Inbox and Environment News: Issue 343

January 14 - 20, 2018: Issue 343

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 date 3: 02/09/2017
Extension of timeframe: 17/08/2017 Titleholder action: 15/10/2017
Extension of timeframe: 05/10/2017 Titleholder action: 31/10/2017
Resubmission of EP: 31/10/2017 NOPSEMA decision: 30/11/2017
Request for further information: 30/11/2017 Titleholder action: 21/12/2017
Acceptance of EP: 10/01/2018 Titleholder action: 20/01/2018 Decision notification (PDF 707 KB)

Visit: NOPSEMA Acceptance Decision for Seismic Testing off Newcastle and Central Coast Paves Way for Gas Exploration in our Waters

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. 

Draft Environment SEPP

October 31, 2017: NSW Dept. of Planning and Environment
• Draft Environment SEPP (PDF: 6.215 MB)
The Explanation of Intended Effect for the Environment SEPP is on exhibition from 31 October 2017 until the 31st January 2018.
The NSW government has been working towards developing a new State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) for the protection and management of our natural environment. These areas are important to communities in delivering opportunities for physical health, economic security and cultural identity.
This consolidated SEPP proposes to simplify the planning rules for a number of water catchments, waterways, urban bushland, and Willandra Lakes World Heritage Property. These environmental policies will be accessible in one location, and updated to reflect changes that have occurred since the creation of the original policies.
The Department of Planning and Environment is seeking your feedback on the proposed SEPP to update and improve the planning framework in regards to these environmental issues. This is discussed in the Explanation of Intended Effect (EIE) for the proposed Environment SEPP.
Changes proposed include consolidating the following seven existing SEPPs:

• State Environmental Planning Policy No. 19 – Bushland in Urban Areas
• State Environmental Planning Policy (Sydney Drinking Water Catchment) 2011
• State Environmental Planning Policy No. 50 – Canal Estate Development
• Greater Metropolitan Regional Environmental Plan No. 2 – Georges River Catchment
• Sydney Regional Environmental Plan No. 20 – Hawkesbury-Nepean River (No.2-1997)
• Sydney Regional Environmental Plan (Sydney Harbour Catchment) 2005
• Willandra Lakes Regional Environmental Plan No. 1 – World Heritage Property.
Changes are also proposed to the Standard Instrument – Principal Local Environmental Plan. Some provisions of the existing policies will be transferred to new Section 117 Local Planning Directions where appropriate.
The EIE outlines changes to occur, implementation details, and the intended outcome. It considers the existing SEPPs proposed to be repealed and explains why certain provisions will be transferred directly to the new SEPP, amended and transferred, or repealed due to overlaps with other areas of the NSW planning system.

Have your say on the Explanation of Intended Effect for the proposed Environment SEPP until 31 January 2018

We welcome your feedback on the Explanation of Intended Effect and encourage you to have your say.
• Or write to:

Director, Planning Frameworks
Department of Planning and Environment 
GPO Box 39 
Sydney NSW 2001

Regional Forest Agreements (RFA)

Have Your Say: NSW Government
The NSW and Commonwealth Governments are seeking feedback on five-yearly implementation reviews of RFAs and how to extend them for an additional 20-year term.

Consultation will enable a full appraisal of the current RFAs covering the Eden, North East and Southern regions of NSW. It will also drive optimal implementation of new agreements, including what we can learn from our experience over the past 20 years.

The government is committed to working closely with all parties in getting the balance right in the long-term management of their forest resources.

A number of community meetings are planned across the state. Details will be available shortly.

Have your say
Have your say on the extension of RFAs by 12 March 2018.

More Information
Email: Project Leader
Phone: 02 9934 0728

Potential For North Coast Landholders To Branch Out

9 Jan 2018: Media Release - NSW Department of Primary Industry
New research from the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has highlighted promising opportunities for 18,000 North Coast private native forest (PNF) landholders, to increase income and create new jobs through ecologically sustainable forestry operations.

The study sheds light on the extent and status of the region’s privately owned forests, finding a large number of properties could be more actively managed for forestry and other environmental and social values.

DPI Leader Forests Research Dr Christine Stone said the $750,000 project surveyed more than 600 landholders, wood processors and contractors, and mapped more than five million hectares of North Coast forests.

“We have produced a range of practical resources for landholders to assess their own land – a level of data that the North Coast has not had access to before,” she said.

All of the region’s forests have been mapped into timber yield association groups using satellite imagery.

“Aerial photography was also used to assess one million hectares of timber resources, with the information consolidated into forest growth status and site productivity maps,” Dr Stone said.

“These mapping products allow landholders to consider their property from a forestry value perspective.”

The project team developed a model that rates larger blocks of forested land according to their forestry importance. The model takes account of forest size, type and productivity, terrain roughness and distance to wood processing facilities.

While three quarters of the PNF on the North Coast are commercial forest types that can be sustainably managed for timber, Dr Stone said forest productivity is well below what it could be.

“Data on stand condition suggests there is great potential to improve the health and productive capacity of these forests through more active management,” she said.

“There’s a great opportunity to engage with landholders more to increase their awareness and education of silvicultural practices, which can deliver major returns in the medium to long-term.”

Dr Stone said with the right care, this could turn currently underutilised resources into an industry that has the potential to create a new job for every additional 533m3 that is processed.

“Research found that many landholders currently use their forests for multiple purposes, providing environmental, social and economic services simultaneously,” she said.

“It was promising to learn that most landholders see timber production and conservation as something that should go hand-in-hand – not separate.”

Private native forests span more than 2.9 million hectares of North Coast land – making up more than half of the forests in the region.

To view a selection of the North Coast PNF resources, visit NSW Department of Primary Industries website

Background information:
The findings of the study will guide the NSW Government to achieve new regional jobs and develop a new regulatory framework for private native forestry in the region.

The study also complements the NSW Government’s recent announcement that Local Land Services (LLS) will take on a new role providing advice to landholders and managing approvals for private native forestry from next year.

The NSW Government is committed to the long-term sustainability of private native forestry and, through the NSW Forestry Industry Roadmap, has set out a number of specific commitments to develop the sector.
Private Native Forestry operations occur in line with principles of Ecologically Sustainable Forest Management, and are required to comply with a Code of Practice. Operations are subject to compliance processes monitored by the Environment Protection Authority.
Further reports and resources for North Coast PNF landholders will become available on the DPI website in the coming months.

First Beach Clean Of 2018!

Hosted by The Green Team
Saturday, January 20 at 8 AM - 9 AM
Whale Beach: Meet in front of the Surf Club
Welcome back everyone! I hope we all had a great Christmas and New Years, and some well deserved time off!

The Green Team is back for 2018! So lets start with a beach clean at Whale Beach!

It has been estimated that we will have more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050...These beach cleans are aimed at reducing the vast amounts of plastic from entering our oceans before they harm marine life. 

Anyone and everyone is welcome! If you would like to come along, please bring a bucket, gloves and hat. Kids of all ages are also welcome! 

We will meet in front of the surf club. 
Hope to see you there!

The Green Team is a Youth-run, volunteer-based environment initiative from Avalon, Sydney. Keeping our area green and clean.

Beach Clean!
Saturday, January 27 at 8 AM - 9 AM
Avalon Beach: We will meet in front of the surf club.

Beach Clean!
Saturday, February 10 at 8 AM - 9 AM
Newport Beach: We will meet in front of the surf club.

Beach Clean!
Saturday, February 17 at 8 AM - 9 AM
Palm Beach - We will meet at Kiddies corner (the south side)

State Environmental Planning Controls(Draft Environment SEPP):Urban Bushland

The Berejiklian government has just announced changes that propose to repeal and replace the following State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPPs) with a single Environment SEPP:

• State Environmental Planning Policy No. 19—Bushland in Urban Areas - [Manly, Warringah, Pittwater; pages 23 to 32]
• State Environmental Planning Policy (Sydney Drinking Water Catchment) 2011
• State Environmental Planning Policy No. 50—Canal Estate Development
• Greater Metropolitan Regional Environmental Plan No. 2—Georges River Catchment
• Sydney Regional Environmental Plan No. 20—Hawkesbury-Nepean River (No.2-1997) [*Pittwater and Warringah]
• Sydney Regional Environmental Plan (Sydney Harbour Catchment) 2005
• Willandra Lakes Regional Environmental Plan No. 1—World Heritage Property.

Aimed at reducing 'red tape' and 'streamlining' NSW's planning system, some changes are commended such as protecting Sydney Harbour's natural assets by prohibiting new canal estates.

However other changes will enable development in sensitive areas that are currently protected.

Designed to marry up with other planning instruments, such as the controversial Biodiversity Act 2016, the changes also give greater effect to Ministerial Directions.

The changes also propose to revise the term ‘bushland zoned or reserved for public open space purposes’ to ‘public bushland’. This includes all land that is zoned non-rural, and owned or managed by a council or a public authority, or reserved for acquisition for open space or environmental conservation by a council or a public authority, and that has vegetation which meets a clear definition of bushland.

From • Draft Environment SEPP (PDF: 6.215 MB):
State Environmental Planning Policy No 19 – Bushland in Urban Areas (SEPP 19)
  • The majority of the provisions of SEPP 19 will be transferred to SEPP (Environment). These provisions will be updated and some will be transferred to a Ministerial Direction.
  • Update council names to reflect recent council amalgamations and boundary changes.
  • Extend its land application to cover local government areas that are currently partly outside the application of SEPP 19 including parts of Hawkesbury and Central Coast local government areas.
  • Transfer plan making provisions in SEPP 19 to a Ministerial Direction.
  • A new circular on Urban Bushland is being finalised for consultation. It has been developed to provide further information and detail regarding the application of SEPP 19. This circular will replace planning Circulars No. B13 and No. 114. 
Creating a new Ministerial Direction – Urban Bushland
SEPP 19 contains provisions for the preparation of local environmental plans in clause 10. The clause ensures that when a council is drafting local environmental plan provisions for any land to which SEPP 19 applies, other than rural land, it considers the general and specific aims of the SEPP, andgives priority to retaining bushland unless significantenvironmental, economic, or social benefits arise which outweigh the value of the bushland. This should be transferred to a
new Ministerial Direction as it is the appropriate mechanism to guide plan making. No current direction adequately covers urban bushland in the same way. Urban bushland exists across many different zones, therefore Ministerial Direction 2.1 – Environmental Protection Zones, is not appropriate to address public urban bushland of the type protected by SEPP 19.

The new Ministerial Direction is intended to function largely the same way as clause 10 of SEPP 19. As currently, the direction will apply when a planning authority is preparing a planning proposal for land to which the Urban Bushland provisions of SEPP (Environment) apply.

Critically the current SEPP (no 19) SEPP 19 extends 'beyond the protection of environmental values of bushland by identifying 'the need to protect the aesthetic and community values as well as the recreational, educational and scientific values of this resource'.

The proposed SEPP also enables the Roads and Maritime Services, to undertake the subdivision of foreshore lands in order ‘to lawfully reclaim Sydney Harbour land’ and redefine the ‘heads of consideration for consent authorities when assessing Development Applications on Foreshore lands.

The changes also include amending the aim of the Harbour Regional Environmental Plan that ensures Sydney is a ‘working harbour’ to enable a range of recreational, transport, tourism and commercial uses. Greater flexibility to 'mooring pens' is also proposed, which are currently prohibited.

Other changes include transferring heritage provisions to the relevant local environmental plan, thereby reducing the protection of heritage assets.

In addition, concerns have been flagged that moving the prohibition of extractive industries in parts of the Hawkesbury Nepean Catchment to the SEPP for Mining, Petroleum and Extractive Industries - and moving the Sydney Opera House provisions in the Harbour Regional Environmental Plan to SEPP (State Significant Precincts) effectively reduces the current protections.

The changes are on exhibition for public comment until the 15 January*.

*page 26:
Provisions to be updated and moved to Ministerial Directions
Provisions within the Hawkesbury Nepean Regional Environmental Plan related to local plan making will be updated and are to be moved to a new Ministerial Direction.

The following current provisions contain plan making guidance suited to a Ministerial Direction:
• Clause 3 ‘Aim of This Plan’
• Part 2 ‘General Planning Considerations, Specific Planning Policies and Recommended Strategies’
• Clause 6(3) ‘Water Quality’
• Clause 6(10) (a) ‘Urban Development’ - rezoning or subdivision of land
• Clause 6(11) ‘Recreation and Tourism’.

Other aspects of Clause 6, such as water quality, total catchment management, biodiversity and environmentally sensitive
areas will be transferred to the proposed new SEPP.

