inbox and environment news: Issue 516

October 31 - November 6, 2021: Issue 516

Echidnas Are Out And About; Please Slow Down

This echidna, photographed at Mona Vale on Friday October 22, was having a stroll around. One of several spotted lately, a pair at Bayview and more at Warriewood and Frenchs Forest have been seen this week. Concerned residents are asking everyone to please be aware we have lots of local wildlife we live alongside that are quite active at this time of year and need us all to be a bit more careful when driiving around local streets.

For most of the year the short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) is a solitary animal, although each animal’s territory is large and often overlaps with that of other echidnas. The short-beaked echidna is protected in NSW and although relatively abundant and widely distributed within NSW and Australia it is not readily seen in the wild because of its quiet, reclusive nature.

In temperate climates, echidnas are most often seen during early morning and in the late afternoon, as they tend to avoid temperature extremes.

Echidnas breed from the end of June to early September. A female lays a single egg, which is incubated in the pouch and takes about ten days to hatch. The young echidna is suckled by its mother from mammary glands in the pouch, and is carried in the pouch for about three months. During this time the female will sometimes leave the young animal in a burrow, made by the female for its protection, so she may go and eat.

Termites and ants are its preferred food and this is why the animal is often called the ‘spiny anteater’. Earthworms, beetles and moth larvae are also part of the echidna’s diet - a good reason to not use harmful chemicals in your garden, or in this case, the local street. This one was eating lots of tiny ants.

An echidna will use its fine sense of smell to find food and has a beak which is highly sensitive to electrical stimuli. It tracks down its prey and catches it with its long, sticky tongue. Echidnas do not have teeth and they grind their food between the tongue and the bottom of the mouth.

When the infant leaves the pouch, its spines have started to develop, but it still stays close to its mother and may continue to suckle. The young echidna will leave the burrow at around 12 months of age, weighing 1–2 kg (Strahan 1995). When grown, echidnas measure 30–53 cm long with males weighing about 6 kg and females about 4.5 kg.

Echidnas have been known to live for as long as 16 years in the wild, but generally their life span is thought to be under 10 years.

photos by and courtesy Alex Tyrell - information: NSW Dept. of Environment.

Bioluminescence Seen This Week

Residents report seeing bioluminescence at Palm, Whale and Avalon Beaches this week - the phenomenon has been happening right along the NSW coast this week.  These great shots by Jamen Percy, a photographer who specialises in surf and marine photography, shows you what was happening at Palm Beach:

Mr Percy said there are reports of more bioluminescence at Freshwater.

"Apparently some people saw a little more at Freshwater beach last night so it's still around," he wrote on Instagram.

Bioluminescence occurs widely among animals, especially in the open sea, including fish, jellyfish, comb jellies, crustaceans, and cephalopod molluscs. About 76% of the main taxa of deep-sea animals produce light. Most marine light-emission is in the blue and green light spectrum. However, some loose-jawed fish emit red and infrared light, and the genus Tomopteris emits yellow light.

The most frequently encountered bioluminescent organisms may be the dinoflagellates in the surface layers of the sea, which are responsible for the sparkling phosphorescence sometimes seen at night in disturbed water. At least 18 genera exhibit luminosity. A different effect is the thousands of square miles of the ocean which shine with the light produced by bioluminescent bacteria, known as mareel or the milky seas effect.

Bioluminescence is abundant in the pelagic zone, with the most concentration at depths devoid of light and surface waters at night. These organisms participate in diurnal vertical migration from the dark depths to the surface at night, dispersing the population of bioluminescent organisms across the pelagic water column. The dispersal of bioluminescence across different depths in the pelagic zone has been attributed to the selection pressures imposed by predation and the lack of places to hide in the open sea. In depths where sunlight never penetrates, often below 200m, the significance of bioluminescent is evident in the retainment of functional eyes for organisms to detect bioluminescence.

