Inbox and environment News: issue 437

February 9 - 15, 2020: Issue 437

Hot Days Forecast: Please Keep Your Bird Baths Topped Up Or Put Out Shallow Dishes Of Water In The Shade For Local Fauna

During this January break please be mindful of our local native animals and place shallow dishes in the shade with sticks or twigs to climb on. With BOM weather forecasts predicting soaring heat over the next few weeks we need to look out for and care for the original residents.

Bangalley Head Landcare Group: Feb 9

The Bangalley Bushcare group meets on the second Sunday morning of each month. We're working near the track entrance at Whale Beach Rd. Bush regeneration has transformed this area from dense weeds since the early noughties. The next work morning will be on Sunday February 9 from 8.30-11.30. 

Contact us for more info, or just come along wearing long pants, long sleeves, light gardening gloves and enclosed shoes. No experience needed. Good company guaranteed, tools and morning tea provided. It's not all hard work!

Bangalley Head Landcare group was set up in 2012. Our aims are to care for this very special reserve, and help the property owners - Landcare members - who have bushland on the land adjoining the reserve. The reserve is near Avalon Beach, Sydney. We've now completed a 3-year grant of $55 000 from Greater Sydney Local Land Services. This paid for bush regeneration contract work on members' land, as well as boosting funds for ongoing Council bush regeneration work in the reserve. With grant funds in May 2018 we had planting day on a degraded part of the reserve behind a property in Binburra Ave.

Bangalley Headland is the highest point on the Sydney coast between Sydney Harbour and Broken Bay, higher than Barrenjoey Head. The old Trig Station is 116m above sea level. 

Curl Curl Clean Up: Feb 23 - NB Clean Up Crew

Hosted by Northern Beaches Clean Up Crew and WildAware
Sunday, February 23, 2020 at 10 AM – 12:15 PM
Our clean ups are always the last Sunday of every month at 10am and our next clean up is in Curl Curl. 
All welcome to this family friendly event! The more the merrier. Do a good deed for the planet and make new friends at the same time. No need to bring anything but a smile. We start at 10am and clean up for about 90 minutes. 

After that we welcome everyone who can stay to to help out with sorting and counting of the rubbish.  We do this as part of a contribution to a national marine debris data base available for researcher and universities. 

Looking forward to meeting you all. The only thing we ask is for you to leave your political and religious messages at home because it's a community event and we want everyone to feel welcome and included. We provide you will buckets, bags and gloves. If you are driving put 52 Surf Road, Curl Curl in your GPS to easiest find our meeting point. We are meeting just opposite that house. 
Looking forward to meeting you and making some more friends.
Stay up to date with further posts on the Northern Beaches Clean Up Crew Facebook page.

Friends Of Narrabeen Lagoon February 2020 Forum - Catchment Secrets Of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment: Discoveries So Far In The 21st Century

Next Forum: 7pm Monday Feb 24, 2020
Coastal Environment Centre, Pelican Path
Lake Park Road, Narrabeen
Catchment Secrets of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment: Discoveries so far in the 21st Century
Speaker: Jayden Walsh

Jayden is always inspiring, telling us about finding various creatures in the wild. He will describe and show images of some of the very special wildlife that is in the catchment of Narrabeen Lagoon, especially recent sightings.

As of the time of writing this, bushfire has not impacted the catchment. Here’s hoping this remains the case for the sake of the wildlife.  Check that February 24 is in your diary and, so that you don’t miss out, book your ticket early by emailing Judith Bennett

Night time Wildlife Walk
Jayden Walsh is offering a special guided night walk at Katoa close from 7:30 to 9:30pm on Friday, the 28th February, at Warriewood Wetlands to meet some of the creatures that he will talk about on the previous Monday. (See item above bout the Forum.)
Bookings essential:

Friends Of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment: Bushwalks 2020

Sat 8/2/ 2020 Walk & Weed. 
If dry conditions: Meet 7.30am at Deep Creek near dog training area; walk 1hr next to Deep Creek and contributory creek. Weeding (2hrs):small leaved privet, Crofton weed, Ludwigia peruviana and possibly some grass. Walk back and finish at 11:30am.
If wet, but not too wet: Terrey Hills to Morgan Road, with some weeding along  5 Mile Creek track. 

Sun 1/3/2020 walk & plant identification
Meet 8am near 27 Morgan Rd for Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment Transverse.
Carpooling required as we finish at Deep Creek.

Sun 26/4/2020 Cromer Circle
Cromer Circle with 1 hr for weeding grasses along the track of Aboriginal carvings. Fabulous views over the lagoon and its valleys, and viewing of carvings.
10am - 3pm. Limited numbers.

Sat 23/5/2020 Explorative Walk
9am explorative walk from Morgan Rd to N/W catchment corner.

Sun 21/6/2020 walk & weed.
Meet 9am at Deep Creek near dog training area; walk 1hr next to Deep Creek and contributory creek. Weeding 1hr—crofton weed, Ludwigia peruviana etc. Continue walk to Baha'i temple and carpool back ~ 2pm.

PNB 1st Meeting For 2020: Habitat Protection 

Thursday, February 27, 2020: 7:30pm – 9:00pm
Transhed Art and Community Centre
1395 Pittwater Road, Narrabeen
Our first meeting of 2020 focuses on protecting our bushland, eco-systems and habitats.

Permaculture Northern Beaches (PNB) is an active local group based on Sydney's Northern Beaches. We are an independent organisation registered as an association in NSW.

PNB hold monthly permaculture related events on the last Thursday of each month at the Tramshed Community Arts Centre, Lakeview Room, 1395A Pittwater Road, Narrabeen. Buses stop directly at the Centre and there is also car parking. Doors open at 7:15 pm. Meetings are February to November.

North Narrabeen Beach Clean: March 1- Legends Cleaning Beach  Vol. 6.

Hosted by Legend Element
Sunday, March 1, 2020 at 9 AM – 11 AM
North Narrabeen Beach: Malcolm St.
The 6th official BEACH-CLEANUP BY LEGEND ELEMENT! In total we have already collected about 300 kg of trash, join us to do something good again. This time you can help us clean up Nort Narrabeen Beach and lagoon our beloved surfing and spearfishing spot. 

Why do we think beach cleanups are helpful? It is opportunity to raise awareness of the trash problem among local #communities. We believe that such cleanups are as important for the impact they have in our heads as that which they have on the environment.

Meeting point at North Narrabeen beach car park on Sunday 1.3. 2020 at 9am
We will provide rubbish bags, bins and some refreshment. We will also take care of the rubbish afterwards.
Please bring your protective glove, thanks! 

Legend Element is a lifestyle brand that transpired from a love of adventure sports, particularly a passion for kiteboarding. It is about passion, good vibes and an active lifestyle. 

At the beginning of 2019 we realised, that more of us are connected not only by kitesurfing but also by different kind of outdoor adventure sports like freediving, spearfishing, rockclimbing, mountaineering, snowkiting .... and the idea started to grow. We have transformed our group LEGEND KITEBOARDING into a lifestyle brand LEGEND ELEMENT. We believe that everyone is unique in their own way, everyone has different passions and it's this special element that is the Legend Element.

Rock Platform Tour

Hosted by Coastal Environment Centre
Saturday, March 21, 2020 at 1:30 PM – 3:30 PM
Coastal Environment Centre
1 Lake Park Road -Pelican Path, North Narrabeen
Come and join one of our educators and discover the weird and wonderful creatures that live on our rock platforms.  Fun for all ages, there is so much to see if you know where to look!
Free Event
Booking Essential: HERE

Foundation For National Parks & Wildlife Community Conservation Grants Are Now Open For Applications

If you are working to preserve a piece of Australian cultural heritage, helping to restore a patch of habitat, connecting more people with our national parks or doing research on a threatened Aussie species you can apply for a Community Conservation Grant from the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife.

“Organisations and individuals from all across Australia are eligible to receive funding through these grants” said Kylie Piper, Projects & Education Manager for the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife. “We would love to get applications from every state so we can really understand the type of community conservation work that is happening and help fund essential projects that restore habitat and species, preserve our cultural treasures and improve our National Parks for everyone to enjoy”.

The small grants round will be open for applications from 14 December, 2019 until 14 February, 2020.

Key areas of focus for this year’s grants are:
  • Land and Water - Protection, restoration, rehabilitation and revegetation of degraded habitats to ensure their ability to sustain native species.
  • Threatened Species - Scientific research with tangible conservation outcomes and on-ground works to conserve Australia’s threatened species.
  • Cultural Heritage - Conserving and celebrating Australia’s cultural heritage as part of the gift we leave to future generations.
  • Parks for People - Improving National Park facilities for the enjoyment of all, to foster and encourage the appreciation of nature.
Applications for FNPW's Community Conservation Grants can now be made online and individuals, NGOs or government departments working in these areas are all encouraged to apply for funding for projects commencing in 2020.

For further information and to apply for a grant visit or contact the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife on

Water Regulator Launches Two New Prosecutions

February 5, 2020: NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment
The state’s water regulator has launched two more prosecutions against landholders for alleged non-compliance with water laws, bringing the total number of prosecutions since the regulator’s inception to 17.

The latest actions brought by the Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) cover a range of offences involving water take, activities on waterfront land and dams.

NRAR’s Chief Regulatory Officer Grant Barnes said in light of recent bushfires and the ongoing drought, every drop counts, making NRAR’s role in ensuring compliance with water regulations even more critical.

“During drought the impact of illegal activities on our water supplies, whether it’s water take, works on waterfront land or non-compliant dams, is magnified, hitting other water users and the environment even harder,” Mr Barnes said.

“Most landholders visited by our officers tell us they are glad we are out there enforcing the rules in their area so they can be confident of a level playing field.”

Mr Barnes said all water users have a responsibility to know their water access licence conditions and their water account balances to avoid any potential breaches.

“The onus is on water users to ensure their activities are lawful,” he said. “If you have been found to be non-compliant, you can be assured that NRAR employs a graduated and proportionate approach to any breaches of water laws.”

So far this year, NRAR has commenced two new prosecutions.

A Lane Cove company will come before the Land and Environment Court in relation to unlawful dams, water take and controlled activities in the Mid-Coast Council area with a total of 13 charges including taking water without the appropriate access licence, using and constructing dams without approval, and controlled activities without approval on waterfront land.

The matter will come before the court for a first directions hearing on 21 February 2020.

In Tamworth, NRAR has commenced proceedings against two individual landholders from the Tamworth area. Both face seven charges under the Water Management Act 2000 for contravening the terms and conditions of their access licence on two properties.

Of particular concern are the charges relating to taking water from the Namoi River outside of the flow conditions of their licences in August, October and November 2018. The matter is listed for first mention in the court on 9 March 2020.

NRAR’s investigators and compliance officers travel all over the state’s 58 water sharing plan areas, inspecting properties and assessing compliance with water users’ licences and the Water Management Act 2000.

To make a confidential report on suspected water misuse, contact the NRAR Hotline on 1800 633 362 or visit

Glendell Continued Operations Project

Extension of mining including extraction of an additional 140 million tonnes of ROM coal until 2044 at an increased rate of 10 million tonnes per annum.
Exhibition Start: 11/12/2019
Exhibition End: 14/02/2020
EPBC ID Number: 2019/8409
Assessment Type: State Significant Development
Development Type: Coal Mining
Local Government Areas: Singleton Shire

Modification 4 - VENM/ENM Importation, Increased Trucking And Extension Of Life

• importing up to 320,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) of Virgin Excavated Natural Material (VENM) and/or Excavated Natural Material (ENM) for use in landform rehabilitation;
• increasing the maximum allowable daily truck movements from 100 to 140 per day
Development Type: Extractive industries
Local Government Areas: The Hills Shire
Exhibition Start: 13/01/2020
Exhibition End: 07/02/2020

Haerses Road Quarry MOD 3 - Production Increase

Increase extraction rate from 250,000 tpa to 495,000 tpa; increase the amount of clean fill VENM & ENM from 100,000 tpa to 250,000 tpa; and increase truck movements from 56 per day to 180 per day (ie 90 inbound, 90 outbound).
Development Type: Extractive industries
Local Government Areas: The Hills Shire
Exhibition Start: 29/01/2020
Exhibition End: 26/02/2020

Offshore Clean Energy Infrastructure - Proposed Framework: Consultation

Closes 28 Feb 2020
The Australian Government is developing a regulatory framework to enable the exploration, construction, operation and decommissioning of offshore wind and other clean energy technologies and associated infrastructure in Commonwealth waters (beyond three nautical miles from the coast).

They have developed a discussion paper and process map outlining the proposed regulatory framework. The proposal brings together the Australian Government's experience in regulation of other sectors with best practice for offshore energy regulation overseas.

Please provide your feedback on the proposal by 28 February 2020 to Submissions will not be published.

Discussion paper and process map at 

Photo: Burbo Bank Offshore Windfarm, Irish Sea off the Wirral, Image credit- Ian Mantel

Extension To Submissions For EPBC Act Review

January 16, 2020
Statement made by Professor Graeme Samuel AC, independent reviewer of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

The bushfires affecting so many areas of Australia have been devastating for our communities and for our environment.

I would like to extend my condolences to those who have lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods. I acknowledge all those on the front line who are providing emergency response and support, including all the volunteers supporting communities and caring for our injured wildlife.

The attention of so many is rightfully focused on managing the bushfire events and taking the important first steps towards recovery. This includes people and organisations that are keenly interested in the independent review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (known as the EPBC Act) that I am currently conducting.

Acknowledging that the bushfires are the focus of many of the review’s stakeholders, it is appropriate to extend the timeframe for providing submissions. I am keen for every interested stakeholder to have their say about the EPBC Act and how it operates.

Submissions are now due by close of business Friday 17 April 2020.

I encourage those who are able to provide submissions earlier to do so, including if people want to submit early or focussed views and ideas in advance of a fuller submission at a later time.

