Gorge Aboriginal Area and riders should bring a bike in good working order, spare inner tubes, a helmet, snacks and plenty of water.

"Tour de Gorge is for the whole family; however, participants are usually at least 10 years old and have some bike riding experience," Mr Whittall said.

"Some parts can be a little steep and challenging, but people can take their time. We have a sweeper who picks up anyone who feels that they've had enough and there are two locations along the way to refill water bottles," Mr Whittall said.

Last year the event raised $500 for the National Breast Cancer Foundation and this year the ride is supporting the MS Foundation.

Registration is required by 30 August and costs $25, which includes insurance. Email Pilliga Forest Discovery Centre or phone 02 6843 4011.

Have Your Say On New Environmental Measures For Scrap Metal Businesses

Media release: 26 July 2017 - EPA
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is inviting the community to have a say on proposed minimum environmental standards for scrap metal facilities.

The scrap metal industry in NSW ranges from small car wrecking yards to large metal processing facilities, and plays an important role in diverting waste from landfill and recovering resources.

While many operators in the industry are doing the right thing, some scrap metal businesses have shown poor environmental controls and inadequate management practices. Common issues across the industry have required regulatory action by the EPA and other agencies. These issues include management of oils and solvents, air pollution and odour issues, noise and vibration, fire risks and the on-site management of waste. Inadequate management of these issues can lead to pollution incidents, including soil and groundwater contamination. 

To address these environmental concerns, the EPA has drafted a consultation paper that outlines proposed minimum environmental standards across the scrap metal industry. These standards include things like putting controls in place for the safe storage and disposal of liquids and chemicals, no burning of waste on site, measures to minimise noise and vibrations, and the construction of bunds to manage any spills. If adopted these standards would be legislated and apply across the industry.

EPA Executive Director Waste and Resource Recovery Steve Beaman said the proposed standards were an important step in the right direction.

“Many scrap metal businesses are doing the right thing but there are some outliers putting the environment at risk,” Mr Beaman said.

“It’s important for the community – including people working in the scrap metal business – to have their say on these proposed environmental standards so that when they come into force, they accurately reflect the challenges and realities of the industry.”

To view the consultation paper and provide feedback please visit the EPA website 
The submission period closes at 5pm on 18 September 2017.

Planning For The Future Of Royal National Park: Have Your Say

Tell us what you think about the future management of Australia’s oldest national park.

Plans of management guide what happens in our national parks, and how we manage them. The existing plan of management for Royal National Park, Heathcote National Park and Garawarra State Conservation Area dates back to 2000.

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is preparing a new plan of management for Royal National Park, Heathcote National Park and Garawarra State Conservation Area.

The future management of Royal National Park, one of the busiest parks in NSW, involves some particularly complex and important issues.

NPWS has prepared six discussion papers to explore and generate discussion about these issues. 

These discussion papers are the first stage in the development of a new plan of management.

The discussion papers cover a range of issues, many of which have previously been identified as being of interest to the community.

Have your say
Read the discussion papers and send us your comments before 5pm, 28 August 2017 in any of the following ways:

By post: 
The Planner, NPWS
PO Box 144
Sutherland, NSW 1499.

There will be another opportunity to have your say when the draft plan of management is completed and put on public exhibition. If you'd like to be notified when the draft plan is available, please register your details at the Royal National Park community engagement portal.

Discussion papers
View the discussion papers below and tell us what you think about the issues raised in them. Your comments will contribute to the development of a draft plan of management.

Mountain Biking (PDF 3.8MB)

Related material

Myna Action Group 

Pittwater Natural Heritage Association (PNHA)
Indian Mynas - what a pest - like flying rats. 
Contact us on for more information and have a look at

Indian Mynas are displacing our native birds. They often nest in and around shops where their food source is. I took this one down this morning in Avalon (no chicks or eggs but I disturbed the female). There were literally hundreds of tiny bits of plastic in the nest which makes you think that all this plastic would be swilling down the stormwater drains into the sea.

NSW Health Encourages Mothers To Take Iodine For Baby Brain Development

15 August 2017: NSW Health 
NSW Health is encouraging pregnant and breastfeeding women to take iodine supplements, following the release of a report yesterday by the COAG Health Council that found the majority of pregnant women in Australia do not consume enough iodine.
Senior Clinical Advisor in Obstetrics at NSW Health, Professor Michael Nicholl, said while most pregnant women have heard about the importance of folic acid, few know the essential role of iodine in protecting their baby’s brain development.
“Rapid brain growth occurs in the first 1000 days of a baby’s life, but most pregnant and breastfeeding women have inadequate iodine levels,” Professor Nicholl said.
“Since mandatory iodine fortification of bread in 2009 we’ve seen a 30 per cent reduction in iodine deficiency among pregnant women, but there is room for improvement.
“Iodine supports the healthy development of the nervous system, coordination, alertness and the five senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch.”
Pregnant and breastfeeding women need more iodine than the average person – 220 and 270 micrograms per day respectively. 
“While women can obtain a good proportion of iodine through a healthy diet, we recommend they consume 150 micrograms per day through supplements,” Professor Nicholl said.
“Most foods in Australia contain only small amounts of iodine. Seafood is an excellent source, but pregnant and breastfeeding women should limit themselves to two serves of cooked seafood per week to avoid the high levels of mercury that are present in some fish.”
Other sources of iodine in food include bread, eggs, dairy and iodised salt. 
Jo Dunlop, who is 38 weeks pregnant, takes one pregnancy multivitamin tablet a day that she bought from her local pharmacy.
“Like every mother my baby’s health means the world to me. Thankfully, increasing my iodine levels through supplements has been easy and I strongly encourage other mothers to do this,” Ms Dunlop said. 
The COAG Health Council report can be found at
NSW Health provides a resource for women and their families on having a baby, which is available in 20 languages 

Human Intrusion On Fruit Bat Habitats Raises Exposure Risk To Hendra Virus In Australia

August 15, 2017: University of Sydney
Reported in Scientific Reports by researchers from the University of Sydney, University of Melbourne and State University of New York, the study traces how pressures such as expanding human populations, urbanisation and forest fragmentation altered the shape and size of the habitats of pteropid fruit bats (flying foxes) in the decades between 1980 and 2015.

