Inbox and Environment News: Issue 444

March 29 - April 4, 2020: Issue 444


Warm Fuzzy Cuddles: Mitch And M.J. - Wombats At Sydney Wildlife Waratah Park Talk To You- For Littlies (& Biggies Too)

During a week when many have probably needed a good hug that's the last thing recommended, the Sydney Wildlife Mobile Clinic crew and Sydney Wildlife Waratah Park volunteers have been inviting people to share pictures of what us 'humans are doing' with Mitch and MJ (Michael Jackson because he has one white paw - aka 'glove') and these two adorable cuddly ones have been replying to those who have posted photos of what they are up to.

One wombat, in care with another Sydney Wildlife volunteer, answered he was just 'lounging around on his human'.

Another from a lady who took a stroll through Warriewood wetlands by herself to get some photos of birds to which Mitch and MJ replied 'we totally understand the need to get out and go out to play! Enjoy your walk  - love Mitch and MJ' and posted a photo of themselves from a few weeks ago when they were in a baby pen on the Sydney Wildlife Mobile Care Unit Facebook page.

Even one from some kangaroos also in care who said 'I see you two wombats and raise you two kangaroos acting like humans and observing safe social distancing while they’re at it!':

They have really been cheering people up!



Autumn In Pittwater 2020

One of the Kookaburra Fledgling triplets this week - Bigger and Bolder! A J Guesdon photos.
Cassia (Senna pendula). Also known as Senna and Arsenic Bush. Originating in South American, Cassia is a perennial sprawling multi-stemmed shrub or tree up to 5m tall. 

This weed replaces native vegetation and establishes in a wide range of native plant communities, including coastal heath and scrubland, hind dunes and riparian corridors. The large seed pods are eaten by birds and other animals. You may be seeing this bright burst of yellow everywhere as it is currently flowering - please pull out and get rid of if you have in your garden.

NSW NPWS Closes Campgrounds And High Visitation Areas

March 26, 2020
The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service has closed campgrounds, visitor centres, high-visitation areas, and historic sites from 26 March 2020, in response to the COVID-19 emergency.

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) will temporarily close all campgrounds, high visitation areas and historic sites across NSW until further notice, in response to tighter Australian and NSW Government health directives on social distancing and non-essential travel to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in the wider community.

National parks and reserves are special environmental, cultural and recreational places for the people of NSW and they will remain open to the community, but the health and safety of our visitors, staff and the wider community is our priority and these measures are important.

The following closures will take effect:
  • Campgrounds closed in line with the Government Public Health Order from 26 March 2020
  • Visitor centres, cafes and high visitation areas will be closed from 26 March 2020
  • Historic sites will be closed from 26 March 2020 (except for permanent residents)
  • All visitors with bookings impacted by the closures will be contacted to arrange full refunds.
For a full list of impacted High Visitation Areas please visit COVID-19 update page.

All roads through national parks remain open.

Most walking tracks and trails will also remain open and visitors should observe necessary social distancing with others while using pathways and other facilities to maximise their safety.

Parks that are already closed due to fire impacts remain closed. Please check our NPWS Alerts page for details.

NPWS staff and volunteer led tours and events have been cancelled with full refunds.

As this is a rapidly changing situation, we ask visitors to check our website regularly for COVID-19 updates.

We know how important our national parks and reserves are as areas for conservation and recreation and we are committed to reopen these areas as soon as possible in line with government and health advice.

NPWS staff will continue to undertake environmental protection and maintenance work in our parks and reserves, subject to all government and health advice, including in areas where important bushfire recovery action is underway. Other NPWS staff will work remotely to continue delivering conservation, research, visitor information and education services.

For more information about COVID-19 in NSW and how to protect yourself and the community, please visit the NSW Health website

Closed Areas: Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park - Visitor Precincts Closed

Applies from Friday March 27, 2020, 10.47am. 

Many high visitation areas and facilities within Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park are closed from Friday 27 March 2020. The closed areas include:
  • All large picnic shelters
  • All barbeque facilities
  • All playgrounds
  • Brooklyn Dam Campsites
Bobbin Head Information Centre is currently closed closed until further notice to protect the health and safety of our visitors and staff. You can still contact us by email or phone on 02 9472 8949.

If you are visiting the park, please bring a card to pay vehicle entry fees.

For more information regarding closures, contact the NPWS Contact Centre on 1300 072 757, the NPWS North Western Sydney area office on 02 8448 0400 or the NPWS Sydney North area office on 02 9451 3479.

Barrenjoey Lighthouse

Barrenjoey Lighthouse tours have been cancelled until further notice to protect the health and safety of our visitors and staff. Barrenjoey Lighthouse stands at Barrenjoey Head at Palm Beach on Sydney's northern beaches. Built in 1881, this heritage lighthouse is an iconic Sydney attraction.
Take a virtual tour of Barrenjoey Lighthouse captured with Google Street View Trekker

Forestville Office Is Closed Until Further Notice

Applies from Thu 02 Jan 2020, 3.27pm to Fri 01 Jan 2021, 1.00am. Last reviewed: Fri 27 Mar 2020, 9.28am.

Forestville office is closed until further notice to protect the health and safety of our visitors and staff. You can still contact us by phone or email for information.

Closed Areas: Collins Flat Beach Closed On Weekends

From Saturday 28 March 2020, Collins Flat Beach will be closed on weekends until further notice.

Affects 2 locations in this park: 
  • Fairfax lookout, North Head
  • North Head

Middle Head Office Closed Until Further Notice

Middle Head office is closed until further notice to protect the health and safety of our visitors and staff. You can still contact us by phone or email for information.

Affects 4 locations in this park: 
  • Middle Head
  • Middle Head
  • Fairfax lookout, North Head
  • North Head

Even If The Parks Are Closed You Can Still Go Google Trekking

A few years ago Pittwater Online shared some great news about the state government working with Google in what is called 'Google Trekker' - our own local MP, Rob Stokes, Member for Pittwater was the State Environment Minister at that time, so it was great to hear about this first-hand from him - he loves the great outdoors!

Back in June 2014 the work began of mapping our National Parks - by actually walking through them with a camera - this is what the ranger walking with the camera looked like - they started with doing 16 parks to begin with:

OEH - NPWS photo

Then in November 2014 Environment Minister Rob Stokes launched Google Street View imagery of some of the most picturesque and visited national parks in NSW. 

Mr Stokes said the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service is the first organisation in Australia to be part of the Google program, which sees organisations borrow the Trekker technology to collect imagery of hard to reach places and help map the world. 

“NPWS have captured 360-degree imagery of 25 parks from Kosciuszko to Cape Byron, covering over 400 kilometres of walking tracks and 700 kilometres of roads and trails,” Mr Stokes said then. 

“This new service means people can scope out walks before they travel, or get a glimpse of places they would otherwise find inaccessible. 

“People who have been unable to make it to the bottom of that gorge or the top of that ridge can now see all the sites our national parks have to offer. 

"In conjunction with the NSW National Parks website, this imagery will give people another great way to plan their park visits, check walking tracks for suitability and learn about the area beforehand. 

“We have a lot to be proud of in NSW with some of the most beautiful and remote places on the planet. 

“These maps will ensure people who may not have the ability to walk in some of these popular locations will still have the opportunity to experience our vast natural beauty from their lounge rooms on the other side of the world.” 

Basically, Google Trekker allows you to explore our National Parks as though you were on their bush tracks. You can Discover new places with a virtual tour of walking tracks, lookouts and campgrounds on the coast, deep within rainforests, and even in Outback NSW. You can get 360 degree views of these incredible landscapes and go on your own virtual adventure.

Working in partnership with Google, NSW National Parks (NPWS) has captured imagery in over 50 national parks using Google's special backpack-mounted trekker. With more than 1350km of Google Trekker footage, there are hundreds of experiences to discover.

You can also visit beautiful and historic places all over the world via Google Trekker - but let's start with places around us to begin with.

Where would you like to visit today?: Here are some of our favourite Street View virtual tours - just click on the links to take a look around for yourself

Sydney and Surrounds

North Coast NSW

South Coast NSW

Country NSW

Snowy Mountains- Kosciuszko National Park

Outback NSW and Murray-Riverina

Please note: The backpack-mounted trekker has been specifically designed to go off the grid. Occasionally, trained NPWS staff take Google Trekker into ecologically sensitive areas so we can give you a peek of places you would otherwise never see.

When you explore these walking tracks for yourself, remember to always to stay on marked tracks, so we can continue to protect these special places for generations to come.

13 Fold Increase In Land Clearing Approvals In NSW Since 2016 Law Changes: Secret Government Report

March 27, 2020

There has been a 13 fold increase in land clearing approvals in NSW since controversial land clearing law changes were introduced in 2016, according to a secret report obtained by Independent NSW MP Justin Field who has labeled it as evidence of a “catastrophic failure” of land management under the NSW Nationals.

The report, undertaken by the NSW Natural Resources Commission, was commissioned by the NSW Premier in January 2019, just before the last NSW State Election, and was handed to the Government in July 2019. 

