Inbox and Environment News: Issue 441

March 8 - 14, 2020: Issue 441

Kookaburra Fledglings This Week: Photos Taken March 2nd - 5th, 2020

Visit: Pittwater's Fledglings 2020: A Late Summer - Early Autumn Annual Bird Fest In A Spotted Gum Tree Cathedral

And a few others that popped in to sing a song this week

Above: shaking raindrops from feathers.

27 Crested Terns Killed By Single Dog Attack This Week

March 3, 2020

A single dog attack has killed at least 27 newly fledged Crested Terns at Encounter Bay, SA this week. The City of Victor Harbor & SA Environment and Water have promptly erected new signs. 

Dogs have no place in shorebird environments where these creatures, nest, raise young or eat.

The newly fledged crested terns had found a happy place to roost on the man made rock jetty by the boat ramp. Unfortunately there has been a vicious dog attack, killing at least 27 birds. The birds sustained many wounds and it looked like a bloody battlefield. The one in care, that has survived was found floundering amongst the rocks. These little guys are very slow to react and need a bit of time to fly out of danger. A person can almost walk up to them before they fly off. Please respect their space. WWO are working with DEWNR to try and prevent this happening again. Fingers crossed for the juvenile tern that has penetrating injuries and needs X-rays to rule out crushing injuries.

Please Help Sydney Wildlife Rescue: Donate Your Cans And Bottles And Nominate SW As Recipient

You can Help Sydney Wildlife help Wildlife. Sydney Wildlife Rescue is now listed as a charity partner on the return and earn machines in these locations:

  1. Pittwater RSL Mona Vale
  2. Northern Beaches Indoor Sports Centre NBISC Warriewood
  3. Woolworths Balgowlah
  4. Belrose Super centre
  5. Coles Manly Vale
  6. Westfield Warringah Mall
  7. Strathfield Council Carpark
  8. Paddy's Markets Flemington Homebush West
  9. Woolworths Homebush West
  10. Caltex Concord road Concord West
  11. Bondi Campbell pde behind Beach Pavilion 
  12. Westfield Bondi Junction car park level 2 eastern end Woolworths side under ramp
  13. UNSW Kensington
  14. Enviro Pak McEvoy street Alexandria.

Every bottle, can, or eligible container that is returned could be 10c donated to Sydney Wildlife.

Every item returned will make a difference by removing these items from landfill and raising funds for our 100% volunteer wildlife carers. All funds raised go to support wildlife.

It is easy to DONATE, just feed the items into the machine select DONATE and choose Sydney Wildlife Rescue.

Friends Of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment: Bushwalks 2020

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.

Bush Regeneration Dinner

Friday, March 13, 2020 at 7 PM – 10 PM
5 Darley Street East Mona Vale
Hosted by Ruby Lane Wholefoods
Tickets:  HERE -  Single; $75, Deuce 2 x Single; $145, 4 pack 4 x Single; $280

Become part of the solution:- Help us plant trees by having dinner with us!
2020 has been a year already marked by great tragedy, we've heard the stories, seen the images and many of us know someone directly effected. The community spirit of Australia has been alive and well through these challenging times and has restored my faith in the future of the environment. 

Here at Ruby Lane we've helped donate over $2000 thus far to the Red Cross disaster relief fund. But now we start to wonder, what's next, is this going to happen again, what about the animals, the trees etc… One thing is for sure - we'd love to be part of the solution. 

What can we do?
There is an incredibly lovely and generous group of families who recently lost their homes at Surf Beach on the south coast of NSW in Batemans Bay... and what's unique about their story is that they've spent the last 25 years regenerating bush land around their properties all in the name of the re-enriching the environment, which is such an amazing selfless act to which we take our hats off to. 
However, as you can guess, along with losing their precious homes, all their hard work of regenerating the bush around them has been undone with the fires leaving nothing behind but charred earth. 
We've reached out to them to lend a hand and will be helping to regenerate the land in Mid March by way of planting LOADS of oxygen providing, life giving trees...and we need your help. 
We want to plant LOTS more trees, will you help us? Come to our Dinner for the Bush and proceeds will go to this great cause. We will have one event in Manly on Friday March 6th and one in Mona Vale on Friday March 13th. 

How you can help?
Our speciality is food, so join us for an Australian inspired dinner where all the proceeds will go towards purchasing trees and the supplies required for planting them. To book yourself in for this awesome dinner simply purchase a ticket above. 

We'll also be heading down to lend them a hand. You too can join us in getting our hands dirty. If you'd like to learn more about coming down, please email Phil on

Australian Inspired Menu
  • Amuse bouche
  • Earth crackers and plant based dips (gf df v)
  • Entree
  • Heirloom carrots 3 ways, almond ricotta, wild fennel (gf df v)
  • Main (choice of)
  •     Fermented mushroom, parsnip gnocchi, charred tomatoes (gf df v)
  •     or
  •     Pork, apple, kakadu plum, potato mille feuilles, beach mustard (gf df)
  • Dessert
  •     Coconut wattleseed biscuit, passionfruit curd, mango gel, mint gelly (gf df v)

So share this event with a date, or grab a bunch of friends and join us for this gluten free Australian feel good dinner. 
Or if you can’t make it to the dinner but would like to donate you can buy a ticket and we’ll use it as a prize or donation to a local environmental hero. 

Climate Action Now: What Will It Take To Make It Happen?

Are you worried about climate change?
Do you want government action to cut greenhouse gases?
Come and ask the politicians yourself at a Q&A style forum Chaired by Peter Hannam, Environment Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald featuring:
  • Zali Stegall (Independent MP for Warringah
  • Kristina Keneally (Labor Senator for NSW)
  • David Shoebridge (Greens NSW Upper House MP)
  • Vivienne Paduch (School Strike 4 Climate Activist)
Sat, March 14, 2020
10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Pittwater RSL Club, 82 Mona Vale Road,  Mona Vale

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

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

Logging Is Due To Start In Fire-Ravaged Forests This Week. It’s The Last Thing Our Wildlife Needs

March 2, 2020
By David Lindenmayer, Professor, The Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University
and Doug Robinson, Honorary Visiting Fellow, Department of Ecology, Environment and Evolution, La Trobe University

New South Wales’ Forestry Corporation will this week start “selective timber harvesting” from two state forests ravaged by bushfire on the state’s south coast. 

The state-owned company says the operations will be “strictly managed” and produce timber for power poles, bridges, flooring and decking.

Similarly, the Victorian government’s logging company VicForests recently celebrated the removal of sawlogs from burnt forests in East Gippsland.

VicForests says it did not cut down the trees - they were cut or pushed over by the army, firefighters or road crews because they blocked the rood or were dangerous. The company said it simply removed the logs to put them “to good use”.

However the science on the impacts of post-fire logging is clear: it can significantly impair the recovery of burned ecosystems, badly affect wildlife and, for some animal species, prevent recovery.

We acknowledge that for safety reasons, some standing and fallen burnt trees must be removed after a fire. But wherever possible, they should remain in place.

Damaging effects

Hollows in fire-damaged trees and logs provide critical habitat for animal species trying to survive in, or recolonise, burned forests.

Detailed studies around the world over the past 20 years, including in Australia, have demonstrated the damage caused by post-fire logging.

Indeed, the research shows post-fire logging is the most damaging form of logging. Logging large old trees after a fire may make the forests unsuitable habitat for many wildlife species for up to 200 years.

Long-term monitoring data from extensive field surveys shows hollow-dependent mammals, such as the vulnerable greater glider, generally do not survive in areas burned and then logged. Research by the lead author, soon to be published, shows populations are declining rapidly in landscapes dominated by wood production.

Forests logged after a fire have the lowest bird biodiversity relative to other forests, including those that burned at high severity (but which remain unlogged). Critical plants such as tree ferns are all but eradicated from forests that have been burned and then logged.

Soils remain extensively altered for many decades after post-fire logging. This is a major concern because runoff into rivers and streams damages aquatic ecosystems and kills organisms such as fish.

A double disturbance

Fire badly disrupts forest ecosystems. Animals and plants then begin recovering, but most forests and the biota they support simply cannot deal with the second intense disturbance of logging so soon after a first one.

For example, young germinating plants are highly vulnerable to being flattened and destroyed by heavy logging machinery. And in an Australian context, post-fire logging makes no sense in the majority of eucalypt-dominated ecosystems where many tree species naturally resprout. This is an essential part of forest recovery.

Logs provide shade, moisture and shelter for plants, and rotting timber is food for insects - which in turn provide food for mammals and birds.

Living and dead trees are also important for fungi — a food source for many animals, including bandicoots and potoroos which have been heavily impacted by the fires.

Similarly on burnt private land, removing damaged and fallen trees will only hinder natural recovery by removing important animal habitat and disturbing the soil. If left, fallen trees will provide refuge for surviving wildlife and enable the natural recovery of forests.

While the sight of burnt timber can be disheartening, landholders should resist the urge to “clean up”.

It doesn’t add up

Research in North America suggests debris such as tree heads, branches and other vegetation left by post-fire logging not only hinders forest regeneration, but can make forests more prone to fire.

And the economics of logging, particular after a fire, is dubious at best. Many native forest logging operations, such as in Victoria’s East Gippsland, are unprofitable, losing millions of taxpayer dollars annually.