In recent years, bats from the Pteropodidae family have been pinpointed as 'natural reservoirs' of several emerging zoonotic viruses, such as Hendra virus (HeV), Nipah (NiV) and Ebola, which can cause death in humans.

Pteropid fruit bats carry HeV without becoming ill. Research has shown the black flying fox (Pteropus alecto) and the spectacled flying fox (Pteropus conspicillatus) harbor the infectious HeV and can shed HeV particles in their urine.

Their suitability as reservoirs has been linked to their capacity for flight, adaptability to different food sources, population structure, longevity and immune function.

"Pteropid fruit bats are essential pollinators and seed distributors in tropical and subtropical forests," says Dr Michael Walsh of the University of Sydney's Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity, who led the study.

"Human-caused changes in their habitat exemplify the precarious balance between ecosystem integrity and human public health.

"The opportunity for the transmission of animal-borne viruses to human populations arises when these changes in natural habitats create new configurations of ecosystems and animal populations that subsequently generate increased or unprecedented contact between human, domestic animal and wildlife communities."

Hendra virus was first identified during the first recorded outbreak of the disease in the Brisbane suburb of Hendra, Australia, in 1994. The outbreak involved 21 stabled racehorses and two human cases.

This newly emerging infectious disease made several further sporadic occurrences between 1994 and 2010 until in 2011 an unprecedented number of 18 distinct 'spillovers' more than doubled the number of known incidents.

A spillover event is defined as transmission of a pathogen such as HeV from a reservoir such as such as a pteropid fruit bat to a domestic animal such as a horse. It also includes pathogen transmission from an infected domestic animal such as a horse to a human.

As of August 2017, there have been 60 known outbreaks of Hendra resulting in the death of 102 horses, all occurring in the north-eastern coastal region of Australia.

To date, seven humans have contracted HeV in spillover events arising from the care or autopsy of ill or dead horses. Of those who tested positive for HeV, four died of the disease, including two veterinarians.

"The epidemiology of HeV spillover events indicates that expanding suburban communities may draw foraging flying foxes from nearby forest ranges into encroaching residential and community gardens and thereby, closer to horses," Dr Walsh says.

The researchers did two sets of analyses to assess whether an expansion of the HeV reservoir was associated with an increasing trend in spillover risk.

First, they modeled changes in 1713 geo-located sightings of pteropid fruit bats P. alecto and P. conspicillatus at three different time points between 1980 and 2015 in response to factors such as climate, topography, and human migration in the preceding decade.

They found that rainfall, altitude, temperature, and human migration were highly associated with decadal changes in the ecological niche (as measured by sightings) of the black flying fox and the spectacled flying fox.

"The predicted habitat suitability for HeV reservoir pteropids expands geographically southward along the eastern coast of Australia from the earliest period in 1980-1989 to the latest in 2000-2015," Dr Walsh says.

"These changes predict that southeastern Queensland and northeastern NSW show consistently high habitat suitability, while advancing toward and beyond Sydney. There is also a corridor along the northern coast of the Northern Territory that shows a high degree of predicted habitat suitability."

In their second analysis, the researchers assessed whether HeV infections in horses and humans (spillover incidents) between 2000 and 2015 were associated with decadal changes in the ecological niche (as measured by sightings) of P. alecto and P. conspicillatus from 1980 to 2015.

They found a high association between the two, meaning the inter-decadal expanding reservoir niche of pteropid fruit bats was highly associated with a concurrent increasing trend for risk of HeV infections in humans.

Furthermore, the risk of HeV infection increased threefold as the ecological niche expanded along the coast in Queensland and NSW during the first two decades under study (1980-1999) and increased further still as habitat suitability continued to change from 2000-2015.

"The shared history between HeV spillover and the ecological niche of flying foxes notwithstanding, reservoir habitat suitability alone was insufficient to describe the spatial dependence of HeV spillover," says Dr Walsh.

"The human footprint, proximity to woody savanna, and vegetation loss were additional components of the landscape required to adequately describe the spatial dependence of spillover across eastern Australia."

The findings supported the researchers' hypothesis that the risk for HeV infection in Eastern Australia between 2000 and 2015 was associated with changes in the ecological niche of pteropid fruit bats in the decades between 1980 and 2015.

Furthermore, this risk was highly associated with human intrusion into their habitats, human proximity to woodlands and vegetation loss.

Michael G. Walsh, Anke Wiethoelter, M. A. Haseeb. The impact of human population pressure on flying fox niches and the potential consequences for Hendra virus spillover. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-08065-z

Teen Career Dreams Fit Gender Stereotypes

Media Release — 15 August 2017 - Australian Government's Australian Institute of Family Studies.
Six in ten Australian 14-15 year-olds know what career they would like to have in the future but the jobs that boys aspire to are quite different to those that girls aspire to.

The Institute’s Director, Anne Hollonds said 60 per cent of 14-15 year-olds – who know what job they would like – aspire to a professional or a managerial job. This figure is high when compared to the 35 per cent of workers currently in professional or managerial jobs.

“Boys most wanted to work as engineering or transport professionals; in information and communications technology; or in construction – which girls rarely stated as their desired jobs,” Ms Hollonds said.

“Girls rank being an educator; a legal or social professional as their top career choices. None of these occupations were in the boys’ top ten selections.

“Some jobs were ranked highly by boys well as girls, including doctors and other medical professionals, and design, planning and architecture. 

“The highly gendered career aspirations may have been shaped at a much younger age by parents’ occupations, the local area labour market, or their own interests and perceptions of available jobs.”