Below runs a report Pittwater Online News ran last year, 2020, which shares some more insights into this local 'happening':

Sparkling dolphins swim off our coast, but humans are threatening these natural light shows

Dean CroppAuthor provided
Vanessa PirottaMacquarie University

It was 2 am on a humid summer’s night on Sydney’s coast. Something in the distance caught my eye – a pod of glowing dolphins darted towards the bow of the boat. I had never seen anything like it before. They were electric blue, trailing swaths of light as they rode the bow wave.

It was a stunning example of “bioluminescence”. The phenomenon is the result of a chemical reaction in billions of single-celled organisms called dinoflagellates congregating at the sea surface. These organisms are a type of phytoplankton – tiny microscopic organisms many sea creatures eat.

Read more: Framing the fearful symmetry of nature: the year's best photos of landscapes and living things

Dinoflagellates switch on their bioluminescence as a warning signal to predators, but it can also be triggered when they’re disturbed in the water – in this case, by the dolphins.

You can see marine bioluminescence from land in Australia. Places like Jervis Bay and Tasmania are renowned for such spectacles.

But this dazzling night-time show is under threat. Light pollution creates brighter nights and disrupts ecological rhythms along the coast, such as breeding and feeding patterns. With so much human activity close to the shore and at sea, how much longer can we continue to enjoy this natural light show?

Lighting Up The World Has An Ecological Price

Light pollution is a well-known problem for inland ecosystems, particularly for nocturnal species.

In fact, a global study published earlier this year identified light pollution as an extinction threat to land bioluminescent species. The study surveyed firefly experts, who considered artificial light to be the second greatest threat to fireflies after habitat destruction.

Artificial light is one of the biggest threats fireflies face. Shutterstock

At sea, artificial light pollution enters the marine environment temporarily (lights from ships and fishing activities) and permanently (coastal towns and offshore oil platforms). To make matters worse, light from cities can extend further offshore by scattering into the atmosphere and reflecting off clouds. This is known as artificial sky glow.

For organisms with circadian clocks (day-night sleep cycles), this loss of darkness can have damaging effects.

Bioluminescence in Sydney in the wake of the boat the author was on. Vanessa PirottaAuthor provided

For example it can disrupt animal metabolism, which can lead to weight gain. Artificial light can also change sea turtle nesting behaviour and can disorientate turtle hatchlings when trying to get to sea, lowering their chances of survival.

Read more: Lights out! Clownfish can only hatch in the dark – which light pollution is taking away

It can also disorientate the foraging of fish communities; alter predatory fish behaviour (such as in Yellowfin Bream and Leatherjacks) leading to increased predation in artificial light at night; cause reproductive failure in clownfish; and change the structural composition of marine invertebrate communities.

What are lights along the coast doing to bioluminescent species? Shutterstock

For zooplankton – a vital species for a range of bigger animals – artificial light disrupts their “diel vertical migration”. This term refers to the movement of zooplankton from the depths of the ocean where they spend the day to reduce fish predation, rising to the surface at night to feed.

What Does This Mean For Bioluminescent Species?

Increased exposure to artificial light due to human activities, such as growing cities and increased global shipping movement, may disrupt when and where bioluminescent species hang out.

In turn, this may influence where predators move, leading to disruptions in the marine food web, potentially changing the dynamics of energy transfer efficiency between marine species.

Bioluminescence draws tourists and photographers in Tasmania. Shutterstock

Bioluminescence usually serves as a communication function, such as to warn off predators, attract a mate or lure prey. For many species, light pollution in the ocean may compromise this biological communication strategy.

And for light-producing organisms such as dinoflagellates, excess artificial light may reduce the effectiveness of their bioluminescence because they won’t shine as bright, potentially increasing their risk of being eaten.

Have you read Julia Baird’s new book? It’s a great introduction to the science behind the ephemeral bioluminescence at sea. HarperCollins Australia

A 2016 study in the Arctic revealed the critical depth where atmospheric light dims to darkness, and bioluminescence from organisms becomes dominant, was approximately 30 metres below the sea surface.