To read the discussion paper, find out how to make a submission and to register your interest in the review please visit the review website

Wildlife Care This Summer

Some excellent advice from the veterinary team at NEVS in Terrey Hills: Sydney is facing a catastrophic fire danger ratings, with high temperatures, hot gusty winds, and dry conditions. But what does this mean for our wildlife?

Native wildlife are struggling to cope with bushfires combined with habitat loss. Although our wildlife has evolved with fire, urbanisation has made their habitat so limited they are at great risk. During bushfires wildlife are forced to come to the ground where they get hit by cars and attacked by domestic dogs.

We can help our wildlife by creating refuge areas, that are shady, cool and somewhat wet. You can leave out shallow water dishes, and place a rock in them so smaller animals and birds don’t accidentally drown. Keep your dogs contained indoors and away from smoke for their own benefit as much as for the safety of wildlife. Avoid driving into fire areas unnecessarily where wildlife are likely to be present on the roads trying to escape, and instead await updates from online sources. If you encounter any injured or burnt wildlife, take them immediately to a vet hospital that you can safely access. Do not attempt to handle any bats unless you are vaccinated against Lyssavirus (the rabies vaccine covers this virus). Never chase wild animals in an attempt to capture them as they are prone to capture myopathy brought on by stress which is fatal.

For assistance or advice do not hesitate to phone NEVS on 9452 2933 and Sydney Metropolitan Wildlife Service on 9413 4300.

Bushcare In Pittwater 

For further information or to confirm the meeting details for below groups, please contact Council's Bushcare Officer on 9970 1367

Where we work                      Which day                              What time 

Angophora Reserve             3rd Sunday                         8:30 - 11:30am 
Avalon Dunes                        1st Sunday                         8:30 - 11:30am 
Avalon Golf Course              2nd Wednesday                 3 - 5:30pm 
Careel Creek                         4th Saturday                      8:30 - 11:30am 
Toongari Reserve                 3rd Saturday                      9 - 12noon (8 - 11am in summer) 
Bangalley Headland            2nd Sunday                         9 to 12noon 

Winnererremy Bay                 4th Sunday                        9 to 12noon 

North Bilgola Beach              3rd Monday                        9 - 12noon 
Algona Reserve                     1st Saturday                       9 - 12noon 
Plateau Park                          1st Friday                            8:30 - 11:30am 

Church Point     
Browns Bay Reserve             1st Tuesday                        9 - 12noon 
McCarrs Creek Reserve       Contact Bushcare Officer     To be confirmed 

Old Wharf Reserve                 3rd Saturday                      8 - 11am 

Kundibah Reserve                   4th Sunday                       8:30 - 11:30am 

Mona Vale     
Mona Vale Beach Basin          1st Saturday                    8 - 11am 
Mona Vale Dunes                     2nd Saturday +3rd Thursday     8:30 - 11:30am 

Bungan Beach                          4th Sunday                      9 - 12noon 
Crescent Reserve                    3rd Sunday                      9 - 12noon 
North Newport Beach              4th Saturday                    8:30 - 11:30am 
Porter Reserve                          2nd Saturday                  8 - 11am 

North Narrabeen     
Irrawong Reserve                     2nd Saturday                   2 - 5pm 

Palm Beach     
North Palm Beach Dunes      3rd Saturday                    9 - 12noon 

Scotland Island     
Catherine Park                          2nd Sunday                     10 - 12:30pm 
Elizabeth Park                           1st Saturday                      9 - 12noon 
Pathilda Reserve                      3rd Saturday                      9 - 12noon 

Warriewood Wetlands             1st Sunday                         8:30 - 11:30am 

Whale Beach     
Norma Park                               1st Friday                            9 - 12noon 

Western Foreshores     
Coopers Point, Elvina Bay      2nd Sunday                        10 - 1pm 
Rocky Point, Elvina Bay           1st Monday                          9 - 12noon

Gardens And Environment Groups And Organisations In Pittwater

Statement From Australia's Natural History Museum Directors: Estimated Trillions Of Animals Lost In Bushfires

Tuesday, February 4, 2020
Impact of fires on biodiversity on a scale not seen since species records were first kept.
Loss is in the ‘trillions’ of animals due to climate change crisis.

The Directors/CEOs of Australia’s leading natural history museums today issued a joint statement in support of increased funding and co-ordinated national action to address the impacts of climate change on the nation’s biodiversity following the bushfires which ravaged the continent over the past few months.

The Directors of the Australian Museum (NSW); Museums Victoria; South Australian Museum; Western Australian Museum; Queensland Museum; and Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory; whose natural science collections hold almost 60 million reference specimens said:

Natural history museums are among the most trusted public institutions* playing a critical role in describing and conserving our natural history in Australia and connecting the natural environment with the public through education outreach and exhibitions.

We now recognise human-induced climate change, alongside land clearing and habitat use, as the over-arching issue affecting Australia’s unique wildlife as evidenced by more intense bushfires, drought, floods and the impact of warming oceans on the Great Barrier Reef and other marine environments.

Our museums hold invaluable reference collections for the nation – we are the ‘ark’ of information on Australian species with collections that date back as early as the 1850s.

Collectively they form an irreplaceable resource and provide unique insight into the composition and evolution of our natural history and a benchmark by which the devastation caused by the bushfires can be measured.

The impact of the recent fires on Australia’s biodiversity is on a scale not previously seen since record-keeping began in the mid-1800s. The estimate of the destruction to our biodiversity from the fires is in the ‘trillions’ of animals, when considering the total of insects, spiders, birds, mammals, frogs, reptiles, invertebrates and even sea life impacted over such a vast area.**

Australia’s natural history museums are committed to finding out how species have been affected, to implementing and supporting programs to restore those species that can be saved, and to engaging the public in mitigation strategies.

Over the next few months, and once it is safe to do so, each museum plans to return to the field, working in collaboration with our national networks of museums and herbaria, state government agencies and universities to ascertain the impact of the fires and work to plan for the restoration of species where possible.

Each museum will focus on examining the damage of the fires on existing field research sites and comparing the findings with our data sets, providing a longitudinal view.

In the longer term, our Museums will draw on our rich scientific expertise and data sets to provide conservation advice. We will also engage with the Australian public through citizen science and other activities and will work towards achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.

Australia’s leading experts across the natural history disciplines work at our state-based museums. Museum research scientists are in the field year after year describing and monitoring the biodiversity of different regions, including many endemic species present nowhere else on the planet. Additional funding for this research is urgently needed to allow museums to carry out this significant work.

The bushfire climate change crisis has reinforced that we have much to learn from our First Nations people and that First Nations understandings of our natural species and land management is to be respected, understood and embraced in our research.

The time to act is now and the nation’s natural history museums are ready to respond.


Kim McKay AO, Director & CEO Australian Museum (NSW); Lynley Crosswell, CEO & Director, Museums Victoria; Brian Oldman, Director, South Australian Museum; Alec Coles OBE, CEO, Western Australian Museum; Dr Jim Thompson, Director, Queensland Museum Network; Marcus Schutenko, Director, Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory.

*C. Dilenschneider, “In Museums we Trust. Here’s How Much (Data Update)”, 3 June 2019. <>

**trillions estimate based on number of arthropods in 8 million hectares (Dr Chris Reid, Senior Entomologist, Australian Museum)

“The impact of the bushfires on the NSW community, our wildlife and the landscape is devastating. Museums are resources for us all, providing knowledge and strategies to support effective responses to the increasing impacts of climate change. As Australia’s first museum, we are central in documenting, describing and conserving our species. FrogID, our national citizen science project, is the first large scale, Australia-wide scientific mapping of the distribution of frogs across the continent. Providing unprecedented baseline data, with 147,000 frog calls verified, enables us to understand what has happened to our frogs due to the bushfires.”
Kim McKay, AO, Director & CEO

For over 190 years the Australian Museum has been at the forefront of Australian scientific research, collection and education. Founded in 1827, it was Australia’s first public museum, with an aim of ‘procuring many rare and curious specimens of Natural History’. In 1836, the Museum appointed its first taxidermist and, in 1837, the AM’s first catalogue was published with 36 Australian mammal species, birds, fish, shells, fossils, as well as Aboriginal and Melanesian cultural objects.

Today, there are over 19.5 million specimens in our natural history collections.
  • The Mammal Collection comprises over 55,000 registered specimens of over 650 species. The majority of specimens are from Australia (29,000 specimens).
  • The Ornithology Collection is the largest collection of its kind in Australia. It holds ~ 93,000 registered specimens. The collection has ~ 3,500 species and currently represents around 95% of all known extant bird families.
  • The Ichthyology Collection ranges from large pelagic to remote aquatic and deep sea environments. It was ranked as the 4th most important type collection globally and holds 2041 types focusing on Australian and southern Asian waters.
  • The Marine Invertebrate Collection includes over 9000 type lots and 2000 primary types, with particular strengths in Australian and Pacific waters.
  • The Entomology Collection includes 4,679 Primary type specimens. The collection covers all major insect groups. Major additions to the collection resulted from regional forest biodiversity surveys in 1990s resulting in a good representation of the insect fauna of eastern NSW.
  • The Arachnology Collection includes 3,976 types of which 1,107 are primary types.
  • The Malacology Collection includes 10,298 type specimens. The collection covers all groups of recent Mollusca and fossils from the Tertiary onwards.
  • The Herpetology Collection holds 628 primary type specimens of both reptiles and amphibians.
Major data sets – fire-affected areas
The Australian Museum Research Institute’s Mammal collection has extensive collections from areas heavily impacted by recent fires including microbats, dating from the 1980-1990s as well as extensive pre-fire sampling for some threatened species including the koala and brush-tailed rock-wallaby.

FrogID have recordings from the past two years showing the impact of drought and fires as already evident. FrogID records have comprehensive coverage; there are more records in non-forested areas. 518 FrogID submissions with frogs recorded in (~audio surveys) resulting in 1,968 records of 44 species (incl. 7 threatened species) in burnt areas (NSW RFS; 2019- 11 Jan 2020). These are recent (<~2 years), geoprecise records of frogs at breeding sites. 1.5% of all our submissions and 3.4% of our frog records in NSW come from areas indicated as burnt.
Extensive survey material donated by non-museum researchers (e.g. Wog Wog and Coolangubra; North Coast State Forests; Werrikembe/Carrai).
Extensive aquatic datasets (Sydney water survey material; large fresh-water aquatic datasets collected by EPA).

AMRI has active sites at: Newnes State Forest; NE Forests; multiple sites across Northern Tablelands; Jenolan Caves Karst Reserve; selected freshwater creeks and waterways at Shoalhaven-Clyde system and Cudgegong; and, Estuarine in Northern NSW Rivermouths, Queenscliff Lagoon, Sydney Harbour and Associated Waterways. Inactive sites with past data sets include: most state forests and national parks within NE NSW and SE NSW; Nandewar Bioregion; Newnes and Wolgan State Forests; Mount Wilson, Blue Mountains; Mt Kaputar National Park; Coolah Tops; and, Cox’s River.

Collaborative work in response to the fires
The AM will potentially be collaborating with: RBG, DPI, Office of Environment, Energy and Science, Macquarie University, UNSW, Bio platforms.

Identifying species and locations on the lists circulated by the Commonwealth Dept. of Environment & Energy who released a preliminary list of threatened species known to occur in areas affected by bushfires (
Undertaking a desktop survey based on known fire areas with data and expertise we already have (eg: Jodi Rowley’s maps overlaying FROG ID data on the known fire affected areas).
Developing a larger project involving survey/resurvey of fire affected areas and identifying lead scientists for each.

Longer-term work on climate change and biodiversity impacts
The AM has a very active and high profile citizen science program, with projects such as FrogID, Wildlife Spotter and Australasian Fishes, which will continue to engage the community in contributing data that helps understand the impact of climate change on biodiversity.

The combination of long-term historical museum voucher-based data and FrogID data (with >2 years of spatially and taxonomically accurate data with audio vouchers) will continue. FrogID will encourage people to record in burnt and unburnt areas and recordings after recent rains have spiked, allowing us to assess the impact of drought and fires on indicator species as well as engage the community in research informing biodiversity conservation and climate change understanding.

Museums Victoria

It is not an overstatement to say that we face an environmental crisis, and that our actions now will be critical to saving thousands of species and ecosystems under severe threat. As we work together to better understand how we can create a sustainable future, Australia’s natural history museums will play a vital role in sharing the wealth of scientific insight and knowledge contained within their collections
Lynley Crosswell, Chief Executive Officer and Director

Museums Victoria has been collecting natural science specimens since 1854. Museums Victoria’s natural sciences collections contain 16 million specimens.

The Museum’s large faunal collections provide a detailed record of the biodiversity of Victoria across all major groups: birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish and terrestrial invertebrates such as insects. In addition, the collection has strong holdings from south-eastern Australia.

Major data sets – fire-affected areas
Museums Victoria’s faunal collections provide a substantial reservoir of data pertaining the biodiversity of the regions which have been affected by the recent intense bushfire activity. This data will help inform the prioritisation of resources in the recovery phase to maximise the survival and recovery potential for our unique biodiversity, including threatened and vulnerable species.

Our team of research scientists, with expertise across all major groups, have compiled detailed datasets of biodiversity in many of the regions by the recent bushfires. These datasets focus on documenting our unique biodiversity through time, providing a foundation for understanding the impacts of these fires and optimising conservation management responses.

Collaborative work in response to the fires
Museums Victoria has commenced discussions with other agencies including the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), Parks Victoria as well as Taxonomy Australia and the Council for Australian Faunal collections (CHAFC) on how best we might bring our expertise and knowledge to the recovery phase.

We have several major fire-related projects underway and planned:
Museums Victoria has recently commenced a project in the Little Desert National Park to examine the impacts of fire frequency on reptile and invertebrate biodiversity. Funded by the Ian Potter Foundation, this Museums Victoria-led project will partner with Parks Victoria and local community-based environmental groups. There is evidence that fire frequency may have a major impact on the recovery of ecosystems. This study will help inform fire management approaches, particularly pertaining to the frequency of control burns, etc.

