Inbox and Environment News: Issue 413

July 21 - 27, 2019: Issue 413

NSW Government Plans To Decimate 100% Of Old Growth Forests - Logging Murray Valley National Park Being Facilitated Through New 'Study'

July 11th, 2019
Conservation groups are calling on Premier Gladys Berejiklian to rule out opening any national parks to extractive industries. 

NSW Deputy Premier and National Party leader John Barilaro has vowed to introduce legislation to degazette Murray Valley National Park in the state’s Riverina region and to re-open the forests for logging. [1]

The park is part of the largest continuous red gum forest in the world and hosts a unique ecosystem with over 60 threatened native animal species and 40 threatened plant species. It is also an important place for Aboriginal people.

Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said: “Stripping protections from this park and letting in the loggers would be gross environmental vandalism.

“These magnificent forests are protected because they are struggling after decades of logging and grazing, impacts that are being multiplied by climate change, water diversions and drought.

“This government has the worst record for creating national parks in the past 50 years but stripping protections from the river red gums national park would be an unprecedented low.

“The environment movement will vigorously resist this move and mobilise communities across the state to protect these iconic forests.”

NSW National Parks Association Senior Ecologist Oisin Sweeney said: “We strongly hope that this doesn’t represent a shift in government policy”.

“The whole point of gazetting national parks is so the public can have confidence that these areas are protected in perpetuity for their conservation and social values.

“The millions of people who enjoy walking, camping and relaxing in our national parks should be really worried by the precedent that this would set.

“If this goes ahead, what’s to stop more degazettals occurring at the whim of a politician, just to satisfy self-interest groups? Which national park is next in line?

The Nature Conservation Council of NSW are calling on Environment Minister Kean’s colleagues to support him in opposing this terrible proposal.

Nature Conservation Council states that this table says it all:
 "Thousands of hectares of our old growth forests that have been protected for decades are on the chopping block. What you see here are the results of the NSW Government's initial old-growth remapping exercise for 9 state forest areas. It shows 819 out of 934 hectares of protected forest being opened up to logging - that's an 88% decrease in protected area."

For 6 out of 9 areas 100% of old growth has lost protection - for the other 3 areas the remnants are now fragmented and isolated.
This is despite the government's own data showing that all of these sites have high densities of hollow-bearing trees, high densities of standing dead trees and huge lengths of deadwood. These are essential habitat features for many threatened species.

Please help spread the word and join over 10,000 people who have signed the petition to stop this madness going ahead and threatening all our precious native forests 👉


[1] NSW deputy premier vows to open up Murray Valley national park to loggingThe Guardian, Thu 11 Jul 2019: - extracts from that report - 

The Natural Resources Commission of NSW has been asked to remap and rezone old-growth forest in state forest informal reserves that were previously off limits to logging. Environment groups are concerned the move is an attempt to unpick forest protections that have been in place for decades.

An NRC pilot study has already examined 13 sites in the north-east. In findings published last year, the NRC said it had identified “significant errors” in old-growth forests maps. It drew up new maps that reduced the extent of protected old-growth in those areas by 78%.

It is now embarking on a larger remapping exercise that would aim to rezone 14,600 hectares of old-growth. A draft assessment will be published for public comment next month.

The remapping is to address a potential shortfall in the timber available for logging to meet contracts signed with Forestry Corporation NSW. The NRC identified the shortfall in advice it provided to the government in 2016.

Jack Gough, the policy and research coordinator at the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, said it was “a sneaky way to open up forests to chainsaws”.

It’s clear that this process is being driven by a desire to access more wood and has nothing to do with a desire to protect our forests or protected species,” he said.

The independent upper house member, Justin Field, has written to the premier, Gladys Berejiklian, and the ministers Rob Stokes, John Barilaro and Matt Kean calling for the remapping process to be halted until there was an independent review of “the supposed wood supply shortfall”.

Field said the government could not hope to create a meaningful environmental legacy if it allowed logging of protected old-growth forests. “This process looks to be sacrificing environmental values and gifting some of our most precious native forests to the loggers,” he said. “This is a significant breach of faith with the community and environmentalists who worked with the government and the forestry industry decades ago to agree to preserve these special areas.”

Environment groups said the NRC’s remapping in the pilot study was based not on the ecological value of the forests but on evidence of comparatively minor environmental disturbance such as fence lines, historic logging or weeds.

Oisin Sweeney, a senior ecologist at the National Parks Association of NSW, said the pilot study data showed the sites examined had high ecological value including “high densities of hollow-bearing trees, huge amounts of dead timber and lots of standing dead trees”.

“Forests like this are paradise for native wildlife because lots of our most threatened species need big trees with hollows,” he said, adding: “It’s abundantly clear that these forests have huge ecological values, and as such they must remain protected.”

The NRC will submit a proposal to the government in November after public consultation.

Here is an example of a remapped area of old growth. The Government's own data shows Cloud Creek 167 has 26 hollow-bearing trees/ha, 5.5 standing dead trees/ha, a giant tallow-wood (preferred koala feed tree) and masses of fallen dead wood. 

That's 2,652 hollow bearing trees (vital habitat which take hundreds of years to form) on the chopping block, or 100%, in just this one area. They want to roll this out over at least 15,000 hectares (which would be 390,000 hollow bearing trees at risk if they are all at this level per hectares).

NSW Upper House Inquiry Into Koala Populations And Habitat In New South Wales

This inquiry was established on 20 June 2019 to inquire into and report on koala populations and habitat in New South Wales.

1. That Portfolio Committee No. 7 – Planning and Environment inquire into and report on actions, policies and funding by government to ensure healthy, sustainable koala populations and habitat in New South Wales, and in particular:
(a) the status of koala populations and koala habitat in New South Wales, including trends, key
threats, resource availability, adequacy of protections and areas for further research,
(b) the impacts on koalas and koala habitat from:
(i) the Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals and Regional Forest Agreements,
(ii) the Private Native Forestry Code of Practice,
(iii) the old growth forest remapping and rezoning program,
(iv) the 2016 land management reforms, including the Local Land Services Amendment Act 2016 and associated regulations and codes
(c) the effectiveness of State Environmental Planning Policy 44 - Koala Habitat Protection, the NSW Koala Strategy and the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016, including the threatened species provisions and associated regulations, in protecting koala habitat and responding to key threats,
(d) identification of key areas of koala habitat on private and public land that should be protected, including areas currently at risk of logging or clearing, and the likely impacts of climate change on koalas and koala distribution,
(e) the environmental, social and economic impacts of establishing new protected areas to conserve koala habitat, including national parks, and
(f) any other related matter.
3. That the committee report by 15 June 2020.