Timber is predominantly sold cheaply for use as woodchips and paper pulp and fire-damaged timber is of particularly poor quality. Even before the fires, 87% of all native forest logged in Victoria was for woodchips and paper pulp.

Post-fire logging certainly has no place in national parks. But for the reasons we’ve outlined, it should be avoided even in state forests and on private land. Million hectares of vegetation in Australia was damaged or destroyed this fire season. The last thing our forests need is yet more disturbance.

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


VicForests response: VicForests told The Conversation 

that timber currently being removed by VicForests, at the direction of the Chief Fire Officer, is from hazardous trees that were cut or knocked over to enable the Princes Highway to be re-opened.

It said the timber would be used for fence restoration, firewood and to support local mills “protecting jobs, incomes and families. It would otherwise be left in piles on the side of the highway”.

“Any further post-fire recovery harvesting will occur in consultation with government including biodiversity specialists and the conservation regulator, following careful assessment and protection of high conservation values,” VicForests said.

The company said post-fire recovery harvesting, particularly of fire-killed trees, does not increase fire risk.

“Sensitive harvesting including the retention of habitat trees and active re-seeding is more likely to result in a successfully regenerated forest and a supportive environment for threatened species. This regenerating forest will have the same fire risk as natural regeneration following bushfire.”


Forestry Corporation of NSW response: 

Forestry Corporation of NSW said in a statement that small-scale selective timber harvesting operation will begin on the south coast this week.

The company’s senior planning manager Dean Kearney said the Environment Protection Authority, with the input of scientific experts “has provided Forestry Corporation with site-specific conditions for selective timber harvesting operations in designated parts of Mogo and South Brooman State Forests. These areas were previously set aside for timber production this year but have now been impacted by fire.”

“Strictly-managed selective timber harvesting will help prevent the loss of some high-quality timber damaged by fire, including material that will be in high demand for rebuilding, while ensuring the right protections are in place for key environmental values, particularly wildlife habitat, as these forests begin regenerating,” he said.

“The harvesting conditions augment the already strict rule set in place for forest operations and include requirements to leave all unburnt forest untouched and establish even more stringent conditions to protect water quality, hollow-bearing trees and wildlife habitat.”

Seeds Of Hope For Koalas

March 3, 2020

To celebrate World Wildlife Day, the NSW Government has announced 6 new koala habitat restoration projects, which include planting 50,000 koala feed tree seedlings, in the Northern Rivers and Far South Coast regions.

Environment Minister Matt Kean said he was pleased to provide up to $150,000 in funding to a wide range of organisations, including Lismore City Council, Friends of the Koala, Far South Coast Landcare Association, Border Ranges-Richmond Valley Landcare Network and Bangalow Koalas to restore koala habitat.

"While we're still determining the full impact of this season's bushfires on koalas and other wildlife, we know that more than 25% of koala habitat in eastern NSW was affected by fires," Mr Kean said.

"By planting more trees and restoring habitats, we can help our koalas and other native animals recover from these devastating bushfires.

"These projects also acknowledge the passion of our regional communities and local organisations, who spend their time and money caring for their local koala populations and getting involved in tree planting, weed control and site preparation activities.

"These grants are part of the $1 million investment to deliver local actions in partnership with the community under the NSW Koala Strategy."

Environment Minister Matt Kean with a koala

The NSW Koala Strategy, which provides $44.7 million in funding, is the biggest commitment by any State government to secure koalas in the wild. It sets out the NSW Government's long-term goal to stabilise then increase koala populations across New South Wales.

The NSW Koala Strategy is supported by the Saving our Species program, which is working to secure the future of NSW threatened plants and animals, including the koala.

Further information on how the NSW Government is supporting conservation through community actions is available on NSW Koala Country, a website that celebrates some of the inspiring people and organisations who dedicate their time to helping protect our koalas.

Find out more about the NSW Koala Country website at NSW Koala Country

Koala tree seedlings - Photo: Kathryn French-Grafton Production Nursery, Forestry Corporation of NSW

Ancient Australian Trees Face Uncertain Future Under Climate Change

March 3, 2020: Portland State University

Tasmania's ancient rainforest faces a grim future as a warming climate and the way people used the land have brought significant changes to the island state off mainland Australia's southeastern coast, according to a new Portland State University study.

The study holds lessons not only for Australia -- whose wildfires have been dominating headlines in recent months -- but for other areas of the world that are seeing drying conditions and increased risk of wildfires.

Andrés Holz, the study's lead author and associate professor of geography at PSU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, studied the population decline of King Billy pine trees (Athrotaxis selaginoides), a coniferous species native to Tasmania that dates back to when Australia was part of a supercontinent called Gondwana. This paleoendemic tree species occupies large tracks of the UNESCO World Heritage Area in Tasmania and is considered a vulnerable species by the World Conservation Union.

The study found that increasingly frequent fires caused by regional dry and warming trends and increased ignitions -- by humans during the early arrival of Europeans to Tasmania and more recently due to increases in lightning -- are breaching fire refugia. Refugia are protected areas that don't burn or, if they do, are areas where trees survive most wildfires.

"The areas that have survived are in these very protected refugia," Holz said. "The refugia can be a bit of a buffer, but how long is that going to last? We might be witnesses of a whole lineage of a very ancient plant species that is going to go extinct."

Holz said that the changes in how wildfires function, due to both management and climate change, are driving analogous ecosystem transformations not only in Australia, but also western North America and South America's Patagonia region.

Untangling the complex relationships between landscape, fire disturbance, human fire usage, climate variability and anthropogenic climate change is key to understanding the rapid population declines of King Billy pines.

The study found that the trees regenerated continuously before 1800AD under indigenous land management, but population declines followed European colonization as they cleared land for logging and mining. This coincided with a period of more fire-prone climate and weather conditions.

"Fires co-occur with dry, warm periods and those periods are more and more frequent now," Holz said, adding that the Billy King pines need wet and cool conditions to thrive. "We're moving away, climatically speaking, from the drivers that help the species."

Holz and the research team also found few seedlings or saplings in the study area, meaning that recovery of the original forest is unlikely. Instead, the replacement forest has become a tall-shrubland ecosystem with lower species diversity that in turn are more flammable and recover more quickly following fire.

"The next time there are the same climate conditions and there's a spark, a lightning strike or an accidental fire, the plants themselves are now more dense in space and more flammable than before and have a higher change of burning again," Holz said. "It becomes a vicious cycle that is hard to break."

The study said that as these critical climate-fire associations increase in strength, the survival of King Billy pines may require increasingly targeted fire management, including rapid attack of uncontrolled fires.

Andrés Holz, Sam W. Wood, Carly Ward, Thomas T. Veblen, David M. J. S. Bowman. Population collapse and retreat to fire refugia of the Tasmanian endemic conifer Athrotaxis selaginoides following the transition from Aboriginal to European fire management. Global Change Biology, 2020; DOI: 10.1111/gcb.15031

Swamp Wallabies Conceive New Embryo Before Birth -- A Unique Reproductive Strategy

March 2, 2020: Forschungsverbund Berlin

Marsupials such as kangaroos or wallabies are known for their very different reproductive strategy compared to other mammals. They give birth to their young at a very early stage and significant development occurs during a lengthy lactation period in which the offspring spends most of its time in a pouch. Although in some marsupials new ovulation happens only a few hours after giving birth, the regular consecutive stages of ovulation, fertilization, pregnancy and lactation are respected -- with one exception: Reproduction specialists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW), Germany, and the University of Melbourne, Australia, recently demonstrated that swamp wallabies ovulate, mate and form a new embryo before the birth of the previous offspring. They thereby continuously support embryos and young at different development stages before and after birth. These findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

Swamp wallaby - Photo: Geoff Shaw, University of Melbourne

Using high-resolution ultrasound to monitor reproduction in swamp wallabies during pregnancy, Prof Thomas Hildebrandt (Leibniz-IZW and University of Melbourne), Dr Brandon Menzies and Prof Marilyn Renfree (both from University of Melbourne) were able to confirm what has been suspected for a long time: swamp wallaby females ovulate, mate and form a new embryo whilst already carrying a full-term fetus that they will soon give birth to. The new embryo enters embryonic diapause until the new-born offspring leaves the pouch nine months later. Thus, when the embryonic diapause is included, females are continuously pregnant throughout their reproductive life, a unique reproductive strategy that completely blurs the normal staged system of reproduction in mammals.

This phenomenon is made possible by two anatomically completely separated uteri and cervices connected to ovaries by their oviducts. "This is true for all marsupials, but the unique overlapping reproductive cycles seem to be a special feature of the swamp wallabies," says Renfree. Normally, ovulation alternates between the two ovaries. "All female macropodid marsupials -- essentially kangaroos, wallabies and a few other groups of species -- except the swamp wallaby have an oestrous cycle longer than the duration of their pregnancy, so females come into oestrus, ovulate and mate within hours after birth." It has been suspected for some time that swamp wallabies might conceive during an active pregnancy, because the oestrous cycle of the swamp wallaby is shorter than the duration of their pregnancy and there have been reports about mating before the birth of the previous offspring. Such a "superfetation" has previously been only described (by Leibniz-IZW scientists) for the European brown hare where females copulate again three to four days before the birth of the incumbent young, forming new conceptuses during an active pregnancy.