In 2016, funded through the Federal Government’s Bush Blitz program, Museums Victoria conducted a rapid biodiversity survey in the Croajingolong National Park and the Mallacoota area of East Gippsland. The recent fires have devastated this region. This 2016 survey will provide vitally important baseline data to assess the impact of the fires and the recovery of biodiversity. Museums Victoria will also target the recovery of populations of several threatened species in the region, including Bell Frogs and Martin’s Toadlets.

Over the past 10 years Museums Victoria has conducted rapid biodiversity surveys in the Victorian Alps region and at Budj Bim, both of which have been impacted by the recent fires. This work will be important in targeting recovery responses.

Following the 2014 fires in the Grampians region, Museums Victoria has continued to monitor the recovery of populations of Victoria’s most-threatened mammal species, the Smoky Mouse and the Broad-tooth rat. This project will continue to map the distribution of these rare species across the State and gain better insight into the effects of climate change on their distribution.

Museums Victoria’s Dr Karen Rowe’s research project, Listening For Nature, has been working with community groups to set up bioacoustics recorders to determine the species of birds in the landscape. This project has been applied to recently affect bushfire regions such as Bunyip State Forest and Wye River to help determine the recovery of bird species populations following bushfire.
Longer-term research and outreach on climate change and biodiversity impacts

Museums Victoria will continue to work with government agencies and community groups to build the baseline data of the distribution of biodiversity across the State. We will continue our critical research to document and describe this diversity. Research will also focus on the impact of climate change on habitat and the affect this may have might have on specific faunal groups. There are also opportunities for museum researchers to revisit areas which have been devastated by bushfire to monitor the recovery of biodiversity overtime. The application of our genomics expertise to mapping the genetic diversity of populations of faunal groups will contribute to the management plans for the protection and survival of a range of threatened and vulnerable species.

Museums have a major role to play in engaging the public with the environment and in highlighting the importance of protecting habitat and preserving biodiversity through our Citizen Science programs. These include:
  • Listening For Nature, which assists communities to monitor the bird and frog fauna in their local environment;
  • RedMap engaging people in monitoring marine life and the effects of a warming ocean;
  • Frog ID (partnership with the Australian Museum)
  • And through education programs and local community engagement programs following our fieldtrip programs.

South Australian Museum

Our key research focuses on animal responses to climate change and the development of effective conservation interventions. Recent key projects involve communities through citizen science programs enabling local participation in the generation of new knowledge and direct communication of research findings to end-users. This shows how museum collections and research inform contemporary and practical issues arising from climate change impacts on biodiversity and sustainability more generally.”
Brian Oldman, South Australian Museum Director

The South Australian Museum has been collecting natural science specimens since 1856, more than 150 years. The South Australian Museum holds over five million objects, of which two and a half million are natural science specimens. The particular strengths of the Museum's biological collections are:

Extensive collection of the Australian fauna and of South Australia in particular gathered from a comprehensive state-wide survey program of over 30 years. These represent the only verifiable proof of the temporal distribution of animals, showing how distributions can change over time. The importance of the state-wide survey program is to provide an unparalleled 360 degree view of the biodiversity of South Australia’s fauna, which can inform many of the cations that may need to be taken to assist animal populations to adapt to present and imminent climate change impacts.
The largest collection of biological tissues in the Southern Hemisphere, which includes significant holdings of Australian native animals.
This collection is particularly strong in having tissues from specimens which are themselves held in natural history collections, allowing verification of identification and other details.
Detailed genetic profiles based on these tissues can inform a wide variety of conservation actions.
Extensive collection of subfossils (owl pellets and bone deposits from caves), allowing the study of the pre- and post- European distribution of native animals in the State.

Major data sets – fire-affected areas
Our research has both a short-term and strategic emphases. In the immediate time frame our ongoing research on the conservation the native Green Carpenter Bee population in Kangaroo Island, led by South Australian Museum researcher Dr Remko Leijs, has provided pre-fire baseline data on their distribution and conservation status. Unlike introduced bees, the Green Carpenter Bee is a buzz pollinator - many native plants rely on it for pollination and seed production. Approximately 95% of Green Carpenter Bee habitat has been lost in the recent Kangaroo Island bushfire event. The first actions to assess its status are possible because of the several years of work that Dr Leijs has conducted on the population.

Strategically, we have been involving Citizen Scientists in regional studies of microbats and marsupial pygmy possums to establish the importance of remnant habitat patches in a largely agricultural landscape and to develop a strategic approach for assisted translocations. We have very recently received a tremendous boost in support for our fundamental research on the latter topic through winning a federally-funded ARC Linkage Project grant with Flinders University and several other partner organisations. Maintaining habitat on a regional scale and the use of translocations are important strategic responses to immediate (eg. bush fires) and long-term climate change impacts.

Collaborative work in response to the fires
The South Australian Museum is proud to host the Inspiring South Australia programme – a partnership to engage communities in science and improve science literacy. Inspiring South Australia has regional science hubs in fire-affected areas including Kangaroo Island and the Adelaide Hills and is working to explore bushfire recovery initiatives.

As an immediate response to the bushfire crisis, the Inspiring South Australia programme at the South Australian Museum expanded its 2020 SA Regional Science Small Grants to include applications for bushfire recovery events/activities that engage local communities in science.

Longer-term research and outreach on climate change and biodiversity impacts
The South Australian Museum is an institution that creates new knowledge through the rigorous and transparent application of scientific research. We have a strategic research focus on understanding how our fauna will adapt to climate change and we are developing approaches that will assist rapid and effective adaptation. Our research is supported by federal and local funding and has extensive citizen science involvement, delivering practical outcomes directly to those who manage the private and public conservation estate. Findings on biodiversity change are shared through myriad public engagement touchpoints including temporary exhibitions, public talks and social channels.

We own two competitions that provide opportunities for public response to environmental issues: Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year includes an Our Impact (depicting human impact on nature) category while the Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize encourages artists to make a statement about the scientific issues facing our planet, and offers a valuable platform for them to contribute to the environmental debate.

The Museum cares for a wealth of treasures with national and international significance – it is admired for its world class collections, which have been amassed over more than 150 years and encompass everything from fossils of the first known life on Earth to pieces of Martian meteorites. The Museum’s collections are still growing and used each day in scientific and cultural research.

The Museum is one of Australia’s most successful research museums, with 151 scientific papers and presentations in 2018/2019 and is a strong partner, with strategic relationships across the resources sector as well as with state and federal governments.

Western Australian Museum

We are horrified at the human impact of bushfires across Australia. Our thoughts are with all those who have been affected. At the same time, we are hugely concerned about the impact of bushfires on our environment and biodiversity. The extreme nature of the fires has irretrievably destroyed huge areas of prime wild habitat and undoubtably driven countless species of plant and animals to extinction. The relationships between climate change and the extreme bushfire conditions is surely now established. There appears little chance that pre-2000 average temperatures will return. Even in the absence of bushfires, climate change – drying of the continent, extreme temperatures, salinity – will require adaption by species and possibly cause an increase in the extinction rate of species.
Alec Coles, OBE, CEO

The WA Museum and its precursor bodies date back to the late 1800s and the biodiversity collections have been accumulated over the last 150 years, representing an almost continuous record of aspects of biodiversity of our state.

The Western Australian Museum has a collection of some 4 million natural science specimens, mostly from Western Australia, making it the most comprehensive historic, and continuing faunal collection from the western third of the country.

Major data sets – fire-affected areas
Western Australia has experienced significant bushfire activity in the Lower Southwest of the State, although in recent periods fires in the lower south east and the Kimberley have increased in number.

WAM staff have been carrying out targeted surveys on endangered black cockatoos throughout the south-west of western Australia for over 20 years and have an extensive database of both historical and current on the distribution, status , relative abundance, habitat preferences, food, movements and breeding requirements for all three species.

Of particular concern is the damage to the Stirling Range National Park. The WA Museum has a comprehensive dataset for this area where staff have been recording and monitoring terrestrial invertebrates for 25 years. A substantial area of this national park has recently been burnt. The Stirlings, because of their age and topography, represent Gondwana fauna with species that have evolved in isolation over millions of years. The loss of such fauna is devastating.

Collaborative work in response to the fires
Museum staff will continue to work with staff from the WA Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions to monitor threatened species of invertebrates in the Stirling Range National Park. These include trapdoor spiders and land snails.

Recently, WAM staff have been analysing nest tree mortality data and have identified fire as a major threat to the long-term conservation of Baudin’s Cockatoo and the Forest Red-tailed black Cockatoo in the Jarrah-Marri forest. Fire is the major cause of tree fall of actual nest trees and of future or potential nest trees and hence the retention of the right type and number of hollow-bearing trees is essential to prevent the rapid collapse of bird habitat in the Jarrah-marri forest. An audit of nesting trees revealed an average age of 240 years with a span of 120 – 400 years.

Longer-term research and outreach on climate change and biodiversity impacts
Climate Change and biodiversity loss will be addressed in the new galleries of the WA Museum, to be opened in late 2020. This will also be a cornerstone topic in the planned Learning Program.

Black Cockatoos (all 3 species): The continuing net loss of actual nest trees by fire (over 50% per decade) is a key threatening process. Also, the impacts of climate change over the past 50 years has seen dramatic changes in the distribution, foraging ecology and breeding seasons of all three endemic black cockatoos in the south-west. The long-term plan of WAM is to continue to monitor populations, raise awareness of the status and conservation needs of these birds through information sheets, scientific papers and seminars.

WA Museum staff note that while fire has had a significant detrimental impact on the Stirling Range invertebrate fauna, populations of some species recover quickly after fire. This is most likely due to their occurrence in soil where the effects of fire are lessened, and/or when juvenile life stages are developing prior to their emergence as adults during winter.

Museum collections may now represent the only record of certain invertebrate species occurring in fire-devastated regions.

Many invertebrate species affected by fires in eastern and south-western Australia have yet to be named and described by taxonomists, due to the Australian forest ecosystems being mega-biodiverse and a lack of expertise and funding for many animal species. Support for rapidly undertaking taxonomic descriptions should clearly be a very high priority.

Museum And Art Gallery Northern Territory

MAGNT is an important repository of the rich biodiversity of Northern Australia and our near neighbours. While climate change is certainly affecting the prevalence and spread of species across our region, a further key challenge we face is the impact of invasive species on our native fauna.
Marcus Schutenko, Director

MAGNT has been collecting specimens since its inception in 1970. We also hold specimens from as early as the 1930s. Most of our collections date from after Cyclone Tracy destroyed MAGNT’s first facility in 1974.

MAGNT holds approximately 700,000 specimens covering all faunal groups. Our focus is the fauna of tropical northern Australia and Central Australia, with particular strengths in fishes, reptiles, frogs, fossils and marine invertebrates.

Major data sets – fire-affected areas
Most of our biological specimens are databased (taxonomic and geographic information), with the data freely available on the Atlas of Living Australia. We also have an unparalleled collection of Australian vertebrate fossils from the late Miocene epoch collected from Alcoota in central Australia.

Collaborative work in response to the fires
MAGNT is not planning any action in direct response to the fires. However, we continue to work collaboratively with partners across Australia and internationally. We work to assist collecting institutions to our near north (e.g. PNG and Timor Leste) and for example recently hosted an international workshop connecting a dozen experts from Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Australia to discuss the conservation status of freshwater fishes of New Guinea and add species to The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Longer-term research and outreach on climate change and biodiversity impacts
Most of our current research is focused on the taxonomic and genetic identification of species (primarily fishes and marine invertebrates) endemic to our geographic region. These show a startling richness and variability of species – many unique to highly specific areas and thus particularly vulnerable to climate change or other disruptive impacts. We also collaborate with Indigenous ranger groups in field work and knowledge sharing, and such collaborations can inform strategies for land/water management and climate resilience.

Queensland Museum Network

Australia, in particular Queensland, is one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth. Recent and devastating bushfires around our country has seen enormous loss to our biodiversity and our unique species. Queensland Museum has been undertaking research that measures/identifies losses that can be found right on our doorstep in Lamington National Park. Through our role as custodians of the Queensland State Collection of more than 14 million objects, we are in a unique position to investigate the impacts and responses on species diversity to climate change phenomena.
Dr Jim Thompson, CEO

Queensland Museum has been collecting and documenting the natural and cultural history of Queensland and Australia since 1862: 158 years. Queensland Museum has 14 million biodiversity specimens. Queensland Museum has a large and strong collection of vertebrates and invertebrates including mites and spiders, insects, and parasites. Together our collection tells the life story of one of the most biodiverse regions in the world – Queensland.

Queensland Museum also holds specimens of a number of extinct, threatened and endangered species, there is concern a species of spider from Kangaroo Island described by Dr Michael Rix may be extinct after all its known habitat was burnt in recent bushfires.

Queensland Museum’s earth sciences collection is one of the largest collections in the southern hemisphere, with some of the most iconic Australian dinosaurs and marine reptiles. Basic knowledge of these species that inhabited our regions over vast geological time has many applications for science, climate projection and land management.

Major data sets – fire-affected areas
Lamington National Park was one of the areas badly affected by bushfires in Queensland. `
Queensland Museum researchers have been working since 2006 as part of the IBISCA-Queensland Project which established permanent plots within Lamington National Park, to identify which animal and plant groups are likely to be most sensitive to climate change and which ones can best be used as indicators for monitoring such change. See Memoirs of the Queensland Museum - Nature Volume 55, Part 2.

Collaborative work in response to the fires
Queensland Museum staff and our partners work collaboratively on plants, invertebrates and vertebrates to map and clearly document patterns of highest endemism in priority areas, information that can potentially be used to inform adaptive fire management.

Queensland Museum has close and ongoing partnerships in Queensland studying these areas with:
  • Griffith University, University of Queensland, James Cook University, and Central Queensland University,
  • The Federal Government (ABRS) Bush Blitz surveys which aim to describe and document Queensland’s biodiversity and heritage.
Longer-term research on climate change and biodiversity impacts
As the home of the largest reef system on earth – the Great Barrier Reef – Queensland Museum is a leading institution on corals of the Great Barrier Reef. Researchers are also studying the effects of climate change on wider marine life. Queensland Museum have a number of partnerships focusing on the Great Barrier Reef including the establishment of a coral bank.

