Inbox and Environment News: Issue 419

September 1 - 7, 2019: Issue 419

Shark Drumlines Going In Off Our Beaches 

Another 3 month trial of SMART drumlines will be carried out across northern Sydney beaches from 30 August – 1 December 2019.
This trial will repeat the previous trial carried out at the start of 2019.

SMART drumlines were placed across two areas near existing shark nets to compare how this new technology performs at:
Barrenjoey to Newport beaches at Palm, Whale, Avalon, Bilgola and Newport; and
Dee Why to Manly beaches at Dee Why, Curl Curl, Freshwater, Queenscliff and Manly.

For more information on the trial, read the Barrenjoey to Newport fact sheet (PDF, 13889.89 KB) and the Dee Why to Manly fact sheet(PDF, 13084.33 KB).

The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) is trialling 10 SMART (Shark-Management-Alert-InReal-Time) drumlines across Sydney beaches from 30 August - 1 December 2019.

Each day, 10 SMART drumlines will be set in the morning and collected in the evening (weather dependent) across Each day, 10 SMART drumlines will be set in the morning and collected in the evening (weather dependent) across Palm, Whale, Avalon, Bilgola and
Newport beaches, as well as Dee Why, Curl Curl, Freshwater, Queenscliff and Manly beaches, located near existing shark nets to compare how this new technology performs. They are not left out overnight.

SMART drumlines are new technology that allow target sharks to be intercepted beyond the surf break; once caught, they are tagged and relocated 1km offshore.

‘Target sharks’ are White, Bull and Tiger sharks as they are the species mainly involved in shark bites in NSW.
Currently, DPI is successfully trialling 35 SMART drumlines between Evans Head and Lennox Head and has completed trials at Coffs Harbour, Forster, Kiama, and Ulladulla.

Trials in NSW have shown that SMART drumlines are effective at managing target sharks with minimal impact on the marine environment. Reports from other trials can be found on our website at

DPI manages the NSW Government’s five-year Shark Management Strategy. SMART drumlines are one of the new technologies that are being trialled for shark management along with drones and helicopters for aerial surveillance.

This is the first time SMART drumlines will be trialled in Sydney and will complement the NSW Government’s Shark Meshing (nets) Program. Sharks tagged in the trial will allow DPI and the community to monitor shark movements along the NSW coast.

The locations of the SMART drumlines and nets are shown in the maps below:

Northern Beaches Clean Up Crew Mona Vale Beach Clean Nets Buckets Of Rubbish

On Sunday August 25th, 2019 
The biggest haul today were the cigarette butts. The Crew picked up 2134 cigarette butts today on Mona Vale Beach. One cigarette in water for about 96 hours leaches out enough toxins to kill half of the fish exposed to them. And just one butt can poison 40 liters of water. How many fish did The Crew help today? 

The Northern Beaches Clean Up Crew meets the last Sunday of every month at 10am to clean up one area/beach on the Northern Beaches in Sydney. We have buckets and gloves (and a limited amount of kids gloves too). 

An event with exact location for the month will be posted in our Facebook events tab about two weeks before the clean up. 
The next will be a Clontarf Clean Up on Sunday, September 29, 2019 at 10 AM – 12:30 PM
Meet at Clontarf Reserve, Sandy Bay Rd
All welcome - bring your friends. Do a good deed for the planet and make some new friends at the same time!

Photo: Mona Vale Beach Clean, August 2019 - NBCUC Photo

Climate Change And Our Community Public Meeting

Hosted by One Eighty, Stop Adani Avalon, and Stop Adani Mackellar
Monday, September 16, 2019 at 7 PM – 9 PM
Avalon Beach Bowling & Recreation Club
Bowling Green Ln, Avalon
Earlier this year, the City of Sydney declared a climate emergency, followed by North Sydney Council declaring the same. 
Australia's current undertaking to reduce the impacts of global warming are predicted to increase global temperatures by 2–3°C, well above the 1.5°C Paris Agreement commitment to which Australia is party. The Bureau of Meteorology has noted  significantly higher temperatures than usual this winter, with rainfall well below average. Climate change has never felt more real. An intangible concept is becoming increasingly palpable. 

We are inviting all people—young and old, climate friends and foes—to join us for a conversation on September 16 about climate action.

We will have speakers from the Global Climate Strike and climate change advocacy groups, information about the School Strike and #StopAdani and will screen segments of Sir David Attenborough's 'Climate Change: The Facts' documentary.
A finalised agenda will be announced closer to the date.

Come and be informed. We all need to participate in the preservation of our one and only habitable planet!
Please invite as many friends and family as you wish.

Register your free attendance with the Eventbrite link.

Spring Fair

Hosted by Stony Range Regional Botanic Garden and Australian Plants Society Northern Beaches Group
Sunday, September 8, 2019 at 9 AM – 5 PM
Stony Range Regional Botanic Garden
810 Pittwater Road, Dee Why 2099

This year the theme is 'Back to the Bush' 
Enjoy native plant sales and advice plus displays, children's activities, live native animals, walks, music, sculptures, photography displays, BBQ  and coffee shop.

Come to Stony Range on Sunday 8th September from 9am – 3pm for our ‘Back to the Bush’ Spring Festival.
  • Enjoy the sounds of the didgeridoo in the bush and learn a little about our aboriginal heritage.
  • Children can make fantastic creatures from bush materials, have their face painted, win a  prize in the quiz.
  • See live native animals and enjoy a display of frogs and tadpoles.
  • Plenty of native plants for sale as well as advice from members of the Australian Plants Society.
  • Bush food tasting and an opportunity to ‘Grow your Own’ indoor native plant.
  • Learn all about native bees and how to rescue injured wildlife.
  • Take a nature walk or sit by the stage and enjoy the music.
  • Wander the Sensory Track to find some sculptures or visit the Corkery Pavilion for the photographic display.
  • Visit the coffee shop for cake and brewed coffee.
  • And of course no day would be complete without a sausage sandwich for lunch from our volunteers!

Aussie Bread Tags Collection Points

Collecting bread tags enables us to provide wheelchairs that change the life of disabled people in need, as well as keeping the tags out of landfill to help to preserve the environment. 

Bread Tags for Wheelchairs was started in South Africa in 2006 by Mary Honeybun. It is a community program where individuals and organisations collect bread tags, which are sold to recyclers. The money raised pays for wheelchairs for the less fortunate which are purchased through a local pharmacy. Currently about 500kg of bread tags are collected a month in South Africa, funding 2-3 wheelchairs.

We have been collecting bread tags nationally in Australia since September 2018 and now have more than 100 collection points across the country. In February 2019 we started local recycling through Transmutation - Reduce, Reuse and Recycle in Robe, SA, where our tags are recycled into products such as door knobs and bowls. Tags from some states are still sent to South Africa where a plastics company called Zibo recycles them into seedling trays.

These humble bits of polystyrene can make a real difference so get your friends, family, school, workplace and church involved. Ask school tuck shops and boarding school kitchens, child care centres, aged care facilities, hospitals, cafes and fast food outlets to collect for you - they get through a lot of bread!

All the information and signage for collecting or setting up a public collection point is on our website.

Local Collectors
Lesley Flood
Please email for address -
Jodie Streckeisen
Please email for the address -

Muogamarra Nature Reserve Open Season

Muogamarra Nature Reserve is open for just 6 weekends, from Saturday 10 August to Sunday 15 September 2019. Located just north of Sydney, it's perfect for a weekend day trip.

Visit this paradise of rare native wildflowers. Enjoy expansive views of Bar, Milson and Spectacle islands, Berowra Creek and the Hawkesbury River. Join a guided walk to Peats Bight, Bird Gully, Lloyd Trig and Deerubbin, or take an Aboriginal cultural tour. 

Remember to book online before you arrive. You can also do self-guided walks in this gorgeous reserve.