In order to confirm superfetation in swamp wallabies, the scientists removed the pouch young of ten females to reactivate the dormant blastocysts (early stage embryo). They then monitored the development of the blastocyst in four of these ten females using high-resolution ultrasound. All females gave birth at around 30 days after the young had been removed. Parallel to the embryo development in one uterus, the scientists closely examined the opposite ovary. There, follicles started to appear and grow. At day 26 of the pregnancy the ultrasound examination showed that the conceptus had developed into a fetus with the head, limbs and heartbeat clearly visible -- and at day 28 and 29 the largest follicle in the opposite (contralateral) ovary had ovulated and a new corpus luteum was evident. The other six females that were not scanned with ultrasound were regularly examined for sperm. Sperm was identified in the urogenital tract one to two days before birth but at no other time. "These results clearly demonstrate that swamp wallabies ovulate and mate one to two days before birth, during an existing pregnancy," says Hildebrandt.

Pregnancies of eutherian mammals (most mammals, i.e. the most taxonomically diverse of the three branches of mammals) greatly exceed the length of the oestrous cycle, so during mammalian evolution, there has been selection pressure to extend the duration of pregnancy. Among marsupials (who form a second taxonomic branch of mammals), gestation in most macropodids encompasses almost the entire duration of the oestrous cycle. The swamp wallaby takes this one step further with its pre-partum oestrus, allowing this marsupial's gestation length to exceed the oestrous cycle length.

Sadly, many of these unique animals have been lost in the current disastrous bushfires in Australia this summer.

Brandon R. Menzies, Thomas B. Hildebrandt, Marilyn B. Renfree. Unique reproductive strategy in the swamp wallaby. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2020; 201922678 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1922678117

The Threatened Species Scientific Committee 10-Point Bushfire Response Plan

March 2, 2020: Australian Government Dept. of Agriculture, Water and the Environment

The Threatened Species Scientific Committee has released its Bushfire Response Plan which was approved by the Minister for the Environment, the Hon Sussan Ley MP, on 2 March 2020. The plan frames the Committee’s response to the 2019-20 bushfires, working with partners, experts and the wider community. The TSSC Bushfire Response Plan sets four key objectives, which align with those of the Wildlife and threatened species bushfire recovery Expert Panel, and ten actions to deliver an efficient and effective response.

The Threatened Species Scientific Committee 10-point Bushfire Response Plan

The Committee is charged with providing the Minister with independent scientific advice to achieve biodiversity conservation outcomes, specifically for threatened species and ecological communities under national environment law.

The Committee will work with partners, experts and the wider community, to enable the statutory response to the 2019-20 bushfires to be timely and robust. 

The following TSSC Bushfire Response Plan sets four key objectives, which align with those of the Expert Panel, and ten actions to deliver an efficient and effective response.

A. Prevent extinction and limit decline of native species and ecosystems affected by the 2019-20 fires 

Many unlisted species and ecological communities urgently require statutory protection as a result of the 2019-20 fires, and many listed species and ecological communities need re-assessment because their conservation status has deteriorated. 

1. Advise the Minister on species that may be eligible for listing and uplisting as quickly as possible:
a. Prioritise species and ecological communities for conservation status review, using the information on species and ecological community fire vulnerabilities, collated by the Wildlife and Threatened Species Bushfire Recovery Expert Panel.
2. Accelerate processes for assessment and re-assessment of these priority species:
a. Update listing assessments for fire-affected species and ecological communities already on the Finalised Priority Assessment List. 
b. Defer assessments for other species on the Finalised Priority Assessment List that are not fire-affected, and where listing is unlikely to confer a conservation benefit (e.g. species being considered for listing as Extinct).
c. Fast-track threatened species list alignment for fire-affected species with the States and Territories through the Common Assessment Method.
d. Identify opportunities for collaboration with professionals with the capacity to efficiently create draft assessments to TSSC standards for subsequent review by the TSSC e.g., IUCN specialist groups, other specialist taxonomic groups and the States and Territories.
3. Support immediate post-fire recovery efforts by appending information on fire impacts and key actions to support recovery to the Conservation Advices and Recovery Plans of fire-affected species and ecological communities. Key actions (including cultural practices) will align with the priority activities identified by the Bushfire Recovery Expert Panel.
4. Respond to community interests about the impacts of the 2019-20 fires on biodiversity
a. Accept public nominations for assessment and re-assessment of species and ecological communities at any time and continue to consider them in Proposed Priority Assessment List processes unless clearly ineligible for listing.
b. Engage and consult with Indigenous communities and other stakeholders to improve fire management response in conservation and threat abatement planning.
c. Consider potential for listing/uplisting of species that are highly valued by the community (e.g. Koala) by undertaking preliminary evaluations immediately.

B. Reduce impacts from future fires
5. Update the Conservation Advices for the highest priority fire-affected species and ecological communities to include the impacts of, and management response to, the 2019-20 fires; the potential impacts and management of future fires and the information needs, key conservation actions and resources that will be needed to support longer-term recovery. 
6. Complete the assessment of the ‘fire regimes that cause biodiversity decline’ Key Threatening Process and develop guidance on recovery actions to build the resilience of biota to future fires. 

C. Learning and continual improvement
7. Document the impact of the 2019-20 fires on statutory lists, as a high-level summary of the overall impacts of the 2019-20 fires on biodiversity.
8. Acknowledge the changed situation following the fires in the application of the listing criteria, review the adaptations adopted by the Committee and distil lessons for future response to biodiversity crisis events.

D. Communicate the TSSC’s role and activities in response to the fires
9. Maintain close communication with the government response, including the Expert Panel, the Threatened Species Commissioner and the Minister for the Environment.
10. In partnership with the Minister’s office and the Department, communicate to the broader conservation sector, Indigenous communities and general public, the TSSC’s planned response to the impacts of the bushfire on biodiversity, including the focus on collaborative action, and provide updates on progress.

Fish School By Randomly Copying Each Other, Rather Than Following The Group

March 2, 2020: University of New South Wales

Fish school by copying each other and changing directions randomly, rather than calculating and adapting to an average direction of the group, a group of scientists co-led by UNSW has shown.

In a study published today in Nature Physics, an international team from Australia, India and UK has shed light on the behavioural dynamics that govern alignment, or collective motion, of cichlid fish -- offering new insights into the dynamics of schooling, and potentially the coordinated behaviour of other animals.

"In the fish that we have studied, schooling turns out to be noise-induced. It's not what anyone traditionally thought it was," says Dr Richard Morris from UNSW Science, co-leader of the study and EMBL Australia group leader in UNSW's Single Molecule Science.

"Noise, in this setting, is simply the randomness arising from interactions between individual fish."

In the study, the researchers present the first experimental evidence of noise-induced ordering, which previously only existed as a theoretical possibility. The interdisciplinary team of ecologists, physicists and mathematicians achieved this by combining the capabilities of their scientific disciplines to integrate experiments with computer simulations and analysis.

"Everyone's been aware of noise-induced phenomena, theoretically, but it's quite rare to find in practice. You can only observe it when the individuals in a study can actually make decisions. For example, you wouldn't find this type of noise-induced behaviour studying electrons or particles," says Dr Morris.

This new model proposed contradicts the standard 'moving average' theories for schooling and herding behaviour, which assume that the animals are capable of estimating the overall direction of the group.

"Every fish only interacts with one other fish at any given time. They either spontaneously change direction, or copy the direction of a different fish. Calculating an average direction of the group -- which was the popular theory until now -- is likely too complicated for a fish to compute," explains Dr Morris.

To study the behavioural dynamics, the researchers filmed schools of 15, 30 and 60 cichlid fish, tracking their trajectories to analyse the mechanism behind mutual alignment, or schooling.

"Smaller groups of fish schooled more coherently than large groups. This is counterintuitive, since the randomness, or noise, from individual interactions plays a bigger role in smaller groups than larger ones," Dr Morris says.

When researchers interpret data, noise is usually an unrelated factor that obscures and distracts from the information, like glare from the sun that you would try to eliminate to get a clearer photo.

In this case, Dr Morris explains that the random copying between pairs of fish gives rise to a different class of noise, and is actually what drives their highly coordinated behaviour. This new insight highlights the importance of noise, showing that noise may encode some important information about behavioural dynamics of fish and other animals.

"Here the signal is the noise. If you ignored the fluctuations completely, you couldn't explain schooling at all."

Beyond fish behaviour, the discovery has the power to reshape the understanding of collective motion in animals, and calls for a revision of how noise is treated in studies of behaviour dynamics.

Jitesh Jhawar, Richard G. Morris, U. R. Amith-Kumar, M. Danny Raj, Tim Rogers, Harikrishnan Rajendran, Vishwesha Guttal. Noise-induced schooling of fish. Nature Physics, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41567-020-0787-y

Antarctic Ice Walls Protect The Climate

February 27, 2020: University of Gothenburg

Inland Antarctic ice contains volumes of water that can raise global sea levels by several metres. A new study published in the journal Nature shows that glacier ice walls are vital for the climate, as they prevent rising ocean temperatures and melting glacier ice.

The ocean can store much more heat than the atmosphere. The deep sea around Antarctica stores thermal energy that is the equivalent of heating the air above the continent by 400 degrees.