Like museums around the world, Queensland Museum is in the position to use our collections and knowledge to empower public engagement and awareness of climate change to start a conversation based on scientific research and historical records.

Our goal is to investigate the impacts and responses by species to climate change phenomena, from the perspective of small changes in distributions (time frames of several years), to medium term habitat shifts at the landscape level (periods spanning 20–100 years), to long term changes at the evolutionary level of geological time scales (millions of years). We are in the position to be able to use our collection to understand past and current change and to learn how we can mitigate future consequences.

The climate change debate is not about whether climate change occurs, but about the rate at which it continues to occur and the extent to which human civilisation is changing greenhouse gas levels (through over-population, industrialisation, fossil fuel consumption, other pollution, land clearing) that are causing the present, rapid changes to our climate patterns

The impacts of climate change in Queensland is one of the biggest environmental challenges the state faces.

Bushfire Brandalism

February 1st, 2020
This weekend 41 Artists took to the streets across 3 Australian cities for the nation’s largest unsanctioned art campaign #BushfireBrandalism.

The streets of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane have become the backdrop for the nation’s largest unsanctioned outdoor art exhibition. Organized and realized by 41 artists , 78 advertising posters have been replaced with bespoke thought-provoking images and messages. Speaking to the current climate crisis seen via devastating drought and unprecedented bush fires, this undertaking is a direct reaction to the feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness experienced nationwide in recent weeks.

“As a collective group of Australian artists, we have been driven to reclaim public advertising space with posters speaking to the Australian government’s inaction on climate change and the devastating bushfires.

We do not accept that this situation is ‘ business as usual’. We are making these issues visible in our public spaces and in our media; areas monopolized by entities maintaining conservative climate denial agendas. If the newspapers won’t print the story, we will!” 
– Bushfire Brandalism

Original designs focus on a range of subjects including the fossil fuel industry, the bravery of the local firefighters and the destruction of the country’s unique flora and fauna. With their combined 700,000 social media following, these artists hope to raise awareness of the underlying causes of this abnormal fire season and the actions needed to prevent and control it in the future. The work installed on local bus stops and similar advertising spaces promote direct access to the relevant information and over 30 charities combating the issue via QR code.

Beyond the bushfires, the intervention speaks more broadly to the use of conventional advertising space in Australia. With one entity controlling 59% of all daily newspaper sales, the artists question the position of the media landscape in Australia and its coverage of issues concerning climate change.

Artists include Georgia Hill, Tom Gerrard, Sarah McCloskey, Amok Island, Andrew J Steel, Blends, Callum Preston, Cam Scale, Damien Mitchell, Dani Hair, DVATE, E.L.K, Ed Whitfield, FIKARIS, Fintan Magee, HEESCO, JESWRI, Ghostpatrol, Leans, Lluis fuzzhound, Lotte Smith, Lucy Lucy, Makatron, Michael Langenegger, Peter Breen, The Workers Art Collective, Stanislava Pinchuk, The Lazy Edwin, Thomas Bell, Tom Civil, WordPlay Studio, Peter Breen. Thanks to the many participating artists and creative professionals who chose to remain anonymous, 20 volunteers, MilkBar Print, Brandalism UK , Bill Posters, Sasha Bogojev, Ian Cox, KGB Crew, Public Access, Nicole Reed, Luke Shirlaw, Jordan Seiler, After Midnight Film Co, Everfresh Crew, The Culprit Club, The Peep Tempel, Waste, Wing Sing Records, Adam Scarf, NCCP, Gabby Dadgostar, James Straker, Partier Bresson and Charlotte Pyatt.

Wildlife And Conservation Bushfire Recovery

Sunday February 2nd, 2020: NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment
Native animals and plants impacted by this season's unprecedented bushfires will receive expedited help under the NSW Government's 2019-2020 immediate response bushfire conservation plan.
Mr Kean said that while we are still determining the full magnitude of the impact on our wildlife and their habitat, what we know is that many of our most vulnerable species have been heavily impacted by these fires and now face a scarcity of food and water, and predation by feral animals.

"While our assessment continues, we are doing what we can to help wildlife during the critical phase immediately after the fires," Mr Kean said.

"These short-term actions will support the natural recovery process that has already started in some areas."

The NSW Government's immediate response includes:
  • Supplementary food for endangered species like the brush-tailed rock wallaby and mountain pygmy possums
  • Drinking stations installed for native wildlife
  • Extensive aerial and ground-based feral animal and weed control operation;
  • The rescue of 6 species already taken into captive protection
  • $1 million in emergency funding set aside as part of a $6.5 million investment to support rescue and care of injured wildlife
  • Taronga Conservation Society's vet and wildlife experts providing front line support for injured animals
  • Fire severity and habitat mapping to guide rescue and recovery.
"Additionally, we are planning for the longer-term restoration and recovery of our native animals, plants and landscapes across NSW. This includes protecting the remaining areas of unburnt habitat.

"The NSW Government will continue to update our response as we improve our understanding of the impacts of these unprecedented fires. We will shortly publish a medium-term NSW wildlife and conservation bushfire recovery plan," Mr Kean said.

Major Reform To Independent Planning Commission Following Extensive Review

February 4th, 2020: NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment
The State’s Independent Planning Commission will be overhauled, following an extensive review by the NSW Productivity Commission.

Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes said the NSW Government had accepted all of the review’s recommendations.

“The IPC will undergo a significant transformation with new performance benchmarks, streamlined processes, greater accountability, and new Commissioners, to ensure the system works better for everyone,” Mr Stokes said.

“An effective planning system is vital to the health of the NSW economy and the recommendations of the Productivity Commission will increase certainty and confidence in the way planning decisions are made.”

The key changes to the IPC will include:
  • Establishing the IPC as a separate and independent agency, with its chair accountable to the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces and responsible for delivering on the Government’s agreed objectives and performance measures;
  • Clarifying roles - with the IPC to act as a decision-maker on the State’s most controversial projects rather than re-assessing the Department’s technical work;
  • Eliminating bureaucratic double handling with the introduction of a single-stage public hearing process;
  • Ensuring only the most complex and contentious projects are referred to the IPC by raising the referral threshold to 50 unique community objections; and
  • Introducing accountability benchmarks for decision-making timeframes to ensure timely determinations.
“I am pleased the review has reaffirmed the value of independent decision-making for the State’s most complex and contentious projects, but it is clear changes need to be made to ensure greater certainty for people and the community.”

The reform of the IPC will be spearheaded by Acting IPC Chair Peter Duncan AM, who brings extensive agency leadership and reform experience, including as a current Commissioner of the IPC and a former Director General of the Department of Services Technology and Administration NSW, Chief Executive of Roads and Maritime Services, and Deputy Director General of the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

Non-Native Marine Algae Detected In Botany Bay

February 4 2020
NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has recently detected two non-native marine seaweed pests in NSW waters for the first time, and community members have been asked to report any sightings.

The species are the red macroalga Grateloupia turuturu and Pachymeniopsis lanceolata. This is the first detection of Grateloupia turuturu in NSW waters and the first detection of Pachymeniopsis lanceolata in Australia.

Pachymeniopsis lanceolata is a large, flesh-pink to dull muddy red, sheet-like plant (50–200 cm long, 30––50 broad) with a very small attachment to the rocks and a broadly forked blade which gets battered over time. It gets sunburnt and goes yellow as it gets older. It is about as thick as a shirt cuff, and feels velvety and slippery. It grows, in winter and spring, on the tops and edges of rocks at the low tide mark, usually in bays.

Grateloupia turuturu is a long, narrow, large and wavy, crimson red seaweed, (up to 150 cm long, and 20 cm broad) with a tiny attachment and stalk. As a rule it is found slightly deeper in the water, so it doesn't get sunburnt. It is a little thicker than a piece of paper, and is very slippery, but crisp. It forms a skirt round the bases of rocks and boulders in bays and will grow on ropes, pylons and seagrass fronds, in winter and spring.

The species were detected in Botany Bay by Dr Stephen Skinner from the National Herbarium of NSW, Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. Samples were then able to be analysed by DPI staff at Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute to confirm the species identification.

Both species are native to parts of Asia and are known to behave as weed species elsewhere. As well as being confused with each other due to the similarities in their physical appearance, they are both known to be very difficult to identify in the field.

Both species can out-compete many native seaweeds within the low intertidal and shallow subtidal zones due to their large size and ability to reproduce quickly.

Melissa Walker, DPI Team Leader Aquatic Biosecurity, said water users are encouraged to notify NSW DPI should they suspect any further populations of these species in new locations.

“Water users are advised to not disturb these species if moving around in the locations they are known to occur,” said Ms Walker.

“If they suspect further populations of these species in new locations, they are asked to notify DPI by calling the 24 hour hotline, on 1800 675 888.”

Water users are also reminded to ensure boats and aquatic gear and equipment are cleaned before moving into a new location, to avoid the unwanted spread of non-native marine pest species.

(Pachymeniopsis lanceolata)   Sample ID:GWS018624-   License: Creative Commons - Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike (2010).  License Holder:Gary W. Saunders, University of New Brunswick.

 Red macroalga Grateloupia turuturu - photo by Parks Victoria

I Walked 1,200km In The Outback To Track Huge Lizards. Here’s Why

February 7, 2020
by Sophie Cross, PhD candidate, Curtin University
In 2017 and 2018 I walked the equivalent of 28 marathons in the scorching Western Australian outback. Why, you ask? To assess how some of Australia’s largest lizard species interact with restored mines.
As part of my PhD research, I hiked in often extreme heat on a mine site in WA’s sparsely populated Mid West region. My fieldwork was both physically and mentally demanding, as I spent many hours each day walking through the bush looking for signs of monitor lizards.

Being in a remote location and mostly alone, I had plenty of time to ponder the wisdom of my career choice, particularly on days when temperatures exceeded 40℃ and not even the lizards ventured from their homes.

Pushing through these mental challenges was difficult at times, but my work has provided me with some of my most rewarding experiences. And what I discovered may be crucial for restoring habitats destroyed by mining.

Restoring abandoned mines
Habitat loss is a leading cause of biodiversity loss worldwide. Although mining typically has a smaller environmental footprint than other major industries such as agriculture or urbanisation, roughly 75% of active mines are on land with high conservation value.

There are around 60,000 abandoned mines in Australia, but very few of them have been officially closed. How to restore them is a growing public policy problem.

Sophie Cross walked more than 1,200km and tracked a young-adult perentie to find out whether they were using a restored mining area. Author provided

Recovering biodiversity can be an exceptionally challenging task. Animals are vital to healthy ecosystems, yet little is understood about how animals respond to restored landscapes.

In particular, reptiles are often overlooked in assessments of restoration progress, despite playing key roles in Australian ecosystems.

Do animals return to restored habitats?
I wanted to know whether restored habitats properly support the return of animals, or whether animals are only using these areas opportunistically or, worse still, avoiding them completely.

To study how reptiles behave in restored mining areas, I hand-caught and tracked a young adult perentie. The perentie is Australia’s largest lizard species, growing to around 2.5m in length, and is an apex predator in arid parts of the country.

I tracked the lizard for three weeks to determine whether it was using the restored area, before the tracker fell off during mating.

The tracking device revealed how the perentie navigated a restored mine, before it fell off during mating. Author provided

Previous methods of tracking assume the animal used all locations equally. But I used a new method that measures both the frequency with which animals visit particular places, and the amount of time they spend there. This provided a valuable opportunity to assess how effective restoration efforts have been in getting animals to return.

Restoration needs more work
My research, published this week in the Australian Journal of Zoology, shows that while the perentie did visit the restored mine, it was very selective about which areas it visited, and avoided some places entirely. The lizard went on short foraging trips in the restored mine area, but regularly returned to refuge areas such as hollow logs.

The method used GPS and a VHF tracking antenna to follow the perentie. Author provided

This is because hot, open landscapes with minimal refuges present high risks for reptiles, which rely on an abundance of coverage to regulate their body temperature and to avoid predators. Such costs may make these areas unfavourable to reptiles and limit their return to restored landscapes.

In comparison, undisturbed vegetation supported longer foraging trips and slower movement, without the need to return to a refuge area. Unfortunately, areas undergoing restoration often require exceptionally long time-periods for vegetation to resemble the pre-disturbed landscape.

How can we help reptiles move back into restored areas?
Restored landscapes often lack key resources necessary for the survival of reptiles. As vegetation can require a long time to reestablish, returning fauna refuges like hollow logs and fauna refuge piles (composed of mounds of sand, logs, and branches) could be crucial to aiding in the return of animal populations.

My research team and I have called for animals to be considered to a greater extent in assessments of restoration success. In the face of increasing rates of habitat destruction, we need to understand how animals respond to habitat change and restoration.

Failing to do so risks leaving a legacy of unsustainable ecosystems and a lack of biodiversity.


Disclosure statement
Sophie Cross receives funding from the Ecological Society of Australia & the Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment, the Australian Research Council Industrial Transformation Training Centre for Mine Site Restoration (ICI150100041), and Curtin University. 

This article was published first in The Conversation, click here to read the original - republished under a Creative Commons Licence.

Scientists Find Record Warm Water In Antarctica, Pointing To Cause Behind Troubling Glacier Melt

January 29, 2020
A team of scientists has observed, for the first time, the presence of warm water at a vital point underneath a glacier in Antarctica -- an alarming discovery that points to the cause behind the gradual melting of this ice shelf while also raising concerns about sea-level rise around the globe.

"Warm waters in this part of the world, as remote as they may seem, should serve as a warning to all of us about the potential dire changes to the planet brought about by climate change," explains David Holland, director of New York University's Environmental Fluid Dynamics Laboratory and NYU Abu Dhabi's Center for Global Sea Level Change, which conducted the research. "If these waters are causing glacier melt in Antarctica, resulting changes in sea level would be felt in more inhabited parts of the world."