This means any change to light in the Arctic influences when marine organisms rise to the surface. If there is too much light, these organisms remain deeper for longer where it’s safe – reducing their potential feeding time.

Read more: Bright city lights are keeping ocean predators awake and hungry

What Can We Do?

Understanding the level at which artificial light penetrates the ocean is tricky, especially so when dealing with mobile sources of light pollution such as ships, which are becoming an almost permanent fixture in some areas of the ocean.

Bioluminescence usually serves as a communication function, such as to warn off predators. Shutterstock

Pockets of darkness still remain in our oceans. But they are becoming rarer, making light pollution a serious global threat to marine life.

Read more: The glowing ghost mushroom looks like it comes from a fungal netherworld

The spectacle of glowing dolphins should serve as a timely reminder of our need to conserve the darkness we have left.

Simple steps at home such as switching off lights and reducing unnecessary outdoor lighting, especially if you live near the ocean, is a step in the right direction to doing your bit for nocturnal species.The Conversation

Vanessa Pirotta, Marine scientist and science communicator, Macquarie University

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

Careel Creek Birds: Aussie Backyard Bird Count 2021 Local Stats

Saturday afternoon, returning north after taking a few happy snaps was good to see a Dusky Moorhen, White-faced Heron and two lots of Pacific Black Ducks along the creek - which still smells putrid and looks rotten, but it was low tide. At least the jacaranda just past the high school is currently flowering, making it look nicer.

This is the first time in decades of walking beside the creek this bird-noticer has seen a Dusky Moorhen in the creek and it scuttled back under some nearby palm fronds on the western bank - possibly a nest may be under there - so please be careful not to scare this returnee to the creek if you're passing that way.

Did you know that our area is part of the ancient Pacific Black Duck songline? A recent Pittwater Online News article, Ellis Rowan's Adventures In Painting Birds, Flowers and Insects: 'This Meant That I Was Tapu - Sacred - Because I Painted The Birds', for Bird Week and the Aussie Backyard Bird Count inspirations shared as part of that an article, ‘Singing up Country’: reawakening the Black Duck Songline, across 300km in Australia’s southeast' by Robert S. Fuller, Western Sydney University; Graham Moore, Indigenous Knowledge, and Jodi Edwards, University of Sydney.

Almost 5 million birds were counted this year. In our area there were more counts submitted in some postcodes than 2020 while others were around the same, which may be reflected in the totals of birds counted overall. 

The local statistics by postcode are:

2108: Checklists submitted: 53, Species sighted: 60, Birds sighted: 1,365 

2107: Checklists submitted: 210, Species sighted: 76, Birds sighted: 5,320 

2106: Checklists submitted: 76, Species sighted: 46, Birds sighted: 1,650

2105: Checklists submitted: 23, Species sighted: 43,  Birds sighted: 565

2104: Checklists submitted: 38, Species sighted: 49, Birds sighted: 982

2103: Checklists submitted: 108, Species sighted: 56, Birds sighted: 2,970

2102: Checklists submitted: 64, Species sighted: 81, Birds sighted: 1,577

2101: Checklists submitted: 157, Species sighted: 106, Birds sighted: 2,844

2100: Checklists submitted: 171, Species sighted: 108, Birds sighted: 3,808 

2099: Checklists submitted: 252, Species sighted: 91, Birds sighted: 5,192 

2097: Checklists submitted: 79, Species sighted: 66, Birds sighted: 1,665

2096: Checklists submitted: 50, Species sighted: 51, Birds sighted: 1,077 

2095: Checklists submitted: 99, Species sighted: 64, Birds sighted: 3,445 

2094: Checklists submitted:, Species sighted: 27, Birds sighted: 470

2093: Checklists submitted: 101, Species sighted: 71, Birds sighted: 2,820 

2092: Checklists submitted: 28, Species sighted: 43, Birds sighted: 569

Last year's statistics for our area are available in: Over 5 Million Birds Counted: Aussie Bird Count 2020 - Local By Postcode Statistics For Our Area

That Dusky Moorhen and the others spotted:

Boaties Be Aware As Whale Season Winds Down

October 27, 2021
As the annual whale migration season winds down the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) reminds boaties to be aware of approach distances as humpbacks return to their summer feeding grounds in Antarctica.