Mona Vale Garden Club's 48th Spring Flower Show

Saturday, 28 September 2019 - 10:00am to 3:00pm
Wonderful display of flowers, potted plants, vegetables, herbs and floral art. Plants, white elephant goods and cakes for sale. Raffles. Refreshments available.
Gold coin entry; $2.00 - children no charge
Ted Blackwood Hall
Cnr Jacksons & Boondah Roads

SeaWeek: Celebrating The Sea

SeaWeek is Australia’s annual celebration of the sea. Since 1988, SeaWeek has encouraged community awareness and appreciation for marine and coastal environments. Each year is a different theme, providing educators with specific messages and avenues through which to engage people in learning about and enjoying the ocean.

In 2019, SeaWeek will be celebrated from 2 to 8 September and this year’s theme is Ocean Literacy Principle 4: The ocean made Earth habitable.

The concept of Ocean Literacy originally began to develop in the US in 2002. At its core, Ocean Literacy ‘curriculum’ which provides educators a scaffold through which to teach the key messages (principles) needed for people and oceans to co-exist. A great deal of work has gone into creating this framework which provides educators with a scope and sequence for K-12 for each of the seven principles of Ocean Literacy.

The ocean made Earth habitable
The SeaWeek theme of OL4: The ocean made Earth habitable, has three key messages, outlined below. There are lists of topics and sub-topics for all ages on the Ocean Literacy website and adaptations of these to the Australian Curriculum.
  1. Most of the oxygen in the atmosphere originally came from the activities of photosynthetic organisms in the ocean. This accumulation of oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere was necessary for life to develop and be sustained on land.
  2. The first life is thought to have started in the ocean. The earliest evidence of life is found in the ocean.
  3. The ocean provided and continues to provide water, oxygen and nutrients, and moderates the climate needed for life to exist on Earth
AAEE hopes that SeaWeek will enable all our members to incorporate the ocean (and OL4) into education programs this September from the 2nd to 8th.

Get involved
The SeaWeek web page provides information on events and activities planned for the week. We can also use the website and social media networks to help promote events you may be coordinating.

About SeaWeek
Australia is a marine nation. We have one of the largest ocean territories in the world, and it drives our climate and weather, generates employment, provides food and resources, and offers lifestyle and recreational opportunities (source CSIRO).

Between 1988 and 2014, 'SeaWeek' was the Marine Education Society of Australasia's (MESA) major national public awareness campaign. With the recent closing of MESA, the co-ordination of the newly named SeaWeek has been passed over to AAEE ME - the Marine Educators Special Interest Group under the Australian Association for Environmental Education.

Water Restrictions To Start Across The Lower Hunter

August 29, 2019
Level 1 water restrictions will start across the Lower Hunter NSW on the 16 September 2019. The water restrictions will be introduced to the Lower Hunter for the first time in 25 years in response to the worst drought on record for NSW.

The water restrictions will apply to all properties connected to Hunter Water’s water supply network. Areas include Cessnock, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Newcastle, Port Stephens, Dungog and parts of Singleton.

Under the Level 1 water restrictions, households and businesses are not allowed to:
  • use sprinklers at any time
  • leave hoses or taps running unattended
  • use a hose for general cleaning of hard surfaces such as paths, driveways and paved areas
  • wash vehicles, boats and buildings using a hose without a trigger nozzle
  • top up an existing pool without using a hose fitted with a trigger nozzle or device that can be turned off instantly
  • leave an unattended hose running in a pool
  • fill a new or renovated pool or spa over 10,000 litres capacity unless you have a permit and an approved pool cover.
Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey said the Level 1 water restrictions will form an important part of Hunter Water’s drought response to help reduce demand on the water supply.

“The restrictions will focus on reducing outdoor water use, which accounts for about 20 per cent of the Lower Hunter’s total drinking water consumption,” Mrs Pavey said.

Level 1 water restrictions will remain in place until storages have fully recovered.

Mangoola Madness: Hunter Coal Mine Extension Must Be Rejected To Save Community

August 27, 2019
A Hunter Valley community’s struggle with the impact of nearby coal mining operations will worsen if multinational Glencore is allowed to extend the life of one of its projects and defer crucial transition planning.

The Mangoola coal mine is proposing to expand its operation closer to the village of Wybong and inflict considerable further damage to the rural community for just five additional years of mining, which local landholders say will have irreversible consequences for their community. 

Wybong landholder Margot White said, “Young people in our district are saying they can’t wait to leave our district to get away from the mine. We want Wybong to have a future and that is not possible if this mine gets bigger. 

“People in Wybong are hostages in their own homes because of government policy that says the Mangoola mine can operate 24 hours a day and create noise and dust pollution and we just have to put up with it. It has depopulated our district and left people stranded, unable to sell, driven mad by noise and sick from coal dust.” 

“The Government hasn’t addressed the problems this mine has already caused. It’s just not acceptable for the mine to grow larger. I feel ashamed when I think about the terrible legacy we’re leaving for the young people."

The project’s social impact assessment describes how “once vibrant social events and celebrations e.g. Christmas and New Year, dances and group meetings, that used to occur in the Wybong Hall are now less frequent as a result of a dwindling population base” and describes the distress of people in the Wybong community.

Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods said the Mangoola operation should not be granted approval to grow larger. 

“The noise and dust from the mine has depopulated the district and those people that remain suffer physically and emotionally as a result,” Ms Woods said.

Ms Woods said there also appeared to be no plan to help the region’s economy when mining inevitably ended.

“The approvals for the seven closest mines to Muswellbrook, including Mangoola, are all slated to come to an end within the next eleven years. The intervening years are the time that Glencore should be preparing its own workforce for this change, as well as the broader Muswellbrook economy it admits is tightly intertwined with this mine and several other mines it owns. 

“The mine’s social impact assessment shows that community members have told Glencore about their ‘desire for greater economic diversification, through the development and attraction of other industry and business sectors ... and the need to address land use conflicts and cumulative impacts.’ Expanding the mine will only worsen Muswellbrook’s dependence on coal and intensify those impacts and conflicts.”

“Lock the Gate urges the NSW Government to reject this extension and put in place a real plan to assist impacted communities diversify to a post mining future.”

Burdening The Future: IPC Approves United Wambo In The Hunter Despite Air Pollution And Greenhouse Gases

August 29, 2019
Residents of the Hunter are disappointed the Independent Planning Commission has granted approval to a new open cut coal mine in the Hunter Valley despite air pollution in the Singleton area already breaching national standards.

The IPC today granted approval to the contentious United Wambo coal mine expansion project, thereby worsening air quality in the Hunter and adding to global greenhouse emissions. 

“This mine will increase harmful levels of particle pollution in the Hunter, which already regularly exceeds national air pollution guidelines,” said Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods.

“This mine is right in the central part of the Valley that is most badly affected by air pollution. Singleton residents will suffer as a result of this expansion." 

With today’s decision, the IPC has for the first time imposed a condition that requires the mine owners - Glencore and Peabody Energy - to ensure the coal is only being exported to countries that are party to the Paris Climate Agreement, or are taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

Ms Woods said this was limited in its effectiveness, given the mine would still lead to nearly 260 million tonnes of additional greenhouse pollution in the atmosphere, which would have a direct impact on global warming.

“With the approval of United Wambo, the Planning Commission is burdening the future. It will add to the air pollution burden in the Hunter region and contribute hundreds of millions of tonnes of additional greenhouse pollution to the atmosphere,” she said.

Ms Woods said the Scope 3 condition could be varied by the Secretary of the Department of Planning, who wrote to the Commission last week opposing the measure. 

“The Commission came under a huge amount of pressure from the Department of Planning, the Deputy Premier, and the mining industry not to address this important issue in its decision over this coal mine," she said.