Now, a Swedish-led international research group has explored the physics behind the ocean currents close to the floating glaciers that surround the Antarctic coast.

"Current measurements indicate an increase in melting, particularly near the coast in some parts of Antarctica and Greenland. These increases can likely be linked to the warm, salty ocean currents that circulate on the continental shelf, melting the ice from below," says Anna Wåhlin, lead author of the study and professor of oceanography at the University of Gothenburg.

"What we found here is a crucial feedback process: the ice shelves are their own best protection against warm water intrusions. If the ice thins, more oceanic heat comes in and melts the ice shelf, which becomes even thinner etc. It is worrying, as the ice shelves are already thinning because of global air and ocean warming," says Céline Heuzé, climate researcher at the Department of Earth Sciences of Gothenburg University.

The stability of ice is a mystery

Inland Antarctic ice gradually moves towards the ocean. Despite the ice being so important, its stability remains a mystery -- as does the answer to what could make it melt faster.

Since the glaciers are difficult to access, researchers have been unable to find out much information about the active processes.

More knowledge has now been obtained from studying the measurement data collected from instruments that Anna Wåhlin and her researcher colleagues placed in the ocean around the Getz glacier in West Antarctica.

Antarctic glaciers, photo by Anna Wåhlin.

The ice's edge blocks warm seawater

Gertz has a floating section that is approximately 300 to 800 metres thick, beneath which there is seawater that connects to the ocean beyond. The glacier culminates in a vertical edge, a wall of ice that continues 300-400 metres down into the ocean. Warm seawater flows beneath this edge, towards the continent and the deeper ice further south.

"Studying the measurement data from the instruments, we found that the ocean currents are blocked by the ice edge. This limits the extent to which the warm water can reach the continent. We have long been stumped in our attempts to establish a clear link between the transport of warm water up on the continental shelf and melting glaciers.

Now, we understand that only a small amount of the current can make its way beneath the glacier. This means that around two-thirds of the thermal energy that travels up towards the continental shelf from the deep sea never reaches the ice."

Can lead to better prognoses

The results of the studies have provided researchers with a greater understanding of how these glacier areas work.

"From the Getz glacier, we are receiving measurements of heat transport in the ocean that correspond with the melting ice being measured by satellites. This also means that the floating glaciers -- the ice fronts in particular -- are key areas that should be closely monitored. If the ice walls were to disappear, much greater levels of thermal energy would be released towards the ice on land.

Consequently, we no longer expect to see a direct link between increasing westerly winds and growing levels of melting ice. Instead, the increased water levels can be caused by the processes that pump up warmer, heavier water to the continental shelf, for example as low-pressure systems move closer to the continent."

Researchers believe that the studies have provided them with significantly better tools to be able to predict future water levels and create more accurate climate prognoses.

Anna Wåhlin

The continental shelf

A continental shelf is part of the ocean floor that belongs to the tectonic plates. Generally, the continental shelf is 0-500 metres deep and culminates in a continental slope.

A. K. Wåhlin, N. Steiger, E. Darelius, K. M. Assmann, M. S. Glessmer, H. K. Ha, L. Herraiz-Borreguero, C. Heuzé, A. Jenkins, T. W. Kim, A. K. Mazur, J. Sommeria, S. Viboud. Ice front blocking of ocean heat transport to an Antarctic ice shelf. Nature, 2020; 578 (7796): 568 DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2014-5

Antarctic Floating Ice Walls Protect Against Warming Seas

March 2, 2020: CSIRO

A recent study published in the journal Nature has explored the physics behind the warming ocean currents around the Antarctic coast, finding floating ice walls offer some protection to the ice sheet by limiting the amount of ocean heat that reaches the ice.

The research  was led by the University of Gothenburg and used data and research from Australia's National Science Agency, CSIRO.

Floating ice walls – the edge of the floating ice shelf – are connected to landmass. Icebergs detach from ice shelves to join the ocean.

The Antarctic ice sheet contains enough ice, if melted, to raise global sea levels by tens of metres so improving our understanding of the stability of the Antarctic ice sheet - and the processes which could slow or speed its rate of melt - are of critical importance globally.

Researchers found that floating ice walls partly deflect warm ocean currents that would otherwise penetrate cavities beneath the floating portions of the ice sheet.

CSIRO researcher at the Centre for Southern Hemisphere Ocean Research (CSHOR), Dr Laura Herraiz-Borreguero said one important control on ice loss from Antarctica was what happened where the ice sheet meets the ocean, where a large amount of ice melts.

"The Antarctic ice sheet reaches the ocean through ice shelves, which are the floating edges of the ice sheet," Dr Herraiz-Borreguero said.

"Like a dam wall, these ice shelves slow down the rate at which grounded ice is discharged to the ocean, where it melts and contributes to sea level rise."

The question of how warm ocean currents made their way to the ice sheet, beneath the floating ice shelves, has been a long unanswered question for researchers.

More knowledge has now been obtained by studying data collected from instruments that Dr Herraiz-Borreguero and her colleagues placed in the ocean in front of Getz glacier ice shelf in West Antarctica.

The Getz glacier culminates in a vertical edge, a floating wall of ice that continues 300 to 400 metres down into the ocean.

Warm ocean currents flow beneath this edge, towards the deeper grounded ice.

The researchers found that the warm ocean currents were blocked by the floating ice edge, which limited the extent to which the warm ocean could reach the ice.

The floating ice blocks about two thirds of the thermal energy carried by the ocean currents, which travels up towards the Antarctic ice sheet from the deep Southern Ocean.

The results of the study have provided researchers with a greater understanding of how glacier areas like the Getz work.

"Our work highlights the importance of the floating ice shelves, and in particular, their ice fronts, as key areas that should be closely monitored," Dr Herraiz-Borreguero said.

"If the ice front walls were to thin and disappear, a much greater portion of ocean heat would be delivered towards the grounded Antarctic ice."

Researchers believe the studies provided them with significantly better tools to be able to predict future sea level rise.

Diagram of an Antarctic ice shelf showing the processes causing the volume changes measured by satellites. Ice is added to the ice shelf by glaciers flowing off the continent and by snowfall that compresses to form ice. Ice is lost when icebergs break off the ice front, and by melting in some regions as warm water flows into the ocean cavity under the ice shelf. Under some ice shelves, cold and fresh meltwater rises to a point where it refreezes onto the ice shelf.

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 -

Five Things You Can Do To Protect Your Hearing At Any Age

March 1, 2020
RESEARCHER: Professor Catherine McMahon
WRITER: Fran Molloy
FACULTY: Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Macquarie University

Hearing loss accumulates over our lifespan – so the sooner you act to protect your hearing, the longer you will be able to hear well.

Watch any live music performance on tele these days and if a baby or young child is in the audience, they are likely to be wearing headphones to protect their vulnerable hearing. But everyone else in the audience is equally at risk from the concert-level sound – and noise-induced hearing loss is irreversible.

“We’re urging people across all ages to protect their hearing, because it’s important to preserve what you have,” says Professor Catherine McMahon, an international hearing expert who is working on the World Health Organisation’s first World Report on Hearing.

By the time we turn 65, around one-third of Australians will have measurable hearing loss. While genetic factors that contribute to hearing loss can’t be controlled, the sooner you act to reduce your noise exposure, the more likely you will have better hearing as you get older.

“Manage your exposure to harmful noise levels by knowing how long, and how loud, and how often you are exposed to loud noise – and understanding the safe levels you need to adhere to,” says McMahon.

Here are five ways to keep your hearing healthy:

1. Wear noise-cancelling headphones in noisy environments

Whether you’re on a plane or a train, or you’re on a noisy work site or even if you have construction going on next door, wearing noise-cancelling headphones will protect your hearing, especially if you are trying to listen to music or speech.

“In noisy environments, we often turn up the volume of our TV or our phone call to hear the speech over the loudness of the noise – but if you’re already in a noisy environment, that’s adding to the burden,” says McMahon.

“Noise-cancelling headphones will lower the signal to noise ratio, meaning there’s less damage to your hearing.”

2. Know your noise exposure

How much noise have you been exposed to in a day? Because hearing damage is cumulative, and your body’s hearing organ needs time to recover, it's important to understanding and control your noise exposure is important.

Experiment with adjusting not just the volume, but also the bass, treble and other sound settings on your TV, stereo and other entertainment devices.

Specialised sound meters called noise dosimeters are used to measure noise exposure over a period of time – but there are now smartphone apps (such as the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Heath - NIOSH - Sound Level Meter App, DecibelX, SPL Meter and Too Noisy) which do the same thing.

3. Take a sound break

If you’re off to a three-day music festival, meeting friends at a nightclub, or even spending the day at a noisy convention, keep in mind that noise exposure is cumulative.

Step away from the louder parts of your environment regularly to reduce the overall time you’re exposed to noise.

4. Check your hearing

Get your hearing checked – make an appointment at a clinic, or give an online test a go. There are a number of free apps which allow you to test your hearing – examples are hearWHO (by the World Health Organisation), Mimi and Signia.

While apps aren’t 100 per cent reliable because there’s no guarantee your headphones and smartphone are calibrated correctly, they can give you a reasonable idea of your hearing levels and whether you should have a formal assessment.