The recorded warm waters -- more than two degrees above freezing -- flow beneath the Thwaites Glacier, which is part of the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet. The discovery was made at the glacier's grounding zone -- the place at which the ice transitions between resting fully on bedrock and floating on the ocean as an ice shelf and which is key to the overall rate of retreat of a glacier.

Thwaites' demise alone could have significant impact globally.

It would drain a mass of water that is roughly the size of Great Britain or the state of Florida and currently accounts for approximately 4 percent of global sea-level rise. Some scientists see Thwaites as the most vulnerable and most significant glacier in the world in terms of future global sea-level rise -- its collapse would raise global sea levels by nearly one meter, perhaps overwhelming existing populated areas.

While the glacier's recession has been observed over the past decade, the causes behind this change had previously not been determined.

"The fact that such warm water was just now recorded by our team along a section of Thwaites grounding zone where we have known the glacier is melting suggests that it may be undergoing an unstoppable retreat that has huge implications for global sea level rise," notes Holland, a professor at NYU's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences.

The scientists' measurements were made in early January, after the research team created a 600-meter deep and 35-centimeter wide access hole and deployed an ocean-sensing device to measure the waters moving below the glacier's surface. This device gauges the turbulence of the water as well as other properties such as temperature. The result of turbulence is the mixing of fresh meltwater from the glacier and salty water from the ocean.

It marks the first time that ocean activity beneath the Thwaites Glacier has been accessed through a bore hole and that a scientific instrument measuring underlying ocean turbulence and mixing has been deployed. The hole was opened on January 8 and 9 and the waters beneath the glacier measured January 10 and 11.

Aurora Basinski, an NYU graduate student who made the turbulence measurement, said, "From our observations into the ocean cavity at the grounding zone we observed not only the presence of warm water, but also its turbulence level and thus its efficiency to melt the ice shelf base."

Another researcher, Keith Nicholls, a scientist with the British Antarctic Survey, added, "This is an important result as this is the first time turbulent dissipation measurements have been made in the critical grounding zone of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet."

This research was supported by a $2.1 million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation (PLR-1739003). The grant is part of the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration (ITGC), headed by the United Kingdom's Natural Environment Research Council and the National Science Foundation, which has been deploying scientists to gather the data needed to understand whether the glacier's collapse could begin in the next few decades or centuries. Other members of the field team included researchers from Penn State, Georgia Tech, and the British Antarctic Survey.

For more about the project, please visit:

Looks Like An ANZAC Biscuit, Tastes Like A Protein Bar: Bogong Bikkies Help Mountain Pygmy-Possums After Fire

February 6, 2020
by Marissa Parrott
Reproductive Biologist, Wildlife Conservation & Science, Zoos Victoria, and Honorary Research Associate, BioSciences, University of Melbourne
Naomi Ezra Davis
Environmental Scientist - Fauna, Parks Victoria; Honorary Fellow, School of BioSciences, University of Melbourne

Australia’s recent bushfires have razed over ten million hectares, and killed at least a billion animals. It’s likely countless more will die in the aftermath, as many species face starvation as the landscape slowly regenerates.

Even before the bushfires hit, we were working on supplementary food to help recover the critically endangered mountain pygmy-possum. They are seriously threatened by climate change, historic habitat destruction and more frequent intense fires.

Just months ago we landed on a recipe for Bogong Bikkies, nutritionally suitable baked biscuits that have the consistency of an ANZAC biscuit, taste a bit like a nutty gym protein bar and smell a little like Cheds crackers.

We never imagined our work would be needed so quickly – or urgently – but now our Bogong Bikkies are being deployed across the boulder fields of NSW, providing vital supplementary food to native species such as pygmy-possums, native bush rats and dusky antechinus.

Hungry, hungry possums
Mountain pygmy-possums are the only Australian marsupial that hibernate every winter under snow, making it essential they build fat reserves before their long winter sleep. The main food source during their spring/summer breeding season is the migratory bogong moth.

However in 2017 and 2018 the billions of expected bogong moths largely failed to arrive, leaving many females underweight and unable to produce enough milk for their young. Due to a lack of food, 50-95% of females in monitored Victorian locations lost their entire litters.
In response, Zoos Victoria’s Healesville Sanctuary proposed creating a new supplementary food that could be used in the wild to support possums and their young until moth numbers recover.

Ten years ago, we analysed bogong moths to determine the fats, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals required for a suitable breeding diet for possums in our captive breeding program.

While we have a successful diet for the possums in our care that includes nuts, insects, vegetables and a specially developed “bogong moth substitute”, the blend has the consistency of a soft caramel (or bogong moth abdomen) – not suitable for feeding in the wild. We needed a shelf-stable, long-lasting, nutritionally suitable food that could feed remote wild populations.

That’s the way the cookie crumbles
Throughout 2019, using our existing analyses of bogong moths, we worked with world experts in veterinary nutrition to develop Bogong Bikkies – nutritionally suitable baked biscuits for mountain pygmy-possums, and other species that live alongside them. We collaborated with Australian wildlife diet experts, Wombaroo, to have our new product commercially developed.

We then trialled the bikkies with the possums in our care at Healesville Sanctuary, so we could monitor whether the food was palatable or caused any health issues. It was a huge success. The possums liked the food, but happily ate other food too. This was exactly what we wanted: something that was completely safe and would be readily accepted, but not chosen over natural food sources.

Mountain Pygmy-possum mum and joeys. Tim Bawden/Zoos Victoria., Author provided

Once satisfied our captive trials were a success, we had to find the best way to deliver food safely to possums in boulder fields in the wild. This meant buying or making 12 different feeder prototypes. Our local hardware store knew us all by name! We tested four feeders, most of which were designed and built on-site, and chose the most successful three for trials in the wild.

Working with Parks Victoria and the Victorian Mountain Pygmy-possum Recovery Team, we tested these three feeders at 20 stations deep in the Alpine National Park, monitored with remote infrared cameras.

Over the last few months, Zoos Victoria and Parks Victoria staff have been refilling feeders, changing camera batteries and analysing hundreds of thousands of images and videos. After months of work, watching wild mountain pygmy-possums, native bush rats and dusky antechinus visiting our feeders and eating the food was a triumph.

A possum feeder in the wild. Zoos Victoria, Author provided

An infrared image showing a wild mountain pygmy-possum eating a Bogong Bikkie from a feeder. Zoos Victoria, Author provided
A raging inferno
Halfway through our research, some of the worst bushfires ever seen in Australia left habitats destroyed and our precious wildlife dead or starving. Victoria mountain pygmy-possum populations have so far not been directly impacted by fires this season, but the populations of northern Kosciuszko National Park, New South Wales, were hard hit.

While the habitat was destroyed, we hoped some possums had survived deep in the boulder fields, as they have with previous fires. But surviving the initial fire is no help, if their environment and food sources have been so devastated that they can’t gain enough weight to hibernate before winter’s snow.

Within days of the January fires, we had packaged up our most successful feeder type, examples of our cooked bikkies, our best recipe and 30kg of Bogong Bikkie mix, and rushed it urgently to our NSW partners.
Teams from the NSW government’s Saving Our Species and NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service have now built and deployed 62 feeders and water stations in six boulder fields, baked batches of bikkies and started emergency feeding.

We’re thankful to have the food developed and research ready to assist. It is important to note, though, that such supplementary feeding is very intensive, and only appropriate for native species facing emergency situations, such as catastrophic fires.

If these bushfires teach us nothing else, it is the value of preparation, hard work and early funding to develop a range of conservation tools.

While we should all hope for the best, we must plan for the worst.

Zoos Victoria/Tim Bawden, Author provided

This article was co-authored Dr Kim Miller, Life Sciences Manager, Conservation and Research, at Healesville Sanctuary, Zoos Victoria, and Dr Leanne Wicker, Senior Veterinarian at Healesville Sanctuary, Zoos Victoria. The authors acknowledge Dr Linda Broome and the team from Biodiversity and Conservation (South East Branch) of the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment for their work protecting the Mountain Pygmy-possum.

This article was corrected to clarify the impact on the mountain pygmy-possum populations of northern Kosciuszko National Park.

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 -

Federal Government Ministry: February 2020

The Prime Minister announced on 6 February 2020, his intention to recommend to the Governor-General the following Ministry:

Prime Minister - The Hon Scott Morrison MP
Minister for the Public Service - The Hon Scott Morrison MP
Minister for Women - Senator the Hon Marise Payne
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Cabinet - The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Indigenous Australians - The Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP
Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet - The Hon Ben Morton MP
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional
Development - The Hon Michael McCormack MP
Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management - The Hon David Littleproud MP
Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts - The Hon Paul Fletcher MP
Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure - The Hon Alan Tudge MP
Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government - The Hon Mark Coulton MP
Minister for Decentralisation and Regional Education - The Hon Andrew Gee MP
Assistant Minister for Road Safety and Freight Transport - The Hon Scott Buchholz MP
Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister - Kevin Hogan MP
Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Territories - The Hon Nola Marino MP

Treasurer - The Hon Josh Frydenberg MP
Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure - The Hon Alan Tudge MP
Assistant Treasurer - The Hon Michael Sukkar MP
Minister for Housing - The Hon Michael Sukkar MP
Assistant Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and Financial Technology - Senator The Hon Jane Hume

Minister for Finance
(Vice-President of the Executive Council)
(Leader of the Government in the Senate) - Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Assistant Minister for Finance, Charities and Electoral Matters - Senator the Hon Zed Seselja

Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management - The Hon David Littleproud MP
Minister for the Environment - The Hon Sussan Ley MP
Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia - The Hon Keith Pitt MP
Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management - The Hon Trevor Evans MP
Assistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries - Senator The Hon Jonathon Duniam
Minister for Foreign Affairs - Senator the Hon Marise Payne

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment
(Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) - Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham
Minister for International Development and the Pacific - The Hon Alex Hawke MP
Minister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Investment - The Hon Andrew Gee MP
Assistant Minister for Regional Tourism - Senator the Hon Jonathon Duniam

(Leader of the House) - The Hon Christian Porter MP
Minister for Industrial Relations - The Hon Christian Porter MP

Minister for Health - The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians - Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck
Minister for Youth and Sport - Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck
Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government - The Hon Mark Coulton MP

Minister for Home Affairs - The Hon Peter Dutton MP
Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management - The Hon David Littleproud MP
Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs - The Hon David Coleman MP
Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs - The Hon Jason Wood MP

Minister for Education - The Hon Dan Tehan MP
Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business - Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash
Minister for Decentralisation and Regional Education - The Hon Andrew Gee MP
Assistant Minister for Vocational Education, Training and Apprenticeships - The Hon Steve Irons MP

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology - The Hon Karen Andrews MP
Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction - The Hon Angus Taylor MP
Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia - The Hon Keith Pitt MP
Assistant Minister for Northern Australia - The Hon Michelle Landry MP

Minister for Defence - Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs - The Hon Darren Chester MP
Minister for Defence Personnel - The Hon Darren Chester MP
(Deputy Leader of the House)
Assistant Defence Minister - The Hon Alex Hawke MP
Minister for Defence Industry - The Hon Melissa Price MP

Minister for Families and Social Services - Senator the Hon Anne Ruston
(Manager of Government Business in the Senate) 

Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme -  The Hon Stuart Robert MP
Minister for Government Services - The Hon Stuart Robert MP
Assistant Minister for Children and Families - The Hon Michelle Landry MP
Assistant Minister for Community Housing, Homelessness and Community Services - The Hon Luke Howarth MP

2019 Federal Election Disclosure Returns Published Today

Monday, February 3rd, 2020
Disclosure returns lodged with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) by candidates, Senate groups and election donors following the 2019 federal election, held on Saturday 18 May 2019, are now released for public inspection.

The election disclosure returns are available to view on the AEC’s Transparency Register – a sub-site of the existing AEC website. The Transparency Register allows users to more easily apply multiple filters to disclosure data and use improved sorting functionality. Users are also able to easily export filtered data or download the entire dataset should they wish to do so.

The returns cover receipts, electoral expenditure and discretionary benefits by candidates who contested the 2019 federal election. Of the 1,514 candidates who contested the federal election, a total of 1,438 lodged returns and, of these, 993 candidates lodged nil returns. In addition, eight Senate Group returns were lodged, four of which were nil returns. A further 28 donor returns were also lodged.

Note: Candidates and Senate groups that are endorsed by a political party were able to provide a nil disclosure and roll their reporting in as part of the political party return for the 2018-19 financial year, which will be available for public inspection on Monday 3 February 2020.

The Transparency Register
The AEC’s Transparency Register currently displays federal election and by-election financial disclosure returns lodged by candidates, Senate groups and donors. The register replaces the previous election returns locator tool.

Annual financial disclosure returns for the 2017-18 financial year and earlier years will transfer to the new Transparency Register webpage from December this year.

Financial disclosure requirements
Candidates are required to disclose the total sum of all donations received and used to fund their campaign, along with details of donations received where those donations total more than $13,800 from a single source. Details of electoral expenditure and discretionary benefits are also required.

Officially endorsed candidates may submit a “nil return” and roll their reporting into the annual return for their party, due for release in February 2020, if those financial transactions were the responsibility of a party committee.

Donations totalling more than $13,800 made to an individual candidate or Senate group, and donations received by a donor totalling more than $13,800 from a single source that were used in turn to fund donations to an individual candidate or Senate group, must be reported by the donor.

NSW: Children's Brain Cancer Focus Of $7.1 Million Grants

February 4, 2020
Ground-breaking research into aggressive childhood brain  tumours is a major recipient of a $7.1 million investment into cancer research announced by the NSW Government.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard said research has the potential to deliver a new care  model, therapies and better outcomes for children with in-operable brain tumors.

“Despite significant advances in childhood cancer treatments, the prognosis for kids battling aggressive brain cancers worldwide remains bleak,” Mr Hazzard said.

“The NSW Government, through the Cancer Institute NSW has invested more than $16 million over the last five years in paediatric cancer research.

“In addition, Australia’s first Comprehensive Children’s Cancer Centre will be built at the Sydney Children’s Hospital by the NSW Government with an investment of $608 million.

