Inbox and Environment News: Issue 402

April 28 - May 4, 2019: Issue 402

Asset Energy Confirm Will Seek Permission To Conduct 3D Seismic Testing Off The Central Coast

Watch the below Coast Community News video. 
NB: whale migration season has just commenced and we expect record numbers this year travelling to and from Antarctica and Queensland. is the digital division of Central Coast Newspapers published by Central Coast Newspapers. Publishers of The Peninsula News, Coast Community News & The Wyong Regional Chronicle. 

Over 3000 Dolphins Found Dead On The Coast Of Peru

Along just one stretch of coastline in Peru, more than 3,000 dead dolphins have washed ashore in just the last 3 months, and the disturbing trend may only be escalating.

With the latest discovery of 481 lifeless dolphins there in recent days, residents have begun to demand an explanation for the mysterious mass deaths — and as far as enlisted experts can tell, offshore oil exploration in the region is the most likely culprit.

According to a 2012 report from Peru 21, local fishermen in Lambayeque, north Peru, were first to notice the inexplicable rise in dead dolphin appearing on shore — averaging roughly 30 per day.

While such mass orca strandings are not entirely uncommon, or fully understood, Peruvian biologist Carlos Yaipen of the Scientific Organization for Conservation of Aquatic Animals says activity from petroleum companies in the nearby waters is to blame in this instance.

Yaipen believes that a controversial technique for detecting oil beneath the seabed, using sonar or acoustic sensing, is leading the death of marine life en masse.

“The oil companies use different frequencies of acoustic waves and the effects produced by these bubbles are not plainly visible, but they generate effects later in the animals. That can cause death by acoustic impact, not only in dolphins, but also in marine seals and whales.”

In 2003, scientists from the Zoological Society of London discovered that underwater sonar can lead to the formation of microscopic bubbles of nitrogen in the bloodstream and vital organs of aquatic mammals, afflicting the animals with a lethal condition commonly known as the Bends.

In 2017 the University of Tasmania - Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies con firmed that Marine seismic surveys used in petroleum exploration could cause a two to three-fold increase in mortality of adult and larval zooplankton...

Additionally, low-range acoustic sensors are suspected to cause disorientation and internal bleeding to exposed wildlife.
Peruvian authorities have yet to identify the company whose activities may be leading to this grim toll on native marine life.

According to Offshore Magazine, a trade publication of petroleum news, at least one entity, Houston-based oil company BPZ Energy, had been actively surveying the seabed along the coast of Peru since the beginning of the year.
Source: Treehugger and University of Tasmania

Ducks At Narrabeen Lagoon Showing 'Angel Wings' Due To Being Fed Bread

April 22nd 2019:  WildAware at Narrabeen Lake.
This is called "Angel Wings" and it affects primarily aquatic birds such as ducks and geese. It's caused by a high calorie diet consisting of carbohydrates and protein = people feeding the birds bread. This syndrome is acquired in young birds and their last joint of their wing is twisted with the wing feathers pointing out laterally. In adult birds, the disease is incurable and usually leads to an early death. In young birds, wrapping the wing and binding it against the bird's flank, together with feeding the bird a more nutritionally balanced diet can reverse the damage. 

Please do not feed bread to birds. Feed them uncooked oats, grapes, rice, corn, bird seed, frozen peas or vegetable peels instead. 

Native Wildfoods For Native Birds

Melaleuca quinquenervia, also called white bottlebrush, and feasting rainbow lorikeet, Trichoglossus moluccanus - Avalon Parade, Avalon Beach, April 25th, 2019
Avalon Golf Course, April 2019
Avalon Golf Course Park Bench, April 2019

School Of Hammerhead Sharks At Palm Beach

Official Shark Report: NSW - SYDNEY - PALM BEACH. 12:45, 24 Apr 19, Beach Closure, SLSNSW drone stationed at PALM BEACH, Pittwater reports multiple Hammerhead Sharks at 1245hrs on 24 April. Beach closed.
From Dorsal Shark Reports - Australia

In native Hawaiian culture, sharks are considered to be gods of the sea, protectors of humans, and cleaners of excessive ocean life. Some of these sharks are believed to be family members who died and have been reincarnated into shark form. However, some sharks are considered man-eaters, also known as niuhi. These sharks include great white sharks, tiger sharks, and bull sharks. 

The hammerhead shark, also known as mano kihikihi, is not considered a man-eater or niuhi; it is considered to be one of the most respected sharks of the ocean, an aumakua. Many Hawaiian families believe that they have an aumakua watching over them and protecting them from the niuhi. The hammerhead shark is thought to be the birth animal of some children. Hawaiian children who are born with the hammerhead shark as an animal sign are believed to be warriors and are meant to sail the oceans. Hammerhead sharks rarely pass through the waters of Maui, but many Maui natives believe that their swimming by is a sign that the gods are watching over the families, and the oceans are clean and balanced.

Hammerhead sharks are an iconic species inhabiting Australia’s waters.Like humans, hammerhead sharks are long-lived, reach maturity after several years, and have few babies. These characteristics make them particularly vulnerable to overfishing.
Australian hammerhead shark populations are in decline. Scalloped hammerheads are estimated to have lost up to ~80% of their original population in QLD waters (1).

Hammerhead sharks are particularly vulnerable to being caught in gillnets (fishing nets) because of the unique shape of their head.
Hammerhead sharks are also threatened by culling through lethal shark control programs. In six years (2012-2018), 592 hammerheads sharks have been culled at an average of 99 per year (2).

Hammerhead sharks have never been involved in a fatal incident. Since 1937 in NSW and 1962 in QLD, lethal shark control programs have been carried out each year using either nets or drumlines. 

Threatened Status:
  • Great Hammerhead – Endangered (IUCN); not listed (EPBC Act 1999)
  • Scalloped Hammerhead – Endangered (IUCN); Conservation Dependent (EPBC Act 1999)
  • Smooth Hammerhead – Vulnerable (IUCN); not listed (EPBC Act 1999)
Great hammerhead

Although potentially dangerous, the great hammerhead rarely attacks humans. It sometimes behaves inquisitively toward divers and should be treated with respect. This shark is heavily fished for its large fins, which are extremely valuable on the Asian market as the main ingredient of shark fin soup. As a result, great hammerhead populations are declining substantially worldwide, and it has been assessed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). (3.)

Scalloped Hammerhead
These sharks have a very high metabolic rate, governing behavior in acquiring food. These sharks occupy tertiary trophic levels. The scalloped hammerhead shark, like many other species, uses the shore as a breeding ground. Due to high metabolic rates, young scalloped hammerhead sharks need a lot of food, or they will starve.

Scalloped hammerhead sharks have a homing behavior to navigate in the ocean. They move in the night and use the environment as a map, similar to a human reading a topographical map. By experimentation in tagging these sharks, one could test for any guidance in a shark’s movement. These sharks use a point-to-point type of school swimming, and do not favor going too deep, where temperature changes hitchhike with current speed and directional change.

Photo: A school of scalloped hammerheads. Courtesy

As of 2008, the scalloped hammerhead is on the "globally endangered" species list. In parts of the Atlantic Ocean, their populations have declined by over 95% in the past 30 years. Among the reasons for this drop off are overfishing and the rise in demand for shark fins. Researchers attribute this growth in demand to the increase in shark fins as an expensive delicacy (such as in shark fin soup) and are calling for a ban on shark finning, a practice in which the shark's fins are cut off and the rest of the animal is thrown back in the water to die. Hammerheads are among the most commonly caught sharks for finning. (3.)

Smooth Hammerhead
Smooth hammerheads are caught by commercial fisheries throughout the world. In the nets off New South Wales, Australia, smooth hammerheads comprised 50% of the 4,715 sharks captured from 1972–1990. At present, this species remains relatively common and has been assessed as "Vulnerable (VU)" by the World Conservation Union. 

Off New Zealand, it is a prohibited target species and is the most abundant shark along the northwest coast. In June 2018 the New Zealand Department of Conservation classified the smooth hammerhead as "Not Threatened" with the qualifier "Secure Overseas" under the New Zealand Threat Classification System.

In 2013 smooth hammerhead and other great elasmobranchs were added to Appendix 2 of CITES, bringing shark fishing and commerce of these species under licensing and regulation.

A migrating smooth hammerhead swimming with its dorsal fin exposed. Photo by Commander John Bortniak, NOAA Corps -

  • Great Hammerhead: NSW, QLD, NT, WA
  • Scalloped Hammerhead: NSW, QLD, NT, WA
  • Smooth Hammerhead: NSW, VIC, TAS, SA, WA
Hammerhead sharks: Australian Government Department of Environment and Energy

Assessment of Eligibility for Threatened Species Listing
The status of three species of hammerhead sharks is being considered by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee for possible listing as threatened under Part 13 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). These are:
  • scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini)
  • great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran)
  • smooth hammerhead shark (Sphyrna zygaena).
These hammerhead sharks are on the Finalised Priority Assessment List of items currently under assessment by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee for inclusion in the national threatened species list under the EPBC Act. The Committee’s assessments are due with the Minister for the Environment and Energy by 30 September 2017.

The Committee undertook public and expert consultation on draft assessments in June/July 2014. Comments submitted at that time will be considered as the assessment is finalised. The Committee will consider whether fisheries management of the species satisfies the requirements of the EPBC Act to support listing as conservation dependent. Consideration will be particularly given to whether the species are “the focus of a plan of management that provides for management actions necessary to stop the decline, and support the recovery of, the species so that its chances of long term survival in nature are maximised”. 

Non Detriment Finding for CITES listed hammerhead sharks (2014)
Scalloped, great and smooth hammerhead sharks are listed on Appendix II to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The listing came into effect on 14 September 2014.

To enable the export of CITES listed species, Australia must ensure that the export will not be detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild. This is done through an assessment known as a ’non-detriment finding’.  