5. Set up a music profile to suit your hearing

There’s a temptation to push up the volume when you’re struggling to hear the lyrics – but making sound louder doesn’t make it easier to understand.

Listen up: If you want to hear well for as many years as possible, the sooner we start protecting our ears the better, says International hearing expert Professor Catherine McMahon.

Mimi is a new audio processing technology company which helps optimise music and other sounds to suit a listener’s unique ‘hearing profile’ – keep an eye out for future integrations with audio and television companies.

Meanwhile experiment with adjusting not just the volume, but also the bass, treble and other sound settings on your TV, stereo and other entertainment devices.

Professor Cath McMahon

Professor Cath McMahon is the Head of Audiology in the Department of Linguistics at Macquarie University

Science Voyage To End In Perth After Mapping 100,000 Km2 Of Seafloor

March 5, 2020: IMAS and CSIRO

An Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS)-led team of scientists and students on board Australia’s research vessel Investigator will return to Perth tomorrow after a two-month voyage that mapped more than 100,000 km2 of Southern Ocean seafloor, much of it for the first time.

Voyage science team. Image: David Dieckfoss

The main focus of the voyage was to study the ancient rifting, break-up and separation of tectonic plates that split a giant, once-contiguous oceanic plateau into two major Indian Ocean seafloor features, Broken Ridge and the Kerguelen Plateau, to the west and southwest of Perth, respectively.

As well as mapping the seafloor, researchers acquired seismic reflection, sub-bottom profile, gravity, and magnetics data.

Together with rocks dredged from the seafloor, the new data will provide valuable insights into the geological history of the region.

The data and samples collected will also be used to address criteria relevant to consideration, under international law, of an area the size of Switzerland for inclusion in Australia’s marine jurisdiction.

Voyage Chief Scientist, IMAS Professor Mike Coffin, said data and samples from William's Ridge, southeast of the Kerguelen Plateau, could inform deliberations by the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf  (CLCS) about Australia’s entitlement to a continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from the coastlines of Heard and McDonald islands.

"We mapped along the entire length of William’s Ridge, defining both its continuity with the Central Kerguelen Plateau and its southeastern terminus for the first time," Professor Coffin said. "This information, along with results from shore-based petrological and geochemical analyses of the rock samples we have collected, will be important criteria for any future submissions to the UN Commission.

"In 2008 the Commission noted that the data Australia submitted for William’s Ridge seemed to give only indirect evidence of its nature and origin, and the Commission was of the opinion that the geological origin of William's Ridge remained unresolved. Therefore, the Commission did not consider it justified for William's Ridge to be regarded as a submarine elevation that is a natural component of the continental margin."

Professor Coffin said scientists and students were able to carry out a wide range of imaging and sampling during the voyage.

"The Kerguelen Plateau and adjacent William’s Ridge were once contiguous with Broken Ridge, which is now 2700 kilometres to the north after separating 43 million years ago.

"The research we have undertaken during this voyage will help us to understand better the fundamental tectonic, volcanic, and geodynamic processes involved in the evolution of this part of the ocean.

"The seafloor structures we have mapped are complex but have two consistent trends, one parallel to the axis along which the two features broke up and the other at an acute angle to it.

"After we return to port our exceptional multidisciplinary international team of shore-based scientists will begin analysing our data and samples from areas that have never before been studied in this level of detail," Professor Coffin said.

The voyage included scientists and students from Geoscience Australia, Macquarie University, University of Queensland, GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, James Cook University, University of Western Australia, College of the Atlantic, and Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences  .

The project also involves shore-based researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, University of Cambridge, Oregon State University , Natural History Museum of Denmark , and GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel  .

The Investigator is Australia's only research vessel dedicated to blue-water research and is owned and operated by CSIRO.

Researchers examine rocks from seafloor dredge. Image: David Dieckfoss

Another Rate Cut; Another Pay Cut For Pensioners

March 4, 2020
National Seniors Australia has stepped up its demand for the Federal Government to cut deeming rates in the wake of yesterday’s interest rate cut by the Reserve Bank.

Deeming rates are used to calculate the earnings on a range of investments by pensioners.

The more you are deemed to have earned the less pension you get and this is applied to a range of pensions and benefits including the Age Pension, which affects hundreds of thousands of Australians.

Australia’s peak consumer group for older Australians says falling interest rates on term deposits coupled with high deeming rates are hitting the country’s most vulnerable people.

National Seniors Chief Advocate, Ian Henschke says when it comes to the government’s deeming rates “enough is enough”.

“We’re calling for immediate action to lower deeming rates,” Mr Henschke said.

“The top rate needs to be lower by at least 1.5% and the lower by 0.5%.”

As the cash rate has dropped, the higher deeming rate of 3% on savings over $51,800 is now double the typical return on a term deposit.

Mr Henschke says this is costing pensioners but boosting the government’s budget.

“To deem pensioners are earning 3% is unconscionable.”

“And to suggest older Australians “have a suite of investment options” flies in the face of reality when hundreds of billions of dollars have just been wiped from the share market,” said Mr Henschke.

Interest rates have fallen eight times since February 2015 but deeming rates have only been cut twice in that time.

Mr Henschke says a cut in deeming rates would boost the hip pocket of hundreds of thousands of Australians.

“The government says it’s looking for a stimulus for the economy, well this would be a great place to start,” he said.

The graph below shows that at the last interest rate cut before yesterday’s, both deeming rates were already well above the cash rate which means the government is deeming pensioners to earn income they haven’t, and their pension is cut accordingly.

Image source: Department of Social Services; Reserve Bank of Australia

Mr Henschke says the deeming rates when compared to average term deposit returns demonstrates how it's punishing poor pensioners.

“We’ve just last week launched our own National Seniors Term Deposit in association with a community bank and they’ve given us 1.75% which is about as good as it gets.”

Seniors' Hurdles – New Research On Barriers To Physical Activity

March 2, 2020
Two thirds of respondents wanted to be more physically active but listed various barriers preventing them.
National Seniors Australia, the peak consumer organisation for older Australians has today released a comprehensive study into seniors and physical activity, revealing the biggest barriers to exercise.

The national survey received almost 4,000 responses and showed that two thirds of respondents wanted to be more physically active but listed various barriers preventing them.

The biggest barrier to physical activity was a lack of motivation (32%), followed by health issues (27%) and mobility (21%).

However, respondents also gave examples of how they overcome some of these hurdles by:
  • exercising with a friend or group
  • participating in a team sport
  • owning a dog which requires regular exercise.
National Seniors CEO and Chief Researcher, Professor John McCallum says the survey shows how important seniors regard physical activity in maintaining their physical and mental health.

“Older Australians are becoming increasingly active. This is so important for a healthy later life,” Professor McCallum said.

“Those who feel they aren’t being active enough can name the barriers and express a desire to overcome them.”

Some respondents offered comments in their survey as to why they want to do more exercise:

“I think of exercise as investing in myself….,” said one respondent.

And this from another, “I force myself to exercise because it’s good for me! Use it or lose it.”

The report has been launched today at Parliament House by the Minister for Ageing and Sport, the Honourable Senator Richard Colbeck.

About the Report
In partnership with the Confederation of Australian Sport (CAS), National Seniors Australia presents findings from the physical activity component of the online annual National Seniors Social Survey. Members and non-members aged over 50 years from all states and territories were eligible to participate. Approximately 4,000 participants provided responses to four physical activity questions that also included free text options.

Penalties Now Apply For Drivers Caught Using Their Mobile Phone

March 2, 2020
Drivers in NSW caught illegally using their mobile phone will be issued fines and demerit points from 1 March 2020.

Drivers caught doing the wrong thing by mobile phone detection cameras will receive a $344 fine ($457 in a school zone) and five demerit points. The penalty will increase to 10 demerit points during double-demerit periods.

The world-first mobile phone detection cameras have been operating in NSW in a three-month warning period since 1 December 2019. During this time, nine million vehicles were checked and 30,000 warning letters sent to offending drivers.

The high-definition mobile phone detection cameras capture images of the front-row cabin space of all vehicles to detect illegal phone use.

Artificial intelligence is used to automatically review images, detect offending drivers and exclude images of non-offending drivers.

The mobile phone detection cameras are both fixed and transportable with trailer-mounted cameras. They will frequently move around the state.

NSW Police will continue to enforce illegal mobile phone use and issue infringements as part of regular operations.

Minister for Regional Roads Paul Toole said taking your eyes off the road for longer than two seconds doubled the risk of a crash.

“The decision to pick up your phone can have fatal consequences. Whether you’re driving on a major highway or an isolated road in the bush, there’s no excuse for using your phone illegally,” Mr Toole said.

Lifeline Classic 2020

Have you registered a team in the 2020 Lifeline Classic? There's still time! You can make a difference by simply paddling out.

On the shores of Queenscliff Beach on Sunday 29 March, pro surfers and proud locals team up to take on the waves and raise money for a critical cause: suicide prevention.

The Lifeline Classic is our annual ‘tag team’ surfing comp – and it’s the biggest fundraising event on our calendar. Last year, locals banded together to raise over $60,000, and had a ball while doing so. Our 2020 event is set to be bigger and better than ever!