“The latest funding boost for researchers will hopefully help get new treatments from the laboratory benchtop to the bedside much quicker, giving some hope to families.”

Brain tumours are the most common form of solid tumours among children. Malignant brain tumours kill more children in Australia than any other disease.

Associate Professor David Ziegler of the Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick received a Translational Program Grant of $3.75 million to develop new treatments for diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), presently an inoperable brain stem tumour in children.

“With this additional funding, we’ll be looking at treatments like immunotherapy and drugs targeting specific genetic mutations to help our young patients,” Professor Ziegler said.

Also announced as part of today’s funding was $3.3 million in Cancer Research Fellowships supporting early and mid-career researchers.

Professor David Currow, Chief Cancer Officer and CEO of the Cancer Institute NSW, administered the funding. He said the Fellowships formed a vital part of NSW’s research investment.

“Investing in our researchers at the beginning of their careers, helps ensure  NSW remains at the forefront of cancer research, delivering better outcomes for all patients.”

UNSW Problem Solvers Make Technology Accessible For Everybody

February 5, 2020
UNSW students and people with disabilities are working together on creative ways to make technology usable for more people.

Dr Lauren Kark, an Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering, received a Division of Equity Diversity & Inclusion Small Grant 2019.

A pilot program that inspires UNSW Engineering students to develop innovative technology for people with disability has been named ‘best innovation’ by the University’s Division of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion.

The program, Connect Equip, gives students the opportunity to connect with people living with disability and co-design a tailored device that enhances their quality of life and participation in society.

Dr Lauren Kark, an Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering, was one of five recipients awarded a $5000 Small Grant by the Division of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion in 2019. The division’s grant program launched last year aiming to encourage and support students and staff to foster a campus culture that promoted equity, diversity and inclusion.

Dr Kark started Connect Equip amid growing concern that technology was often unavailable and did not cater to the needs of people with disabilities.

“In a lot of my research, I work with people with disability, and I can see the frustration of wanting to participate but not being able to because they can’t get their hands on the technology that they need to participate,” she said.

Dr Kark identified that a major problem was the limited exposure some engineers had to people with a disability. “Many students graduate and go into the workforce designing technology intended to improve quality of life but have never encountered someone with a disability or chronic illness,” she said.

'I work with people with disability, and I can see the frustration of wanting to participate but not being able to because they can’t get their hands on the technology that they need to participate.'

Connect Equip aimed to change that by providing engineering students with the opportunity to work collaboratively with people with a disability and better understand their needs, design solutions and produce a prototype.

The pilot program was initially designed as an elective unit that engineering students could enrol in to receive course credit. In just 10 weeks, students co-designed 21 projects to enhance the lives of people with disability.

Connect Equip devices produced by students addressed a widening gap in the technology sector. Dr Kark said a lot of devices on the market were medical but Connect Equip aimed to design products that facilitated increased social participation in sporting, leisure and lifestyle activities.

People can place themselves between the poles of the ‘squeeze machine’ and have pressure applied to their bodies by the black foam rollers.

Devices included the creation of ‘squeeze machines’ for people with autism, and portable squeeze gyms they could travel with. Some children with neurological processing disorders, such as autism, require deep physical pressure. Squeeze gyms provide the temporary pressure and the ideal level of heavy work to help them function effectively.

UNSW Engineering students worked in the gym with an exercise physiologist, modifying existing gym equipment to make it accessible and safe for people with disabilities and injuries.

“One group made something you can put onto a generic exercise bike to enable people with spinal cord injury or who’ve had a stroke to use their normal bikes rather than having to buy another custom-made bike,” Dr Kark said.

Thriving under a tight budget, another group of students built a classroom device for only $50 that enabled students in wheelchairs to access whiteboards more effectively.

“The bulk of the wheelchair means students can’t physically get close to the board, but also by their nature wheelchairs mean you’re sitting, so you can’t get up to the top of the board. Many students with disability in wheelchairs also don’t have the muscle control required to interact with the board,” Dr Kark said.

'We want to be open year-round so that people can request technology at any time of the year.'

“The students designed a special device that was weighted appropriately for the individual users and took advantage of the muscle control they had and made sure the muscle control they didn’t have wasn’t causing any accessibility issues,” she said.

Professor Eileen Baldry, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, said that “all five projects funded by the grants are wonderful”.

“The EDI board had presentations from all five and found it so hard to decide which should be the overall winner. Connect Equip students captured the board’s attention for their genuine partnership with people with disability,” Professor Baldry said.

“The students recognised people with disabilities’ expertise regarding their needs and what would make a difference for them. They then developed ingenious and affordable devices to assist in resolving whatever the particular issue was.”

Sarah Anastopoulos, an engineering student who took part, said the experience humbled her and highlighted the importance of including people with disability in the production process.

“It doesn’t matter how capable we are as engineers, we will never have the expertise that our end-user does when it comes to their own experiences, capabilities and needs,” she said.

With the success of Connect Equip, Dr Kark said, there were plans to expand the program to an ongoing community service hub.

“We want to be open year-round so that people can request technology at any time of the year and students can work on these projects for the required period of time,” she said.

With 21 effective projects already developed in 10 weeks, Dr Kark said, it was exciting to ponder what Connect Equip could achieve over a longer time.

Wasp Nests Used To Date Ancient Kimberley Rock Art

February 6, 2020: University of Melbourne
Mud wasp nests have helped establish a date for one of the ancient styles of Aboriginal rock art in the Kimberley. University of Melbourne and ANSTO scientists put the Gwion Gwion art period around 12,000 years old.

"This is the first time we have been able to confidently say Gwion style paintings were created around 12,000 years ago," said PhD student Damien Finch, from the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne. "No one has been able present the scientific evidence to say that before."

One wasp nest date suggested one Gwion painting was older than 16,000 years, but the pattern of the other 23 dates is consistent with the Gwion Gwion period being 12,000 years old.

The rock paintings, more than twice as old as the Giza Pyramids, depict graceful human figures with a wide range of decorations including headdresses, arm bands, and anklets. Some of the paintings are as small as 15cm, others are more than two metres high.

The details of the breakthrough are detailed in the paper 12,000-year-old Aboriginal rock art from the Kimberley region, Western Australia, now published in Science Advances.

More than 100 mud wasp nests collected from Kimberley sites, with the permission of the Traditional Owners, were crucial in identifying the age of the unique rock art.

"A painting beneath a wasp nest must be older than the nest, and a painting on top of a nest must be younger than the nest," Mr Finch said. "If you date enough of the nests, you build up a pattern and can narrow down an age range for paintings in a particular style."

Lack of organic matter in the pigment used to create the art had previously ruled out radiocarbon dating. But the University of Melbourne and ANSTO scientists were able to use dates on 24 mud wasp nests under and over the art to determine both maximum and minimum age constraints for paintings in the Gwion style.

The project was initiated by Professor Andy Gleadow and Professor Janet Hergt, from the School of Earth Sciences, and started in 2014 with funding from the Australian Research Council and the Kimberley Foundation. It is the first time in 20 years scientists have been able to date a range of these ancient artworks.

"The Kimberley contains some of the world's most visually spectacular and geographically extensive records of Indigenous rock art, estimated to include tens of thousands of sites, only a small fraction of which have been studied intensively," said Professor Gleadow.

Professor Hergt said being able to estimate the age of Gwion art is important as it can now be placed into the context of what was happening in the environment and what we know from excavations about other human activities at the same time.

Dr Vladimir Levchenko, an ANSTO expert in radiocarbon dating and co-author, said rock art is always problematic for dating because the pigment used usually does not contain carbon, the surfaces are exposed to intense weathering and nothing is known about the techniques used thousands of years ago.

"Beeswax or resin have also been used -- usually on more modern samples," Dr Levchenko said.

"Although soil is full of carbon, most of it is easily degradable. However, charcoal is more likely to survive for longer periods. There is lots of black carbon in Australian soil because of bushfires."

Wasp nests near the paintings have given scientists a major breakthrough on Kimberley rock art. Image: Damien Finch

Damien Finch, Andrew Gleadow, Janet Hergt, Vladimir A. Levchenko, Pauline Heaney, Peter Veth, Sam Harper, Sven Ouzman, Cecilia Myers, Helen Green. 12,000-Year-old Aboriginal rock art from the Kimberley region, Western Australia. Science Advances, 2020; 6 (6): eaay3922 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay3922

Top 5 Funniest Animal Outtakes 

Published by BBC Earth, February 3rd, 2020

Wildcard Clubs Thrown In The Mix For Nudie Australian Boardriders Battle National Final

February 4th, 2020: By Surfing Australia

Five seriously strong Wildcard Clubs are set to shake up the nudie Australian Boardriders Battle National Final in Newcastle next weekend, on February 15th and 16th. 

Reigning national champions Merewether Surfboard Club will yet again field a heavyweight lineup including the likes of World Surf League (WSL) stars Ryan Callinan and Morgan Cibilic.  A 2020 Championship tour rookie, Cibilic is pumped to kick off his year surfing for the club he loves to represent. 

"Nothing beats surfing for your club and we are such a proud club with a long and proud history of world champions and winners. I can't wait to give the national final a real shakeup on home turf. Hopefully, the forecast plays in our favour and produces solid waves," said Cibilic. 

Some of the world’s best current, former and up-and-coming World Surf League (WSL) stars will don the comp singlet to help their club in the quest for national glory. Names like Wade Carmichael, Adrian Buchan, Matt Wilkinson, Soli Bailey, Danny Wills, Kieran Perrow, Nikki Van Dijk, Macy Callaghan, Molly Picklum, Ethan Ewing, Connor O'Leary, Bede Durbidge and Kalani Ball, just to name a few. 

Avoca Boardriders Club is another serious contender coming into the event as a wildcard club, bosting Adrian Buchan, Wade Carmichael and Matt Wilkinson on their team card and having won the National Final back in 2017. 

nudie Australian Boardriders Battle National Final Wildcard Clubs: 

Merewether SBC (NSW)
North Shelley BRC (NSW)
Avoca BRC (NSW)
Byron BRC (NSW)
Ulladulla BRC (NSW)
Newcastle Trials WINNER

nudie Australian Boardriders Battle National Final Qualified Clubs:

Noosa BRC (QLD)
Point Lookout BRC (QLD)
North Shore BRC (QLD)
Burleigh Heads BRC (QLD)
Queenscliff BRC (NSW)
Curl Curl United BRC (NSW)
Nth Narrabeen BRC (NSW)

Coffs Harbour BRC (NSW)
Kingscliff BRC (NSW)
Elouera BRC (NSW)
Bondi BRC (NSW)
Culburra BRC (NSW)
Margaret River BRC (WA)
Seaford BRC (SA)
South Arm BRC (TAS)
Torquay BRC (VIC)
Phillip Island BRC (VIC)

Now in its seventh season, the nudie Australian Boardriders Battle is the country's biggest grassroots boardriders event, involving more than 60 of Australia’s best boardrider clubs and $110,000 in prize money.

The series is officially sanctioned by the World Surf League (WSL), which allows Australian WSL World Tour surfers (Men and Women) the opportunity to represent their local boardriders club at respective State qualifying events and the National Final.

Adding to the high stakes at the State qualifying events will be two speciality awards. The Oakley Prizm Performer will be awarded to the standout surfer, while the AirAsia Big Air will be presented to the surfer who does the biggest and best aerial manoeuvre at each event.

The 2019/20 nudie Australian Boardriders Battle is proudly supported by nudie, Oakley, Woolworths, Hyundai, BFGoodrich, Acciona, Destination NSW, City of Newcastle, AirAsia, 2XP, WSL, mySURFtv, Novotel Newcastle Beach, Andrew Peace Wines, Fox Sports and Surfing Australia.

2019/2020 nudie Australian Boardriders Battle Series Calendar:

ABB - EVENT 1 - Gold Coast, QLD - Aug 24, 2019
ABB - EVENT 2 - Trigg, WA - Sept 21, 2019
ABB - EVENT 3 - NSW Nth - Coffs Harbour, NSW - Oct 13, 2019
ABB - EVENT 4 - NSW Sth - Kiama, NSW - Oct 26, 2019
ABB - EVENT 5 - NSW Central - North Narrabeen, NSW - Nov 2, 2019
ABB - EVENT 6 - Phillip Island, VIC - Nov 9, 2019
ABB - EVENT 7 - Fleurieu Peninsula, SA - Nov 23, 2019
ABB - EVENT 8 - Clifton Beach TAS - Dec 14, 2019
National Final – Newcastle NSW - Feb 15-16, 2020

Curious Kids: How Do Magpies Detect Worms And Other Food Underground?

How do magpies detect worms and other food sources underground? I often see them look or listen, then rapidly hop across the ground and start digging with their beak and extract a worm or bug from the earth – Catherine, age 10, Perth.

Answered by Gisela Kaplan, Emeritus Professor in Animal Behaviour, University of New England

You have posed a very good question.

Foraging for food can involve sight, hearing and even smell. In almost all cases learning is involved. Magpies are ground foragers, setting one foot before the other looking for food while walking, called walk-foraging. It looks like this:

This is called walk-foraging. Gisela Kaplan, Author provided

Finding food on the ground, such as beetles and other insects, is not as easy as it may sound. The ground can be uneven and covered with leaves, grasses and rocks. Insects may be hiding, camouflaged, or staying so still it is hard for a magpie to notice them.

Detecting a small object on the ground requires keen vision and experience, to discriminate between the parts that are important and those that are not.

Magpie eyes, as for most birds, are on the side of the head (humans and other birds of prey, by contrast, have eyes that face forward).

A magpie’s eyes are at the side of its head and it can only see something with both eyes if that is straight in front of the bird. Shutterstock/Webb Photography

To see a small area in front of them, close to the ground, birds use both eyes together (scientists call this binocular vision). But birds mostly see via the eyes looking out to the side (which is called monocular vision).

This picture gives you an idea of what a magpie can see with its left eye, what it can see with its right eye and what area it can see with both eyes working together (binocular vision).