A non-detriment finding assessment was undertaken by the Australian CITES Scientific Authority for the three CITES listed species of hammerhead in September 2014. The assessment found that Australian harvest and export levels for these hammerhead shark species would not be detrimental to the survival of the species provided harvest levels from Australian fisheries remained within the following limits:
  • scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini) 200 tonnes per year
  • great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran) 100 tonnes per year
  • smooth hammerhead shark (Sphyrna zygaena) 70 tonnes per year.
The Australian CITES Scientific Authority also made a number of recommendations to state and Northern Territory fisheries management agencies, including ensuring that information is collected on the commercial harvest of hammerhead species and catches are limited to ensure that national quotas for these species are not exceeded.

Information on the 2014 Non-Detriment Finding assessment is available on the Non-detriment finding for five CITES Appendix II shark species page and includes a copy of the assessment, the scientific information that formed the basis of the assessment and advice on CITES Appendix II shark listings.

Review of the Non Detriment Finding for hammerhead sharks
The 2014 Non-Detriment Finding on scalloped, great and smooth hammerheads was due to be reviewed after three years. In 2017 the Department undertook an analysis of relevant available information on these species and decided that the precautionary harvest levels set in the 2014 Non-Detriment Finding will remain in place until additional information becomes available.

Analysis of data on Hammerhead abundance, distribution and harvest in Australian fisheries since implementation of the 2014 hammerhead shark non-detriment finding (PDF - 408.27 KB)
Analysis of data on Hammerhead abundance, distribution and harvest in Australian fisheries since implementation of the 2014 hammerhead shark non-detriment finding (DOCX - 116.62 KB)

Commercial permit requirements for CITES listed hammerhead sharks
CITES permits are required under national environmental law to internationally export or import any part or derivative (e.g. fillets, fins) for the three listed hammerhead shark species:
  • scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini)
  • great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran)
  • smooth hammerhead shark (Sphyrna zygaena).
Further information
Permit requirements for several shark species
Fisheries that interact with hammerhead sharks
Hammerhead sharks are taken incidentally in some Australian commercial fisheries when fishing for other species. Five fisheries account for approximately 90 per cent of the Australian hammerhead catch: the Northern Territory Offshore Net and Line Fishery, Queensland’s East Coast and Gulf of Carpentaria Inshore Fin Fish Fisheries, the Western Australian Temperate Shark Fisheries and the South Australian Marine Scalefish Fishery.

About Dorsal Shark Reports
Dorsal is the world's most advanced shark reporting and alerts solution. Dorsal allows beachgoers and authorities to immediately alert others to shark sightings or attacks in their area and is currently used by over 200,000 people in Australia, USA and Hawaii.
The Dorsal solution features reports from official channels, the public, Dorsal aerial surveillance partners and over 100 media outlets. We are currently working on a new Drone project as well as integration with other technology partners to ensure our users are fully informed about all shark sightings in their area.

All reports that come through are independently verified and then posted to their Android and iPhone apps, website and our social media pages.

1. Simpfendorfer, C (2014) “Information for the development of Non Detriment Findings for CITES listed sharks”, James Cook University, QLD.
2. Compiled data from QLD and NSW shark control programs. For NSW, see For QLD, see
3. Wikipedia - Hammerhead Sharks

Recent Endangered Hammerheads Mortality Statistics For QLD Show Thousands Being Slaughtered By Gillnets 

April 11, 2019: Australian Marine Conservation Society
BREAKING: shocking new data analysed by the Australian Marine Conservation Society and Humane Society International Australia reveals that in QLD's east coast gillnet fishery, which spans the entire Great Barrier Reef, 2,491 hammerheads are thrown back, likely dead or dying, of the 6496 caught. In total, more than 5000 vanish from Queensland waters each year.

Queensland Government permits this to happen. Specifically, in the supposed sanctuary of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which is part of the east coast fishery, the data shows that 3,359 endangered scalloped hammerhead sharks were caught and more than half – 1,967 – were thrown back. 

Massive industrial-sized gillnets measuring over 1km long are responsible for a large portion of hammerhead deaths. Hammerheads are particularly vulnerable purely because of the shape of their head, it’s just too easy to get tangled!

Our Great Barrier Reef needs sharks to survive. Endangered hammerhead sharks are vital to the Reef by keeping food webs in check. It’s not just hammerheads either, many turtles, dolphins and dugongs also die each year because of these massive and near-invisible gillnets.

There is a solution. Let’s tell the Queensland Government to pull out its industrial-sized gillnets!
Become a Shark Champion and help us speak up for the sharks that can’t. Sign the petition now >>

*Both the scalloped & great hammerhead sharks are listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
*You can see how many sharks are caught and dumped by visiting QFish, Queensland Fisheries’ online database.


This May, Pittwater YHA opens its doors to green-hearted and green-thumbed guests who'll save the gorgeous Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park from imminent asparagus fern invasion. Yes, seriously.

Bush Regeneration sees eco-conscious, kind hearted humans restore and rehabilitate the gorgeous, sprawling Aussie bush from its weed-infested, degraded state into a healthy, thriving plant community, which will prosper and delight forevermore. Far from just weed removal; Regenerators focus on habitat, drainage, weed sources and establishing native communities. These are big words which probably don’t make much sense – but we have an interactive learning opportunity for you!

Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, Sydney’s protected north coast, is home to rock engravings, red ochre rock paintings, the fuzziest wildlife you ever did see and the most breathtaking views a Sydneysider or visitor could comprehend; and is currently under threat from invasive asparagus fern; which needs removing. Who knew your Aunty’s fave veggie could be so aggressive?

The blissed-out, babbling-brooked, spectacular-viewed, fresh-aired oasis that is our Pittwater YHA, alongside the Northern Beaches Council, are offering you fine green-thumbed and hearted folk the opportunity to volunteer alongside professional Regenerators for a weekend of Pittwater Restoration from May 3 - 5, 2019. Spend two mornings of tending to the gorgeous surrounds and you’ll be rewarded with two nights’ accommodation, two days of meals (morning teas, BBQ lunches and evening dinners) and kayak use throughout your stay. Plus, you’ll be chuffed with yourself for doing your bit for the planet and our futures.  

Along with your towels, two sheets, a pillowcase and, sturdy shoes, sunscreen and your breakfasts; you’ll need a $20 contribution for the weekend. For all the T&Cs; head to Pittwater YHA, shoot them an email (Subject: 'Bush Regeneration Weekend') or give them a ring on (02 9999-5748) – the only thing those guys love more than a regenerated bushland is chatting to ladies and gentleman who are keen on the idea!  

Sydney Wildlife Carers Course May 2019

Scratchum the Brushtail possum was found in the middle of the day sitting in a puddle outside a petrol station on King st, Newtown. 

A lovely person spotted her, scooped her up, kept her warm in their jacket and walked to the vet.

The little one was very dehydrated and cold.

If still in the wild she would be in her mum’s pouch and riding on her back at night. We aren’t sure how they were separated.
One of our volunteers soon picked Scratchum up and has been caring for her ever since.

Scratchum is doing very well, she loves her marsupial formula and has started eating solids. In a few months Scratchum will be ready for release! 

Our next Rescue & Care course is 18-19 May 2019. If you want to help in the rescue and rehabilitation of our wildlife go to the following link to register:


Ingleside Pygmy Possum

Spotted in April 2019!

The eastern pygmy possum (Cercartetus nanus) is a diprotodont marsupial of south-eastern Australia. Occurring from southern Queensland to eastern South Australia and also Tasmania, it is found in a range of habitats, including rainforest, sclerophyll forest, woodland and heath.

Eastern pygmy possums are very small, weighing from 15 to 43 grams (0.53 to 1.52 oz) and having a body length of between 7 and 9 centimetres (2.8 and 3.5 in) with a 8 to 11 centimetres (3.1 to 4.3 in) tail. They are dull grey above and white below, with big, forward pointing, almost hairless, ears and a long prehensile tail, with thick fur at the base that becomes sparser towards the tip. They have long whiskers, and a narrow ring of dark fur around each eye.

The eastern pygmy possum is an active climber. It uses its brush tipped tongue to feed on nectar and pollen, especially from Banksia, Eucalyptus and Callistemon species. It also feeds on insects, and will eat soft fruits when flowers are not available. It is a largely solitary animal, sheltering in tree hollows and stumps, abandoned bird nests, and thickets. During winter it spends time in torpor.

They are nocturnal, and, although generally thought to be solitary, have been reported to share communal nests, and to be seen in groups of two or more adult individuals. Males occupy home ranges of 0.24 to 1.7 hectares (0.59 to 4.20 acres), which overlap with each other and with the smaller, 0.18 to 0.61 hectares (0.44 to 1.51 acres) ranges of females.

Distribution and habitat

Eastern pygmy possums are found along the southeastern Australian coast, from eastern South Australia to southern Queensland, and on Tasmania. They inhabit shrubby vegetation in a wide variety of habitats, from open heathland or shrubland to sclerophyll or rain forest, at elevations from sea level to 1,800 metres (5,900 ft). Despite this apparent diversity of habitats, their distribution is patchy, and they are usually low in number where they are found.


Eastern pygmy possums typically breed twice a year, although they may breed a third time if food is plentiful. Females have a well-developed pouch with four to six teats, and usually give birth to four young, although larger litters are not uncommon. Gestation lasts around 30 days, after which the young spend 33 to 37 days sheltering in the pouch. They are weaned at 60 to 65 days, and remain with the mother for at least a further ten days, by which time they weigh about 10 grams (0.35 oz).

The young reach the full adult size at around five months, but may be able to breed as little as three months after birth. They live for up to 7.5 years in captivity, but probably no more than five years in the wild.