The report found that:

  • In 2018/19, over 37,000 hectares were approved to be cleared. This is almost 13 times the annual average rate of approval in the ten years prior to 2016/17 of approx 2,700 hectares (p6).
  • Land clearing approvals almost doubled between Q4 2018 (25,247 hectares) and Q1 2019 (43,553 hectares) just after the most controversial element of the land clearing reform, the Codes, commenced in March 2018 (p4).
  • There was 7,100 hectares of ‘unexplained’ clearing over 6 months (August 2017 - January 2018) representing almost 60% of all land clearing. (pp4,5)
  • Nine of eleven regions in NSW are setting aside significantly less than the area approved for clearing (between 6 and 69 percent of the area approved to be cleared). When the reforms were introduced it was intended that  two to four times the area approved for clearing would be set aside (p6)
  • 9 of 11 regions are considered a “high biodiversity risk” with high rates of clearing being undertaken under provisions to allow for “thinning for pasture expansion”. The report describes clearing under this rule as presenting a “state-wide risk to biodiversity” and that the “policy intent of the reforms is not being achieved” (pp4,6)
  • The Government has failed to finalise key elements of the 2016 reform including the Native Vegetation Regulatory Map and a coordinated Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting program (p4).

See table below of key findings assessed against proposed evaluation targets recommended in the report.

Independent NSW MP Justin Field, who has been pursuing this report through the Parliament since its existence was confirmed in September 2019, said:

“This report makes clear that the management of natural resources under the NSW Nationals have been a catastrophic failure that has led to seemingly unrestrained land clearing approvals and an increase in unexplained clearing across the majority of the state.

“It is unacceptable and unforgivable that the Government has been sitting on findings for nine months that show their own laws present a “state-wide risk to biodiversity” while land clearing has been allowed to continue at record levels.

“Our wildlife and the native forests, woodlands and grasslands they rely on have been savaged by the drought and fires and the Government has known its land clearing laws were making that worse.  

“This sends a terrible message to landholders who are trying to do the right thing, and who understand the value of protecting biodiversity on the land, when they see the Government allow rampant clearing across the state. 

“We know that protecting native vegetation reduces the impacts of erosion and salinity, improves water retention and soil health on farms. Clearing can benefit one farm but on a large scale it degrades the land and costs our agricultural industries.

“New approvals for land clearing and the “pasture expansion thinning” rules should be paused until the NRC’s recommendations are implemented in full. 

“I’m concerned that in the current COVID-19 crisis unacceptable rates of land clearing are going to continue unabated and without enforcement. 

"I’m calling for the statute of limitations on prosecutions for illegal land clearing to be suspended until the public can be reassured that investigations and enforcement is able to proceed unhindered. It would be too easy for those landholders who have done the wrong thing to try to drag out the investigation process to avoid prosecution.

Related: Natural Resources Commission - ANNUAL PROGRESS REPORT - FOREST MONITORING AND IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM - released February 2020

Weed Cassia Now Flowering: Please Pull Out And Save Our Bush

Cassia (Senna pendula). Also known as Senna and Arsenic Bush. Originating in South American, Cassia is a perennial sprawling multi-stemmed shrub or tree up to 5m tall. 

This weed replaces native vegetation and establishes in a wide range of native plant communities, including coastal heath and scrubland, hind dunes and riparian corridors. The large seed pods are eaten by birds and other animals. You may be seeing this bright burst of yellow everywhere as it is currently flowering - please pull out and get rid of if you have in your garden.

Eucalypt Of The Year 2020:  Illyarrie, Eucalyptus Erythrocorys

Eucalypt Australia is thrilled to announce that the winner of the 2020 Eucalypt of the Year competition is the spectacular Illyarrie, Eucalyptus erythrocorys, also known as the Red-capped Gum.

It’s one of the most distinctive of all the eucalypts, with its dark red bud caps, bright yellow flowers arranged in four tufts, and heavy, woody fruits. It’s totally unique, and not closely-related to any other species of eucalypt.

You can find the Illyarrie in its native home on the west coast of Australia, between Perth and Shark Bay, where it grows on almost pure limestone. However, it’s often planted ornamentally in cities such as Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Alice Springs. The species is very tolerant of drought, and rapidly responds to fire by reshooting new growth from the trunk and branches.

In second place we have Eucalyptus regnans, known as the Mountain Ash in Victoria or Swamp Gum in Tasmania. This species holds a lot of tall tree records – it’s the tallest of all eucalypt species, and holds the current title for the tallest tree in Australia, with the Centurion tree standing 100m tall near Tahune in Tasmania.

The iconic Lemon-scented Gum, Corymbia citriodora, has taken out third place. It’s one of only two eucalypt species with lemon-scented leaves, which contain the essential oil citronellal. It grows naturally in woodlands and open forest in central and north Queensland, and can grow up to 45 metres tall.

Now in its third year, the Eucalypt of the Year is decided through public voting throughout late February and March.

Held annually on March 23rd, National Eucalypt Day aims to raise awareness of eucalypts and celebrate the important place that they hold in the hearts and lives of Australians. The National Eucalypt Day program aims to meet the promotion, education and conservation objectives of Eucalypt Australia by addressing the themes of tree breeding and genomics, primary education and public awareness.

The Centurion

The Centurion is the world's tallest known individual Eucalyptus regnans tree and E. regnans is the third-tallest tree species in the world after the coast redwood and the yellow meranti. The tree is located in southern Tasmania, Australia and was measured by climber-deployed tapeline at 99.6 metres (327 ft) tall in 2008. Two more recent measurements indicated that the tree was growing, albeit very slowly. In January 2014 the tree was climbed and the tape drop indicated the tree had grown to 99.82m. However, a further tape drop done in 2016 obtained the slightly lower height of 99.67m. Centurion was re-measured again by ground laser in December 2018 and was found to have possibly reached 100.5 meters in height. It was discovered in August 2008 by employees of Forestry Tasmania while analysing the data collected by LiDAR system used in mapping and assessment of state forest resources.

The diameter of Centurion is 4.05 metres, its girth exceeds 12 metres, and its volume has been estimated at 268 cubic metres. The name "Centurion" was saved for the hundredth noble tree to be discovered by Forestry Tasmania and coincided with the height of the tree. Named after centurions (Roman officers), the root of the name contains centum, which in Latin means "one hundred". Centurion is alternately known as "the Bradman" as the height of the tree at 99.82 metres was close to the test run average of the Australian cricketer Donald Bradman.

The tree is in a small patch of very old forest surrounded by secondary forest and has survived logging and forest fires by lucky coincidence. Near Centurion grow two other giant trees: the 86.5 metre tall E. regnans named Triarius and The Prefect which had a girth of 19m until destroyed in the 2019 fires.

The tallest known coast Douglas fir is now listed at 99.7 m tall and comes a close third. Centurion is also the tallest known angiosperm in the world.

In February 2019 it was damaged from a bushfire that devastated the surrounding area but appears to have initially survived. A new hollow in the base was created by the fire.

Centurion tree - photo taken up-slope from a gap in the forest created by another old fallen Eucalyptus regnans - photo by and courtesy Eucalyptus 99

This Bizarre Floating Gadget Could Save Seabirds' Lives

March 26, 2020 

By Yann Rouxel, BirdLife International Marine Programme

Many seabirds meet their end accidentally tangled in fishing nets. In a brand new approach to this problem, our Partners are studying the way seabirds detect predators, in a bid to use the same techniques to keep them away from netting.

The "looming-eyes buoy" is currently being trialled in Estonia © Andres Kalamees

Imagine you’re a Long-tailed Duck, and you see a fish in the water right underneath you. You dive towards it, looking forward to a tasty meal. But as you catch it in your beak, you hit a wall of near-invisible netting, meeting the same fate as the fish you’re trying to eat.

This is a danger that many seabirds face every day. Many modern ‘gillnets’ – vertical sheets of netting held up by floating buoys, which trap passing fish by the gills – are made of monofilament nylon that is practically invisible underwater. This material is widespread in fisheries around the world, and particularly popular among small-scale fishers owing to its low cost. Understandably, these nets pose a high risk of entanglement to many marine animals, including diving seabirds foraging nearby.

To the general public, ingesting plastic may be one of the most well-known threats to seabirds; yet an estimated 400,000 seabirds are killed each year through accidental ‘bycatch’ in fishing nets. The problem spans across the avian world: nearly 150 different seabird species thought to be susceptible to this danger. 

The Long-tailed Duck is Vulnerable to extinction, largely due to 'bycatch' in nets © Wolfgang Wander

To tackle this issue, researchers and conservationists including the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) have for many years been exploring the potential to make gillnets more visible to birds underwater, through modifications to the nets, or adding devices such as high-contrast panels or LED lights. However, given the challenges of the underwater environment, where even marine birds have reduced vision, as well as the need to avoid warding off the fish themselves, underwater strategies have had – to date – limited success. 

It was high time for a new approach. Researchers went back to the drawing board, asking simple questions: What do diving seabirds see?  How do they forage? What do they avoid? With the help of animal behavioural ecologists and informed by tracking data, we realised the answer could lie in preventing birds from coming near the gillnets at all.

With this in mind, we looked into the scientific literature to find a response to our question: What could prevent birds from diving near gillnets in the first place? Thankfully, nature – as it often does – offered some hints. The conspicuous ‘eyespots’, which are found on many creatures such as butterflies, can evoke an avoidance response in many bird species. Similarly, looming movements have been found to trigger a collision-risk signal in birds’ brains, making them move away. On land, the combination of these two visual stimuli (i.e. eyes appearing to move towards a bird) has resulted in significant escape responses in several bird species.