Andy Marshall from NPWS said whale watchers have been delighted to see an estimated 35,000 whales swim past the coast this year.

"While it is the tail end of the migration season we are still seeing whales with calves up and down the coast," said Mr Marshall.

"Unfortunately, we are also seeing reports of boats and jet skis getting way too close.

"Approach distances are put in place to protect both the whale and the whale watchers who are hoping to catch a glimpse of these amazing animals.

"Boats and other motorised vessels must stay at least 100 metres from an adult whale and this increases up to 300 metres if a calf is present.

"Jet skis must stay at least 300 metres away regardless if a calf is present, and that's largely due to the fact they can make fast, erratic movements.

"There is a much higher chance of collision in these situations, that at the very least can be frightening and at worst can cause injury or damage.

"On the whole, people are doing the right thing which makes recent reports of regulation breaches even more concerning.

"Even if you are far enough away to avoid potential collision, your presence alone may cause the whale and their calf stress.

"Signs of stress or disturbance include regular changes in direction of swimming, hasty dives, changes in acoustic behaviour or aggressive behaviour such as tail splashing or trumpet blows.

"In particular, unmanned aerial vehicles such as drones must be at least 100 metres from the animal in all directions and must never approach the whale 'head-on'.

"At the end of the day we just want to make sure the whales and the whale watchers get home safe so they all come back next year as part of this extraordinary annual migration," Mr Marshall said.

For more information on marine mammal approach distances, visit the NPWS website. If you see a distressed, injured or entangled whale please immediately call NPWS on 13000 PARKS or ORRCA on 02 9415 3333.

Sydney Wildlife Mobile Care Unit:  Meet Pteri.

Pteri (short for Pteri-Dac-Tyl) is a galah chick and - as you can see - she already has an opinion on most things.  

As it so happens, having a loud opinion can sometimes save your life!  Tree loppers had been called in to remove the remains of a tree that came down during a recent storm.  As they were about to commence chain-sawing, Miss Pteri began to squawk!  She was quickly gathered up and collected by a Sydney Wildlife Rescue volunteer.

When chicks (baby birds) first hatch, they are generally featherless and are referred to as ‘hatchlings’.  As they grow and begin to develop “pin” feathers, they are known as ‘nestlings’.  When they begin learning to fly, they are called ‘fledglings’.  Pteri is still a nestling and requires a lot of hands-on care.

She was brought to the Mobile Care Unit for a check-up, following the traumatic start to her week.  Not only did she pass with flying colours, but she also registered 10/10 on our cute-o-meter!

Pteri’s lovely carer, Bronwyn, has promised to update us with photos as she grows and we will upload those for anyone who would like to keep track of her journey.
This is her one week later, and Miss Pteri is still as opinionated as she was last week.  Although now she is wiser 

Words: Lynleigh Greig  - Photos: Margaret Woods, B. Gould

Applications Open To Refresh The Face Of Fishing Environments

October 28, 2021

Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall has today opened applications for the Habitat Action Grants program, and encouraged passionate fishers to submit ideas to see local native fish habitats flourish.

“Fishers are obviously great at casting a line, and now I want them to cast out their ideas for the ever-popular Habitat Action Grants program,” Mr Marshall said.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for anglers – who know their local waterways better than anyone – to apply for funding to improve local fish habitats.

“Every year we receive truly unique and positive applications from community organisations who conduct practical on-ground rehabilitation works, and I expect 2021 to be no exception.