The first specimen of an eastern pygmy possum known to Europeans was collected by François Péron, a naturalist aboard Nicolas Baudin’s voyage to the south seas. Whilst on a short stay on Maria Island, off eastern Tasmania between 19 and 27 February 1802, Péron traded with the Aboriginal inhabitants for a single small marsupial. Péron wrote (in translation) ‘In the class of mammiferous animals, I only saw one kind of Dasyurus, which was scarcely as large as a mouse. I obtained one that was alive, in exchange for a few trifles, from a savage who was just going to kill and eat it’. In an unpublished manuscript (now held in the Le Havre Museum in France) Péron also wrote that the animal ‘was given to me by the natives; it was still alive; I believe it to be a new species and have described it as Didelphis muroides because of its resemblance to the D. mus of Linnaeus’. The specimen collected by Péron (a juvenile male) was transported back to France, and is now held in the Muséum National d’Historie Naturelle in Paris as the holotype

In New South Wales, it is considered vulnerable under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.

Photo courtesy Sonja Elwood, a Biodiversity Officer with Northern Beaches Council. Council has a program of installing and monitoring nesting boxes for this vulnerable species in our area. Find out more in their webpage 'Environmental Programs and Resources'

EQUINOR Environment Plan Submission For The Great Australian Bight  

Media release - Published 24 April, 2019: NOPSEMA
The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) has received an environment plan submission from Equinor for its proposed petroleum drilling activity in the Great Australian Bight.

In accordance with the Environment Regulations, NOPSEMA will now commence its formal assessment of the plan, under which a proposed activity must be found to meet all legislative requirements to proceed. Through its assessment, NOPSEMA will consider potential environmental impacts from the proposed activity to ensure appropriate precautions are taken.

The regulatory assessment process is iterative, and it is normal for environment plans to move between the proponent and NOPSEMA throughout the assessment process.

For more information on Equinor’s proposed activity (including a map of the proposed operational area), and to subscribe to updates, go to:

Australia Paddles Out To Fight For The Bight - Sydney

Hosted by Surfrider Foundation Australia
Sunday April 28th: 10.30 am to 4 pm
Bondi Beach

Just eight hours before new regulations come into place, Equinor has just lodged their new environment plan with NOPSEMA. The updated plan has taken note of just 13 of the public comments that lead to changes and ignored the remaining 30,000 + concerns.
“After categorising all the entries, 1039 were considered to address specific parts of our EP with questions, comments or concerns. While many of these have not led to changes in our EP, they have all been considered by our experts. In most cases, we found that our EP already addressed what was raised in the comments….. Among the public comments, 13 comments have led to improvements or changes to our EP…” Statement from Equinor

With over 31,000 submissions being ignored, thousands have paddled out in Torquay, Burleigh Heads and Melbourne against proposed oil drilling by Norwegian mining company, Equinor, in the Great Australian Bight. Surfrider Foundation Australia and the Great Australian Bight Alliance are calling communities across Australia to paddle out and #fightforthebight.

Bring your family & friends down to Bondi Beach with surfboards, bodyboards, SUPs, kayaks, surf skis, handplanes and other personal watercraft to peacefully #fightforthebight with some of Australia’s greatest surfers!

Bring - signs and banners, drinking water, snacks, hats, sunscreen and a smile! Enjoy the day. It’s time our voice was heard!
Safety - if you are not confident in the water, please ensure your safety, do not enter the water and look after those around you. Hands Across the Sand will also be a part of the day. 

An alternative venue will be arranged if required. Notification will be provided through our social media and other communication channels.

Surfrider Foundation Australia

Predator-Proof Zone To Protect Vulnerable Native Animals Installed In NSW

April 23, 2019: NSW Government

Bilbies, bandicoots and other small native mammals will soon be reintroduced to Sturt National Park for the first time in more than 90 years. A 40-square-kilometre predator-proof zone in the north west of NSW will offer protection to vulnerable native mammals.

Predators like rabbits, cats and foxes have been eradicated from the enclosure.

One of the fenced off areas in Sturt National Park. Picture: UNSW

Over time, greater bilbies, burrowing bettongs, western barred bandicoots, golden bandicoots, western quolls, greater stick-nest rats and crest-tailed mulgaras will be returned to their homes, without the threat of feral predators.

The UNSW Wild Deserts team established the feral-free zone in the Sturt National Park as part of the NSW Government’s Saving our Species program, which has committed $42 million to reintroduce locally extinct species in western NSW.

The bilbies, some of which are being bred by the Taronga Conservation Society Australia, will be the first animals to be set free in their new home.

UNSW scientist and Wild Deserts project co-ordinator Dr Reece Pedler, who lives in the park, said it had been a been a huge effort to eradicate rabbits, cats and foxes from such a large area.

“This 40 square-kilometre area now represents one of the largest rabbit-free areas in the country – this is an amazing achievement given these deserts supported millions of rabbits in the past, which decimated vegetation, causing soil erosion and the loss of our native fauna,” he said.

NSW Minister for Environment Matt Kean said the Wild Deserts project was part of the Berejiklian government’s Saving our Species program, aiming to secure populations of precious Australian native mammals.

“There are many native animals that we haven’t seen in this area in decades because they’ve been killed off by feral foxes and cats,” Mr Kean said.

“This new feral-free zone is great news because we now have 40 square kilometres in the Sturt National Park which will be a safe haven for protecting and recovering native mammal populations.”

Team leader of the Wild Deserts project, Professor Richard Kingsford, said the current drought had actually been a silver lining for the project.

“It has meant that along with many native animals and plants, the ferals have also done it tough,” he said.

Wild Deserts Ecologist, Dr Rebecca West, said like much of the country, the area had received less than 100mm of rain over the last two years – the driest conditions since rainfall records began, leading to low ground cover and frequent dust storms.

“Not only has the drought reduced rabbit, cat and fox numbers but it has also made tracking easier over large areas of bare red sand,” she said.

In addition to extensive tracking, the team also regularly used remote cameras and spotlight surveys over the last year to make sure that all feral animals were found.

The desert area is now well placed to take advantage of any late summer rain which will support vegetation and invertebrates – the food for the seven locally extinct mammal species the team will soon introduce, including the western quoll, burrowing bettong, two species of bandicoot and stick-nest rat.

“If the rain comes in the next few months, we hope to reintroduce bilbies first,” said Dr West.

Already, the Wild Deserts team has had an unexpected discovery in their current intensive ecological surveys – they caught a threatened plains mouse.

“Excitingly, this is the first time that this small mammal species – which was thought to be extinct – has been recorded in Sturt National Park,” said Dr West.

“It was rediscovered in NSW in 2015. This is all the more surprising given the intense drought that has gripped western NSW and which Sturt is currently experiencing. The removal of feral cats, foxes and rabbits will likely set the scene for this species to recolonise the area.”

The team is also expanding the project into a massive training area of more than 100 square kilometres, where these small mammals can take back their desert domain, once they have bred up their numbers. This represents another major initiative by the team, not attempted before at the same scale, with the linking of predator proof fences onto the Dingo Fence.

Learn more about the Saving our Species program

Learn more about the Sturt National Park

Western barred bandicoot - UNSW photo

CEIN NSW: Taking Sustainability To The Next Level

April 23, 2019: by Stuart Snell, UNSW

The size and complexity of the waste challenge facing society dominated discussion at the first stakeholders’ meeting of the newly announced Circular Economy Innovation Network (CEIN).

The CEIN is an initiative of the NSW government through the Office of the Chief Scientist and Engineer to bring together stakeholders from across governments, industry, universities and not-for-profit groups to reduce waste and enhance sustainability by developing a circular economy in which waste is valued as a resource.

CEIN Director, Professor Veena Sahajwalla, who is Founding Director of the UNSW Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) Centre, said many stakeholders already had been making great progress in reducing waste and using it as a resource, and the first stakeholders meeting was a testament to that.

“What is clear is that we need much greater coordination and connectivity across stakeholders to identify the opportunities and problems in getting a circular economy really going,” she said. “And that is where the new Network comes in. CEIN will bring stakeholders together to not only enhance current efforts to build a circular economy, but to identify the big-impact opportunities.”

CEIN Co-Director, Ashley Brinson, who is Executive Director of the Warren Centre at Sydney University, said the passion and enthusiasm displayed during the first stakeholder meeting session demonstrated a strong collective desire to establish a truly circular economy in NSW and Australia.

“We heard from both the Chair and Co-Chair of the NSW government’s Steering Committee for the CEIN, as well as many stakeholders representing the different sectors and industries that are central to a circular economy, and a key acknowledgement was the need for a coordination of sustainability efforts.”

The CEIN will look to map and identify opportunities for stakeholders to work together to reduce waste, enhance sustainability and ultimately boost industry (growth and jobs) by developing a circular economy.

The first stakeholders’ meeting was held at UNSW as CEIN host, was attended by 150 stakeholders wanting to enhance sustainability, and was emceed by Michael Sharpe, Director of the federal government-initiated Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre.

The CEIN is in start-up phase and is developing a series of stakeholder workshops to identify themes and opportunities, as well as other activities such as identifying tools and resources needed to promote innovative solutions to re-use waste and improve product design and production to reduce waste.

Professor Sahajwalla said: “For instance, we can actually change the way things are done now in design, production and manufacturing to reduce waste, and we know we can use waste as a resource rather than for most of it to end up in tips. By making the right connections between researchers, businesses and governments, we can play a significant role in developing a true circular economy in Australia.”

What Earth's Gravity Reveals About Climate Change

April 16, 2019: GFZ GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam, Helmholtz Centre

On March 17, 2002, the German-US satellite duo GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) were launched to map the global gravitational field with unprecedented precision. After all, the mission lasted a good 15 years -- more than three times as long as expected. When the two satellites burnt up in the Earth's atmosphere at the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018, respectively, they had recorded the Earth's gravitational field and its changes over time in more than 160 months.