Have your say on the Explanation of Intended Effect for the proposed Environment SEPP until 31 January 2018 (NB changed date for submissions/feedback)
• Or write to:

Director, Planning Frameworks
Department of Planning and Environment 
GPO Box 39 
Sydney NSW 2001

Avalon Boomerang Bags 2018

Avalon Boomerang Bags sewing bees will be starting again on Tuesday 30th January 11am-4pm at Sew Craft Cook. 20/14 Polo Ave, Mona Vale. 

Looking forward to catching up with everyone’s holiday news. 

Newcomers especially welcome! Don’t need to know how to sew, we will teach you.

Permaculture Northern Beaches 2018 Events

Manly • Warringah • Pittwater | Sydney
Permaculture Northern Beaches (PNB) is an active local group based on Sydney's Northern Beaches.  Our parent body is  Permaculture Sydney North.

PNB hold monthly permaculture related events on the 4th Thursday of each month at 7:15pm at the  Nelson Heather Community Centre,  Banksia Room, 5 Jacksons Rd, Warriewood

Sunday, February 11, 2018: 2:00pm – 5:00pm
Learn about the many ways you can reduce household waste in your home from food waste to single-use plastics as well as reusing and upcycling options. Household waste ends up in landfill and contributes to green house gas emissions. 

Develop your own action plan to take your household waste down to zero. The workshop is at Avalon, for inquiries please contact:  

This is part of our Green Home initiative and our focus in February and March for a non-toxic lifestyle made possible by the community grant program from the Northern Beaches Council.

Thursday, February 22, 2018: 7:15pm – 9:00pm
Nellson Heather Comunity centre 
5 Jacksons Road, North Narrabeen
onight's presentation on a  low tox life is for people curious about HOW to and WHY to lower their toxic load, and then helps them do that in a positive, empowered way across home, body, mind and food. Alexx Stuart is a speaker who brings the concept of the Low Tox Life to life through her speaking and workshops across the globe leaving audiences feeling hopeful and positive about detoxing your life. This can range from products you use in your home, bathroom, on your body,  what we eat and what we plant in the garden.

Start the year with a detox!
7:15 Pm at Nelson Heather Centre, Banksia room, 5 Jacksons Road, North Narrabeen.  Entry is by donation, all welcome!!

We also have a swap table for any items from your garden or items to reuse for others.  There is organic teas and coffees available, bring a plate of food to share.

Sunday, March 25, 2018: 2:00pm – 5:00pm
For anyone interested in Seed Saving, join our PNB seed saving afternoon at Bungan Edible Sanctuary.  Every three months,  we meet to exchange seeds, package up excess seeds for distributing at the PNB monthly meeting and share whatever knowledge we have about seeds, seed saving and what grows well in our area. 

This seed workshop will also include a garden tour around Bungun Edible Sanctuary which includes aquaculture, native bees, raised beds, chickens and a lot more.

Bring along seeds to swap that you are pretty sure are open-pollinated (not hybrid) and have been sourced from your own garden, or from somewhere you know OR  bring a plate of food or healthy drinks to share around the table.

Please register for the Seed workshop by emailing  JJ –

Sunday, April 15, 2018: 2:00pm – 5:00pm
Learn how to make  Eco-cleaning products such as dish washing liquid, householder cleaning spray, toilet cleaner, and furniture polish. We also make skin care products such as organic body moisturiser, essential oil perfumes and natural tooth powder. 

Today's workshop at Avalon will involve making these products with an experienced team so as you can them make them for your own use at home. Spaces are limited. If you would like to be involved in the team and this workshop at Avalon please  book your place by email to :

We are exposed to over 2,000 chemicals in our homes. For many of us this is the most exposure we will receive in our daily lives. This workshop is an easy and effective way to use non-chemical and non-petroleum based products.

This is part of our Green Home initiative and our focus in February and March for a non-toxic lifestyle made possible by the community grant program from the Northern Beaches Council.

Saturday, April 28, 2018 – Sunday, April 29, 2018: 9:30am

This two-day permaculture course is a great overview of all aspects of permaculture - so as to enable you to take the next steps to incorporate this into your life. Over the weekend we will cover topics from organic gardening, sustainable housing, soil, site analysis for your garden/site, permaculture design, and zoning. You will receive an Introduction to Permaculture certificate and a copy of Bill Mollison's book " Introduction to Permaculture."  The course will be held at the Coastal Environment Centre (CEC) on Pelican Walk, Narrabeen Lagoon.  This will also allow for some practical exercises such as PLANTING A RAISED BED GARDENand NATIVE BEES. You will learn how to include permaculture design in your own home and garden.

The course will be from 09:30 - 4:30 pm on both days. For bookings and information please contact - with the subject heading ITP April 2018.

Teachers for the weekend include Margaret Mossakowska, biologist, and Moss House Sustainability founder and Michelle Sheather, international ecologist, Permaculture Northern Beaches coordination team.

Cost:  $290 for permaculture group members, $330 for non-members, concessions available for students, pensioners, unemployed.

Saturday, May 12, 2018: 10:00am – 1:00pm

There are many scenarios where garden space is minimal including rental properties; apartments with balconies;  townhouses with small courtyards; retirement homes; caravan parks; community garden allotments and many suburban blocks.

This workshop on small space gardening is to help you make the most of the space you have.  You will learn techniques such as stacking, hanging pots, lattices, using narrow niches and wall and fence spaces, portable grow bags, clever plant choices such as dwarf varieties and low maintenance plants that take up minimum space with a high yield. 

Design your garden to optimise your space. Join Angela Penn, kitchen garden teacher at Manly West Primary School; and science teacher for this workshop at Manly Vale Community Garden.

Organised by PNB in cooperation with Backyard in a Box. Bookings are essential inquiries:

Mine Rehabilitation Discussion Paper

The NSW Government is committed to ensuring major mining projects use best practice rehabilitation so that previously mined land can sustain other uses.
The Government is already implementing a number of reforms to strengthen operational rehabilitation requirements for all mining projects in NSW. As the next step in these reforms, we have released the discussion paper, Improving Mine Rehabilitation in NSW, to seek feedback on proposed improvements to the regulatory framework for rehabilitation of major mining projects. This feedback will be used to develop new state-wide policy and actions that provide certainty to industry and the community by clearly setting out Government expectations regarding rehabilitation and closure requirements for all major mining projects in NSW.
There are five proposed reforms set out in the discussion paper across the assessment, operational and closure stages of the mine life cycle. A key aim of the proposed improvements is to ensure mine rehabilitation is consistent with leading practice and delivers appropriate social, economic and environmental outcomes for communities.
We invite you to comment on the mine rehabilitation Discussion Paper until 16 February 2018

Broken Hill North Mine Recommencement To Bring Jobs And Economic Growth To The Region

29.12.2017: Departmental Media Release - Department of Planning and Environment
The North Mine Recommencement Project is set deliver 140 new jobs to Broken Hill after being approved by the Department of Planning and Environment.
The project will access deeper deposits of lead, zinc and silver at North Mine, which was last actively mined in 2008.
Clay Preshaw, Director of Resource Assessments, said the State Significant Development proposal was assessed under NSW Government policies and the local community was consulted on the plans.
“Mining at Broken Hill has occurred since the 1880’s, and over the last century mining revenues from Broken Hill have significantly contributed to Australia’s development,” Mr Preshaw said.
“It continues to play a significant role in supporting local and regional economies today.”
The project is expected to generate up to $5.8 million per year of royalties to the State of NSW over a period of up to 25 years.
The Department worked closely with the Environment Protection Authority to ensure that Perilya prepared robust air quality and human health impact assessments.
“Perilya was asked to revise aspects of its project design and to implement stringent air quality mitigation and management measures,” Mr Preshaw said.
“This has resulted in beneficial outcomes for the community as the revised project is not predicted to cause any exceedances of the air quality criteria or increase blood lead levels.”
Perilya will also need to upgrade the intersections along the haulage route and maintain historic mining structures with significant heritage value on the site.
The Department received nine submissions from public authorities and another nine from the general public, most of which were in support.

Long Reef Walks 2018 Season

If you’d like to join us on a walk please contact me a couple of weeks before the walk date to make a booking. FREE GUIDED WALKS of Long Reef Aquatic Reserve with NSW Department of Industry & Investment Fishcare Volunteers will be held on the following date:

Dates for 2018
Sunday 14 January 2018                1:00pm – 3:00pm
Sunday 18 February 2018              4:00pm – 6:00pm
Sunday 18 March 2018                   3:00pm – 5:00pm
Sunday 15 April 2018                      1:00pm  – 3:00pm

~ Walks are held subject to weather conditions ~

Bookings are preferred.
Please email Wendy to book:

Phil Colman, who keeps us updated on the Fishcare Volunteer Walks, has said, when sending in these monthly dates for the new season walks;

"I am only too happy to take individuals or small groups of senior school students out when I might be able to help them with their studies, give them possible projects or whatever.  

Keep in mind that I am totally dictated to by tides, but am retired and basically available at any time.  I am not, by the way, looking for payment.  If I can steer someone in the direction of marine study, I’m paid enough!"

You contact Phil via email at: - ph; 9982 6142

World Wetlands Day 2018

Wetlands for a Sustainable Urban Future is the theme for World Wetlands Day in 2018.
Urban wetlands make cities liveable in many important ways. They reduce flooding, replenish drinking water, filter waste, provide urban green spaces, and are a source of livelihoods. These wetland benefits grow ever more crucial as the number of people living in cities has now passed the 4 billion mark and continues to rise.

By 2050, 66% of humanity will live in cities, as people move into urban areas searching for better jobs.

Unfortunately, most people are unaware of the value and importance of urban wetlands. In fast-growing cities, wetlands are often viewed as wasteland; places to dump rubbish, fill in or convert to other uses.

Scientists estimate that at least 64% of the world’s wetlands have disappeared since 1900, while in parallel, cities have exploded in growth.
World Wetlands Day 2018 aims to raise awareness about how urban wetlands contribute to the future of sustainable cities.

Key messages
  • Urban wetlands make cities liveable by providing multiple benefits such as; flood control, water supply, waste treatment, green space and livelihoods.
  • Urban wetlands should be integrated into a city’s sustainable future planning and development; not viewed as wasteland.
  • Cities should adopt policies and actions which help conserve and promote urban wetlands

Retain and restore: practical ways cities can manage and preserve urban wetlands
Urban planners and decision-makers face a practical dilemma: how to meet the increasing demand for land in cities while still preserving the natural environment. Urban wetlands play a vital role in making cities safe, resilient and sustainable; the aims of SDG 11.

NSW Planning Department Expansion Will Add To Already Major Impacts On Hunter Valley Residents

January 10, 2018: Lock the Gate
Lock the Gate today called on the NSW Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) to reject the recommendation of the NSW Department of Planning and Environment to increase the size of the already massive Hunter Valley Operations South coal mine and final void.

“The proposed expansion of this mine will exacerbate the cumulative impacts of mining in the mid Hunter, which have now reached a saturation point,” said Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Nic Clyde.

“The people, water sources and biodiversity in this area cannot survive any additional permanent impact or increased levels of noise and air pollution.  

“This proposed expansion would leave a large void that in the Department’s own words would result in water that is ‘unusable’.

“The NSW government urgently needs to reform mining policy in NSW to require mining companies to backfill voids and properly rehabilitate land. This policy has existed in the United States since the 1970s.

“To add insult to injury, a year ago, it was revealed that Muswellbrook and Singleton need a 50 per cent reduction in air pollutants to meet new national standards. Adding more coal mining to this region is taking air quality in the wrong direction,” said Clyde.

More information including Report on Final Voids in NSW - The "Hole Truth", policy briefings, and photo library can be found here.
Open cut coal mine, Hunter Valley. Copyright Max Phillips

Air Pollution And Human Health Hazards: A Compilation Of Air Toxins Acknowledged By The Gas Industry In Queensland’s Darling Downs

The paper offers an attempt to determine whether emissions from the unconventional gas industry are associated with hospitalisations in the Darling Downs, Queensland, Australia. Hospitalisation data were obtained from the Darling Downs Hospital and Health Services (DDHHS) and Coal Seam Gas (CSG) emissions data from the National Pollutants Inventory (NPI). Hospital admissions for circulatory and respiratory conditions, controlled for population, increased significantly from 2007 to 2014 (p < 0.001). Acute circulatory admissions increased 133% (2198–5141) and acute respiratory admissions increased 142% (1257–3051). CSG emissions increased substantially over the same period: nitrogen oxides (489% to 10,048 tonnes), carbon monoxide (800% to 6800 tonnes), PM10 (6000% to 1926 tonnes), volatile organic compounds (337% to 670 tonnes) and formaldehyde (12 kg to over 160 tonnes). Increased cardiopulmonary hospitalisations are coincident with the rise in pollutants known to cause such symptoms. Apparently, controls to limit exposure are ineffectual. The burden of air pollution from the gas industry on the wellbeing of the Darling Downs population is a significant public health concern.