To adapt this technique to the marine environment, we developed a floating buoy that displays large, obvious ‘looming-eyes’ that can be seen from a long way off. As the buoy bobs in the water, the tall pole sways conspicuously, and the eyes rotate in the wind. We called it the Looming-eyes buoy (LEB), or more affectionately, ‘The Bobby’.

The device prevents birds from approaching before they even dive underwater © Andres Kalamees

Since February 2020, we have been working with our Partner the Estonian Ornithological Society to test the effect of this new device on birds out at sea. Trials are currently ongoing in Küdema Bay protected area, off the Estonian island of Saaremaa. The bay attracts large concentrations of wintering seabirds, including the Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis and Steller's Eider Polysticta stelleri, both of which are Vulnerable to extinction, largely due to bycatch. Researchers are monitoring the behaviour of any seabird that enters within 50 metres of the ‘Bobbys’, compared to an area containing regular fishing buoys. No gillnets are present in either location, making the experiments completely safe for the birds. If these trials prove successful, the ‘Bobbys’ could be rolled out commercially, revolutionising bycatch prevention and saving seabird lives in gillnet fisheries across the world.

This project is made possible thanks to the support of the National Geographic Society, as well as the Baltic Sea Conservation Foundation for the development and production of the LEB prototypes.

No Beach Driving Or Camping At Samurai Beach And Worimi Conservation Lands

March 27, 2020

Temporary measures in place as of 26 March 2020.

The National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS) has temporarily closed beach-vehicle driving at Samurai Beach and Worimi Conservation Land’s (WCL) beachfront north of Newcastle as part of the state’s COVID-19 response.

The move is in line with state-wide closures of all NPWS campgrounds and some high-use day visitor areas in national parks across NSW.

The bans and closures are in response to tighter Australian and NSW Government health directives on social distancing and non-essential travel to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in the wider community, and to support social distancing to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

The ban includes prohibiting vehicles from accessing the beach and people camping on Samurai Beach and Worimi Conservation Lands, including the Ganyamalbaa Camping Area. Vehicles are also banned from the designated Recreational Vehicle Area. The ban takes effect from Thursday 26 March 2020 until further notice.

All visitors with camping bookings impacted by the closures will be contacted to arrange full refunds.

For a full list of impacted High Visitation Areas please visit COVID-19 update

Both Samurai and Worimi Conservation Lands beaches remain open to the public and people can access the beach by walking.

All roads through national parks remain open. Most walking tracks and trails will also remain open and visitors should observe necessary social distancing with others while using pathways and other facilities to maximise their safety.

Check websites for updates

As this is a rapidly changing situation, we ask visitors to check our website regularly for updates COVID-19 update.

For more information about COVID-19 in NSW and how to protect yourself and the community, please visit the NSW Health website.

For further information or updates about NSW National Park closures visit National Parks and Wildlife Service or for Worimi Conservation Lands visit Worimi Conservation Lands

Rising To The 2020 Challenge

March 27, 2020: Australian Wildlife Conservancy

2020 is off to a challenging start, but our hard work and progress continues in the field.

Despite drought, fire, floods and a pandemic, we remain committed to building upon the incredible achievements of 2019, made possible by our generous supporters.

Paving the way for an ambitious 2020, some truly incredible milestones were achieved in 2019 for Australia’s wildlife and habitat:

The scale of our activities over the past 12 months demonstrates the positive impact donations are making in the field.

Looking forward, we are focused on achieving more fantastic outcomes in 2020 – despite the enormous challenges we all face at this time.

We will continue to run Australia’s largest (non-government) feral animal controlfield science and fire management programs as priorities.

With our 2020 burn plans now complete, AWC land managers and Indigenous partners have already started prescribed burning in northern Australia, aiming to minimise destructive wildfire across more than 7 million hectares.

2020 will also see our network of fenced feral-free refuges expand.

Plans are underway to construct a feral-free refuge in north Queensland to protect Northern Bettongs, while a 13.8 hectare fenced area has been constructed to protect endangered Kangaroo Island Dunnarts in partnership with Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife and the Doube family.

Thank you for your support.

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.

Temporary Suspension Of Bushcare Activities

Dear Bushcare Volunteers,

Due to the risk of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and acting on the advice and lead of NSW and Federal health authorities, Council has taken the precautionary decision to suspend all Bushcare volunteer programs effective immediately for a period of 4 weeks. This decision will be reviewed in two weeks’ time.

This means there will unfortunately be no Bushcare Volunteer sessions until further notice.

The primary factor in this decision is your health and welfare as a volunteer and that of your supervisors. 

We will be updating all of you on an ongoing basis as more information becomes available.

We plan to maintain our Bushcare Update on a regular basis, so if you would like to subscribe to the Bushcare Update, please let me know and I will add you to our database.

Thank you in advance for your understanding - we really appreciate how passionate you all are about our natural environment and valuable bushland.

We look forward to having the Bushcare program up and running again as soon as is safe and practical.

Michael Kneipp
Environmental Volunteers Coordinator
Northern Beaches Council

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

Urban owls are losing their homes. So we're 3D printing them new ones

Nick BradsworthAuthor provided
Dan ParkerUniversity of MelbourneBronwyn IsaacMonash UniversityKylie SoanesUniversity of MelbourneNick BradsworthDeakin UniversityStanislav RoudavskiUniversity of Melbourne, and Therésa JonesUniversity of Melbourne

Native to southeastern Australia, the powerful owl (Ninox strenua) is threatened and facing the prospect of homelessness.

These birds don’t make nests – they use large hollows in old, tall trees. But humans have been removing such trees in the bush and in cities, despite their ecological value.

Read more: To save these threatened seahorses, we built them 5-star underwater hotels

Owls are lured into cities by abundant prey, with each bird capturing hundreds of possums per year. But with nowhere to nest, they struggle to breed and their population is at risk of declining even further.

Existing artificial nest designs include nesting boxes and carved logs. Author provided

Conservationists tried to solve this problem by installing nesting boxes, but to no avail. A 2011 study in Victoria showed a pair of owls once used such a box, but only one of their two chicks survived. This is the only recorded instance of powerful-owl breeding in an artificial structure.

So as a team of designers and ecologists we’re finding a way to make artificial nests in urban areas more appealing to powerful owls. Surprisingly, the answer lies in termite mounds, augmented reality and 3D printing.

Bring In The Designers

Nesting boxes aren’t very successful for many species. For example, many boxes installed along expanded highways fail to attract animals such as the squirrel glider, the superb parrot and the brown treecreeper. They also tend to disintegrate and become unusable after only a few years.

Read more: The plan to protect wildlife displaced by the Hume Highway has failed

What’s more, flaws in their design can lead to overheating, death from toxic fumes such as marine-plywood vapours, or babies unable to grow.

Designers and architects often use computer modelling to mimic nature in building designs, such as Beijing’s bird’s nest stadium.

But to use these skills to help wildlife, we need to understand what they want in a home. And for powerful owls, this means thinking outside the box.

What Powerful Owls Need

At a minimum, owl nests must provide enough space to support a mother and two chicks, shelter the inhabitants from rain and heat, and have rough internal surfaces for scratching and climbing.

Traditionally, owls would find all such comforts in large, old, hollow-bearing trees, such as swamp or manna gums at least 150 years old. But a picture from Sydney photographer Ofer Levy, which showed an owl nesting in a tree-bound termite mound, made us realise there was another way.

Owls have been observed using termite mounds in trees for nesting. BlantyreAuthor provided

Termite mounds in trees are oddly shaped, but they meet all necessary characteristics for successful breeding. This precedent suggests younger, healthier and more common trees can become potential nesting sites.

A High-Tech Home

To design and create each termite-inspired nest, we first use lasers to model the shape of the target tree. A computer algorithm generates the structure fitting the owls’ requirements. Then, we divide the structure into interlocking blocks that can be conveniently manufactured.

Trees and their surroundings can be scanned by lasers for precise fitting. Author provided

To assemble the nests, we use augmented-reality headsets, overlaying images of digital models onto physical objects. It sounds like science-fiction, but holographic construction with augmented reality has become an efficient way to create new structures.

So far, we’ve used 3D-printed wood to build one nest at the University of Melbourne’s System Garden. Two more nests made from hemp concrete are on the trees in the city of Knox, near the Dandenong Ranges. And we’re exploring other materials such as earth or fungus.

These materials can be moulded to a unique fit, and as they’re lightweight, we can easily fix them onto trees.

With augmented reality, it is easy to know where to place each block. Right: Views from the augmented reality headset. Author provided

So Is It Working?

We are still collecting and analysing the data, but early results are promising. Our nests have important advantages over both traditional nesting boxes and carved logs.

This is, in part, because our artificial nests maintain more stable internal temperatures than nesting boxes and are considerably easier to make and install than carved logs. In other words, our designs already look like a good alternative.

Read more: B&Bs for birds and bees: transform your garden or balcony into a wildlife haven

And while it’s too early to say if they’ll attract owls, our nests have already been visited or occupied by other animals, such as rainbow lorikeets.

Future Homes For Animal Clients

Imagine an ecologist, a park manager or even a local resident who wants to boost local biodiversity. In the not-too-distant future, they might select a target species and a suitable tree from an online database. An algorithm could customise their choice of an artificial-nest design to fit the target tree. Remote machines would manufacture the parts and the end user would put the structure together.