Ms Hollonds said very few teenagers aspired to work in what may be regarded as less prestigious jobs, such as in retail, hospitality or manufacturing.

Around 11 per cent of teens desired to get into less realistic jobs, such as for boys, being a professional footballer, a you-tuber or a technology expert ‘apple-genius’ and for girls, an actor or ballet dancer.

AIFS Senior Research Fellow, Dr Jennifer Baxter said four in ten 14-15 year-olds in the study did not know what career or occupation they would like to have.

“Career uncertainty at this age may not be a problem and in fact, it can actually be beneficial if it means teens get to explore a range of options,” Dr Baxter said.

“Where it is less of a positive is for teens who are less motivated to explore the various options, who are less certain about their own abilities or whose school outcomes are poorer.

“For example, around half of those expecting to complete no education after secondary school were uncertain about their career future.

“This group of teens were also the least likely to be talking to parents, teachers or school counsellors about their future and may need extra guidance to avoid leaving school early.

“Even those doing well in school were not always clear about future plans. A high proportion of girls with high Year 9 NAPLAN numeracy scores did not know what career they might pursue.

“By contrast, both boys and girls in the lowest quartile of Year 9 NAPLAN numeracy results were the most likely to know what they want to do. These teens could often visualise specific jobs, such as working as plumbers or hairdressers.”

“All teens need good information to help them identify the range of jobs that may be suitable to them and the pathway to achieve their aspiration. Some may also need help to modify their plans to suit their skills and the nature of the labour market.”

Download a copy of the AIFS’ Longitudinal Study of Australian Children 2016 Annual Statistical Report 

Premier’s Teacher Scholarships

August 14, 2017: NSW Dept. of Eduation
Ten of the best public school teachers across the State were rewarded for their commitment to quality education with a 2017 Premier's Teacher Scholarship at a reception at the State Library of New South Wales on Wednesday (9 August).

The scholarships provide recipients with $10,000-$15,000 in funds for a five-week study tour to some of the world's most highly acclaimed schools and centres for teaching and learning.

Recipients will use the scholarships to study a range of topics, including youth depression, educational outcomes for students with disabilities, financial literacy, health education and harnessing digital technologies for the classroom and the enhancing of professional development.

Education Minister Rob Stokes said the scholarships were a wonderful chance for exemplary educators to get the opportunity to further pursue their fields of knowledge.

“This is an amazing opportunity that can really transform a teacher’s professional career by broadening their knowledge and expanding their horizons,” Mr Stokes said.

“It’s all about enriching the learning experiences of our students by providing our best teachers the opportunity to become world experts in education.”

Since 1999 more than 400 teachers have received Premier’s Teacher Scholarships.

Open to all NSW teachers from government and non-government schools and preschools, as well as TAFE NSW Institutes, the 2017 program saw 21 scholarships being awarded across 17 program areas.

NSW public education winners:

Premier's Anika Foundation Youth Depression Awareness Scholarships
Emma Sue San, Redbank School (Westmead)
Sandra Scott, North Sydney Girls High School
Deborah Costa, Cessnock West Public School

Premier's Australian Association of Special Education NSW Chapter Research To Practice Special Education Scholarship
Monika Bray, Camden High School

Premier's Copyright Agency Creativity Across the Curriculum Scholarship
Alana Lewis, Asquith Girls High School

Premier's English Teachers Association English Scholarship
Paula Madigan, Coffs Harbour High School

Premier's First State Super Financial Literacy Scholarship
Cassandra Portelli, Hunter School of the Performing Arts

Premier's Hicksons Lawyers Health Education and Wellbeing Scholarships
Darren Lang, Kingswood High School

Premier's Leadership Scholarship
Geoffrey Childs, Canobolas Rural Technology School

Premier's Vocational Education Scholarship
Louise Pamment, Teaching and Learning Directorate, Department of Education

David Attenborough Gains New Species Namesake

August 16, 2017
A new species of damselfly from the Cretaceous period has been named after the iconic naturalist and TV presenter Sir David Attenborough.

The new discovery, described in detail in Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, was made in the Hukawng Valley of Kachin Province in Myanmar. The fossil was found in a piece of mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber. The full scientific name for the new species, belonging to a group more commonly known as shadowdamsels, is Mesosticta davidattenboroughi. Researchers decided to name the new species after David Attenborough because of his long-standing appreciation of dragonflies, and to celebrate his recent 90th birthday.

Co-author Professor Edmund A. Jarzembowski said, "Dragonflies in amber are extremely rare and the recent discoveries by my Chinese colleagues are a new window on the past. It is tradition in taxonomy (the naming of a new species) to contact the person concerned. Sir David was delighted because he is not only interested in the story of amber, but also a president of the British Dragonfly Society."

The fossil itself is extremely well preserved as it is encased in yellow transparent amber and includes a complete set of wings. With the aid of photo technology, researchers were able to digitally enhance and build a clear three-dimensional picture of the new species, showing that it differed from previously described fossils, notably in the shorter wing length.

Lead author Daran Zheng from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, commented, "Mesosticta davidattenboroughi is quite unique because we have uncovered a new species and it confirms the previous attribution of Mesosticta to the Platystictidae. It is the first fossil group of modern platystictid damselflies and documents the appearance of Platystictidae as early as mid-Cretaceous."

The discovery of insect remains in amber is not uncommon, however this particular family of damselflies are much less frequently found and their fossil record is poor compared to many other families making the discovery especially unusual.

Mesosticta davidattenboroughi joins a long list of animals which have been named after Sir David Attenborough, including a weevil and fossil species of a plesiosaur and a fish.

"Dragonflies in amber are extremely rare," said Edmund Jarzembowski, a scientist at the Natural History Museum in London and co-author of the study that describes the insect and officially registered the new name.

"Sir David was delighted because he is not only interested in the story of amber, but also is a president of the British Dragonfly Society."

