Inbox and Environment News: Issue 389

January 13 - 19, 2019: Issue 389

Northern Beaches Council Motion: Formal Opposition To Adani Carmichael Coal Mine 

At its Meeting held on December 18, 2018, the NBC Resolved:

Cr Warren / Cr De Luca

A. Council notes the particular vulnerability of the Northern Beaches to climate change impacts such as sea level rise, coastal erosion, flooding and bushfires.
B. Council supports and recognises the need for a global and nationwide transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy as soon as possible, to stave off the most dangerous level of climate change.
C. Council notes Australia’s international commitment to keeping global temperature rise below 2oC, with best efforts to keep below a 1.5oC rise and that in order to do so, 88% of discovered global coal reserves must remain unburned.
D. Council notes that in the Northern Beaches community there is a high level of concern and objection to the Adani Carmichael coal mine and the opening up of the Galilee Basin for coal exploitation.
E. Council objects in the strongest terms possible to government approval, support and funding for new coal mines in Australia such as the Adani Carmichael Mine.
F. Council writes to the Prime Minister, the Hon. Mr Scott Morrison, the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Mr Bill Shorten, Queensland Premier, the Hon. Ms Annastacia Palaszczuk, and local MPs the Hon. Mr Tony Abbott and the Hon. Mr Jason Falinski to express our objection to the Adani mine and alert them to the contents of this motion.

Motion was Carried - from unconfirmed Minutes of Meeting

Woodside Scarborough Project: Have Your Say

Oil and gas company Woodside Energy has applied for federal approval for dredging and pipeline construction in waters near the Western Australian Dampier Archipelago marine reserves.

The company sought the approval as part of its proposed Scarborough gas project, an offshore development about 380km from the Burrup peninsula that would use a 430km pipeline to transport gas to its existing Pluto liquefied natural gas facility on the peninsula.

A development proposal for the state waters component of the project was published by the federal environment department on Christmas Eve. Under environment protection and biodiversity conservation regulations the public has only 10 business days to comment once a referral is published.

The Refrral was listed on the EPBC website on December 24th, 2018. Following a public backlash, the end date for having your say was then extended by Federal Environment Minister Melissa Price until January 31st.

Other components of the Scarborough project, including those in commonwealth waters, will be the subject of separate applications to other government agencies, including the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority.

The proposal includes the dredging of up to 2,781,700 m3 of the sea floor of Mermaid Sound – up to 1,612,600 m3 of which will be located in state waters – for the installation of 32.7km of steel pipeline adjacent to an existing trunkline.

From the document:
The proposed extent of physical and operational elements are detailed below:
-Trenching, pipelay and backfill activities for the installation of the trunkline including: Dredging of maximum 2,781,700 m3 during the trenching for the trunkline, of which a maximum of 1,612,600 m3 will be in State Waters. The volumes would be confirmed during detailed engineering design.

Installation of the pipe up to Kilometre Point (KP) 0, 1.5m above Highest Astronomical Tide (HAT), the exact location may vary slightly but will remain within the referred proposal development envelope. A 32 inch carbon steel trunkline 32.7 kilometres long installed in a trench around 2–4.3 metres deep and up to 30 m wide. The trench would be backfilled with sand and/or rock material for stabilisation purposes along the trunkline as required.
Concrete blocks backfilled with trenching material may also be required to provide reaction forces. These would be laid within the trench footprint and retained in place to maintain the reaction forces once the pipe is laid. The trench backfilling operations will cover these blocks on completion of the construction works.
-The use of existing spoil grounds within State Waters for disposal of dredged sediments. Spoil from the trunkline dredging operations will be placed in a combination of the spoil grounds listed below. The final spoil ground locations are subject to further engineering design and consultation with relevant stakeholders.
- Spoil Ground A/B (restricted to backhoe works) and 2B located in State Waters.
- Spoil Ground 5A located in Commonwealth Waters (Provided for information only but not assessed as part of this referral)
-The potential use of an existing borrow ground within State Waters, to obtain sediment for trunkline stabilisation activities.
Sand and Rock materials may be required to assist with trunkline stabilisation. Sand is proposed to be obtained from borrow ground locations located in either State or Commonwealth waters. Rocks would be obtained from domestic or international sources.

-The installation of temporary facilities along the shoreline at the Pluto LNG Facility to facilitate the installation of the trunkline in shallower depth and the connection to the Facility.

A temporary groyne around 100 metres long would be constructed on the shoreline between the pre-excavated trench and the Pluto jetty to allow excavating equipment to access and excavate the rock berm currently covering the trench. A suitable storage location will be required for the excavated rock assuming that this rock will be used to reinstate the shore crossing rock berm following trunkline installation. Piles may also be required to anchor the nearshore pipelay barge. Piles are required due to the proximity to the Pluto trunkline which may prevent the use of anchors for the pipelay activities. It’s estimated a total of 8 driven piles may be required.
Space would be required at the shore crossing location for temporary offices, cranes and other equipment for the shore pull of the trunkline.

Woodside states it believes the proposal does not require a full assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act because it “does not consider that the elements of the proposal that have been assessed, involve an action that is likely to have a significant impact upon matters of national environmental significance (MNES) or other protected matters”.

