Inbox and Environment News: Issue 466

September 13 - 19, 2020: Issue 466

Time of Ngoonungi 

The Time of Ngoonungi - Murrai'yunggory — cool, getting warmer (September-October) in the D'harawal calendar of Indigenous Weather Knowledge begins this week.  This is the time of the gathering of the flying foxes. A magical time of the year when the flying foxes gather in the darkening skies over D'harawal Lands. They come in from the north-east, the north, the north-west and the west, and swirl over the Sydney area in a wonderful, sky-dancing display just after sunset, before setting off for the night-time feeding grounds to the south.

It is also a very important ceremonial time for the D'harawals, which begins with the appearance of the splashes of the bright red Miwa Gawaian (Telopea speciosissima - waratah) in the bushland.

Waratah (Telopea speciosissima) photo by Selena Griffith - Residents do not state where they have seen these glorious flowers as there are people who come to pick them and steal them for profit. Native plants are protected in New South Wales by the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act). Under the BC Act it is an offence to pick, possess, buy or sell native plants listed in the Act for commercial purposes without a licence. 

Visit: A Bunch Of Wildflowers: Historical Spring September Songs

The D'harawal Country and language area extends from the southern shores of Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) to the northern shores of the Shoalhaven River, and from the eastern shores of the Wollondilly River system to the eastern seaboard.


Anger Over Destruction Of Pittwater Trees Grows

Residents have expressed anger this week over the continual destruction of trees in the Pittwater area. In one instance a block was cleared of 18 trees on Plateau road Bilgola Plateau, including two on the nature strip. Council had given permission for the removal of 18 trees as part of a DA in 2018, all of them mature trees such as the protected Angophora costata and endangered Spotted gums, however, the removal of one is currently under investigation as it appears it was on public land and not part of the DA's approvals.

There is a requirement attached to DA's where replacement trees are to be planted, however saplings cannot replace older and taller trees that were homes for local fauna and as Spring continues Wildlife Carers are finding more and more baby possums, birds and gliders coming into their Volunteer, paid for the special baby milk out of their own pockets, Care as a direct result of the destruction - some of these trees being cut down with the animals that live in them still in them while this is happening. No one has done a check to see if any wildlife is present and no one is on site when the tree is being killed to help any willdife injured or babies left behind by fleeing distressed mothers.

Photo by Margaret Woods, Sydney Wildlife

More babies brought into care this week - two of these as a direct result of tree-killers destroying their homes - photo supplied

An outcry over a similar razing at Bayview where whole blocks were cleared of every single tree, over 150 trees according to one witness, were razed in the region once well-known for being the Bayview koala sanctuary installed by Sir Hallstrom. These too were some of the old giants the area had as habitat trees for resident wildlife. Now cement driveways ready for developments is all that may be seen.

Another huge Angophora gum was witnessed being downed at the top of Elvina between Kevin and the park at Avalon. The company swore at one resident when that person asked them about - stating they had approval from council - and commented re: lack of habitat. The poor lady stranded in the street by the truck blocking the road was also abused. 

Those who saw the truck carrying this HUGE trunk away around the Bilgola Bends have also expressed their disgust at the removal of these old large trees; especially since some of the endangered species here require old tree hollows to nest in. To be allowing this to occur during nesting season, during wildlife baby season, especially those species that are nocturnal, is 'absolutely unacceptable' residents state.

There is also a flow-on effect some residents are now experiencing. Pittwater is a hills and bays landscape and those who are midway down a hill are finding their own trees are dying due to the removal of those above their block and the subsequent run-off by water down these hills. 

Residents state they want more accountability, including those stating they have permission to remove trees to produce that documentation on request, for what the community states are 'habitat trees' to be maintained instead of removed so they are safe as well as retained, and for post-DA inspections to be done long after the replacement 'sapling' has been installed to ensure these too are not removed.

More scrutiny of the effects on nearby residents trees, such as those downhill, is also called for so other trees and habitat patches are not lost as the result of DA approvals that allow the complete razing of sites.

The sounds of chainsaws on a daily basis is becoming too much for those who grew up with wildlife at their doorstep. Maintaining tree health through the removal of dead limbs or rotted trunks is a good practice to ensure the longevity of these species - their permanent removal for improved views, because they drop leaves, because they're in the way of inappropriate developments, is feeding a fast growing call from community members that they must be retained, along with the understorey beneath their canopies. 

For more visit: Anger Over Destruction Of Pittwater Trees Grows

Kookaburra being hassled by miner birds tells them they're dreaming

Bush Turkey being hassled by miners takes off

Magpie wings - all photos taken in Pittwater Online office vicinity this week - because there's still TREES here!

Illegal Dumping At Warriewood Units Being Investigated

September 11, 2020
Northern Beaches Council is urging witnesses or people who have information on illegally dumped waste near units at 30 MacPherson Street, Warriewood to come forward.

Council Rangers attended today at the address to find approximately five cubic metres of household waste illegally dumped at the site.

Council Chief Executive, Ray Brownlee, said illegal dumping harms the local environment and is an eyesore.

“This is thoughtless, irresponsible behaviour and Council will prosecute the offenders to the full extent of the law,” Mr Brownlee said.

“In this incident, we have a number of leads that Council investigators are following up and are confident that these offenders will be located.”

Mr Brownlee said on-the-spot fines of up to $4,000 can be imposed on illegal dumpers (Individuals) and additional clean-up orders provided for offenders to remove the dumped material.

“The MacPherson Street site is a notorious hotspot for illegal dumping and Council Rangers are taking proactive steps to monitor the area, including surveillance.

“There is no need to dump unwanted items and materials. Council offers residents two free kerbside pick-up services per year for large household items, furniture, mattresses and whitegoods.

“These can be booked at a time to suit the resident,” he said.

If you spot illegally dumped waste or if you see somebody dumping items, report it to us on the waste hotline 1300 434 434.

Watch Out On The Pittwater Estuary Water Zones & Beaches: Seals Are About

Residents have filmed and photographed the seals living at Barrenjoey as far south as Rowland Reserve and over at Clareville beach in recent days and ask that people keep an eye out for them and ensure they are kept safe from boat strikes and dogs are kept off the beaches they're not supposed to be on.

Bennett's Beach, Church Point, Saturday September 12th, 2020

ORRCA Spring Migration Survey

With a successful northern migration complete, the whales are now slowing heading south from the warm tropical waters on their southern migration.

The ORRCA Research Team are super excited to start a new citizen science program in October with the aim of recording the Humpback mums with new calves as they make their way down our coastline on their journey back to Antarctica.

If you would like to join one of our research teams, simply become an ORRCA member via our website and email the team at for more information.

No experience is necessary. Just a passion and some patience!

We would also open to additional locations if we have the volunteers to support it! 

Council's Crown Reserve Land Categorisation: Seeking Your Input

Submissions Close Sunday October 4th, 2020

Council are proposing land categories for 35 Crown reserves as part of an obligation under the Crown Land Management (CLM) Act 2016. The CLM Act legislates that we are required to manage Crown land in the same manner as Community land, in accordance with the Local Government Act 1993.

This is an initial land categorisation process and only relates to current/existing use. It does not propose any change of use for the subject Crown reserves or indicate desired future use.

How to have your say

Council would like your thoughts on their proposed categorisation of these reserves.

To make commenting easier, they've presented the Proposed Crown Reserve Land Categories here in an interactive PDF document. You can also download the whole document here.

If you prefer, you can share your feedback in the submission form or via email

Feedback is also accepted in writing marked 'Crown reserve land categorisation' PO Box 82, Manly NSW 1655.

A few tips to get you started:

  1. Do you know of other factors impacting on the categorisation of a particular reserve?
  2. If you think another category would be more suitable, please let us know why.
  3. Any proposed variation to land categories must be justified in line with the category objectives.

Following this process, Council can then prepare new or updated Plans of Management (PoM) for the affected reserves. The relevant community engagement requirements and process will be followed at that time.


In NSW, Crown land is administered by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment in accordance with the Crown Land Management (CLM) Act 2016, which came into effect on 1 July 2018. Following an extensive review of how Crown land is managed, the CLM Act was passed in order to create a more simplified management structure.

The CLM Act requires Crown reserves managed by Council to be managed in line with the Local Government Act (LG) Act 1993 in the same manner as Council Community land. The transition requires the affected Crown reserves to be managed via a plan of management (PoM). The first step is to assign the appropriate land categories.

The transition to managing Crown reserves in accordance with the LG Act is to occur by June 30th 2021.

On June 23rd 2020 Council resolved to undertake community consultation on the proposed land categories. Comments will be reported back to Council with a recommendation, along with a summary of community feedback. The Minister will be notified of Council’s preferred categories and, following confirmation from the Minister, PoMs can be prepared.

Katandra Season 2020

Katandra Bushland Sanctuary on Lane Cove Rd Ingleside is now open every Sunday until October 25, 10am-4pm. Visitors to this lovely bushland  have recently seen Powerful and Boobook Owls, Swamp Wallabies and Lyrebirds. Visitors, please make a small donation towards management of this Crown Land reserve. More details:

Several creeks flow down the escarpment - photo by Marita Macrae

The Forest Flora Of New South Wales: 1917

by Joseph Henry Maiden(1859-1925)
Publication date 1904-25. 

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

Tick Population Booming In Our Area

Residents from Terrey Hills and Belrose to Narrabeen and Palm Beach report a high number of ticks are still present in the landscape. Local Veterinarians are stating there has not been the usual break from ticks so far and each day they’re still getting cases, especially in treating family dogs. 

To help protect yourself and your family, you should:

  • Use a chemical repellent with DEET, permethrin or picaridin.
  • Wear light-colored protective clothing.
  • Tuck pant legs into socks.
  • Avoid tick-infested areas.
  • Check yourself, your children, and your pets daily for ticks and carefully remove any ticks using a freezing agent.
  • If you have a reaction, contact your GP for advice.

Bushfire Rebuild To Be Exempt From Koala Policy

September 9, 2020: Rob Stokes, Minister for Planning and Public Spaces

The NSW Government is cutting red tape to help homeowners affected by the devastating 2019-20 bushfire season get back on their feet by allowing them to clear land and rebuild without doing koala habitat surveys.

Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes said the changes to the Koala SEPP have been shaped by feedback from councils and fire-affected local communities and were necessary to facilitate the safe and timely rebuilding and repair of homes.

“What those people went through was devastating and while protecting the habitat of our koalas is vital, we must make it easier for those who lost everything in last summer’s traumatic bushfires,” Mr Stokes said.

“What we have done is include a provision in the Koala SEPP to allow homeowners impacted by the bushfires to clear the land around where their home previously stood in order to rebuild more quickly.

“It’s the role of government to change things for the better when and where we can and there is a clear need to support these people right now. By allowing them to clear and develop their land without considering these requirements, it will save them much-needed money and time.”

The change is supported by a number of checks and balances to ensure development does not impact koalas, including requiring any rebuilding of homes destroyed by fire in the last five years to occur on the same site.

The amendment will enable an Asset Protection Zone to be created around the damaged or destroyed home and any clearing and development within this area will not need to consider the Koala SEPP, saving applicants time and money in the development application process.

“NSW has faced an unprecedented series of catastrophic events from flooding, bushfires to COVID-19. Our regional communities are doing it tough and we need to support them in any way we can.”

The Guidelines to the Koala SEPP were recently exhibited. The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment is now carefully reviewing the 2,200 submissions made. The draft will be revised taking into account issues raised in submissions.

These Aussie teens have launched a landmark climate case against the government. Win or lose, it'll make a difference

Five of the eight young plaintiffs. From left: Ava Princi, Izzy Raj-Seppings, Ambrose Hayes, Veronica Hester, Laura Kirwan. Equity Generation Lawyers
Laura SchuijersUniversity of Melbourne

On Tuesday, eight young Australians aged 13-17 filed a class action seeking an injunction to prevent federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley approving a new coal project expansion.

They are bringing their case to the Federal Court. They argue if Whitehaven’s Vickery coal mine expansion in New South Wales is approved, it will contribute to climate change which endangers their future.

Read more: 'A wake-up call': why this student is suing the government over the financial risks of climate change

Saying the environment minister owes the young plaintiffs a duty of care is a novel approach. In their view, signing off on a new coal project will breach that duty. Such an approach to a climate change case has not been tested before in Australia, and would chart new territory if successful.

Although a legal victory would appear difficult on these grounds, the implications of this case are already significant. They show young people, determined to fight for action on climate, will continue to find new ways to hold powerful people to account.

What Is The Case About?

The case concerns a proposal to construct an open-cut coal mine, about 25 kilometres north of the NSW town of Gunnedah. It’s an extension project, meaning it will expand a mine that has already been approved, increasing its coal production by about 25%, and emissions by 100 million tonnes of greenhouse gases over the life of the project. The coal would be exported.