The Darling Downs (Figure 1) west of the Great Dividing Range in Southern Queensland, Australia has long been noted for its robust, diversified agricultural industry and natural beauty. The Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service (DDHHS) covers an area of approximately 90,000 sq km with catchment population ca. 277,000 [2 Queensland Government, Queensland Health, 2016, Darling Downs hospital and health service annual report. 
There has been rapid development of the resources industry (CSG, underground gasification, coal), superimposed on pre-existing rural, farming and small town communities in the area now often known by its geological name, ‘the Surat Basin’.

Figure 1. Map DDHHS catchment showing Local Government Areas. Source: Author.

Outdoor air pollution, especially in an industrial context, has demonstrated multiple negative human health effects [3 World Health Organization, 2013, Review of evidence on health aspects of air pollution. Air pollution increases risks for a wide range of diseases including respiratory, and is a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths. Some effects are long-term and causation can be difficult to prove. For instance, a heart attack or stroke resulting from exposure during a day of high ambient PM concentration may be a consequence of chronic disease progression associated with long-term exposure. Emissions acknowledged by the CSG industry can be linked to both acute and chronic health effects (see Table 1, summary of air toxins/related health effects).

The unchecked expansion of unconventional gas companies into what was previously an agrarian area of the Darling Downs has led to the generation of extra emissions attributable to a single industry.

Concurrent with the rapidly expanding CSG developments, residents in Queensland’s Darling Downs reported impairments to their health. As acknowledged by the Darling Downs Public Health Unit (DDPHU) health impacts associated with Coal Seam Gas have been a major community concern. Since 2008 DDPHU has received a variety of health complaints related to this industry (including headaches, sore eyes, nosebleeds, rashes, respiratory symptoms, paraesthesia). 

Yet there has been a remarkable lack of substantive investigation into potential human health impacts of the CSG industry in the Darling Downs. No baseline environmental studies, human health risk assessments or health studies were undertaken before large-scale extraction took place. State-based research organizations expected to be active in the space have disclosed little research investigating the possible physical health impacts of unconventional gas emissions. The significant 2010 Australian Research Council linkage project ‘A Human Health Risk Assessment for developing CSG water resources in Queensland’ was not pursued, purportedly because the industry partner, Santos, withdrew funding. A notable exception is the work of Werner et al. reviewing hospitalisation data up to 2011 for 3 areas in Queensland, with the finding that certain hospital admissions rates (neoplasms and blood/immune diseases) increased more quickly in the CSG area than the other study areas, after adjusting for key sociodemographic factors. In other jurisdictions, specifically the USA, increased rate and severity of asthma attacks, increased hospitalisation for asthma, cardiac, neurological and skin conditions, increased incidence of congenital heart defects, childhood leukaemia and early infant death correlated with the presence of the unconventional gas industry. International researchers have documented significant declines in air quality correlating with gas industry activities.
Despite appeals from health professionals to improve oversight, state and federal regulatory bodies have failed to act. In 2013 the Australian Medical Association (AMA) issued a policy statement warning: ‘Despite the rapid expansion of CSG developments, the health impacts have not been adequately researched, and effective regulations that protect public health are not in place’. In 2013 also, the Queensland Government undertook a limited investigation into health complaints of Darling Downs residents. The report, while unable to determine whether reported health effects were clearly linked to exposure to CSG pollutants, acknowledged that there was ‘some evidence that might associate some of the residents’ symptoms to exposure to airborne contaminants arising from CSG activities.’ The critical recommendation from Queensland Health was that the regulator, the Department of the Environment and Heritage Protection (DEHP) monitor overall CSG emissions and the exposure of local communities to those emissions. DEHP acknowledged that they did not have access to data to allow for comparisons to the air quality objectives set out in the Environmental Protection Policy (EPP) (Air) to protect environmental values (including health and wellbeing). Despite this, DEHP determined that they found no cause to expand monitoring, thereby blocking Queensland Health’s recommendation that overall gasfield emissions and the exposure of the community to those emissions be monitored. The rejection by the regulator of these recommendations is of serious concern.

The anecdotal reports of health effects related to CSG industry activity, coupled with the dearth of available research in the Australian context, motivated this investigation. This paper seeks to compile available reported emissions from CSG installations in the Darling Downs area and determine whether such activity is coincident with an increase in acute health effects. It brings together data on air pollutants as reported by the industry to the National Pollutant Inventory (NPI, population data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and hospitalisation data from the Darling Downs Hospital and Health Services (DDHHS).

Available IN FULL at: 
Air Pollution and human health hazards: a compilation of air toxins acknowledged by the gas industry in Queensland’s Darling Downs.
Geralyn McCarron. International Journal of Environmental Studies Pages 1-15 | Published online: 08 Jan 20188.

Climate Change Drives Collapse In Marine Food Webs

Wednesday, 10 January 2018: University of Adelaide
A new study has found that levels of commercial fish stocks could be harmed as rising sea temperatures affect their source of food.

University of Adelaide scientists have demonstrated how climate change can drive the collapse of marine "food webs."

Published in the open access journal PLOS Biology, the study's lead author PhD student, Hadayet Ullah and supervisors Professor Ivan Nagelkerken and Associate Professor Damien Fordham of the University's Environment Institute, show that increased temperatures reduce the vital flow of energy from the primary food producers at the bottom (e.g. algae), to intermediate consumers (herbivores), to predators at the top of marine food webs.

Such disturbances in energy transfer can potentially lead to a decrease in food availability for top predators, which in turn, can lead to negative impacts for many marine species within these food webs.

"Healthy food webs are important for maintenance of species diversity and provide a source of income and food for millions of people worldwide," said Mr Ullah. "Therefore, it is important to understand how climate change is altering marine food webs in the near future."

Twelve large 1,600 litre tanks were constructed to mimic predicted conditions of elevated ocean temperature and acidity caused by increasing human greenhouse gas emissions. The tanks harboured a range of species including algae, shrimp, sponges, snails, and fishes.

The mini-food web was maintained under future climate conditions for six months, during which time the researchers measured the survival, growth, biomass, and productivity of all animals and plants, and used these measurements in a sophisticated food web model.

"Whilst climate change increased the productivity of plants, this was mainly due to an expansion of cyanobacteria (small blue-green algae)," said Mr Ullah. "This increased primary productivity does not support food webs, however, because these cyanobacteria are largely unpalatable and they are not consumed by herbivores."

Understanding how ecosystems function under the effects of global warming is a challenge in ecological research. Most research on ocean warming involves simplified, short-term experiments based on only one or a few species.

"If we are to adequately forecast the impacts of climate change on ocean food webs and fisheries productivity, we need more complex and realistic approaches, that provide more reliable data for sophisticated food web models," said project leader Professor Nagelkerken.

Marine ecosystems are already experiencing major impacts from global warming, making it vital to better understand how these results can be extrapolated to ecosystems worldwide.

Hadayet Ullah, Ivan Nagelkerken, Silvan U. Goldenberg, Damien A. Fordham. Climate change could drive marine food web collapse through altered trophic flows and cyanobacterial proliferation. PLOS Biology, 2018; 16 (1): e2003446 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.2003446

Image Caption: Reduced energy flow means that the amount of food available for predators – such as fishes – at the top of food webs is reduced, with potential consequences for fisheries species. Image Credit: Lance Anderson, Unsplash.

International Year Of The Reef (IYOR)
The Third International Year Of The Reef (IYOR 2018) @IYOR2018 / #IYOR2018

At the 31st General Meeting (November 2016 in Paris, France), the International Coral Reef Initiative declared 2018 as the third International Year of the Reef and encourages to:
  • strengthen awareness globally about the value of, and threats to, coral reefs and associated ecosystems;
  • promote partnerships between governments, the private sector, academia and civil society on the management of coral reefs;
  • identify and implement effective management strategies for conservation, increased resiliency and sustainable use of these ecosystems and promoting best practices; and
  • share information on best practices in relation to sustainable coral reef management.
1997 was declared the first International Year of the Reef (IYOR), in response to the increasing threats on coral reefs and associated ecosystems, such as mangroves and sea grasses around the world. IYOR was a global effort to increase awareness and understanding on the values and threats to coral reefs, and to support related conservation, research and management efforts. Over 225 organizations in 50 countries and territories participated, and over 700 articles in papers and magazines were generated, and hundreds of scientific surveys were undertaken.

Recognising that, ten years later, there continued to be an urgent need to increase awareness and understanding of coral reefs, and to further conserve and manage valuable coral reefs and associated ecosystems, the International Coral Reef Initiative designated 2008 as the second International Year of the Reef, IYOR 2008 (Resolution to Designate 2008 as the International Year of the Reef).

IYOR 2008 was a year-long campaign of events and initiatives hosted by governments and non-governmental organizations around the world, to promote conservation action and strengthen long-term collaborations for coral reef conservation.

IYOR 2008 Goals were the following:
  • Strengthen awareness about ecological, economic, social and cultural value of coral reefs and associated ecosystems
  • Improve understanding of the critical threats to reefs and generate both practical and innovative solutions to reduce these threats
  • Generate urgent action to develop and implement effective management strategies for conservation and sustainable use of these ecosystems.
Nations, organizations, and individuals around the world celebrated the International Year of the Reef 2008 (IYOR 2008): from international organizations to village children, to raise awareness about the value and importance of coral reefs and to motivate people to take action to protect them. A tremendous amount of material was produced in several languages during that year, including educational DVDs, posters, children's books, and much more. More than 630 events were organized in over 65 countries and territories around the world. IYOR 2008 has now come to an end, but the spirit lives on... To learn more about the IYOR 2008 accomplishment, download the IYOR Report.

Recognizing that public awareness is an essential element of coral reef conservation and is necessary to ensure that the value of and the threats to coral reefs are understood by the general public, and that sufficient resources are devoted to conservation and sustainable use of coral reefs and associated ecosystems; noting the importance of developing relevant public awareness initiatives that reflect national and regional priorities as well as local culture and knowledge concerning coral reefs and to facilitate public involvement in coral reef conservation related activities in all countries; and acknowledging the success of the International Year of the Reef 2008 in raising awareness of the importance of coral reefs and associated ecosystems; ICRI members adopted a recommendation on continuing coral reef awareness efforts.

The International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) is an informal partnership between Nations and organizations which strives to preserve coral reefs and related ecosystems around the world.

Although the Initiative is an informal group whose decisions are not binding on its members, its actions have been pivotal in continuing to highlight globally the importance of coral reefs and related ecosystems to environmental sustainability, food security and social and cultural wellbeing. The work of ICRI is regularly acknowledged in United Nations documents, highlighting the Initiative’s important cooperation, collaboration and advocacy role within the international arena.

Brief history
The Initiative was founded in 1994 by eight governments: Australia, France, Japan, Jamaica, the Philippines, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. It was announced at the First Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity in December 1994, and at the high level segment of the Intersessional Meeting of the U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development in April 1995. ICRI now counts more than 60 members.

ICRI emerged out of the recognition that coral reefs and related ecosystems found in tropical and sub-tropical regions are facing serious degradation, primarily due to anthropogenic stresses. Many nations face similar threats to coral reefs and related ecosystems as well as similar management problems. Recognising this, ICRI’s objectives are to:
  • Encourage the adoption of best practice in sustainable management of coral reefs and associated ecosystems
  • Build capacity
  • Raise awareness at all levels on the plight of coral reefs around the world.
ICRI adopted a ‘Call to Action’ and a ‘Framework for Action’ as its foundational documents. Both documents set the four cornerstones of ICRI: Integrated Management; Science; Capacity Building and Review.
Find out more at:


Operation Crayweed Update: Success As North Bondi Restoration Works Produce Next Generation Of Crayweed Also: Green Globe Award For UNSW SIMs Operation Crayweed Project - Issue 334, 2017
Crosswaves - Newport Reef

The Window For Saving The World’s Coral Reefs Is Rapidly Closing

January 5th, 2018: James Cook University
The world’s reefs are under siege from global warming, according to a novel study published today in the prestigious journal Science.

For the first time, an international team of researchers has measured the escalating rate of coral bleaching at locations throughout the tropics over the past four decades. The study documents a dramatic shortening of the gap between pairs of bleaching events, threatening the future existence of these iconic ecosystems and the livelihoods of many millions of people.

"The time between bleaching events at each location has diminished five-fold in the past 3-4 decades, from once every 25-30 years in the early 1980s to an average of just once every six years since 2010," says lead author Prof Terry Hughes, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE).

"Before the 1980s, mass bleaching of corals was unheard of, even during strong El Niño conditions, but now repeated bouts of regional-scale bleaching and mass mortality of corals has become the new normal around the world as temperatures continue to rise."

The study establishes a transition from a period before the 1980s when bleaching only occurred locally, to an intermediate stage in the 1980s and 1990s when mass bleaching was first recorded during warmer than average El Niño conditions, and finally to the current era when climate-driven bleaching is now occurring throughout ENSO (El Niño-Southern Oscillation) cycles.