“Frankly, we don’t have confidence in the Department of Planning’s priorities when it comes to minimising greenhouse gas emissions from exported Hunter coal,” Ms Woods said.

“The Department has shown itself incapable of maturely dealing with this issue and piled pressure on the Commission to stop it from creating this modest requirement to address it.”

Ms Woods said the approval of United Wambo turned the spotlight back on the imminent decision on the proposed Bylong coal mine and called for the IPC to find the courage to knock it back because the impacts were so severe.  

“Unlike United Wambo, the Bylong mine proposal is a greenfield mine - the first ever mine proposed in the magnificent Bylong Valley,” she said.

“The community needs to see the Commission step up and reject the mines that will do the most damage to agricultural soils and water, like Bylong."

Murray Crayfish Season Closes In Southern-NSW

August 27, 2019
All NSW waters will be closed to fishing for Murray crayfish from this Sunday, 1 September, as the annual Southern NSW season comes to a close.

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Fisheries Manager Cameron Westaway said it is time to give the iconic Murray Crayfish a rest, following a three month season along the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers.

“The Murray Crayfish fishery in NSW is closed all year as they are a vulnerable species, except in specified waters of the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers during June, July and August,” Mr Westaway said.

“An open season acknowledges the community’s desire for the fishery to continue, while also providing protection at other times when crayfish are normally inactive under natural conditions.

“The open season will officially close Sunday, September 1, so anglers must not take any Murray Crayfish from NSW waters at all.

“In addition, the taking of berried females and the removal of heads, tails or claws of Murray Crayfish, in, on or adjacent to waters, is prohibited. They must be returned to the water immediately without harm.”

Information on freshwater fishing rules can be found in the NSW Recreational Freshwater Fishing Guide from DPI Fisheries offices, at fishing licence agents and bait and tackle shops, and online at

“Fishing laws are designed to protect, conserve and share our fisheries resources for all legitimate users and our future generations,” Mr Westaway said.

People can report suspected illegal fishing to the Fishers Watch Phoneline on 1800 043 536 or report via the FishSmart app.

Murray Cod Season Closes This Weekend

August 28, 2019
The Murray Cod season will come to a close this weekend, but anglers will still be able to throw a line in for their favourite fish at specified locations which remain open all year round.

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Senior Fisheries Manager – Inland, Cameron Westaway, said the Murray Cod season will close on Sunday, 1 September to protect the iconic sportsfish species during its annual breeding season.

“The closed season for Murray Cod is between September and November to ensure natural recruitment and to protect this important species during its breeding season,” Mr Westaway said.

“Murray Cod are a prized catch in the Murray-Darling system. They’re Australia’s largest freshwater fish, growing up to 1.8 metres in length and weighing more than 100 kilograms.

“While most waterways will be closed for fishing Murray Cod, Blowering Dam in Southern NSW, as well as Copeton Dam in northern NSW are open for Murray Cod fishing year round.

“There is very little natural fish recruitment of Murray Cod in Blowering and Copeton Dams, which rely on stocked fish to sustain the fishery.

“The decision to allow cod fishing to continue in these dams means an increased economic and social benefit to these communities, which derive income from fishing-related expenditure.”

NSW fishing regulations for Murray Cod remain at Blowering and Copeton Dams, with the bag limit being two fish per person, and a size limit between 55cm and 75cm.

“It’s important that anglers respect the cod closure and all recreational fishing limits to ensure sustainable stocks of all fish species,” Mr Westaway said.

“NSW recreational freshwater fishing laws are designed to protect, conserve and improve our fisheries resources for future generations.”

More information can be found on the NSW DPI website.

Fishers Gear Up For Australian Bass And Estuary Perch Season

August 28, 2019
NSW anglers can cast a line for Australian Bass and Estuary Perch in NSW waters from this Sunday, as the annual three-month closed season concludes.

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Senior Fisheries Manager Inland, Cameron Westaway said the closure period is important to protect the native species.

“The native sportsfish have now completed their annual spawning and migration, which occurs each year over late autumn and early winter,” Mr Westaway said.

“A zero bag limit is in place between 1 June and 1 September to allow the fish to form schools and migrate to parts of estuaries with the correct salinity, to trigger spawning.

“From Sunday, September 1, anglers can take both Australian Bass and Estuary Perch, however they are reminded that strict bag limits do apply.”

The total bag limit is two Australian Bass or Estuary Perch per person, with a combined total possession limit of four fish per person.

“When fishing in rivers, only one fish is permitted to be over 35 centimetres in length,” Mr Westaway added.

“The department enforces the three-month closure annually as during their spawning season, the schools of fish can be vulnerable to fishing.

“Now, in spring, most fish will return to their warmer weather feeding grounds higher up in the catchment.”

Information on freshwater fishing rules can be found in the NSW Recreational Freshwater Fishing Guide from DPI Fisheries offices, at fishing licence agents and bait and tackle shops, and online at

Fishing laws are designed to protect, conserve and improve our fisheries resources for our future generations.

People can report suspected illegal fishing to the Fishers Watch Phoneline on 1800 043 536.

Combating Horror Summer Of Fish Kills 

Wednesday, 28 August 2019: Adam Marshall, Minister for Agriculture, Minister for Western NSW
The NSW Government will take bold and unprecedented action to combat the looming threat of more fish kills this summer, with the creation of a modern day ‘Noah’s Ark’ to save the State’s native fish species from ecological disaster.

Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall announced the $10 million plan today in Narrandera and said that unless there was significant rainfall in the next month, the State would almost certainly be in for a horror summer of fish kills.

“I’m not going to mince words – the situation we are facing this summer is nothing short of a potential fish Armageddon,” Mr Marshall said.

“We’re in the midst of the worst drought on record, with record low rainfall, record low inflows into our river systems and high temperatures predicted over the coming months.

“We’re facing a perfect storm, which could result in wide-scale fish kill events this summer that are even more significant than those we saw in Menindee earlier this year.”

In response, Mr Marshall said the NSW Government would immediately embark on the largest-ever fish rescue and restocking program to protect native fish species. This includes:
  • An unprecedented breeding program, utilising government and private hatcheries, to ensure the long-term sustainability of the iconic Murray Cod and other native species, such as Trout Cod and Golden Perch;
  • Artificial aeration, oxygenation and chemical treatments to support water quality and fish survival across river systems;
  • Extra dedicated fish teams to conduct rescue operations during fish kill events ;
  • A $4 million expansion of the Department of Primary Industries’ flagship Fisheries Hatchery and Research Centre in Narrandera, as well as other facilities, which will house many of the rescued fish; and
  • The State’s largest restocking program in history of rescued and bred native fish once normal water conditions return.
“This unprecedented response is proportionate to the disaster we’re facing. We’ll create a virtual ‘Noah’s Ark’ for native fish species through the largest breeding and restocking effort to save native fish species,” Mr Marshall said.

“This is a $10 million package to get on the front foot and do as much as government can possibly do to address this significant threat.
“For the first time ever, we’ll be partnering with recreational fishing clubs and private hatcheries across the State to tackle this looming problem head on.

“There’ll be more severe fish kill events this summer and we know there’s not a lot we can do to prevent it, but this new program – the largest in the State’s history – will see every effort made to save and protect our native fish species and replenish stocks in our rivers and waterways when conditions improve.

“Together, we’ll ensure the survival of our fish species up and down our State’s river systems, no matter how severe this summer is.”

Laser Printing Tech Produces Waterproof E-Textiles In Minutes

August 27, 2019: RMIT University
The next generation of waterproof smart fabrics will be laser printed and made in minutes. That's the future imagined by the researchers behind new e-textile technology.

Scientists from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, have developed a cost-efficient and scaleable method for rapidly fabricating textiles that are embedded with energy storage devices.