The document says the company had assessed the potential for direct and indirect impacts on the Dampier Archipelago, located 1.6km from the proposed pipeline at its nearest point, and found potential for indirect impacts on water quality as a result of dredging.

The proposal also states marine species could be affected, including the endangered loggerhead turtle which has been found in locations that intersect with some of the development area. Direct risks included “vessel strikes and/or entrainment during dredging”.

Invitations for public comment: EPBC
Ensuring your comments are effective
  • Clearly reference the referral (EPBC number and proposal title) in your submission.
  • State clearly whether, and how, you believe the proposal would have a significant impact on matters protected by the EPBC ActThe Minister, or their delegate, can only take into account comments, concerns or issues in respect to the specific matters of national environmental significance or matters protected under the EPBC Act. Be specific by stating which aspects of the proposal would impact on matters (e.g. a particular listed species or heritage value).
  • If you believe the information in the referral is misleading or incorrect, you should state the reasons why and provide correct information, if available.
  • Give the source of any key information used in reaching your conclusion.
  • Provide clear contact details if the Department needs to get in touch with you to seek clarification.
  • Provide comments by the due date. If your comments are going to be late, please contact the Department before the due date, and advise of your intention to provide comment, and the date the comment will be provided. The Department will advise you if the comments can be accepted.
Please note: Submissions may be subject to release under the Freedom of Information Act 1982, and may be provided to third parties for procedural fairness purposes (also known as natural justice). 

Public submissions are not normally confidential, however if you wish your submission to be treated by the Department as confidential, please mark it clearly as 'confidential' and provide your reasons for it to be considered as such. The Department will use its best endeavours to deal with the submission accordingly but this does not make it automatically exempt from release.

If you require further information contact the Referrals Gateway on 02 6274 2496 or email

Submitting your comments
Please send your comments on referrals quoting the reference number and title of the referral to:

Or post (allowing for the public comment due date):

Referrals Gateway
Assessment & Governance Branch
Department of the Environment and Energy
GPO Box 787
Canberra ACT 2601

Reference No. 2018/8362
Title of referral: WOODSIDE ENERGY LTD./Mining/Seabed within State Waters and within Port of Dampier limits/Western Australia/Scarborough Development nearshore component, NWS, WA

These Two Koalas Lost Their Mothers To Deforestation

I call on you to urgently end the deforestation and land-clearing crisis by making potential koala habitat, threatened species habitat, and other high-conservation-value areas off limits to clearing, and by repealing the land-clearing codes.

I also urge you to invest in a restoration and conservation fund and deliver the world-class mapping, monitoring, and reporting the community expects.

Smart Energy Conference & Exhibition 2019

Starts: 8:30am Tuesday, 2 April 2019
Ends: 5:30pm Wednesday, 3 April 2019
Location: International Convention Centre Sydney
14 Darling Drive, Darling Harbour, New South Wales 2000

The Smart Energy Conference and Exhibition is one of Australia’s biggest solar, storage and smart energy conference and exhibition.

Powered by the Smart Energy Council – incorporating the Australian Solar Council and Energy Storage Council, this is our 57th annual FREE-TO-ATTEND conference and exhibition.

  • Over 6,000 delegates, 120 exhibitors and partners
  • A showcase of the latest technology, demonstration of new business models and innovation
  • Outstanding knowledge sharing and networking
  • 3 Conference and information sessions with over 100 presenters
  • CPD points for installers

Long Reef Guided Reef Walks

Please find below the 2017 – 2018 timetable for guided walks of Long Reef Aquatic Reserve.

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 2019
Sunday 6 January 2019         3:00pm – 5:00pm
Sunday 20 January 2019       2:00pm – 4:00pm
Sunday 17 February 2019     1:00pm – 3:00pm
Sunday 17 March 2019          11:30am – 1:30pm
Sunday 7 April 2019               2:30pm  – 4:30pm

Walks are held subject to weather conditions

Bookings are preferred.
Please email Wendy to book:

Japan To Exit From International Whaling Commission And Cease Southern Ocean Whaling

Joint media release: 
Senator the Hon Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs
The Hon Melissa Price MP, Minister for the Environment
26 December 2018

The Australian Government is extremely disappointed that Japan has announced that it will withdraw from the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling and its decision-making body, the International Whaling Commission, and resume commercial whaling.

The International Whaling Commission plays a crucial role in international cooperation on whale conservation. The Commission is the pre-eminent global body responsible for the conservation and management of whales and leads international efforts to tackle the growing range of threats to whales globally, including by-catch, ship strikes, entanglement, noise, and whaling.

Their decision to withdraw is regrettable and Australia urges Japan to return to the Convention and Commission as a matter of priority.

Australia remains resolutely opposed to all forms of commercial and so-called ‘scientific’ whaling. We will continue to work within the Commission to uphold the global moratorium on commercial whaling.

We acknowledge Japan’s commitment to continue to cooperate with the Commission as an observer. This will provide an avenue for Australia and other members of the Commission to continue to engage with Japan on whaling.

The Australian Government welcomes Japan’s announcement that it will stop whaling in the Southern Ocean as of next summer. This means that the International Whaling Commission’s vast Southern Ocean Sanctuary, and our own Australian Whale Sanctuary, will finally be true sanctuaries for all whales. 