The researchers show that tropical sea temperatures are warmer today during cooler than average La Niña conditions than they were 40 years ago during El Niño periods.

“Coral bleaching is a stress response caused by exposure of coral reefs to elevated ocean temperatures. When bleaching is severe and prolonged, many of the corals die. It takes at least a decade to replace even the fastest-growing species," explained co-author Prof Andrew Baird of Coral CoE.

“Reefs have entered a distinctive human-dominated era – the Anthropocene,” said co-author, Dr C. Mark Eakin of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, USA. "The climate has warmed rapidly in the past 50 years, first making El Niños dangerous for corals, and now we're seeing the emergence of bleaching in every hot summer."

"For example, the Great Barrier Reef has now bleached four times since 1998, including for the first time during back-to-back events in 2016 and 2017, causing unprecedented damage," explained Prof Hughes.

"Yet the Australian government continues to support fossil fuels."

"We hope our stark results will help spur on the stronger action needed to reduce greenhouse gases in Australia, the United States and elsewhere," says Prof Hughes.

A researcher from the ARC Centre for Coral Reef Studies surveys the bleached/dead corals at Zenith Reef in the northern section of the Great Barrier Reef, November 2016. Image: Andreas Dietzel

The paper “Spatial and temporal patterns of mass bleaching of corals in the Anthropocene” is available here.

In Urban Streams, Pharmaceutical Pollution Is Driving Microbial Resistance

January 9, 2018: Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
In urban streams, persistent pharmaceutical pollution can cause aquatic microbial communities to become resistant to drugs. So reports a new study published today in the journal Ecosphere.

Emma Rosi, an aquatic ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and lead author on the study explains, "Wastewater treatment facilities are not equipped to remove many pharmaceutical compounds. We were interested in how stream microorganisms -- which perform key ecosystem services like removing nutrients and breaking down leaf litter -- respond to pharmaceutical pollution."

Researchers evaluated the presence of pharmaceuticals -- including painkillers, stimulants, antihistamines, and antibiotics -- in four streams in Baltimore, Maryland. Then they measured the microbial response to drug exposure. Study sites were selected to represent a gradient of development, from suburban to urban.

Microorganisms like bacteria and algae grow in complex assemblages called biofilms -- the slimy coatings found on rocks in streambeds. These taxonomically diverse communities are essential to maintaining freshwater health. They drive nutrient cycling, break down contaminants, and form the base of the stream food web.

Rosi notes, "Different types of microbes can withstand different types and concentrations of synthetic chemicals. When we expose streams to pharmaceutical pollution, we are unwittingly altering their microbial communities. Yet little is known about what this means for ecological function and water quality."

The streams analyzed are part of the Baltimore Ecosystem Study, and have well-documented differences in sewage and nutrient contamination. Over a two-week period, passive samplers were deployed in the streams to capture a snapshot of the presence and abundance of six drugs. These included: caffeine and amphetamine (stimulants), acetaminophen and morphine (painkillers), sulfamethoxazole (antibiotic), and diphenhydramine (antihistamine).

Results were clear: urban streams had more pharmaceutical pollution. Compared to their suburban counterparts, they had both a greater number of drugs present, and higher drug concentrations.

Over the same two-week span, the team ran a test exploring how microbial communities in each of the four streams responded to exposure to caffeine, cimetidine, ciprofloxacin, and diphenhydramine. Contaminants were tested singly, with a focus on which microbial species could survive in the presence of the drugs, and how effectively they could function.

Co-author John J. Kelly of Loyola University Chicago explains, "Stream microbial communities are sensitive to pharmaceuticals, which can suppress both respiration and primary production. We used respiration as a proxy to assess microbes' ability to maintain biological function in the presence of pharmaceuticals."

Test jars containing the target pharmaceutical and cellulose sponges, which microbes can readily colonize, were placed in the four streams. Control jars, containing just the cellulose sponges, were placed near the test jars. Fourteen days later, the jars were brought into the lab and analyzed to determine the presence and abundance of microbial species and their respiration rates.

Caffeine, cimetidine, and ciprofloxacin led to a reduction in microbial respiration across all sites; diphenhydramine had a marginal effect. The antibiotic ciprofloxacin had a negative effect on respiration rates, but only in suburban streams. In urban streams, microbial respiration was the same in the drug-exposed and control test jars.

Following drug exposure, the type and abundance of microbial species were different at urban and suburban sites. In urban streams, microbial communities shifted in species composition and were better able to maintain respiration rates. This indicates that these streams harbor resistant microbes that can flourish when non-resistant species can no longer survive.

Rosi explains, "We suspect that since urban streams have received frequent pharmaceutical inputs over long timescales, pockets of drug-resistant microbes have developed in these streams. They are ready to colonize substrates, even when drugs are present. When faced with pharmaceutical exposure, these resistant microbes can maintain ecological function, even when other species have been eliminated."

While microbial communities can adapt and thrive in the presence of persistent pharmaceutical inputs, not all microbes are equal in terms of their impact on water quality and human health. For example, bacterial species of the Aeromonas genus, found in the most urbanized stream, are closely associated with human disease and gastrointestinal illness.

Kelly concludes, "Effectively managing our freshwaters requires an understanding of how contaminants, including pharmaceuticals, impact microbial communities. Our findings show that biofilms can be surprisingly resilient. The broader ecological impacts of changes in microbial species composition, as well as the effects of suppressed microbial functioning in more rural streams, remain important questions to explore."

E. Rosi et al. Urban stream microbial communities show resistance to pharmaceutical exposure. Ecosphere, 2018 DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.2041

Microorganisms like bacteria and algae grow in complex assemblages called biofilms -- the slimy coatings found on rocks in streambeds. These taxonomically diverse communities are essential to maintaining freshwater health. Credit: Sylvia Lee

Noise From Oil And Gas Operations Stresses Birds, Hinders Reproduction

January 9, 2018: University of Colorado at Boulder
Birds exposed to constant noise from oil and gas operations show physiological signs of chronic stress and -- in some cases -- have chicks whose growth is stunted, according to new University of Colorado Boulder research.

The study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), also found that western bluebirds -- which tend to gravitate toward noisy environments -- lay fewer eggs that hatch when they nest there.

"In what we consider to be the most integrated study of the effects of noise pollution on birds to date, we found that it can significantly impact both their stress hormones and their fitness," said lead author Nathan Kleist, who conducted the research while at CU Boulder and graduated with a PhD in evolutionary biology in May. "Surprisingly, we also found that the species we assumed to be most tolerant to noise had the most negative effects."

The authors, which include researchers from California Polytechnic State University and the Florida Museum of Natural History, say the findings add to a growing body of evidence suggesting noise pollution from human activity is harmful to wildlife.

They also shed light on how stress from chronic noise exposure may impact humans.

Nestlings in the noisiest areas had smaller feathers and bodies. Credit: Nathan Kleist

For the study, the researchers followed three species of cavity nesting birds, including western and mountain bluebirds and ash-throated flycatchers, which breed near oil and gas operations on Bureau of Land Management property in New Mexico. Kleist and his team erected 240 nest boxes on 12 pairs of sites. For three breeding seasons, the team took blood samples from adult females and their offspring and assessed hatching success, nestling body size and feather length. Across all species and life stages, the birds nesting in areas with more noise had lower baseline levels of a key stress hormone called corticosterone.

"You might assume this means they are not stressed. But what we are learning from both human and rodent research is that with inescapable stressors, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in humans, stress hormones are often chronically low," said co-author Christopher Lowry, a stress physiologist in the department of integrative physiology at CU Boulder.

He notes that when the fight-or-flight response is constantly revved, the body sometimes adapts to save energy and can become sensitized. Such "hypocorticism," has been linked to inflammation and reduced weight gain in rodents.

In the current study, Kleist also found that nestlings in noisy areas had a hair-trigger response to the acute stress of being held for 10 minutes, producing more stress hormones than those bred in quiet nests.

"Whether stress hormone levels are high or low, any kind of dysregulation can be bad for a species," said senior author Clinton Francis, an assistant professor of biological sciences at Cal Poly. "In this study, we were able to demonstrate that dysregulation due to noise has reproductive consequences."

Chicks in both the quietest and loudest areas had reduced feather growth and body size. The researchers hypothesize that adults in the quietest areas are exposed to more predators, so have less time to forage for young.

Meanwhile, in the loudest areas, the machinery noise masks calls from other birds -- a signal of whether predators are present -- stressing moms and nestlings.

"If you were trying to talk to your friends and your children and you were always at a loud party you would get worn out," said Kleist, who likens the sound of an oil and gas compressor to the drone of a highway.

Previous research has shown that some bird species opt to leave noisy areas. But the new study shows what happens to those which remain.

For the western bluebird, previously suspected to be resilient to noise, the reduced hatching rates are concerning, said Francis.

"This is an example of an 'ecological trap': when an organism develops a preference for something that is actually bad for them."

None of the species studied are endangered. But the researchers suspect that if other species experience similar effects in noisy areas, avian populations could decline as human-caused noise increases.

One recent study found that anthropogenic noise already doubled background sound levels in 63 percent of protected areas tested.

"There is starting to be more evidence that noise pollution should be included, in addition to all the other drivers of habitat degradation, when crafting plans to protect areas for wildlife," said Kleist, now a visiting professor at State University of New York.

"Our study adds weight to that argument."

Alexander Cruz, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at CU Boulder, and Robert Guralnick, associate curator of biodiversity informatics at the Florida Museum of Natural History also contribute to the study.

The study was funded by National Geographic, the National Science Foundation, and the North American Bluebird Society.

Nathan J. Kleist, Robert P. Guralnick, Alexander Cruz, Christopher A. Lowry, Clinton D. Francis. Chronic anthropogenic noise disrupts glucocorticoid signaling and has multiple effects on fitness in an avian community. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018; 201709200 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1709200115

Agricultural Fungicide Attracts Honey Bees

January 8, 2018: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
When given the choice, honey bee foragers prefer to collect sugar syrup laced with the fungicide chlorothalonil over sugar syrup alone, researchers report in the journal Scientific Reports.

The puzzling finding comes on the heels of other studies linking fungicides to declines in honey bee and wild bee populations. One recent study, for example, found parallels between the use of chlorothalonil and the presence of Nosema bombi, a fungal parasite, in bumble bees. Greater chlorothalonil use also was linked to range contractions in four declining bumble bee species.

Other research has shown that European honey bees have a very limited repertoire of detoxifying enzymes and that exposure to one potentially toxic compound -- including fungicides -- can interfere with their ability to metabolize others.

"People assume that fungicides affect only fungi," said University of Illinois entomology professor and department head May Berenbaum, who led the new research with postdoctoral researcher Ling-Hsiu Liao. "But fungi are much more closely related to animals than they are to plants. And toxins that disrupt physiological processes in fungi can also potentially affect them in animals, including insects."

Some scientists have argued that bees may be less susceptible to agricultural chemicals than laboratory studies suggest because the bees might detect potentially toxic chemicals in the environment and avoid them. But a 2015 study found that European honey bees and at least one species of bumble bee actually prefer food laced with neonicotinoid pesticides.

To test whether foraging honey bees showed a preference for other chemicals they are likely to encounter in the wild, Liao set up two feeding stations in a large enclosure. Foraging honey bees could fly freely from one feeder to the other, choosing to collect either sugar syrup laced with a test chemical or sugar syrup mixed with a solvent as the control. Over the course of the study, she tested honey bee responses to nine naturally occurring chemicals, three fungicides and two herbicides at various concentrations.

The trials revealed that honey bees prefer the naturally occurring chemical quercetin over controls at all concentrations tested.

"That makes sense, because everything the honey bees eat has quercetin in it," Berenbaum said. "There's quercetin in nectar, there's quercetin in pollen. Quercetin is in honey and beebread, and it's a reliable cue that bees use to recognize food."

To the researchers' surprise, the bees also preferred sugar syrup laced with glyphosate -- the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide -- at 10 parts per billion, but not at higher concentrations. And while the bees actively avoided syrup containing the fungicide prochloraz, they showed a mild preference for sugar syrup laced with chlorothalonil at 0.5 and 50 parts per billion, but not at 500 ppb.

"The bees are not only not avoiding this fungicide, they're consuming more of it at certain concentrations," Berenbaum said.

Fungicides are among the most prevalent contaminants of honey bee hives, and it is likely the bees themselves are bringing these pesticides into the colony through their food-collecting activities. While perplexing, bees' preferences for some potentially toxic chemicals may be the result of their distinct evolutionary history, Berenbaum said.

"Honey bee foragers are gleaners," she said. "They're active from early spring until late fall, and no single floral source exists for them for that whole season. If they don't have a drive to search out something new, that's going to seriously compromise their ability to find the succession of flowers they need. Unnatural chemicals might be a signal for a new food."