Committee membership
Ms Cate Faehrmann MLC The Greens (Chair)
Hon Mark Pearson MLC Animal Justice Party (Deputy Chair)
Hon Mark Buttigieg MLC Australian Labor Party
Hon Catherine Cusack Liberal Party
Hon Ben Franklin MLC The Nationals
Hon Shayne Mallard Liberal Party
Hon Penny Sharpe MLC Australian Labor Party 

Make a Submission Online HERE. Submissions close August 2nd, 2019.

National Tree Day 2019

National Tree Day started in 1996 and has grown into Australia's largest community tree-planting and nature care event.
It’s a call to action for all Australians to get their hands dirty and give back to the community. ​​​

While every day can be Tree Day, we dedicate celebration of Schools Tree Day and National Tree Day to the last Friday and last Sunday in July. In 2019 Schools Tree Day is Friday 26th July and National Tree Day is Sunday 28th July.

National Tree Day Planting At Toongari

National Tree Day activity at Toongari Reserve, Avalon Beach from 10.00 am to 2.00 pm on Sunday 28th July 2019.

This is an appeal for community members to plant tubestock and help continue the work already completed by the Toongari Reserve Bushcare Volunteers.

The site of the planting is behind the kindergarten. Come along and get involved in greening your community and making a difference to your local environment.

How to find this hidden gem:
  • The pathway from Central Road is between 55 and 59 Central Road and joins the pathway from Bowling Green Lane, behind Pittwater Palms retirement village leading to Toongari Reserve.
  • The pathway from Avalon Parade is the right-of-way at 118 Avalon Parade, which is beside the KU Avalon Kindergarten.
Please wear suitable clothing for planting including enclosed shoes. Gloves, tools and equipment for planting, watering cans and buckets provided.

Barrenjoey Seal Colony Growing

Jools Farrell, local ORRCA lady extraordinaire, reminds us that at present the Australian Fur Seal Colony at Barrenjoey is growing. In mid May there were 3 but there will be a lot more as we had up to 20 last year.

This behaviour is called thermoregulating which is normal seal behaviour to regulate their body temperatures.

Please remember that legally you must stay a minimum of 40 metres away from seals, especially if they come ashore on the estuary beaches or ocean beaches to rest.

Also please keep an eye out for them if you are out in a boat as they do venture out of this spot to feed on the estuary or around Barrenjoey Headland. In recent years they have been seen everywhere from Barrenjoey to Clareville and Church Point.

Please do not attempt to feed them as they get plenty of food here in Pittwater. Please also do not attempt to swim with them, Jools asks.

If you do see a seal in distress, please contact ORRCA on their 24/7 hotline: 9415 3333.

Hay! Demonstration To Stop Bylong Coal Mine Held In Sydney CBD

July 16, 2019
Sydneysiders have witnessed what’s at "steak" should the destructive Bylong coal mine be approved, with produce from the fertile valley brought before the Independent Planning Commission's offices as part of a peaceful demonstration on Elizabeth St in the CBD.

Bylong farmer Phil Kennedy was among those at the event, and demanded the IPC reject multinational company KEPCO’s plans to destroy valuable agricultural land and state heritage. 

“There are just so many reasons why this mine cannot go ahead,” he said.

“This valley is gorgeous and so productive. It would be a crime to ruin it with a dangerous coal mine, putting water resources and the Growie River under strain.

“Experts have recently said this mine will permanently damage the heritage values of the magnificent Tarwyn Park property, which is the birthplace of Natural Sequence Farming - a unique land management system that has been recognised world wide.

“We help produce food and fibre for the rest of NSW in this valley - yet KEPCO and the department think a great dirty coal mine is better use of this country. 

“We’re also producing hay in this valley for export to other farmers in NSW, even during this drought.

“We’re visiting the IPC to let them know this mine must be rejected.”

The rally comes after the proposed mine, along with other coal mines in and around the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, were listed as a cause of concern due to risks of cumulative impacts at the recent World Heritage Committee meeting in Azerbaijan.

It also comes after hundreds of people opposed to the mine descended on the beautiful valley for a country music show, with country music stars Greg and Sara Storer also joining the call for the coal project to be scrapped.

Demonstration organiser and Lock the Gate spokesperson Nic Clyde said the Bylong Valley was no place for a coal mine.

“We are demonstrating to let the IPC know that  the Bylong Valley is too precious to be torn up for a dirty great coal mine,” he said.

“The Bylong mine would ravage high quality farmland and drain underground water aquifers in a previously unmined rural valley.

“We must not compromise the integrity of a state significant heritage valley and it’s unique agricultural landscape, nor must we put at risk World Heritage values for the sake of a single, short-term coal mine. 

“The combined open cut and underground mine would produce 6.5 million tonnes of thermal coal for the export market, and would create more than five times the carbon emissions than the now scrapped Rocky Hill mine, which was rejected in the Land and Environment Court in February in part due to the greenhouse gases it would produce.” 

Adani Cyber-Stalks Scientists To Stop Expert Evidence Being Subject To Proper Public Scrutiny: FOI Documents

July 16, 2019
Freedom of Information documents have revealed independent Geoscience Australia scientists working on the Carmichael project’s Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems Management Plan were stalked online by Adani after their names were provided to the company by the Department of Environment and Energy.

The FOI documents also show Adani successfully pressured the Federal Government not to release expert advice on the impacts of the mine on groundwater earlier this year - advice that was only made public after the groundwater plan was signed off by then Environment Minister Melissa Price.

According to the uncovered emails, Adani was included in a video conference call with CSIRO/GA about the groundwater work in late 2018.  Then, on January 7 this year, Adani asked for the names of all GA/CSIRO scientists on the call, and this information was provided to them by DOEE (p44, FOI190418).

On January 15, a Geoscience Australia staff member wrote to DOEE expressing concern their LinkedIn profile and that of a colleague were both recently viewed by Adani (p746, FOI190417).

The FOI documents also reveal that in a January 25 email to DOEE, Adani demanded to know the names of all GA/CSIRO scientists working on the groundwater plans, and described other scientists who were advising on the Black Throated Finch Management Plan as “political activists” (p441, FOI 190418).

As well, on January 9, Adani wrote to DOEE demanding that CSIRO/GA reports not be released publicly or to third parties. On January 10 DOEE responded, saying it would share the advice with Queensland’s Department of Environment and Science, but would ask that it not be shared with other parties (p383, FOI 190418).

Lock the Gate Queensland spokesperson Ellie Smith said the documents were further evidence of Adani’s heavy-handed tactics and attempts to undermine the independent scientific assessment process. 