Loss Of Intertidal Ecosystem Exposes Coastal Communities

December 19, 2018: UNSW & University of Queensland
Artificial intelligence and extensive satellite imagery have allowed researchers to map the world's intertidal zones for the first time, revealing a significant loss of the crucial ecosystem.

The University of Queensland and University of New South Wales study has shown that global foreshore environments declined by up to 16 per cent between 1984 and 2016.

Professor Richard Fuller, from UQ's School of Biological Sciences, said the zone between low and high tide lines protected more than 625 million people around the world from storms and sea level rises.

"Identifying areas where intertidal zones are being lost to development and rising seas is critical to safeguard coastal communities," Professor Fuller said.

"Our research will have significant international benefits, with more than 1.4 billion people expected to live in coastal areas by 2060."

The study used artificial intelligence known as machine-learning to analyse more than 700,000 satellite images to map changing global distribution of intertidal areas over a 30-year period.

UQ and UNSW Faculty of Science researcher Dr Nick Murray said it was made possible by a unique collaboration of conservation biologists, and marine, coastal, remote sensing, and computer scientists.

"It required nearly one million hours of computation, run on 22,000 machines via the Google Earth Engine," Dr Murray said.

"We applied machine learning classifiers to every pixel from each satellite image available to us from along the world's coastlines."

The findings lay the ground-work for a global coastal monitoring system for international conservation and sustainable development targets.

"A system like this could enable scientists, governments and the wider community to take stock of the services that coastal ecosystems provide," Dr Murray said.

"An online app, the Intertidal Change Explorer, offers open access to the dataset and supports its use to understand and conserve coastal ecosystems worldwide."

Nicholas J. Murray, Stuart R. Phinn, Michael DeWitt, Renata Ferrari, Renee Johnston, Mitchell B. Lyons, Nicholas Clinton, David Thau, Richard A. Fuller. The global distribution and trajectory of tidal flats. Nature, 2018; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-018-0805-8

Sampling invertebrates within deep mudflats in Gladstone, Australia. Credit: Chi-Yeung Choi

Investigations Into Fish Kill At Menindee

January 7th, 2019: Media release
The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and WaterNSW are investigating a large fish kill at Menindee in Western NSW.

In recent weeks fish kills have occurred in the Namoi River below Keepit Dam, the Lachlan River at Wyangala Dam and also in the the Darling River at Menindee in a separate event in December.

DPI Senior Fisheries Manager, Anthony Townsend, said fisheries officers have visited the affected area downstream of Menindee today and are investigating the incident.

“The ongoing drought conditions across western NSW have resulted in fish kills in a number of waterways recently and today our fisheries officers have confirmed a major fish kill event in the Darling River at Menindee affecting hundreds of thousands of fish, including Golden Perch, Murray Cod and Bony Herring,” Mr Townsend said.

“After a very hot period, a sharp cool change hit the Menindee region over the weekend, with large temperature drops experienced.

“This sudden drop in temperature may have disrupted an existing algal bloom at Menindee, killing the algae and resulting in the depletion of dissolved oxygen.”

The incident follows an earlier fish kill in December, after intense rainfall events following hot weather, which disrupted algal blooms resulting in low dissolved oxygen levels conditions that exacerbated water quality for already stressed fish.

During the December event investigations by District Fisheries Officers from DPI revealed over 10,000 fish mortalities along a 40km stretch of the Darling River, including numerous Murray Cod, Golden Perch and Silver Perch, and native Bony Herring.

Mr Townsend said preliminary investigations by DPI into the current fish kill event suggest that hundreds of thousands of native fish have been impacted in the same stretch of waterway and further downstream.

“As a result of this incident, DPI will take this opportunity to learn more about our native fish to help improve their future management,” Mr Townsend said.

“Our fisheries experts are extracting otoliths (or the ear bone) from some of the Murray Cod killed during the event to improve our knowledge of the species.

“Otoliths allow us to work out how old a fish is and can be used to help establish age and length/weight relationships, as well as potentially unearth other secrets including where the fish was born and spent its life through microchemistry work.

“All of this new knowledge will help improve how we manage waterways and the fishery across the entire Murray-Darling Basin to help protect and improve native fish populations when conditions improve.

“Fisheries staff would like to thank local anglers and residents who have provided information.

“The current low flows and warming temperatures are likely to pose an ongoing threat to native fish throughout the summer.”

WaterNSW is continuing to monitor water quality throughout the dams and river systems.

Adrian Langdon, WaterNSW executive manager of systems operations said regional NSW is experiencing intense drought conditions, with the state’s Central West, Far West and North West regions the worst affected.

“Algal alerts have been in place for several weeks in the Menindee region and linked to this, low dissolved oxygen levels are likely to occur within slow flowing or no flow sections of the river,” Mr Langdon said.

“It is almost certain these impacts will persist and possibly increase further as summer proceeds if we don’t receive significant rainfall to generate replenishment flows.”

Community members are encouraged not to be alarmed and to report any similar incidents or observations through the Fishers Watch hotline on 1800 043 536.
Locals say Murray Cod weighing up for 40kg have been killed.  Photo from Facebook: by Rod Mackenzie

Warriewood's Raymax Lasers Are Revolutionising The 3D Metal Printing Market

Raymax Applications has supplied innovative laser solutions to companies, universities, government departments and research institutes across Australia and New Zealand for over 25 years.