This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, Youth Innovation Promotion Association of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the HKU Seed Funding Program for Basic Research.

Daran Zheng, Bo Wang, André Nel, Edmund A. Jarzembowski, Haichun Zhang, Su-Chin Chang. Mesostictinae subfam. nov., an archaic group of platystictid damselflies (Odonata: Zygoptera) from mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, 2017; 1 DOI: 10.1080/14772019.2017.1348395

Surfing Australia Appoints National High-Performance Director

Wednesday 16th August, 2017: 
Sporting high-performance specialist Kim Crane, who has a lifelong connection with the ocean through surfing, outrigger canoe racing and stand up paddle-boarding and who is also a former member of the Australian Women’s Hockey Team, has accepted the position of Surfing Australia’s National High-Performance Director, further bolstering Australian surfing’s Olympic gold medal ambitions heading into the 2020 games in Japan.

Tailor made for the position, Crane not only has a genuine passion for surfing, but extensive knowledge and industry experience in high performance sport. Her impressive background includes involvement in multiple Olympic campaigns, sports administration and competing as a top-flight athlete.

Crane’s recent role as the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) Performance Manager has been the perfect primer to her new role. At the AIS, Crane was responsible for leading the engagement of key internal and external partners to develop high quality, effective high-performance plans and strategies in order to increase the likelihood of achieving and sustaining performance targets. 

Surfing Australia's Newly appointed National High-Performance Director Kim Crane. 

Surfing Australia is confident that Crane can deliver these key objectives regarding Australian World Champions and gold medallists at the upcoming 2020 games in Japan. Crane will start in the role on the 11th September 2017 and will be based at the Hurley Surfing Australia High Performance Centre.

Prior to her AIS role, Crane worked at the New South Wales Institute of Sport (NSWIS) as Manager High Performance Sport & Excellence. This role required her management oversight of up to 16 Olympic sports, and she led the NSWIS Coach Excellence Program, including facilitation of a Coach Development Tour to the London Olympics.  In the final year of the London Olympic Cycle, she also spent time as Hockey Australia’s National High-Performance Manager.

Kim Crane commented "I'm both humbled & genuinely thrilled to accept this new position. Having been blessed to grow up at Bells Beach Torquay, I truly respect Surfing's grass roots and the cultural significance the sport holds within Australia. Surfing has an enormous history of success, and this is such an exciting time for the sport.

To lead Surfing Australia's High-Performance Program which supports our athletes to become the world’s best surfers and people is without doubt a once in a lifetime opportunity. I sincerely acknowledge the work completed by previous organisational leaders who established the foundations for Surfing Australia to be ready for its first Olympic Games in 2020. There's much work to do, not just to ensure we are ready for Tokyo, but to build upon the talent programs creating the next generation of athletes striving for continued World Championship and Olympic success.

The vision and values, and the quality of the people at Surfing Australia is one thing that attracted me to the role. I look forward to starting this journey working beside Andrew Stark (CEO), Bede Durbidge (Elite Program Manager), HPC staff, the State bodies, and all the partners in the national sport network and surf industry. "

Surfing Australia couldn’t be happier with the team’s new addition and is looking forward to seeing Crane’s reputation of building a culture of excellence, accountability and continuous improvement at work. The organisation is confident that Crane will benefit Surfing Australia’s national program and network for leading sustainable success at both a sport and team level moving forward towards Surfing’s first Olympic appearance in 2020.

Newly appointed Surfing Australia Elite Program Manager and current World Surf League (WSL) competitor Bede Durbidge was stoked with the news of Crane’s appointment.

“I'm so excited I'll be working alongside Kim in her new role. She will be a massive asset to Surfing Australia and the high-performance program. What she brings to the table from her Olympic back ground is going to be so valuable to Australia's success over the coming years. On top of Kim's amazing career back ground, she has a deep passion and love for surfing. I couldn't ask for a better boss,” said Durbidge.

Surfing Australia CEO Andrew Stark commented “We were extremely fortunate to have an international field of outstanding applicants for this newly created role. Kim was a standout given her understanding and affinity with surfing coupled with her Olympic experience and knowledge and network of the Australian sporting system. Kim is extremely highly regarded in the Australian High-Performance sport industry and brings the exact experience, knowledge and leadership credentials and style we were looking for in the role. We welcome Kim to the team as we embark on this exciting new journey towards the 2020 Olympics and beyond.

Surfing Australia Chair Layne Beachley was thrilled by the announcement and commented: “Kim’s wealth of Olympic knowledge, sporting experience and passion for surfing makes her the perfect candidate to take on this position. Obviously Surfing Australia has wholeheartedly embraced the challenge of preparing for a new and exciting chapter as an Olympic sport and Kim’s appointment strengthens our team and demonstrates our commitment to providing the best opportunity for our athlete’s success on the world stage.”

Australian Sports Commission CEO Kate Palmer said “In a short period of time, Kim has made a tremendous contribution to the AIS through her role as Performance Manager. Her background as an athlete (Hockeyroo), business leadership, and time within NSWIS and more recently the AIS has strengthened the overall high-performance network. We are confident that Kim will provide strong high-performance leadership to support Surfing as they head into their first Olympic Campaign in Tokyo.”

Victory In The Pacific Day

Tuesday, 15 August 2017: The Hon Dan Tehan MP, Minister for Veterans' Affairs
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Dan Tehan today encouraged Australians to pause and reflect on the 72nd anniversary of Victory in the Pacific Day, marking the end of the Second World War.

“Victory in the Pacific Day marks Japan’s unconditional surrender to the Allies after more than three years of war,” Mr Tehan said.

“During the Second World War almost one million Australian men and women served, almost 40,000 Australians lost their lives, many more were wounded and more than 30,000 were taken prisoner of war—of those taken prisoner, more than 8,000 died in captivity.

“On Victory in the Pacific Day we recognise those who served our nation, honour those veterans who remain and remember those who are no longer with us.