“Adani has been hell-bent on intimidating and bullying its way to getting its Carmichael mine approved,” she said.

“The company has heavied the Queensland Government and journalists, employed so-called ‘attack dog’ legal tactics to target opponents of its coal mine, and now has been caught singling out independent scientists.

“The scientists were clearly disturbed to learn their online profiles were being viewed by Adani - this is unacceptable given the scientists’ assessments needed to be totally independent and free of outside influence.

“Yet again, we have seen Adani eager to use any means necessary to drive its polluting coal mine through Australia’s assessment processes without doing the science needed to ensure it won’t destroy precious Great Artesian Basin spring systems.

“The community deserves to know what advice scientists are giving on mining projects well in advance of decisions, and the veil of secrecy that was drawn over the Carmichael mine to placate Adani is another blow to fairness and good governance in Australia.”

Catch A Glimpse Of A Humpback Whale

Visit a coastal NSW national park to spot a humpback whale, as they start their annual migration north.

From May to November 2019, over 30,000 humpback whales will migrate from the cold waters of Antarctica to the warmer waters off north east Australia to mate and give birth before heading south again.

Vantage spots for whale watching include national parks with lookouts, headlands and foreshores.

Southern right and minke whales may also be spotted off the NSW coast during migration season.

Keen whale-watchers can download the free Wild About Whales mobile app, which helps users find the best locations for spotting whales, get real-time notifications of nearby sightings, and record their sightings.

Environment Minister Matt Kean said the app is a great tool for the whole family to learn more about whales, while also contributing to a citizen science project.

“Citizen science volunteers and other organisations such as ORRCA do an amazing job of monitoring the number of whales migrating along the NSW coast each season,” Mr Kean said.

Find whale watching vantage points

Learn about approaching marine mammals in NSW

Australian Ants Prepared For 'Insect Armageddon'

July 16, 2019: La Trobe University
La Trobe University researchers have uncovered an exception to the global phenomenon known as 'Insect Armageddon' in the largest study of Australian insect populations conducted to date.

Researchers studied ants in the Simpson Desert for 22 years and found that local changes in climate, such as long-term increases in rainfall, combined with human efforts to restore ecosystems, may have led to increased numbers of species -- rather than the declines which might be expected in such unpredictable conditions.

Lead researcher, Associate Professor Heloise Gibb, said annual rainfall in the north Australian desert varied from 79 to 570 millimetres.

"While this unpredictability in rainfall is expected in hot climates, this is the first time we've been able to understand how insects respond to such large inconsistencies in their environment," Associate Professor Gibb said.

"For many species, this unpredictability -- exacerbated by climate change -- would equate to increasingly difficult conditions for their survival.

"What we've found, however, in contrast to warnings of a long-term decline in insects, is that species that already like it hot may do better where it also becomes wetter."

Associate Professor Gibb said researchers discovered a boom in the population of aggressive sugar-feeding ants with every rapid increase in rainfall.

"Water is the driving factor for this species' survival," Associate Professor Gibb said.

"These tyrant ants, as we would call them, are able to adjust their time of activity so they're active only when above-ground conditions are suitable.

"While the average temperature of their environment may be increasing, their flexibility in tough environments enables them to survive until the next big rainfall."

Researchers found the increase in ant populations reflected the change in resources available to them.

"Following rainfall, plants grow, flower and seed, providing honeydew, nectar and a food source for other invertebrates that the tyrant ants consume," Associate Professor Gibb said.

While ants other than the tyrants -- including furnace ants, mono ants, sugar ants and pony ants -- didn't respond as clearly in the study, their populations did increase over time.

Half way through the study, the property on which it was conducted was purchased by a conservation agency which stopped cattle grazing on the premises.

"While it's difficult to explicitly link this management change with ant responses, we believe this change was also critical in driving ecosystem change that eventually improved conditions for ants, allowing them to boom in response to extreme rainfall events," Associate Professor Gibb said.

"Active conservation efforts, funded by the public, can have very positive effects on biodiversity.

"It's important that future research identifies the best approach and locations for these efforts to take place if we want to ensure the continued persistence of the vast diversity of life that this planet currently supports."

Heloise Gibb, Blair F. Grossman, Chris R. Dickman, Orsolya Decker, Glenda M. Wardle. Long‐term responses of desert ant assemblages to climate. Journal of Animal Ecology, 2019; DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.13052

Rhytidoponera ants (stock image). Credit: © peter / Adobe Stock

Joshua Trees Facing Extinction

July 16, 2019: University of California - Riverside
They outlived mammoths and saber-toothed tigers. But without dramatic action to reduce climate change, new research shows Joshua trees won't survive much past this century.

UC Riverside scientists wanted to verify earlier studies predicting global warming's deadly effect on the namesake trees that millions flock to see every year in Joshua Tree National Park. They also wanted to learn whether the trees are already in trouble.

Using multiple methods, the study arrived at several possible outcomes. In the best-case scenario, major efforts to reduce heat-trapping gasses in the atmosphere would save 19 percent of the tree habitat after the year 2070. In the worst case, with no reduction in carbon emissions, the park would retain a mere 0.02 percent of its Joshua tree habitat.

The team's findings were published recently in Ecosphere. Project lead Lynn Sweet, a UCR plant ecologist, said she hopes the study inspires people to take protective environmental action. "The fate of these unusual, amazing trees is in all of our hands," she said. "Their numbers will decline, but how much depends on us."

To answer their questions about whether climate change is already having an effect, a large group of volunteers helped the team gather data about more than 4,000 trees.

They found that Joshua trees have been migrating to higher elevation parts of the park with cooler weather and more moisture in the ground. In hotter, drier areas, the adult trees aren't producing as many younger plants, and the ones they do produce aren't surviving.

Joshua trees as a species have existed since the Pleistocene era, about 2.5 million years ago, and individual trees can live up to 300 years. One of the ways adult trees survive so long is by storing large reserves of water to weather droughts.

Younger trees and seedlings aren't capable of holding reserves in this way though, and the most recent, 376-week-long drought in California left the ground in some places without enough water to support new young plants. As the climate changes, long periods of drought are likely to occur with more frequency, leading to issues with the trees like those already observed.

An additional finding of this study is that in the cooler, wetter parts of the park the biggest threat other than climate change is fire. Fewer than 10 percent of Joshua trees survive wildfires, which have been exacerbated in recent years by smog from car and industrial exhaust. The smog deposits nitrogen on the ground, which in turn feeds non-native grasses that act as kindling for wildfires.