This so-called time-resolved satellite gravimetry makes it possible, among other things, to monitor the terrestrial water cycle, the mass balance of ice sheets and glaciers or sea-level change, and thus to better understand the mechanisms of the global climate system, to assess important climatic trends more precisely and to predict possible consequences.

A review in the journal Nature Climate Change, in which Frank Flechtner, Christoph Reigber, Christoph Dahle and Henryk Dobslaw from the Helmholtz Centre Potsdam German Research Centre for Geosciences GFZ and Ingo Sasgen from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) participated, now presents highlights in the field of climate research based on GRACE observations.

Ice sheets and glaciers

GRACE produced the first direct measurement of ice-mass loss from ice sheets and glaciers ever. Previously, it had only been possible to estimate the masses and their changes using indirect methods. Within the first two years of the mission it was already possible to observe clear signals of ice-mass loss in Greenland and Antarctica. The measured data showed that that 60 percent of the total mass-loss is due to enhanced melt production in response to Arctic warming trends, while 40 percent is due to an increase of ice flow into the ocean. According to GRACE data, between April 2002 and June 2017 Greenland lost about 260 billion tons of ice per year, Antarctica about 140 billion tons. In addition to long-term trends, the gravity field data also provide evidence of the direct effects of global climate phenomena such as "El Niño" on ice sheets and glaciers worldwide.

Terrestrial water storage

Among the most impactful contributions of the GRACE mission has been the unveiling of Earth's changing freshwater landscape, which has profound implications for water, food and human security. Global estimates of GRACE trends suggest increasing water storage in high and low latitudes, with decreased storage in mid-latitudes. Though the GRACE record is relatively short, this observation of large-scale changes in the global hydrological cycle has been an important early confirmation of the changes predicted by climate models through the twenty-first century.

GRACE data also help to analyse and assess the sea level more accurately, as the storage of freshwater on land is linked to the sea level by various mechanisms. Analyses of GRACE data have enabled the first-ever estimates of groundwater storage changes from space. They confirm excessive rates of groundwater depletion from individual aquifers around the world. The data on terrestrial water storage have also contributed to the validation and calibration of various climate models.

Sea-level change and ocean dynamics

Within this century, sea-level rise could accelerate to 10 millimetres per year -- a rate unprecedented during the past 5000 years and a profound and direct consequence of a warming climate. High-precision sea-level measurements have been available since the early 1990s but they only show the absolute sea-level change. In the 25 years between 1993 and 2017, the sea-level rose by an average of 3.1 millimetres per year. To find out how thermal expansion, melting ice and the continental influx of water each affect sea-level, it is necessary to study the water's mass distribution. GRACE has shown that 2.5 millimetres of the average annual sea-level rise of 3.8 millimetres between 2005 and 2017 is caused by the inflow of water or other mass and 1.1 millimetres by the thermal expansion of water. Resolving this composition is important for sea-level projections. GRACE data provide a constraint on ocean mass change and thus indirectly on the Earth's energy imbalance, which is a fundamental global metric of climate change. GRACE has shown that most of the warming released by the rise in temperature occurs in the upper 2000 metres of the oceans, which are the most important energy sinks of climate change. GRACE also contributes to a better understanding of the dynamics and impact of ocean currents, in particular for the Arctic Ocean.

Climate service applications

The gravity field data of the GRACE satellites help to improve the United States Drought Monitor. This helps US authorities to react to droughts in a timely and sensible manner. With EGSIEM (European Gravity Service for Improved Emergency Management), the European Union has promoted a service designed to identify regional flood risks as early as possible. Between April and June 2017, test runs with historical flood data took place, showing that the wetness indicators for large river basins determined by GRACE can improve forecasts, for example for the Mississippi or the Danube. Current results also show that GRACE data can be used to more accurately predict the risk of seasonal wildfires.

The GFZ operated the GRACE mission together with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and on the US side with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). In May 2018, the follow-up mission GRACE Follow-on (GRACE-FO) was launched. The first monthly gravity field maps should be available to international users by the end of July this year. Unexpected difficulties delayed the submission of the products. "The reason was the failure of a control unit on the second GRACE-FO satellite," explains Frank Flechtner of GFZ. "This made it necessary to switch to the replacement unit installed for such scenarios. But now, with GRACE-FO, a more than two decades long recording of the mass changes in the system Earth is within reach." (ph)

Background: The weight of water

The greater the mass of an object, the greater its gravitational attraction. For example, the Alps exert a higher gravitational pull than the North German lowlands. When satellites orbit the Earth and fly over a massive region, they accelerate minimally when approaching it and slow down as they fly away.

A tiny part of the gravitation emanating from the Earth is based on water on or near the surface in oceans, rivers, lakes, glaciers and underground. This water reacts to seasons, storms, droughts or other weather effects. GRACE took advantage of the mass displacement of water by recording its effect on the satellite duo that orbited our planet 220 kilometres in a row. Microwaves were used to measure their distance. This distance changed over time due to the mass shift on Earth. From the data, the researchers then calculated monthly maps of the regional changes in the Earth's gravitational pull and the causal changes in the masses on the surface.

Byron D. Tapley, Michael M. Watkins, Frank Flechtner, Christoph Reigber, Srinivas Bettadpur, Matthew Rodell, Ingo Sasgen, James S. Famiglietti, Felix W. Landerer, Don P. Chambers, John T. Reager, Alex S. Gardner, Himanshu Save, Erik R. Ivins, Sean C. Swenson, Carmen Boening, Christoph Dahle, David N. Wiese, Henryk Dobslaw, Mark E. Tamisiea, Isabella Velicogna. Contributions of GRACE to understanding climate change. Nature Climate Change, 2019; DOI: 10.1038/s41558-019-0456-2

The satellite twins GRACE with the Earth's gravitational field. Credit: AIRBUS/GFZ

Solution To Riddle Of Ocean Carbon Storage

April 17, 2019: University of Tasmania

Research by a team of the world's leading oceanographers has proposed a new explanation for how the ocean absorbs and stores carbon, solving a riddle that has long puzzled scientists. It's well established that carbon in the atmosphere is absorbed by phytoplankton and transported to the ocean floor as the microscopic organisms die and sink by gravity through the water.

However, researchers have identified that this process -- the biological gravitational pump (BGP) -- cannot account for all of the carbon reaching the deep ocean, and a range of additional pathways that inject a much wider range of particles have been explored.

Led by IMAS Professor Philip Boyd and including scientists from France and the US, the Review article in the journal Nature proposes that the additional pathways known as particle injection pumps (PIPs) move just as much carbon as the BGP.

Professor Boyd said the research, based on a review of previous studies and new modelling, could reshape understanding of how carbon reaches the seafloor and what happens while it is there.

"Our study goes a long way to finally solving one of the real puzzles that oceanographers have grappled with for a number of years," Professor Boyd said.

"The ocean stores huge amounts of carbon indirectly absorbed from the atmosphere and in doing so plays a major role in moderating the climate impacts of anthropogenic carbon emissions.

"We can measure the sinking flux of carbon-rich particles and compare it with the gradient of dissolved inorganic carbon from low levels near the surface to high levels in the deep ocean.

"But until now we haven't been able to 'balance the books' in explaining the mechanisms that transport and store carbon, as the BGP only explains around half of the carbon that is present."

Professor Boyd said new ocean observation technologies and the datasets they provide have shown in unprecedented detail the way in which PIPs contribute to the carbon cycle.

"PIPs are a range of physical and biological mechanisms that move carbon, including ocean eddies and zooplankton which feed on phytoplankton and excrete carbon-rich faeces as they migrate to deeper water.

"By combining the effects of the biological gravitational pump with PIPs we can, for the first time, balance the books and fully account for ocean carbon storage.

"This breakthrough is vital in allowing us to establish a baseline against which we can measure and understand future changes in ocean carbon and its effects on the global climate.

"It also highlights a number of areas that require further research, so we can better understand the mechanisms involved and their relative contribution to the ocean carbon cycle.

"The more we discover about the ocean the more we are coming to appreciate how complex and four dimensional it is, with multiple processes interacting and feeding back on each other over time.

"As the ocean is such a major influence on global climate it is vital that we improve our understanding of the multi-dimensional mechanisms at work," Professor Boyd said.

Philip W. Boyd, Hervé Claustre, Marina Levy, David A. Siegel, Thomas Weber. Multi-faceted particle pumps drive carbon sequestration in the ocean. Nature, 2019; 568 (7752): 327 DOI: 10.1038/s41586-019-1098-2

Carbon Dioxide Blown To Sea From Cities Increases Coastal Ocean Waters Pollution By 25 Percent

April 23, 2019: Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

MBARI researchers recently measured high concentrations of carbon dioxide in air blowing out to sea from cities and agricultural areas, including Silicon Valley. In a new paper in PLOS ONE, they calculate that this previously undocumented process could increase the amount of carbon dioxide dissolving into coastal ocean waters by about 20 percent.

Extending their calculations to coastal areas around the world, the researchers estimate that this process could add 25 million additional tons of carbon dioxide to the ocean each year, which would account for roughly one percent of the ocean's total annual carbon dioxide uptake. This effect is not currently included in calculations of how much carbon dioxide is entering the ocean because of the burning of fossil fuels.

Less than half of the carbon dioxide that humans have released over the past 200 years has remained in the atmosphere. The remainder has been absorbed in almost equal proportions by the ocean and terrestrial ecosystems. How quickly carbon dioxide enters the ocean in any particular area depends on a number of factors, including the wind speed, the temperature of the water, and the relative concentrations of carbon dioxide in the surface waters and in the air just above the sea surface.