Like many mining proposals, this one has been divisive. Farmers worry about competing for water, and the local community has expressed concern over the environmental record of the coal company.

Yet in August, the NSW Independent Planning Commission approved the proposal, finding the expansion is in the public interest, given the forecast jobs and revenue. It has not yet received federal approval.

What Are The Teenagers Arguing?

The young plaintiffs are not bringing their case under environmental law, which would be the traditional way to launch a legal challenge objecting to a coal mine.

Environmental law invites government decision-makers to balance competing concerns — such as economic benefits versus environmental impact — with no clear stipulation as to how much weight to give each relevant factor.

There is limited recourse to argue a decision is wrong because the positive and negative impacts were not given particular priority by a minister. This means decision-making on major projects is largely within the political realm.

Instead, the plaintiffs are arguing the environment minister shouldn’t approve the coal proposal because doing so would breach a duty of care owed by the minister to protect them from the harmful impacts of climate change. This includes more frequent extreme weather events, and destruction of the natural systems that support human life.

The case has parallels with a landmark Dutch case, where it was successfully argued in 2019 that the Dutch Government breached its duty of care to its citizens through inadequate action on climate change.

Read more: These young Queenslanders are taking on Clive Palmer's coal company and making history for human rights

For the Australian case to succeed, the Court will first need to consider whether a duty of care exists in Australian law. There is no statutory duty (under laws created by the parliament), so the Court would need to “find” the duty as existing in common law.

Then, the plaintiffs would need to establish that the duty would be breached by the environment minister signing off on the coal project.

Will It Succeed?

Establishing both these things is likely to be very difficult in our legal context. From past cases, we know Australian courts have been reluctant to find a causal link between climate change and individual projects, even large mines. However, this link was found in a NSW case last year.

The court is likely to look closely at the particular relationship between the minister and the vulnerable young people, who will be strongly impacted by climate change but have no voting rights. It will consider whether they represent a particular class of individuals, in relation to which the minister has a responsibility.

One of the plaintiffs’ lawyers recently highlighted a case that potentially paves the way to support this idea. In 2016, the Federal Court found the immigration minister Peter Dutton owed a duty of care to a vulnerable refugee with a history of trauma, who was detained on Nauru.

One thing in the current case’s favour is that, similar to the Dutch case, the plaintiffs are not seeking monetary compensation. If they were, the difficulty for the courts to determine what future obligation the government might have to pay out young people would, almost undoubtedly, prohibit success.

What’s also interesting about this case, unlike the Dutch case or the famous Juliana case that was recently quashed in the US, is that it’s not asking the government for broad-scale policy action on climate change. It’s only concerned with one coal mine approval. This is a more straightforward remedy which a court could be more willing to grant.

Beating The Odds

If the case successfully established a duty and that it was breached, this would open up the possibility future coal approval decisions would also breach the duty — somewhat of a Pandora’s box.

Although we will have to wait and see what the Court says, the suit will draw attention to the government’s climate policies, whether or not it succeeds.

If the case succeeds, it might compel the government to stop approving any coal mines that would significantly contribute to climate change. If it doesn’t, it will remind us that it’s up to the government to respond to the threats climate change poses, rather than the courts.

Either way, the teenagers in this case are part of a growing number of people willing to find creative avenues to pursue action, even if it means taking a long shot. And beating the odds is exactly how the law tends to evolve.

Read more: Be worried when fossil fuel lobbyists support current environmental laws The Conversation

Laura Schuijers, Research Fellow in Environmental Law, University of Melbourne

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

Research reveals shocking detail on how Australia's environmental scientists are being silenced

Authors provided
Don DriscollDeakin UniversityBob PresseyJames Cook UniversityEuan RitchieDeakin University, and Noel D PreeceJames Cook University

Ecologists and conservation experts in government, industry and universities are routinely constrained in communicating scientific evidence on threatened species, mining, logging and other threats to the environment, our new research has found.

Our study, just published, shows how important scientific information about environmental threats often does not reach the public or decision-makers, including government ministers.

In some cases, scientists self-censor information for fear of damaging their careers, losing funding or being misrepresented in the media. In others, senior managers or ministers’ officers prevented researchers from speaking truthfully on scientific matters.

This information blackout, termed “science suppression”, can hide environmentally damaging practices and policies from public scrutiny. The practice is detrimental to both nature and democracy.

A scientist kneels by a stream
When scientists are free to communicate their knowledge, the public is kept informed. University of Queensland/AAP

Code Of Silence

Our online survey ran from October 25, 2018, to February 11, 2019. Through advertising and other means, we targeted Australian ecologists, conservation scientists, conservation policy makers and environmental consultants. This included academics, government employees and scientists working for industry such as consultants and non-government organisations.

Some 220 people responded to the survey, comprising:

  • 88 working in universities
  • 79 working in local, state or federal government
  • 47 working in industry, such as environmental consulting and environmental NGOs
  • 6 who could not be classified.

In a series of multiple-choice and open-ended questions, we asked respondents about the prevalence and consequences of suppressing science communication.

Read more: Let there be no doubt: blame for our failing environment laws lies squarely at the feet of government

About half (52%) of government respondents, 38% from industry and 9% from universities had been prohibited from communicating scientific information.

Communications via traditional (40%) and social (25%) media were most commonly prohibited across all workplaces. There were also instances of internal communications (15%), conference presentations (11%) and journal papers (5%) being prohibited.

A video explaining the research findings.

‘Ministers Are Not Receiving Full Information’

Some 75% of respondents reported having refrained from making a contribution to public discussion when given the opportunity – most commonly in traditional media or social media. A small number of respondents self-censored conference presentations (9%) and peer-reviewed papers (7%).

Factors constraining commentary from government respondents included senior management (82%), workplace policy (72%), a minister’s office (63%) and middle management (62%).

Fear of barriers to advancement (49%) and concern about media misrepresentation (49%) also discouraged public communication by government respondents.

Almost 60% of government respondents and 36% of industry respondents reported unduly modified internal communications.

One government respondent said:

Due to ‘risk management’ in the public sector […] ministers are not receiving full information and advice and/or this is being ‘massaged’ by advisors (sic).

University respondents, more than other workplaces, avoided public commentary out of fear of how they would be represented by the media (76%), fear of being drawn beyond their expertise (73%), stress (55%), fear that funding might be affected (53%) and uncertainty about their area of expertise (52%).

One university respondent said:

I proposed an article in The Conversation about the impacts of mining […] The uni I worked at didn’t like the idea as they received funding from (the mining company).

vehicle operating at a coal mine
A university researcher was dissuaded from writing an article for The Conversation on mining. Dave Hunt/AAP

Critical Conservation Issues Suppressed

Information suppression was most common on the issue of threatened species. Around half of industry and government respondents, and 28% of university respondents, said their commentary on the topic was constrained.

Government respondents also reported being constrained in commenting on logging and climate change.

One government respondent said:

We are often forbidden (from) talking about the true impacts of, say, a threatening process […] especially if the government is doing little to mitigate the threat […] In this way the public often remains ‘in the dark’ about the true state and trends of many species.

University respondents were most commonly constrained in talking about feral animals. A university respondent said:

By being blocked from reporting on the dodgy dealings of my university with regards to my research and its outcomes I feel like I’m not doing my job properly. The university actively avoids any mention of my study species or project due to vested financial interests in some key habitat.

Industry respondents, more than those from other sectors, were constrained in commenting on the impacts of mining, urban development and native vegetation clearing. One industry respondent said:

A project […] clearly had unacceptable impacts on a critically endangered species […] the approvals process ignored these impacts […] Not being able to speak out meant that no one in the process was willing or able to advocate for conservation or make the public aware of the problem.

a dead koala in front of trees
Information suppression on threatened species was common.

The System Is Broken

Of those respondents who had communicated information publicly, 42% had been harassed or criticised for doing so. Of those, 83% believed the harassers were motivated by political or economic interests.

Some 77 respondents answered a question on whether they had suffered personal consequences as a result of suppressing information. Of these, 18% said they had suffered mental health effects. And 21% reported increased job insecurity, damage to their career, job loss, or had left the field.

One respondent said:

I declared the (action) unsafe to proceed. I was overruled and properties and assets were impacted. I was told to be silent or never have a job again.

Another said:

As a consultant working for companies that damage the environment, you have to believe you are having a positive impact, but after years of observing how broken the system is, not being legally able to speak out becomes harder to deal with.

a scientist tests water
Scientists want to have a positive impact on environmental outcomes. Elaine Thompson/AP

Change Is Needed

We acknowledge that we receive grants involving contracts that restrict our academic freedom. And some of us self-censor to avoid risks to grants from government, resulting in personal moral conflict and a less informed public. When starting this research project, one of our colleagues declined to contribute for fear of losing funding and risking employment.

But Australia faces many complex and demanding environmental problems. It’s essential that scientists are free to communicate their knowledge on these issues.

Read more: Conservation scientists are grieving after the bushfires -- but we must not give up

Public servant codes of conduct should be revised to allow government scientists to speak freely about their research in both a public and private capacity. And government scientists and other staff should report to new, independent state and federal environment authorities, to minimise political and industry interference.

A free flow of information ensures government policy is backed by the best science. Conservation dollars would be more wisely invested, costly mistakes avoided and interventions more effectively targeted.

And importantly, it would help ensure the public is properly informed – a fundamental tenet of a flourishing democracy.The Conversation

Don Driscoll, Professor in Terrestrial Ecology, Deakin UniversityBob Pressey, Professor and Program Leader, Conservation Planning, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook UniversityEuan Ritchie, Associate Professor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life & Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, and Noel D Preece, Adjunct Asssociate Professor, James Cook University

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

Photos from the field: capturing the grandeur and heartbreak of Tasmania's giant trees

Steve Pearce/The Tree ProjectsAuthor provided
Jennifer SangerUniversity of Tasmania

Environmental scientists see flora, fauna and phenomena the rest of us rarely do. In this new series, we’ve invited them to share their unique photos from the field.

Tasmania’s native forests are home to some of the tallest, most beautiful trees in the world. They provide a habitat for many species, from black cockatoos and masked owls to the critically endangered swift parrot.

But these old, giant trees are being logged at alarming rates, despite their enormous ecological and heritage value (and untapped tourism potential). Many were also destroyed in Tasmania’s early 2019 fires.

Read more: Comic explainer: forest giants house thousands of animals (so why do we keep cutting them down?)

Former Greens leader Bob Brown recently launched a legal challenge to Tasmania’s native forest logging. And this year, Forestry Watch, a small group of citizen scientists, found five giant trees measuring more than five metres in diameter inside logging coupes. “Coupes” are areas of forest chopped down in one logging operation.

These trees are too important to be destroyed in the name of the forestry industry. This is why my husband Steve Pearce and I climb, explore and photograph these trees: to raise awareness and foster appreciation for the forests and their magnificent giants.

Climbing trees is not just for the young, but for the young at heart. Kevin is in his early 70’s and helps us with measuring giant trees. Steve Pearce/The Tree ProjectsAuthor provided

What Makes These Trees So Special?

Eualypytus regnans, known more commonly as Mountain Ash or Swamp Gum, can grow to 100 metres tall and live for more than 500 years. For a long time this species held the record as the tallest flowering tree. But last year, a 100.8 m tall Yellow Meranti (Shorea faguetiana) in Borneo, claimed the title — surpassing our tallest Eucalypt, named Centrioun, by a mere 30 centimetres.

Centrioun still holds the record as the tallest tree in the southern hemisphere. But five species of Eucalypt also grow above 85 m tall, with many ranking among some of the tallest trees in the world.

It’s not only their height that make these trees special, they’re also the most carbon dense forests in the world, with a single hectare storing more than 1,867 tonnes of carbon.

Read more: Money can't buy me love, but you can put a price on a tree

Our giant trees and old growth forests provide a myriad of ecological services such as water supply, climate abatement and habitat for threatened species. A 2017 study from the Central Highlands forests in Victoria has shown they’re worth A$310 million for water supply, A$260 million for tourism and A$49 million for carbon storage.

This significantly dwarfs the A$12 million comparison for native forest timber production in the region.

Chopped wood in a logging coupe.
Chopping down old growth trees doesn’t make economic sense. Steve Pearce/The Tree ProjectsAuthor provided

Tasmania’s Big Tree Register

Logging organisation Sustainable Timber Tasmania’s giant tree policy recognises the national and international significance of giant trees. To qualify for protection, trees must be at least 85 m tall or at least an estimated 280 cubic metres in stem volume.

Read more: The Leadbeater's possum finally had its day in court. It may change the future of logging in Australia

While it’s a good place to start, this policy fails to consider the next generation of big, or truly exceptional trees that don’t quite reach these lofty heights.

That’s why we’ve created Tasmania’s Big Tree Register, an open-source public record of the location and measurements of more than 200 trees to help adventurers and tree-admirers locate and experience these giants for themselves. And, we hope, to protect them.