“Projects funded under the program include everything from managing stock access to waterways and revegetating these areas with native plants, to reintroducing lost woody habitat into rivers and estuaries for fish.

“The best thing about these grants is they are ideas conceived and led by local communities, both on the coast and inland.

“Even better is that fishos will be able to see their fishing licence fees being put to good use – this is their money being reinvested into projects in their local area.”

Habitat Action Grants is funded from the Recreational Fishing Trusts, where all funds raised by the NSW Recreational Fishing Fee is placed.

Mr Marshall encouraged recreational fishing groups, Landcare organisations, schools and local councils across the state to get their applications in before Friday, 10 December 2021 by visiting

“There are seven weeks for local anglers and their clubs to get involved in improving habitats and fishing opportunities by getting their applications in,” Mr Marshall said.

Since 2008, the Recreational Fishing Trusts have invested more than $7.5 million into the Habitat Action Grants program throughout NSW. To find out more visit

Tuckeroo Becoming Troublesome In Pittwater

Tuckeroos, now a weed in the area, with hundreds of seedlings being seen in bushland, the dunes, will displace everything else if we don't pull up seedlings. Indian/Common Mynas feeding on these in Mona Vale and flying off to feed their offspring in recent weeks, mean more may appear.

Planting tuckeroos as a safe street tree started about 15 years ago by Council landscape architects, oblivious to the warnings they would become a weed by Natural Environment staff. Although they are a native plant, they are not native to Pittwater, as they were never seen in 1991, when some bush regeneration sites commenced. 

The fruit is an orange to yellow capsule with three lobes. There is a glossy dark brown seed inside each lobe. The seeds are covered in a bright orange aril. Fruit ripens from October to December, attracting many birds including Australasian figbird, olive-backed oriole and pied currawong. 

Image per Wikipedia

If you see seedlings sprouting, please pull them out so we can maintain the diversity of other plant species and the wildlife that needs these.

Avalon Preservation Association AGM 2021

Speaker: Angus Gordon OAM
“Global warming, is it real?”
The 2021 Annual General Meeting for Avalon Preservation Association (APA) will be held from 7.00pm on Thursday 11 November 2021 at the Avalon Beach surf life saving club.
Our special guest speaker is Angus Gordon OAM. Angus will talk on the controversial and very timely topic “Global Warming, Is it Real?”

Angus was General Manager of Pittwater Council from 1996 to 2005. He has a Master’s degree in Water and Coastal Engineering. In 2018 Angus received the Medal of the Order of Australia for “service to environmental management and planning, and to the community”.

Over the past 40 years he has undertaken projects in all states of Australia and in a number of overseas countries in coastal engineering, coastal zone management and flood management and engineering. Angus has served as a UN expert and was tasked with the development of the NSW Coastal Protection Act.

Angus Gordon OAM. AJG pic.

Due to the current health situation, APA will hold the AGM strictly in line with the NSW Public Health Orders in force at the time. This may restrict the number of members and guests able to attend and guests may need to check in with a QR code, wear facemasks and show that they have been fully vaccinated.

Avalon Preservation Association
PO Box 1 Avalon Beach 2107

November 2021 Forum For Friends Of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment: Fishing Bats And Water Rats (Rakali)

7pm Monday November 29, 2021 by Zoom
Brad Law, Geoff Williams and Yianni Mentis

Dr Brad Law and Dr Geoff Williams will tell us about the behaviours and environmental requirements of two fascinating species of aquatic mammals - Fishing Bats and Water Rats (Rakali) - that forage in, on and near Narrabeen Lagoon. Yianni Mentis will explain how Northern Beaches Council is working to protect the environment, especially the water quality, needed by these aquatic creatures.

Dr Brad Law is a Principal Research Scientist at the Forest Science Unit of the Department of Primary Industries
Dr Geoff Williams is the Director of the Australian Platypus Conservancy
Yianni Mentis is Executive Manager or Environment and Climate Change at Northern Beaches Council.