In just three minutes, the method can produce a 10x10cm smart textile patch that's waterproof, stretchable and readily integrated with energy harvesting technologies.

The technology enables graphene supercapacitors -- powerful and long-lasting energy storage devices that are easily combined with solar or other sources of power -- to be laser printed directly onto textiles.

In a proof-of-concept, the researchers connected the supercapacitor with a solar cell, delivering an efficient, washable and self-powering smart fabric that overcomes the key drawbacks of existing e-textile energy storage technologies.

The growing smart fabrics industry has diverse applications in wearable devices for the consumer, health care and defence sectors -- from monitoring vital signs of patients, to tracking the location and health status of soldiers in the field, and monitoring pilots or drivers for fatigue.

Dr Litty Thekkakara, a researcher in RMIT's School of Science, said smart textiles with built-in sensing, wireless communication or health monitoring technology called for robust and reliable energy solutions.

"Current approaches to smart textile energy storage, like stitching batteries into garments or using e-fibres, can be cumbersome and heavy, and can also have capacity issues," Thekkakara said.

"These electronic components can also suffer short-circuits and mechanical failure when they come into contact with sweat or with moisture from the environment.

"Our graphene-based supercapacitor is not only fully washable, it can store the energy needed to power an intelligent garment -- and it can be made in minutes at large scale.

"By solving the energy storage-related challenges of e-textiles, we hope to power the next generation of wearable technology and intelligent clothing."

The research analysed the performance of the proof-of-concept smart textile across a range of mechanical, temperature and washability tests and found it remained stable and efficient.

RMIT Honorary Professor and Distinguished Professor at the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology, Min Gu, said the technology could enable real-time storage of renewable energies for e-textiles.

"It also opens the possibility for faster roll-to-roll fabrication, with the use of advanced laser printing based on multifocal fabrication and machine learning techniques," Gu said.

The researchers have applied for a patent for the new technology, which was developed with support from RMIT Seed Fund and Design Hub project grants.

Litty V. Thekkekara, Min Gu. Large-scale waterproof and stretchable textile-integrated laser- printed graphene energy storages. Scientific Reports, 2019; 9 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-48320-z

Extreme Mangrove Corals Found On The Great Barrier Reef

August 29, 2019: University of Technology Sydney
The first documented discovery of "extreme corals" in mangrove lagoons around Australia's Great Barrier Reef is yielding important information about how corals deal with environmental stress, scientists say. Thirty four species of coral were found to be regularly exposed to extreme low pH, low oxygen and highly variable temperature conditions making two mangrove lagoons on the Woody Isles and Howick Island potential "hot-spots" of coral resilience.

Although coral cover was typically low and somewhat patchy in the lagoon waters, DECRA Research Fellow Dr Emma Camp, from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) said the discovery was important because it "provides novel information on the mechanisms that support coral resilience to stressors such as climate change and pollution."

"This highlights the need to study environments that would usually be considered unfavourable to corals in order to understand how stress tolerance in corals works.

"There is a lot we don't know. For example are these extreme corals already at their limit, can they survive more stress, if we transplant them to more stable environments will they maintain their stress tolerance?," Dr Camp said.

Dr Camp is no stranger to searching for corals in unexpected places. Camp and colleagues were the first to recognise that the corals they found in the murky lagoon waters of New Caledonia could provide answers to help support coral reef survival in the face of unprecedented global coral reef bleaching events.

With the support of Wavelength Reef Charters and funding from Waitt Foundation/National Geographic the research team surveyed 250km of the northern GBR visiting eight lagoons located on five off-shore islands.

Analysis of coral samples showed that a combination of photosynthetic "strategy" (physiological plasticity) and microbial diversity supports coral survival. However with survival comes a trade-off -- the corals had reduced calcification rates, meaning they are growing more slowly than their reef counterparts.

Team Leader of the UTS Climate Change Cluster Future Reefs Research Group, Associate Professor David Suggett, said the study outcomes were important "as we look for innovative ways to support coral survival into the future."

"It's likely these mangrove lagoon corals have the best chance to persist into the future given that they are already conditioned to the complex interaction of warmer waters, ocean acidification and deoxygenation predicted for reefs under climate change" he said.

Having just discovered these "tough" examples of one of nature's most extraordinary symbiotic relationships the researchers say there is a need to help coral survival by giving enhanced protection to these special places on the Great Barrier Reef where corals persist into mangrove lagoons.

The researchers say that because these habitats carry previously unrecognised ecosystem service value for corals, spanning from acting as places of refuge to stress preconditioning, "this makes their protection even more important."

EF Camp, J Edmondson, A Doheny, J Rumney, AJ Grima, A Huete, DJ Suggett. Mangrove lagoons of the Great Barrier Reef support coral populations persisting under extreme environmental conditions. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 2019; DOI: 10.3354/meps13073

Using Artificial Intelligence To Track Birds' Dark-Of-Night Migrations

August 28, 2019: University of Massachusetts at Amherst
On many evenings during Spring and Autumn migration, tens of millions of birds take flight at sunset and pass over our heads, unseen in the night sky. Though these flights have been recorded for decades by the National Weather Services' network of constantly scanning weather radars, until recently these data have been mostly out of reach for bird researchers.

That's because the sheer magnitude of information and lack of tools to analyse it made only limited studies possible, says artificial intelligence (AI) researcher Dan Sheldon at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Ornithologists and ecologists with the time and expertise to analyse individual radar images could clearly see patterns that allowed them to discriminate precipitation from birds and study migration, he adds. But the massive amount of information -- over 200 million images and hundreds of terabytes of data -- significantly limited their ability to sample enough nights, over enough years and in enough locations to be useful in characterising, let alone tracking, seasonal, continent-wide migrations, he explains.

Clearly, a machine learning system was needed, Sheldon notes, "to remove the rain and keep the birds."

Now, with colleagues from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and others, senior authors Sheldon and Subhransu Maji and lead author Tsung-Yu Lin at UMass's College of Information and Computer Sciences unveil their new tool "MistNet." In Sheldon's words, it's the "latest and greatest in machine learning" to extract bird data from the radar record and to take advantage of the treasure trove of bird migration information in the decades-long radar data archives. The tool's name refers to the fine, almost invisible, "mist nets" that ornithologists use to capture migratory songbirds.

MistNet can "automate the processing of a massive data set that has measured bird migration over the continental U.S. for over two decades," Sheldon says. "This is a really important advance. Our results are excellent compared with humans working by hand. It allows us to go from limited 20th-century insights to 21st-century knowledge and conservation action." He and co-authors point out, "Deep learning has revolutionized the ability of computers to mimic humans in solving similar recognition tasks for images, video and audio."

For this work, supported in part by a National Science Foundation grant to Sheldon to design and test new mathematical approaches and algorithms for such applications, the team conducted a large-scale validation of MistNet and competing approaches using two evaluation data sets. Their new paper also presents several case studies to illustrate MistNet's strengths and flexibility. Details appear in the current issue of Methods in Ecology and Evolution.

MistNet is based on neural networks for images and includes several architecture components tailored to the unique characteristics of radar data, the authors point out. Radar ornithology is advancing rapidly and leading to significant discoveries about continent-scale patterns of bird movements, they add.

The team made maps of where and when migration occurred over the past 24 years and animated these to illustrate, for example, "the most intensive migration areas in the continental United States," Sheldon explains -- a corridor roughly along and just west of the Mississippi River. MistNet also allows researchers to estimate flying velocity and traffic rates of migrating birds.

MistNet, designed to address one of the "long-standing challenges in radar aero-ecology," the authors note, comes just in time to help scientists better use not only existing weather radar data, but the "explosion" of large new data sets generated by citizen science projects such as eBird, animal tracking devices and earth observation instruments, say Sheldon and colleagues.