With only 5 weeks to go, there's still time to register a team -
Round up a team of four surfers. They can be colleagues, mates, family… anyone who’s keen to hit the waves. Remember this is a fun, inclusive event for all surfers (even newbies!). There’s no judgement, it’s all about taking part!

Team up with a charity that saving lives, right in our own backyard. Every $27.96 raised answers a call to our 24/7 13 11 14 suicide and crisis prevention line.

The Software That Sent Humans To The Moon

Published March 6, 2020 by TED-Ed.

The Apollo 11 moon landing was about the astronauts, mission control, software and hardware all working together as a seamless integrated system. None of which would have been possible without the contributions of one engineer: Margaret Hamilton. Who was this pioneer? Matt Porter and Margaret Hamilton detail how a woman and her team launched the software that took mankind to the Moon.

Lesson by Matt Porter & Margaret Hamilton, directed by TOTEM Studio.

View full lesson:

International Women's Day Celebrated At The 2020 Sydney Surf Pro.  

Friday, 6 March 2020
By Surfing NSW

Over 50 people gathered at the 2020 Sydney Surf Pro at Manly Beach to celebrate the upcoming International Women’s Day and female growth in the sport.

A panel that consisted of local Northern Beaches World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) surfers Alysse Cooper (Queenscliff) and Tru Starling (Narrabeen), promising grommet Ruby Trew (Seaforth), Manly Surf School owner Matt Grainger, Manly Longboard Club’s Kate Moran, WSL commentator and former professional surfer Jess Grimwood and Qualifying Series surfer Giada Legati (Indonesia) all spoke about their personal experiences and the part they play with women’s surfing.

“Growing up, I was extremely fortunate to watch surfers like Layne Beachley at Queenscliff and I had a front-row seat to the role they played in getting the sport to where it is now,” said Cooper. “I think women’s surfing has grown so much since I was a kid – thanks to people like Layne – to the point where we now receive equal prize money on the QS and Championship Tour and we’re receiving more opportunities than ever.”


Photo by Ethan Smith/Surfing NSW

Surfing NSW also opened the floor for input and feedback to increase female participation, promote leadership and encourage inclusivity from attendees and the panelists.

Surfing NSW will be making further announcements on women’s programs, events, and initiatives as part of our new "Her Wave" program.

Surfing NSW CEO Luke Madden added that “Her Wave” will form a major part of the Surfing NSW organisation moving forward.

“Her Wave will be a focal point for our organisation moving forward for Surfing NSW and we will be looking to incorporate it across all disciplines of board riding with the goal of increasing female participation and inclusivity,” said Madden.

For more information on the program, please contact

The Sydney Surf Pro WSL Challenger Series event will run from March 8 through 14, 2020. Please visit or download the free WSL App for more information on the Sydney Surf Pro Junior and the newly announced WSL Challenger Series.

Photo by Ethan Smith/Surfing NSW

Photo: Over 50 people gathered at the 2020 Sydney Surf Pro today to celebrate the upcoming International Women’s Day and female growth in the sport.  Image by Ethan Smith/Surfing NSW

Academic Adversity Does Not Guarantee Resilience In High School Students

March 5, 2020: Kay Harrison, UNSW
High school students exposed to academic adversity do not develop greater resilience, says a new study by Scientia Professor Andrew Martin of UNSW Sydney and Professor Herbert Marsh of the Australian Catholic University.

Instead, boosting students’ “academic buoyancy” is the best way to help them deal with academic adversity.

The study of 481 students from Years 7-12 examined the relationship between “academic buoyancy” – the ability to bounce back from academic setbacks and difficulties – and academic adversity over two consecutive years.

Students who had negative experiences such as failing a subject, not handing in schoolwork, being suspended, or moving schools did not significantly build academic buoyancy as a result, the study found.

In fact, academic buoyancy seemed pivotal to helping reduce subsequent academic adversity. That is, students with prior high levels of academic buoyancy were significantly less likely to experience academic adversity over the course of the subsequent year.

“Students are under a lot of pressure to perform academically,” Scientia Professor Martin says. “It is important to instil in them the capacity to deal with challenges associated with their education. Fostering buoyancy is key to helping them manage and mitigate academic adversity. It can act as a kind of buffer.”

The study calls on educators to promote academic buoyancy in early schooling to reduce the risk of academic adversity in later years. Prior success can help prevent future academic obstacles, it says.

Howard Cheng, a Senior English teacher at Matraville Sports High School, believes the key lies in a “holistic approach to learning” that teaches “life skills through your curriculum” alongside academic excellence.                                                               

“Basically, having high expectations but having high support as well. The two have to go hand in hand,” the UNSW Arts & Social Sciences alumnus says. In this way teachers provide the “scaffolding” for student success, he says.

This is particularly pertinent for students from low socio-economic groups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations, who can lack role models for completing secondary education. In these cases, teachers are often called on to don the “parenting hat” to enable stronger educational outcomes, Mr Cheng says.

Strategies that can boost students’ academic buoyancy include building students’ self-confidence and reducing their anxiety as well as enhancing students’ relationships with teachers and giving students a stronger sense of belonging at school, the study says.

“Early identification and intervention – say in junior high school or even earlier – may be helpful before academic adversity and its associated risks escalate too much,” Professor Martin says. “The good news is that students can develop the attributes that help them deal with academic adversity at school – and beyond.”

Early Start Key To Easing The Trajectory Of Childhood Obesity

March 4, 2020: University of Sydney
On World Obesity Day, a new study shows that early education and support for pregnant women and parents could be key to combating rising rates of obesity in Australian kids.
Early education and support programs for pregnant women and parents with young babies may be the key to combating rising rates of obesity in Australian kids, suggests a study led by the University of Sydney’s Clinical Trials Centre.

Lead investigator, Professor Lisa Askie, said almost one in four children in Australia are overweight or obese by the time they start school, setting the child on a lifelong trajectory of obesity and poor health.

“Our study shows that early intervention from pregnancy up until two years of age not only reduced unhealthy weight gains in the children at age two, but we also saw less TV viewing time and improvements in feeding and breastfeeding practices.”

Released ahead of World Obesity Day the study, published in Pediatric Obesity, is the first of its kind to focus on very early education for parents prior to birth or within the first few months of the life of their child.

“Childhood obesity is a major health issue, particularly among Australia’s more disadvantaged populations. There are many different and varied interventions to help, but evidence suggests a child’s habits and behaviours form early,” said Professor Lisa Askie of the University of Sydney’s Clinical Trials Centre and Charles Perkins Centre.

“This is the first study of its kind to look at interventions at the pre-birth and early infancy stages.”

About the study
Professor Askie and her team, together with researchers from the University’s Charles Perkins Centre, were approached to conduct this study because of their expertise in prospective meta-analysis (PMA). The team is a worldwide leader in PMA, recently publishing ‘A guide to PMA’ in the British Medical Journal.

In a PMA, studies are identified for inclusion before the results of the studies related to the PMA research question are known. PMAs are suited to high priority research questions where limited previous evidence exists and where new studies are expected to emerge.

Professor Askie and her team used PMA to bring together four Australian and New Zealand trials studying early intervention in a total of over 2,000 children. The trials agreed to collect the same measures of childhood obesity, weight and habits associated with later obesity, so their data could be combined. This led to the creation of the world’s largest database on early childhood obesity prevention to date.

The combined data show that early interventions lead to a modest weight reduction at two years of age and importantly are also effective in forming positive habits early in childhood in relation to healthy eating and reduced TV time.

“The idea is to set children on a positive weight trajectory early-on by forming good habits that can prevent overweight and obesity in later childhood,” said Professor Askie.

With the world’s largest database on early childhood obesity prevention, the PMA team is set to become an international hub for future studies in the field.

Next steps
While evidence for early intervention is good news for childhood obesity prevention, questions still exist around which interventions work best and the best way to deliver them for different socio-economic groups.

Current interventions, such as at-home nurse visits or community health centre support groups, are mostly a one-size-fits-all approach.

To answer these questions, Professor Askie and her team were recently awarded funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council for a follow-up study that aims to open up the ‘black box’ of interventions.

“Policy makers want population-specific interventions that are going to work. No individual trial can answer these questions, but a collaborative PMA approach can fast track findings by years, by leveraging existing data,” said PhD candidate Anna Lene Seidler from the Clinical Trials Centre, who is the lead investigator on this follow-up study. Ms Seidler was co-investigator on the previous study.

The study will collect data from more than 25 trials and over 8,500 participants to determine which interventions and delivery types work best for different populations. Data will be collected and analysed from many countries, including Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Guatemala, Spain, China, and the Netherlands.

Deputy Director of the Centre of Research Excellence in the Early Prevention of Obesity in Childhood, Professor Kylie Hesketh from Deakin University, said early intervention studies offer the greatest opportunity to reduce obesity in children and improve long term health.

“Childhood obesity rates are soaring yet it is one of the most visible and widely neglected public health problems. We need concrete evidence to tackle the problems of convenient but fatty foods, less physical activity and increased screen time among children.

“Findings from these Clinical Trial Centre studies will be directly translated in policy and practice, using existing health service channels, to tackle this key problem of our age.” 

Declaration: The study was funded by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council with seed funding from Meat Livestock Australia. Three trials included in the meta‐analysis (Nourish, Healthy Beginning Trial, InFANT) were funded by the Australian NHMRC, and one trial (POI) was funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand.