Here’s how a magpie’s field of vision works. Gisela Kaplan, Author provided

You asked about underground foraging. Some of that foraging can also be done by sight. Worms, for instance, may leave a small mound (called a cast) on the surface and, to the experienced bird, this indicates that a worm is just below.

Magpies can also go a huge step further. They can identify big scarab larvae underground without any visual help at all.

Here is a scarab larva. Gisela Kaplan, Author provided

Scarab larvae look like grubs. They munch on grassroots and can kill entire grazing fields. Once they transform into beetles (commonly called Christmas beetles) they can do even more damage by eating all the leaves off eucalyptus trees.

Here is the secret: magpies have such good hearing, they can hear the very faint sound of grass roots being chewed.

We know this from experiments using small speakers under the soil playing back recorded sounds of scarab beetle larvae. Magpies located the speaker every time and dug it up.

An Australian magpie digging for food in a lawn. Flickr/Lance, CC BY-NC-ND

So how do they do it? Several movements are involved.

To make certain that a jab with its beak will hit the exact spot where the juicy grub is, the magpie first walks slowly and scans the ground. It then stops and looks closely at the ground – seemingly with both eyes working together.

Then, holding absolutely still, the magpie turns its head so the left side of the head and ear is close to the ground for a final confirming listen.

Finally, the bird straightens up, then executes a powerful jab into the ground before retrieving the grub.

An Australian magpie digging for food gets a grub. Wikimedia/Toby Hudson, CC BY-SA

That is very clever of the magpies. Very few animals can extract food they can’t see. Only great apes and humans were thought to have this ability. Clever magpies indeed. And farmers love them for keeping a major pest under control.


Hello, curious kids! Have you got a question you’d like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to

Curious Kids is a series published by The Conversation - republished under a Creative Commons licence. To see all Curious Kids articles on The Conversation, visit here.


Explosive Find! Secret Wartime Tunnel Located Under Road In Royal National Park

February 3rd, 2020

A hidden underground slice of Australia’s wartime history has been rediscovered by workers investigating road maintenance in the Royal National Park.

Transport for NSW Sydney Maintenance Director David Fishburn said the forgotten tunnel under one of the main access roads to the park is part of a network of small explosives chambers, prepared in 1942 in case of invasion during World War Two.

“We understand the chamber was dug under the road so that explosives could be hidden within it. In the case of an invasion, the explosives would have been detonated and the road destroyed to hinder the progress of enemy troops,” Mr Fishburn said.

Eastern horseshoe bat, Rhinolophus megaphyllus - photo by Glen Fergus, Burringbar, New South Wales

“I can assure the public there are no longer explosives in the tunnel, which is now home to a colony of regionally significant microbats, known as the Eastern Horseshoe bat.

“Records of road blocks laid in 1942 identify four such tunnels within the Waterfall area, including this chamber, also known as an “adit”, on McKell Avenue. It’s believed there could still be around 40 others in the Illawarra region.

“The Royal National Park was considered an ideal location for the defence of the Sydney coastline in the Second World War.”

Mr Fishburn said the discovery was made while workers were investigating planned slope stabilisation upgrades on the road.

“The chamber is about seven metres long and 1.2m high, only accessible by rope and lined with sandstone blocks, with additional timber supports which appear to be collapsing and eroding,” Mr Fishburn said.


“When the adits were decommissioned, stone walls were to be built across the openings, but either this wasn’t done, or the wall has collapsed away without trace.”

The planned work will ensure the road remains stable for motorists for years to come, which could include the installation of rock bolts, drains and sealing the adit.

Transport for NSW and its contractor Ventia Boral Amey will work closely with environmental experts and a specialist ecologist to ensure any work minimises any impact on the bats.

Notes on historical context

During 1942, the threat of an invasion of Australia appeared imminent. 10 weeks after Japan’s invasion of South-East Asia, Australia itself became the target of air and sea attacks, including a submarine entering Sydney Harbour.

Industry and society mobilised for a total defence effort. Australia’s existing arms industry was expanded, and hundreds of annexes and factories established.

The NSW Department of Main Roads worked with military authorities to construct and strengthen roads around strategic locations, so they could carry military vehicles, but also be ready for immediate demolition in case of invasion.

As well as the small tunnels to help destroy access roads, new road blocks, tank traps, gun emplacements and runways were all built or planned in 1942.

In the Sutherland Shire, beaches were also protected by barbed wire, street signs and names were removed, land mines laid, boats were taken off the water so they couldn’t be used by advancing attackers, and the National Park was used as training ground by local troops, including the 45th Battalion.

Evidence of military presence is seen in some other places in the area, including on the southern headland of Wattamolla where there is extensive erosion due to guns and traffic on the sand dunes and a camp site is apparent at Loftus Heights. However there are few signs remaining of the extensive military manoeuvres from 77 years ago.

Allied victories in the second half of 1942, in the Coral Sea, around Midway Island, at Milne Bay, at Guadalcanal and on the Kokoda Trail, halted the advance of Japanese forces in the South-West Pacific Area.

A Little About Our Royal National Park

The Royal National Park is a protected national park that is located in Sutherland Shire in the Australian state of New South Wales, just south of Sydney. The 151-square-kilometre (58 sq mi) national park is about 29 kilometres (18 mi) south of the Sydney central business district near the localities of Loftus, Otford, and Waterfall.

It is the second oldest national park in the world after Yellowstone, which was established in the US in 1872. Founded by Sir John Robertson, Acting Premier of New South Wales, and formally proclaimed on 26 April 1879, its original name was National Park, but it was renamed in 1955 after Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia passed by in the train during her 1954 tour.

The park includes the settlements of Audley, Maianbar and Bundeena. There was once a railway line connected to the Eastern Suburbs & Illawarra Line but this closed and was converted to a heritage tramway operated by the Sydney Tramway Museum in Loftus.

Incidentally, the Sydney Tramway Museum is having an Open Day on Sunday, February 24th and you can get there on one of those old buses from the Sydney Bus Museum, which we ran a little about last Issue when they were in Mona Vale. The details are:

Vintage Bus to the Sydney Vintage Tramway Festival
Hosted by Sydney Bus Museum
Sunday, February 23, 2020 at 9:30 AM – 4 PM

Sydney Bus Museum
Old Leichhardt Tramshed, 25 Derbyshire Road, Leichhardt

Each year, the Sydney Tramway Museum marks the anniversary of the closure of Sydney's original tramway system with a gala day held on the Sunday closest to February 25.  

This year, we will be taking our 1937 Leyland TD4 / Waddingtons double decker to Loftus. This wonderfully restored vehicle shows off the glory days of the NSW Department of Road Transport & Tramways, and ran alongside the trams for 24 years. It is resplendent in the red and cream livery of the 1930s DRTT, a pleasing contrast to the green and cream of the trams of the day.
Seats are limited to approximately 50 for a comfortable journey, and bookings are essential (link below). 

We will start out from Leichhardt 9:30am, picking up at Central Station (Railway Square, Lee St before Stand K) at 9.50am. The bus will then proceed directly to the Tramway Museum with an anticipated arrival of 10.50am. 

There, the Sydney Tramway Museum will be operating a varied array of trams from Sydney's transport history.​

Pack a picnic lunch to have in the pleasant surrounds of the Railway Square Waiting Shed before boarding the waiting double decker for a return jaunt back up the Princes Highway to Central Station and the Bus Museum at Leichhardt, setting down at Sydenham (Pacific Hwy and St Peters Station upon request. Departure from Loftus will be at 2:30pm, with an expected arrival at Central of 3.30pm and Leichhardt by 4:00pm.  

Bookings are essential.
The Sydney Bus Museum will not be open on this day. 
Double decker bus travel to & from Loftus and admission to the Sydney Tramway Museum including unlimited tram rides are included in your ticket:
Adults: $30.00
Children (4-16): $15.00. Children under 4 free. 
Concession: $15.00 
Family (2 Adults & 2 Children): $75.00

Times are approximate and will be confirmed closer to the event:
Bus departs Sydney Bus Museum, Leichhardt: 9:30am
Bus departs Railway Square, Lee St, Stand K: 9:50am​
Bus arrives Sydney Tramway Museum: approx 10:50am
Bus departs Sydney Tramway Museum: 2:30pm
Bus sets down at Central Station: approx 3.30pm
Bus returns to Sydney Bus Museum, Leichhardt: approx 4pm. 
To book

Some National Park information from the pages of the past during 1942 from someone who worked as a ranger there:

Veteran Ranger's Reminiscenses.

The unique distinction is claimed by the pioneer Farnell family that it is the only one which has had a mem-ber, from two succeeding generations, officially associated with the National Park ever since its establishment sixty-three years ago. This record, which is a rare one for that kind of public institution, works out in the following manner. The first trust of the park, which was appointed by the Government on April 26, 1879, included in its personnel Mr. James Squire Farnell. The latter was at one time both Premier of New South Wales and Minister for Lands. In 1888 James Farnell died, and the vacancy thus caused on the trust was filled by his son, Mr. Frank Farnell, who later became chairman of the trust. 

During the trusteeship of the latter, who has been deceased for some years, his brother, Mr. Hilton Farnell, became an employee of the National Park. That was in 1904. Today, after thirty-eight years, Mr. Hilton Farnell keeps alive the continuity of association which was commenced by his father in 1879. This veteran ranger might well be described as the "oldest inhabitant" of the park. Actually his home is at Sutherland. During an interview with a "Propeller" representative, Mr. Farnell gave some interesting sidelights of his life and connections with what is the oldest national park in the southern hemisphere. He disclosed that he was born at Ryde, near the Parramatter River, seventy-one years ago. 

An old soldier of both the past and present century, Mr. Farnell said that he went to the Boer War as a member of the historic New South Wales Citizens' Bushmen's Contingent. In the last world war he left Australia with the 13th Battery, 5th Brigade, Field Artillery. 

He added: "I tried to enlist for the present show, but they reckoned I was too old." 

To-day the veteran ranger still retains much of his Soldierly deportment of other days, particularly when he is seen garbed, at week-ends and holidays in the smart uniform of a ranger, with spick-and-span leggings. He has become one of the best-known figures in the park. When Mr. Farnell joined the staff in 1904 the great reserve was much different from what it is now, especially with regard to its improvements and public facilities. Its old gravel roads were much narrower, and their curves were more acute. However, they were good enough then for the new extinct horse-drawn buses, coaches, and four-in-hand drags. 

Wattamolla and Garie' beaches were not the popular resort they are today. At Audley there was a long weather board accommodation house called "The Rest," which was succeeded by the present Allambie House. The veteran ranger remembers heavier rain at National. Park than that which fell two weeks ago. 

He said: "About 30 years ago we had such a fall here that the. flooded river rose thirteen feet over, the Audley causeway dam. All the river flats were inundated. Later on there was a terrific down-pour near the head of the river, and the flood brought a tremendous load of sand and mud, which shallowed much of the lower part of the river. Before that happened you could take a boat about three miles farther up the: stream than you can to-day" 

There have been bush fires, too, in the park ever since Mr. Farnell can first remember the place. In one summer the whole vast reserve was burned out, excepting a couple of thousand acres. Back in the horse and buggy era the wild life of the reserve, particularly native animals, was in greater numbers than nowadays. 

"Thirty years ago," said Mr. Farnell, "there were quite a lot of wild koala bears around Audley, Deer Park, and South-west Arm. It was the natural habitat for them. However, they seemed to get some disease and died off. I remember when you could hear them grunting in the trees at night. There were also plenty of wallabies. Up at the stables (at Audley) we used to hand feed about seventeen rock wal-labies every night. In fact, there were so many that we had to build wire fences around the gardens to keep-them out. On the other hand, birds have kept up their numbers pretty well. And there are just as many snakes. The wallabies, and some kinds of birds, were thinned out with the advent of foxes in the park. We had dingoes here, too, in those times. I laid baits on a line of about forty miles through the park, and killed many dingoes and foxes that way. But we still have foxes in the park now." 

No one knows the National Park more intimately than Mr. Farnell. He has at one time or another been into every nook and cranny of it. Figuratively, he knows every inch of it. For thirty years he regularly rode all over its tens of thousands of acres on horseback. On account of his keen sense of locality, and knowledge of the bushland, the veteran ranger is a regular acquisition to the local police when it comes to locating persons lost in the park. "When anybody be-came lost I could always tell where they would be found. In practically every case they would be located within a few hours, or at most the next morning, after spending a night in the bush," he added. 

In conclusion it is of interest to note that the name of the Farnell family is perpetuated at more than one point in the National Park. For example, there is Farnell Avenue, which runs between the National Park railway station and the Princes Highway, and Farnell Bight, a small Bay fronting Deer Park on the Port Hacking side.

POPULAR NATIONAL PARK. (1942, April 9). The Propeller (Hurstville, NSW : 1911 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved from

Audley weir, Royal National Park, circa 1880-90 - courtesy National Library of Australia

Australian Pancreatic Cancer Genome Initiative Contributes To Global Cancer Genome ‘Map’

February 6, 2020
A Garvan pancreatic cancer research initiative has contributed to the most comprehensive study of cancer genomes to date.

A ‘biobank’ of pancreatic tumour samples, administered by the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, has contributed to the most comprehensive database of cancer genomes in the world to date.

The Australian Pancreatic Cancer Genome Initiative (APGI) contributed 175 genomes to the Pan-Cancer Project, a global effort that has created a resource of over 2600 cancer genomes of 38 different tumour types, published today in a special series in the journal Nature.

Researchers from Garvan, and across the globe, will use the database to study pancreatic and other cancers, bringing better diagnosis and treatments within reach.

“The Pan-Cancer Project delivered detailed genomic and clinical data from 37 countries to the fingertips of researchers globally,” says Amber Johns, Project Manager of the APGI at the Garvan Institute. “We’re proud to have contributed to such an extensive body of work.”

Australia’s initiative to ‘map’ pancreatic cancer
Pancreatic cancer is one of the most lethal forms of cancers, with a five-year survival rate of ~9%, but like many cancers is also vastly complex. By analysing the DNA of different pancreatic tumours samples, valuable insights into how pancreatic cancers develop, and what ‘targets’ could pave the way to better diagnostics and personalised treatments for the disease.