We hope that members of the local community will start to look for Fishing Bats and Water Rats (Rakali) AUSTRALIA’S NATIVE “OTTER” in and around Narrabeen Lagoon and report all reliable sightings for entry into the Atlas of Living Australia.
Bookings via the website are essential:

Migratory Bird Season

A reminder that many of the birds that migrate to our area are arriving exhausted from having flown thousands of miles to be here. Please keep yourselves and your pets away from these shores during these months. They need their rest.

Baby Wildlife Season

Sydney Wildlife volunteer carers are reminding residents that it's baby season in the wildlife world. 
If you find a Joey on its own, it needs help. A sub-adult may be ok, but a Joey is not. If you find one, please try to contain it and keep it safe from predators and exposure and call either Sydney Wildlife (Sydney Metropolitan Wildlife Services) or WIRES. If you find a dead possum (ringtail or brushtail), check the pouch for a Joey. Brushtails generally have one but ringtails will have 2, sometimes three. If you are unable to, that’s ok, but please call it in to a wildlife organisation so someone can attend to it. 
Sydney Wildlife Rescue - 02 9413 4300
WIRES - 1300 094 737

Harry the ringtail possum.  Sydney Wildlife photo

Sweet Release For Critically Endangered Regent Honeyeaters

October 28, 2021
58 endangered regent honeyeaters have been released into the wild on Wonnarua Country within the Kurri Kurri and Cessnock Woodlands north of Sydney.
This tiny, exquisitely patterned bird is one of Australia's most threatened birds and has been the focus of conservation work after the number of regent honeyeaters in the wild fell critically low.

"The released birds are part of a breeding program with Taronga Conservation Society Australia, BirdLife Australia and the Government's Saving our Species program, so we can boost the very low wild population of regent honeyeaters," said Sharon Molloy, Executive Director, Biodiversity and Conservation, Department of Planning, Industry and the Environment (DPIE).

"Taronga Zoo, Sydney, and Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo, have bred almost 600 honeyeaters and since 2000, 315 have been released at sites in north-east Victoria and New South Wales."

This release is even more significant because of the connection with Mindaribba Local Aboriginal Land Council, who have made their land available for the birds' release.

"We know the land; nectar trees and surrounding habitat needs to be just right to release the birds and to ensure they have feed and shelter trees, but it is the deep connection that First Nations People have with this land and with regent honeyeaters as a species, that is something truly special and that I know will help these birds as they take flight," said Ms Molloy.

"It is the cultural connection as much as the land and ecological connection that gives us hope and optimism for this species."

Like our threatened species experts, the Mindaribba Community have recently learnt that regent honeyeaters have been losing their ability to sing and call which is vital to attract a mate in the wild.

"What is special about this release site and the partnership with Mindaribba is the work being done with the honeyeaters and their song culture runs almost parallel to the reawakening of Wonnarua language by respected Wonnarua Elder Aunty Sharon Edgar-Jones," said Tara Dever, CEO of Mindaribba Local Aboriginal Land Council.

"In helping the birds find their song and People using Wonnarua language once more, the voice of the sacred Country we are standing on can again be truly understood."

The Saving our Species program and BirdLife Australia will coordinate monitoring of the birds, collecting data on their movements in the surrounding bushland including Mindaribba land, Werakata National Park and nearby private properties.

Landholders in the Hunter region will also be encouraged to report any sightings of the regent honeyeaters to BirdLife Australia on 1800 621 056 or

For more information on the conservation work to save regent honeyeaters through Saving our Species visit: Saving our Species program.

Photo: Jss367

Big Boost To National Parks In Western NSW

October 26, 2021
The NSW Government is massively expanding the NSW national park estate with the purchase of two properties, Avenel/Mount Westwood station near Broken Hill and Koonaburra station near Ivanhoe, which will add a combined 166,924 hectares.