Lasers can be used for a myriad of tasks and situations: attached to a robot arm, or on the side of a bottling line, or inside a protective chamber for 3D printing metal parts. This wide variation in applications requires expert installation, support and training to ensure effective incorporation of the laser system. Sometimes, Raymax is presented with the challenge of a ‘never done before’ solution: a new application or use for a laser system.

“These are the challenges we love,” says John Grace, Managing Director of Raymax.“We not only get to apply our knowledge and skill, but we are giving the user an opportunity to do something they could never have done before, and that’s pretty satisfying for everyone.”

Lasers provide the opportunity to innovate, change and improve processes. For example, materials-processing applications such as welding, cutting and cladding in fields as diverse as consumer electronics, automotive manufacturing and defence, are now dominated by industrial lasers. This uptake changes traditional processes, influenced by the advantages of a more precise alternative to traditional processing.

In today’s fast-paced industrial and manufacturing sectors, demand for the latest technology has led Raymax into the realm of additive manufacturing (AM). By introducing laser cladding and welding systems with the installation of Laserline lasers, damaged parts can be repaired that are otherwise expensive to replace or take inordinate time to be delivered. Such economic advantages are being provided to mining and drilling operators, for aircraft part maintenance, in repair of generator turbine blades, and so on. Lasercladding has been shown not just to be an economical solution, but parts are proving far more robust that the original part, extending usable life.

Over the past three years Raymax has become the distributor of Europe’s leading 3D metal printing laser systems: SLM Solutions. SLM predicts that in Europe and the US, metal AM is set to revolutionise the automotive market; from high-performance racing cars to production vehicles, the benefits of design freedom and maximised functionality are increasing demand.

Terry Wohlers, a renowned commentator on 3D printing, emphasises the importance of design for AM (DfAM). Courses in this area are being offered in collaboration with RMIT in Melbourne, where four SLM laser systems are housed. Parts designed for conventional manufacturing are expensive to produce by AM. However, when parts are redesigned, benefits can be realised in terms of greater functionality, consolidation of assembly, inclusion of cooling channels, along with the benefit of using metals that offer reduced weight of the finished part.

Wohlers emphasises that one of the biggest barriers to the uptake of AM is the lack of knowledge and skills among the design and engineering workforce – a skills gap that needs filling quickly if manufacturers are to reap the benefits. Australia’s universities are filling an important role, providing research centres while offering testing facilities and application support to local industry as well as specific training.

“Our partnerships with universities is crucial to the introduction of new technology, particularly where it requires training and skills development,” says Grace. “Most major universities across the country offer access to SLM laser systems. Companies only have to ask!”

Melting Ice Sheets Release Tons Of Methane Into The Atmosphere

January 3rd, 2019: University of Bristol
The Greenland Ice Sheet emits tons of methane according to a new study, showing that subglacial biological activity impacts the atmosphere far more than previously thought.

An international team of researchers led by the University of Bristol camped for three months next to the Greenland Ice Sheet, sampling the meltwater that runs off a large catchment (> 600 km2) of the Ice Sheet during the summer months.

As reported in Nature, using novel sensors to measure methane in meltwater runoff in real time, they observed that methane was continuously exported from beneath the ice.

They calculated that at least six tons of methane was transported to their measuring site from this portion of the Ice Sheet alone, roughly the equivalent of the methane released by up to 100 cows.

Professor Jemma Wadham, Director of Bristol's Cabot Institute for the Environment, who led the investigation, said: "A key finding is that much of the methane produced beneath the ice likely escapes the Greenland Ice Sheet in large, fast flowing rivers before it can be oxidized to CO2, a typical fate for methane gas which normally reduces its greenhouse warming potency."

Methane gas (CH4) is the third most important greenhouse gas in the atmosphere after water vapour and carbon dioxide (CO2). Although, present in lower concentrations that CO2, methane is approximately 20-28 times more potent. Therefore smaller quantities have the potential to cause disproportionate impacts on atmospheric temperatures. Most of the Earth's methane is produced by microorganisms that convert organic matter to CH4 in the absence of oxygen, mostly in wetlands and on agricultural land, for instance in the stomachs of cows and rice paddies. The remainder comes from fossil fuels like natural gas.

While some methane had been detected previously in Greenland ice cores and in an Antarctic Subglacial Lake, this is the first time that meltwaters produced in spring and summer in large ice sheet catchments have been reported to continuously flush out methane from the ice sheet bed to the atmosphere.

Lead author, Guillaume Lamarche-Gagnon, from Bristol's School of Geographical Sciences, said: "What is also striking is the fact that we've found unequivocal evidence of a widespread subglacial microbial system. Whilst we knew that methane-producing microbes likely were important in subglacial environments, how important and widespread they truly were was debatable. Now we clearly see that active microorganisms, living under kilometres of ice, are not only surviving, but likely impacting other parts of the Earth system. This subglacial methane is essentially a biomarker for life in these isolated habitats."

Most studies on Arctic methane sources focus on permafrost, because these frozen soils tend to hold large reserves of organic carbon that could be converted to methane when they thaw due to climate warming. This latest study shows that ice sheet beds, which hold large reserves of carbon, liquid water, microorganisms and very little oxygen -- the ideal conditions for creating methane gas -- are also atmospheric methane sources.