As a partner on this project, the U.S. Park Service is using this information to mitigate fire risk by removing the invasive plants.

"Fires are just as much a threat to the trees as climate change, and removing grasses is a way park rangers are helping to protect the area today," Sweet said. "By protecting the trees, they're protecting a host of other native insects and animals that depend on them as well."

UCR animal ecologist and paper co-author Cameron Barrows conducted a similar research project in 2012, which also found Joshua tree populations would decline, based on models assuming a temperature rise of three degrees. However, this newer study considered a climate change scenario using twice as many variables, including soil-water estimates, rainfall, soil types, and more. In addition, Barrows said on-the-ground observations were essential to verifying the climate models this newer team had constructed.

Quoting the statistician George Box, Barrows said, "All models are wrong, but some are useful." Barrows went on to say, "Here, the data we collected outdoors showed us where our models gave us the most informative glimpse into the future of the park."

For this study, the UC Riverside Center for Conservation Biology partnered with Earthwatch Institute to recruit the volunteer scientists. Barrows and Sweet both recommend joining such organizations as a way to help find solutions to the park's problems.

"I hope members of the public read this and think, 'Someone like me could volunteer to help scientists get the kind of data that might lend itself to concrete, protective actions,'" Barrows said.

Lynn C. Sweet, Tyler Green, James G. C. Heintz, Neil Frakes, Nicolas Graver, Jeff S. Rangitsch, Jane E. Rodgers, Scott Heacox, Cameron W. Barrows. Congruence between future distribution models and empirical data for an iconic species at Joshua Tree National Park. Ecosphere, 2019; 10 (6): e02763 DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.2763

Joshua Tree National Park, California (stock image). Credit: © Doug / Adobe Stock

200 Times Faster Than Ever Before: The Speediest Quantum Operation Yet

July 17, 2019: University of New South Wales
A group of scientists led by 2018 Australian of the Year Professor Michelle Simmons have achieved the first two-qubit gate between atom qubits in silicon -- a major milestone on the team's quest to build an atom-scale quantum computer. The pivotal piece of research was published today in the journal Nature.

A two-qubit gate is the central building block of any quantum computer -- and the UNSW team's version of it is the fastest that's ever been demonstrated in silicon, completing an operation in 0.8 nanoseconds, which is ~200 times faster than other existing spin-based two-qubit gates.

In the Simmons' group approach, a two-qubit gate is an operation between two electron spins -- comparable to the role that classical logic gates play in conventional electronics. For the first time, the team was able to build a two-qubit gate by placing two atom qubits closer together than ever before, and then -- in real-time -- controllably observing and measuring their spin states.

The team's unique approach to quantum computing requires not only the placement of individual atom qubits in silicon but all the associated circuitry to initialise, control and read-out the qubits at the nanoscale -- a concept that requires such exquisite precision it was long thought to be impossible. But with this major milestone, the team is now positioned to translate their technology into scalable processors.

Professor Simmons, Director of the Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology (CQC2T) and founder of Silicon Quantum Computing Pty Ltd., says the past decade of previous results perfectly set the team up to shift the boundaries of what's thought to be "humanly possible."

"Atom qubits hold the world record for the longest coherence times of a qubit in silicon with the highest fidelities," she says. "Using our unique fabrication technologies, we have already demonstrated the ability to read and initialise single electron spins on atom qubits in silicon with very high accuracy. We've also demonstrated that our atomic-scale circuitry has the lowest electrical noise of any system yet devised to connect to a semiconductor qubit.

"Optimising every aspect of the device design with atomic precision has now allowed us to build a really fast, highly accurate two-qubit gate, which is the fundamental building block of a scalable, silicon-based quantum computer.

"We've really shown that it is possible to control the world at the atomic scale -- and that the benefits of the approach are transformational, including the remarkable speed at which our system operates."

UNSW Science Dean, Professor Emma Johnston AO, says this key paper further shows just how ground-breaking Professor Simmons' research is.

"This was one of Michelle's team's final milestones to demonstrate that they can actually make a quantum computer using atom qubits. Their next major goal is building a 10-qubit quantum integrated circuit -- and we hope they reach that within 3-4 years."

Getting up and close with qubits -- engineering with a precision of just thousand-millionths of a metre

Using a scanning tunnelling microscope to precision-place and encapsulate phosphorus atoms in silicon, the team first had to work out the optimal distance between two qubits to enable the crucial operation.

"Our fabrication technique allows us to place the qubits exactly where we want them. This allows us to engineer our two-qubit gate to be as fast as possible," says study lead co-author Sam Gorman from CQC2T.

"Not only have we brought the qubits closer together since our last breakthrough, but we have learnt to control every aspect of the device design with sub-nanometer precision to maintain the high fidelities."

Observing and controlling qubit interactions in real-time

The team was then able to measure how the qubits states evolved in real-time. And, most excitingly, the researchers showed how to control the interaction strength between two electrons on the nano-second timescale.

"Importantly, we were able to bring the qubit's electrons closer or further apart, effectively turning on and off the interaction between them, a prerequisite for a quantum gate," says other lead co-author Yu He.

"The tight confinement of the qubit's electrons, unique to our approach, and the inherently low noise in our system enabled us to demonstrate the fastest two qubit gate in silicon to date."

"The quantum gate we demonstrated, the so-called SWAP gate, is also ideally suited to shuttle quantum information between qubits -- and, when combined with a single qubit gate, allows you to run any quantum algorithm."

A thing of physical impossibility? Not anymore

Professor Simmons says that this is the culmination of two decades' worth of work.

"This is a massive advance: to be able to control nature at its very smallest level so that we can create interactions between two atoms but also individually talk to each one without disturbing the other is incredible. A lot of people thought this would not be possible," she says.

"The promise has always been that if we could control the qubit world at this scale, they would be fast, and they sure are!"

What are qubits?

In Professor Michelle Simmons' approach, quantum bits (or qubits) are made from electrons hosted on phosphorus atoms in silicon. Creating qubits by precisely positioning and encapsulating individual phosphorus atoms within a silicon chip is a unique Australian approach that Professor Simmons' team has been leading globally. These types of qubits are a promising platform for large-scale quantum computers, thanks to their long-lasting stability.

The quantum potential: A working large-scale quantum computer has the potential to transform the information economy and create the industries of the future, solving in hours or minutes problems that would take conventional computers -- even supercomputers -- centuries, and tackling otherwise intractable problems that even supercomputers could not solve in a useful timeframe. Potential applications include machine learning, scheduling and logistical planning, financial analysis, stock market modelling, software and hardware verification, rapid drug design and testing, and early disease detection and prevention.