Environment Minister, Matt Kean said these 2 purchases take the total additions to the national park estate to 520,000 hectares since August 2019.

"In just over 2 years we have added over half a million hectares to our park estate, smashing target after target and securing precious habitat and biodiversity for future generations," Mr Kean said.

"This latest expansion will conserve significant areas of critically important habitat types in western NSW that are not currently protected in the park estate."

Both properties are significant in size, with the 121,390 hectare Avenel/Mount Westwood Station the second largest purchase by NPWS in the state's history.

Avenel/Mount Westwood Station, a remote and ecologically diverse landscape on the South Australian border, features spectacular dune fields of the Strzelecki desert transitioning to the rocky plateau of the Barrier Range, with a network of river red gum and coolabah fringed rivers, creeks and watercourses. The property also supports habitat for an estimated 30 threatened plant and animal species including the Australian bustard and the dusky hopping mouse.

NPWS/OEH Dept. Of Environment photo

Koonaburra station, will add a further 45,534 hectares including an extensive area of sandplain and dune field country featuring a vast network of water depressions ("melon holes") providing important water sources for many species. It also supports habitat for at least 20 threatened animal species including the Major Mitchell cockatoo, Mallee fowl and the fat-tailed dunnart.

NPWS is currently delivering the biggest investment in visitor infrastructure in national park history and this program will be extended to both Avenel and Koonaburra, ensuring both properties become "must see destinations" for the millions who visit our national parks every year.

Key facts
  • Once formally gazetted, Avenel, Koonaburra and other recently acquired properties will take the total addition to the national park estate to over 520,000 Hectares since 2019.
  • This is an increase of almost 7.5% in the park estate in a little over 2 years.
  • NPWS is currently delivering the biggest investment in visitor infrastructure in national park history and this program will be extended to Avenel and Koonaburra.
Avenel/Mount Westwood Station
  • At 121,390 hectares, Avenel is the second largest acquisition of land for a national park in NPWS history, after Narriearra that created Narriearra Caryapundy Swamp National Park.
  • Avenel is special because it:
  • straddles two bioregions – the Simpson Strzelecki Dune fields and the Broken Hill Complex
  • protects three landscapes that are not protected in any other national park in the State and several other landscapes that are poorly reserved
  • is diverse, protecting nearly 50 different ecosystems or plant community types – 21 of which are not reserved at the bioregional level.
  • The property features an array of arid zone landforms transitioning from the rocky plateau of the Barrier Range – with floodplains, gilgais and drainage lines washing onto gibber plains – through to the spectacular dune fields of the Strzelecki Desert.
  • Vegetation includes acacia and chenopod shrublands on the rocky ranges, Mitchell grass grasslands on the outwash plains, open woodlands dominated by white cypress pine and belah (a casuarina) across the dune fields and an extensive network of drainage channels that support riparian woodlands dominated by river red gum and coolabah.
  • Habitat for an estimated 30 threatened species are likely to occur on the property including Australian bustard, dusky hopping-mouse, eastern fat-tailed gecko and yellow-keeled swainsona, a small forb with pea-like flowers.
  • Lying on Ngurunta country to the west and the Maljangapa country to the east, the property has significant Aboriginal cultural heritage value, with significant artefacts and sites across the property including middens, quarries and burial sites.
  • Avenel is set to become an exciting new visitor destination with campgrounds, 4WD circuits and walking trails. It is expected to open to the public in mid-2022.
Koonaburra Station
  • At 45,534 hectares, Koonaburra Station contains ecosystems unrepresented, or poorly protected in the national park system, as well as threatened ecological communities and species.
  • It contains two threatened ecological communities: acacia melvillei shrubland in the Riverina and Murray-Darling Depression bioregions (endangered) which is distributed over the southern section of the property and Sandhill Pine Woodland in the Riverina, Murray-Darling Depression and NSW South Western Slopes Bioregions (endangered) which occurs extensively across the northern portion of the property.
  • A comprehensive enhanced feral animal management program will be implemented across the Park, including upgraded, fit-for-purpose fencing infrastructure. This will assist in the regeneration of native vegetation and sequester significant volumes of carbon.
  • The station is situated on The Wool Track, 100 kilometres north east of Ivanhoe and 140 kilometres south west of Cobar.
  • The soils are a mixture of loam, light to heavy red clay, grey soil from light to heavy, self-mulching flats interspersed with millions of water depressions called crab or melon holes.
  • Boasting 355mm rainfall, Koonaburra has dual frontage to over 20 kilometres of the Sandy Creek. The entire station is watered by massive flood out systems – a dozen lakes, box cowls and meandering waterways.
  • Koonaburra Station once formed part of the giant pastoral lease Keewong Station established in the early 1800s which ran Merino sheep.
  • Paroo Darling National Park is located approximately 50 kilometres to the north west, and Yathong Nature Reserve approximately 55 kilometres to the south-east.
  • It features some of the holding's original buildings including the shearing shed, the original standalone and renovated meat house and the old harness and buggy shed.
NPWS/OEH Dept. Of Environment photo