“Today we reflect on our country’s experience of all wars, the values our service men and women fought to protect and the price they paid for doing so.

“We owe those men and women a great debt of gratitude and we will never forget.

“In the coming months the Australian Government will hold national services for the 75th anniversaries of the battles of Milne Bay, El Alamein, and Kokoda and the Beachheads.

“I encourage all Australians to attend these services, hear the stories of Australians who served, and honour the sacrifice of those who lost their lives in the Second World War.”

Last Post ceremonies for these important Second World War anniversaries will take place at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra on the following dates:

25 August 2017 - 75th anniversary of the Battle of Milne Bay,
23 October 2017 - 75th anniversary of the Battle of El Alamein and the culmination of the North Africa campaigns,
2 November 2017 - 75th anniversary of Kokoda and the Beachheads.

ABC Announces New Head Of Investigative And In-Depth Journalism

August 15, 2017: ABC
JOHN Lyons, one of Australia’s leading journalists, is to join ABC News as Head Investigative and In-depth Journalism.

He will lead Australia’s premier current affairs teams and programs across broadcast and digital, including 7.30, Australian Story, Four Corners, Q&A, Insiders, Offsiders, Lateline, Foreign Correspondent, Behind the News, AM, PM, The World Today and Correspondents Report, as well as finding the best ways to deliver the ABC’s finest investigative and long-form content to new audiences.

A three-time Walkley Award winner, Lyons’ previous roles include being the Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald, Executive Producer of the Nine Network’s Sunday program, a foreign correspondent in Washington, New York and Jerusalem and, currently, Associate Editor (Digital Content) at News Corp’s The Australian.

ABC Director, News Gaven Morris said Lyons was an outstanding editorial leader.

“As platforms and channels change, information outlets multiply and fake news proliferates, the demand for trusted sources of information, well-told stories and quality, news-breaking journalism is greater than ever,” he said.

“The centrepiece at ABC News is always the journalism, and John will play a key role in delivering our best in-depth and investigative reporting to all Australian audiences when, where and how they want to consume it.”

Lyons said: “After ten great years at The Australian, I’m delighted to be joining the ABC in this important role at a time when independent public interest journalism is more vital than ever.

“With people increasingly getting their news and information through different means, it is crucial we are able to present strong investigative journalism on digital platforms. The ABC is committed both to investigative journalism and to telling stories in ways relevant to a changing society.”

Lyons takes over from Bruce Belsham, who held the role (previously called Head of Current Affairs) with distinction for five years.

John Lyons
A three-time Walkley Award winner and one of Australia’s leading journalists, John Lyons is currently Associate Editor (Digital Content) at The Australian. He has previously been the Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald and Executive Producer of the Nine Network’s Sunday program. John has been a foreign correspondent in Washington, New York and most recently Jerusalem. From the Middle East he won the Walkley for best investigative journalism for a report he presented on the ABC’s Four Corners. While based in Jerusalem, he also won three United Nations human rights awards and wrote his recently-published memoir, “Balcony Over Jerusalem“. John has also won the Graham Perkin Award for Australian Journalist of the Year.

Community Safety Drives Smarter Disqualification Laws

Monday, 14 August 2017: Media Release - NSW Roads & Maritime 
The NSW Government is toughening sanctions on those who repeatedly flout driver licence laws, but also providing a road back to lawful driving for disqualified drivers who can demonstrate they can be trusted.

The reforms were announced today by Attorney General Mark Speakman, Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Melinda Pavey and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Sarah Mitchell alongside Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson.

Mr Speakman said, “This overhaul of driver licence disqualification laws rebalances the system in favour of people who prove they can steer their lives back on track, while providing police with extra on-the-spot powers to punish repeat disqualified driving offenders.”

The NSW Government reforms adopt recommendations of the multi-partisan Legislative Assembly Committee on Law and Safety and will do the following:
  • Allow police to confiscate number plates or vehicles (for 3 or 6 months) for repeat unauthorised drivers and those who commit certain serious driving offences.
  • Allow the courts to lift the disqualification period for those who can demonstrate a commitment to lawful behaviour and who have been compliant with their disqualification period for 2 or 4 years. They can then reapply for a licence.
  • Introduce automatic and minimum disqualification periods for unauthorised driving offences and revise maximum imprisonment terms for unauthorised driving offence penalties.
  • Abolish the Habitual Traffic Offender Scheme, which has been proven not to be a deterrent. There is no equivalent scheme in any other Australian jurisdiction.
  • Exclude anyone ever convicted of driving offences involving death or grievous bodily harm from applying to reduce their disqualification term.
“The reforms put road safety front and centre giving disqualified drivers an incentive to return to lawful driving. For those who continue to break the rules, magistrates will continue to have maximum disqualification periods available to them,” Mrs Pavey said.

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Sarah Mitchell said, “Lengthy disqualification periods, which can currently exceed 10 years, are often ineffective, provide no incentive to return to lawful driving and disproportionally affect the disadvantaged, including Aboriginal people.”

Meadow Of Dancing Brittle Stars Shows Evolution At Work

August 14, 2017
Newly-described fossil shows how brittle stars evolved in response to pressure from predators, and how an 'evolutionary hangover' managed to escape them.

Researchers have described a new species of brittle star, which are closely related to starfish, and showed how these sea creatures evolved in response to the rise of shell-crushing predators during the late Palaeozoic Era. The results, reported in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, also suggest that brittle stars evolved new traits before the largest mass extinction event in Earth's history, and not after, as was the case with many other forms of life.

A fossilised 'meadow' of dancing brittle stars -- frozen in time in the very spot that they lived -- was found in Western Australia and dates from 275 million years ago. It contains several remarkably preserved 'archaic' brittle stars, a newly-described genus and species called Teleosaster creasyi. They are the last known complete brittle stars of their kind, an evolutionary hangover pushed to the margins of the world's oceans by the threat from predators.