The new findings are worrisome in light of research showing that exposure to fungicides interferes with honey bees' ability to metabolize the acaricides used by beekeepers to kill the parasitic varroa mites that infest their hives, the researchers said.

"The dose determines the poison," Berenbaum said. "If your ability to metabolize poisons is compromised, then a therapeutic dose can become a toxic dose. And that seems to be what happens when honey bees encounter multiple pesticides."

Entomology professor May Berenbaum, left, and postdoctoral researcher Ling-Hsiu Liao found that honey bees have a slight preference for food laced with the fungicide chlorothalonil at certain concentrations. Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

Ling-Hsiu Liao, Wen-Yen Wu, May R. Berenbaum. Behavioral responses of honey bees (Apis mellifera) to natural and synthetic xenobiotics in food. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-15066-5

Avalon Boomerang Bags: An Idea That's Spreading To Stop Plastic Bag Use

Avalon Boomerang Bags - now at North Avalon shops - A J Guesdon photo, 25.5.2017

Avalon Boomerang Bags

11am-5pm @ sewcraft cook 
Unit 20/14 Polo Ave Mona Vale

Boomerang Bags is a bag-share initiative involving the installation of a number of ‘Boomerang Bag’ boxes throughout any given business district, shopping centre, street or market. Each box is stocked with re-useable bags for customers to borrow if they have forgotten to bring their own.

Unlike the traditional purchase-and-keep approach, Boomerang Bags are free, and local community members are responsible for returning the bags once they’re no longer required. The availability of free re-useable bags reduces the reliance of local businesses to supply bags to all customers, and encourages a mentality of re-use among local communities, thereby reducing the amount of plastic bag material entering our landfills and waterways.

So who makes the Boomerang Bags? Well, you do! Boomerang Bags are made by local communities for local communities, and are sewn from recycled and donated materials.

Get in touch if you'd like to donate materials, join us making bags, or implement Boomerang Bags in your own local area!

First Property Purchased Under Scheme To Protect NSW Koalas

December 22nd, 2017: Media Release - NSW Minister for Environment and Heritage, The Hon. Gabrielle Upton 
he NSW Government has successfully negotiated the first property to be purchased under its $10 million koala land acquisition program, Member for Goulburn Pru Goward along with the Minister for the Environment Gabrielle Upton announced today.

"It's wonderful to have NSW's first koala habitat reserve established here in the Southern Highlands.

"This is a lush and green environment that will help keep our much loved and treasured koala safe and thriving.

"I know the communities of this region will welcome the announcement and do whatever they can to support the park into the future.

"This could not have happened in a better place for the koala," Ms Goward said.

The 402-hectare property, located on the Wollondilly River, south-west of Moss Vale in the Southern Highlands, forms part of the southern highlands habitat link that joins the Blue Mountains to wilderness areas of Morton National Park.

"The link contains habitat for more than 1000 koalas and allows for recolonisation and natural movement of koalas. It also promotes genetic diversity for the maintenance of the southern highlands' koala population," Ms Goward said.

The conservation values of the property were identified through the Saving our Species Southern Highlands Koala Conservation Project. It contains tree species that are the most favoured koala food sources in NSW.

"By purchasing this land for the national park system we are expanding koala habitat," Ms Upton said.

Last year the NSW Government announced $10 million from the NSW Environmental Trust will go towards purchasing and permanently conserving land containing high priority koala habitat over the next five years.

The land will be managed by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service as a nature reserve.

Calls For Community Input Into Managing Murrah

December 13, 2017: NPWS
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is inviting the community to have input into the ongoing management of the Murrah Flora Reserves on the Far South Coast.

Kane Weeks, NPWS South Coast Director said a draft working plan released today outlines how NPWS will manage and enhance the reserve's important koala habitat and continuing Aboriginal connections.

"Since NPWS were appointed as managers of the 11,800-hectare reserves last year we have worked with our partners to develop a way forward to further protect the area's natural and cultural values," Mr Weeks said.

"The draft plan is where we have landed – and this exhibition period is a genuine opportunity for the community to have their say on the ongoing management of the reserves.

"The management arrangement of the reserves offers a unique set of circumstances where the NSW Government will embrace an active and adaptive approach to manage koala habitat at a landscape level.

"The draft plan outlines how the local koala monitoring program will continue – including surveys and research into different bush regeneration techniques.

"Another focus is supporting opportunities for the Djirringanj Yuin (Djuwin) people to re-introduce cultural burning to the landscape," said Mr Weeks.

The draft plan has been developed by the Murrah Flora Reserves Steering Committee with members from Forestry Corporation NSW, the local wood pulp industry, NSW Rural Fire Service, Local Land Services, Crown Lands, neighbours and the Yuin community.

The community are invited to view the plan and provide feedback until 31 January 2018.

More information, including details of public info sessions can be found at the OEH Have your Say page.

Call For National Heritage List Nominations

Media release - The Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for the Environment and Energy
Nominations are now open for places of outstanding natural, Indigenous or historic significance to the nation for possible inclusion on our National Heritage List.

“Our prestigious National Heritage List celebrates and protects places that reflect our unique landscapes, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and development as a nation,” said the Hon Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for the Environment and Energy.

“The List currently includes more than 100 sites from across Australia and its territories, ranging from icons such as Bondi Beach, Fraser Island and Kakadu National Park to lesser-known gems such as the Dirk Hartog’s Landing Site, Darlington Probation Station, Mount William Stone Hatchet Quarry, Witjira-Dalhousie Springs and the High Court-National Gallery Precinct.”

“Each year, more places are added to the List as our national story unfolds and understanding of our heritage deepens.”

Nominations are open until 26 February 2016 and will be considered by the Australian Heritage Council before a final list of places to be assessed in 2018-19 is developed. As part of that assessment process, there will be further opportunities for public comment on each proposed listing.

Nominations of natural, Indigenous and historic places with significant heritage value for possible Commonwealth heritage listing are also being sought.

Exhibition Of Proposed Changes To Noise And Dust Assessment For Mining Projects

November 30, 2017: Departmental Media Release, Department of Planning and Environment
Proposed planning policy changes will help improve the management of noise and dust impacts on properties near proposed mining projects.
The Department of Planning and Environment’s Deputy Secretary for Policy, Strategy & Governance, Alison Frame, said the proposed changes to the NSW Voluntary Land Acquisition and Mitigation Policy respond to the Environment Protection Authority’s (EPA) recently updated policies for assessing noise and air quality.
"The NSW Government applies the Voluntary Land Acquisition and Mitigation Policy during the assessment of state significant resource proposals, such as mines, to address potential noise and dust impacts on neighbouring land," Ms Frame said.  
"We’ve based our revised air and noise assessment criteria on those developed through recent reviews conducted by the EPA, which underwent public consultation.
"In addition, we’ve also improved the language to explain terms and processes more clearly such as negotiated agreements, acquisition and mitigation processes, and valuation of land.
"We’re interested in hearing from any interested individuals, land-owners, and community groups wishing to provide feedback on the proposed changes.
"Public submissions provide important feedback to our Department, which we will consider as we finalise the policy.
"In the coming months, we will separately be consulting stakeholders across a range of sectors on the potential to provide more policy guidance on negotiated agreements and dispute resolution," Ms Frame said.
The proposal to revise the NSW Voluntary Land Acquisition and Mitigation Policy also requires amendments to the State Environmental Planning Policy (Mining, Petroleum Production and Extractive Industries) 2007.
To view the proposed changes or make a submission between November 30 and 16 February 2018, visit the Department's website here.

Friends Of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment Activities

Wildlife Walk - 7:30am Friday January 19, 2018
Meet at end of Deep Creek Carpark. Spaces limited to 30 people
Email: Friends of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment to get a ticket and book a place for one of these fascinating Wildlife Walks led by Jayden Walsh.

Bush Regeneration - Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment  
This is a wonderful way to become connected to nature and contribute to the health of the environment.  Over the weeks and months you can see positive changes as you give native species a better chance to thrive.  Wildlife appreciate the improvement in their habitat.

Belrose area - Thursday mornings 
Belrose area - Weekend mornings by arrangement
Contact: Phone or text Conny Harris on 0432 643 295

Wheeler Creek - Wednesday mornings 9-11am
Contact: Phone or text Judith Bennett on 0402 974 105
Or email: Friends of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment :

Eco Paddle on Narrabeen Lagoon
1pm, Sunday Feb 11, 2018
Black Swan have returned to the lagoon after 20 years - come and see these majestic creatures! This paddle will visit the Western Basin, Deep and Middle Creeks. Beautiful Deep Creek attracts migratory birds from as far away as Russia and Middle Creek has been the subject of a substantial remediation programme. A relaxing 2 to 3 hour afternoon paddle. No previous kayaking experience required, tuition given. BYO boat or a hire kayak can be arranged for you at cost. 
Bookings essential.
Email or call 0417 502 056.

What Can I Eat To Stop Mosquito Bites?

January 9, 2017
Gin and tonic no longer keeps mozzies at bay
Many of the myths surrounding food and drink that deter mosquitoes are too hard to swallow, writes Dr Cameron Webb.

The warm weather is beckoning us into the backyard but pesky bloodsuckers are waiting. Insect repellents are safe and effective but many people are reluctant to rub what they perceive to be smelly or sticky on their skin. Wouldn’t it be great if there was something you could eat or drink to protect yourself from mosquito bites?

There are plenty of “mozzie busting” gadgets and gimmicks marketed as alternatives to topical formulations. From wrist bands to smartphone apps, the range of products reflects the demand among the public for these products. Unfortunately, few of these provide effective protection.

We know some people are more likely to be bitten by mosquitoes than others, with the bacteria on our skin playing a crucial role in our attractiveness to mosquitoes. Studies indicate our parents are mostly to blame, not our diets.

Many myths surround the food and drink that may keep mosquitoes at bay but, when it comes to the science behind these theories, it all becomes a bit too hard to swallow.

Cheers to mosquito-borne disease
Love a gin and tonic? There was once a time you could sip your way out of a malaria-induced fever. It was more about the tonic than the gin. A key ingredient in tonic water is quinine. Derived from the bark of a cinchona tree, quinine had been identified as a treatment for malaria in the 1960s and although it’s currently not recommended as a first-line treatment, historically it was critically important in battling the parasites that cause malaria.

It’s important to note that while it’s thought to be toxic to the parasites, there was no evidence it actually stopped mosquito bites. Also, modern tonic water hardly contains any quinine.

Booze and mosquito bites may actually make a good match. Studies in Africa have demonstrated drinking beer can make you more attractive to mosquitoes. After downing a few glasses of beer, volunteers were found to attract more mosquitoes than those drinking just water.

Why? It didn’t seem to be due to body temperature or the amount of carbon dioxide exhaled. Perhaps mosquitoes are evolving to bite drunk people less able to swat the bloodsuckers away?

Snacking your way to a bite-free summer?
One of the most commonly suggested foods to eat to avoid mosquito bites is the humble banana. Problem is, it seems as many people think eating bananas will make you more attractive to mosquitoes than not! There isn’t the science to support either claim, but it’s unlikely eating bananas would substantially change the way mosquitoes pick you out from a crowd.

If garlic can keep mythic blood suckers away, what about those buzzing about in real life? Nope. Our breath may smell a bit after a garlic-rich meal but a study has shown it does nothing to lessen our attractiveness to mosquitoes. It may actually make us more attractive to vampires, according to science!

Beating bloodsuckers with vitamin B?
Perhaps one of the most pervasive home remedies perceived to prevent mosquito bites is taking vitamin B. Anecdotal reports, and many personal testimonies, of the effectiveness of this approach abound, but there a few scientific investigations testing the claim.

Studies dating back to the 1940s failed to provide proof of protection from mosquito bites after taking vitamin B. More recently, a 2005 study showed there was no evidence it influenced the attraction of mosquitoes to human skin-derived chemicals from volunteers taking vitamin B supplements. There is simply no evidence taking vitamin B will offer any significant protection from mosquito bites.

In reality, if there was even moderate scientific evidence that taking a vitamin supplement could prevent mosquito bites, our supermarket shelves would be full of “mosquito repellent pills”. It would be wonderful to be able to pop a pill a day to stop mosquito bites but we’re unlikely to have that luxury any time soon.

In fact, products marketed as oral insect repellents are not recognised by some government agencies given the lack of any compelling evidence to support the claims.

Don’t use mosquito bite prevention as an excuse to boost your intake of vegemite either. It may be a staple in most Australian households, but it won’t make our summer backyard activities any less bite-prone, no matter how much vitamin B it contains (or how much you spread on your toast).