Y. He, S. K. Gorman, D. Keith, L. Kranz, J. G. Keizer, M. Y. Simmons. A two-qubit gate between phosphorus donor electrons in silicon. Nature, 2019; 571 (7765): 371 DOI: 10.1038/s41586-019-1381-2

From left to right: Professor Michelle Simmons, Dr. Sam Gorman, Postdoc Research Associate, Dr. Yu He, Postdoc Research Associate, Ludwik Kranz, PhD student, Dr. Joris Keizer, Senior Research Fellow, Daniel Keith, PhD student

Rate Of Drug-Induced Deaths On The Rise New Report Finds

July 15, 2019: NDARC
There were 1,795 drug-induced deaths among Australians in 2017, according to preliminary estimates released in a new report by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) at UNSW Sydney.

Analyses showed that most of these deaths were accidental. Opioids were the main drug cited in drug-induced deaths occurring in Australians in 2017 (1,171 deaths), with most of these deaths attributed to pharmaceutical opioids. The rate of deaths involving opioids has increased over the past decade. There have also been increasing rates of drug-induced deaths involving other medicines.

In 2017, there were 824 drug-induced deaths among Australians that involved benzodiazepines (e.g., diazepam), which are often prescribed for anxiety and sleep disorders, and 340 deaths that involved antipsychotics (e.g., quetiapine), which are typically prescribed for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

There were also increases in deaths involving pregabalin, a medicine with analgesic and anticonvulsant effects prescribed for certain pain conditions. Prior to 2015, less than 20 drug-induced deaths involving pregabalin were reported among Australians. This increased to 72 deaths in 2016 and 100 deaths in 2017. Most of these deaths were attributed to opioids, with pregabalin considered contributory to death.

Dr Amy Peacock, Program Lead for Drug Trends at NDARC, said that many of the deaths caused by opioids also involved other sedative medicines, such as benzodiazepines, antipsychotics and pregabalin. In 2017, pregabalin was the sixth most prescribed subsidised medicine in Australia.

“Increased prescribing of these medicines, as well as improved routine testing for substances such as pregabalin in drug-induced deaths, must be considered when studying trends involving these substances,” Dr Peacock said. “Drug-induced deaths are preventable. We know about the risks of mixing opioids with other drugs, including other sedative medicines such as pregabalin, benzodiazepines, and antipsychotics. We also have good evidence to support a range of strategies that can reduce risk of loss of life from drugs. Key amongst these is ensuring affordable, accessible treatment for all Australians who are experiencing problems as a consequence of drug use.

“We also need to ensure that people who are at risk of overdose – and their friends and families – have access to naloxone, a drug available over-the-counter in pharmacies that can be used to reverse opioid overdose.”

Melanie Walker, CEO of the Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL), echoed this call, stating that “It is very concerning to see a continuing trend of drug-related deaths involving opioids and other sedatives in Australia. We need to be proactive in implementing practical strategies to save lives and help people to protect themselves. This includes focusing on strategies that we know work, including expanding access to treatment and to naloxone.”

The report, Trends in Drug-Induced Deaths in Australia, 1997-2017, includes estimates of drug-induced deaths in Australia from 1997 to 2017; estimates for 2016 and 2017 are not final.

Key findings include:
  • Preliminary estimates indicate that there were 1,795 drug-induced deaths among Australians in 2017 (1,591 drug-induced deaths among Australians aged 15-64 years). The number of drug-induced deaths in 2017 is similar to the peak in deaths observed in the late 1990s.
  • The rate of drug-induced deaths has been increasing but has not reached the rate observed in 1999 (13.2 versus 9.8 deaths per 100,000 people aged 15-64 in 1999 versus 2017, respectively).
  • Consistent with previous years, most drug-induced deaths (72%) in 2017 among Australians aged 15-64 years were considered accidental; one in five (20%) were intentional (68% and 25% for Australians all ages, respectively).
  • Higher rates of drug-induced deaths were observed among males than females in 2017 (13.0 versus 6.7 deaths per 100,000 people aged 15-64; 9.4 versus 5.2 deaths per 100,000 all ages), consistent with previous years.
  • There has been a shift over time to higher rates of drug-induced deaths in older age groups among both males and females. In 2017, the highest rate of drug-induced deaths among females occurred among the 45-54 age group (10.5 deaths per 100,000 people) and among males in the 35-44 age group (20.9 deaths per 100,000 people).
  • Opioids are the main drug cited in drug-induced deaths occurring in Australians aged 15-64 (1,084 deaths, 6.7 deaths per 100,000 people; 1,171 deaths all-ages).
  • There are increasing rates of deaths involving other drugs in recent years. In particular, increasing drug-induced deaths involving psychotropic medicines (e.g., benzodiazepines, antipsychotics) and non-opioid medicines used for treatment of certain pain conditions (e.g., pregabalin) are of concern.
  • Natural and semi-synthetic opioids (e.g., morphine, oxycodone) have been the most commonly cited opioids in drug-induced deaths throughout monitoring. There have been particular increases in deaths involving heroin and synthetic opioids (e.g., fentanyl) over the past decade.
  • Deaths attributed to amphetamine (e.g., methamphetamine, MDMA) have increased since 2010 (93 deaths, 0.6 deaths per 100,000 people aged 15-64 in 2017; 94 deaths all-ages).
This work was supported by funding from the Australian Government under the Drug and Alcohol Program.

Green Light For A New Generation Of Dynamic Materials

July 15, 2019: Queensland University of Technology
Developing synthetic materials that are as dynamic as those found in nature, with reversibly changing properties and which could be used in manufacturing, recycling and other applications, is a strong focus for scientists.

In a world-first, researchers from Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Ghent University (UGent) and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have pioneered a novel, dynamic, reprogrammable material -- by using green LED light and, remarkably, darkness as the switches to change the material's polymer structure, and using only two inexpensive chemical compounds. One of these compounds, naphthalene, is well known as an ingredient in moth repellents.

The new dynamic material could potentially be used as a 3D printing ink to print temporary, easy-to-remove support scaffolds. This would overcome one of the current limitations of the 3D process to print free-hanging structures.

The research is part of an ongoing international collaboration between QUT macromolecular chemist and Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow Professor Christopher Barner-Kowollik, Dr Hannes Houck, who recently completed his PhD across QUT, UGent and KIT, UGent Professor Filip Du Prez, and KIT's Dr Eva Blasco.

Their findings have been published in the paper 'Light-Stabilized Dynamic Materials' in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS).