Nests from 3D printed wood are easy to install. Author provided

Such workflows are already being used in a variety of fields, such as the custom jewellery production and the preparation of dental crowns. It allows informed and automated reuse of scientific and technical knowledge, making advanced designs significantly more accessible.

Our techniques could be used to ease the housing crisis for a wide range of other sites and species, from fire-affected animals to critically endangered wildlife such as the swift parrot or Leadbeater’s possum.The Conversation

Dan Parker, PhD Candidate, University of MelbourneBronwyn Isaac, Lecturer, Monash UniversityKylie Soanes, Postdoctoral Fellow, School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences, University of MelbourneNick Bradsworth, PhD Candidate, Deakin UniversityStanislav Roudavski, Senior Lecturer in Digital Architectural Design, University of Melbourne, and Therésa Jones, Associate Professor in Evolution and Behaviour, University of Melbourne

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

Australia's Icebreaker Arrives In Hobart After Final Antarctic Voyage

March 25, 2020
Australia’s icebreaker RSV Aurora Australis has arrived into its homeport of Hobart for the final time with the Australian Antarctic Program.

After more than three decades of service, the Aurora Australis sailed up the River Derwent this morning, returning from its last resupply expedition to sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island.

A series of farewell events planned to farewell the ship have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Director of the Australian Antarctic Division, Kim Ellis, said the ship has had a colourful and exciting 31 years plying the Southern Ocean.

“The ‘Orange Roughy’ has carried more than 14,000 expeditioners on over 150 scientific research and resupply voyages to our Antarctic and sub-Antarctic stations,” Mr Ellis said.

“All expeditioners who’ve sailed on the Aurora Australis have a soft spot for the icebreaker, whether it’s because the ship has enabled their science or transported them south for an Antarctic adventure.”

The ship was built in Newcastle and launched in September 1989. It’s first voyage with the Australian Antarctic Program was to Heard Island in 1990.

“The Aurora has been involved in rescuing stricken ships and injured expeditioners, as well as facing a few challenges, with engine room fires in the 90’s and running aground at Mawson station in 2016,” Mr Ellis said.

“She’s much more than a ship, she’s been a lifeline, she’s been a home, she’s been a symbol that really captures that whole Antarctic spirit.”

The Aurora Australis alongside the Totten Glacier (Photo: Paul Brown)

The delayed arrival of Australia’s new icebreaker RSV Nuyina means an alternative ship will be used next summer season. The Australian Antarctic Division is finalising negotiations with another company to supply a vessel for a minimum of 90 days.

Aerial view of the Aurora Australis (Photo: Doug Thost)

Master of RV Aurora Australis, Gerry O'Doherty (Photo: Simon Payne)

Nuyina Delayed Arrival Into Hobart

March 3rd, 2020
The arrival of Australia’s new icebreaker RSV Nuyina to its homeport of Hobart has been delayed by 19 weeks. The new vessel is now due to tie up in Hobart in November this year and will undertake its first Antarctic voyage in January 2021. There are no additional costs to the Australian Antarctic Division as a result of these delays.

The Division has contingency plans in place for a supplementary shipping capability to undertake station resupply for the 2020-21 Antarctic summer season.

The RSV Nuyina beside the wharf in Romania. (Photo: Rob Bryson)

Captains Announced For RSV Nuyina

Captain Scott Laughlin and Captain Paul Clarke will lead the alternating crews operating Australia’s new icebreaker, the RSV Nuyina.

Joining the Hobart-based Serco team, both Captains come to the role with experienced track records working in the Southern Ocean.

Scott has completed more than 50 voyages to Antarctica. As Captain of Australia’s current icebreaker, Aurora Australis, for over 10 years, Scott is familiar with the cold and challenging conditions of the Southern Ocean.

Paul also has extensive experience in the Antarctic, having spent 11 years working for the British Antarctic Survey, and undertaking more than 20 voyages to Antarctica.

Scott has worked with Serco for the past five years; initially as part of the team who compiled the successful bid to design, build, operate and maintain the Nuyina, and then more recently as a member of the engineering team managing the design and build phase.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing the ice for the first time from the bridge of the Nuyina,” he said.

“There’s going to be a lot of people who are very keen to see the ship perform and complete that successful first voyage of the season.”

Scott’s focus on safe vessel management and operation has gained him industry recognition. In 2014 he was awarded the Peter Morris Medal by the Australian Maritime College for improving international maritime safety and personnel standards. In 2013 he received the Australian Antarctic Medal for outstanding service to the Australian Antarctic Program; and in 2006, he gained a Seacare Award for Best Individual Contribution to Safety.

From Tasmania, Scott has lived and worked in Hobart his whole life and is an alumnus from the University of Tasmania’s Australian Maritime College.

“The Southern Ocean is a captivating place to work,” he said. “There is nothing more satisfying than successfully transiting through the roaring 40’s, howling 50’s and screaming 60’s, sighting the sea ice edge before crossing hundreds of kilometres through the ice to conduct science operations or to resupply one of the Australian Antarctic stations.”

Captain Scott Laughlin (Photo: AAD)

Paul Clarke was born and raised in the Falkland Islands, and began working for the British Antarctic Survey as a deck hand in 1994. He has always aspired to become the Master of an Antarctic research vessel.

Paul spent the last decade sailing as a Master for shipping company Solstad/Farstad in the oil and gas industry around Australia and many other parts of the world. He brings with him valuable experience sailing in the ice, and knowledge from the British Antarctic Survey that will complement and enhance the operation of the Nuyina.

“This is an amazing opportunity with Serco and the Australian Antarctic Program to deliver world class support for their polar and science operations,” he said. “I very much enjoy the type of ice navigation challenges, research and survey work that will be undertaken on the Nuyina.”

“It’s a career goal, this type of job. There are not very many of these vessels worldwide, there’s only one in Australia,” Paul said.

“This is going to be one of the best polar research resupply vessels in the world, when it’s completed next year. Who wouldn’t want to be the captain on that?”

Captain Paul Clarke (Photo: AAD)

The RSV Nuyina will provide a state-of-the-art platform to conduct multidisciplinary science in sea ice and open water, and deliver personnel, cargo and equipment to and from Australia’s Antarctic and sub-Antarctic stations. (Photo: Damen/Serco/AAD)

Changes To Public Meetings And Hearings: IPC 

March 19, 2020
Due to the strict protocols in place around public gatherings and social distancing in response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, the Independent Planning Commission NSW is introducing changes to its public meetings and public hearings, effective immediately and until further notice.

Public meetings
The Commission will not schedule new public meetings, and all planned public meetings will be cancelled to minimise risk to participants. Anyone who has registered to speak at an upcoming meeting will be contacted by the Commission to advise how they can have their say.

The Commission instead encourages interested individuals and groups to have their say on State significant development applications by way of written submission. Written submissions are weighted the same as spoken submissions and will be carefully considered by the Commission as part of its decision-making process.

Public hearings
The Commission has been asked by the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces to conduct public hearings in relation to the carrying out of three State significant development projects: Vickery Extension Project; Narrabri Gas; and McPhillamys Gold Mine.

The Commission is aware of the significant community interest in these projects and is committed to ensuring interested individuals and groups can have their say on issues important to them. We are also committed to ensuring these hearings are fair, open and transparent.

Public health and safety is our first and foremost priority. We will be guided by the latest advice from the Australian Department of Health and NSW Health in determining in what format our public hearings should proceed.

The Commission will examine all options, including the use of tele- and/or video-conferencing and live-streaming technologies; holding a hearing with a strict cap on participants; adopting social distancing measures; or a combination of the above.

Again, written submissions are weighed the same as spoken submissions and submissions from interested individuals and groups will be considered carefully by the Commission.

These are challenging times and the Commission appreciates your patience as it works through these issues. We will provide more information in due course.

Christmas Island Discovery Redraws Map Of Life

March 23, 2020
The world's animal distribution map will need to be redrawn and textbooks updated, after researchers discovered the existence of 'Australian' species on Christmas Island.

The University of Queensland's Professor Jonathan Aitchison said the finding revises the long-held understanding of the location of one of biology and geography's most significant barriers -- the Wallace line.

"The Wallace line -- named after its discoverer Alfred Russel Wallace -- delineates major biological division separating the species with Asian origins from those with Australasian ones," Professor Aitchison said.

"It runs along the narrow seaways separating Bali from Lombok, and Borneo from Sulawesi.

"To the west are the tigers, elephants, rhinoceroses and orang-utans of Eurasia and to the east, the marsupials and monotremes that are synonymous with Australia."

Working 1000 kilometres west of the conventional trace of Wallace line, on Christmas Island, Professor Aitchison and his colleagues, Dr Jason Ali from the University of Hong Kong and Professor Shai Meiri from the University of Tel Aviv, noted species with Australasian origins.

"Unexpectedly, half of Christmas Island's land mammal and land reptile species -- two rats, two skinks and one gecko -- have a genetic heritage to Australia's side of the divide," Dr Ali said.

"It was a highly surprising discovery.

"The ancestors of these species would have most likely have been washed over on uprooted trees of vegetation mats and transported in by a major oceanic current known as the Indonesian Throughflow.

"The Indonesian Throughflow is part of the global heat conveyor belt, and follows deeper waters that delineate the Wallace line.

"It's caused by the westernmost Pacific Ocean surface topography being slightly higher than its Indian Ocean counterpart.