MBARI has been measuring carbon dioxide concentrations in the air and seawater of Monterey Bay almost continuously since 1993. But it wasn't until 2017 that researchers began looking carefully at the atmospheric data collected from sea-surface robots. "One of our summer interns, Diego Sancho-Gallegos, analysed the atmospheric carbon dioxide data from our research moorings and found much higher levels than expected," explained MBARI Biological Oceanographer Francisco Chavez.

This map shows how carbon dioxide blows from land areas out across Monterey Bay with morning land breezes Credit: Base image: Google Earth

Chavez continued, "If these measurements had been taken on board a ship, researchers would have thought the extra carbon dioxide came from the ship's engine exhaust system and would have discounted them. But our moorings and surface robots do not release carbon dioxide to the atmosphere."

In early 2018 MBARI Research Assistant Devon Northcott started working on the data set, analysing hourly carbon dioxide concentrations in the air over Monterey Bay. He noticed another striking pattern -- carbon dioxide concentrations peaked in the early morning.

Although atmospheric scientists had previously noticed early-morning peaks in carbon dioxide concentrations in some cities and agricultural areas, this was the first time such peaks had been measured over ocean waters. The finding also contradicted a common scientific assumption that concentrations of carbon dioxide over ocean areas do not vary much over time or space.

Northcott was able to track down the sources of this extra carbon dioxide using measurements made from a robotic surface vessel called a Wave Glider, which travels back and forth across Monterey Bay making measurements of carbon dioxide in the air and ocean for weeks at a time.

"Because we had measurements from the Wave Glider at many different locations around the bay," Northcott explained, "I could use the Wave Glider's position and the speed and direction of the wind to triangulate the direction the carbon dioxide was coming from."

The data suggested two main sources for the morning peaks in carbon dioxide -- the Salinas and Santa Clara Valleys. The Salinas Valley is one of California's largest agricultural areas, and many plants release carbon dioxide at night, which may explain why there was more carbon dioxide in the air from this region. Santa Clara Valley [aka Silicon Valley] is a dense urban area, where light winds and other atmospheric conditions in the early morning could concentrate carbon dioxide released from cars and factories.

Typical morning breezes blow directly from the Salinas Valley out across Monterey Bay. Morning breezes also carry air from the Santa Clara Valley southward and then west through a gap in the mountains (Hecker Pass) and out across Monterey Bay.

"We had this evidence that the carbon dioxide was coming from an urban area," explained Northcott. "But when we looked at the scientific literature, there was nothing about air from urban areas affecting the coastal ocean. People had thought about this, but no one had measured it systematically before."

The researchers see this paper not as a last word, but as a "wake-up call" to other scientists. "This brings up a lot of questions that we hope other researchers will look into," said Chavez. "One of first and most important things would be to make detailed measurements of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and ocean in other coastal areas. We need to know if this is a global phenomenon. We would also like to get the atmospheric modelling community involved."

"We've estimated that this could increase the amount of carbon dioxide entering coastal waters by roughly 20 percent," said Chavez. "This could have an effect on the acidity of seawater in these areas. Unfortunately, we don't have any good way to measure this increase in acidity because carbon dioxide takes time to enter the ocean and carbon dioxide concentrations vary dramatically in coastal waters."

"There must be other pollutants in this urban air that are affecting the coastal ocean as well," he added.

"This is yet another case where the data from MBARI's autonomous robots and sensors has led us to new and unexpected discoveries," said Chavez. "Hopefully other scientists will see these results and will want to know if this is happening in their own backyards."

Devon Northcott, Jeff Sevadjian, Diego A. Sancho-Gallegos, Chris Wahl, Jules Friederich, Francisco P. Chavez. Impacts of urban carbon dioxide emissions on sea-air flux and ocean acidification in nearshore waters. PLOS ONE, 2019; 14 (3): e0214403 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0214403

Public Consultation On The Review Of The Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative - Land And Sea Transport) Methodology Determination 

By Federal Government Dept. of Environment and Energy
Review of the carbon credits (Carbon farming initiative - land and sea transport) methodology determination 2015
The Emissions Reduction Assurance Committee (the Committee) is conducting a review of the Land and Sea Transport method. This review will investigate whether the method continues to comply with the six offsets integrity standards set out in section 133(1) of the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Act 2011. It will also consider whether crediting periods of projects registered under the method should be extended under section 255A of the Act.

Public consultation
The Committee is undertaking public consultation to inform its review and invites interested businesses, community organisations and individuals to make a submission. The public consultation period commenced on 26 March 2019 and will run until 7 May 2019. Further information about making a submission is provided HERE

Public Consultation On The Toorale Water Infrastructure Project

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage is seeking feedback on the Review of Environmental Factors (REF) for Phase 1 of the Toorale Water Infrastructure Project.

What's this about?
The project aims to modify existing water infrastructure on Toorale National Park and State Conservation Area(external link) near Bourke in north-west NSW.

The project seeks to modify existing earthen embankments that were constructed in the Warrego River to store and divert water when Toorale operated as a grazing and irrigation enterprise.

The objective of the project is to increase the amount of water that can pass through the Warrego River to the Darling River, while ensuring that the important social, environmental and heritage values of Toorale are not compromised. It also aims to improve the connectivity of this reach of the Warrego River for fish passage.

Phase 1 of the project involves the removal of a section of an embankment known as Peebles Dam. It also seeks to repair a breach at the Homestead Dam site that occurred during floods in 2012. These repairs are a temporary measure until more permanent modifications are made during Phase 2.

Pending approval of the Review of Environmental Factors (REF) and favourable weather conditions, Phase 1 activities will be undertaken late 2019.

The REF will be on exhibition from 1 April to 30 April 2019 at the Bourke National Parks and Wildlife Service, 51 Oxley Street, Bourke.

Have your say
There are three ways you can submit your feedback:

Online: consultation website(external link)
Mail: Sonya Ardill
c/o PO Box 1020
Dubbo NSW 2830
Have your say by 30 April 2019.

Why Unique Finches Keep Their Heads Of Many Colours

April 23, 2019: Cornell University

There appears to be an underlying selection mechanism at work among Gouldian Finches -- a mechanism that allows this species to produce and maintain individuals with red heads, black heads, and yellow heads. Research by scientists from the the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and other institutions, reveals what this additional evolutionary process might be. Findings were published today in the journal Nature Communications.

"Most people have heard of natural selection," says lead author Kang-Wook Kim at the University of Sheffield. "But 'survival of the fittest' cannot explain the colour diversity we see in the Gouldian Finch. We demonstrate that there is another evolutionary process -- balancing selection -- that has maintained the black or red head color over thousands of generations."

The yellow-headed type (actually more orange) is produced by a completely different mechanism that is not yet understood. Yellow-headed Gouldian Finches make up less than one percent of the wild population.

"Having distinct multiple colour types -- a polymorphism -- maintained within a species for a long time is extremely rare," explains co-author David Toews, who did this work as a postdoctoral researcher at the Cornell Lab and who is now at Pennsylvania State University. "Natural selection is typically thought of in a linear fashion -- a mutation changes a trait which then confers some reproductive or survival advantage, which results in more offspring, and the trait eventually becomes the sole type in the population."

Studies from Macquarie University in Australia have shown the red-headed finches have the apparent advantage. Female Gouldian Finches of all colors prefer the red-headed males, who also happen to be more dominant in the social hierarchy. So why hasn't the black-headed type disappeared? It turns out there are disadvantages to having a red head, too, such as higher levels of stress hormones in competitive situations.

"If advantages are cancelled out by concurrent disadvantages, these two colour types can be maintained -- that's balancing selection," Toews says. "Red forms are not as common in the wild, so the counterbalancing pressure reduces the advantage of being red. That's super cool!"

Teams from the University of Sheffield and the Cornell Lab independently zeroed in on a particular gene called follistatin which is found on the Gouldian Finch sex chromosome and regulates melanin to produce either red- or black-headed finches. Rather than competing, the two teams decided to join forces and share their data. For the yellow morph, a different gene, not located on the sex chromosome, is controlling the head pigmentation, but it hasn't yet been found and it's not clear what forces are allowing the yellow morph to persist in the wild.

In another twist, Toews and co-author Scott Taylor, at the University of Colorado-Boulder, have done previous research that revealed the genes likely governing the plumage differences between North American Blue-winged and Golden-winged Warblers -- and one of those regions is in the same spot on the sex chromosome that differs among Gouldian Finches with different head colors.

"We didn't expect we'd locate the exact genomic region that governs plumage differences in both the Gouldian Finch and the two warblers," says Toews. "But now that we've done it, it opens up the possibility that the same region in other species may also be controlling plumage colour."

Kang-Wook Kim, Benjamin C. Jackson, Hanyuan Zhang, David P. L. Toews, Scott A. Taylor, Emma I. Greig, Irby J. Lovette, Mengning M. Liu, Angus Davison, Simon C. Griffith, Kai Zeng, Terry Burke. Genetics and evidence for balancing selection of a sex-linked colour polymorphism in a songbird. Nature Communications, 2019; 10 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-09806-6

Gouldian Finch (stock image). Credit: © Duncan Noakes / Fotolia

Archie's Pittwater Clean Up

My name is Archie Mandin 
I am a Seabin Ambassador, I started this campaign because I want to take a stand against ocean plastics!

My goal is to raise enough money to bring a minimum of 20 Seabins to Pittwater NSW as I want to give The Northern Beaches the opportunity to reduce its plastic pollution impact on the ocean. Its amazing how much accidental rubbish comes down our creeks and into our waterways 

I need your help to raise money to buy the Seabins a revolutionary ocean cleaning technology which is essentially a floating rubbish bin that operates 24/7 catching all floating debris in the water.

The Seabin helps clean the ocean of floating debris which in turn creates cleaner oceans and we all benefit from this in one way or another. I mean, who really wants to swim in pollution? Not me that’s for sure!

Did you know that 300 million tons of plastic are produced in the world every year, half of which is for single use products, from this more than 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year. We need to do something about it and now with the purchase of a Seabin we can all participate and make a difference! 