Scientists Seize Rare Chance To Watch Faraway Star System Evolve

March 2, 2020: University of New South Wales
A young planet located 150 light-years away has given UNSW Sydney astrophysicists a rare chance to study a planetary system in the making.

The findings, recently published in The Astronomical Journal, suggest that the planet DS Tuc Ab -- which orbits a star in a binary system -- formed without being heavily impacted by the gravitational pull of the second star.

"We expected the pull from the second star to tilt the rotating disk of gas and dust that once surrounded the main star -- a process that would skew the orbit of the planet," says Dr Benjamin Montet, Scientia Fellow at UNSW Sydney and lead author of the study.

"Surprisingly, we found no evidence the planet's orbit was impacted. We also found the planet formed through relatively calm processes -- which means it could be possible for Earth-like planets to survive in binary systems like this."

Dr Montet worked with an international team of researchers at the Magellan Telescopes located at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. They used the Planet Finder Spectrograph to measure the Rossiter-McLaughlin effect, which is the relative angle between the orbit of the planet and the spin of its star.

They discovered the planet DS Tuc Ab orbits its star in a relatively flat plane, at approximately 12 degrees incline from the star's rotational axis. This low incline -- called obliquity -- suggests that the pull from the companion star did not significantly tilt the orbit of the protoplanetary disk where DS Tuc Ab formed.

While planets in the solar system all have a low obliquity, it's unusual for planets like DS Tuc Ab.

"Most similar planets orbit their star at random angles, sometimes reaching up to 90 degrees above the axis of their star," Dr Montet says.

"The DS Tuc system is the first piece of evidence that higher orbital angles don't get defined early on in a star's life -- they are an effect that happens only later on."

At 40 million years old, the gas giant DS Tuc Ab is considered a 'pre-teen' in planetary years. There are fewer than ten planets we know about that are this young.

Its age is a unique chance for astrophysicists to study a system in development before external influences interfere.

"To find out how long planetary systems last, we need systems that are too young to go through dynamical interactions, but old enough to have formed planets. The DS Tuc system is exactly in that niche," Dr Montet says.

Young stars are surrounded by dense disks of gas and dust – the raw materials for creating planets. Over time, the disk scatters and disappears, making new planets visible to outside observers. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

DS Tuc Ab: a 'Hot Neptune'
The planet DS Tuc Ab is a Neptune-sized gas planet that orbits its star closely and quickly -- one lap around its star takes only 8.1 days. These types of planets are known as 'Hot Neptunes' for their fast speeds and proximity to their stars.

Hot Neptunes are unlike anything we have in the solar system.

Even the smallest and closest planet to our Sun, Mercury, takes almost 100 days to complete its orbit. Our closest gas planet, Jupiter, takes over 4300 days.

Giant gas planets are unlikely to develop close to their stars. The current understanding is that they form further away and, over time, a force causes them to move closer to their stars.

Scientists want to know what that force is.

"There are two main theories about how Hot Neptunes came to be so close to their stars," says Dr Montet.

"One theory is that an external force -- potentially a multi-body nearby collision -- 'kicks' them closer in, where they wobble and eventually settle on a new orbit.

"Another theory is that smooth processes within the planetary disk create a force that gradually pulls the planet closer to the star."

Testing the obliquity can help scientists uncover which force was at play. Planets with low obliquities are understood to be formed by smooth disk processes, while more dramatic processes will lead to random or high obliquities.

However, astrophysicists have recently been intrigued by the suggestion that wide binary stars can tilt the orbit of young planets around their stars -- while this process would be smooth, it would result in planets with high orbital inclinations.

"If true, this would upend our theory of planet formation!" says Dr Montet.

While that theory was not supported by the low obliquity of DS Tuc Ab, scientists are looking to the skies for more young binary systems to test.

DS Tuc Ab is a Neptune-sized planet, but that’s where their similarities end. Unlike our Neptune, which takes 165 years to orbit the Sun, this ‘Hot Neptune’ orbits its star in only 8.1 days. Image: Shutterstock

The next generation of planetary systems
When it comes to learning from star systems, many of the systems we can observe today provide an inaccurate history of the system's past.

"Present-day systems are not pure laboratories," says Dr Montet.

"Over billions of years, planet-planet and planet-star interactions can scatter, torque, migrate, and disturb orbits, making what we see today very different to how they initially formed."

Planets take between 10 and 100 million years to form, but most of the planets visible from Earth are much older. The DS Tuc system is 45 million years old -- only 1% the age of the Sun.

"DS Tuc Ab is at an interesting age," says Dr Montet. "The protoplanetary disk has dissipated, and we can see the planet, but it's still too young for the orbit of other distant stars to manipulate its path.

"It gives us the chance to understand planet formation dynamics in a way that a five billion-year-old star doesn't."

DS Tuc A is the youngest star for which the spin-orbit alignment has ever been measured.

Searching the skies
DS Tuc Ab is only visible from the Southern Hemisphere. It was discovered last year through NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission -- an all-sky surveying mission that aims to discover thousands of exoplanets near bright stars.

Montet worked closely with researchers at Harvard and Carnegie universities, who also measured DS Tuc Ab's obliquity but used the Doppler tomography method.

"The first exoplanet searches were done in facilities in the Northern Hemisphere, and so they missed a lot of the planets far south," says Dr Montet.

"NASA's TESS mission is changing that. It's finding all these planets around stars that previously hadn't been searched."

Dr Montet and his team are leading an effort to find and characterise more planets around young stars. They hope to study how stellar activity, such as stellar flares and starspots, could affect planet detection and habitability.

"Finding young planets is challenging. We really need to understand the behaviour of the parent star to be able to find the shallow signals of these planets which can be overwhelmed by starspots and flares," says Adina Feinstein, a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow at the University of Chicago and co-author of the study.

"There's no reason why Earth-like planets couldn't form and survive in Hot Neptune systems like this one," Dr Montet says.

"We just have to go out and find them."

Benjamin T. Montet, Adina D. Feinstein, Rodrigo Luger, Megan E. Bedell, Michael A. Gully-Santiago, Johanna K. Teske, Sharon Xuesong Wang, R. Paul Butler, Erin Flowers, Stephen A. Shectman, Jeffrey D. Crane, Ian B. Thompson. The Young Planet DS Tuc Ab Has a Low Obliquity. The Astronomical Journal, 2020; 159 (3): 112 DOI: 10.3847/1538-3881/ab6d6d

Geologists Determine Early Earth Was A 'Water World' By Studying Exposed Ocean Crust

March 2, 2020: Iowa State University
The Earth of 3.2 billion years ago was a "water world" of submerged continents, geologists say after analyzing oxygen isotope data from ancient ocean crust that's now exposed on land in Australia.

And that could have major implications on the origin of life.

"An early Earth without emergent continents may have resembled a 'water world,' providing an important environmental constraint on the origin and evolution of life on Earth as well as its possible existence elsewhere," geologists Benjamin Johnson and Boswell Wing wrote in a paper just published online by the journal Nature Geoscience.

Johnson is an assistant professor of geological and atmospheric sciences at Iowa State University and a recent postdoctoral research associate at the University of Colorado Boulder. Wing is an associate professor of geological sciences at Colorado. Grants from the National Science Foundation supported their study and a Lewis and Clark Grant from the American Philosophical Society supported Johnson's fieldwork in Australia.

Johnson said his work on the project started when he talked with Wing at conferences and learned about the well-preserved, 3.2-billion-year-old ocean crust from the Archaean eon (4 billion to 2.5 billion years ago) in a remote part of the state of Western Australia. Previous studies meant there was already a big library of geochemical data from the site.

Johnson joined Wing's research group and went to see ocean crust for himself -- a 2018 trip involving a flight to Perth and a 17-hour drive north to the coastal region near Port Hedland.

After taking his own rock samples and digging into the library of existing data, Johnson created a cross-section grid of the oxygen isotope and temperature values found in the rock.

(Isotopes are atoms of a chemical element with the same number of protons within the nucleus, but differing numbers of neutrons. In this case, differences in oxygen isotopes preserved with the ancient rock provide clues about the interaction of rock and water billions of years ago.)

Once he had two-dimensional grids based on whole-rock data, Johnson created an inverse model to come up with estimates of the oxygen isotopes within the ancient oceans. The result: Ancient seawater was enriched with about 4 parts per thousand more of a heavy isotope of oxygen (oxygen with eight protons and 10 neutrons, written as 18O) than an ice-free ocean of today.

How to explain that decrease in heavy isotopes over time?

Johnson and Wing suggest two possible ways: Water cycling through the ancient ocean crust was different than today's seawater with a lot more high-temperature interactions that could have enriched the ocean with the heavy isotopes of oxygen. Or, water cycling from continental rock could have reduced the percentage of heavy isotopes in ocean water.

"Our preferred hypothesis -- and in some ways the simplest -- is that continental weathering from land began sometime after 3.2 billion years ago and began to draw down the amount of heavy isotopes in the ocean," Johnson said.

The idea that water cycling through ocean crust in a way distinct from how it happens today, causing the difference in isotope composition "is not supported by the rocks," Johnson said. "The 3.2-billion-year-old section of ocean crust we studied looks exactly like much, much younger ocean crust."