Last month, three giant trees measuring more than 5 m in diameter were added to the register. But these newly discovered trees are located in coupe TN034G, which is scheduled to be logged this year.

Logging is a very poor economic use for our forests. Native forest logging in Tasmania has struggled to make a profit due to declining demand for non-Forest Stewardship Council certified timber, which Sustainable Timber Tasmania recently failed. In fact, Sustainable Timber Tasmania sustained an eye watering cash loss of A$454 million over 20 years from 1997 to 2017.

Read more: Summer bushfires: how are the plant and animal survivors 6 months on? We mapped their recovery

The following photos can help show why these trees, as one of the great wonders of the world, should be embraced as an important part of our environmental heritage, not turned to wood chips.

A portrait of an entire tree captured. Its canopy breaches the clouds.
Steve Pearce/The Tree ProjectsAuthor provided

It’s not often you get to see the entirety of a tree in a single photo. This tree above is named Gandalf’s Staff and is a Eucalyptus regnans, measuring 84 m tall.

While Mountain Ash is the tallest species, others in Tasmania’s forests are also breathtakingly huge, such as the Tasmanian blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) at 92 m, Manna gum (Eucalyptus viminalis) at 91 m, Alpine ash (Eucalyptus delegatensis) at 88 m and the Messmate Stringybark (Eucalyptus obliqua) at 86 m.

A woman appears tiny standing against an enormous felled tree.
Steve Pearce/The Tree ProjectsAuthor provided

This giant tree, pictured above, was a Messmate Stringybark that was felled in coupe, but was left behind for unknown reasons. Its diameter is 4.4 metres. Other giant trees like this were cut down in this coupe, many of which provided excellent nesting habitat for the critically endangered swift parrot.

Nine people sit across the trunk of an enormous tree.
The citizen science group Forestry Watch helps search for and measure giant trees in Tasmania. Steve Pearce/The Tree ProjectsAuthor provided

Old-growth forests dominated by giant trees are excellent at storing large amounts of carbon. Large trees continue to grow over their lifetime and absorb more carbon than younger trees.

A man wraps a measuring tape around a huge tree trunk, covered in moss.
Steve Pearce/The Tree ProjectsAuthor provided

The tree in the photo above is called Obolus, from Greek mythology, with a diameter of 5.1 m. Names are generally given to trees by the person who first records them, and usually reflect the characteristics of the tree or tie in with certain themes.

For example, several trees in a valley are all named after Lord of the Rings characters, such as Gandalf’s Staff (pictured above), Fangorn and Morannon.

The tops of the giant tree canopies are higher than the clouds.
Steve Pearce/The Tree ProjectsAuthor provided

Giant trees are typically associated with Californian Redwoods or the Giant Sequoias in the US, where tall tree tourism is huge industry. The estimated revenue in 2012 from just four Coastal Redwood reserves is A$58 million dollars per year, providing more than 500 jobs to the local communities.

Few Australians are aware of our own impressive trees. We could easily boost tourism to regional communities in Tasmania if the money was invested into tall tree infrastructure.The Conversation

Jennifer Sanger, Research Associate, University of Tasmania

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

The NSW koala wars showed one thing: the Nationals appear ill-equipped to help rural Australia

Tanya M HowardUniversity of New England

This morning, NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro capitulated on a threat to tear apart the state government over new koala protections. For now, the government remains intact. However the Nats’ campaign to loosen environmental protections that affect farmers will continue to destabilise the Coalition in the longer term.

The dramatic events of the past 24 hours have cast doubt on whether such a blustering, short-sighted political party has what it takes to lead rural Australia. The NSW Nationals have been entrusted with seven ministerial portfolios – from agriculture to trade and early childhood. But they were willing to throw it away over the fine print of a single planning policy.

There’s no doubt many people in the bush, including farmers, are doing it tough. And many farmers feel environmental protections are hurting their livelihood.

But it’s in everyone’s interests – including farmers’ – to ensure our environment stays healthy. And the extreme summer bushfires shone new light on how close we are to losing vulnerable species such as koalas. It’s hard to understand what the National Party thought it had to gain from this damaging display of brinkmanship.

A koala in a tree
The Nationals objected to changes to koala protections that curtail their land management. Joel Carrett/AAP

A Long History Of Tension

Nationals MPs had been demanding the government change a state environmental planning policy that aims to make it easier to identify and protect koala habitat. The policy changed the way koala habitat is identified by increasing the number of protected tree species from ten to 65.

Barilaro branded the change a “land lockup policy”. He described the number of protected tree species as “excessive” and said farmers would be forced to conduct time-consuming and expensive surveys before any new development or farming on their land.

Read more: Farmers, murder and the media: getting to the bottom of the city-country divide

NSW Liberal Planning Minister Rob Stokes rejected Barilaro’s claims that farmers can’t build a feed shed or a driveway without a koala study, and that noxious weeds are listed as core koala habitat.

Development pressures on the NSW north coast have likely fuelled this latest stoush. There, a move to different, more lucrative crops such as blueberries and the demand by “sea-changers” for residential real estate is prompting agricultural land to be sub-divided and sold. The new koala rules might slow this down.

Murdered compliance officer Glen Turner. Supplied by family

Land clearing policy has always been a flashpoint for conflict in regional and rural NSW. Tensions tragically came to a head in 2014 when environment compliance officer Glen Turner was murdered by a disgruntled landholder found guilty of breaking native vegetation laws. In the days afterwards, rural politicians said Turner’s death was “brought about by bad legislation” on land clearing.

Since then the NSW government has relaxed native vegetation laws. As a result, land clearing in the state has risen almost 60%, according to government data.

And in August last year the government announced it would no longer investigate or prosecute those who cleared land illegally under the old laws.

A chain used for land clearing is dragged over a pile of burning wood on a rural property. Dan Peled/AAP

The City-Bush Divide

The issue of environmental protection plays into a historical city-country divide that has long been an easy wedge for rural politicians.

This tension came to the fore over the koalas issue. Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis said this week:

I was elected to Parliament to represent my community and I get really annoyed when city-centric people preach to us, especially when people in Sydney have done nothing for their koalas.

But it’s worth remembering northwest NSW has some of the highest land clearing rates in the world. It has been identified as a deforestation hotspot, on par with Brazil and the palm oil plantations of Indonesia.

And environmental degradation is not just a concern for city people. Biodiversity underpins our agricultural systems; insects, birds and soil microbes all contribute to food security and regional prosperity.

Separately and just as importantly, in all this talk of what regional communities want, the National Party is virtually silent on the views of Indigenous Australians.

A tractor plowing a field.
Biodiversity underpins farming systems. Shutterstock

Farmers Have Bigger Problems Than Koalas

Barilaro and his MPs suggested the amendment was the final “nail in the coffin” of rural and regional Australia. But the fact is, the rapidly dwindling NSW koala population already has one foot in the grave.

A recent NSW inquiry predicted the extinction of the species by 2050 unless protections and rehabilitation efforts were radically ramped up. And a World Wildlife Fund report this week found a 71% decline in koala numbers across bushfire-affected areas of northern NSW.

Koala protections are far from being the biggest threats to rural prosperity. Escalating tensions with China have led to recent bans on barley and beef. The rural community has been hit hard by the extreme drought, and there is growing discontent with the mismanagement of water in the Murray Darling Basin.

Read more: Australia's farmers want more climate action – and they’re starting in their own (huge) backyards

What’s more, recent expansion of gas exploration and development in the state’s northwest has left locals worried about water contamination and over-extraction.

There is no doubt life in regional and rural Australia is different to the life lived in the city. In some areas there are poor internet connections, worse roads and great distances to travel for basic health services.

But these problems, like land clearing, are complex. And it seems the NSW Nationals are ill-equipped to deal with these challenges. This week’s display suggests the party only deals in wedge politics and blunt solutions – and with that approach, we all stand to lose.The Conversation

Tanya M Howard, Senior Research Fellow, University of New England

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

Australian Government Commits To 10-Year Threatened Species Strategy

September 7, 2020

The Federal Government will develop a new 10-year strategy to protect Australia’s threatened species, one that will draw heavily on Commonwealth led research following this year’s bushfires and which is expected to include a significant focus on the catastrophic threats from feral pests and predators. 

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said that consultation on the new strategy will commence in October, as the Morrison Government continues its $200 million investment into bushfire wildlife and habitat recovery and its ongoing $200 million investment into threatened species projects under the National Landcare Program and Environment Restoration Fund.

The Government is committed to the recovery of threatened species, through a national strategy delivering practical on ground action and the development of new science-based tools and technology.

“Over the coming months we will work with scientists, land managers, traditional owners, farmers, local and state governments, communities and environmental groups on designing high-level strategies by the end of the year,” Minister Ley said.

“The bushfires produced a remarkable coming together of environmental groups and governments on these issues - we need to build on this collaboration to give our native species the chance to thrive in the future.

“We face an enormous challenge in addressing threats to our native animals and plants. From the cute and cuddly ones we all know, to others such as the smoky mouse, the green carpenter bee and the matchstick banksia.

“The cumulative impacts of introduced species over two centuries of European settlement, our changed land use and our changing climate are all taking a toll. Feral cats alone are killing close to six million animals every day. 

“Threatened species are not just in the bush, they are in our backyards, they are in our parks and we all have a role to play in protecting them. 

“This new strategy will build on the first ever Commonwealth Threatened Species Strategy and our work in the National Environmental Science Program (NESP), which has included significant scientific advances in eDNA and other technologies that can support more effective management and monitoring to protect our threatened species.

“NESP has shown we can use eDNA to detect endangered species like the Gouldian Finch, or even the presence of a single cane toad, by collecting a cupful of water. 

“Our investment in new tools such as the Curiosity® bait and the Felixer Grooming Trap means we have new ways to tackle the impact of feral cats in the wake of the devastating bushfires. We need to continue to explore how new technologies, whether it be thermal imaging to detect hard to spot predators or new biocontrol and genetic technologies, can help us in our fight against extinction.”

More information on the strategy and the ways people can engage will be available on the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment website in coming weeks.

Nominations Open For Australian Biosecurity Awards

The search is on for the next round of biosecurity champions, with nominations now open for round two of the 2020 Australian Biosecurity Awards (ABAs).

Head of biosecurity, Andrew Tongue, said round two included new categories that demonstrate the diversity of biosecurity and the different roles we can all play.

“Australia has faced some tough challenges this year, but maintaining the nation’s biosecurity system has remained a priority,” Mr Tongue said.

“Our biosecurity system strengthens our country’s long-term resilience by safeguarding our economy, food sources, unique environment and way of life.

“It is important to recognise individuals and groups who support our biosecurity and are committed to safeguarding Australia from pests and diseases.

“It is a shared responsibility and we all have a role to play.

“We will be presenting four new award categories for round two—Environmental Biosecurity, Community, Education and the Dr Kim Ritman Award for Science and Innovation.

“The Dr Kim Ritman Award for Science and Innovation was created in honour of Dr Kim Ritman’s contributions as Australia’s Chief Plant Protection Officer.

“The new categories recognise a wider range of stakeholders and the diverse parts of our biosecurity system, as well as emphasise the importance of biosecurity education.

“If you know a group, individual or organisation that deserves to be recognised for their biosecurity work, nominate them today.”

The first round of 2020 ABAs were presented in March, with a range of winners from industry and government.

Round two of the ABAs will be presented at the National Biosecurity Forum in November.

Nominations close on Friday, October 2nd, 2020.

For more information and to put in a nomination, visit

$10 Million In Grants For Smart Recycling Solutions

August 20, 2020

The Federal Government is further investing in research that will transform Australia’s waste recycling industry to improve the environment, grow the economy and create new jobs.

$10 million will be made available in the latest round of the Cooperative Research Centres Projects (CRC-P) grants program for projects that provide innovative solutions for the recycling and reuse of plastics, paper, glass and tyres.

Launching Round 10 today, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said this funding builds on the $20 million the Government invested in Round 8 to find smart solutions to managing Australia’s waste crisis.

“Recycling our waste is more than an environmental imperative, it presents an opportunity for us to grow the economy and create new jobs,” Minister Andrews said.

“This funding will help advance – and more importantly commercialise – new waste processing technologies.

“By bringing industry together with researchers we can develop solutions to environmental problems while creating products and processes that can be used here at home and potentially be exported to the world.”

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said the research grants would play a key role in a $1 billion transformation of the waste industry, one that will contribute to a cleaner environment and thousands of new jobs.

“We are driving unprecedented investments in recycling infrastructure,” Minister Ley said.

“Ideas that open up new processes and new markets for recycled products are going to be critical as we change the way we recycle materials for infrastructure, packaging and consumer products.