Join me and my campaign to help ensure cleaner oceans!

What’s a Seabin? 
The Seabin is a floating rubbish bin that is located in the water at marinas, docks, yacht clubs and commercial ports.

The Seabin can catch an average of 3.9kgs of floating debris per day which adds up to 1.4 tons per year. (depending on weather conditions and debris volumes) The Seabins is catching large plastic bags, bottles, plastic straws, coffee cups, food wrappers, surface oils and micro plastics down to 2 mm small. 

How can a Seabin contribute to cleaner oceans?
The Seabin contributes to cleaner oceans by removing 1.4 tons of floating debris per unit per year. The location of the Seabin in marinas is ideal and where it matters most, close to the source of entry for floating debris. Ports and Marinas are perfect locations to stop floating debris from entering the open ocean and ocean plastics are also brought in by wind and currents.

Are the Seabins a danger to marine life?
The fish According to the team at Seabin, stay away from the surface of the water where the Seabin sucks in the water. They are deterred by the force of the water current. If there are swarms of jellyfish or bait fish it is recommended that the Seabins are turned off until the swarms pass. If a fish was to accidentally go into the Seabin, it would be caught in the Seabin and stay submerged in water until the marina staff retrieve the filter and throw the fish still alive back into the water.

How does it work? 
Water is sucked in from the surface and passes through a catch bag inside the Seabin, with a submersible water pump capable of displacing 25.000 LPH (liters per hour). The water is then pumped back into the marina leaving litter and debris trapped in the catch bag to be disposed of properly.

Who is responsible for the Seabin?
This is the best part of it all, the marina will be the one responsible for the upkeep of the Seabins and also they will be paying for the energy consumption of the Seabin which is around $2 - $3 a day.

The marina enjoys a cleaner marina and the rest of us and the marine life enjoy cleaner oceans with less floating debris polluting our oceans!

Seabins part of a whole solution
Seabins whole solution is Technology, Education, Science, Research and Community. The reason for this is that Technology alone is not the solution to stopping ocean plastics, education is the real solution.

Great! Can our local community be involved also?
Yes! The team at Seabin have interactive programs and lessons designed for schools, community and youth to interact with the Seabins and have over 2000 school students engaged around the world, this is something that we can do locally also with support from the team at Seabin Project.

What will we be doing if we participate in these programs?
You would be joining an international community contributing important data and feedback on ocean plastics to the Seabin central data base. Renowned scientists, universities and environmental agencies are all a part of the programs also.

The lessons range from identifying ocean plastics to data collection of what the Seabins are catching weekly. The data collection is a very easy activity and where we can all see the measurable impact of debris the Seabins are taking out of the water in all weather conditions.

It’s as simple as counting how many plastic bags, plastic particles, food wrappers and then noting it down on a spreadsheet or app. Weather conditions and location information is also entered into the data base.

How can you help our campaign and make a difference in the world?
Every contribution to this crowdfunding campaign helps, be it $1 or $50 dollars, it all adds up and bring us closer to our goal.

Even if you cannot afford a donation, please help by sharing this campaign with your friends and family on social media. The more people that know about the campaign the better!

Thanks everyone for taking the time to check out our campaign!



Seabin Project FAQs

Q: Can someone pay out the crowdfunding campaign goal?
A: Yes! We need help! The more money we can raise, the more Seabins we can buy. 

Q: Why crowdfund a Seabin?
A: Until now, the Seabins were not for the everyday person to purchase because marinas ports and yacht clubs are the target market for Seabin Group. This is a way where everyday people can give something back to the oceans.  

Q: How do Seabins work in tidal areas?
A: Seabins at present are designed for floating docks and pontoons. The Seabins move up and down with the tide on the floating dock.

 Q. How are the pumps run? 
A. The pumps are currently electric, and around $2-$3 a day to run.

Q: When are the Seabins available?
A: Depending on your countries location, Seabins will be available Feb 2019.

Q: Do any fish get sucked into the Seabins? What about smaller marine life?
A: There is a possibility of fish to enter the Seabins, however in the last 2 years of development, the Seabins have only caught a handful of small bait fish. Most of which have been thrown back into the water alive. The fish simply stay away from the flow of water entering the Seabin and with the current fine tuning of the Seabin, the risk is now minimal.

Q: I don’t have any money to donate, how can I help?
A: Don’t worry! Your amazing anyways and thanks for even contacting us. We need help to share this project around with any media we can. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, websites, bloggers. Also with newspapers, magazines, tv, radio and journalists. Also friends and family!

Brains Of Blind People Adapt To Sharpen Sense Of Hearing

April 22, 2019: University of Washington
Research has shown that people who are born blind or become blind early in life often have a more nuanced sense of hearing, especially when it comes to musical abilities and tracking moving objects in space (imagine crossing a busy road using sound alone). For decades scientists have wondered what changes in the brain might underlie these enhanced auditory abilities.

Now, a pair of research papers published the week of April 22 from the University of Washington -- one in the Journal of Neuroscience, the other in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences -- use functional MRI to identify two differences in the brains of blind individuals that might be responsible for their abilities to make better use of auditory information.

"There's this idea that blind people are good at auditory tasks, because they have to make their way in the world without visual information. We wanted to explore how this happens in the brain," said Ione Fine, a UW professor of psychology and the senior author on both studies.

Instead of simply looking to see which parts of the brain were most active while listening, both studies examined the sensitivity of the brain to subtle differences in auditory frequency.

"We weren't measuring how rapidly neurons fire, but rather how accurately populations of neurons represent information about sound," said Kelly Chang, a graduate student in the UW Department of Psychology and lead author on the Journal of Neuroscience paper.

That study found that in the auditory cortex, individuals who are blind showed narrower neural "tuning" than sighted subjects in discerning small differences in sound frequency.

"This is the first study to show that blindness results in plasticity in the auditory cortex. This is important because this is an area of the brain that receives very similar auditory information in blind and sighted individuals," Fine said. "But in blind individuals, more information needs to be extracted from sound -- and this region seems to develop enhanced capacities as a result.

"This provides an elegant example of how the development of abilities within infant brains is influenced by the environment they grow up in."

The second study examined how the brains of people who are born blind or become blind early in life -- referred to as "early blind" individuals -- represent moving objects in space. The research team showed that an area of the brain called the hMT+ -- which in sighted individuals is responsible for tracking moving visual objects -- shows neural responses that reflect both the motion and the frequency of auditory signals in blind individuals. This suggests that in blind people, area hMT+ is recruited to play an analogous role -- tracking moving auditory objects, such as cars, or the footsteps of the people around them.

The paper in the Journal of Neuroscience involved two teams -- one at the UW, the other at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. Both teams measured neural responses in study participants while participants listened to a sequence of Morse code-like tones that differed in frequency while the fMRI machine recorded brain activity. The research teams found that in the blind participants, the auditory cortex more accurately represented the frequency of each sound.

"Our study shows that the brains of blind individuals are better able to represent frequencies," Chang said. "For a sighted person, having an accurate representation of sound isn't as important because they have sight to help them recognize objects, while blind individuals only have auditory information. This gives us an idea of what changes in the brain explain why blind people are better at picking out and identifying sounds in the environment."

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study examined how the brain's "recruitment" of the hMT+ region might help blind people track the motion of objects using sound. Participants once again listened to tones that differed in auditory frequency, but this time the tones sounded like they were moving. As has been found in previous studies, in blind individuals the neural responses in area hMT+ contained information about the direction of motion of the sounds, whereas in the sighted participants these sounds did not produce significant neural activity.

By using sounds that varied in frequency, the researchers could show that in blind individuals, the hMT+ region was selective for the frequency as well as the motion of sounds, supporting the idea that this region might help blind individuals track moving objects in space.

"These results suggest that early blindness results in visual areas being recruited to solve auditory tasks in a relatively sophisticated way," Fine said.

This study also included two sight-recovery subjects -- individuals who had been blind from infancy until adulthood, when sight was restored via surgery in adulthood. In these individuals, area hMT+ seemed to serve a dual purpose, capable of processing both auditory and visual motion. The inclusion of people who used to be visually impaired lends additional evidence to the idea that this plasticity in the brain happens early in development, Fine said, because the results show that their brains made the shift to auditory processing as a result of their early-life blindness, yet maintains these abilities even after sight was restored in adulthood.

According to Fine, this research extends current knowledge about how the brain develops because the team was not only looking at which regions of the brain are altered as a result of blindness, but also examining precisely what sort of changes -- specifically, sensitivity to frequency -- might explain how early blind people make sense of the world. As one of the study participants described it, "You see with your eyes, I see with my ears."

Both studies were funded by the National Eye Institute and the National Institutes of Health. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study was co-authored by Elizabeth Huber of the UW and Fang Jiang of the University of Nevada, Reno. The Journal of Neuroscience study was co-authored by Chang and Huber, as well as Ivan Alvarez, Aaron Hundle and Holly Bridge of the University of Oxford.

Elizabeth Huber, Kelly Chang, Ivan Alvarez, Aaron Hundle, Holly Bridge and Ione Fine. Early blindness shapes cortical representations of auditory frequency within auditory cortex. Journal of Neuroscience, 22 April 2019 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2896-18.2019

Left: Researchers began by measuring responses in the auditory cortex to find a map of how frequency responses were represented in the brain. The warm colors represent regions of the brain that showed the greatest response to low-pitched tones, while blue colors represent regions that responded more to high-pitched tones. Right: When researchers examined the range of frequencies each vertex of the brain was selective to, they found tuning tended to be narrower for blind individuals, which may underlie the enhanced ability of blind individuals to pick out and identify sounds in the environment.
Credit: Kelly Chang/U. of Washington

Travellers Heading Overseas Urged To Get Measles Jab

April 18, 2019: NSW Health
NSW Health is encouraging anyone travelling overseas to ensure they are vaccinated against measles as part of a new campaign launched today.