"We hope MistNet will enable a range of science and conservation applications. For example, we see in many places that a large amount of migration is concentrated on a few nights of the season," Sheldon says. "Knowing this, maybe we could aid birds by turning off skyscraper lights on those nights." Another question the ornithologists are interested in is the historical timing, or phenology, of bird migration and whether it, and timely access to food, have shifted with climate change.

Tsung‐Yu Lin, Kevin Winner, Garrett Bernstein, Abhay Mittal, Adriaan M. Dokter, Kyle G. Horton, Cecilia Nilsson, Benjamin M. Van Doren, Andrew Farnsworth, Frank A. La Sorte, Subhransu Maji, Daniel Sheldon. MistNet Measuring historical bird migration in the US using archived weather radar data and convolutional neural networks. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 2019; DOI: 10.1111/2041-210X.13280

Crows Consciously Control Their Calls

August 27, 2019: PLOS
Crows can voluntarily control the release and onset of their calls, suggesting that songbird vocalizations are under cognitive control, according to a study published August 27 in the open-access journal PLOS Biology by Katharina Brecht of the University of Tübingen, and colleagues.

Songbirds are renowned for their acoustically elaborate songs; these show a degree of flexibility, potentially indicating that they are under conscious control. However, the observed variability in vocalisations might simply be driven by involuntary mechanisms, and need not be based on cognitive control. In the new study, Brecht and colleagues directly tested the idea that songbirds deliberately control their calls, in the sense that they can be emitted or inhibited at will, as opposed to being knee-jerk responses to food, mates, or predators.

The findings show that trained carrion crows (Corvus corone), songbirds of the corvid family, can exert control over their calls in a goal-directed manner. In a detection task, three male carrion crows rapidly learned to emit calls in response to a visual cue (coloured squares) with no inherent meaning ("go-trials"), and to withhold calls in response to another cue. Two of these crows were then trained on a task with the cue colours reversed, in addition to being rewarded for withholding vocalisations to yet another cue ("nogo-trials").

Vocalisations in response to the detection of the go-cue were precise timed and highly reliable in all three crows. The crows also quickly learned to withhold calls in nogo-trials, showing that vocalisations weren't produced by an anticipation of a food reward in correct trials. According to the authors, further work is needed to evaluate the neurobiological basis of such cognitive vocal control in birds.

"Our study shows that crows can be taught to control their vocalisations, just like primates can, and that their vocalisations are not just a reflexive response. This finding not only demonstrates once again the cognitive sophistication of the birds of the crow family. It also advances our understanding of the evolution of vocal control."

Katharina F. Brecht, Steffen R. Hage, Natalja Gavrilov, Andreas Nieder. Volitional control of vocalisations in corvid songbirds. PLOS Biology, 2019; 17 (8): e3000375 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3000375

In text photo: Australian raven - Distinguished from regular crows by its  throat feathers (hackles) which are longer than those of other species, the Australian Raven Corvus coronoides is the largest Australian member of the genus Corvus, ‘Raven’ from Latin, and one of three Australian species commonly known as crows. Crows appear to have evolved in Asia from the corvid stock, which had evolved in Australia. The latest evidence regarding the crow's evolution indicates descent within the Australasian family Corvidae. The Australian Raven was first described by Nicholas Aylward Vigors and Thomas Horsfield in 1827; its specific epithet coronoides "crow-shaped" is derived from the Greek corone/κορονη "crow" and eidos "shape" or "form". The two naturalists regarded the Australian Raven as very similar in appearance to the Carrion Crow (C. corone) of Europe. Although called a raven, its closest affinities lie with the other four species of Australian corvid, which include the Torresian Crow and Little Crow as well as the Forest Raven and Little Raven. It is called wugan and  wogan by the local Eora and Darug inhabitants of the Sydney basin.

Intelligent creatures who will not fly away from humans readily, the Australian Raven measures 46–53 cm in length with a 100 cm (40 in) wingspan and weighing around 650 g, the adult Australian Raven is an all black bird with black feet and beak and a white iris. The plumage is glossy with a blue-purple to blue-green sheen, greenish over the ear coverts. The territorial call of the Australian Raven is a slow, high ah-ah-aaaah with the last note drawn out. This call is used to communicate with other ravens nearby or across the valley as their song carries.

Barrenjoey Seal Colony Growing

Jools Farrell, local ORRCA member, reminds us that at present the Australian Fur Seal Colony at Barrenjoey is growing. In mid July there were 9 but there will be a lot more as we had up to 20 last year.

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.

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

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!

New Insights Into Retina's Genetic Code

August 26, 2019:  University of Melbourne
Australian scientists have led the development of the world's most detailed gene map of the human retina, providing new insights which will help future research to prevent and treat blindness.

The retina is the latest part of the human body and the first part of the eye to be mapped as part of the Human Cell Atlas Project -- a global project to create reference maps of all human cells to better understand, diagnose and treat disease.

It is also the first time an Australian group has contributed to the project.

The study, led by Dr Raymond Wong from the Centre for Eye Research Australia and University of Melbourne, Dr Samuel Lukowski from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland and Associate Professor Joseph Powell from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, is published in the European Molecular Biological Organisation (EMBO) Journal.

Dr Wong says the study provides unprecedented insights into the genetic signals of cells in the retina -- the thin layer of cells at the back of eye that sense light and send messages to the brain via the optic nerve to enable us to see.

The group examined the complex genetic sequences behind more than 20,000 individual cells to develop a profile of all major cell types in the retina and the genes they 'express' to function normally.

Cells mapped include photoreceptors which sense light and allow people to see, the retinal ganglion cells which transmit messages to the brain along the optic nerve and other cells which support the function and stability of the retina.

"By creating a genetic map of the human retina, we can understand the factors that enable cells to keep functioning and contribute to healthy vision,'' says Dr Wong.

"It can also help us understand the genetic signals that cause a cell to stop functioning, leading to vision loss and blindness.''

Associate Professor Powell says the retinal cell atlas will benefit researchers investigating Inherited Retinal Diseases, which occur when genetic 'mistakes' cause retinal cells to stop functioning, leading to vision loss and blindness.

"More than 200 genes are known to be associated with retinal diseases and having a detailed gene profile of individual retinal cell types, will help us study how those genes impact on different kinds of cells.

"This understanding is the first step to better identifying what causes disease and ultimately developing treatments.''

Dr Wong says the atlas will also help scientists conducting research in the emerging area of cell therapy -- which could replace faulty retinal cells with new ones developed from induced pluripotent stem cells in the lab.

"The retinal cell atlas will give scientists a clear benchmark to assess the quality of the cells derived from stem cells to determine whether they have the correct genetic code which will enable them to function.''

Dr Lukowski says the research offers 'extraordinary potential'.

"We can now build upon this atlas of healthy cells with those from other retinal diseases and across different stages of human development, which will provide the community with powerful tools for disease prediction," he says.

According to Associate Professor Powell, cutting-edge cellular genomics technology will transform our understanding of health and disease.

"Cellular genomics is allowing us to see the human body at a higher resolution than ever before. The insights that researchers worldwide can gain from this atlas present an entirely new way to approach treatment and prevent eye disease."

Samuel W Lukowski, Camden Y Lo, Alexei A Sharov, Quan Nguyen, Lyujie Fang, Sandy SC Hung, Ling Zhu, Ting Zhang, Ulrike Grünert, Tu Nguyen, Anne Senabouth, Jafar S Jabbari, Emily Welby, Jane C Sowden, Hayley S Waugh, Adrienne Mackey, Graeme Pollock, Trevor D Lamb, Peng‐Yuan Wang, Alex W Hewitt, Mark C Gillies, Joseph E Powell, Raymond CB Wong. A single‐cell transcriptome atlas of the adult human retina. The EMBO Journal, 2019; DOI: 10.15252/embj.2018100811

Gold Nanoparticles Shown To Be Safe And Effective Treatment For Prostate Cancer

August 27, 2019
Biocompatible gold nanoparticles designed to convert near-infrared light to heat have been shown to safely and effectively ablate low- to intermediate-grade tumors within the prostate, according to a study conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine and published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

This treatment could offer patients a targeted therapy option that would preserve critical structures within the prostate, thus avoiding side effects associated with whole-gland treatment such as prostatectomies.