“Whether it is waste glass replacing virgin sand in concrete sound walls or waste plastic replacing virgin polymers in asphalt we are already seeing new technologies emerge and with support such as this Australia can play a lead role in reducing the pressure on the earth’s resources.”

The funding is part of the Australian Government’s commitment to establish a timetable with the states and territories to ban the export of plastics, paper, glass and tyres. The ban will be phased in, starting with glass on 1 January 2021.

Projects that involve other problem materials, such as building waste, will also be eligible for funding in Round 10.

CRC-Ps can run for up to three years, with grants capped at $3 million. They must have at least two Australian industry partners, including one small or medium sized business.

Close date: October 1, 2020 05:00 PM AEST.

Further information on the CRC-Ps is available at 

Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan Review

The Australian and Queensland governments are reviewing the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan, also known as the Reef 2050 Plan. This plan is Australia’s long-term strategy to protect and manage the Great Barrier Reef.

The plan sets clear actions, management goals, objectives and outcomes. These drive and guide the short, medium and long-term management of the reef.

The review and drafting of the updated Plan is being conducted by:

  • Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment
  • Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
  • Queensland Government Office of the Great Barrier Reef.

Scope of the review

The 2020 Review is the plan’s first 5-yearly review. The Federal Government would like to hear your thoughts on the:

  • outcomes, objectives and management goals of the plan
  • priority work areas
  • strategic actions that deliver outcomes for the Reef.

The Government are seeking your views on the updated Reef 2050 Plan to ensure it contains the right priorities and actions to support the health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef.

Share your feedback

You can now provide feedback. Your input will help us update the plan.

To have your say:

Submit your feedback by 11.59pm AEST Wednesday 30 September 2020.

Doodle Comer Swamp Nature Reserve Draft Plan Of Management: Public Consultation

The Doodle Comer Swamp Nature Reserve Draft Plan of Management is available for review and comment.

Public exhibition of the draft plan provides an important opportunity for members of the community to have a say in the future management of Doodle Comer Swamp Nature Reserve. Comments close 28 September 2020.

This plan has been prepared using a new format and presented as 2 separate documents:

  1. The plan of management which is the 'legal' document that will be provided to the Minister for formal adoption. This is the document we are seeking your feedback on.
  2. The planning considerations document supports the plan of management. It includes detailed information on park values (e.g. threatened species and cultural heritage) and threats to these values. A summary of this information is in the plan of management.

Doodle Comer Swamp Nature Reserve encompasses about half of the Doodle Comer Swamp, an ephemeral wetland listed in the National Directory of Important Wetlands and the largest wetland of its type in southern NSW. The catchment for Doodle Comer Swamp is unregulated and the wetland has an unaltered water flow regime, now uncommon in New South Wales inland wetlands and of high conservation value.

When inundated, Doodle Comer Swamp attracts large numbers of waterbirds that use the swamp for breeding and foraging. When dry, the wetland provides habitat for the threatened bush stone-curlew, listed as endangered in New South Wales. Other threatened animals found include brolga and superb parrot. The reserve contains several threatened ecological communities such as Inland Grey Box Woodland and Sandhill Pine Woodland.

Doodle Comer Swamp is part of the Country of the Wiradjuri speaking nation and is part of a larger network of swamps and lagoons across the Riverina that formed a significant part of the cultural landscape, sustaining the Wiradjuri with an extensive range of resources for thousands of years. A diverse range of Aboriginal sites exist in the reserve and surrounding area and in 2016 Doodle Comer was declared an Aboriginal place recognising these values and the wetland's special significance to Aboriginal culture.

What is a plan of management?

Parks and reserves established under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 need to have a plan of management. The plan includes information on important park values and provides directions for future management. The plan of management is a legal document, and after the plan is adopted all operations and activities in the park must be in line with the plan. From time to time plans of management are amended to support changes to park management. Visit: Doodle Comer Swamp Nature Reserve Draft Plan of Management - PDF, 2.3MB

The National Parks and Wildlife Act sets out the matters that need to be considered when preparing a plan of management. These matters are addressed in the supporting Doodle Comer Swamp Nature Reserve Draft Plan of Management: Planning considerations document.

Why is a plan being prepared now?

Since the park`s reservation in 2011, it has been managed according to a statement of management intent. After a park's reservation and before the release of its plan of management, a statement of management intent is prepared outlining the management principles and priorities for the park's management. This statement documents the key values, threats and management directions for the park. It is not a statutory document and a plan of management will still need to be prepared according to the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.

Publication of a draft or final plan will replace the statement of management intent for the relevant parks covered.

What opportunities will the community have to comment?

The draft plan of management is on public exhibition until 28 September 2020 and anyone can review the plan of management and provide comments.

When will the plan of management be finalised?

At the end of the public exhibition period in September 2020 we will review all submissions, prepare a submissions report and make any necessary changes to the draft plan of management. The Far West Regional Advisory Committee and the National Parks and Wildlife Advisory Council will then review the plan along with the submissions and report, as required by the National Parks and Wildlife Act.

Once their input has been considered and any further changes made to the plan of management, we provide the plan to the Minister for Energy and Environment. The plan of management is finalised when the Minister formally adopts the plan under the National Parks and Wildlife Act. Once a plan is adopted it is published on the Department website and a public notice is advertised in the NSW Government Gazette.

How can I get more information about the draft plan?

For further information on the plan of management please contact the Park Management Planning Team at

How can I comment on the draft plan?

Public exhibition for the plan of management is from 26 June 2020 until 28 September 2020. You are invited to comment on the draft plan by sending a written submission during this time.

Have your say

Public exhibition is from 26 June 2020 to 28 September 2020.

You can provide your written submission in any of the following ways:

Post your written submission to:

Manager Planning Evaluation and Assessment
Locked Bag 5022 
Parramatta NSW 2124

Email your submission to:

Make a submission online by using the online form here

Tollingo Nature Reserve And Woggoon Nature Reserve Draft Plan Of Management: Public Consultation

The Tollingo Nature Reserve and Woggoon Nature Reserve Draft Plan of Management is available for review and comment.

Public exhibition of the draft plan provides an important opportunity for members of the community to have a say in the future management of Tollingo Nature Reserve and Woggoon Nature Reserve. Comments close 28 September 2020.

This plan has been prepared using a new format which is presented as two separate documents:

  1. The plan of management which is the legal document that will be provided to the Minister for formal adoption. This is the document we are seeking your feedback on.
  2. The planning considerations document supports the plan of management. It includes detailed information on park values (e.g. threatened species and cultural heritage) and threats to these values. A summary of this information is provided in the plan of management.

Tollingo Nature Reserve and Woggoon Nature Reserve are significant as two of the largest remaining mallee remnants in New South Wales. The largely intact old-age mallee vegetation is rare in the Central West, which is mostly used for agriculture. The reserves provide habitat for the endangered malleefowl and other native animals.

Tollingo Nature Reserve is shared Country for the Ngiyampaa and Wiradjuri people, while Woggoon Nature Reserve is within Wiradjuri traditional Country.

What is a plan of management?

Parks and reserves established under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 need to have a plan of management. The plan includes information on important park values and provides directions for future management. The plan of management is a legal document, and after the plan is adopted all operations and activities in the park must be in line with the plan. From time to time plans of management are amended to support changes to park management.

The National Parks and Wildlife Act sets out the matters that need to be considered when preparing a plan of management. These matters are addressed in the supporting Tollingo Nature Reserve and Woggoon Nature Reserve Draft Planning Considerations document. This document may be updated from time to time, for example, to include new information on the values of the park (e.g. new threatened species), new management approaches (e.g. a new pest management technique) or new park programs. Visit Tollingo Nature Reserve and Woggoon Nature Reserve Draft Plan of Management - PDF 2.3MB

Why is a plan being prepared now?

This plan of management will replace the statement of management intent which was approved in 2014. Statements of management intent are non-statutory documents which summarise the key values and management directions for a park.

Since reservation in 1988 and 1974 respectively, Tollingo and Woggoon nature reserves have been managed according to a statement of management intent. After a park's reservation and before the release of its plan of management, a statement of management intent is prepared outlining the management principles and priorities for the park's management. This statement documents the key values, threats and management directions for the park. It is not a statutory document and a plan of management will still need to be prepared according to the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974. Publication of a draft or final plan will replace the statements of management intent for the relevant parks covered.

What opportunities will the community have to comment?

The draft plan of management and planning considerations are on public exhibition until 28 September 2020 and anyone can provide comments.

When will the plan of management be finalised?

At the end of the public exhibition period in September 2020, National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) will review all submissions, prepare a submissions report and make any necessary changes to the draft plan of management. The West Regional Advisory Committee and the National Parks and Wildlife Advisory Council will then review the plan along with the submissions and report, as required by the National Parks and Wildlife Act.

Once their input has been considered and any further changes made to the plan of management, we provide the plan to the Minister for Energy and Environment. The plan of management is finalised when the Minister adopts the plan under the National Parks and Wildlife Act. Once a plan is adopted it is published on the Department's website.

How can I get more information about the draft plan?

For further information on the plan of management please contact the NPWS Park Management Planning Team at

Where can I see a printed copy of the draft plan?

Hard copies are available for viewing at the following locations:

  • National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) office, Camp Street, Forbes
  • Condobolin Library, 130 Bathurst Street, Condobolin

How can I comment on the draft plan?

Public exhibition for the plan of management is from 26 June until 28 September 2020. You are invited to comment on the draft plan by sending a written submission during this time.

Your privacy

Your submission will be provided to a number of statutory advisory bodies (including the relevant regional advisory committee and the National Parks and Wildlife Advisory Council). Your comments on the draft plan may include 'personal information'. the Department complies with the NSW Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 which regulates the collection, storage, access, amendment, use and disclosure of personal information. See our privacy webpage for details. Information that in some way identifies you may be gathered when you use our website or send us correspondence.

If an application to access information under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 requests access to your submission, your views about release will be sought if you have indicated that you object to your submission being made public.

While all submissions count, they are most effective when we understand your ideas and the outcomes you want for park management. Some suggestions to help you write your submission are:

  • Write clearly and be specific about the issues that are of concern to you.
  • Note which part or section of the plan your comments relate to.
  • Give reasoning in support of your points – this makes it easier for us to consider your ideas and will help avoid misinterpretation.
  • Tell us specifically what you agree/disagree with and why you agree/disagree.
  • Suggest solutions or alternatives to managing the issue if you can.

Have your say

Public exhibition is from 26 June 2020 to 28 September 2020.

You can provide your written submission in any of the following ways:

Post your written submission to:

Manager Planning Evaluation and Assessment
Locked Bag 5022
Parramatta NSW 2124

Email your submission to:

Make a submission online by using the online form here

Limeburners Creek National Park, Goolawah National Park And Goolawah Regional Park: Public Consultation

Planning for the future –NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service is preparing a new plan of management for Limeburners Creek National Park, Goolawah National Park and Goolawah Regional Park.

These parks are in the traditional Country of the Dunghutti and Birpai Aboriginal Peoples. The parks play a fundamental role in the lives of local Aboriginal people, helping to maintain a tangible link to the past and enabling continued connections to Country.

The existing plan of management for Limeburners Creek National Park was written in 1998. The areas that are now Goolawah National Park and Goolawah Regional Park were formerly Goolawah State Park and Crown land. Initial community consultation about the Goolawah parks was undertaken in 2012, soon after they were transferred to National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Since this time large new areas have been added to the parks, including the intertidal zone on some of the beaches. There has also been a steady increase in visitors, and new recreational uses have become popular. Information about the values of the park has improved and new approaches to managing fire, pests and weeds have been developed.

Accommodating all of these visitors, maintaining the unique visitor experience and protecting the environment is challenging. Good planning is essential to manage increasing demand and provide sustainable visitor facilities and opportunities while minimising impacts and retaining the natural and low key nature of this beautiful stretch of coast. The development of a new combined plan of management will help to protect the parks' unique values and improve the effectiveness of how we manage the parks.

What opportunities will the community have to contribute to the development of a new plan of management?

Previous consultation, including a community forum, identified a range of issues important to the local community which will be considered in the new plan. It is now time to reach out and reconnect with our neighbours, stakeholders and local communities, as well as extending the invitation to the wider community of park users.

There are now 2 opportunities to be involved in the development of the plan of management for Goolawah Regional Park and Goolawah and Limeburners Creek national parks:

  1. During the development of the draft plan - register your interest below to receive updates and be notified of further consultation dates. Complete the form to provide your ideas on what you believe are the most important values of the parks and how they should be managed in the future. Your input will be used to draft a plan that reflects community values and aspirations.
  2. During public exhibition of the draft plan - there will be another opportunity to have your say when the draft plan of management is completed and put on public exhibition for 90 days. Anyone can submit comments on the draft plan during this time.

Register your interest

Complete the online form here to register your interest, provide initial input and be notified of further consultation dates. Tell us what is important to you about the parks and what you would like to see in the future. Comments close 30 October 2020.