"That's right -- it's a little mind-bending -- but the 'sea-level' varies slightly in different parts of the world."

Professor Aitchison said the species' journey must have occurred within the last five million years, as this is when Christmas Island emerged to form a new landmass.

"Christmas Island existed as a coral atoll from about 40 to 17 million years ago," Professor Aitchison said.

"But in response to a tectonics phenomenon originally described by Darwin, it subsided beneath the ocean surface and disappeared.

"It re-surfaced only five million years ago thanks to some flexing tectonic plates -- 300 to 350 kilometres to the south of where it is now located -- from then on land plants and animals could begin to establish new populations.

"Christmas Island is a strange and unique place, not just because of its geological history, but also its biological history.

"We're excited to see what other weird and wonderful discoveries are ahead."

Jason R. Ali, Jonathan C. Aitchison. Time of re-emergence of Christmas Island and its biogeographical significance. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 2020; 537: 109396 DOI: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2019.109396

Images: Above  - the new alterations needed for the Wallace line. Above - The Christmas boobook (Ninox natalis), also known more specifically as the Christmas Island hawk-owl, is one of the island’s rare species, featured on a postage stamp.

How Squid Communicate In The Dark

March 24, 2020
In the frigid waters 1,500 feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, hundreds of human-sized Humboldt squid feed on a patch of finger-length lantern fish. Zipping past each other, the predators move with exceptional precision, never colliding or competing for prey.

How do they establish such order in the near-darkness of the ocean's twilight zone?
The answer, according to researchers from Stanford University and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) may be visual communication. Like the illuminated words on an e-book reader, these researchers suggest that the squid's ability to subtly glow -- using light-producing organs in their muscles -- can create a backlight for shifting pigmentation patterns on their skin. The creatures may be using these changing patterns to signal one another.

The research is published March 23 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Many squid live in fairly shallow water and don't have these light-producing organs, so it's possible this is a key evolutionary innovation for being able to inhabit the open ocean," said Benjamin Burford, a graduate student in biology in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford and lead author of the paper. "Maybe they need this ability to glow and display these pigmentation patterns to facilitate group behaviours in order to survive out there."

Seeing the deep sea
Humboldt squid behaviour is nearly impossible to study in captivity, so researchers must meet them where they live. For this research, Bruce Robison of MBARI, who is senior author of the paper, captured footage of Humboldt squid off the coast of California using remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), or unmanned, robotic submarines.

While the ROVs could record the squid's skin patterning, the lights the cameras required were too bright to record their subtle glow, so the researchers couldn't test their backlighting hypothesis directly. Instead, they found supporting evidence for it in their anatomical studies of captured squid.

Using the ROV footage, the researchers analysed how individual squid behaved when they were feeding versus when they were not. They also paid attention to how these behaviours changed depending on the number of other squid in the immediate area -- after all, people communicate differently if they are speaking with friends versus a large audience.

The footage confirmed that squid's pigmentation patterns do seem to relate to specific contexts. Some patterns were detailed enough to imply that the squid may be communicating precise messages -- such as "that fish over there is mine." There was also evidence that their behaviours could be broken down into distinct units that the squid recombine to form different messages, like letters in the alphabet. Still, the researchers emphasise that it is too early to conclude whether the squid communications constitute a human-like language.

"Right now, as we speak, there are probably squid signalling each other in the deep ocean," said Burford, who is affiliated with the Denny lab at Stanford's Hopkins Marine Station. "And who knows what kind of information they're saying and what kind of decisions they're making based on that information?"

Although these squid can see well in dim light, their vision is probably not especially sharp, so the researchers speculated that the light-producing organs help facilitate the squid's visual communications by boosting the contrast for their skin patterning. They investigated this hypothesis by mapping where these light organs are located in Humboldt squid and comparing that to where the most detailed skin patterns appear on the creatures.

They found that the areas where the illuminating organs were most densely packed -- such as a small area between the squid's eyes and the thin edge of their fins -- corresponded to those where the most intricate patterns occurred.

Familiar aliens
In the time since the squid were filmed, ROV technology has advanced enough that the team could directly view their backlighting hypothesis in action the next time the squid are observed in California. Burford would also like to create some sort of virtual squid that the team could project in front of real squid to see how they respond to the cyber-squid's patterns and movements.

The researchers are thrilled with what they have found so far but eager to do further research in the deep sea. Although studying the inhabitants of the deep sea where they live can be a frustratingly difficult endeavor, this research has the potential to inform a new understanmetimes think of squid as crazy lifeforms living in this alien world but we have a lot in common -- they live in groups, they're social, they talkding of how life functions.

"We so to one another," Burford said. "Researching their behavior and that of other residents of the deep sea is important for learning how life may exist in alien environments, but it also tells us more generally about the strategies used in extreme environments on our own planet."

This work was funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Department of Biology at Stanford.

Bioluminescent backlighting illuminates the complex visual signals of a social squid in the deep sea. Benjamin P. Burford and Bruce H. Robison. PNAS first published March 23, 2020
A group of Humboldt squid swim in formation about 200 meters below the surface of Monterey Bay. (Image credit: © 2010 MBARI)

East Antarctica's Denman Glacier Has Retreated Almost 3 Miles Over Last 22 Years

March 23, 2020
East Antarctica's Denman Glacier has retreated 5 kilometres, nearly 3 miles, in the past 22 years, and researchers at the University of California, Irvine and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory are concerned that the shape of the ground surface beneath the ice sheet could make it even more susceptible to climate-driven collapse.

If fully thawed, the ice in Denman would cause sea levels worldwide to rise about 1.5 meters, almost 5 feet. With this sobering fact in mind, the UCI and NASA JPL scientists have completed the most thorough examination yet of the glacier and surrounding area, uncovering alarming clues about its condition under further global warming.

The team's assessment is the subject of a paper published today in the American Geophysical Union journal Geophysical Research Letters.

"East Antarctica has long been thought to be less threatened, but as glaciers such as Denman have come under closer scrutiny by the cryosphere science community, we are now beginning to see evidence of potential marine ice sheet instability in this region," said co-author Eric Rignot, chair, Donald Bren Professor and Chancellor's Professor of Earth system science at UCI.

"The ice in West Antarctica has been melting faster in recent years, but the sheer size of Denman Glacier means that its potential impact on long-term sea level rise is just as significant," he added.

According to the study, Denman Glacier experienced a cumulative mass loss of 268 billion tons of ice between 1979 and 2017.

Using radar interferometer data from the Italian Space Agency's COSMO-SkyMed satellite system, the researchers more precisely determined Denman's grounding line, the point at which the ice leaves the land and begins to float in the ocean.

"Differential synthetic aperture radar interferometer data from 1996 to 2018 showed us a marked asymmetry in the grounding line retreat at the ice sheet's land-sea interface," said lead author Virginia Brancato, a postdoctoral fellow with NASA JPL who was a postdoctoral scholar at UCI when the study was conducted.

Denman's eastern flank is protected from retreat by a subglacial ridge. But Brancato said that the western flank, which extends roughly 4 kilometers, is characterized by a deep and steep trough with a bed slope conducive to accelerated retreat.

"Because of the shape of the ground beneath Denman's western side, there is potential for rapid and irreversible retreat, and that means substantial increases in global sea levels in the future," she said.

In December, Nature Geoscience published a paper on the BedMachine Antarctica project led by Mathieu Morlighem, UCI associate professor of Earth system science, which revealed that the trough beneath Denman Glacier extends 3,500 meters below sea level, making it the deepest land canyon on Earth.

The UCI and NASA JPL scientists report in the Geophysical Research Letters paper that the bed configuration of Denman is unique in Antarctica's eastern sector. Other major glaciers, such as Totten and Moscow University, feature prograde beds that slope down in the flow direction, providing some measure of stability, Rignot said.

Tracking the state of the floating extension of Denman Glacier, a 24,000-square-kilometer mass that includes the Shackleton Ice Shelf and Denman ice tongue, will be especially important, he added. The researchers used the German Aerospace Center's TanDEM-X satellite in combination with data from COSMO-SkyMed to assess the melt rate of the floating sea ice, learning that the Denman ice tongue has shed mass at a rate of about 3 meters per year, above average compared to other East Antarctic ice shelves.

"We need to collect oceanographic data near Denman and keep an eye on its grounding line," Rignot said. "The Italian COSMO-SkyMed satellite system is the only tool for us to monitor grounding line conditions in this sector of Antarctica, and we are fortunate to have on our team Dr. Brancato, who is skilled in extrapolating the data to give us the precise and up-to-date information we require."

Mathieu Morlighem, Eric Rignot, Tobias Binder, Donald Blankenship, Reinhard Drews, Graeme Eagles, Olaf Eisen, Fausto Ferraccioli, René Forsberg, Peter Fretwell, Vikram Goel, Jamin S. Greenbaum, Hilmar Gudmundsson, Jingxue Guo, Veit Helm, Coen Hofstede, Ian Howat, Angelika Humbert, Wilfried Jokat, Nanna B. Karlsson, Won Sang Lee, Kenichi Matsuoka, Romain Millan, Jeremie Mouginot, John Paden, Frank Pattyn, Jason Roberts, Sebastian Rosier, Antonia Ruppel, Helene Seroussi, Emma C. Smith, Daniel Steinhage, Bo Sun, Michiel R. van den Broeke, Tas D. van Ommen, Melchior van Wessem, Duncan A. Young. Deep glacial troughs and stabilising ridges unveiled beneath the margins of the Antarctic ice sheet. Nature Geoscience, 2019; 13 (2): 132 DOI: 10.1038/s41561-019-0510-8

Researchers from UCI and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are concerned that the unique topography beneath East Antarctica’s Denman Glacier could make it even more susceptible to climate-driven collapse. Courtesy of NASA

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 -

Please STAY HOME- 17 New Cases Here

As of 8pm March 27th, there are 85 confirmed cases of coronavirus in our area - up by 17 from the 68 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Northern Beaches area reported on March 25th, 2020. Our area is now recording the second highest incidences of this disease in Sydney.