Co-researcher Dr Elizabeth Bagshaw from Cardiff University added: "The new sensor technologies that we used give us a window into this previously unseen part of the glacial environment. Continuous measurement of meltwater enables us to improve our understanding of how these fascinating systems work and how they impact the rest of the planet."

With Antarctica holding the largest ice mass on the planet, researchers say their findings make a case for turning the spotlight to the south. Mr Lamarche-Gagnon added: "Several orders of magnitude more methane has been hypothesized to be capped beneath the Antarctic Ice Sheet than beneath Arctic ice-masses. Like we did in Greenland, it's time to put more robust numbers on the theory."

Guillaume Lamarche-Gagnon, Jemma L. Wadham, Barbara Sherwood Lollar, Sandra Arndt, Peer Fietzek, Alexander D. Beaton, Andrew J. Tedstone, Jon Telling, Elizabeth A. Bagshaw, Jon R. Hawkings, Tyler J. Kohler, Jakub D. Zarsky, Matthew C. Mowlem, Alexandre M. Anesio, Marek Stibal. Greenland melt drives continuous export of methane from the ice-sheet bed. Nature, 2019; 565 (7737): 73 DOI: 10.1038/s41586-018-0800-0

This photo shows a rhodamine dye injection into the proglacial river, just before a waterfall. The pink dye (the rhodamine) is used to calculate the water discharge of the proglacial river (i.e. how much water/melt if flowing in the river at that time). Credit: Jakub D Zarsky

The Long Memory Of The Pacific Ocean

January 4th, 2019: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
The ocean has a long memory. When the water in today's deep Pacific Ocean last saw sunlight, Charlemagne was the Holy Roman Emperor, the Song Dynasty ruled China and Oxford University had just held its very first class. During that time, between the 9th and 12th centuries, the earth's climate was generally warmer before the cold of the Little Ice Age settled in around the 16th century. Now ocean surface temperatures are back on the rise but the question is, do the deepest parts of the ocean know that?

Researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and Harvard University have found that the deep Pacific Ocean lags a few centuries behind in terms of temperature and is still adjusting to the entry into the Little Ice Age. Whereas most of the ocean is responding to modern warming, the deep Pacific may be cooling.

"These waters are so old and haven't been near the surface in so long, they still 'remember' what was going on hundreds of years ago when Europe experienced some of its coldest winters in history," said Jake Gebbie, a physical oceanographer at WHOI and lead author of the study published Jan. 4, 2019, in the journal Science.

"Climate varies across all timescales," adds Peter Huybers, Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University and co-author of the paper. "Some regional warming and cooling patterns, like the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warm Period, are well known. Our goal was to develop a model of how the interior properties of the ocean respond to changes in surface climate."

What that model showed was surprising.

"If the surface ocean was generally cooling for the better part of the last millennium, those parts of the ocean most isolated from modern warming may still be cooling," said Gebbie.

The model is, of course, a simplification of the actual ocean. To test the prediction, Gebbie and Huybers compared the cooling trend found in the model to ocean temperature measurements taken by scientists aboard the HMS Challenger in the 1870s and modern observations from the World Ocean Circulation Experiment of the 1990s.

The HMS Challenger, a three-masted wooden sailing ship originally designed as a British warship, was used for the first modern scientific expedition to explore the world's ocean and seafloor. During the expedition from 1872 to 1876, thermometers were lowered into the ocean depths and more than 5,000 temperature measurements were logged.

Painting of HMS Challenger by William Frederick Mitchell

"We screened this historical data for outliers and considered a variety of corrections associated with pressure effects on the thermometer and stretching of the hemp rope used for lowering thermometers," said Huybers.

The researchers then compared the HMS Challenger data to the modern observations and found warming in most parts of the global ocean, as would be expected due to the warming planet over the 20th Century, but cooling in the deep Pacific at a depth of around two kilometers.

"The close correspondence between the predictions and observed trends gave us confidence that this is a real phenomenon," said Gebbie.

These findings imply that variations in surface climate that predate the onset of modern warming still influence how much the climate is heating up today. Previous estimates of how much heat the Earth had absorbed during the last century assumed an ocean that started out in equilibrium at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. But Gebbie and Huybers estimate that the deep Pacific cooling trend leads to a downward revision of heat absorbed over the 20th century by about 30 percent.

"Part of the heat needed to bring the ocean into equilibrium with an atmosphere having more greenhouse gases was apparently already present in the deep Pacific," said Huybers. "These findings increase the impetus for understanding the causes of the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age as a way for better understanding modern warming trends."

G. Gebbie, P. Huybers. The Little Ice Age and 20th-century deep Pacific cooling. Science, 2019; 363 (6422): 70 DOI: 10.1126/science.aar8413

Cold waters that sank in polar regions hundreds of years ago during the Little Ice Age are still impacting deep Pacific Ocean temperature trends. While the deep Pacific temperature trends are small, they represent a large amount of energy in the Earth system.
Credit: Photo by Larry Madin, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Insect Biological Control Shields Tropical Forests

January 8th, 2019
Though often perceived as an environmentally-risky practice, biological control of invasive species can restore crop yields, ease land pressure and contribute to forest conservation. This paper illustrates the positive impacts of biological control using the cassava mealybug Phenacoccus manihoti (Hemiptera) as an example. Cassava is a key food, feed and fiber crop grown on around 4 million ha in tropical Asia, where use of a parasitic wasp lowers crop losses, restores farm profitability and slows deforestation.