The reality is, if there was great science supporting any of these mosquito bite-blocking claims associated with food and drink, countless companies would be cashing in on selling “mosquito repellent vitamins” and I have little doubt topical insect repellents would disappear from our supermarket shelves. I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

This article was written by Dr Cameron Webb,  Clinical Lecturer and Principal Hospital Scientist, University of Sydney, and first published on The Conversation.

Swallowable Sensors Reveal Mysteries Of Human Gut Health

January 8, 2018: RMIT University
Findings from the first human trials of a breakthrough gas-sensing swallowable capsule could revolutionise the way that gut disorders and diseases are prevented and diagnosed.

The trials by researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia have uncovered mechanisms in the human body that have never been seen before, including a potentially new immune system.

The new technology and discoveries offer a game-changer for the one-in-five people worldwide who will suffer from a gastrointestinal disorder in their lifetime. They could also lead to fewer invasive procedures like colonoscopies.

The ingestible capsule (the size of a vitamin pill) detects and measures gut gases -- hydrogen, carbon dioxides and oxygen -- in real time. This data can be sent to a mobile phone.

Professor Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh, study lead and capsule co-inventor, said the trials showed that the human stomach uses an oxidiser to fight foreign bodies in the gut.

"We found that the stomach releases oxidising chemicals to break down and beat foreign compounds that are staying in the stomach for longer than usual," Kalantar-zadeh said.

"This could represent a gastric protection system against foreign bodies. Such an immune mechanism has never been reported before."

Another never before seen observation from the trial was that the colon may contain oxygen.

"Trials showed the presence of high concentrations of oxygen in the colon under an extremely high-fibre diet," Kalantar-zadeh said. "This contradicts the old belief that the colon is always oxygen free.

"This new information could help us better understand how debilitating diseases like colon cancer occur."

The trials were conducted on seven healthy individuals on low- and high-fibre diets. Results showed that the capsule accurately shows the onset of food fermentation, highlighting their potential to clinically monitor digestion and normal gut health.

The trials also demonstrated that the capsule could offer a much more effective way of measuring microbiome activities in the stomach, a critical way of determining gut health.

"Previously, we have had to rely on faecal samples or surgery to sample and analyse microbes in the gut," Kalantar-zadeh said.

"But this meant measuring them when they are not a true reflection of the gut microbiota at that time. Our capsule will offer a non-invasive method to measure microbiome activity."

Now that the capsule has successfully passed human trials, the research team is seeking to commercialise the technology.

Co-inventor Dr Kyle Berean said: "The trials show that the capsules are perfectly safe, with no retention.

"Our ingestible sensors offer a potential diagnostic tool for many disorders of the gut from food nutrient malabsorption to colon cancer. It is good news that a less invasive procedure will now be an option for so many people in the future.

"We have partnered with Planet Innovation to establish a company called Atmo Biosiences and bring the product to market.

"This will lead to Phase II human trials, and help raise the funds needed place this safe and revolutionary gut monitoring and diagnostic device into the hands of patients and medical professionals."

Kourosh Kalantar-Zadeh, Kyle J. Berean, Nam Ha, Adam F. Chrimes, Kai Xu, Danilla Grando, Jian Zhen Ou, Naresh Pillai, Jos L. Campbell, Robert Brkljača, Kirstin M. Taylor, Rebecca E. Burgell, Chu K. Yao, Stephanie A. Ward, Chris S. McSweeney, Jane G. Muir, Peter R. Gibson. A human pilot trial of ingestible electronic capsules capable of sensing different gases in the gut. Nature Electronics, 2018; 1 (1): 79 DOI:10.1038/s41928-017-0004-x

This is a close up of the ingestible gas-sensing capsule developed by researchers at RMIT University. Credit: RMIT University/Peter Clarke

Supercharged Antibiotics Could Turn Tide Against Superbugs

January 5, 2018: University of Queensland
An old drug supercharged by University of Queensland researchers has emerged as a new antibiotic that could destroy some of the world's most dangerous superbugs.

The supercharge technique, led by Dr Mark Blaskovich and Professor Matt Cooper from UQ's Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB), potentially could revitalise other antibiotics.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria -- superbugs -- cause 700,000 deaths worldwide each year, and a UK government review has predicted this could rise to 10 million by 2050.

Dr Blaskovich said the old drug, vancomycin, was still widely used to treat extremely dangerous bacterial infections, but bacteria were becoming increasingly resistant to it.

"The rise of vancomycin-resistant bacteria, and the number of patients dying from resistant infections that cannot be successfully treated, stimulated our team to look at ways to revitalise old antibiotics," Dr Blaskovich said.

"We did this by modifying vancomycin's membrane-binding properties to selectively bind to bacterial membranes rather than those of human cells, creating a series of supercharged vancomycin derivatives called vancapticins."

The rebooted vancomycin has the potential to treat methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE).

Professor Cooper said pharmaceutical companies had departed the antibiotic discovery field because new antibiotics were difficult to find and were not as lucrative as cholesterol-lowering medications or cancer treatments.

"Hence many scientists are re-engineering existing drugs to overcome bacterial resistance, rather than searching for new drugs," he said.

"Drug development is normally focused on improving binding to a biological target, and rarely focuses on assessing membrane-binding properties.

"This approach worked with the vancapticins, and the question now is whether it can be used to revitalise other antibiotics that have lost effectiveness against resistant bacteria.

"Given the alarming rise of multi-drug resistant bacteria and the length of time it takes to develop a new antibiotic, we need to look at any solution that could fix the antibiotic drug discovery pipeline now," Professor Cooper said.

The research, published in the journal Nature Communications, was supported by the Wellcome Trust, the world's largest biomedical charity, and Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council.

Mark A. T. Blaskovich, Karl A. Hansford, Yujing Gong, Mark S. Butler, Craig Muldoon, Johnny X. Huang, Soumya Ramu, Alberto B. Silva, Mu Cheng, Angela M. Kavanagh, Zyta Ziora, Rajaratnam Premraj, Fredrik Lindahl, Tanya A. Bradford, June C. Lee, Tomislav Karoli, Ruby Pelingon, David J. Edwards, Maite Amado, Alysha G. Elliott, Wanida Phetsang, Noor Huda Daud, Johan E. Deecke, Hanna E. Sidjabat, Sefetogi Ramaologa, Johannes Zuegg, Jason R. Betley, Andrew P. G. Beevers, Richard A. G. Smith, Jason A. Roberts, David L. Paterson, Matthew A. Cooper. Protein-inspired antibiotics active against vancomycin- and daptomycin-resistant bacteria. Nature Communications, 2018; 9 (1) DOI:10.1038/s41467-017-02123-w

Dr Mark Blaskovich: the number of patients dying from vancomycin-resistant bacteria prompted his team to look at revitalising old antibiotics.
Credit: The University of Queensland

Female Night Shift Workers May Have Increased Risk Of Common Cancers

January 8, 2018: American Association for Cancer Research
Ma explained that because breast cancer is the most diagnosed cancer among women worldwide, most previous meta-analyses have focused on understanding the association between female night shift workers and breast cancer risk, but the conclusions have been inconsistent. To build upon previous studies, Ma and colleagues analyzed whether long-term night shift work in women was associated with risk for nearly a dozen types of cancer.

Ma and colleagues performed a meta-analysis using data from 61 articles comprising 114,628 cancer cases and 3,909,152 participants from North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. The articles consisted of 26 cohort studies, 24 case-control studies, and 11 nested case-control studies. These studies were analyzed for an association between long-term night shift work and risk of 11 types of cancer. A further analysis was conducted, which looked specifically at long-term night shift work and risk of six types of cancer among female nurses.

Overall, long-term night shift work among women increased the risk of cancer by 19 percent. When analyzing specific cancers, the researchers found that this population had an increased risk of skin (41 percent), breast (32 percent), and gastrointestinal cancer (18 percent) compared with women who did not perform long-term night shift work. After stratifying the participants by location, Ma found that an increased risk of breast cancer was only found among female night shift workers in North America and Europe.

"We were surprised to see the association between night shift work and breast cancer risk only among women in North America and Europe," said Ma. "It is possible that women in these locations have higher sex hormone levels, which have been positively associated with hormone-related cancers such as breast cancer."

Among female nurses alone, those who worked the night shift had an increased risk of breast (58 percent), gastrointestinal (35 percent), and lung cancer (28 percent) compared with those that did not work night shifts. Of all the occupations analyzed, nurses had the highest risk of developing breast cancer if they worked the night shift.

"Nurses that worked the night shift were of a medical background and may have been more likely to undergo screening examinations," noted Ma. "Another possible explanation for the increased cancer risk in this population may relate to the job requirements of night shift nursing, such as more intensive shifts."

The researchers also performed a dose-response meta-analysis among breast cancer studies that involved three or more levels of exposure. They found that the risk of breast cancer increased by 3.3 percent for every five years of night shift work.

 "By systematically integrating a multitude of previous data, we found that night shift work was positively associated with several common cancers in women," said Ma. "The results of this research suggest the need for health protection programs for long-term female night shift workers.

"Our study indicates that night shift work serves as a risk factor for common cancers in women," said Ma. "These results might help establish and implement effective measures to protect female night shifters. Long-term night shift workers should have regular physical examinations and cancer screenings.

"Given the expanding prevalence of shift work worldwide and the heavy public burden of cancers, we initiated this study to draw public attention to this issue so that more large cohort studies will be conducted to confirm these associations," he added.

A limitation of this work is a lack of consistency between studies regarding the definition of "long-term" night shift work, with definitions including "working during the night" and "working at least three nights per month." Additional limitations include significant between-study heterogeneity and publication bias.

Xia Yuan, Chenjing Zhu, Manni Wang, Fei Mo, Wei Du, Xuelei Ma. Night Shift Work Increases the Risks of Multiple Primary Cancers in Women: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of 61 Articles.Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, 2018; 27 (1): 25 DOI:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-17-0221

Severe Obesity Linked To Newly Identified Gene Mutations

January 8, 2018: Imperial College London
Researchers have discovered mutations in a gene related to obesity, offering new treatment possibilities in the fight against the global epidemic.

Research into the genetic causes of obesity, and related conditions, could be incredibly valuable in finding ways to treat them. Currently, there are some drugs available or being tested, but knowing what specific mutations cause obesity allows scientists to create drugs that target them specifically.

The new study, led by Imperial College London and published today in Nature Genetics, focussed on children suffering from obesity in Pakistan, where genetic links to obesity had been previously identified by the team in about 30% of cases.

This link of genes to obesity is due to recessive mutations that are more likely to be inherited and passed on to children in a region like Pakistan because of the high level of consanguinity (inter-family relationships) in its population. This is because parents who are closely related are more likely to be carrying the same mutation, so a child may inherit from both sides, causing the mutation to take effect.

This new study used genome sequencing and found mutations in one specific gene related to obesity: adenylate cyclase 3 (ADCY3). When mutations occur in ADCY3, the protein it codes for forms abnormally and doesn't function properly. This leads to abnormalities relating to appetite control, diabetes, and even sense of smell.

Professor Philippe Froguel, chair of Genomic Medicine at Imperial, said: "Early studies into ADCY3 tested mice that were bred to lack that gene, found that these animals were obese and also lacked the ability to smell, known as anosmia. When we tested our patients, we found that they also had anosmia, again showing a link to mutations in ADCY3."

ADCY3 is thought to impact a system that links the hypothalamus (part of the brain) to the production of hormones that regulate a wide variety of biological functions, including appetite.

After identifying the mutations in the Pakistani patients, the researchers entered their results into GeneMatcher, described by Professor Froguel as a "dating agency for genetics." This led to another group of scientists in the Netherlands contacting the team with their own ADCY3 findings in one of their patients with obesity.

This new European patient inherited different mutations on the same ADCY3 gene from both parents (as they were not closely related, as in Pakistan) so the ADCY3 gene of the offspring was not functioning properly, leading to obesity.

Further connections were made with a group of Danish scientists, studying the Inuit population of Greenland. Whilst not traditionally consanguineous (as in close family marriages), this population is small, so inbreeding is likely to have occurred.

This research also found a link between ADCY3 mutations and obesity, and is published alongside the Imperial research in Nature Genetics. Professor Froguel noted how positive this kind of collaboration is, particularly in terms of showing that the research and findings are reproducible.

Professor Froguel added: "Obesity is not always gluttony, as is often suggested, and I think we should have a positive outlook considering the new treatments that are becoming possible. Such attempts to understand obesity and look for a cure are a real strength of the Imperial Faculty and Department of Medicine."