Dancing Brittle stars. Credit: Kenneth McNamara

The researchers, from the University of Cambridge, suggest that while other species of brittle stars evolved in response to predators such as early forms of rays and crabs, these archaic forms simply moved to where the predators weren't -- namely the seas around Australia, which during the Palaeozoic era was pushed up against Antarctica. In these cold, predator-free waters, the archaic forms were able to grow much larger, and lived at the same time as the modern forms of brittle star, which still exist today.

Brittle stars consist of a central disc and five whip-like appendages, which are used for locomotion. They first appear in the fossil record about 500 million years ago, in the Ordovician Period, and today there are about 2,100 different species, mostly found in the deep ocean.

Early brittle stars were just that: brittle. During the Palaeozoic Era, when early shell-crushing predators first appeared, brittle stars made for easy prey. At this point, a split in the evolutionary tree appears to have occurred: the archaic, clunky brittle stars moved south to polar waters, while the modern form first began to emerge in response to the threat from predators, and was able to continue to live in the warmer waters closer to the equator. Both forms existed at the same time, but in different parts of the ocean.

"The threat from predation is an under-appreciated driver of evolutionary change," said study co-author Dr Kenneth McNamara of Cambridge's Department of Earth Sciences. "As more predators began to appear, the brittle stars started to evolve more flexible bodies, which enabled them to either burrow into the sediment, or to move more rapidly to escape."

About 250 million years ago, the greatest mass extinction in Earth's history -- the Permian-Triassic extinction event, or the "Great Dying" -- occurred. More than 90% of marine species and 70% of terrestrial species went extinct, and as a result, most surviving species underwent major evolutionary changes as a result.

"Brittle stars appear to have bucked this trend, however," said co-author Dr Aaron Hunter, a visiting postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Earth Sciences. "They seem to have evolved before the Great Dying, into a form which we still see today."

Meadows of brittle stars and other invertebrates such as sea urchins and starfish can still be seen today in the seas around Antarctica. As was the case during the Palaeozoic, the threat from predators is fairly low, although the warming of the Antarctic seas due to climate change has been linked to the recent arrival of armies of king crabs, which represent a real threat to these star-filled meadows.

Aaron W. Hunter and Kenneth J. McNamara. Prolonged co-existence of “Archaic” and “Modern” Palaeozoic ophiuroids – evidence from the early Permian, Southern Carnarvon Basin, Western Australia. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, 2017 [link]

Australia Indonesia Youth Exchange Program: Applications Now Open

Media Release: 18 August 2017 - Depyt. of Foreign Affairs, Australian Government
Applications for the 2017-18 Australia-Indonesia Youth Exchange Program (AIYEP) are now open.

Australia and Indonesia established the program in 1981 to promote cross-cultural understanding and exchange among young Australians and Indonesians. It provides an opportunity for participants to experience first-hand the culture and society of each country.

Participants will take part in work placements, cultural performances, and visits to local schools and communities in Indonesia. They will live with local host families. Indonesian participants will undertake a similar program in Australia.

They will also work on a development project in a rural and remote village, working with local communities on business and entrepreneurship, youth and education, and women's empowerment activities.

AIYEP is for young people with a desire to deepen their understanding of Indonesia and a commitment to strengthening the links between our countries. Indonesian language skills are desirable but not mandatory. Application forms and further information are available online at

AIYEP is a core program of the Australia-Indonesia Institute, an Australian Government body administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The program is run in partnership with the Indonesian Ministry for Youth and Sport, which coordinates the program in Indonesia. The 2017-18 program is facilitated by AFS Intercultural Programs Australia.
Submissions close at midnight 24 September 2017 (AEST).

nternational Youth Day
2016 Census – A ‘Selfie’ Of Young People In Australia 

14 August 2017: by Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)
“As the world changes with unprecedented speed, young people are proving to be invaluable partners who can advance meaningful solutions.”
Those were the words of the then United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2015 speaking about the importance of International Youth Day.

Since 2000, International Youth Day has sought to shine a light on youth issues around the world while empowering young people to contribute fresh ideas and take proactive measures to make the world we live in a better place.

The 2016 Census of Population and Housing (Census) counted 2,988,390 Australian residents aged 15 to 24, representing about one in eight (12.8 per cent) of all Australian residents.

This year, International Youth Day celebrates, among other things, young people’s contribution to inclusion and social justice, with Census data showing that young people in Australia are more engaged than ever in helping their local community.

Over half a million people aged 15 to 24 said they spent time doing volunteer work in the 12 months prior to the Census – a figure that has continued to grow over recent Censuses (around 450,000 in 2011, and just under 395,000 in 2006).

In addition, around 151,000 people aged 15 to 24 also said they provided unpaid assistance to a person with a disability in the two weeks prior to the Census, another figure that has steadily risen in Censuses this century (around 136,000 in 2011, just under 120,000 in 2006).

The sustained increase in these figures shows that young people in Australia are committed to fostering peaceful and inclusive societies, a key theme of International Youth Day.

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) had the highest proportion of people aged 15 to 24 (14.1 per cent). Home to the Australian National University, the centrally located ACT suburb of Acton recorded three in four residents (75 per cent) aged between 15 and 24.

Looking more closely at the ACT, almost two thirds (65.3 per cent) of people aged 15 to 24 in the nation’s capital are undertaking some form of study. More than a quarter of those (28.1 per cent) reported as being born overseas, showcasing the ACT’s well-heeled credentials as a destination for overseas students.

Nationally, education remains an important aspect of life for youth in Australia, with the Census revealing more than half of young people between the ages of 15 and 24 (58 per cent, or 1.7 million people) were attending an educational institution.

Census data also shows that the youth movement is well and truly alive in portions of our overseas born populations. Almost half (47 per cent) of Australian residents born in the West African country of Cote d’Ivoire were aged between 15 and 24 – the highest proportion of any country of birth. This was closely followed by Australian residents born in the Middle Eastern nation of Oman (45 per cent) and another African entry, Guinea (43 per cent).