During 2009-2010, the invasive mealybug caused 18% drops in Thailand's cassava yields, triggering sharp increases in cassava prices and spurring a region-wide expansion of cassava crop surfaces. This coincided with 185-608% surges in peak deforestation rates in neighboring countries. Following release of the host-specific parasitoid Anagyrus lopezi (Hymenoptera) in 2010, mealybug outbreaks were reduced, the cropped area contracted, and the pace of deforestation slowed by 31-95% in individual countries. Hence, when used according to established guidelines, biological control of a crop pest can avert the need for synthetic pesticides, shield tropical biodiversity and deliver long-lasting environmental benefits on a macro-scale.

Insects provide invaluable services to humanity, including the natural control of agricultural pests, a service worth at least $4.5 billion annually to US agriculture alone. This week's study in Communications Biology reveals how a judiciously-selected pest-killing insect -- a minute parasitic wasp -- helps resolve invasive pest problems, augments crop yields and protects tropical biodiversity. "Insect biological control reconnects insect friends and foes, and restores ecological balance in invaded agro-ecosystems," says Kris Wyckhuys, agro-ecologist at University of Queensland (Australia) and IPP-CAAS (China), and coordinator of the study. "Such nature-based approaches provide a 'win-win' solution that addresses invasive species mitigation, biodiversity conservation and profitable farming. Collaboration between conservation biologists and crop protection scientists can thus be beneficial to balance farmer realities on the ground with biodiversity conservation."

The study underlines the ample environmental benefits of insect biological control, as a desirable alternative to insecticide-based approaches for tackling pest problems, supporting sustainable intensification and sparing land for conservation. "It is often difficult to reconcile socio-economic and ecological issues, and smallholder farmers are regularly tempted to resort to costly and environmentally-damaging chemical pesticides to control pests. This study confirms that appropriate use of biological control can resolve socio-economic, environmental and ecological issues simultaneously, especially in tropical countries," adds Jean-Philippe Deguine, agro-ecologist and entomologist at CIRAD and co-author of the paper. By opting for biological control, farmers defuse pest problems, enhance profitability of their operations and concurrently become stewards of the environment.

Agro-ecological Crop Protection, a way to preserve biodiversity in the tropics

When used with established safeguards, biological control can permanently resolve invasive species problems. The scientifically-guided introduction of specialist natural enemies to provide pest control services in field crops is in line with agro-ecological crop protection. As a cost-effective alternative to pesticide-based approaches, and relying upon nature's services to suppress crop pests, agro-ecological crop protection aims to restore and optimize ecosystem functioning and helps ensure that crop protection benefits farmers' pockets, consumer and producer health and the broader farming environment.

K. A. G. Wyckhuys, A. C. Hughes, C. Buamas, A. C. Johnson, L. Vasseur, L. Reymondin, J. -P. Deguine, D. Sheil. Biological control of an agricultural pest protects tropical forests. Communications Biology, 2019; 2 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s42003-018-0257-6

One invasive mealybug species - Phenacoccus manihoti - caused major cassava p.roduction losses in Thailand during 2009-2010 Credit: P. Moonjuntha (Thailand Department of Agriculture)

New Materials Could 'Drive Wound Healing' By Harnessing Natural Healing Methods

January 7th, 2019: Imperial College London
Materials are widely used to help heal wounds: Collagen sponges help treat burns and pressure sores, and scaffold-like implants are used to repair bones. However, the process of tissue repair changes over time, so scientists are developing biomaterials that interact with tissues as healing takes place.

Now, Dr Ben Almquist and his team at Imperial College London have created a new molecule that could change the way traditional materials work with the body. Known as traction force-activated payloads (TrAPs), their method lets materials talk to the body's natural repair systems to drive healing.

The researchers say incorporating TrAPs into existing medical materials could revolutionise the way injuries are treated. Dr Almquist, from Imperial's Department of Bioengineering, said: "Our technology could help launch a new generation of materials that actively work with tissues to drive healing."

The findings are published today in Advanced Materials.

Cellular call to action

After an injury, cells 'crawl' through the collagen 'scaffolds' found in wounds, like spiders navigating webs. As they move, they pull on the scaffold, which activates hidden healing proteins that begin to repair injured tissue.

The researchers designed TrAPs as a way to recreate this natural healing method. They folded the DNA segments into three-dimensional shapes known as aptamers that cling tightly to proteins. Then, they attached a customisable 'handle' that cells can grab onto on one end, before attaching the opposite end to a scaffold such as collagen.

During laboratory testing of their technique, they found that cells pulled on the TrAPs as they crawled through the collagen scaffolds. The pulling made the TrAPs unravel like shoelaces to reveal and activate the healing proteins. These proteins instruct the healing cells to grow and multiply.

The researchers also found that by changing the cellular 'handle', they can change which type of cell can grab hold and pull, letting them tailor TrAPs to release specific therapeutic proteins based on which cells are present at a given point in time. In doing so, the TrAPs produce materials that can smartly interact with the correct type of cell at the correct time during wound repair.

This is the first time scientists have activated healing proteins using different types of cells in human-made materials. The technique mimics healing methods found in nature. Dr Almquist said: "Using cell movement to activate healing is found in creatures ranging from sea sponges to humans. Our approach mimics them and actively works with the different varieties of cells that arrive in our damaged tissue over time to promote healing."