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in men in the United States -- 11 percent of men will be diagnosed with the disease in their lifetime. Removal or other whole-gland treatment of the prostate carries risks of urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction. However, technological advances have provided clinicians with options for focal therapies with fewer complications.

In this study, researchers tested the effectiveness of AuroLase® Therapy, a treatment from medical device company Nanospectra Biosciences that is based on technology invented at Rice University by engineer and chemist Naomi Halas, PhD, and Duke University bioengineer Jennifer West, PhD. The Principal Investigator and lead author, Ardeshir Rastinehad, DO, Associate Professor of Urology, and Radiology, at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, invented the technique used in the clinical trial to target and treat the prostate cancer cells using a custom-built MR US fusion guided platform in collaboration with Philips Healthcare. AuroLase® uses gold-silica nanoshells (GSN), particles Dr. Halas invented that are composed of a silica core and a gold shell with a diameter of 150 nanometers. AuroShells® are designed to absorb energy from near-infrared light and convert it to heat, resulting in selective hyperthermic cell death, without affecting adjacent non-tumorous tissue. The treatment was effectively demonstrated in previous cell studies and animal models. Following treatment, the particles are cleared through the liver, while some remain sequestered in the liver and spleen. There are no known side effects.

Sixteen men aged 58 to 79 with low- to intermediate-grade prostate cancer (Gleason score of 4+3) received GSN infusion. All were diagnosed and treated at The Mount Sinai Hospital using a targeted biopsy technique called magnetic resonance-ultrasound fusion imaging, which uses MRI technology to extract a tissue sample directly from the tumor. Patients underwent GSN infusion and high-precision laser ablation, and received an MRI of the prostate 48-72 hours after the procedure, MRI-targeted fusion biopsies at 3 and 12 months, and a standard biopsy at 12 months. Patients were discharged on the same day as the procedure after several hours of monitoring.

GSN-mediated focal laser ablation was successful in 87.5 percent of lesions treated at one year of follow-up. The goal of researchers was to find an eradication of cancer cells during biopsy.

"Gold-silica nanoshells infusion allows for a focused therapy that treats the cancer, while sparing the rest of the prostate, thus preserving a patient's quality of life by reducing unwanted side effects, which could include erectile dysfunction and/or the leakage of urine," said Dr. Rastinehad.

"Mount Sinai's interventional urology program is research-driven and offers patients minimally invasive treatment therapies that improve quality of life," said Ash Tewari, MBBS, MCh, Chair of the Department of Urology at the Mount Sinai Health System and the Kyung Hyun Kim, MD Professor of Urology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. "Dr. Rastinehad's gold nanoparticle research shows that patients are not only benefiting from this treatment, but also experiencing minimal side effects."

Materials provided by The Mount Sinai Hospital / Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Physicists Mash Quantum And Gravity And Find Time But Not As We Know It

August 26, 2019: University of Queensland
A University of Queensland-led international team of researchers say they have discovered "a new kind of quantum time order."

UQ physicist Dr Magdalena Zych said the discovery arose from an experiment the team designed to bring together elements of the two big -- but contradictory -- physics theories developed in the past century.

"Our proposal sought to discover: what happens when an object massive enough to influence the flow of time is placed in a quantum state?" Dr Zych said.

She said Einstein's theory described how the presence of a massive object slowed time.

"Imagine two space ships, asked to fire at each other at a specified time while dodging the other's attack," she said.

"If either fires too early, it will destroy the other."

"In Einstein's theory, a powerful enemy could use the principles of general relativity by placing a massive object -- like a planet -- closer to one ship to slow the passing of time."

"Because of the time lag, the ship furthest away from the massive object will fire earlier, destroying the other."

Dr Zych said the second theory, of quantum mechanics, says any object can be in a state of "superposition"

"This means it can be found in different states -- think Schrodinger's cat," she said.

Dr Zych said using the theory of quantum mechanics, if the enemy put the planet into a state of "quantum superposition," then time also should be disrupted.

"There would be a new way for the order of events to unfold, with neither of the events being first or second -- but in a genuine quantum state of being both first and second," she said.

UQ researcher Dr Fabio Costa said although "a superposition of planets" as described in the paper -- may never be possible, technology allowed a simulation of how time works in the quantum world -- without using gravity.

"Even if the experiment can never be done, the study is relevant for future technologies," Dr Costa said.

"We are currently working towards quantum computers that -- very simply speaking -- could effectively jump through time to perform their operations much more efficiently than devices operating in fixed sequence in time, as we know it in our 'normal' world."

Stevens Institute of Technology and the University of Vienna scientists were co-authors on Bell's Theorem for Temporal Order, published in Nature Communications.

Magdalena Zych, Fabio Costa, Igor Pikovski, Časlav Brukner. Bell’s theorem for temporal order. Nature Communications, 2019; 10 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-11579-x

Research Reveals Health Is Number One For Weight Loss

August 26, 2019
A new report by Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, suggests that when it comes to weight loss, people are more motivated by improving their health than their appearance, with two out of three people motivated to start a diet because of ‘health concerns’.

The survey of more than 3000 CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet online members also found around half of people who lost weight through the scientifically-developed diet reported improvements in chronic health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol.

The improvement in chronic health conditions often corresponded with a reduction in prescription medicines.

Survey respondents who reported taking regular medication for one or more chronic conditions saved an average of approximately $270 per year in reduced medication costs. Respondents with three or more conditions reported yearly savings of $460 per condition since starting TWD.

CSIRO Research Scientist and report co-author Dr Gilly Hendrie described the findings as very hopeful for the millions of Australians affected by obesity and chronic health conditions.

“Almost nine out of 10 survey respondents who were largely overweight or obese reported a pre-existing health condition at the commencement of the program, while 43 per cent had been diagnosed with three or more chronic health conditions,” she said.

The most commonly reported health issues among the respondents were high cholesterol, high blood pressure, arthritis, mental illness, asthma, chronic body pain and pre-diabetes.

“Our analysis showed that after following the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet program, more than half of those with pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol reported an improvement in their health conditions.

“Almost half with high blood pressure, sleep apnoea and mental health also reported an improvement.

“Obesity is a major contributor to many chronic diseases and symptoms – around four out of five people who reported conditions such as diabetes, pre-diabetes and sleep apnoea were classified as obese,” Dr Hendrie said.

With two-thirds of the Australian adult population now overweight or obese, CSIRO Director of Health and Biosecurity, public health physician and GP, Dr Rob Grenfell encouraged fellow health professionals to use the report as a conversation starter with their patients.

“Discussing the physical and psychological struggles associated with weight loss can be a sensitive, but important conversation for health professionals to have with their patients,” Dr Grenfell said.

“There is a wide body of research that shows for overweight and obese adults, the greatest health benefits come from losing the first five per cent of body weight.

“At CSIRO we are about solving the greatest challenges through innovative science and technology, and critical to improving Australia’s health and wellbeing is understanding what influences individual health decisions.”

People who lost the highest amount of body fat experienced the greatest improvements in pre-existing health conditions, with one third of these respondents reporting improvements in all their diagnosed health conditions.

“Health conditions weren't the only thing that improved – survey respondents also reported an improvement in energy levels, general health, vitality, mood and sleep,” Dr Hendrie said.

“Many also said the program equipped them with greater knowledge, skills and awareness of nutrition, portion sizes and healthy recipes.