Australia also has a growing percentage of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander youth. The 2016 Census reported 123,719 persons aged 15-24 who identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, an increase from 105,652 since the 2011 Census.

Australia’s Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander youth are also increasingly engaged in education – 41.7 per cent (51,533 people) of 15 to 24 year olds who identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander said they were attending an educational institution, an increase from 38.3 per cent (40,461 people) in 2011.

The 2016 Census data released so far has provided a ‘selfie’ of young people in Australia, but this is just the beginning. Further 2016 Census data relating to education and employment will be released in October 2017, providing greater insight into Australia’s young people as part of the single most accurate snapshot of Australia to help individuals, organisations and governments make informed decisions on youth policy and planning issues

Woolworths Australian Junior Surfing Team Ramps Up Preparations Ahead Of Vissla ISA World Junior Surfing Championships

CABARITA/NSW (Friday August 18th/2017): from Surfing Australia
The Woolworths Australian Junior Surfing Team went into camp yesterday at the Hurley Surfing Australia High Performance Centre (HPC) for two days of preparation for the International Surfing Association (ISA) World Junior Surfing Championships in Japan, starting on September 23rd.

Surfing Australia Talent Pathway Coach Clancy Dawson and former World Tour Competitor and High-Performance Coach Jay Thompson will lead the twelve-strong team with hopes of going one better than last year’s Silver Medal.

Dawson said the two-day camp was designed to galvanise the group for the team environment in Japan, as well as sharpening heat strategy and training for the conditions likely to be faced during the week-long competition.

““It is a huge honour to represent your country, this group want to do Australia proud and bring home the gold. They have the talent and the hunger. This camp is mostly about mate ship and pre-event preparation to give ourselves the best platform for success. “said Dawson.

Under 16 Boys team member Mikey Mcdonagh, who could be named team captain is the only member of the squad to have competed at an ISA World Junior Championships. The Lennox Head lacks no passion when it comes to representing his country.

“It’s a huge honour to be picked in this team and I am really pumped on what this team can achieve at the Championships. I have been to one before so will try to give any insight I can to the rest of the team,” said Mcdonagh.

Surfing Australia Elite Program Manager Bede Durbidge and Woolworths Brand Ambassador and World Surf League (WSL) World Qualifying Series competitor Soli Bailey also attended the camp, providing the group invaluable advice heading to the championships.

“This event always has amazing energy around it. When I went to Nicaragua to surf for Australia it was a really special moment. All this group has to do is listen to the coaches, work as a team and focus on what they have to do and surf smart,” said Bailey.

Stay up to date with all the latest results, images and video at:

Woolworths Australian Junior Surfing Team:
Under 18 Boys
Jack Thomas
Samson Coulter
Dylan Moffat
Morgan Cibilic
Under 16 Boys
Xavier Huxtable
Mikey McDonagh
Alister Reginato
Jagger Bartholomew
Under 18 Girls
India Robinson
Zahli Kelly
Under 16 Girls
Jamaica Selby
Sophia Fulton

Woolworths Junior Team Australia in camp at the Hurley Surfing Australia High Performance Centre (HPC). Photo by Blainey Woodham/ Surfing Australia - Powered By Nikon 

Why Expensive Wine Appears To Taste Better: It's The Price Tag

August 14, 2017
Previous work from INSEAD Associate Professor of Marketing Hilke Plassmann's research group did show that a higher price, for instance for chocolate or wine, increased the expectation that the product will also taste better and in turn affects taste processing regions in the brain. "However, it has so far been unclear how the price information ultimately causes more expensive wine to also be perceived as having a better taste in the brain," says Prof. Bernd Weber, Acting Director of the Center for Economics and Neuroscience (CENs) at the University of Bonn. The phenomenon that identical products are perceived differently due to differences in price is called the "marketing placebo effect." As with placebo medications, it has an effect solely due to ascribed properties: "Quality has its price!"

The researchers assessed how different prices are translated into corresponding taste experiences in the brain, even if the wine tasted does not differ. 30 participants took part in the study, of which 15 were women and 15 were men, with an average age of around 30 years.

Wine tasting while lying down
The wine tasting took place lying down in an MRI scanner, allowing brain activity to be recorded "online" while participants were tasting the wines. Each time, the price of the wine was shown first. Only then around a milliliter of the respective wine was administrated to the test person via a tube in their mouths. The participants were then asked to rate via a button on a nine-point scale how good the wine tasted to them. Their mouths were then rinsed with a neutral liquid and the next identical wine sample was given for tasting. All of the experiments were performed in the brain scanner at the Life & Brain Center at the University of Bonn.

"The marketing placebo effect has its limits: If, for example, a very low-quality wine is offered for 100 euros, the effect would predictably be absent," says Prof. Weber. This is why the researchers conducted the tests using an average to good quality red wine with a retail bottle prize of 12 €. In the MRI scanner, the price of this wine was shown randomly as 3, 6 and 18 €. In order to make the study as realistic as possible, the participants were given 45 euros of initial credit. For some of the tastings, the displayed sum was deducted from this account in some of the trials.

"As expected, the subjects stated that the wine with the higher price tasted better than an apparently cheaper one," reports Professor Hilke Plassmann from the INSEAD Business School, with campuses in Fontainebleau (France), Singapore and Abu Dhabi. "However, it was not important whether the participants also had to pay for the wine or whether they were given it for free." Identical wine leads to a better taste experience when a greater quality expectation is associated with the wine due to its price.

The measurements of brain activity in the MRI scanner confirmed this. The research team discovered that above all parts of the medial pre-frontal cortex and also the ventral striatum were activated more when prices were higher. While the medial pre-frontal cortex particularly appears to be involved in integrating the price comparison and thus the expectation into the evaluation of the wine, the ventral striatum forms part of the brain's reward and motivation system. "The reward and motivation system is activated more significantly with higher prices and apparently increases the taste experience in this way," says Prof. Weber.