From lab to humans

This approach is adaptable to different cell types, so could be used in a variety of injuries such as fractured bones, scar tissue after heart attacks, and damaged nerves. New techniques are also desperately needed for patients whose wounds won't heal despite current interventions, like diabetic foot ulcers, which are the leading cause of non-traumatic lower leg amputations.

TrAPs are relatively straightforward to create and are fully human-made, meaning they are easily recreated in different labs and can be scaled up to industrial quantities. Their adaptability also means they could help scientists create new methods for laboratory studies of diseases, stem cells, and tissue development.

Aptamers are currently used as drugs, meaning they are already proven safe and optimised for clinical use. Because TrAPs take advantage of aptamers that are currently optimised for use in humans, they may be able to take a shorter path to the clinic than methods that start from ground zero.

Dr Almquist said: "The TrAP technology provides a flexible method to create materials that actively communicate with the wound and provide key instructions when and where they are needed. This sort of intelligent, dynamic healing is useful during every phase of the healing process, has the potential to increase the body's chance to recover, and has far-reaching uses on many different types of wounds. This technology has the potential to serve as a conductor of wound repair, orchestrating different cells over time to work together to heal damaged tissues."

Anna Stejskalová, Nuria Oliva, Frances J. England, Benjamin D. Almquist. Biologically Inspired, Cell‐Selective Release of Aptamer‐Trapped Growth Factors by Traction Forces.Advanced Materials, 2018 DOI: 10.1002/adma.201806380

Computers Can Be A Real Pain In The Neck

January 4th, 2019: San Francisco State University
It's a posture so common we almost don't notice it anymore: someone sitting at a computer jutting his or her head forward to look more closely at the screen. But this seemingly harmless position compresses the neck and can lead to fatigue, headaches, poor concentration, increased muscle tension and even injury to the vertebrae over time. It can even limit the ability to turn your head.

"When your posture is tall and erect, the muscles of your back can easily support the weight of your head and neck -- as much as 12 pounds," explains San Francisco State University Professor of Holistic Health Erik Peper. "But when your head juts forward at a 45 degree angle, your neck acts like a fulcrum, like a long lever lifting a heavy object. Now the muscle weight of your head and neck is the equivalent of about 45 pounds. It is not surprising people get stiff necks and shoulder and back pain."

Peper, Associate Professor of Health Education Richard Harvey and their colleagues, including two student researchers, tested the effects of head and neck position in a recent study published in the journal Biofeedback. First they asked 87 students to sit upright with their heads properly aligned on their necks and asked them to turn their heads. Then the students were asked to "scrunch" their necks and jut their heads forward. Ninety-two percent reported being able to turn their heads much farther when not scrunching. In the second test, 125 students scrunched their necks for 30 seconds. Afterwards, 98 percent reported some level of pain in their head, neck or eyes.

The researchers also monitored 12 students with electromyography equipment and found that trapezius muscle tension increased in the scrunched, head forward position.

So if you suffer from headaches or neck and backaches from computer work, check your posture and make sure your head is aligned on top of your neck, as if held by an invisible thread from the ceiling. "You can do something about this poor posture very quickly," said Peper. To increase body awareness, Peper advises purposefully replicating the head-forward/neck scrunched position. "You can exaggerate the position and experience the symptoms. Then when you find yourself doing it, you can become aware and stop."

Other solutions he offers include increasing the font on your computer screen, wearing computer reading glasses or placing your computer on a stand at eye level, all to make the screen easier to read without strain.

Resolve To Be Healthier In New Year

January 2nd, 2019: NSW Health
NSW Health is urging people to ditch overly ambitious New Year’s resolutions and start 2019 with small, healthy lifestyle changes that are more sustainable. It’s the small steps which are the secret to making big lifestyle changes that will last, according to Centre for Population Health Executive Director Dr Jo Mitchell.

“People often make and break their New Year’s resolutions within a few weeks because they try to change old habits too fast,” Dr Mitchell said.

“A healthy life is a marathon not a sprint, and checking out our free Get Healthy website and campaign is a great start – it provides people with a health coach for six months to guide them through their health goals.

“The website is also full of tips, and teaches people that small steps, small portions and small improvements all lead to more sustainable long-term habits.”

Figures show more than 53 per cent of people over 16 living in NSW are overweight or obese because of overeating and underexercising.

Dr Mitchell said exercise doesn’t need to be intense to be good for you and activities like walking, gardening or even housework can improve fitness.

“No-one likes chores but pushing a mop across the floor, cleaning your windows or mowing the lawn all helps to burn kilojoules,” she said.

“Walking is a more pleasant way to get active, reducing chronic disease risk. Doing any physical activity is better than none - 10 minutes a day can make a difference.”

With 47,196 hospitalisations and 5,460 deaths attributed to smoking annually, NSW Health is also encouraging smokers to consider ‘butting out’ on January 1.

“Within a day of stopping, the carbon monoxide level in a smoker’s blood has decreased dramatically and in the first week their tastebuds come alive and sense of smell improves,” said Dr Mitchell.

Smokers looking for support to quit can call the Quitline on 13 78 48 or visit

In 2018-19 the NSW Government is investing over $38 million towards reducing the prevalence of overweight and obesity, and $13.5 million on tobacco control including education campaigns, smoking cessation support, enforcement of smoke-free laws and targeted programs for vulnerable groups.