Key points:
  • The new material was formed with naphthalenes and the coupling molecules triazolinediones (TADs)
  • As long as green LED light shone on the material it remained stable and strong
  • Once the light was off and the material was kept in darkness, the chemical bonds of the network structure broke up and the material became soft and liquefied
  • The hard-to-soft process could be repeated with the flick of the switch, and the light could be dimmed to modulate the mechanical properties of the material
  • Follow on research is looking at other chemical combinations that can achieve the same result
Professor Barner-Kowollik, from QUT's Science and Engineering Faculty, said what makes the discovery unique is that light is used as the trigger to stabilise, rather than destroy, chemical bonds -- so the researchers have coined a new term, light-stabilised dynamic materials (LSDMs).

"We are hoping to introduce LSDMs as a whole new class of materials," said Dr Houck. "We debated whether to patent the new material, but decided not to wait and to publish the findings to advance knowledge and understanding of the processes involved."

The researchers said what they have achieved is the opposite of what is usually done in chemistry and "many people didn't think it could be done."

"Typically, you use different wavelengths of light or additional heat or harsh chemicals to break up the polymer molecule chains that form a network structure," they said.

"However, in this case, we used green LED light to stabilise the network. The trigger to break up the network, make it collapse and flow away is actually the mildest one of all: darkness. Switch the light back on and the material re-hardens and retains its strength and stability.

"This is what you call an out-of-equilibrium chemical system. The constant energy of the green light keeps the chemical system in this bonded form, pushing it out of its equilibrium. Take away the light, and the system goes back to its relaxed, lowest energy state."

Professor Barner-Kowollik said the researchers had already been contacted by 3D printing technology companies interested in application of the research.

3D printing is used in the aerospace and automotive industries to make intricate parts and detailed prototypes.

However, 3D printing complex designs with overhangs or bridges is difficult or off limits because the 3D process involves printing layer upon layer, and there is no direct support for layers in sharply angled structures.

"What you need to 3D print something like a bridge is a support scaffold, a second ink that provides that scaffold during printing of the design, but which you can later remove when it is no longer needed," he said.

"With a light-stabilised dynamic ink used as a scaffold you could 3D print under light, then switch the light off to let the scaffold ink flow away."

Professor Du Prez and Professor Barner-Kowollik said another potential application for LSDMs was as a cell biology study tool, with biologists using it as a cell surface support they could alter by light modulation without damaging the cells.

Hannes A. Houck, Eva Blasco, Filip E. Du Prez, Christopher Barner-Kowollik. Light-Stabilized Dynamic Materials. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2019; DOI: 10.1021/jacs.9b05092

Radiation In Parts Of Marshall Islands Is Higher Than Chernobyl

July 17, 2019: Columbia University
Radiation levels in some regions of the Marshall Islands in the central Pacific, where the United States conducted nuclear tests during the Cold War, are far higher than in areas affected by the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters, according to new research from Columbia University.

Three studies published July 15 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) by a Columbia research team, led by Emlyn Hughes and Malvin Ruderman from the Columbia Center for Nuclear Studies, showed that the concentration of nuclear isotopes on some of the islands was well above the legal exposure limit established in agreements between the U.S. and Republic of the Marshall Islands. The studies measured soil samples, ocean sediment and a variety of fruit.

Nearly 70 nuclear bombs the United States detonated between 1946 and 1958 left widespread contamination on the islands, a chain of atolls halfway between Australia and Hawaii. The largest nuclear detonation, "Castle Bravo," in 1954 at Bikini Atoll, was 1,000 times more powerful than either of the bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The Marshall Islands have experienced rapid growth since the 1960s. Most of the nation's residents live on two crowded islands and are unable to return to their home islands because of nuclear contamination. Nuclear fallout from the tests is most concentrated on the Bikini, Enewetak, Rongelap and Utirik atolls.

"Based upon our results, we conclude that to ensure safe relocation to Bikini and Rongelap Atolls, further environmental remediation... appears to be necessary to avoid potentially harmful exposure to radiation," wrote the study authors, who also include Ivana Nikolic Hughes, associate professor of chemistry at Columbia.

Emlyn W. Hughes, Monica Rouco Molina, Maveric K. I. L. Abella, Ivana Nikolić-Hughes, Malvin A. Ruderman. Radiation maps of ocean sediment from the Castle Bravo crater. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2019; 201903478 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1903478116

Global Commission Into Health Inequities Of Mental Illness Gives Blueprint For Change

July 17, 2019: Western Sydney University and UNSW 
Findings released today by a commission into health inequities experienced by people with mental illness lay bare their drastic physical health challenges, and recommend changes to health policy and treatment innovations to tackle what is regarded as a “human rights scandal”.

Today’s publication - The Lancet Psychiatry Commission: a blueprint for protecting physical health in people with mental illness- is the culmination of over 12 months of research conducted by a taskforce of more than 30 international experts, led by researchers from NICM Health Research Institute at Western Sydney University, The University of Manchester, UNSW Sydney, King’s College London and Orygen National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health.

The researchers’ ground-breaking report has four key aims, including establishing extent of physical health disparities in people with mental illness, highlighting key modifiable factors that drive poor health, presenting initiatives for health policy and clinical services to address these issues, and identifying promising areas for future research into novel solutions.

The Lancet Psychiatry Commission found a broad range of mental illnesses are associated with a lifelong burden of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease – which contributes towards a gap in life expectancy of around 20 years for people with mental illness. Key risk factors include higher rates of smoking, sleep disturbance, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, the side effects of many psychiatric medications, and a lack of access to adequate physical healthcare.

Recommendations include adopting an ‘early intervention’ approach towards protecting physical health from initial stages of illness, and the provision of multidisciplinary lifestyle treatments, targeting a range of health behaviours (such as physical activity and healthy eating). Alongside this, recommendations for better integration of physical and mental healthcare, and evidence-based use of both psychiatric and cardioprotective medications for people with mental illness, are also provided.

Disparities a "human rights scandal"

The chair of the commission, Dr Joseph Firth, senior research fellow at NICM Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University and honorary research fellow at The University of Manchester, said the study was an important step towards addressing the entrenched and profound physical health inequities experienced by people with mental illness.

“The disparities in physical health outcomes for people with mental illness are currently regarded as a human rights scandal,” Dr Firth said.

“Patients with serious mental illness are two to three times as likely to have obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases – which impact on quality of life and recovery, while contributing towards a 20-year gap in life expectancy currently experienced by this underserved population.

“These comorbidities begin to arise early on, and affect people with mental illness across the entire lifespan. Clearly, protecting the physical health of people with mental illness should be considered an international priority for reducing the personal, social and economic burden of these conditions.”