PLEASE - stay away from the beaches, away from communal areas and only go out if you really need to get something vital from the supermarket or pharmacies. Also listed in the Food page this week is all the local eateries and food businesses delivering scrumptiousness or groceries.

There's information in this week's Profile about how our community is determined to look after you all and the if you follow the general gist of this Temptations song, because we need a smile this week, we'll get through this without losing any of the very precious to everyone - YOU's - and don"t tell my mum I used 'youse'! - please!

So please; resist the Temptations to Get Next to Anyone - unless you're always next to each other a lot anyway....

National Seniors Welcomes New Financial Measures

March 23, 2020
National Seniors Australia welcomes the Federal Government’s second stimulus package, which includes a further cut to deeming rates, the doubling of Newstart and halving of the minimum drawdown rate for superannuants.

The country’s peak consumer body for older Australians acknowledges seniors are being looked after during these extraordinary times.

National Seniors Chief Advocate Ian Henschke says today’s announcement helps meet the rapidly changing financial challenges of older Australians.

“The cut to deeming rates and drawdowns were necessary to assist older Australians whether they invested cash in a bank or in the share market which has lost a third of its value since this crisis began,” Mr Henschke said.

“We also urge the Government to reduce the rate of the Pension Loans Scheme. The rate is 4.5% and far too high, as it’s a way home owning pensioners and seniors of pension age can access up to 1.5 times the pension.

“There seems to have been an oversight here and it needs to be lowered to a realistic rate reflecting the record low rates and we hope this is addressed soon.”

National Seniors also welcomes the doubling of Newstart during this crisis, especially as the largest age group receiving the allowance is the over 55s.

“Even before this crisis began, older Australians have been doing it tough with vast numbers unable to get work and they have had to eat into their savings and super as they headed to the pension age. Many end up retiring with little or nothing at all,” Mr Henschke said.

National Seniors is pleased with the government changes to the drawdown rate for superannuants and also the widening of emergency access to superannuation.

Along with the SMSFA it had recently written to the Treasurer calling for a change to the drawdown rules due to the sudden collapse in the share market, sparked by the reaction to COVID-19.

“This change was necessary to see us through the Global Financial Crisis and is desperately needed again now,” said Mr Henschke.

“The drawdown rate starts at 4% and rises with age requiring superannuants to draw down more and more of their money. The rate is calculated on the superannuation fund balance at the beginning of the financial year and now does not reflect the current turmoil in financial markets. Halving the rates is very welcome.

“We also welcome the added announcement of a further $750 in July for pensioners and other concession card holders. “

MSO Live Streaming Of Concerts: Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade

Streamed live on 16 Mar 2020: Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
We will keep the music going. 
Throughout the ban on public events, the MSO will continue to perform for you. Our mission is to share great music, even if you cannot join us in the concert hall. While we cannot join you in the concert hall, we look forward to performing for you digitally. We invite you to join us on the MSO YouTube channel to enjoy free MSO live streams over coming days and weeks.

With ticket sales revenue impacted by the Coronavirus ban, we would ask you to consider a tax-deductible donation to the MSO via the link below. If you hold a ticket to an upcoming concert, and would like to donate the value of your ticket instead of receiving a refund, please email 
Ensuring the wellbeing of MSO audiences, musicians and staff – including those integral members employed on casual and contract bases – is our priority. As a not-for-profit organisation, we are committed to ensuring the longevity and sustainability of the MSO and will continue to support workers and musicians through this uncertain period.

Thank you for your support.

Hosted by MSO Cybec Assistant Conductor and Assistant Principal Cellist, Nicholas Bochner. 
Conducted by Miguel Harth-Bedoya, this concert will feature Bloch's 'Schelomo' with soloist Timo-Veikko Valve, and Rimsky-Korsakov's 'Scheherazade'. This performance will also include Deborah Cheetham's Acknowledgement of Country, 'Long Time Living Here'.

Please note that due to connectivity issues during the live stream you may experience lagging throughout your viewing experience. We are working on resolving these issues in future streams and thank you for your understanding. 
Vision: CVP Events, Film And Television
Audio: ABC Classic

NLA Ebooks - Free To Download

The National Library of Australia provides access to thousands of ebooks through its website, catalogue and eResources service. These include our own publications and digitised historical books from our collections as well as subscriptions to collections such as Chinese eResources, Early English Books Online and Ebsco ebooks.

What are ebooks?
Ebooks are books published in an electronic format. They can be read by using a personal computer or an ebook reader.

This guide will help you find and view different types of ebooks in the National Library collections.
Peruse the NLA's online ebooks, ready to download - HERE

The World At Your Finger Tips: Online

With current advice to stay at home and self-isolate, when you come in out of the garden, have had your fill of watching movies and want to explore something new, there's a whole world of books you can download, films you can watch and art galleries you can stroll through - all from at home and via the internet. This week a few suggestions of some of the resources available for you to explore and enjoy. For those who have a passion for Art - this month's Artist of the Month is the Online Australian Art Galleries and State Libraries where you can see great works of art from all over the world  and here - both older works and contemporary works.

Also remember the Project Gutenberg Australia - link below - has heaps of great books!

NFSA - National Film And Sound Archive Of Australia

The doors may be temporarily closed but when it comes to the NFSA, we are always open online. We have content for Kids, Animal Lovers, Music fans, Film buffs & lots more.

You can explore what’s available online at the NFSA, see more in the link below.

NLA Ebooks - Free To Download

The National Library of Australia provides access to thousands of ebooks through its website, catalogue and eResources service. These include our own publications and digitised historical books from our collections as well as subscriptions to collections such as Chinese eResources, Early English Books Online and Ebsco ebooks.

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Pets: The Voiceless Victims Of The COVID-19 Crisis

March 25, 2020: UNSW
Reports of companion animals starving or being killed as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak highlight the vulnerable existence animals endure at the whim of humans.

The plight of companion animals such as cats and dogs has become an emerging animal rights issue since the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, with reports of abandoned animals in the Chinese city of Wuhan now starving or being killed.

Closer to home, there have been reports of Sydney vets being approached by pet owners, asking to have dogs put to death, out of concern the dog might bring coronavirus into the home.

“These are virus-free, healthy animals, and there is no reason to believe that dogs are able to pass the virus onto humans, or that dogs have passed the virus on to humans,” says Dr Siobhan O’Sullivan, an animal welfare expert from UNSW’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

“Yet, even if this were true – which it is not – there are clearly more ethical ways to respond to the issue.”

Advice from the World Organisation for Animal Health
The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has advised that “to date, there is no evidence that companion animals can spread the disease. Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare. There is no evidence that dogs play a role in the spread of this human disease or that they become sick. Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19 virus.”

The OIE will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available.

Dr O’Sullivan is hoping these incidents of pet owners approaching vets to unnecessarily euthanise their dogs are isolated cases. She also hopes vets who are approached with such requests will take the time to educate their clients, for the sake of the animals.

“What this speaks to, in my view, is the relative disposability of non-human animals, in the minds of some people,” Dr O’Sullivan says.

Dr O’Sullivan says with the recent Australian bushfire crisis, people dedicated themselves to saving animals. Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, some people are now making the rash decision to kill a companion animal (or seek to have them killed) because they mistakenly believe the animal might introduce a virus into the home.

She says the COVID-19 crisis highlights the vulnerable existence animals endure at the whim of humans.

“I am yet to hear of an influx of animals to pounds and the RSPCA. But, if people are thinking of dumping their animals, as opposed to having them killed, they need to be aware that many animals that find their way to the pound will be killed. Sending your animal to a shelter is as good as having them killed, in many cases.”

Owning a companion animal is a life-long commitment
Dr O’Sullivan says that, in the long term, educating pet owners is critically important. She also suggests that we perhaps need to be more selective in who can enjoy the company of a companion animal.

“Living with animals has been shown to generate many benefits for humans. They bring companionship, assist with exercise, are cute, loving and adorable. But, if humans are to enjoy the company of animals, they need to make a lifelong commitment. It should not be permittable to simply kill an animal once the going gets tough or at least when it is perceived to be. This is a lifelong commitment.”

It’s important for all people with companion animals to have an emergency management plan in place all the time, not just in times of crisis.

“This includes how you will evacuate the animals in case of fire, [or] who will feed the animals in case you are in an accident, hospitalised or delayed. There are many online dog and cat feeding providers. Your local vet may also be able to recommend suitable carers.”

Dr O’Sullivan says simply building strong networks – including your neighbours – is a good idea when it comes to an emergency care plan for animals.

Cannabis Helps Fight Resistant Bacteria

March 24, 2020: University of Southern Denmark
Since the discovery of penicillin in 1928 by Sir Alexander Fleming, antibiotics have saved millions of lives from fatal infections world-wide. However, with time bacteria have developed mechanisms to escape the effects of antibiotics -- they have become resistant.