Limeburners Creek National Park, Goolawah National Park and Goolawah Regional Park engagement map Photo: DPIE

Echidna Season

Echidna season has begun.  As cooler days approach, our beautiful echidnas are more active during the days as they come out to forage for food and find a mate. This sadly results in a HIGH number of vehicle hits.

What to do if you find an Echidna on the road?

  • Safely remove the Echidna off the road (providing its safe to do so).
  • Call Sydney Wildlife or WIRES
  •  Search the surrounding area for a puggle (baby echidna). The impact from a vehicle incident can cause a puggle to roll long distances from mum, so please search for these babies, they can look like a pinky-grey clump of clay

What to do if you find an echidna in your yard?

  • Leave the Echidna alone, remove the threat (usually a family pet) and let the Echidna move away in it's own time. It will move along when it doesn't feel threatened.

If you find an injured echidna or one in an undesirable location, please call Sydney Wildlife on 9413 4300 for advice.

Lynleigh Greig, Sydney Wildlife, with a rescued echidna being returned to its home

New Shorebird Identification Booklet

The Migratory Shorebird Program has just released the third edition of its hugely popular Shorebird Identification Booklet. The team has thoroughly revised and updated this pocket-sized companion for all shorebird counters and interested birders, with lots of useful information on our most common shorebirds, key identification features, sighting distribution maps and short articles on some of BirdLife’s shorebird activities. 

The booklet can be downloaded here in PDF file format:

Paper copies can be ordered as well, see for details.

Download BirdLife Australia's children’s education kit to help them learn more about our wading birdlife

Shorebirds are a group of wading birds that can be found feeding on swamps, tidal mudflats, estuaries, beaches and open country. For many people, shorebirds are just those brown birds feeding a long way out on the mud but they are actually a remarkably diverse collection of birds including stilts, sandpipers, snipe, curlews, godwits, plovers and oystercatchers. Each species is superbly adapted to suit its preferred habitat.  The Red-necked Stint is as small as a sparrow, with relatively short legs and bill that it pecks food from the surface of the mud with, whereas the Eastern Curlew is over two feet long with a exceptionally long legs and a massively curved beak that it thrusts deep down into the mud to pull out crabs, worms and other creatures hidden below the surface.

Some shorebirds are fairly drab in plumage, especially when they are visiting Australia in their non-breeding season, but when they migrate to their Arctic nesting grounds, they develop a vibrant flush of bright colours to attract a mate. We have 37 types of shorebirds that annually migrate to Australia on some of the most lengthy and arduous journeys in the animal kingdom, but there are also 18 shorebirds that call Australia home all year round.

What all our shorebirds have in common—be they large or small, seasoned traveller or homebody, brightly coloured or in muted tones—is that each species needs adequate safe areas where they can successfully feed and breed.

The National Shorebird Monitoring Program is managed and supported by BirdLife Australia. 

This project is supported by Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority and Hunter Local Land Services through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program. Funding from Helen Macpherson Smith Trust and Port Phillip Bay Fund is acknowledged. 

The National Shorebird Monitoring Program is made possible with the help of over 1,600 volunteers working in coastal and inland habitats all over Australia. 

The National Shorebird Monitoring program (started as the Shorebirds 2020 project initiated to re-invigorate monitoring around Australia) is raising awareness of how incredible shorebirds are, and actively engaging the community to participate in gathering information needed to conserve shorebirds. 

In the short term, the destruction of tidal ecosystems will need to be stopped, and our program is designed to strengthen the case for protecting these important habitats. 

In the long term, there will be a need to mitigate against the likely effects of climate change on a species that travels across the entire range of latitudes where impacts are likely. 

The identification and protection of critical areas for shorebirds will need to continue in order to guard against the potential threats associated with habitats in close proximity to nearly half the human population. 

Here in Australia, the place where these birds grow up and spend most of their lives, continued monitoring is necessary to inform the best management practice to maintain shorebird populations. 

BirdLife Australia believe that we can help secure a brighter future for these remarkable birds by educating stakeholders, gathering information on how and why shorebird populations are changing, and working to grow the community of people who care about shorebirds.

To find out more visit:

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 -

Construction Of The Pacific Highway From Mooney Point To Gosford (1928)

Pittwater Online News has been working on putting together some History pages on the first roads in this area during the past two years. We commenced with Roads TO Pittwater, then the two main roads IN Pittwater and we're now coming to the end of all those associated with housing subdivisions within each Pittwater suburb, especially the Street Names - some of these roads were named to honour those who owned these big plots of acreage, or historical people, or even just family members; a daughter or son, while others were given indigenous names or named for plants that grew where they were. 

Ultimately they were all required to be built so that people could access their little block of land and build a home they could get to and from easily.

A few insights on Bayview launches this Issue and two more are to come - Church Point and Western Offshores (not too many there but worth putting them in) and Narrabeen (a big one there as it was the southern 'gateway' to Pittwater from earliest times).

It's very interesting stuff and it's been great tracking down all the old photographs, descriptions of places, families and family stories and looking at how orchards became homes and dirt tracks became sealed roads - especially because you are currently living through and all witnesses to history itself with the upgrades of Mona Vale road - one of those that is a TO Pittwater road and was once called the 'Gordon Road' because it led to Gordon.

There's a Mona Vale Road Upgrade Project Update running this Issue - if you want to have a look.

Visit: Mona Vale Road East Upgrade Project: Construction Update – September 2020

Below runs a video that gives you a few insights into roads constructions; in this case the Pacific Highway which some of you may have travelled on when heading north towards the Central Coast, or south to places like Gordon, Killara and Chatswood.

This video shows the different and similar machines currently being used to build the new Mona Vale road - only they're the old versions of these construction tools. It's not of great quality, but we hope you enjoy seeing how this was done almost 100 years ago.

School Formals To Go Ahead

September 7, 2020
Year 12 students across NSW will be able to celebrate finishing school with COVID-19 safe graduation ceremonies and formals being allowed to take place during Term 4.  

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Year 12 students have shown incredible resilience during the pandemic and deserved to celebrate an important life milestone.    

“We will always rely on the health advice, which recommends COVID safe formals and graduation ceremonies take place from 12 November 2020 after the final HSC exam,” Ms Berejiklian said. 

“Students are currently preparing for the HSC and deserve to have events to look forward to after their exams.” 

Schools across NSW will receive the COVID-19 safety plan guidance for Year 12 graduations and school formals by 11 September 2020.  

Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell said Year 12 students have been working incredibly hard under difficult circumstances. 

“Last week I made it clear that I wanted to find a way to allow students to celebrate the end of their schooling and I’m thrilled that this is now a reality,” Ms Mitchell said.

“Schools will be able to use the guidance provided by Health to develop a COVID-19 safe plan for their celebrations. I know that students will be excited to have their formals as something they can look forward to after their exams.” 

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said it is important the events take place after HSC exams to reduce the risk of COVID-19 impacting on exams or preparations.  

Year 12 students requiring a COVID-19 test should tell their GP or testing clinic they are currently doing their HSC. This will ensure their test results are prioritised, minimising any disruption to their schooling and study.

The NSW Government will also provide COVID safe guidance to students wanting to participate in schoolies under the current restrictions and health advice. 

Over 50 Artists Join Great Southern Nights Music Event

September 9, 2020
Australian artists will perform over 1000 COVID-Safe gigs across Sydney and regional NSW in November 2020. 
The event will support the NSW Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan to help kickstart the entertainment, hospitality and tourism industries.

All 1000 individual gigs will take place across eight different areas and regions of NSW, including:
  • Blue Mountains
  • Central Coast
  • Country NSW
  • Hunter
  • North Coast
  • Outback NSW
  • South Coast
  • Sydney.
The Presets, Tones And I, Julia Stone, Tash Sultana and Missy Higgins are among the Australian artists performing. 

Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres said artists and the live-music industry have shown overwhelming support for the program.

“The calibre of artists who have put their hand up to be part of the inaugural Great Southern Nights event is fantastic. We’re stoked that many artists have asked to play in regional NSW,” Minister Ayres said.

“Great Southern Nights will make a real difference for communities recovering from drought, bushfires and COVID-19.”

Great Southern Nights is an NSW Government initiative in partnership with the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). 

For full artist line-up and event information, visit Great Southern Nights

Spirit Of Barrenjoey Competition At BHS

During Term 3 of 2020, the Barrenjoey High School SRC  held a competition open to all students about Barrenjoey Spirit. 

''We wanted to encourage students to think about the positives of the Barrenjoey environment, even during the difficult times as a result of COVID-19.''

There were 13 entries to the competition, including students from Year 7 to Year 12. The quality of the entries was very high. The SRC received amazing photos, impressive artworks, some thoughtful essays, wonderful videos and even a song called ‘Barrenjoey Sound’.

A panel of three expert judges – Principal Mr Bowsher, long time parent/teacher/artist Mr Guy Hawson and 2020 School Captain Zoe Coles – were greatly impressed by the efforts and talents of the competition entrants. After careful deliberation, the following awards were given:
  • First Prize: $200 – Alannah, Year 12, with an artwork consisting of a series of images and text that reflect deeply on Barrenjoey Spirit. It combines the local environment with ideas of what Barrenjoey students struggle with as teenagers, showing that Barrenjoey is a place where this insecurity and hiding parts of ourselves, but also a place of learning, maturing and overcoming adversity to connect with each other and our environment.
  • Junior Runner Up Prize: $50 – Stella and Summer,  Year 8, for their surfboard artwork and accompanying video that incorporate many elements of Barrenjoey life.  
  • Senior Runner Up Prize: $50 – The Rions from Year 11, with their song and video ‘The Barrenjoey Sound’.
  • Highly Commended Awards go to Riley in Year 7 for his fabulous drawing that brings together a number of ideas about Barrenjoey Spirit, and Cora and Sophia in Year 8 for their video interviewing students and teachers about their views on Barrenjoey Spirit.
Below runs these mentioned videos and this is a sample of Alannah's work:

Spirit Of Barrenjoey Competition - Summer And Stella 

Spirit Of Barrenjoey Competition - THE BARRENJOEY SOUND The Rions

Spirit Of Barrenjoey Competition- Cora And Sophia

Narrabeen Sports High School News

The Wednesday Sports Bush Regeneration class are showing that they are at one with nature!
They have been busy moving mulch and planting vegetable seedlings that will be  moved to our new vegetable garden beds next week when we are expecting a visit from a gardening expert.
Next week's visitor from Kimbriki will show us how to make a self watering garden bed to transplant these seedlings into.

Taking Challenge Day indoors and out.
Organised by our hardworking High Potential Gifted and Talented (HPGT) Committee, this year's Challenge day was a lot of fun as well as a big challenge!
Running over two periods, the HPGT committee had designed a series of complex challenges to test a number of skills in these Year 7 students. This included looking at their critical thinking, ability to collaborate as well as team building skills; all known to be great predictors of an ability to take innovative approaches to problem solving.
All students involved had an absolute blast. Thank you to the HPGT committee for making such fun and innovative challenges. 

Work Experience
Some of our Year 10 students have started work experience and we are really enjoying seeing them ‘on the job’ as they send through photos of their work!
Lily was lucky enough to get work experience with BOS Oceansport and she is learning how to build surf skis. 
So far we are getting really positive feedback from not only our students, but also from the organisations who have given students these exciting work experience opportunities. 
Great to see Narrabeen Sports High School students being embraced by our great Northern Beaches community.

Oh what a feeling!
Our Academy surf students have without doubt, the best classroom in the world. We have loved watching these students learn from their amazing coaches and we wanted to show a sneak peak of what goes on during Academy Surf. A wonderful group of students and equally wonderful coaches!

Construction Class
It can definitely be useful to have in house experts.
Three of our Year 12 Construction students get some practical, hands on experience in our own back yard.
They are laying a concrete slab at our school gate under the watchful eye of Mr Ashby. Some good learning on the job experience!

Duke Of Edinburgh Silver 
Another proud moment for teacher Mr Moore as he presents a Duke Of Edinburgh Silver award to a student.
This time the hard working recipient is Year 12 student Tom who completed a number of very involved activities to attain his Silver.
As well as volunteering at a youth group, Tom selected cookery as his 'Skill' section, and went on to produce some very impressive dishes!
He completed expeditions to Turon and Yengo National Parks and set some very strict physical recreation goals for his chosen sport of AFL.
We are all very proud of Tom's achievement. Anyone who has ever been involved in the Duke of Edinburgh scheme will have a full appreciation of the level of commitment needed to reach Silver. And what is Tom doing now? He's going for Gold of course!

SRS Scheme
The Schools Recommendation Schemes (SRS) are one way that institutions make early offers of admission to students currently in Year 12. They do this by using criteria other than (or in addition to) the ATAR.
SRS applications will close on September 20 and we urge any Year 12 student considering this scheme to log onto the Year 12 (2020) Careers Information Google Classroom. 
Our Careers Advisor, Ms Morris, is constantly updating this classroom to make sure students at Narrabeen Sports High School never need to miss an opportunity.
Good Luck SRS hopefuls!