“This empowers people to continue the new eating patterns indefinitely and maintain their weight, health and wellbeing for the long-term,” she said.

Since launching in 2005, the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet has helped more than half a million Australians lose weight.

Download the report (below).

To find out more about the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet visit

Parramatta Study Reveals Ways To Reduce City Temperatures By 2°C

August 27, 2019: CRC for Low Carbon Livng
Cooling strategies, such as increased greenery and shading and the installation of water features to mitigate urban heat can increase comfort by 50-60 per cent. 

Heat map of Parramatta CBD.

New research funded by the City of Parramatta Council and CRC for Low Carbon Living (CRCLCL) has revealed ways temperatures in Western Sydney can be reduced by as much as 2°C.

Undertaken in collaboration with UNSW, the detailed study examined hot spots on Phillip Street, Parramatta and recommended cooling strategies, such as increased greenery and shading and the installation of water features, to mitigate urban heat. In addition to lowering temperatures, these methods can increase comfort by 50-60 per cent.

“Given Western Sydney can be 5-10°C hotter in the middle of summer than suburbs in Sydney’s east, it is important for us to consider ways in which we can address and reduce the impact of urban heat,” City of Parramatta Lord Mayor Cr Wilson said.

The study’s findings will inform aspects of Council’s Phillip Street upgrade. Proposed additions included in the $4.3 million first stage of construction include wider footpaths, tree planting, and trialling of misting units. In future stages, cool pavements are also expected to be trialled.

“The upgrade of Phillip Street is a key project for Council as it is a key thoroughfare for many of the City’s residents, workers and visitors. As Parramatta evolves and grows, we want to ensure the City continues to be a great place to live and visit, so this research and the cooling solutions it offers are significant.”

The research, led by CRCLC researcher Professor Mat Santamouris, examined air and footpath temperatures on Phillip Street and found that the eastern end of the street was 1°C cooler than the west end due to its proximity to the Parramatta River, and asphalt surface temperatures reached above 50°C in unshaded areas. Wind speeds and other measurements were also taken.

“By pinpointing the hot spots through our intense monitoring over a period of time and gathering other relevant data we could then deliver the City of Parramatta with heat mitigation scenarios specific to Phillip Street,” said Professor Santamouris.

“Cooling strategies, together with smart monitoring and innovative technologies will enhance the area’s importance and attractiveness.”

The data was gathered using drone-captured thermal imaging and UNSW’s energy monitoring bus, which helped direct the hot spot mitigation strategies.

CRCLCL CEO Professor Deo Prasad said the research was one of the Centre’s many research projects focussed on encouraging low to zero-carbon living throughout Australia.

“The Parramatta study is another example of the evidence the CRCLCL has collected during its seven-year life, which will help guide local governments, individuals, industries and communities on how they can lower their carbon footprint and mitigate climate change,” Professor Prasad said.  

This article was originally published by CRC for Low Carbon Living. Read the original article.

First Metro Breakthrough At North Sydney

August 26, 2019
A mega tunnel boring machine has broken through a rock wall at North Sydney and entered the biggest underground cavern built so far on the Sydney Metro project.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Minister for Transport Andrew Constance today welcomed mega borer Wendy at the new Victoria Cross Station 25 metres below ground.

“It was just over two months ago TBM Wendy broke through at Crows Nest and now she has already made it to the next stop in North Sydney,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“TBM Wendy has tunnelled 4.5 kilometres from Chatswood in eight months and only has another 1.7 kilometres to reach the edge of Sydney Harbour at Blues Point.

“This is incredible progress on the next stage of Sydney Metro which will take the North West Metro, under the harbour, through the CBD and on to Bankstown.”

Mr Constance said Sydney Metro is Australia’s biggest public transport project and will deliver turn-up-and-go Metro train services to 31 stations along a new 66 kilometre railway.

“Wendy is one of five boring machines busy excavating 15.5 kilometre twin railway tunnels to help deliver more metro rail services as quickly as possible,” Mr Constance said.

The huge cavern at Victoria Cross is 40 per cent bigger than both the cavern being built at Barangaroo and the cavern built 25 metres under Castle Hill on the new North West Metro.

TBM Wendy will spend about three weeks undergoing maintenance before being re-launched to complete the last 1.7 kilometre section of the 6.2 kilometre tunnel between Chatswood and the edge of Sydney Harbour.

The 150-metre-long TBM Wendy is named after Wendy Schreiber, a volunteer at Bear Cottage.

Fertility And Research Centre To Make IVF More Accessible Across NSW

August 28, 2019: by Lucy Carroll, UNSW
A new fertility centre will offer people across the state low-cost IVF treatment and on-site fertility preservation services for young people with cancer and rare genetic diseases.

Emily Smethills, one of the first patients to recieve oncofertility treatment at the Fertility and Research Centre, with NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard, UNSW Professsor of Obstetrics & Gynaecology William Ledger and Dr Antoinette Anazodo from UNSW's School of Women's and Children's Health.

A state-of-the-art facility that will offer publicly funded IVF treatment was officially launched on Tuesday by NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard.

The Fertility & Research Centre, the first of its kind in Australia, is a collaboration between UNSW Sydney and The Royal Hospital for Women.

Led by UNSW's Professor William Ledger, the FRC will offer low-cost IVF treatment and on-site fertility preservation services for young people with cancer and rare genetic diseases. The services will be offered to people across NSW.

“This centre will provide first-class fertility preservation services, giving people with a cancer diagnosis or rare genetic conditions the chance to make their future plans for children a reality,” Mr Hazzard said.

“Combining the latest research with fertility preservation and assisted reproduction services in a public hospital is part of the NSW Government’s $42 million investment in improving access to IVF services.”

The facility will hold an assisted reproduction laboratory and procedure room where a full range of clinical services, including complete reproductive investigations and comprehensive IVF services, will be available to patients in a public hospital setting.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard with Lisa Forrest, who has received treatment at the Fertility and Research Centre and UNSW's Professor of Obstetrics & Gynaecology William Ledger.

Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at UNSW and Director of Reproductive Medicine at the Royal Hospital for Women, Professor Ledger, said the service will be linked with the Kids Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital.

“Cancer patients diagnosed at Sydney Children’s or Prince of Wales Hospital can now speak with doctors about fertility preservation the very same day they are told they need chemotherapy,” Professor Ledger said.

The FRC will be a teaching centre at the cutting edge of fertility research bringing together top fertility experts to examine the possibilities of hormone-free IVF and new ways of slowing down the possible decline in egg quality as women age.

Researchers at the FRC are working with UNSW’s Dr Lindsay Wu to find new ways of slowing down the ageing of eggs and find ways to translate those findings into practice.

The team will also work with Professor Robert Gilchrist, a specialist in oocyte and reproductive biology from UNSW’s School of Women’s and Children’s Health, to introduce hormone injection-free IVF treatment and with Dr Kirsty Walters, a senior lecturer in Women’s and Children’s Health, on the impact of polycystic ovary syndrome on infertility.

Professor Ledger said oncofertility services will be available to patients diagnosed with cancer to preserve fertility before undergoing chemotherapy.

“Many young people will encounter cancer in their lives. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy will treat their cancer but will destroy their store of eggs. The answer is to take quick and pre-emptive action by freezing eggs and embryos,” Professor Ledger said.

“We will also offer genetic screening of embryos, helping to eliminate devastating genetic disorders from future generations as well as counselling and psychological support.”

UNSW’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Nicholas Fisk, said the FRC was an exemplar of 21st-century collaboration that will bring together clinicians, scientists and interdisciplinary teams in the new Randwick Health Precinct which will better integrate the University with the adjacent Randwick hospitals.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard at the launch of the Fertility and Research Centre.