Lifestyle interventions essential

Lifestyle section lead of the commission and UNSW Sydney academic, Dr Simon Rosenbaum, said that lifestyle interventions to improve physical health must become a core component of mental healthcare, from the very initiation of treatment.

“Our commission found that although there is increasing attention towards the lifestyle risk factors in mental illness, there is still a widespread lack of implementation of evidence-based lifestyle interventions for these populations.

“We must take 'what works' from effective interventions for improving physical activity, diet and cardiovascular health in the general population and find innovative and cost-effective ways for making these interventions a standard part of care for those treated for mental illness."

Dr Brendon Stubbs, co-senior author of the commission and National Institute for Health Research Clinical Lecturer at King’s College London, said, “The high rates of preventable physical health conditions in people with mental illness has to stop. Through this commission we have set out ambitious goals to provide an opportunity and directions to help people with mental illness improve their physical health and not only add years to their life, but also add life to their years.”

NICM Health Research Institute’s Professor Jerome Sarris, a co-author in the commission, said that the large disparities in physical health experienced by people with mental illness is an ongoing and possibly worsening health issue in some areas and that urgent action was needed to protect this vulnerable population.

“The connection between physical and mental health is now more recognised than ever. Although this inequity is increasingly gaining attention, further investment, intervention and research are urgently required to address the premature mortality and lifelong burden of poor physical health associated with mental illness,” Professor Sarris said.

The commission also involved researchers from The University of Adelaide, University of York, The University of Queensland, and over a dozen other institutions, in addition to clinicians, and key stakeholders from a wide range of backgrounds and professional or personal experience in the topic.

The report and recommendations are available online today but will be launched formally at the 19th WPA World Congress of Psychiatry to be held in Lisbon, Portugal, in August.

Why Music Festivals Need A Cultural Change To Combat Sexual Violence

July 16, 2019: article by Diane Nazaroff, UNSW Media
Music festivals have unique settings that make them more conducive to sexual violence, says world-first research involving UNSW.

The Safety, Sexual Harassment and Assault at Australian Music Festivals report is the first Australian – and one of the only international studies – to investigate sexual violence at music festivals. The University of Melbourne and Western Sydney University contributed to the report.

“Music festivals have a unique combination of spatial, social and cultural features that make them more conducive to sexual violence,” UNSW Senior Lecturer in Criminology, Dr Phillip Wadds said.  “For one, many are made up of predominantly young people who we know are far more likely to experience sexual violence across greater society. They are also often in large sprawling spaces with large crowds, but limited surveillance, particularly at night, and these elements can combine to create opportunities for perpetrators. Layered into this are high levels of intoxication, a generally masculine culture of transgression and carnival that again can encourage (largely) men to engage in harassing or assaultive behaviour.”

The report comes as a NSW coronial inquest is looking at the drug-related deaths of six people at music festivals between December 2017 and January 2019.

The research involved a survey of 500 patrons of the 2017/18 Falls Festival, on-site observations, and interviews with victim-survivors of sexual violence at any Australian festival. The vast majority (61.5%) of survey participants said they usually felt safe at music festivals, but a strong majority also indicated that they believed physical violence (92.8%), sexual harassment (95.1%) and sexual assault (88.6%) occurred at music festivals.

 “While survey participants indicated that they would be extremely likely to report sexual assault (75.2%) and sexual harassment (62%), this did not reflect the actions of participants who had directly experienced these forms of violence,” Dr Wadds said. “Most participants did not report to police, security or festival staff. Those who did report typically recalled negative responses from authority figures, such as victim blaming, not taking the report seriously, and/or a failure to take appropriate action.”

The research found that almost all participants (99%) consumed alcohol at music festivals, with most at ‘high-risk’ levels. Just under half of the participants (47.8%) consumed drugs. This high-level consumption of alcohol and other drugs was reported by victim-survivors of sexual violence to be a key feature of their experiences, with many perpetrators using their own intoxication to excuse their behaviour. Victims intoxication was also cited as a reason why they didn’t report.

“Unfortunately, many of the victim-survivors we spoke to said they were often taken less seriously by friends, security or police if they were intoxicated when reporting an experience of sexual violence,” Dr Wadds said. “In fact, many didn’t report at all because they felt partially responsible for their own victimisation, or didn’t want to ‘get in trouble’ from a police force which takes a hard line against drugs at festivals.”

Participants highlighted the mosh-pit and other crowded spaces as some of the key sites where they had been groped or received unwanted sexual attention. Perpetrators of sexual violence were overwhelmingly men, victims were mainly women, and bystanders rarely intervened when sexual violence was occurring.

“It’s often really difficult to differentiate between consensual or non-consensual sexual interaction in settings where there are lots of people hooking up,” Dr Wadds said. “Places like the mosh pit also feature lots of incidental physical contact, and so that can often be used as an excuse when someone experiences unwanted sexual contact. People were generally wary of intervening in situations because they weren’t sure how their intervention might play out. There can be high costs if they get it wrong, so a lot of people said they would only intervene in the most obvious of cases.”

The research provides a series of recommendations to combat sexual violence at festival events. “Addressing sexual violence at festivals requires all parties to be part of the solution and so we have recommended a series of practical steps that festivals, service providers and patrons can take to try and address some of the issues that emerged from our research,” Dr Wadds said. “Firstly, festival organisers and promoters need to set really clear and consistent standards of behaviour for their events, and they need to back these up. If people sexually harass or assault others, patrons need to know that there will be serious consequences, and victims need to know that their reports will be taken seriously and dealt with, with appropriate sensitivity.”

Staff and security training in appropriate ways to deal with reports of sexual harassment and assault was also recommended, alongside improvements to levels of surveillance, signage, lighting and greater access to safe spaces and counselling services.

Dr Wadds said patrons also needed to actively be part of the solution. “At the end of the day, everyone working at and attending a festival needs to be part of producing an environment that is safer. We need to build an ethic of care into festivals and start to break down the more problematic aspects of culture that facilitate, excuse or actively promote sexual violence. A lot of this responsibility falls to men in the space, as the primary perpetrators of this violence.”

The researchers have recommended further nationwide research across a broader spectrum of festival types. “We are planning the next phase of this project now which will hopefully build a more complete national picture of the diverse experiences people are having at festivals and help us improve the evidence base on which good policy can be developed.”

For more on the findings and recommendations, read the report.

The Falls Festival in Byron Bay. Photo: Supplied.

Little Genes, Big Conservation: Scientists Study Genetic Rescue

July 17, 2019: The University of Montana
At first glance, there aren't many similarities between westslope cutthroat trout in Montana, wolves on Isle Royale National Park in Michigan and Australia's mountain pygmy possum, a mouse-sized alpine marsupial.