With fewer antibiotics available to treat resistant bacterial infections, the possibility of entering a pre-antibiotic era is looming ahead.

Alternative strategies are being explored and helper compounds are attracting attention. Helper compounds are non-antibiotic compounds with the capability of enhancing the efficacy of antibiotics.

How to boost antibiotics
One such helper compound has been suspected to be cannabidiol (CBD); a cannabinoid from the cannabis plant. Now a research team from University of Southern Denmark, has published a scientific study proving the effect of CBD.

Janne Kudsk Klitgaard is Principal Investigator and corresponding author. First author is PhD student Claes Søndergaard Wassmann. The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

When we combined CBD and antibiotics, we saw a more powerful effect than when treating with antibiotics alone. So, in order to kill a certain number of bacteria, we needed less antibiotics, they say.

Bacteria clones spread globally
In the study, CBD was used to enhance the effect of the antibiotic bacitracin against Staphylococcus aureus bacteria; a major human pathogen that frequently causes community- and hospital-acquired disease.

Multidrug-resistant clones of this pathogen have spread globally. In some countries, treatment of bacterial infections with these resistant bacteria are difficult and the problem is projected to be an ever-larger problem in the future.

According to the researchers, the combination of CBD and antibiotics may be a novel treatment of infections with antibiotic resistant bacteria.

How do the bacteria die?
Three things happened with the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, when the researchers treated them with the combination in their study:
  1. The bacteria could no longer divide normally.
  2. The expression of certain key genes (cell division and autolysis genes) in the bacteria was lowered.
  3. The bacterial membrane became unstable.
Anti-resistance must be stopped
According to the researchers, overuse of antibiotics is the main cause of antibiotic resistance.

If we combine an antibiotic with a helper compound, that enhances the effect of the antibiotic, we need less antibiotic to achieve the same effect. This may contribute to the development of fewer resistant bacteria, says Janne Kudsk Klitgaard.

Claes Søndergaard Wassmann, Peter Højrup, Janne Kudsk Klitgaard. Cannabidiol is an effective helper compound in combination with bacitracin to kill Gram-positive bacteria. Scientific Reports, 2020; 10 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-60952-0

EDNA Provides Researchers With 'More Than Meets The Eye'

March 24, 2020
Researchers from Curtin University have used next generation DNA sequencing to learn more about the different species of plants, insects and animals present in the Pilbara and Perth regions of Western Australia.

Lead researcher Curtin PhD candidate Mieke van der Heyde, from the ARC Centre for Mine Site Restoration said that DNA metabarcoding is a growing field in the biological monitoring space, with the potential to provide fast, accurate, and cost effective assessments of biodiversity.

"Traditionally, biomonitoring has relied on scientists setting traps and visually monitoring a certain area, counting the number of species, and then extrapolating that data to come up with regional analysis," Ms van der Heyde said.

"Understandably, that method of data collecting is expensive, time consuming and challenging, especially when looking into remote areas of Australia, which often present a harsh climate.

"As animals and organisms interact with their environment, they leave behind traces of their DNA through things like droppings, skin cells, saliva, and pollen. When this DNA is found in the environment, it's known as environmental DNA, or eDNA.

"Our research looked in to the feasibility of using this eDNA as an additional tool for biomonitoring. Not only to see if this type of analysis could potentially make things a bit easier for biologists out in the field, but as well as providing researchers with more accurate field information then what they can visually identify."

The study analysed samples of soil, animal droppings, plant and insect material, collectively known as 'substrates,' taken from two different areas of Western Australia: The Pilbara, a hot desert climate, and the Swan Coastal Plain, a hot Mediterranean-type climate.

"We tested common environmental substrates including soil, bulk scat, bulk plant material, and bulk arthropods from pitfall traps and vane traps, using four eDNA barcoding assessments to detect a wide range of plants, vertebrates and arthropods," Ms van der Heyde said

"This study was the first of its kind to systematically test terrestrial substrates for eDNA, and it also was the first time that some of these particular substrates were analysed.

"Results show that bulk arthropods and animal droppings detected the most biodiversity, with at least a third of the biodiversity detected in only one substrate. Soil samples detected the least, and fewer samples had usable DNA, especially in the Pilbara. We believe this is most likely due to the hot climate, which potentially degraded the eDNA.

"Biomonitoring is necessary for effective ecosystem management. Our study shows that eDNA can detect biodiversity in an area, and collecting more substrates will increase the breadth of biodiversity detected.

"However, surveys must be carefully considered, as DNA may come from organisms outside the study area," Ms van der Heyde said.

This research was completed at the Trace and Environmental DNA (TrEnD) Laboratory at Curtin University's Perth campus.

Curtin PhD Candidate Ms Mieke van der Heyde collecting samples for eDNA analysis.

Mieke Heyde, Michael Bunce, Grant Wardell‐Johnson, Kristen Fernandes, Nicole E. White, Paul Nevill. Testing multiple substrates for terrestrial biodiversity monitoring using environmental DNA metabarcoding. Molecular Ecology Resources, 2020; DOI: 10.1111/1755-0998.13148

Art In Times Of Crisis

March 24, 2020
Scientia Professor Jill Bennett says the arts offer useful ways of dealing with complex mental health and emotional challenges.

Body mapping session in Virtual Reality using EmbodiMap developed by UNSW fEEL Lab Scientia Professor Jill Bennett and lead immersive media designer Volker Kuchelmeister. Image: Dr Jill Bennett

People often think that prioritising art in a time of crisis is counterintuitive but ARC Laureate Fellow and UNSW Professor of Experimental Arts, Professor Jill Bennett says it’s very important.

“I think it's exactly now that we need these kinds of tools,” she says. “One of the things that art does well – and has done for hundreds of years – is to investigate challenging human experiences. This opens up the potential for reflecting on and understanding our own and others mental states and feelings of distress and anxiety.”

Professor Bennett notes that evidence suggests that 65% or more of Australians with a mental health issue don’t seek help. That’s why she is advocating for work around mental health to also be done outside the health sector.

“We need to support people in more ways than just medically,” she says.

For Professor Bennett, who is also the founding Director of The Big Anxiety festival, art exists beyond the gallery or the museum - and creative mental health interventions take place in environments that people want to be in, and enjoy being in, rather than a medical space.

“The creative process is very different from, say, a course of cognitive behaviour therapy or something medicalised,” she says. Art doesn’t substitute for medical interventions, but it offers something else that is beneficial.

“Art can be a means of reflecting on and processing difficult emotions or complex mental states. It can help us gain perspective, insight and agency, as well as the capacity to communicate”.

On one level, that increased understanding can come through casual engagement with art or it can come through the form of larger art-based projects, Professor Bennett says. But in both cases, it’s like a form therapy insofar as it helps us develop agency and emotional awareness.

Professor Bennett has an ARC funded Lab called fEEL (felt Experience & Empathy Lab) where psychologists and art specialists work together developing techniques and practises that are beneficial in a whole range of mental health, trauma and anxiety contexts.

Body mapping session in Virtual Reality using EmbodiMap developed by UNSW fEEL Lab Scientia Professor Jill Bennett and lead immersive media designer Volker Kuchelmeister. Image: Dr Jill Bennett

Through fEEL she has recently developed EmbodiMap - a therapeutic body mapping tool that uses Virtual Reality to allow users to engage with and map their feelings, thoughts and emotions.

“We often feel anxiety in the body. You may feel a response in your throat or your gut, for example. Body mapping, which is used extensively by my colleague, Professor Katherine Boydell at Black Dog Institute, is a process of mapping those embodied feelings, by drawing. EmbodiMap allows us to do this in VR, interacting in a physical way with 3D body images.

“When you feel anxious it can be useful to think about what's happening in your body. You need to notice the patterns of what's happening, and develop a way of intervening when stress or anxiety occurs.”

She says that the EmbodiMap is a good illustration of this because it works with those processes. It gives people a potent way of visualising what’s happening to them by encouraging them to paint internal sensations as they are experienced onto a 3D facsimile of the body, which can also be posed and manipulated, thus creating an interactive tool to exert some control over anxious thoughts and feelings. 

“That’s not to say you can instantly and mechanically make anxiety go away,” she says. “But having that sort of perspective and insight and being able to see much more clearly what's going on, does give you a much greater degree of agency and insight. Those things we know are really critical when it comes to managing anxiety and emotional health.”

Professor Bennett’s team is looking for participants to be involved in the testing phase of EmbodiMap, which can be used in conjunction with body-focused therapies or as stand-alone activity.  

Ancestor Of All Animals Identified In Australian Fossils

March 23, 2020
A wormlike creature that lived more than 555 million years ago is the earliest bilaterian
A team led by UC Riverside geologists has discovered the first ancestor on the family tree that contains most familiar animals today, including humans.

The tiny, wormlike creature, named Ikaria wariootia, is the earliest bilaterian, or organism with a front and back, two symmetrical sides, and openings at either end connected by a gut. The paper is published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

An artist's rendering of Ikaria wariootia. (Sohail Wasif/UCR)

The earliest multicellular organisms, such as sponges and algal mats, had variable shapes. Collectively known as the Ediacaran Biota, this group contains the oldest fossils of complex, multicellular organisms. However, most of these are not directly related to animals around today, including lily pad-shaped creatures known as Dickinsonia that lack basic features of most animals, such as a mouth or gut.