How can placebo effects be inhibited?
"Ultimately, the reward and motivation system plays a trick on us," explains INSEAD post-doctoral fellow Liane Schmidt. When prices are higher, it leads us to believe that a taste is present that is not only driven by the wine itself, because the products were objectively identical in all of the tastings. "The exciting question is now whether it is possible to train the reward system to make it less receptive to such placebo marketing effects," says Prof. Weber. This may be possible by training one's own physical perception -- such as taste -- to a greater extent.

Liane Schmidt, Vasilisa Skvortsova, Claus Kullen, Bernd Weber, Hilke Plassmann. How context alters value: The brain’s valuation and affective regulation system link price cues to experienced taste pleasantness. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-08080-0

New Guinea's Yoda Bat Gets Happy: New Species Officially Recognised

August 10, 2017
An unusual breed of fruit bat -- previously nicknamed 'Yoda' due to its resemblance to the Star Wars Jedi Master -- has now officially been registered as a new species and renamed the happy (Hamamas) tube-nosed fruit bat.

Discovered in a remote rainforest of Papua New Guinea, the bat's unusual features immediately saw it affectionately referred to as the 'Yoda bat'.

Happy tube-nosed fruit bat (credit: Dr Deb Wright)

However, after thorough research examining literature and some 3000 specimens in 18 museums around the world, a University of York researcher has now formally distinguished and registered the new species.

Dr Nancy Irwin, an Honorary Research Fellow in York's Department of Biology, explains: "The species is very difficult to tell apart from other tube-nosed bat species. Bat species often look similar to each other, but differ significantly in behaviour, feeding and history.

"Most of the morphological characteristics that separate this bat from other species are associated with a broader, rounder jaw which gives the appearance of a constant smile.

"Since most remote Papuans have never seen Star Wars, I thought it fitting to use a local name: the Hamamas -- meaning happy -- tube-nosed fruit bat."

The happy tube-nosed fruit bat's formal name, Nyctimene wrightae sp. nov., is named after the conservationist Dr Deb Wright, who devoted 20 years to building conservation programmes and long-term scientific capacity in Papua New Guinea.

Nyctimeninae were one of the first species of bat described in records dating back to 1769, and later in 1860 Alfred Russel Wallace -- British naturalist and one of the fathers of evolution -- collected two further species.

The bats' tube noses, bright colours, thick stripe on the back and spots have attracted attention for some 250 years, but researchers are still finding new hidden species in the group.

Dr Irwin continues: "There were no illustrations of the cyclotis group of bats which made identifying bats really difficult. So difficult was it that Papua New Guinea produced stamps illustrating the bats but could not allocate a species name.

"Now, with photographs, illustrations and a key of the other species in the group, it makes it possible to distinguish between three species of the group.

"Taxonomy is often the forgotten science but until a species is recognised and has a name, it becomes difficult to recognize the riches of biodiversity and devise management. Fruit bats are crucial to rainforest health, pollinating and dispersing many tree species, therefore it is essential we know what is there and how we can protect it, for our own benefit."

Nancy Irwin. A new tube-nosed fruit bat from New Guinea, Nyctimene wrightae sp. nov., a re-diagnosis of N. certans and N. cyclotis (Pteropodidae: Chiroptera), and a review of their conservation status. Records of the Australian Museum, 2017; 69 (2): 73 DOI: 10.3853/j.2201-4349.69.2017.1654

Mystery Of How First Animals Appeared On Earth Solved

August 16, 2017: Australian National University
Research led by The Australian National University (ANU) has solved the mystery of how the first animals appeared on Earth, a pivotal moment for the planet without which humans would not exist.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Jochen Brocks said the team found the answer in ancient sedimentary rocks from central Australia.

"We crushed these rocks to powder and extracted molecules of ancient organisms from them," said Dr Brocks from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences.

"These molecules tell us that it really became interesting 650 million years ago. It was a revolution of ecosystems, it was the rise of algae."

Dr Brocks said the rise of algae triggered one of the most profound ecological revolutions in Earth's history, without which humans and other animals would not exist.

"Before all of this happened, there was a dramatic event 50 million years earlier called Snowball Earth," he said.

"The Earth was frozen over for 50 million years. Huge glaciers ground entire mountain ranges to powder that released nutrients, and when the snow melted during an extreme global heating event rivers washed torrents of nutrients into the ocean."

Dr Brocks said the extremely high levels of nutrients in the ocean, and cooling of global temperatures to more hospitable levels, created the perfect conditions for the rapid spread of algae. It was the transition from oceans being dominated by bacteria to a world inhabited by more complex life, he said.

"These large and nutritious organisms at the base of the food web provided the burst of energy required for the evolution of complex ecosystems, where increasingly large and complex animals, including humans, could thrive on Earth," Dr Brocks said.

The research is published in Nature, and the findings will be presented at the Goldschmidt Conference in Paris, France, this week.

Co-lead researcher Dr Amber Jarrett discovered ancient sedimentary rocks from central Australia that related directly to the period just after the melting of Snowball Earth.

"In these rocks we discovered striking signals of molecular fossils," said Dr Jarrett, an ANU Research School of Earth Sciences PhD graduate.

"We immediately knew that we had made a ground-breaking discovery that snowball Earth was directly involved in the evolution of large and complex life."

Associate Professor Jochen Brocks and Dr. Amber Jarrett with an oil sample taken ancient sedimentary rocks.Credit: Stuart Hay, ANU

Jochen J. Brocks, Amber J. M. Jarrett, Eva Sirantoine, Christian Hallmann, Yosuke Hoshino, Tharika Liyanage. The rise of algae in Cryogenian oceans and the emergence of animals. Nature, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/nature23457

Disclaimer: These articles are not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.  Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Pittwater Online News or its staff.