With all three, though, managers have attempted or explored the possibility of genetic rescue, a conservation approach that involves moving a small number of individual animals from one population to another to reduce genetic problems and decrease extinction risk.

Now, a new paper by University of Montana scientists examines the potential and uncertainties of attempting genetic rescue. The peer-reviewed paper, published this month in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, is a synthesis and summary of the state of genetic rescue. In this opinion piece, the authors focus on what is unknown about genetic rescue and where research could go in the future.

The authors define genetic rescue as a decrease in population extinction probability owning to gene flow, best measured as in increase in population growth.

"Inbreeding can cause genetic defects that lower survival," said Donovan Bell, paper co-author and a doctoral candidate in UM's W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation. "In small populations, every individual becomes closely related and the resulting genetic problems put these populations at a higher risk of extinction. With genetic rescue, introducing unrelated individuals from another population can alleviate these genetic problems."

"It allows natural selection to increase the amount of beneficial genetic material introduced by managers," said co-author Zak Robinson, also a doctoral candidate in the forestry college. "It increases individual survival and lifetime reproductive success, which can increase the population's size and health."

As human development increases, so does fragmentation, and animal populations are increasingly splintered into smaller, isolated populations, the authors say.

"Even if fragmentation was to stop today, there are already millions of populations that are limited to small habitats," Robinson said. "In order to address issues with small, fragmented populations and maintain biodiversity, we're going to have to find ways to mitigate the impacts of inbreeding and the genetic problems it brings."

That's where genetic rescue comes in.

"Habitat fragmentation is incredibly common, and it's a huge problem for conservation," Bell said. "There are a few research groups that are strongly advocating that we start implementing genetic rescue in a much more widespread manner to address issues with habitat fragmentation. We think that genetic rescue is very valuable, but there is a lot left to understand about genetic rescue."

In their paper, Bell, Robinson and their co-authors focus on what is still unknown about genetic rescue and areas where future research could prove beneficial. Some of those big questions include: how long the effects of genetic rescue will last; under what conditions potential negative consequences could occur, including genetic swamping (the loss of unique local adaptations), and out breeding depression (reduced fitness of offspring with evolutionarily divergent parents); how populations and individuals should be selected for genetic rescue attempts; and how advances in genomics -- the study of genomes -- fits into the whole picture.

The authors also draw attention to the relationships between genetic rescue and boots-on-the-ground conservation efforts -- a pairing emphasised by successful genetic rescue stories like the Florida panther or Australia's mountain pygmy possum.

"Genetic rescue is unlikely to be a conservation silver bullet on its own, but instead needs to be attempted as part of a broader conservation strategy that includes habitat improvements," Bell said.

"Genetics and ecology are fundamentally intertwined," Robinson said. "There's a complex relationship between the genetic composition of a population and extinction. We need to understand this better in order to mitigate the part of extinction risk that's associated with the genetic composition of a population."

The synthesis closely ties to Bell and Robinson's ongoing research efforts. As part of their wildlife biology doctoral programs, each is running a genetic rescue experiment testing the conservation approach on wild fish populations.

In partnership with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and with funding from the National Science Foundation, Bell is studying westslope cutthroat trout in Montana -- Big Sky Country's state fish and currently listed as at-risk in Montana. On the east side of the Continental Divide, most of the populations that haven't hybridized with rainbow trout are isolated in small headwater streams, and there are concerns that these populations could suffer from genetic problems, Bell said.

Robinson's project, also funded by NSF, encompasses similar research on Eastern brook trout in his home state of Virginia, research he originally embarked on as an undergraduate student.

They hope these projects will help answer some of the questions they acknowledge in their latest paper.

"These are tests. We want to see how it works and see if it's ready for popular consumption for the state agencies managing isolated trout populations," Robinson said. "What we want to do is understand genetic rescue well enough so that managers can prioritize their activities and weigh it against other competing strategies on a limited budget."

"Attempting genetic rescue is a really promising conservation strategy, but there are still uncertainties we need to address in order to make it as useful as possible for conservation and also to increase confidence in using the strategy," Bell said. "It's actually implemented very rarely right now."

Other co-authors include UM professors Fred Allendorf and Andrew Whiteley, and UM alumni Chris Funk and David Tallmon. Co-authors also include researchers from Colorado State University and Michigan State University.

Donovan A. Bell, Zachary L. Robinson, W. Chris Funk, Sarah W. Fitzpatrick, Fred W. Allendorf, David A. Tallmon, Andrew R. Whiteley. The Exciting Potential and Remaining Uncertainties of Genetic Rescue. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 2019; DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2019.06.006

Seasons Change Could Signal More Meningococcal

July 18, 2019: NSW Health
NSW Health is urging people to be alert to lesser known signs of meningococcal disease with 21 cases already reported this year and the peak period for the disease still more than a month away.

NSW Health’s Director of Communicable Diseases, Dr Vicky Sheppeard, said cases normally start to increase towards the end of flu season when people’s immune systems are weaker from viruses.

“Meningococcal disease is a rare but serious bacterial infection that can cause death within hours and it’s hard to identify, so the more symptoms people know about, the better,” said Dr Sheppeard.

“Often it can mimic other common illnesses, so be aware nearer spring that nausea symptoms, vomiting, neck stiffness, joint pain, light sensitivity, or a sudden fever, could be something else.

“Most people normally associate meningococcal disease with a rash of red-purple spots or bruises but in some cases a rash doesn’t appear, or it could be the last symptom to take shape.”

Meningococcal infection does not spread easily. It is spread by secretions from the nose and throat of a person who is carrying the bacteria. Close and prolonged contact is needed to pass it on.

“It more commonly occurs in people aged between 15-24 years as they tend to be involved in more intimate social activities such as kissing, and children aged under 5 years, but it can affect anyone,” said Dr Sheppeard.

Vaccination is the best means of protection against meningococcal disease. Vaccination for meningococcal disease types A, C, W and Y, is available on the National Immunisation Program for infants at 12 months of age and adolescents in Year 10.

Any adolescents aged 15 to 19 years who miss the vaccine in school are eligible for a free vaccine from their GP. However, as there are several strains of meningococcal disease, and vaccination does not cover all strains, even vaccinated people need to be on the lookout for symptoms.

The latest Annual Immunisation Report shows vaccination rates in NSW are at their highest level ever, with close to 95 per cent of five year olds fully vaccinated.

The NSW Government will invest around $130 million in the 2019-20 Immunisation Program Budget, including Commonwealth and State vaccines.
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.