Pittwater High School News

Cake Decorators Extraordinaire
On Friday September 11 teachers judged Ms Crundwell’s Year 9 Food Tech’s Cake Decorating entrants. 
Feast your eyes on these! ; too good to eat?? Perhaps - all winners? - YES!!


3D Science
While learning about the skeletal system, year 8 science classes have been challenged with designing a unique prosthetic limb with fully functional joints using the 3D printing program, Tinkercad. 
There have been some fabulous and creative designs so far! Here are a few from Miss Savage's classes.

Industrial Technology Multimedia HSC class 
The Industrial Technology Multimedia HSC class 2020 have compled their HSC major projects. Students worked on a variety of projects including a combination of animation and live action films.
Mr Hamed has provided the link to the school’s YouTube channel, see below.  You can view these amazing, finished projects.  One example runs below.
Well done Year 12! Smashed it again!!

Bee Hives upscaled
Year 8 Agriculture students added an additional level to our “flow hive” Bee Hive this week, under the coaching of Ms Madsen and Ms Enyingwa. The bees now have space to grow their hive and produce lots of honey with all the spring pollen around! 

Vegan leather made from mushrooms could mould the future of sustainable fashion

Mitchell P. JonesVienna University of Technology

Seven millennia since its invention, leather remains one of the most durable and versatile natural materials. However, some consumers question the ethical ramifications and environmental sustainability of wearing products sourced from animals.

This shift in social standards is the main reason we’re seeing a wave of synthetic substitutes heading for the market.

Leather alternatives produced from synthetic polymers fare better in terms of environmental sustainability and have achieved considerable market share in recent years.

But these materials face the same disposal issues as any synthetic plastic. So, the leather market has begun to look to other innovations. As strange as it might sound, the latest contender is the humble fungus.

Research by my colleagues and I, published today in Nature Sustainability, investigates the history, manufacturing processes, cost, sustainability and material properties of fungus-derived renewable leather substitutes – comparing them to animal and synthetic leathers.

How Unsustainable Is Animal Leather, Actually?

How sustainable leather is depends on how you look at it. As it uses animal skins, typically from cows, leather production is correlated with animal farming. Making it also requires environmentally toxic chemicals.

The livestock sector’s sustainability issues are well known. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, the sector is responsible for about 14% of all greenhouse emissions from human activity. Cattle rearing alone represents about 65% of those emissions.

Still, it’s worth noting the main product of cattle rearing is meat, not leather. Cow hides account for just 5-10% of the market value of a cow and about 7% of the animal’s weight.

There’s also no proven correlation between the demand for red meat and leather. So a reduction in the demand for leather may have no effect on the number of animals slaughtered for meat.

Cattle looking at the camera
According to 2019 figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, about 49% of all Australian farms carry beef cattle and these manage more than 79% of all agricultural land.

That said, leather tanning is still energy- and resource-intensive and produces a lot of sludge waste during processing.

This gives leather a higher environmental impact than other minimally processed animal products such as blood, heads and organs (which can be sold as meat products or animal feed).

From Spore To Mat

Fungus-derived leather technologies were first patented by US companies MycoWorks and Ecovative Design about five years ago.

These technologies take advantage of the root-like structure of mushrooms, called mycelium, which contains the same polymer found in crab shells.

A root-like mycelium structure grows underground.
Mycelium is the vegetative body for fungi that produces mushrooms. Fungal colonies made of mycelium can be found in and on soil and wood. Shutterstock

When mushroom roots are grown on sawdust or agricultural waste, they form a thick mat that can then be treated to resemble leather.

Because it’s the roots and not the mushrooms being used, this natural biological process can be carried out anywhere. It does not require light, converts waste into useful materials and stores carbon by accumulating it in the growing fungus.

A petri dish with fungal spores on the left and a natural fungal mat on the right.
Going from fungal spores on a Petri dish (left) to a natural fungal mat (right) takes just a couple of weeks. Antoni Gandia

Going from a single spore to a finished “fungi leather” (or “mycelium leather”) product takes a couple of weeks, compared with years required to raise a cow to maturity.

Mild acids, alcohols and dyes are typically used to modify the fungal material, which is then compressed, dried and embossed.

The process is quite simple and can be completed with minimal equipment and resources by artisans. It can also be industrially scaled for mass production. The final product looks and feels like animal leather and has similar durability.

Mycelium-derived leather hanging from wire
MOGU is one company producing materials and products from fungal mycelium. Ars Electronica/FlickrCC BY-NC-ND

Mushroom For Progress

It’s important to remember despite years of development, this technology is still in its infancy. Traditional leather production has been refined to perfection over thousands of years.

There are bound to be some teething problems when adopting fungal leather. And despite its biodegradability and low-energy manufacturing, this product alone won’t be enough to solve the sustainability crisis.

Read more: Will we soon be growing our own vegan leather at home?

There are wider environmental concerns over animal farming and the proliferation of plastics – both of which are independent of leather production.

Nonetheless, using creativity to harness new technologies can only be a step in the right direction. As the world continues its gradual shift towards sustainable living, perhaps seeing progress in one domain will inspire hope for others.

Will I Be Wearing It Anytime Soon?

Commercial products made with fungi-derived leather are expected to be on sale soon – so the real question is whether it will cost you an arm and a leg.

Prototypes were released last year in the USItaly and Indonesia, in products including watches, purses, bags and shoes.

A black and brown mycelium leather bag.
US-based startup Bolt Threads has used myceliym leather to successfully create products such as this bag. Bolt Threads

And while these fundraiser items were a little pricey – with one designer bag selling for US$500 – manufacturing cost estimates indicate the material could become economically competitive with traditional leather once manufactured on a larger scale.

The signs are promising. MycoWorks raised US$17 million in venture capital last year.

Ultimately, there’s no good reason fungal leather alternatives couldn’t eventually replace animal leather in many consumer products.

So next time you pass the mushrooms at the supermarket, make sure you acquaint yourself. You may be seeing a whole lot more of each other soon.

Read more: Could fungi save the fashion world? The Conversation

Mitchell P. Jones, Postdoctoral researcher, Vienna University of Technology

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

Bill & Ted Face the Music review: party on, dudes - this film is as sweet and daggy as its predecessors

Orion Pictures
Ari MattesUniversity of Notre Dame Australia

In a post-credit scene at the end of Bill & Ted Face the Music, the titular couple are old men in a nursing home. Decrepit, they stand up from their beds, pick up their guitars, and, for the first time in the film, the key members of metal band Wyld Stallyns shred with each other.

“That was fun,” says Bill.

“That was good,” agrees Ted.

But shredding is a bit much in a nursing home. “I have to sit down,” says Bill. “Nurse!”

The camera seems to turn back on the series itself in this oddly touching moment. The actors and the film have fondly reflected on the last 90 minutes, but also the 30-odd years between Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) and this latest film.

The old man makeup appears more natural on the two actors than the slacker clothes they’ve been wearing throughout, and we chuckle along with them about the passing of time. It is sentimental, but it’s also sweet.

The moment seems especially poignant for actor Alex Winter, whose career hasn’t exactly been a success since the earlier films. With a faint whiff of melancholy, he seems to gently appraise his return to the big screen, making fun of the fact that he’s a middle aged man revisiting the teenage character that made him momentarily famous.

This scene, more than any other, captures the lyrical and only faintly nostalgic feeling of the film. Bill and Ted are right – it was fun. It was good. Certainly not incisive or critical, and not brilliant. In fact, kind of average, in a relaxed, sleepy way.

Bill and Ted on their 1989 excellent adventure.
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure came out in 1989. 31 years on, Bill & Ted are just as loveable as ever. Orion Pictures

But in an era of relentlessly “clever” films and knowing reboots this light touch sets the film apart. Face the Music is as daggy, as goofy and as peculiarly sweet as its predecessors.

Travelling With Time, Back And Forth

The narrative returns to the prophecy introduced in the earlier films: Bill and Ted will write the ultimate song that will unite the world. Now, though, they’re down-at-heel musicians close to the bottom of tanking careers. Their music is going from bad to worse.

Bill and Ted travel forward through time, visiting themselves in the future in order to steal (from themselves) this ultimate song. But the stakes have been raised: they need this song in order to save the very fabric of reality itself.

Movie still, daughters and musicians
Bill and Ted are so grown up, they have daughters who join on the adventure. Orion Pictures

Meanwhile, their daughters Thea (Samara Weaving) and Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) travel back through time in order to assemble the ultimate band to perform the song. They pick up Jimi Hendrix (DazMann Still), Louis Armstrong (Jeremiah Craft) and Mozart (Daniel Dorr) before entering ancient history and collecting mythical Chinese flautist Ling Lun (Sharon Gee) and cavewoman percussionist Grom (Patty Anne Miller).

In case this isn’t sufficiently convoluted, the time-travel is coupled with a trip to hell when the entire ensemble (daughters, dads, musicians) are killed by guilt-ridden and inept assassin/robot Dennis Caleb McCoy (Anthony Carrigan).

Bill, Ted and Death.
Of course, Bill and Ted meet Death – again. Orion Pictures

As in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991), they meet the bass-playing grim reaper, Death (beautifully played by William Sadler). Death rejoins the band and helps them escape hell.

If this sounds complicated, it is – to a ludicrous degree. But the whole thing is so inoffensively rendered, with such good-humour, it doesn’t matter.

Be Excellent To Each Other

Keanu Reeves is fine as Ted, though it’s a little unsettling watching the character as a middle aged man. The real pleasure is in Winter’s return to the big screen, recognising just how good he is as an embodied comedic performer, a combination of self-assuredness and light touch.

Unlike other series reboots, Face the Music doesn’t become mired in self-referential moments and its own mythologising. It plays more like a bona fide sequel, made in the same style and spirit as its predecessors, than a reboot.

It is refreshingly earnest, and doesn’t feel like a cynical attempt to recycle material and colonise a new wave of eyeballs.

The film’s strangest element is how it makes us time travel back to the late 1980s. Time has passed, and Face the Music is aware of this, but it nonetheless feels like a film from a different era.

Written by previous Bill & Ted writers, Chris Mattheson and Ed Solomon, Face the Music doesn’t play like a retro film in style or tone. It seems completely contemporary, and yet manages to be perfectly in line with its earlier brethren.

As with the previous two films, the music is its weakest part. Mark Isham’s score is unnoticeable and the band’s ultimate song – the one that is supposed to save time and space, reality itself – is an unappealing melange of pop music clichés and “world” music. It’s awful.

But perhaps the film is aware of this. After all, there is an early sequence highlighting the protagonists’ musical ineptitude in which Ted plays the theremin and Bill growls in death metal vocals.

In any case, it’s not much of a criticism. For a film that was destined to do so much wrong, this does a surprising amount right. Time travel as a scientific phenomenon may not exist, but Face the Music proves that time travel, as affect, certainly does.

Bill & Ted Face the Music is in cinemas from today.The Conversation

Ari Mattes, Lecturer in Communications and Media, University of Notre Dame Australia

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

Up To $1.5 Million Is Available For New Youth Opportunities Projects To Commence In 2021

The Youth Opportunities program provides one-off, time-limited grants between $10,000 and $50,000 to not-for-profit organisations and local councils for youth-led and youth-driven community projects that have a positive youth development focus.

Funded projects from previous rounds have focused on giving young people the opportunity to develop a range of skills, including life skills and healthy behaviours; leadership, communication and teamwork; event management and planning; and providing volunteering opportunities that link young people to further education and training.

Since the program was launched in 2012, Youth Opportunities has provided $11.8 million in funding to 247 projects across NSW.

Youth Opportunities grant applications
Organisations seeking project funding from the Youth Opportunities program are to involve young people at every stage of the project – from identifying the need, through to design, project delivery and final review.

Projects which are genuinely youth-led and youth-driven are those initiated by young people in response to what they have said they need. We are seeking applications which address young people’s identified needs in an innovative way and increase young people’s connections to the community.

Organisations must speak with young people and involve them in developing the project proposal prior to submitting an application.

Applicants are advised to read the Program Guidelines PDF, 584.95 KB carefully before completing an application for funding. These Guidelines and more are available to download HERE.

Applications are now OPEN

Applications must be completed and submitted via the SmartyGrants online system by 5:00pm on Monday, 28 September 2020. The SmartyGrants online system automatically shuts off at 5:00pm on this day, Monday 28 September 2020. It does not allow for extensions to be granted.

“Great White Sighting In Pittwater”: Art By Sea

(about: Art by Sea celebrates our natural environment with sustainable art by locals). Take a stroll along the pathway from Bayview to Church Point and cast your gaze further afield.