Sadia Saeed, Amélie Bonnefond, Filippo Tamanini, Muhammad Usman Mirza, Jaida Manzoor, Qasim M. Janjua, Sadia M. Din, Julien Gaitan, Alexandra Milochau, Emmanuelle Durand, Emmanuel Vaillant, Attiya Haseeb, Franck De Graeve, Iandry Rabearivelo, Olivier Sand, Gurvan Queniat, Raphaël Boutry, Dina A. Schott, Hina Ayesha, Muhammad Ali, Waqas I. Khan, Taeed A. Butt, Tuula Rinne, Connie Stumpel, Amar Abderrahmani, Jochen Lang, Muhammad Arslan, Philippe Froguel. Loss-of-function mutations in ADCY3 cause monogenic severe obesity.Nature Genetics, 2018; DOI: 10.1038/s41588-017-0023-6

Window Safety Device Requirements In Strata Schemes By March 13, 2018

To prevent children falling from windows, all strata buildings in NSW must be fitted with devices that enable the maximum window openings to be less than 12.5cm. Owners corporations must have devices installed on all common property windows above the ground floor by 13 March 2018. The safety devices must be robust and childproof.

Residents will still be able to open their windows. However, they will have the security of knowing that when the devices are engaged, children will be protected.

Details and answers to the below questions are available on the NSW Department of Fair Trading Page HERE
Which windows does this apply to?
Are there any alternatives to locks?
When do the window safety devices need to be installed?
Will this mean the windows will never be able to open?
How can we arrange for window safety devices in our scheme that won't cost a fortune?
If the windows have grills over them, do they still need locks?
How do I know if a window safety device is compliant?
Do I need a certified professional to install the window safety device?
As a lot owner, do I need to obtain permission to install a window safety device in my own lot?
Can the installation of window safety devices be delegated to each individual lot owner?

Information for manufacturers and suppliers
Information for building professionals
Are window safety devices included in the Tenancy Condition Report?
Is an owners corporation required to monitor the use of the window safety devices?
My window forms part of a swimming pool barrier, do the window safety requirements still apply?
Where can I get more information?
Which windows does this apply to?  

The laws apply to openable windows where the internal floor is more than 2m above the ground surface outside and within a child's reach (less than 1.7m above the inside floor) - see the diagram below.

Further details are explained in the Strata Schemes Management Regulation 2016.

The window safety requirements in NSW are based on the Deem-to-Satisfy provisions D2.24 of the Building Code of Australia (BCA). The BCA is part of the National Construction Code of Australia (NCC). For more information on the BCA or the NCC, visit the Australian Building Codes Board website.

Are there any alternatives to locks?  
The alternative is security screens, such as bars or grills on the windows so long as they have gaps less than 12.5cm. Flyscreens do not comply unless they are the reinforced security type and capable of resisting the very strong outward pressure which would prevent a child falling through.
For a handy window safety product guide, visit the Kids Don't Fly page on the NSW Health website. Information is provided in 11 languages.

When do the window safety devices need to be installed?  
If the window safety requirements are not met by 13 March 2018, owners corporations may face fines. Leaving it to the last minute places your scheme at risk of not complying by the due date and leaves young children vulnerable to falls from windows in your scheme.

Lot owners may install a window safety device in their property at any time, letting the owners corporation know. Tenants must get written permission from their landlord before installing locks that require drilling. Landlords cannot refuse a tenant's request unless they have a very good reason.

Quantum 'Spooky Action At A Distance' Becoming Practical

January 6, 2018: Griffith University
A team from Griffith's Centre for Quantum Dynamics in Australia have demonstrated how to rigorously test if pairs of photons -- particles of light -- display Einstein's "spooky action at a distance," even under adverse conditions that mimic those outside the lab.

They demonstrated that the effect, also known as quantum nonlocality, can still be verified even when many of the photons are lost by absorption or scattering as they travel from source to destination through an optical fiber channel. The experimental study and techniques are published in the journal Science Advances.

Quantum nonlocality is important in the development of new global quantum information networks, which will have transmission security guaranteed by the laws of physics. These are the networks where powerful quantum computers can be linked.

Photons can be used to form a quantum link between two locations by making a pair of photons that are "entangled" -- so that measuring one determines the properties of its twin -- and then sending one along a communication channel.

Team leader Professor Geoff Pryde said a quantum link had to pass a demanding test that confirmed the presence of quantum nonlocality between particles at either end.

"Failing the test means an eavesdropper might be infiltrating the network," he said.

"As the length of quantum channel grows, less and less photons successfully pass through the link, because no material is perfectly transparent and absorption and scattering take their toll.

"This is a problem for existing quantum nonlocality verification techniques with photons. Every photon lost makes it easier for the eavesdropper to break the security by mimicking entanglement."

Developing a method to test entanglement in presence of loss has been an outstanding challenge for the scientific community for quite some time.

The team used a different approach -- quantum teleportation -- to overcome the problem of lost photons.

Dr Morgan Weston, first author of the study, said they selected the few photons that survived the high-loss channel and teleported those lucky photons into another clean and efficient, quantum channel.

"There, the chosen verification test, called quantum steering, could be done without any problem," she said.

"Our scheme records an additional signal that lets us know if the light particle has made it through the transmission channel. This means that the failed distribution events can be excluded up front, allowing the communication to be implemented securely even in the presence of very high loss."

This upgrade doesn't come easy -- the teleportation step requires additional high-quality photon pairs on its own. These extra photon pairs have to be generated and detected with extremely high efficiency, in order to compensate for the effect of the lossy transmission line.

This was possible to achieve thanks to state of art photon source and detection technology, jointly co-developed with the US National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado.

Although the experiment was performed in the laboratory, it tested channels with photon absorption equivalent to about 80 km of telecommunications optical fiber.

The team aims to integrate their method into quantum networks that are being developed by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology, and test it in real-life conditions.

Morgan M. Weston, Sergei Slussarenko, Helen M. Chrzanowski, Sabine Wollmann, Lynden K. Shalm, Varun B. Verma, Michael S. Allman, Sae Woo Nam, Geoff J. Pryde. Heralded quantum steering over a high-loss channel. Science Advances, 2018; 4 (1): e1701230 DOI:10.1126/sciadv.1701230

Scientists from Griffith University (Australia) have overcome a major challenge connected to Einstein's 'spooky action at a distance' effect.
Credit: Griffith University

Why Drivers May Fail To See Motorcycles In Plain Sight

January 5, 2018
The disproportionately high number of motorcycle-related traffic accidents may be linked to the way the human brain processes -- or fails to process -- information, according to new research published in Human Factors, "Allocating Attention to Detect Motorcycles: The Role of Inattentional Blindness." The study examines how the phenomenon of inattentional blindness, or a person's failure to notice an unexpected object located in plain sight, might explain the prevalence of looked-but-failed-to-see (LBFTS) crashes, the most common type of collision involving motorcycles.

According to human factors/ergonomics researchers Kristen Pammer, Stephanie Sabadas, and Stephanie Lentern, LBFTS crashes are particularly troublesome because, despite clear conditions and the lack of other hazards or distractions, drivers will look in the direction of the oncoming motorcycle -- and in some cases appear to look directly at the motorcycle -- but still pull out into its path.

Pammer, a professor of psychology and associate dean of science at Australian National University, notes, "When we are driving, there is a huge amount of sensory information that our brain must deal with. We can't attend to everything, because this would consume enormous cognitive resources and take too much time. So our brain has to decide what information is most important. The frequency of LBFTS crashes suggests to us a connection with how the brain filters out information."

The researchers recruited 56 adults and asked them to examine a series of photographs depicting routine driving situations taken from the driver's perspective. The respondents were to determine whether the image represented a safe or unsafe driving environment. In the final photograph, the researchers manipulated the image to include an unexpected object, either a motorcycle or a taxi, and asked participants if they noticed either object.

Although 48% of all participants reported that they didn't notice any additional object, they were significantly less likely to detect the motorcycle (65%) than to notice the taxi (31%).

Further evidence that inattentional blindness could be present was revealed in the results of a survey administered before the experiment, the purpose of which was to gauge participants' overall perception of each vehicle in the photos. Although they believed a motorcycle was just as likely to be on the road as a taxi, they thought they would be far less likely to notice the motorcycle.

Pammer and coauthors believe their study highlights the need to encourage drivers to be more motorcycle-aware. Training programs could be required for all novice drivers.

"Motorcycles appear to be very low on the priority list for the brain when it is filtering information," Pammer adds. "By putting motorcyclists higher on the brain 'radar' of the driver, hopefully drivers will be more likely to see them. In the meantime, we need to be more vigilant, more active, and more conscious when driving."

Kristen Pammer, Stephanie Sabadas, Stephanie Lentern. Allocating Attention to Detect Motorcycles: The Role of Inattentional Blindness.Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 2017; 001872081773390 DOI: 10.1177/0018720817733901

The Salt Water Battery

January 8, 2018: written by RAINER KLOSE, EMPA
Water could form the basis for future particularly inexpensive rechargeable batteries.  Empa researchers have succeeded in doubling the electrochemical stability of water with a special saline solution. This takes us one step closer to using the technology commercially.

Research on the water electrolyte: Empa researcher Ruben-Simon Kühnel connecting a test cell to the charger with the concentrated saline solution. The stability of the system is determined in several charging and discharging cycles. Photo: Empa

In the quest to find safe, low-cost batteries for the future, eventually we have to ask ourselves a question: Why not simply use water as an electrolyte? Water is inexpensive, available everywhere, non-flammable and can conduct ions. However, water has one major drawback: It is chemically stable only up to a voltage of 1.23 volts. In other words, a water cell supplies three times less voltage than a customary lithium ion cell with 3.7 volts, which makes it poorly suited for applications in an electric car. A cost-effective, water-based battery, however, could be extremely interesting for stationary electricity storage applications.

Saline solution without free water
Ruben-Simon Kühnel and David Reber, researchers in Empa's Materials for Energy Conversion department, have now discovered a way to solve the problem: The salt containing electrolyte has to be liquid, but at the same time it has to be so highly concentrated that it does not contain any «excess» water.

For their experiments, the two researchers used the special salt sodium FSI (precise name: sodium bis(fluorosulfonyl)imide). This salt is extremely soluble in water: seven grams of sodium FSI and one gram of water produce a clear saline solution (see video clip). In this liquid, all water molecules are grouped around the positively charged sodium cations in a hydrate shell. Hardly any unbound water molecules are present.

Cost-effective production
The researchers discovered that this saline solution displays an electrochemical stability of up to 2.6 volts –nearly twice as much as other aqueous electrolytes. The discovery could be the key to inexpensive, safe battery cells; inexpensive because, apart from anything else, the sodium FSI cells can be constructed more safely and thus more easily than the well-known lithium ion batteries.

The system has already withstood a series of charging and discharging cycles in the lab. Until now, however, the researchers have been testing the anodes and cathodes of their test battery separately – against a standard electrode as a partner. In the next step, the two half cells are to be combined into a single battery. Then additional charging and discharging cycles are scheduled.

Empa’s research activities on novel batteries for stationary electricity storage systems are embedded in the Swiss Competence Center for Heat and Electricity Storage (SCCER HaE), which coordinates research for new heat and electricity storage concepts on a national level and is led by the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI).  If the experiment succeeds, inexpensive water batteries will be within reach.

Ruben-Simon Kühnel, David Reber, Corsin Battaglia. A High-Voltage Aqueous Electrolyte for Sodium-Ion Batteries. ACS Energy Letters, 2017; 2 (9): 2005 DOI: 10.1021/acsenergylett.7b00623

Smoke From Wildfires Can Tip Air Quality To Unhealthy Levels

January 9, 2018
Smoke plumes emanating from wildfires are swept high up into the air and spread over thousands of kilometers even days after a fire has been put out. The fine particles and harmful ozone contained in these plumes often have devastating effects on the air quality of US cities and consequently the health of their inhabitants. This is according to Alexandra Larsen of North Carolina State University in the US who led the first ever study taking a long-term look into the effects that wildfire smoke has on air quality across the US. The article appears in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology which is published by Springer Nature.

Since the 1970s, the number of large-scale wildfires in the US, which spread across 10,000 acres (~4000+ hectares) or more, has increased fivefold. This is worrying because exposure to particles and gases associated with wildfire smoke often leads people to be hospitalized with breathing and heart-related problems.

To measure the impact of wildfires on air quality, Larsen and her colleagues analyzed different sources of relevant data collected between 2006 and 2013. The data included the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Hazard Mapping System (HMS) that gathers daily satellite information about the presence and spread of smoke plumes.

Also, the researchers referred to the US Environmental Protection Agency's Air Quality System which monitors air pollution levels at different sites across the US, and levels of ozone and fine particulate matter on a given day. Fine particles and ozone have been linked to a range of health problems.

Larsen and her colleagues found that ozone concentrations were on average 11.1 percent higher on days when plumes were seen than on clear days. Unsurprisingly, fine particle levels were also significantly higher than normal (33.1 percent) on such days.

For Larsen, a striking finding is that the presence of wildfire smoke also had a knock-on effect and the effect was higher for ozone. While plumes had occurred only on 6-7 percent of days, these plumes accounted for 16 percent of unhealthy days due to small particles and 27 percent of unhealthy days due to ozone.