“I can’t think of an area where you have closer bench to bedside and lab to patient activity than you have in IVF and infertility services,” Professor Fisk said. “Australia has been a leader in IVF, with about one in 25 babies born via IVF. At UNSW we are delighted that fertility services are being extended in the public sector where they can be readily and comprehensively available state-wide.”

“Researchers will examine high powered genetic approaches which will be used to improve pregnancy rates and pre-implantation diagnosis for couples at risk of hundreds of genetic diseases, for which there is unlikely o be any curative treatments in our lifetime,” Professor Fisk said.

“New approaches will be examined into preserving eggs, ovarian tissue, gametes and embryos for younger people with cancer, and reducing the risk of implantation failure and miscarriage in women in their 30s and 40s,” Professor Fisk said.

At Tuesday’s launch, 12-year-old Emily Smethills, who was diagnosed and treated with Ewing's sarcoma at Sydney Children’s Hospital, opened the FRC with Minister Hazzard and Professor Ledger. Ms Smethills was one of the first patients to receive fertility treatment, including tissue preservation, at the new facility.

Australian Men's Life Expectancy Tops Other Men's

August 22, 2019: Australian National University
Australian men are now living longer than any other group of males in the world, according to new research from The Australian National University (ANU).

The study introduces a new way of measuring life expectancy, accounting for the historical mortality conditions that today's older generations lived through.

By this measure, Australian men, on average, live to 74.1.

The news is good for Australian women too; the study shows they're ranked second, behind their Swiss counterparts.

Dr Collin Payne co-led the study, which used data from 15 countries across Europe, North America and Asia with high life expectancies.

"Popular belief has it that Japan and the Nordic countries are doing really well in terms of health, wellbeing, and longevity. But Australia is right there," Dr Payne said.

"The results have a lot to do with long term stability and the fact Australia's had a high standard of living for a really, really long time. Simple things like having enough to eat, and not seeing a lot of major conflict play a part."

Dr Payne's study grouped people by year of birth, separating 'early' deaths from 'late' deaths, to come up with the age at which someone can be considered an 'above-average' survivor.

"Most measures of life expectancy are just based on mortality rates at a given time," Dr Payne said.

"It's basically saying if you took a hypothetical group of people and put them through the mortality rates that a country experienced in 2018, for example, they would live to an average age of 80.

"But that doesn't tell you anything about the life courses of people, as they've lived through to old age.

"Our measure takes the life course into account, including mortality rates from 50, 60, or 70 years ago.

"What matters is we're comparing a group of people who were born in the same year, and so have experienced similar conditions throughout their life."

Dr Payne says this method allows us to clearly see whether someone is reaching their cohort's life expectancy.

"For example, any Australian man who's above age 74 we know with 100 per cent certainty has outlived half of his cohort -- he's an above average survivor compared to his peers born in the same year," he said.

"And those figures are higher here than anywhere else that we've measured life expectancy.

"On the other hand, any man who's died before age 74 is not living up to their cohort's life expectancy."

Dr Payne says there are a number of factors which might've contributed to Australia jumping ahead in these new rankings.

"Mortality was really high in Japan in the 30s, 40s and 50s. In Australia, mortality was really low during that time," Dr Payne said.

"French males, for example, drop out because a lot of them died during WW2, some from direct conflict, others from childhood conditions."

Dr Payne is now hoping to get enough data to look at how rankings have changed over the last 30 or 40 years.

The research has been published in the journal Population Studies.

Michel Guillot, Collin F. Payne. Tracking progress in mean longevity: The Lagged Cohort Life Expectancy (LCLE) approach. Population Studies, 2019; DOI: 10.1080/00324728.2019.1618480

Excess Body Fat Increases The Risk Of Depression

August 27, 2019
Carrying ten kilograms of excess body fat increases the risk of depression by seventeen per cent. The more fat, the greater the probability of developing depression. This is the main conclusion of a new study carried out by researchers from Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark.

"Our study also indicated that the location of the fat on the body makes no difference to the risk of depression. This suggests that it is the psychological consequences of being overweight or obese which lead to the increased risk of depression, and not the direct biological effect of the fat. If the opposite was true we would have seen that fat located centrally on the body increased the risk the most, as it has the most damaging effect in biological terms," says the study's last author Dr. Søren Dinesen Østergaard.

He is professor at the Department of Clinical Medicine at Aarhus University and affiliated with the Department of Affective Disorders at Aarhus University Hospital.

Prior studies in the field have predominantly used Body Mass Index (BMI) to measure obesity. BMI is calculated solely on the basis of body weight and height and is therefore a fairly crude measure, that does not, for example, take build and muscle mass into account.

"BMI is an inaccurate way of measuring overweight and obesity. Many elite athletes with a large muscle mass and a low body fat mass will have a BMI above 25, which is classified as overweight according to the common definition. This obviously doesn't make much sense. Therefore, one of the strengths of our study is that we've been able to zoom in and look at the specific relationship between the amount of body fat and the risk of depression," explains Dr. Østergaard.

In the study, which has been published in the journal Translational Psychiatry, the researchers have analysed data from two large genetic data sets: the UK Biobank, which contains data on the correlation between genetic variants and physical measurements (including body fat mass distributed around parts of the body); and the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, which contains information on the correlation between genetic variants and depression.

Dr. Østergaard also highlights his research group's choice of the 'Mendelian randomisation' method as the main reason why the study was successful. He also emphasises that the findings are particularly significant in light of the fact that almost 40 per cent of the world's adult population is overweight.

"In addition to the known physical consequences of obesity such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, there is also a significant and now well-documented psychological component, which needs to be dealt with as well. This is yet another argument for resolving the obesity epidemic," he says, before emphasising that it is important to have a balanced approach to the issue:

"As it appears to be the psychological consequences of obesity, such as a negative body image and low self-esteem that is the main driving force behind the increased risk of depression, society's efforts to combat obesity must not stigmatise, as this will probably increase the risk of depression even further. It is important to bear this in mind so we can avoid doing more harm than good in the effort to curb the obesity epidemic," says Dr. Østergaard.


Mendelian randomisation (named after the Austrian monk Gregor Mendel, who was the father of modern genetics) is a method which in recent years has helped researchers to overcome a major challenge associated with observational studies -- namely that of making causal inference. In observational studies researchers often find correlations between two conditions -- e.g. between obesity and depression -- where it is difficult, or rather impossible, to determine whether there is indeed a causal effect going from obesity to depression -- or vice versa. Mendelian randomisation may solve this challenge.

Mendelian randomisation can be described as nature's version of the randomised controlled trials that are carried out when testing whether a new drug has the desired (causal) effect in the treatment of a disease. In the clinical trials of drugs, lots are drawn to determine whether individual participants will receive the active drug or a placebo, without them knowing which treatment they have been assigned to. Instead, Mendelian randomisation takes advantage of the fact that a completely natural randomisation takes place during the formation of the sex cells (egg cells and sperm cells), which represent the origin of all human beings. When sex cells are formed, the parents' genetic variants -- including those that give rise to increased body fat- are randomly distributed. Therefore, some individuals will have received many of these variants and others less. In the study in question, the researchers have utilised this natural and random source of variation to determine whether people who have received many genetic variants for increased body fat have an increased risk of suffering depression.


Genetic epidemiological study utilising data from the UK Biobank (with information on the association between genetic variants and fat mass based on a study of 330,000 people) and the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (with information on the association between genetic variants and depression based on a study of 135,000 people with depression and 345,000 control subjects).

The research group comprises Maria S. Speed, Oskar H. Jefsen, Anders D. Børglum, Doug Speed and Søren D. Østergaard -- all from Aarhus University.

Maria S. Speed, Oskar H. Jefsen, Anders D. Børglum, Doug Speed, Søren D. Østergaard. Investigating the association between body fat and depression via Mendelian randomisation. Translational Psychiatry, 2019; 9 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41398-019-0516-4

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.