Visit:  - more soon!

Students To Help Shape Future Of Education

September 3, 2020
NSW public school students have a unique opportunity to have their say on the future of education with the formation of the Minister’s Student Council.

The Minister's Student Council will give NSW public school students a seat at the table alongside department and NSW Government decision makers.

The Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning, Sarah Mitchell, last month announced the formation of the student council to give students a direct influence on education and school policy.

The student council will be the peak forum for interaction between NSW public school students, the Department of Education and the NSW Government.

The council will be created from the ground up by students.

The first student involvement in the council will be a steering committee tasked with designing the council, its elections and governance, and how it will engage students from all backgrounds right across the state.

Secondary school students can apply now for selection to the steering committeeApplications close on 25 September 2020.

The first Minister’s Student Council will begin in 2021.

A new online Student voices hub was also launched last month, giving all NSW students a platform to share their views and creativity with the wider community.

Opportunity: Students Encouraged To Apply For Award In Fisheries Conservation Research

Research students are being encouraged to apply for a NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSWDPI) award which recognises excellent research of high value to the management of fisheries resources and aquatic habitats in NSW.

Dr Natalie Moltschaniwskyj, DPI Director of Fisheries Research said the John Holliday award is a fantastic tribute to one of the pioneers of fisheries conservation in NSW, supporting fisheries scientists of the future.

“The John Holliday Student Conservation Award is named in honour of the late Dr John Holliday, a former Senior Conservation Manager who dedicated 26 years to aquaculture and fish conservation issues for DPI,” Dr Moltschaniwskyj said.

“The John Holliday Student Conservation Award is offered by DPI to encourage research students to share their research findings on a range of topics that could be beneficial to the management of fisheries in NSW.

"Dr Holliday made a huge contribution to the work undertaken here and successfully pioneered the Department’s involvement in aquaculture and fish conservation issues, and I encourage students to submit their applications and be recognised for their own research work,” Dr Moltschaniwskyj said.

The 2020 award is open to all research students who are enrolled at an Australian university and are undertaking fisheries-orientated research work in NSW.

The winning entrant will receive $3,000 cash and a Certificate of Achievement.

Entrants are judged by a panel, including the DPI’s Director Fisheries Research, Director Aquatic Environment and a representative from a NSW conservation group.

To enter, students will need to submit an electronic copy of a concise report summarising their research to date, and which is relevant to one of the following DPI’s current priority programs: Promote the sustainable growth of commercial and recreational fishing and aquaculture; Protect and enhance NSW aquatic resources and environment.

Applications for the 2020 Award must be submitted by 19 October 2020.  For more information visit

Year 11 And HSC

Updated: 26 August 2020 by NESA

The 2020 HSC is going ahead with COVID safe exam protocols to protect everyone involved - students, supervisors and markers.

NESA is committed to supporting the health and wellbeing of Year 11 and 12 students throughout their journey and has exam contingency plans in place to deal with a wide range of potential COVID 19 scenarios.

Even if things change, you will still be able to receive your HSC.

Fast track COVID-19 test results
HSC students can fast-track their COVID-19 test results.

To do this you must:
  • say you are a HSC student when taking a test
  • ensure the nurse or doctor doing the test marks your referral 'urgent — HSC'
  • self-isolate until a negative result is received
  • show your school the negative result
  • call the contact number provided by the clinic if results are not received within 36 hours.
Stay healthy
Your health is number one. We know it’s not an ordinary year. So, please take it one day at a time focussing on looking after yourself, submitting your assessments, and studying for your exams. Support to manage exam stress is available via the Stay Healthy HSC campaign. Use #StayHealthyHSC to get involved on social media.

Find out what to do if your school is closed, you are unwell or required to self-isolate on the day of a HSC exam.

The introduction of protocols for COVID-safe exams follow the changes made earlier in the year to the requirements for the 2020 HSC requirements, including changes to performance and practical exams for:
Other changes also include:
  • Allowing principals to decide on the number, type and weighting of school-based assessments for the HSC and Year 11 school-based assessment. NESA’s principles of assessment continue to apply. The deadline for schools to submit HSC assessment results and other marks is 23 September.
  • Increasing the number of times Year 12 students yet to meet the HSC minimum standard can sit the minimum standard online tests.
  • Cancelling the requirement for NESA mandated VET work placements.
Download an overview of changes to the 2020 HSC (PDF)

See important dates for HSC performance, oral languages and written exams.

HSC written examinations commence on Tuesday, 20 October 2020 and conclude on Wednesday, 11 November 2020.
After last HSC written examination the HSC Assessment Ranks are released to students via Students Online for 4 weeks.
HSC results are released on Friday, 18 December 2020 and HSC Results Inquiry Centre opens. 
HSC testamurs will be mailed in January 2021.

It is more important than ever to recognise student talent and achievement in the 2020 HSC. Some HSC showcase nomination and selection processes have changed due to COVID-19:
The criterion for selection to a showcase is to represent outstanding examples demonstrating the philosophy, content and outcomes of the syllabus.

The final selection of performances, projects and submitted works is a curatorial decision made in collaboration with NESA.

NESA is exploring options for presenting showcases in 2021.

Western Sydney University Offering Free Online HSC Study Sessions

Free Online HSC Study Sessions
Tuesday 6 October – Friday 9 October 2020.

Our free online HSC Study Sessions are led by highly qualified and experienced educators who will give you the skills and knowledge to maximise your HSC results.

Each workshop is an invaluable addition to your school studies, as you will develop a solid understanding of HSC exam techniques, subject knowledge, and HSC preparation skills. Workshops will include:

  • Content analysis (including workbook)
  • Tips and strategies across all modules/topics
  • Detailed exploration of key syllabus areas
  • Sample 2-hour practice exam
  • Interactive webinar with a detailed analysis of each question, including provisions of annotations and exemplar responses/solutions
Subjects available:
  • Advanced English
  • Biology
  • Business Studies
  • Chemistry
  • Family and Community Studies
  • Geography
  • Mathematics Standard 2
  • Legal Studies
  • Modern History
  • 2 Unit Advanced Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Standard English
Why attend?
  • Attend online sessions on subject syllabus and curriculm that you want to review
  • Find out about HSC exam tips that will help you with your studies
  • Practice on exam papers with experienced HSC markers
Free HSC Study Sessions
Register your interest to attend HSC Study sessions - Tuesday 6 October – Friday 9 October 2020.

If you have any problems accessing this form, please contact

‘Help Harvest NSW' Launched To Help Secure Ag Workers To Bumper Harvest

August 24, 2020
Farmers will be able to capitalise on what is predicted to be the best harvest in many years, with the launch today of a new one-stop resource which will help the agriculture industry overcome a COVID-induced labour shortage and get unemployed Australians into critical work.

Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall announced the launch of the ‘Help Harvest NSW’ website today, which will connect unemployed Australians with farm work opportunities across the State as part of the NSW Government’s COVID Recovery Plan.

With NSW at the forefront of this year’s big winter crop comeback after drought and horticulture about six weeks from harvest, Mr Marshall said it was critical to act now as there would be a shortage of between 3,500 and 5,000 workers needed in the state.

“Farmers are desperate to find contractors and employees willing to work to make the most of the bumper harvest we’re about to have,” Mr Marshall said.

“A high volume of primary industries labour generally comes from overseas and due to COVID-19 international travel restrictions there simply isn’t the number of farm workers the ag industry needs at the moment.

“The Help Harvest NSW website will help to overcome this challenge by connecting job-seeking Australians with agricultural work opportunities in NSW.

“I want to see more Aussies climb off the couch and get out into the regions where there’s plenty of good paying work on until the end of the year.

“At a time when we are just beginning to emerge from drought, our State’s farmers cannot afford to miss out on the financial uplift that comes from a strong harvest.”

With higher than average unemployment due to COVID-19, Mr Marshall said that ‘Help Harvest NSW’ was a way to get the State’s workforce moving again.

“Never before and never again will Australians have a better chance to take up farm work, earn a decent wage and see first-hand our beautiful regions where the food we buy every day from the supermarket is produced,” Mr Marshall said.

“My message to the increasing number of people looking for a job at the moment is this: get off your bum and get into agriculture – we need you.

“Take a look at Help Harvest NSW and see what job opportunities are around the corner.”

To explore ‘Help Harvest NSW’ visit

Book Of The Month September 2020: Conrad Martens : The Man And His Art

by Sir Lionel Lindsay(1874-1961). Publication date 1920. Published by Angus & Robertson, Sydney. 

Stay Healthy During The HSC

In any ‘normal’ year the HSC requires dedication and focus as well as the support of friends and family.

This year hasn’t exactly panned out to be a ‘normal’ year, with announcements about changes to the HSC due to COVID-19.

Despite all the goings-on, students across NSW are continuing to study for their HSC with focus and determination, and we at NESA are here to help.

This year we are partnering with mental health organisation ReachOut to deliver news, information, guidance and advice to support all HSC students.

You’ll hear from experts, teachers, parents and other students as well as some inspiring spokespeople. This year we are planning to lighten your mental load with practical tips and tricks for staying active, connected and in charge of your wellbeing.

ReachOut’s Study Hub has heaps of info about taking a proactive approach to your mental health or where to go if you need more support. ReachOut’s Forums are great for sharing what’s going on for you and get ideas about the best ways to feel happy and well.

So follow and use #StayHealthyHSC for regular health and wellbeing updates and information.

View our range of social media images, posters and flyer to help you get involved and share the Stay Healthy HSC message with your community.

New Glove-Like Device Mimics Sense Of Touch

September 9, 2020
What if you could touch a loved one during a video call -- particularly in today's social distancing era of COVID-19 -- or pick up and handle a virtual tool in a video game?

Pending user tests and funding to commercialise the new technology, these ideas could become reality in a couple of years after UNSW Sydney engineers developed a new haptic device which recreates the sense of touch.

UNSW Engineering researchers have developed a new soft skin stretch device (SSD) which can be integrated into fabric, such as the finger glove pictured which is contrasted with a stylised robotic hand. Image: UNSW Engineering

Haptic technology mimics the experience of touch by stimulating localised areas of the skin in ways that are similar to what is felt in the real world, through force, vibration or motion.

Dr Thanh Nho Do, Scientia Lecturer and UNSW Medical Robotics Lab director, is senior author of a study featuring the new device.

His research team featured lead author and PhD candidate Mai Thanh Thai, Phuoc Thien Phan, Trung Thien Hoang and collaborator Scientia Professor Nigel Lovell, Head of the Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering.

Dr Do said the sense of touch was something many people took for granted to perform everyday tasks.

"When we do things with our hands, such as holding a mobile phone or typing on a keyboard, all of these actions are impossible without haptics," he said.

"The human hand has a high density of tactile receptors and is both an interesting and challenging area to encode information through haptic stimulation, because we use our hands to perceive most objects every day.

"There are many situations where the sense of touch would be useful but is impossible: for example, in a telehealth consultation a doctor is unable to physically examine a patient. So, we aimed to solve this problem."

The UNSW study about the new haptic device was published in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Access journal recently.

Dr Do said the researchers were so excited about their new haptic technology that they had applied to patent it.

"Our three-way directional skin stretch device (SSD), built into the fingertips of the wearable haptic glove we also created, is like wearing a second skin -- it's soft, stretchable and mimics the sense of touch -- and will enable new forms of haptic communication to enhance everyday activities," he said.

"What's also special about our new technology is that it's scalable and can be integrated into textiles for use in various potential applications such as telehealth, medical devices, surgical robots and training, augmented and virtual reality, teleoperation and industrial settings.

"The device aims to solve a common problem in emerging systems -- such as assistive devices, remote surgery, self-driving cars and the guidance of human movements -- where visual or auditory feedback can be slow, unintuitive and increase the cognitive load."

Why haptic technology needs to improve
The study's lead author Mai Thanh Thai said existing technology had great difficulty recreating the sense of touch with objects in virtual environments or located remotely.

"Visual or auditory cues are easy to replicate, but haptic cues are more challenging to reproduce. In a virtual environment, we can see objects but we are unable to feel them as if we were directly touching them," Mr Thai said.

"It is almost impossible to enable a user to feel something happening in a computer or smartphone using a haptic interface, such as commercially available smart glasses.

"Vibration is the most common haptic technology today and is built into many electronic devices, such as the Taptic Engine attached to the back of a trackpad in laptops, which simulates a button clicking.

"But haptic feedback with vibration becomes less sensitive when used continuously or when users are in motion, leading to desensitisation and impaired device functionality."

How the new haptic device works
Dr Do said the researchers' new technology overcame issues with existing haptic devices by introducing a novel method to recreate an effective haptic sensation via soft, miniature artificial "muscles."

"Our soft, wearable haptic glove enables people to feel virtual or remote objects in a more realistic and immersive way. The inbuilt soft artificial muscles generate sufficient normal and shear forces to the user's fingertips via a soft tactor, enabling them to effectively reproduce the sense of touch," he said.