The APGI is a world-leading initiative and resource of pancreatic cancer samples and data, which is making this research possible. The Initiative is administered by the Garvan Institute, where patient recruitment and active research projects are conducted, and where over 4000 samples donated by pancreatic cancer patients are stored.

To date, the APGI has already provided valuable samples and data to over 150 research studies, many of which have resulted in high-impact publications.

“To see these samples contribute to the Pan-Cancer Project really pays homage to the patients who generously donated pancreatic cancer tissue samples for research,” says Amber Johns. “Without them, none of this would have been possible.”

Local data with global connection
Established in 2009, the APGI is a research enterprise of over 100 scientists, clinicians and allied health professionals involved in pancreatic cancer research and care, and forms Australia’s contribution to the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC).

Contributing the APGI’s genomic data to the Pan-Cancer Project will now allow more researchers to uncover similarities in the genetics that underpin different cancers, says Professor David Thomas, Garvan Cancer Research Theme Leader and Director of The Kinghorn Cancer Centre.

“The cross-overs and relationships we continue to discover between all cancers is making it clear that we cannot ‘pigeonhole’ cancer research into different cancer types,” says Professor Thomas. “Better access to cancer genome data, such as through the Pan-Cancer Project, will advance research and ultimately accelerate development of treatments. We look forward to contributing to this global progress through the scope of our research projects.”

The APGI is supported in part by the Avner Pancreatic Cancer Foundation.

Orthorexia Nervosa: The Sinister Side Of Healthy Eating

February 6, 2020
'Raw-only'. 'Juice cleanse'. 'Toxin-free'. When does healthy eating become an unhealthy obsession?

Have you ever cancelled social plans to have stricter control over your meals? 
What about feeling severe emotional distress after eating something you consider unhealthy?
These are both potential signs of the proposed ‘healthy eating’ disorder, orthorexia nervosa – an obsessive approach to healthy eating that can be harmful to a person’s mental and physical health. 
Dr Rebecca Reynolds, nutritionist, lecturer and researcher at UNSW Sydney, explains the key features of this little-known disorder – and what to look out for.

What is orthorexia nervosa?
Orthorexia nervosa is a proposed mental health condition that takes healthy eating to unhealthy extremes. The disorder involves an obsession with healthy eating that becomes detrimental to a person’s psychological and/or physical wellbeing. 
The idea of ‘healthy’ could be based on a person’s own understanding of nutrition or an existing diet trend – even if they are not backed by science.
“Orthorexia isn’t just looking after what you eat – it’s taking this to a level where it has significant negative impacts on your life,” says Dr Reynolds, who has been researching orthorexia specifically for three years. 
These negative impacts could include constant anxiety at mealtimes, extreme shame when deviating from self-imposed eating rules, or feeling a sense of panic when watching people eat foods considered unhealthy.
“A person with orthorexia would be so consumed with eating healthily that it significantly impairs their normal functioning,” Dr Reynolds explains.
Orthorexia is a proposed eating disorder, which means it hasn’t been clinically recognised as a unique disorder yet. Researchers such as Dr Reynolds are trying to understand more about its causes and symptoms, including how it differentiates from other mental health conditions (such as anorexia nervosa and obsessive-compulsive disorder).

The strive for purity 
A fixation with eating foods that are considered ‘clean’ or ‘pure’ can be common in orthorexia. The term orthorexia itself is derived from the Greek word ‘orthos’, meaning ‘correct’ or ‘right’.
While healthy eating is a positive habit to maintain, an obsession with pure eating can be damaging for mental and physical health.
“Diet trends that demonise certain foods or nutrients have contributed to the problem,” says Dr Reynolds. 
These diet trends can be closely tied to broader philosophies about how humans should be living and are often considered lifestyle movements.
The paleo diet, for example, aims to imitate the diet of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. It restricts the consumption of dairy products, legumes and grains. Similarly, a raw food diet asserts that eating a high proportion of raw food is healthier, with claims that cooked foods can contain harmful toxins.
“Cutting out entire food groups, foods or nutrients from your diet can result in malnutrition if you don’t know the true nutrient content of the foods and drinks that you are having compared to what your body actually needs”.  
The rising popularity of ‘clean eating’ diet trends has occurred alongside the growth of Instagram. 
“Social media is also partly to blame, with influencers and celebrities sometimes glorifying extreme diets,” says Dr Reynolds.
“Stress in life and general lack of control can be other contributing factors.” 

When does healthy eating become unhealthy?
Orthorexia was proposed as a disorder almost 25 years ago by American physician, Dr Steven Bratman. Dr Bratman created a self-diagnosis test (which can be accessed in full on his website) to help indicate whether a person is too fixated on healthy eating. 
It lists behaviours such as: 
  • “When I eat any food I regard to be unhealthy, I feel anxious, guilty, impure, unclean and/or defiled; even to be near such foods disturbs me, and I feel judgmental of others who eat such foods."
  • "My personal sense of peace, happiness, joy, safety and self-esteem is excessively dependent on the purity and rightness of what I eat."
  • “I spend so much of my life thinking about, choosing and preparing healthy food that it interferes with other dimensions of my life, such as love, creativity, family, friendship, work and school.”
As orthorexia nervosa is not yet a clinically recognised eating disorder, a clearly defined set of signs and symptoms has not been confirmed.
However, as researchers learn more about the disorder, they have developed various questionnaires to help determine if people may be going overboard with their healthy eating.
“Questions such as ‘Do your thoughts constantly revolve around healthy nutrition and do you organise your day around it?’ and ‘Does your diet make it difficult for you to eat out, impacting your relationships?’ appear on these questionnaires,” Dr Reynolds says. 
Researchers have also come up with draft diagnostic criteria for the condition. 
“The proposed criteria include psychological preoccupation with self-defined ‘healthy’ eating – far beyond what is necessary for health. Physical symptoms such as malnutrition and weight loss may also be present, but this doesn’t always occur.”

Why isn’t orthorexia clinically recognised?
Nearly three quarters of health professionals surveyed believed that orthorexia should be clinically recognised as its own eating disorder, a 2019 paper led by Dr Reynolds discovered.  
However, crossover with other eating disorders, such as avoidant restrictive food intake disorder and anorexia nervosa, and other psychological disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, has made it difficult to set the parameters for orthorexia as a condition of its own.
“It takes time for something new to potentially become a distinct disorder that's recognised in diagnostic manuals,” says Dr Reynolds. 
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is the standard diagnostic manual used by practitioners in Australia. Binge Eating Disorder – one of the most prevalent eating disorders in Australia today – only became a stand-alone disorder in the most recent edition of the manual, published in 2013.

Knowing when to seek help
While it’s important to maintain a healthy diet, balance is key. 
“Obsession in any area of life is not healthy for the body or the mind, including with ‘healthy’ eating. Feeling really stressed out by a friend’s invite to dinner because he is serving chickpeas or whatever, and then staying at home instead of going to his dinner, isn’t ok,” Dr Reynolds says. 
If you or someone you know thinks they may have a problem, Dr Reynolds suggests finding more information and help through The Butterfly Foundation, the InsideOut Institute or to speak with your GP. 

NSW Government To Consolidate Over 500 Websites

Febuary 4, 2020
The new NSW Government website will save customers time and money, and provide a more user-friendly experience.

The Department of Customer Service is collaborating across government to help agencies get ready to retire little-used sites or merge information to, which will become the centralised online home of the NSW Government.

A trial version of the refreshed website will go live at the end of February 2020. It will include information on drought relief, bushfire assistance, and births, deaths and marriages.

The website will be progressively upgraded and incorporate customer feedback. It will be closely modelled off the UK’s one-stop-shop website.

Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello said the new website will provide customers with a more user-friendly website.

“People rightly expect a seamless digital experience when purchasing goods and services. It should be no different when dealing with the government,” Mr Dominello said.

“The new one-stop-shop website will save people time and provide taxpayers with value for money by slashing tens of millions of dollars of costs over the next decade.”

New Body To Tackle ADF And Veteran Suicides

Feb 5th, 2020: Prime Minister, Minister for Defence, Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel
A powerful, new independent body will be created to investigate all suspected veteran and Australian Defence Force (ADF) suicides and causes to help save lives.

The Australian Government will establish a permanent National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention.

The National Commissioner will have the enduring  power, scope and resources to investigate suicides and related issues as they arise, rather than being restricted by a one-off review looking at past practices.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the independent Commissioner would also have the power to compel witnesses to give evidence. 

“This is about being forever vigilant for the care and well-being of our veterans,” the Prime Minister said.

“Those veterans and all serving men and women protect our community and our freedoms. It is our duty to do the same for them.

“I have thought long and hard about the best response to this issue. I have spoken to veterans right across Australia and I have met with their families and also local, state and national organisations. 

“I believe what we have developed addresses the needs of those veterans, their families and our serving men and women.

“We will be permanently vigilant about their welfare.”

The National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention will be empowered to perform two roles:
  • The Commissioner will be an independent and permanent public accountability body, with the same powers of a Royal Commission to compel the production of evidence and summon witnesses, and make findings and recommendations to Government.
  • The Commissioner will also provide an ongoing investigative function of individual cases of suicide, working with each state and territory coronial office, making recommendations to Government.
The Government will invest an initial $40 million to support the Commissioner’s work and this will be expanded to ensure they have whatever resources they need.

The Government will also establish an immediate, independent review of historical veteran suicide cases, conducted by the Commissioner, focusing on the impact of military service and veterans’ post service experience.

An interim report will be delivered within 12 months. Families will be engaged in this process if they wish, with an opportunity to participate and tell their stories openly and safely.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, along with coronial and legal experts, will provide technical expertise in support of this work.

Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester said the Commissioner would also deliver an Annual Veteran and Defence Suicide Death Report to the Parliament.

“This will be a transparent report directly to the Parliament on an annual basis on suicides within the defence and veteran community, including an update on the implementation and evaluation of measures to reduce suicide risk factors,” Mr Chester said.

“The Government is committed to ensuring ADF members, veterans and their families have access to the right support, at the right time, especially those who are vulnerable or at risk.”

Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC said the Chief of the Defence Force and each Service Chief was committed to being open and transparent, to support improved health outcomes for ADF personnel and veterans.

“The mental health and wellbeing of our vets and Defence Force members is an issue of national and enduring importance.

“These comprehensive measures have been developed with a very clear focus on finding the most effective and practical ways of better identifying, preventing, understanding and acting on suicide and suicide risks among our vets and service men and women.”

A Veteran Family Advocate will also be appointed to directly engage with the families of veterans, to improve the design of all veteran programs and services, including mental health supports and services.

“The new Veteran Family Advocate will focus on mental health and suicide prevention, and contribute to our understanding of risk factors relating to the wellbeing of veterans and their families, particularly during transition from the ADF,” Mr Chester said.

“The Advocate will represent the views of veterans and their families by engaging and advocating to help shape policy and the administration of veteran benefits and support.

“We want to assure defence and veterans’ families that help is available now and it can make a difference. Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling provides support and counselling to current ADF members, veterans and their families and can be contacted 24/7 on 1800 011 046.”

Sugar Ants' Preference For Urine May Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

February 6, 2020: University of South Australia
An unlikely penchant for urine is putting a common sugar ant on the map, as new research from the University of South Australia shows their taste for urine could play a role in reducing greenhouse gases.

Led by wildlife ecologist Associate Professor Topa Petit, the Kangaroo Island-based research found that sugar ants prefer urine over sugar -- the food source after which they're named -- nocturnally foraging on it to extract nitrogen molecules, some of which could end up in the greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide.

The Australian-first study compared the behaviours of sugar ants (Camponotus terebrans) as they were exposed to different concentrations of urine (human and kangaroo ~ 2.5 per cent urea), sugar water (20 per cent and 40 per cent), and urea in water (at 2.5 per cent; 3.5 per cent; 7 per cent and 10 per cent), finding that sugar ants were most attracted to higher concentrations of urea, mining them for long periods within a dry sand substrate.

While other ants are known to be attracted to urine, this is the first time that ants have been observed mining dry urine from sand, and for a long period of time.

Camponotus terebrans

Assoc Prof Petit says the curious discovery could play a role in nitrogen cycling.

"When I first noticed the ants swarming to scavenge urine, it was purely by accident. But under research conditions we found that the ants determinedly mined urea patches night after night with greater numbers of ants drawn to higher urea concentrations," Assoc Prof Petit says.

"Camponotus terebrans are undoubtedly looking for urea in urine because, similar to certain other ant species, a bacterium in their digestive tract allows them to process urea to get nitrogen for protein.

"This remarkable ability to extract urea from dry sand not only shows how sugar ants can survive in arid conditions, but also, how they might reduce the release of ammonia from urine, which leads to the production of nitrous oxide, a highly active greenhouse gas."

Nitrous oxide (NO2) is a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. And while less abundant than carbon dioxide emissions, its presence in the atmosphere has increased substantially over the past decade, accelerated mostly by the widespread use of fertilisers.

Assoc Prof Petit says that while there is still a lot to learn about the foraging behaviours of sugar ants, the study shows a symbiotic relationship between ants and vertebrates such as kangaroos in dry environments, and evidence of the nitrogen cycle at work.

"The ability of sugar ants to thrive in dry, sandy environments and use sources of nitrogen that may not be available to other species is impressive. It may give them a competitive advantage by allowing them to feed more offspring and therefore increase their numbers," Assoc Prof Petit says.

"Researchers working on ants as bio-indicators on grazed and ungrazed lands should take ants' ability to process urea into account, because large amounts of urine will probably affect the assortment of ant species in the area. It would also be interesting to investigate how much ants may modify the urine ammonia volatilises from paddocks.

"This is not the last we will hear about these sugar ants -- they could open up a whole new field of research."

Sophie Petit, M. Bernard Stonor, John J. Weyland, Joan Gibbs, Bianca Amato. Camponotus ants mine sand for vertebrate urine to extract nitrogen. Austral Ecology, 2019; DOI: 10.1111/aec.12840

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.