There have been 36 people diagnosed with the disease in NSW since December 2018, the majority of whom have been travellers who have entered or re-entered Australia and unknowingly been infected with measles.

The campaign targets overseas visitors, Australian travellers heading overseas and international university students who may go home for the holidays.  

It has also been translated into four languages, specifically chosen to target the multicultural population who may travel to their country of origin and not consider themselves at risk because they are visiting family and friends in a familiar location.  

NSW Health Director of Communicable Diseases, Dr Vicky Sheppeard explained the importance of the campaign to all travellers. 

“Measles by its very nature is an extremely contagious, potentially deadly disease,” Dr Sheppeard said.

“As a consequence, many overseas travellers may be exposed to the disease despite not travelling to a country where it is currently endemic simply by coming into contact with a fellow traveller in the airport or on a transit flight.

“Measles virus can stay in the air for short periods of time, so if people enter a room shortly after an infected person has left, they could still become infected.”

The campaign is also focusing on childcare centres around the state and NSW public schools.   

Anyone born during or after 1966 who hasn’t already had two doses of the vaccine or had measles is eligible for the free vaccine. 

“If you’re not sure if you have had two doses, which provides lifelong protection in 99 out of 100 people, it is safe to get another jab, particularly if you’re heading overseas,” Dr Sheppeard said.  

“Anyone with an infant younger than 12 months should see their GP prior to travel, as the child may be a candidate for early vaccination from six months of age.” 

Symptoms include fever, sore eyes and a cough followed three or four days later by a red, spotty rash that spreads from the head to the rest of the body. 

Anyone who develops any of these symptoms after returning home, should call ahead to inform their GP so arrangements can be made to limit their contact with other people in the surgery.

Protecting children from potentially deadly diseases is a key priority for the NSW Government, which has invested approximately $130 million in the 2018-19 Immunisation Program budget, including Commonwealth and state vaccines. 

The latest Annual Immunisation Coverage Report shows vaccination rates in NSW are at their highest level ever, with more than 95 per cent of five year olds vaccinated against measles.

For more information for travellers visit: 

Older Australians Pushed Into Poverty By Newstart

April 18, 2019
National Seniors is partnering other leading community advocacy organisations calling on the major parties this election to fix pensioner poverty and boost the Newstart allowance for jobless older workers.

National Seniors Australia, COTA Australia and The Benevolent Society are supporting the Raise the Rate campaign to stop older unemployed people being pushed into poverty by a Newstart Allowance that for decades has lagged costs of living.

The campaign calls for the allowance to be immediately increased and for a commitment to the wellbeing of older Australians.

Also, it is critical of the major parties for ignoring the plight of Newstart recipients who are already too often excluded from the workforce simply because of their age.

"Poverty is an increasing reality for jobless older Australians demoralised by long-term unemployment and an inadequate Newstart allowance that hasn’t been adequately increased for decades."

Social Security department figures indicate there are more workers aged 55-64 receiving Newstart than any other age cohort, and older workers spend longer on Newstart than any other age group.

Older workers face being pushed into poverty as they head to retirement. This is especially the case for those who rent, who have not been able to accumulate significant savings and those facing high out-of-pocket health costs. This election is the time to make this happen. The evidence of the impact of inadequate Newstart payments is readily available, there’s no need for further review.

"Fixing pensioner poverty is a key National Seniors election priority and requires swift action by whichever party wins government."

Affordable dental care for age pensioners is a key demand. Poor oral health is linked to chronic diseases, including stroke and heart disease, but is out of reach of many pensioners and those in aged care.

Taking politics out of the age pension is another key policy and National Seniors wants the establishment of an Age Pension Tribunal to independently set the age pension rate.

The tribunal would take responsibility for calculating a fair and adequate pension rate and any supplements based on need and circumstance.

This, along with cutting the age pension taper rate from $3 to $2, will help ensure pensioners can better sustain a standard of living.

Assisting pensioners access housing and better connect to internet services were also important ways to alleviate pensioner poverty.

Mr Henschke said the private rental market was out of reach for many older people but could be improved by lifting the maximum rate of Commonwealth Rent Assistance.

The maximum rate of assistance could be set by our proposed Age Pension Tribunal so pensioners who rent receive enough income to meet reasonable living costs, no matter where they live.

Light Physical Activity Reduces Brain Ageing

April 19, 2019: Boston University School of Medicine
Incremental physical activity, even at light intensity, is associated with larger brain volume and healthy brain aging.

Considerable evidence suggests that engaging in regular physical activity may prevent cognitive decline and dementia. Active individuals have lower metabolic and vascular risk factors and these risk factors may explain their propensity for healthy brain aging. However, the specific activity levels optimal for dementia prevention have remained unclear.

The new 2018 Physical Activity-Guidelines for Americans suggest that some physical activity is better than none, but achieving greater than 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous (MV) physical activity per week is recommended for substantial health benefits.

Using data from the Framingham Heart Study, researchers found that for each additional hour spent in light-intensity physical activity was equivalent to approximately 1.1 years less brain aging.

According to the researchers, these results suggest that the threshold of the favourable association for physical activity with brain ageing may be at a lower, more achievable level of intensity or volume.

"Every additional hour of light intensity physical activity was associated with higher brain volumes, even among individuals not meeting current Physical Activity-Guidelines. These data are consistent with the notion that potential benefits of physical activity on brain ageing may accrue at a lower, more achievable level of intensity or volume," explained Nicole Spartano, PhD, research assistant professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM).

"We have really only just begun to uncover the relationship between physical activity and brain health." Spartano emphasizes the need to explore the impact of physical inactivity on brain aging in different race, ethnic, and socio-economic groups. She is leading a team effort to investigate these patterns at multiple sites all over the country. "We couldn't do this research without the commitment of the Framingham Heart Study participants who have given so much to the medical community over the years. Our research also hinges on the multi-disciplinary team of investigators at Boston University and external collaborators." She also acknowledges the importance of funding for research in this area and is grateful for support from the National Institute on Aging, American Heart Association, and Alzheimer's Association.

These finding appear online in JAMA Network Open.

Nicole L. Spartano, Kendra L. Davis-Plourde, Jayandra J. Himali, Charlotte Andersson, Matthew P. Pase, Pauline Maillard, Charles DeCarli, Joanne M. Murabito, Alexa S. Beiser, Ramachandran S. Vasan, Sudha Seshadri. Association of Accelerometer-Measured Light-Intensity Physical Activity With Brain Volume. JAMA Network Open, 2019; 2 (4): e192745 DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.2745

Consumer Experience Reports In Home And Community Care

April 22nd 2019: Australian Government
The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission is working on expanding the use of Consumer Experience Reports (CER) into the home and community aged care sector. These reports are aimed at promoting consumer choice by capturing the consumer experience of the quality of care and services in aged care.

Developing the reports
CERs are developed from the results of interviews. To ensure outcomes of the reports for Home Care are fit for purpose, the Commission has evaluated and learnt from our experience implementing consumer experience reports for residential aged care. Lessons learnt include the value of pilot testing with the most diverse range of consumers possible, and the benefits of reviewing and periodically revising questions to reflect ongoing feedback.

For information on the reports we currently publish for residential aged care services please see our Consumer Experience Reports in residential aged care services pages

Developing new questions
CERs are developed from the results of interviews with consumers of aged care services using a standardised set of questions designed to capture consumers’ experiences. The draft questions for the CERs for Home Care have been developed from the results of a review of research literature in the field of consumer choice and quality.  They are also linked to the new Aged Care Quality Standards.

Literature Review
The literature review to help develop the questions was undertaken by the Australian Institute for Primary Care and Ageing (AIPCA) at La Trobe University.

The resulting report AACQA Literature Review: Choice and quality in community care (March 2018) identified eight themes relating to choice and quality that are important to consumers making decisions about home- and community-based care:
  • Control
  • Local residence
  • Interpersonal interaction
  • Flexibility
  • Affordability
  • Administrative and financial literacy
  • Safety
  • Timeliness of service provision. 
Pilot testing
We commenced pilot testing of the draft questions in November 2018. The first phase of pilot testing evaluated the validity, comprehensibility and test-retest reliability of the questions. 

From April 2019, we will also be pilot testing methodologies for seeking responses from consumers – including telephone interviews, paper and online surveys. The process will pay particular attention to ethics and privacy principles.

While consumer participation in the pilot will be voluntary, we aim to include a broad sample of respondents to ensure the representation of consumers from culturally diverse backgrounds and those living in metropolitan, rural and remote locations.

For updates on the development of CERs in home and community aged care, please subscribe to our Quality Bulletin newsletter.

For background information on CERs see the Commission’s Consumer Experience Report web pages.

The Secret To A Stable Society? A Steady Supply Of Beer Doesn't Hurt

April 18, 2019: Field Museum
A thousand years ago, the Wari empire stretched across Peru. At its height, it covered an area the size of the Eastern seaboard of the US from New York City to Jacksonville. It lasted for 500 years, from 600 to 1100 AD, before eventually giving rise to the Inca. 

That's a long time for an empire to remain intact, and archaeologists are studying remnants of the Wari culture to see what kept it ticking. A new study found an important factor that might have helped: a steady supply of beer.

"This study helps us understand how beer fed the creation of complex political organisations," says Ryan Williams, an associate curator and Head of Anthropology at the Field Museum and the lead author of the new study in Sustainability. "We were able to apply new technologies to capture information about how ancient beer was produced and what it meant to societies in the past."