The development of bilateral symmetry was a critical step in the evolution of animal life, giving organisms the ability to move purposefully and a common, yet successful way to organise their bodies. A multitude of animals, from worms to insects to dinosaurs to humans, are organized around this same basic bilaterian body plan.

Evolutionary biologists studying the genetics of modern animals predicted the oldest ancestor of all bilaterians would have been simple and small, with rudimentary sensory organs. Preserving and identifying the fossilised remains of such an animal was thought to be difficult, if not impossible.

For 15 years, scientists agreed that fossilised burrows found in 555 million-year-old Ediacaran Period deposits in Nilpena, South Australia, were made by bilaterians. But there was no sign of the creature that made the burrows, leaving scientists with nothing but speculation.

Scott Evans, a recent doctoral graduate from UC Riverside; and Mary Droser, a professor of geology, noticed minuscule, oval impressions near some of these burrows. With funding from a NASA exobiology grant, they used a three-dimensional laser scanner that revealed the regular, consistent shape of a cylindrical body with a distinct head and tail and faintly grooved musculature. The animal ranged between 2-7 millimetres long and about 1-2.5 millimetres wide, with the largest the size and shape of a grain of rice -- just the right size to have made the burrows.

Ikaria wariootia impressions in stone. (Droser Lab/UCR)

"We thought these animals should have existed during this interval, but always understood they would be difficult to recognise," Evans said. "Once we had the 3D scans, we knew that we had made an important discovery."

A 3D laser scan of an Ikaria wariootia impression. (Droser Lab/UCR)

The researchers, who include Ian Hughes of UC San Diego and James Gehling of the South Australia Museum, describe Ikaria wariootia, named to acknowledge the original custodians of the land. The genus name comes from Ikara, which means "meeting place" in the Adnyamathanha language. It's the Adnyamathanha name for a grouping of mountains known in English as Wilpena Pound. The species name comes from Warioota Creek, which runs from the Flinders Ranges to Nilpena Station.

"Burrows of Ikaria occur lower than anything else. It's the oldest fossil we get with this type of complexity," Droser said. "Dickinsonia and other big things were probably evolutionary dead ends. We knew that we also had lots of little things and thought these might have been the early bilaterians that we were looking for."

In spite of its relatively simple shape, Ikaria was complex compared to other fossils from this period. It burrowed in thin layers of well-oxygenated sand on the ocean floor in search of organic matter, indicating rudimentary sensory abilities. The depth and curvature of Ikaria represent clearly distinct front and rear ends, supporting the directed movement found in the burrows.

The burrows also preserve crosswise, "V"-shaped ridges, suggesting Ikaria moved by contracting muscles across its body like a worm, known as peristaltic locomotion. Evidence of sediment displacement in the burrows and signs the organism fed on buried organic matter reveal Ikaria probably had a mouth, anus, and gut.

"This is what evolutionary biologists predicted," Droser said. "It's really exciting that what we have found lines up so neatly with their prediction."

Scott D. Evans, Ian V. Hughes, James G. Gehling, and Mary L. Droser. Discovery of the oldest bilaterian from the Ediacaran of South Australia. PNAS, March 23, 2020 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2001045117

Bushfire Smoke And Pollution Responsible For Over 400 Excess Deaths

March 23, 2020
Medical researchers have estimated some of the impacts of this summer’s bushfire smoke and air pollution on Australians’ health.

Bushfire smoke over eastern Australia during the 2019-20 summer is estimated to have been responsible for 417 excess deaths, 1124 hospitalisations for cardiovascular problems and 2027 for respiratory problems, as well as 1305 presentations to emergency departments with asthma, a preliminary evaluation published today in the Medical Journal of Australia shows.

Excess deaths describe a temporary increase in mortality in a population, usually caused by environmental phenomena such as extreme weather events, or pandemics.

The researchers, led by the University of Tasmania and involving a UNSW researcher, estimated population exposure to particulate matter less than 2.5 μm in diameter (PM2.5) for the regions of NSW, Queensland, the ACT and Victoria for which publicly available air quality monitoring data were available.

The highest population-weighted PM2.5 exposure level, 98.5 μg/m3 on 14 January 2020, exceeded the national air quality 24-hour standard (25 μg/m3) and was more than 14 times the historical mean 24-hour PM2.5 value. 

“We analysed data from the last quarter of 2019 and the first quarter of 2020,” says a co-author of the paper, Conjoint Professor Bin Jalaludin from UNSW Medicine.

“We defined bushfire smoke-affected days as days on which the 24-hour mean PM2.5 concentration exceeded the 95th percentile of historical daily mean values for individual air quality stations.

“This was the case with at least one monitoring station in the study area on 125 of 133 days.”

The researchers then compared deaths, cardiovascular and respiratory-related hospitalisations and ER presentations with asthma to what they’d expect on any other day, according to historical data. That allowed them to extrapolate estimates for how many outcomes were likely caused by air pollution.

“From other studies we know what the risks are for deaths and hospitalisation from smoke and air pollution. We applied these risks to the baseline death rate or hospitalisation rate and calculated the deaths/hospitalisations attributable to smoke pollution in our timeframe,” Professor Jalaludin says.

Estimates likely conservative
The researchers’ estimates are based on air quality data from monitoring stations in the four eastern states – that is, they did not include data for smoke from all extreme fires in Australia during the study period.

“We only looked at four states for a defined period from the first of October 2019. There were some fires in September which we did not take into account and also those in other states,” Professor Jalaludin says.

“Secondly, we only looked at the outcomes where we have strong evidence. There are many other health effects caused by bushfires, for example mental health effects, hospital admissions or ED visits for other conditions which we did not evaluate – either because it is difficult to obtain such information, or because the links between air pollution and these conditions are not as strong.

“Given these limitations, our estimates are likely conservative, and we need more research to get a clearer picture of the overall impact.”

Professor Jalaludin says the team also did not specifically look at the effects of fires and smoke on those people in the frontline – firefighters, people and communities directly affected. 

“There were a number of deaths in that group and I am sure there would have been cases of burns, smoke inhalation, injuries and similar.”

What is certain, Professor Jalaludin says, is that the findings indicate the smoke-related health impact of last summer was substantial. 

“Smoke is just one of many problems that will intensify with the increasing frequency and severity of major bushfires. We urgently need to expand and diversify approaches to bushfire mitigation and adaptation to living in an increasingly hot and fire-prone country.”

Unprecedented smoke‐related health burden associated with the 2019–20 bushfires in eastern Australia. Nicolas Borchers Arriagada, Andrew J Palmer, David MJS Bowman, Geoffrey G Morgan, Bin B Jalaludin and Fay H Johnston. Med J Aust || doi: 10.5694/mja2.50545

Aboriginal Scars From Frontier Wars

March 18, 2020
Hundreds of Aboriginal men who became native mounted police in colonial Australia carried a significant burden of responsibility for law and order for white settlers in Queensland and other settlements.

An historical photo of Native Mounted Police troopers.

A long-running ARC-funded archaeology project has turned the lens on the recruitment to the Queensland Native Mounted Police and their part in the violent 'frontier wars' -- which created long-term traumatic impacts on the lives of the Indigenous people involved.

"We argue that the massacres, frontier violence, displacement, and the ultimate dispossession of land and destruction of traditional cultural practices resulted in both individual and collective inter-generational trauma for Aboriginal peoples," says Flinders University Professor Heather Burke in a new article published in the Journal of Genocide Research.

"Despite the Australian frontier wars taking place over a century ago, their impacts continue to reverberate today in a range of different ways, many of which are as yet only partially understood."

Professor Burke, and Queensland researchers, say official records show of the history of the Queensland Mounted Police in terms of its development, its white officers, some day-to-day operations of the force, and how many people were killed during the frontier wars.

The article looks at the ongoing psychological impacts of the historical dispossession and frontier violence.

Based on more than four years of research, the Archaeology of the Queensland Native Mounted Police project combined historical records, oral and historical evidence from a range of sites across central and northern Queensland to understand more fully the activities, lives and legacies of the native police.

It strives to present an alternative perspective on the nature of frontier conflict during Australian settlement, in order to initiative new understandings of the Aboriginal and settler experience, and contribute to global studies of Indigenous responses to colonialism.

The Queensland Native Mounted Police was organised along paramilitary lines, consisting of detachments of Aboriginal troopers led by white officers. It covered the whole of Queensland, including 170 camps, and was explicitly constituted to protect the lives, livelihoods and property of settlers and to prevent (and punish) any Aboriginal aggression or resistance.

This was often accomplished through violence in many forms, leading Australian historian Henry Reynolds to characterise the NMP as "the most violent organisation in Australian history."

The project's new publicly available national database covers the 50-year history of the Queensland Native Mounted Police (1849-1904) and stories of many of the 800 troopers and 400 officers. It is the only publicly available historical and archaeological dataset of their lives and activities. The excavations conducted over the past four years were the first archaeological investigations of any native police force operating anywhere in Australia.

Heather Burke, Bryce Barker, Lynley Wallis, Sarah Craig, Michelle Combo. Betwixt and Between: Trauma, Survival and the Aboriginal Troopers of the Queensland Native Mounted Police. Journal of Genocide Research, 2020; 1 DOI: 10.1080/14623528.2020.1735147

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.