Johnson said the study demonstrates that geologists can build models and find new, quantitative ways to solve a problem -- even when that problem involves seawater from 3.2 billion years ago that they'll never see or sample.

And, Johnson said these models inform us about the environment where life originated and evolved: "Without continents and land above sea level, the only place for the very first ecosystems to evolve would have been in the ocean."

Benjamin W. Johnson & Boswell A. Wing. Limited Archaean continental emergence reflected in an early Archaean 18O-enriched ocean. Nature Geoscience, 2020 DOI: 10.1038/s41561-020-0538-9

Australian Tiny Homes: Free Webinar

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NSW Building Certification Bill Still Lets Developers Off The Hook

Opinion: Geoff Hanmer
March 5, 2020
The New South Wales government is struggling to implement building industry reforms recommended by the Shergold-Weir report over two years ago.

Developers are home free in its proposed legislation; the Design and Building Practitioners Bill doesn’t even mention them. They still appear to be in a position to collect the profits and then phoenix themselves if something goes wrong.

And something is going wrong all too often. David Chandler, the NSW building commissioner appointed to oversee the reforms, said recently he was “a bit despondent” after seeing “some really regrettable things out there” in a program of site visits.

Even though the commissioner can see how bad things are, he says it will take until 2022 for the building industry to “get people back to what they should be doing”.

The lack of progress hasn’t stopped the minister for better regulation, Kevin Anderson, claiming credit. In announcing the Design and Building Practitioners Bill 2019 last October, he said: “People should feel confident they can enter the housing market in NSW knowing their home has been designed and built in accordance with the Building Code of Australia.”

He must have forgotten to add “maybe after 2022” and “only if you are buying new”.

The upper house then rejected the bill. It’s now being revised.

What’s wrong with the bill?
The bill has the avowed aim of making people who design and build buildings responsible for non-compliance with the National Construction Code by getting them to sign certificates attesting that the building is built according to the code.

This is a guarantee of not very much. The code does not regulate durability or require that buildings be waterproof. Plus, of course, many people have been signing similar certificates for certifiers without it having had much impact to date.

The bill has many other faults and omissions. It does not require a principal design practitioner to be appointed to a complex project and no one is identified as the lead consultant. This means there is no person identified to coordinate design work between all disciplines (architecture and engineering) or to ensure design declarations relate to work as actually done, taking into account all engineering designs and site conditions.

The most critical problem is that the people signing the attestations are not required to actually inspect work during construction. Such a requirement was a key recommendation of the Shergold-Weir report.

The purpose of the bill, other than as political soft soap, is unclear. We already have design practitioners, called “architects”, who are registered under state law. We already have builders under state law, who are called “licensed contractors”.

We have the National Construction Code as a starting point for regulating building performance. We already have a Home Building Act. Under the Local Government Act, local councils clearly have the power to stop work on site if the builder is doing the wrong thing.

What we don’t have is a mechanism to unite these existing powers to ensure buildings are designed and documented to be durable, liveable and waterproof.

Steps that will solve the problems
If the government is as keen to deliver certainty to the new-build market as the minister asserts, what could it do?

First up, if there are things on site of the sort the building commissioner “abhors”, these sites should be shut down under existing powers. The state government would need to negotiate with councils about implementing and funding inspections, but this could be done promptly.

Does the government need to know which buildings to target? Simply look at the qualifications and track records of the building company directors.

A developer could be compelled to use a registered architect for any building for housing over two storeys high and required to retain the architect for site inspections during construction. Amendments to the Home Building Act or its regulations could achieve this.

As architects are already registered and legally required to hold professional indemnity insurance, no new legislation would be required. The lack of registration of engineers might be an issue, but no architect who is ultimately responsible for a building will work with an engineer they regard as incompetent.

The National Construction Code is not good at requiring buildings to be waterproof, but, again, some simple changes could be made to the Home Building Act. These should include beefed-up requirements for waterproofing any balcony or planter box larger in area than about six square metres.

We know for sure any tiles directly stuck to a membrane over a large area will fail, either immediately or relatively soon. Making it compulsory to use a system that allows tiles to be removed to access the membrane is simple and will eliminate years of misery.

What’s stopping the government?
If these steps are so simple and obvious, why isn’t the NSW government doing it?

Mainly, it would appear, because it’s in thrall to the development industry, which believes reintroducing these measures will reduce its profits.

The developers are right about this; building properly is more expensive. But I think most buyers would happily pay a bit more for a safe and durable product. They do that when buying consumer durables such as cars and appliances.

Good developers would benefit as this approach would help weed out the dodgy ones.

To restore the public’s lost confidence in new multi-unit residential housing, the government should pull the levers it has to hand first and then resolve the problem of existing defective stock.

Later it can think about some of the wider issues, but how about doing something useful now? We have been waiting two years.

Geoff Hanmer, Adjunct Lecturer in Architecture, UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

New Study Links Swipe-Based Dating Apps To Poor Mental Health

March 5, 2020: Western Sydney University
Research by Western Sydney University and the University of Sydney has found people using swipe-based dating apps (SBDAs) – where users ‘swipe’ the screen to either like or dislike another user’s profile – experience especially higher rates of psychological distress and probable depression than non-users.

Published in BMC Psychology today, the study found that dating app use is common. Whilst 40% of current or past users felt that swipe-based dating apps had a positive impact on their self-esteem, current dating app users were two and half times more likely to report psychological distress and twice as likely to report probable depression.

The online survey of 437 Australians compared the impact of dating habits on the mental health of both SBDA and non-app users.

Dr Sabrina Pit, one of the lead researchers with co-affiliation to both universities, said the findings highlight that dating apps with swiping functions have a complex impact on the psychological well-being of users.

“We found an increased frequency of use and longer duration of use were both associated with greater psychological distress and depression,” said Dr Pit.

“People who were currently using dating apps for a year or more were three and half times likely to be distressed and four times more likely to report probable depression.”

Dr Pit said the Australian population of SBDA users is growing and further research into dating apps and mental health outcomes is needed.

“We’re calling for app developers to take a more active role in the promotion of positive mental health messages, particularly on swipe-based dating applications,” said Dr Pit.

Key findings:
  • 20% of current dating app users reported significantly higher psychological distress as a result of app use (vs 8% of people who did not use a dating app).
  • 19% of current dating app users reported significantly higher depressive symptoms as a result of app use (vs 9% of people who did not use a dating app).
  • People who used dating apps daily were 4 times more likely to report psychological distress or depressive symptoms than those who never used a dating app.
  • 40% of current or past SBDA users reported app interaction had a positive impact on their self-esteem.
  • 39% of current or past dating app users said they had previously entered into a serious relationship with someone they had met on a SBDA.
  • 77% of current and past SBDA users said they had met people face-to-face through an app, and 26% had met more than five people.

Designing A City Without Cars – For The Sake Of The Kids

March 3, 2020: University of South Australia
More than half of Australian households own two or more motor vehicles, while only seven per cent own none – we are, without a doubt, a car country.

However, while countless advertisements celebrate the freedom cars provide, University of South Australia urban planning researcher, Hulya Gilbert, says there are growing reasons to question the cost of that freedom, and even challenge whether it is freedom at all.

“There’s obviously the environmental impacts, and the health and fitness consequences of using cars, but there’s also a huge social impact,” Gilbert says.

“Despite the common view across the world that cars provide freedom and flexibility, increasingly we’re seeing the priority given to cars is infringing people’s ability – and right – to get around without one.

“That’s especially true of children, and the more we build our cities around cars, the more we rob kids and teenagers of opportunities to enjoy some independence and develop self-reliance.”

Gilbert’s research shows the assumption that most people travel by car dominates current transport discussions, which, in turn, has dictated the design and location of key places in children’s lives, such as schools and sporting clubs.

Once our cities are built that way, she says, it’s hard to move outside the plan.  

“It’s not enough just to say, ‘kids need to walk to school more’,” Gilbert says. “In many situations, we have planned that possibility out of cities, and now it’s just not safe or practical for children to ride or walk to the places they need to go – so much so, that there are now perceptions that parents who do let their kids ride or walk are being negligent.”

Gilbert says a change in priorities by urban planners is needed to reverse this trend, and despite a growing interest in alternatives to the private car across the world, her research suggests we’re unlikely to see large scale shifts in travel behaviour unless we make the required changes to infrastructure first.

“That involves building and maintaining safe walking and cycling paths and associated infrastructure including green spaces, trees and pedestrian crossings, and reducing speed limits and traffic flow around those areas to ensure they’re safe.  

“It also means ensuring public transport is connected to those active transport networks, and that key locations, such as schools and sports clubs, are located so they’re accessible by those modes.”

Developing these networks will not only benefit children and teenagers, Gilbert says, but also help other social groups currently disadvantaged by being unable to drive, including the elderly, vision impaired and lower income earners.

“At the moment, our cities and societies are set up based on the idea that having a licence and owning a car is the norm, and we often consider the lack of car ownership as a disadvantage. Our right to move around our cities without a car is not commonly considered.

“Now, even though it’s the case that most people have access to a car and travel by car in cities such as Adelaide, planning and thinking as if they don’t would open up many possibilities and opportunities which would accelerate progress towards less private car usage and the associated, wide-ranging benefits,” Gilbert says.

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.