Quantum Scientists Demonstrate World-First 3D Atomic-Scale Quantum Chip Architecture

January 8th, 2019: University NSW
UNSW researchers at the Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology (CQC2T) have shown for the first time that they can build atomic precision qubits in a 3D device -- another major step towards a universal quantum computer.

The team of researchers, led by 2018 Australian of the Year and Director of CQC2T Professor Michelle Simmons, have demonstrated that they can extend their atomic qubit fabrication technique to multiple layers of a silicon crystal -- achieving a critical component of the 3D chip architecture that they introduced to the world in 2015. This new research was published today in Nature Nanotechnology.

The group is the first to demonstrate the feasibility of an architecture that uses atomic-scale qubits aligned to control lines -- which are essentially very narrow wires -- inside a 3D design.

What's more, the team was able to align the different layers in their 3D device with nanometer precision -- and showed they could read out qubit states single shot, i.e. within one single measurement, with very high fidelity.

"This 3D device architecture is a significant advancement for atomic qubits in silicon," says Professor Simmons. "To be able to constantly correct for errors in quantum calculations -- an important milestone in our field -- you have to be able to control many qubits in parallel.

"The only way to do this is to use a 3D architecture, so in 2015 we developed and patented a vertical crisscross architecture. However, there were still a series of challenges related to the fabrication of this multi-layered device. With this result we have now shown that engineering our approach in 3D is possible in the way we envisioned it a few years ago."

In this paper, the team has demonstrated how to build a second control plane or layer on top of the first layer of qubits.

"It's a highly complicated process, but in very simple terms, we built the first plane, and then optimized a technique to grow the second layer without impacting the structures in first layer," explains CQC2T researcher and co-author, Dr Joris Keizer.

"In the past, critics would say that that's not possible because the surface of the second layer gets very rough, and you wouldn't be able to use our precision technique anymore -- however, in this paper, we have shown that we can do it, contrary to expectations."

The team also demonstrated that they can then align these multiple layers with nanometer precision.

"If you write something on the first silicon layer and then put a silicon layer on top, you still need to identify your location to align components on both layers. We have shown a technique that can achieve alignment within under 5 nanometers, which is quite extraordinary," Dr Keizer says.

Lastly, the researchers were able to measure the qubit output of the 3D device with what's called single shot -- i.e. with one single, accurate measurement, rather than having to rely on averaging out millions of experiments. "This will further help us scale up faster," Dr Keizer explains.

Towards commercialisation

Professor Simmons says that this research is a major milestone in the field.

"We are working systematically towards a large-scale architecture that will lead us to the eventual commercialisation of the technology.

"This is an important development in the field of quantum computing, but it's also quite exciting for SQC," says Professor Simmons, who is also the founder and a director of SQC.

Since May 2017, Australia's first quantum computing company, Silicon Quantum Computing Pty Limited (SQC), has been working to create and commercialise a quantum computer based on a suite of intellectual property developed at CQC2T and its own proprietary intellectual property.

"While we are still at least a decade away from a large-scale quantum computer, the work of CQC2T remains at the forefront of innovation in this space. Concrete results such as these reaffirm our strong position internationally," she concludes.

Matthias Koch, Joris G. Keizer, Prasanna Pakkiam, Daniel Keith, Matthew G. House, Eldad Peretz, Michelle Y. Simmons. Spin read-out in atomic qubits in an all-epitaxial three-dimensional transistor. Nature Nanotechnology, 2019; DOI: 10.1038/s41565-018-0338-1

These are study authors Professor Michelle Simmons and Joris Keizer, UNSW Sydney. Credit: UNSW Sydney

Vital Funding Boost To Support Australian Women With Breast Cancer 

January 5th, 2019
Prime Minister, Minister for Health
The Liberal National Government will increase the number of breast care nurses in Australia to almost 100 with a funding injection of $27 million to support women with breast cancer. 

Every day across Australia, about 50 women are diagnosed with breast cancer, making it the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Australian women.

This funding will support the expansion of the McGrath Breast Care Nurse Initiative. McGrath Breast Care Nurses are specially trained to care for people diagnosed with breast cancer, providing vital support to patients and their families.

This doubling of funding will ensure 98 specialist Breast Care Nurses by 2022/23, building on $20.5 million already invested by our Government in this initiative. 

The funding will add another 41 nurses to the team of 57 currently funded by the Federal Government.

More than 30 specialist nurses will now be dedicated to supporting metastatic breast cancer patients and their loved ones.

Metastatic breast cancer requires complex care and these nurses will now be able to spend more time supporting patients and their families.

The McGrath Breast Care Nurse Initiative has supported more than 33,000 people since 2008 and was created to support women everywhere suffering from breast cancer.

Since 2013, the Liberal National Government has invested more than $10 billion in cancer support initiatives including research, treatment and cancer screening programs.

We recent invested $703 million to list Kisqali on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, a life-changing breast cancer medicine, supporting 3,000 women.

The PBS listing cut the cost of the medicine from $71,000 to $40.30 per script or $6.50 for concession card holders.

And on November 1 last year we provided a new Medicare item for 3D breast cancer scans, helping around 240,000 women each year. 

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.