Nearly twenty years ago, Williams, Nash, and their team discovered an ancient Wari brewery in Cerro Baúl in the mountains of southern Peru. "It was like a microbrewery in some respects. It was a production house, but the brewhouses and taverns would have been right next door," explains Williams. And since the beer they brewed, a light, sour beverage called chicha, was only good for about a week after being made, it wasn't shipped offsite -- people had to come to festivals at Cerro Baúl to drink it. These festivals were important to Wari society -- between one and two hundred local political elites would attend, and they would drink chicha from three-foot-tall ceramic vessels decorated to look like Wari gods and leaders. "People would have come into this site, in these festive moments, in order to recreate and reaffirm their affiliation with these Wari lords and maybe bring tribute and pledge loyalty to the Wari state," says Williams. In short, beer helped keep the empire together.

To learn more about the beer that played such an important role in Wari society, Williams and his co-authors Donna Nash (Field Museum and University of North Carolina Greensboro), Josh Henkin (Field Museum and University of Illinois at Chicago) and Ruth Ann Armitage (Eastern Michigan University) analyzed pieces of ceramic beer vessels from Cerro Baúl. They used several techniques, including one that involved shooting a laser at a shard of a beer vessel to remove a tiny bit of material, and then heating that dust to the temperature of the surface of the sun to break down the molecules that make it up. From there, the researchers were able to tell what atomic elements make up the sample, and how many -- information that told researchers exactly where the clay came from and what the beer was made of.

"The cool thing about this study is that we're getting down to the atomic level. We're counting atoms in the pores of the ceramics or trying to reconstruct and count the masses of molecules that were in the original drink from a thousand years ago that got embedded into the empty spaces between grains of clay in the ceramic vessels, and that's what's telling us the new information about what the beer was made of and where the ceramic vessels were produced," says Williams. "It's really new information at the molecular level that is giving archaeologists this new insight into the past."

To check that the ingredients in chicha could indeed be transferred to the brewing vessels, the researchers worked with Peruvian brewers to recreate the brewing process. "Making chicha is a complicated process that requires experience and expertise. The experiments taught us a lot about what making chicha would look like in the ruins of a building and how much labor and time went into the process," says Donna Nash, an adjunct curator at the Field Museum and professor at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, who led the brewing recreation. (Incidentally, the Field Museum and Chicago's Off Colour Brewing released a beer based on Nash's work, a pink ale infused with pepper berries, called Wari Ale; it's being re-released in Chicago-area stores and bars in June.)

By looking at the chemical makeup of traces of beer left in the vessels and at the chemical makeup of the clay vessels themselves, the team found two important things. One, the vessels were made of clay that came from nearby, and two, the beer was made of pepper berries, an ingredient that can grow even during a drought. Both these things would help make for a steady beer supply -- even if a drought made it hard to grow other chicha ingredients like corn, or if changes in trade made it hard to get clay from far away, vessels of pepper berry chicha would still be readily available.

The authors of the study argue that this steady supply of beer could have helped keep Wari society stable. The Wari empire was huge and made up of different groups of people from all over Peru. "We think these institutions of brewing and then serving the beer really formed a unity among these populations, it kept people together," says Williams.

The study's implications about how shared identity and cultural practices help to stabilise societies are increasingly relevant today.

"This research is important because it helps us understand how institutions create the binds that tie together people from very diverse constituencies and very different backgrounds," says Williams. "Without them, large political entities begin to fragment and break up into much smaller things. Brexit is an example of this fragmentation in the European Union today. We need to understand the social constructs that underpin these unifying features if we want to be able to maintain political unity in society."

Patrick Ryan Williams, Donna J. Nash, Joshua M. Henkin, Ruth Ann Armitage. Archaeometric Approaches to Defining Sustainable Governance: Wari Brewing Traditions and the Building of Political Relationships in Ancient Peru.Sustainability, 2019; 11 (8): 2333 DOI: 10.3390/su11082333

The team worked with Peruvian brewers to recreate the ancient chicha recipe used at Cerro Baul. Credit: Donna Nash

Eating Elderberries Can Help Minimise Influenza Symptoms

April 23, 2019: University of Sydney
Folk medicines and herbal products have been used for millennia to combat a whole range of ailments, at times to the chagrin of modern scientists who have struggled to explain their medicinal benefits.

However a recent study by researchers at the University of Sydney has determined exactly how a popular ancient remedy, the elderberry fruit, can help the fight against influenza.

Conducted by Professor Fariba Deghani, Dr Golnoosh Torabian and Dr Peter Valtchev as part of the ARC Training Centre for the Australian Food Processing Industry that was established within the university's Faculty of Engineering and IT, the study showed that compounds from elderberries can directly inhibit the virus's entry and replication in human cells, and can help strengthen a person's immune response to the virus.

Although elderberry's flu-fighting properties have long been observed, the group performed a comprehensive examination of the mechanism by which phytochemicals, compounds that positively effect health, from elderberries combat influenza infections.

"What our study has shown is that the common elderberry has a potent direct antiviral effect against the flu virus. It inhibits the early stages of an infection by blocking key viral proteins responsible for both the viral attachment and entry into the host cells," said Dr Golnoosh Torabian.

The researchers used commercially farmed elderberries which were turned into a juice serum and were applied to cells before, during and after they had been infected with the influenza virus.

The phytochemicals from the elderberry juice were shown to be effective at stopping the virus infecting the cells, however to the surprise of the researchers they were even more effective at inhibiting viral propagation at later stages of the influenza cycle when the cells had already been infected with the virus.

"This observation was quite surprising and rather significant because blocking the viral cycle at several stages has a higher chance of inhibiting the viral infection," explained Dr Peter Valtchev.

"In addition to that, we identified that the elderberry solution also stimulated the cells to release certain cytokines, which are chemical messengers that the immune system uses for communication between different cell types to coordinate a more efficient response against the invading pathogen," said Centre Director, Professor Fariba Deghani.

The team also found that the elderberry's antiviral activity can be attributed to its anthocyanidin compounds -- phytonutrients responsible for giving the fruit its vivid purple colouring.

Otherwise known as Sambucus nigra, the elderberry is a small, antioxidant rich fruit common to Europe and North America that is still commonly consumed as a jam or wine.

The influenza virus is one of the leading causes of mortality worldwide, affecting nearly 10 per-cent of the world population and contributing to one million deaths annually.

Golnoosh Torabian, Peter Valtchev, Qayyum Adil, Fariba Dehghani. Anti-influenza activity of elderberry (Sambucus nigra). Journal of Functional Foods, 2019; 54: 353 DOI: 10.1016/j.jff.2019.01.031

Elderberries in the woods. Credit: © romankrykh / Fotolia

Dengue Mosquito Is Queensland's Biggest Threat For Spreading Zika Virus

April 23, 2019: Queensland University of Technology
Researchers at QUT and QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute have found that the dengue fever mosquito common to north and central Queensland poses the greatest danger of spreading the Zika virus in Australia.

The researchers showed that not only was the dengue mosquito effective at transmitting Zika, but also that the virus was in the mosquitoes' reproductive organs. This finding suggests that Zika could persist in mosquito populations by females passing it to their offspring.

The researchers' study, Vector competence of Australian Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus for an epidemic strain of Zika virus, has been published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Key points:
  • an contract Zika from the bite of a female mosquito carrying the virus
  • A woman infected with Zika can pass the virus to her unborn child causing neurological problems including microcephaly, when the brain does not develop properly and the baby has a smaller than normal head
  • While more than 50 cases of Zika have been reported in Australia, all were contracted overseas
Study senior author Dr Francesca Frentiu, from QUT's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, said the researchers looked at whether two mosquito species found in Queensland could transmit Zika: the dengue mosquito (Aedes aegypti) and Asian Tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus).

The dengue mosquito is found in northern, central and southern parts of the state, while the Asian Tiger mosquito is currently only in the Torres Strait.

The researchers tested a strain of Zika from the Asian lineage that caused microcephaly during the 2016 epidemic in Brazil.

Co-lead researcher Dr Leon Hugo, from QIMR Berghofer's Mosquito Control Laboratory, said the mosquitoes used in the study were hatched from eggs collected from colonies in Innisfail and Hammond Island in the Torres Strait, and reared at the institute's state-of-the-art mosquito and pathogen containment insectary in Brisbane.

"Our high biosecurity insectary is unique in the southern hemisphere for its size, capacity and expertise, allowing us to work safely with dangerous pathogens like Zika," Dr Hugo said.

"We fed the two strains of mosquitoes with a mixture of Zika virus and blood."

Dr Frentiu said the mosquitoes were maintained in the insectary at temperatures similar to what is experienced in north Queensland around Cairns to simulate a field experiment.

"At three, seven and 14 days after the mosquitoes were infected with Zika, we tested their saliva to see if they could pass on the virus through a bite," she said.

"We concluded that the dengue mosquito is the main danger for spreading Zika.

"We found 50-60 per cent of the dengue mosquitoes could effectively transmit the virus 14 days after becoming infected, compared to 10 per cent of the Asian Tiger mosquitoes."

Dr Frentiu said the discovery of Zika in the ovaries of the dengue mosquitoes indicated another potential route of infection transmission through mosquito populations.

"This has also been observed recently in field specimens collected in Brazil," she said. "Aedes aegypti eggs were collected and hatched and the larvae tested, and Zika was found in the larvae.

"It is possible that if infected larvae were able to reach maturity still infected with Zika, they could then pass the virus to humans. This is an area where further research is needed."

Leon E. Hugo, Liesel Stassen, Jessica La, Edward Gosden, O’mezie Ekwudu, Clay Winterford, Elvina Viennet, Helen M. Faddy, Gregor J. Devine, Francesca D. Frentiu. Vector competence of Australian Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus for an epidemic strain of Zika virus. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 2019; 13 (4): e0007281 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0007281

The research team preparing the membrane feeding apparatus that provided mixtures of blood and Zika virus at 37°Celsius to mosquitoes in the experiment. Credit: QIMR Berghofer

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.