"It works like this: imagine you are in Australia while your friend is in the United States. You wear a haptic glove with our integrated three-way directional SSDs in the fingertips and your friend also wears a glove with integrated 3D force sensors.

"If your friend picks up an object, it will physically press against your friend's fingers and their glove with 3D force sensors will measure these interactions.

"If these 3D force signals are sent to your haptic glove, then the integrated three-way directional SSDs will generate these exact 3D forces at your fingertips, enabling you to experience the same sense of touch as your friend."

Implications of the new technology
Dr Do said the ability to effectively reproduce the sense of touch via the new wearable haptic device would have a wide range of benefits; for example, during today's COVID-19 pandemic when people were relying on video calls to stay connected with loved ones.

"Unlike existing haptic devices, our technology is soft, lightweight, and thin and therefore, we hope users will be able to integrate it into what they're wearing to provide realistic haptic experiences in settings including rehabilitation, education, training and recreation," he said.

"Our technology could enable a user to feel objects inside a virtual world or at a distance; for example, a scientist could feel a virtual rock from another planet without leaving their lab, or a surgeon could feel a patient's organ tissues with surgical tools without directly touching them."

Dr Do estimated the new technology could become available in the next 18 months to three years -- if plans to commercialise the device were realised.

"The next step is to conduct user evaluations to validate how effective our device is, because the main scope of our current research has been on the design, fabrication and characterisation of the new technology," he said.

"In addition, we plan to implement the device in various haptic applications such as haptic motion guidance, navigational assistance for older people and those with low vision, tactile textual language, and 3D force feedback display for use in surgical robots, prosthesis and virtual and augmented reality."

Mai Thanh Thai, Trung Thien Hoang, Phuoc Thien Phan, Nigel Hamilton Lovell, Thanh Nho Do. Soft Microtubule Muscle-Driven 3-Axis Skin-Stretch Haptic Devices. IEEE Access, 2020; 8: 157878 DOI: 10.1109/ACCESS.2020.3019842

Australian Telescope Finds No Signs Of Alien Technology In 10 Million Star Systems

September 9, 2020
A radio telescope in outback Western Australia has completed the deepest and broadest search at low frequencies for alien technologies, scanning a patch of sky known to include at least 10 million stars.

Astronomers used the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) telescope to explore hundreds of times more broadly than any previous search for extraterrestrial life.

The study, published today in Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia, observed the sky around the Vela constellation. But in this part of the Universe at least, it appears other civilisations are elusive, if they exist.

The research was conducted by CSIRO astronomer Dr Chenoa Tremblay and Professor Steven Tingay, from the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR).

Dr Tremblay said the telescope was searching for powerful radio emissions at frequencies similar to FM radio frequencies, that could indicate the presence of an intelligent source.

These possible emissions are known as 'technosignatures'.

"The MWA is a unique telescope, with an extraordinarily wide field-of-view that allows us to observe millions of stars simultaneously," she said.

"We observed the sky around the constellation of Vela for 17 hours, looking more than 100 times broader and deeper than ever before.

"With this dataset, we found no technosignatures -- no sign of intelligent life."

Professor Tingay said even though this was the broadest search yet, he was not shocked by the result.

"As Douglas Adams noted in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, 'space is big, really big'."

"And even though this was a really big study, the amount of space we looked at was the equivalent of trying to find something in the Earth's oceans but only searching a volume of water equivalent to a large backyard swimming pool.

"Since we can't really assume how possible alien civilisations might utilise technology, we need to search in many different ways. Using radio telescopes, we can explore an eight-dimensional search space.

"Although there is a long way to go in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, telescopes such as the MWA will continue to push the limits -- we have to keep looking."

The MWA is a precursor for the instrument that comes next, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), a 1.7 billion Euro observatory with telescopes in Western Australia and South Africa. To continue the Douglas Adams references, think of the MWA as the city-sized Deep Thought and the SKA as its successor: the Earth.

"Due to the increased sensitivity, the SKA low-frequency telescope to be built in Western Australia will be capable of detecting Earth-like radio signals from relatively nearby planetary systems," said Professor Tingay.

"With the SKA, we'll be able to survey billions of star systems, seeking technosignatures in an astronomical ocean of other worlds."

The MWA is located at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory, a remote and radio quiet astronomical facility established and maintained by CSIRO -- Australia's national science agency. The SKA will be built at the same location but will be 50 times more sensitive and will be able to undertake much deeper SETI experiments.

C. D. Tremblay, S. J. Tingay. A SETI survey of the Vela region using the Murchison Widefield Array: Orders of magnitude expansion in search space. Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia, 2020; 37 [abstract]

Dipole antennas of the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) radio telescope in Mid West Western Australia. Credit: Dragonfly Media.

Over A Century Later The Mystery Of The Alfred Wallace's Butterfly Is Solved

September 10, 2020
An over a century-long mystery has been surrounding the Taiwanese butterfly fauna ever since the "father of zoogeography" Alfred Russel Wallace, in collaboration with Frederic Moore, authored a landmark paper in 1866: the first to study the lepidopterans of the island.

Back then, in their study, Moore dealt with the moths portion and Wallace investigated the butterflies. Together, they reported 139 species, comprising 93 nocturnal 46 diurnal species, respectively. Of the latter, five species were described as new to science. Even though the correct placements of four out of those five butterflies in question have been verified a number of times since 1886, one of those butterflies: Lycaena nisa, would never be re-examined until very recently.

In a modern-day research project on Taiwanese butterflies, scientists retrieved the original type specimen from the Wallace collection at The History Museum of London, UK. Having also examined historical specimens housed at the Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute, in addition to newly collected butterflies from Australia and Hong Kong, Dr Yu-Feng Hsu of the National Taiwan Normal University finally resolved the identity of the mysterious Alfred Wallace's butterfly: it is now going by the name Famegana nisa (comb. nov.), while two other species names (Lycaena alsulus and Zizeeria alsulus eggletoni) were proven to have been coined for the same butterfly after the original description by Wallace. Thereby, the latter two are both synonymised with Famegana nisa.

Type specimen of Famegana nisa, collected by Wallace in 1866 (upper side). Credit: Dr Yu-Feng Hsu (courtesy of NHM). License: CC-BY 4.0

Despite having made entomologists scratch their heads for over a century, in the wild, the Wallace's butterfly is good at standing out. As long as one knows what else lives in the open grassy habitats around, of course. Commonly known as 'Grass Blue', 'Small Grass Blue' or 'Black-spotted Grass Blue', the butterfly can be easily distinguished amongst the other local species by its uniformly greyish white undersides of the wings, combined with obscure submarginal bands and a single prominent black spot on the hindwing.

However, the species demonstrates high seasonal variability, meaning that individuals reared in the dry season have a reduced black spot, darker ground colour on wing undersides and more distinct submarginal bands in comparison to specimens from the wet season. This is why Dr Yu-Feng Hsu notes that it's perhaps unnecessary to split the species into subspecies even though there have been up to four already recognised.

Alfred Russel Wallace, a British naturalist, explorer, geographer, anthropologist, biologist and illustrator, was a contemporary of Charles Darwin, and also worked on the debates within evolutionary theory, including natural selection. He also authored the famed book Darwinism in 1889, which explained and defended natural selection.

While Darwin and Wallace did exchange ideas, often challenging each other's conclusions, they worked out the idea of natural selection each on their own. In his part, Wallace insisted that there was indeed a strong reason why a certain species would evolve. Unlike Darwin, Wallace argued that rather than a random natural process, evolution was occurring to maintain a species' fitness to the specificity of its environment. Wallace was also one of the first prominent scientists to voice concerns about the environmental impact of human activity.

Yu-Feng Hsu. The identity of Alfred Wallace’s mysterious butterfly taxon Lycaena nisa solved: Famegana nisa comb. nov., a senior synonym of F. alsulus (Lepidoptera, Lycaenidae, Polyommatinae). ZooKeys, 2020; 966: 153 DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.966.51921

Analysis Of Australian Labradoodle Genome Reveals An Emphasis On The 'Oodle'

September 10, 2020
The creator of the Australian labradoodle set out to mix poodles and Labrador retrievers to develop a hypoallergic service dog. But, according to a new study by Elaine Ostrander at the National Institutes of Health, published September 10th in PLOS Genetics, the breed that developed from that cross is primarily poodle.

There are about 350 recognised dog breeds in the world today, many resulting from intense breeding programs that unintentionally created dogs at high risk for certain health problems. These high rates of disease were one motivating factor behind crossing two purebred dogs to create so-called "designer breeds," coupled with the desire to combine positive traits from the parental breeds.

The Australian labradoodle is one of the most popular designer breeds, and so researchers analyzed genetic variations at more than 150,000 locations along its genome to understand how the breed has developed over the past 31 years. The findings show that genetically, the Australian labradoodle is mostly poodle, with smaller genetic contributions from the Labrador retriever and certain types of spaniel. Breeders appear to have preferentially chosen dogs with a poodle-like coat, which is associated with what many people consider hypoallergenicity, and without strong preference for specific traits from Labrador retrievers.

The new study demonstrates that changes in very few genes, over a small number of generations, can define a new dog breed. The results of this genetic study may also inform the development of genetic tests that can be incorporated into thoughtful breeding programs to avoid some of the health problems that commonly afflict Australian labradoodles. Currently, Australian labradoodles supporters are lobbying to have the breed officially recognise by an international registry.

Muhammad Basil Ali, Jacquelyn M. Evans, Heidi G. Parker, Jaemin Kim, Susan Pearce-Kelling, D. Thad Whitaker, Jocelyn Plassais, Qaiser M. Khan, Elaine A. Ostrander. Genetic analysis of the modern Australian labradoodle dog breed reveals an excess of the poodle genome. PLOS Genetics, 2020; 16 (9): e1008956 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1008956

Australian labradoodle puppy (stock image). Credit: © Jacob /

Putting A Future Avocado 'Apocalypse' On Ice

September 10, 2020
The supply of smashed 'avo' is secure for generations after world-first research cryopreserved the tips of avocado shoots and then revived them to create healthy plants.

University of Queensland PhD student Chris O'Brien has developed the first critical steps to create a cryopreservation protocol for avocado which had never been achieved until now, despite more than 40 years of research.

"The aim is to preserve important avocado cultivars and key genetic traits from possible destruction by threats like bushfires, pests and disease such as laurel wilt -- a fungus which has the capacity to wipe out all the avocado germplasm in Florida," Mr O'Brien said.

"Liquid nitrogen does not require any electricity to maintain its temperature, so by successfully freeze avocado germplasm, it's an effective way of preserving clonal plant material for an indefinite period."

Cryopreservation is the technology used to freeze human biological material such as sperm and eggs at minus 196 degrees Celsius, and has been used to freeze other plants such as bananas, grape vines and apple.

Mr O'Brien has been working with UQ Centre for Horticultural Science's Professor Neena Mitter and Dr Raquel Folgado from The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in California to perfect the technique.

He used clonal shoot tip material developed from tissue culture propagation technology which enables up to 500 true to type plants to grow from a single shoot-tip.

"At first I was just recovering brown mush after freezing the avocado tips," Mr O'Brien said.

"There was no protocol so I experimented with priming the tips with Vitamin C, and used other pre-treatments like sucrose and cold temperature to prepare the cells -- it was a question of trial and error to get the optimal mixture and correct time points."

The avocado shoot tips are placed on an aluminium foil strip, which allows for ultra-fast cooling and rewarming, then placed into a 'cryotube' before being stored in liquid nitrogen.

The frozen shoot tips can be revived in a petri dish containing a sucrose mixture to rehydrate.

"It takes about 20 minutes to recover them," Mr O'Brien said.

"In about two months they have new leaves and are ready for rooting before beginning a life in the orchard."

He has achieved 80 per cent success in regrowing frozen Reed avocado plants and 60 per cent with the Velvick cultivar.

Eighty revived avocado plants are now growing in a UQ glasshouse.

The recovered trees will be monitored for flowering times and fruit quality, with field trials planned with collaborators at Anderson Horticulture.

Professor Mitter said this was the first time the plants had experienced life outside the laboratory.

"I suppose you could say they are space-age avocados -- ready to be cryo-frozen and shipped to Mars when human flight becomes possible," she said.

"But it is really about protecting the world's avocado supplies here on earth and ensuring we meet the demand of current and future generations for their smashed 'avo' on toast."

C. O’Brien, J. C. A. Hiti-Bandaralage, R. Folgado, S. Lahmeyer, A. Hayward, J. Folsom, N. Mitter. First report on cryopreservation of mature shoot tips of two avocado (Persea americana Mill.) rootstocks. Plant Cell, Tissue and Organ Culture (PCTOC), 2020; DOI: 10.1007/s11240-020-01861-y

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.