"Smoke-plume days accounted for a disproportionate number of days with elevated air quality index levels, indicating that moderate increases in regional air pollution due to large fires and long-distance transport of smoke can tip the air quality to unhealthy levels," says Larsen.

The pollutants emanating from wildfire smoke had a greater impact across Massachusetts, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, and Kansas. The windswept plumes caused ozone concentrations over these cities to rise.

"Enhanced ozone production in urban areas is a concern because of the population size potentially impacted and because air pollution levels could be already elevated due to local and mobile sources," explains Larsen.

Alexandra E. Larsen, Brian J. Reich, Mark Ruminski, Ana G. Rappold.Impacts of fire smoke plumes on regional air quality, 2006–2013. Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, 2017; DOI:10.1038/s41370-017-0013-x


Good Luck to all Local Surfers Competing!
From Surfing NSW: Tuesday, 9 January 2018
The Rip Curl GromSearch presented by Flight Centre National Final will call Woonoona home when it gets underway this Monday.
Over 50 aspiring professional surfers from all over Australia will contest the three-day National Final, which will run at the Illawarra beach from the 15th – 17th January.

Having claimed several Rip Curl GromSearch titles over the last few years, Kirra-Belle Olsson (Avoca, NSW) is eager to claim a win in what will be her final year competing in the GromSearch series.

"This year is my final year competing in the Rip Curl GromSearch and it's really important for me to get a decent result prior to focussing on the junior series," said Olsson. "The GromSearch events are always really hotly contested and you really need to put on an electric performance to beat the other surfers. I can't wait to be part of it all."

The Rip Curl GromSearch presented by Flight Centre will commence each day at 7:30 am with the call for the day's schedule and location confirmed via the event hotline at 6:45 am. The event hotline number is 0458 247 212 which will leave a voice recorded message each morning of the event.

All Rip Curl GromSearch events include boys’ and girls’ divisions in 16 and under, 14 and under, and 12 and under age groups. Surfers receive points for their results in each event, which then count towards a National GromSearch ratings system, allowing surfers from around Australia to compare their results with contemporaries. Leaders on the National Ratings will then qualify for the last event of the series, the Rip Curl GromSearch National Final, to be held at Woonoona, NSW on January 15-17, 2018.

The Rip Curl GromSearch series started in 1999 as a one-day event at Jan Juc in Victoria. Since then it has developed into the strongest international series for 16 year and under surfers in the world. With parallel Rip Curl GromSearch series in over 10 countries, it has become a crucial stepping-stone in the development of elite junior surfers.

The list of previous GromSearch competitors highlights the elite level of competitors that make up the Rip Curl GromSearch series.

Current WSL World Tour surfers who have competed in the Rip Curl GromSearch include:
Male: Matt Wilkinson (Australia), Gabriel Medina (Brazil), Kolohe Andino (USA), Felipe Toledo (Brazil), Jordy Smith (South Africa), Nat Young (USA).
Female: Tyler Wright (Australia), Stephanie Gilmore (Aust), Malia Manuel (USA), Sally Fitzgibbons (Aust), Nikki Van Dijk (Aust), Tatiana Weston Webb (Hawaii).

The Rip Curl GromSearch series is presented by Flight Centre with managing partner Surfing Australia and Surfing NSW.

Rip Curl GromSearch 2017/18 Events:
EVENT 1 - Jan Juc, VIC - Sept 23 - 25, 2017
EVENT 2 - Maroubra, NSW - Sept 30 - Oct 3, 2017
EVENT 3 - Trigg / Scarborough WA - Oct 6 - 8, 2017
EVENT 4 - Yorke Peninsula, SA - Nov 4 - 5, 2017
EVENT 5 - Sunshine Coast, QLD - Dec 11 - 15, 2017
National Final – Woonoona, Wollongong, NSW - Jan 15 - 17, 2018

Photo: Having claimed multiple Rip Curl GromSearch titles over the last few years, Kirra-Belle Olsson (Avoca, NSW) is eager to claim a win in what will be her final year competing in the GromSearch series.  Photo by Ethan Smith / Surfing NSW.

Deakin Expert Defends Civic Engagement Among Young Aussies

January 10, 2018
New Deakin University research has found young Australians are much more democratically engaged than they're given credit for, but their contributions are often dismissed or devalued by those in power.

Dr Rosalyn Black, from Deakin's Research for Educational Impact centre within the School of Education, said complaints about young people's lack of participation in Australian democracy ignore their alternative methods of civic engagement – such as volunteerism, demonstrating and social enterprise work.

Dr Black has been working with Monash University Associate Professor Lucas Walsh to uncover the truth about young people's democratic engagement.

"Australia, like other nations, is still characterised by a persistently negative discourse of young politics in crisis, which portrays young people as civically and politically alienated and apathetic," Dr Black said.

"But when young people do engage in alternative acts of citizenship – such as protest or social unrest – they're portrayed as democratically deviant and dangerous.

"Most young people aren't democratically disengaged, but they are engaging in ways that are off the radar, such as youth volunteering and social enterprise work between the government, non-profit and business sectors."

Dr Black said young Australians tended to shy away from representative bodies and big institutions such as the mainstream political parties, opting instead for more cause-based or issue-based politics and local engagement.

"There is a desire among many young people to make an active contribution and to have their voices and actions taken seriously by those in power," she said.

"But negative attitudes towards young people's civic engagement are devaluing the scope of their contribution – their desire to take part is being treated tokenistically and dismissed.

"Despite evidence that volunteering matters to young people in Australia, their contributions are going unrecognised, and their forms of youth volunteering and social enterprise appear to be largely invisible to most researchers and commentators."

Dr Black said young people who take part in civic action such as political demonstrations are often at risk of demonization or being portrayed as criminals.

"Civic and political institutions need to take a more positive view of young people's citizenship and social participation," she said.

"Better recognition, measurement and acknowledgment of the ways in which young people are choosing to enact their citizenship could create more meaningful and more positive opportunities."

Dr Black and Associate Professor Walsh’s chapter "Off the Radar Democracy: Young people's alternative acts of citizenship in Australia" was recently published in the international collection Young People Regenerating Politics in Times of Crises, edited by Sarah Pickard and Judith Bessant.

Dr Black and Associate Professor Walsh's upcoming book, Rethinking Youth Citizenship after the Age of Entitlement, is set to be released this March.

A Milestone In Australian Antarctic Flights

10th January 2018: Department of the Environment and Energy, Australian Antarctic Division
The Australian Antarctic Program is celebrating a decade of flights to the frozen continent’s blue ice runway, improving access for hundreds of scientists and expeditioners.

A total of 131 flights carrying more than 1600 people have landed at Wilkins Aerodrome since it officially opened on 10 January 2008. 

Australian Antarctic Division Acting Aviation Manager, Steve Wall, said over the past 10 years the majority of flights have departed from Hobart, the gateway to East Antarctica.

Touchdown! The tracks from the first landing on the blue ice runway. (Photo: Charlton Clark)

“Where the ship takes weeks, Wilkins Aerodrome gives us the ability to fly expeditioners and equipment between Australia and Antarctica in just over four hours.”

An Airbus 319 (A319) and Royal Australian Air Force C-17A are used for the flights, landing on the glacial runway which moves about 12 metres each year.

The Royal Australian Air Force C-17A at Wilkins Aerodrome. (Photo: RAAF)

“We fly between October and March each year and have a team living onsite who prepare the runway using snow groomers, graders and snow blowers,” Mr Wall said.

“They’re also trained as weather observers to monitor the often changing conditions on flight days.”

The A319, operated by Skytraders, carries up to 38 expeditioners on each of the 3400km flights.

“When they land, the passengers either travel 70km overland to Australia’s Casey research station, or make a connecting intra-continental flight to another Antarctic station.

The Royal Australian Air Force and Australian Antarctic Division started joint operational missions with a C-17A in 2015. 

“The C-17A has flown 19 missions to Wilkins Aerodrome, transporting large cargo such as helicopters, over-snow vehicles known as hägglunds, and a 23 tonne tractor to the continent.”

Wilkins Aerodrome operates as a certified aerodrome in accordance with Civil Aviation Safety Authority regulations.

The aerodrome is named after Sir Hubert Wilkins, the first person to fly over Antarctica in 1928.

The A319 about to land at Wilkins Aerodrome. (Photo: Gordon Tait)

Wilkins Aerodrome

Named after the legendary patron and pioneer of early Antarctic aviation, Sir Hubert Wilkins, the Wilkins Aerodrome is located approximately 70 km south east of Casey and serves as the Antarctic terminal for the intercontinental air service.

Situated in an area of Antarctica known as Wilkes’ Land, the aerodrome has been sited 700 meters above sea level to minimise the likelihood of melt as the coast is relatively warm by Antarctic standards during the summer months.

Wilkins Aerodrome operates as a ‘Certified Aerodrome’ under the approval of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). In order for this to occur the runway had to comply with international requirements for runway characteristics, condition reporting, operating procedures and quality systems.

Wilkins is significantly different from other aerodromes that have been approved by the Australian regulator and both the AAD and CASA worked closely together in developing the site. Due to the dynamic nature of the runway, a series of tests will be conducted on the pavement immediately prior to any use by aircraft to ensure that prescribed hardness, friction and density requirements are met.

Demonstration flights to the Wilkins Aerodrome occurred during the austral summer of 2006–07 and regular passenger flights commenced during this 2007–08 season. The facility operates between October and March each year.

Aerodrome facts
Location: 66°41′27″ S, 111°31′35″ E
Dimensions: 3500 m × 100 m
Visual aids: PAPI, and end lighting threshold, lead in and edge markers
Distance from Casey: 70 km
Elevation: 720–780 m ASL
Center line slope: 1.58%
Cross slope: <0.1%
Glacial movement: 12 m/year to South West
Ice thickness: approx 500 m
Mean temperature: −14°C

Wilkins Aerodrome operates as a certified aerodrome in accordance with Civil Aviation Safety Authority regulations. Like aerodromes in Australia, it has a range of navigation aids and communication systems to ensure safe operations.

Infrastructure at Wilkins include:
Transit facilities
Cold and warm storage
Emergency response facilities, including medical
Airfield markers
Navigation and aircraft approach equipment
Power generation equipment
Fire fighting equipment
Shelters for:
aircraft communications site office
medical services
meteorological services
living and emergency accommodation
light workshop
storage facilities
Vehicle and sled parking areas
Refuelling equipment
Fuel storage for vehicle and airfield operations

Living at Wilkins
Living in this environment requires all team members to complete a wide range of additional duties that are essential to maintaining the Wilkins accommodation and facilities. Austere weather conditions at the site make it difficult for a daily routine to become established. Generally, there are periods of blizzards (high winds) when little work can be completed which are punctuated with windows of fine weather when most productive work is undertaken.

During fine weather long work days, sometimes up to 12 hours, can be expected.

Sir George Hubert Wilkins (1888-1958)

Antarctic achievements
Australian explorer, geographer, and aviator Hubert Wilkins pioneered flight at both Poles. Having participated in Arctic expeditions, including a trans-Arctic flight for which he was knighted, Wilkins first visited Antarctica in 1920 on the British Graham Land Expedition led by John Lachlan Cope. 

The following year, Wilkins joined Ernest Shackleton's Quest expedition to sub-Antarctic South Georgia, making ornithological observations on the way.

Inspired by the success of his flight over the Arctic, Wilkins carried out the first aerial exploration of Antarctica at Graham Land in 1928/9. Although many of his observations were disproved by later expeditions, his bird's eye view influenced further exploration.

In 1933, Wilkins joined American Lincoln Ellsworth's three private attempts on the first trans-Antarctic flight. In 1935, Ellsworth, together with pilot Herbert Hollick-Kenyon, successfully completed the first flight across the continent from Dundee Island to the Ross Ice Shelf.

In 1938, Wilkins again joined Ellsworth's Antarctic expedition sailing on the Wyatt Earp with two aircraft. Before departure, Ellsworth had assured Wilkins that he had no intention of claiming land in Antarctica. However, on the voyage he informed Wilkins of his plans to map land that had previously been claimed but not seen. 

Resolving to reassert Australian sovereignty over territory claimed by Mawson, Wilkins flew to the northernmost point, landing at the Rauer Islands, then on to the southwestern and the northeastern extent of the Vestfold Hills. He flew the Australian flag and deposited a record of the visit in a rock cairn at each site.

Honours and awards
In Antarctica, Wilkins Island, Wilkins Sound, the Wilkins Ice Shelf and Wilkins Aerodrome near Casey station have been named in his honour.

Photo insert: Sir George Hubert Wilkins (1888-1958) noted Australian polar explorer, geographer, aviator, submariner and photographer

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.