NSW To Lead The Way On Net Zero Buildings

October 28, 2021
More than $4.8 million will be invested in speeding up the transformation of the State's built environment towards net zero emissions, as part of the NSW Government's Net Zero Buildings initiative.
Energy and Environment Minister Matt Kean said decarbonising our built environment is a big challenge but there are also big opportunities.

"Decarbonising our homes and offices means both building them with low emissions construction materials and powering them with renewables," Mr Kean said.

"Embodied carbon – which is the carbon emissions created when we make construction materials like aluminium, concrete and steel – is expected to become the largest source of emissions in the building sector in the coming years.

"That's why we are developing a world-leading framework to measure and certify embodied carbon for new buildings.

"This program will boost transparency around building sustainability for investors, building owners and tenants and help to create consumer-led demand for low-carbon construction materials."

The framework will be designed to be available nationally, developed in partnership with other governments and industry groups, and be delivered as part of the NABERS program.

"The NSW building and construction industry are already global leaders in building sustainability, with businesses participating in NABERS reducing carbon emissions at one of the fastest rates in the world, slashing energy use by an average of 33% since 2010," Mr Kean said.

"This is about taking sustainability up a notch, and pulling a powerful lever to reduce emissions in the built environment and reduce emissions from the buildings we live, work and play in."

The framework will initially be rolled-out to commercial buildings including offices, hotels, shopping centres and warehouses, with a view to expand to residential buildings in the future.

For more information visit: NABERS

New RAA Board Members Appointed To Deliver For Rural NSW

October 29, 2021

Outstanding skills and experience together with valuable industry knowledge and fresh ideas are part and parcel of the benefits brought to the NSW Rural Assistance Authority (RAA) by their newly appointed advisory board members.

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Deputy Director General - Infrastructure, Investment & Business Development Brett Fifield said the appointment of a new Chair and Director comes at an exciting time for the RAA.

“As NSW fights to recover from years of severe drought, catastrophic bushfires, ongoing impacts of COVID-19, widespread floods and a mouse plague, the role of the RAA in supporting regional communities is as important as ever,” said Mr Fifield.

“I am pleased to announce the appointment of a new Chair and a new Director to the RAA board, to support the RAA in continuing to deliver vital initiatives for primary producers across the State.

“Their skills and experience complement those of existing members to strengthen the Authority’s strategic oversight and corporate governance capabilities,” said Mr Fifield.

The new independent committee members are:
  • Chair: Mr Andrew Rice, a mixed farming operator from Parkes, and Director of Agricultural and Management Services at ASPIRE Agri, as well as non-executive director and chairperson of the not-for-profit company Field Applied Research Australia Pty Ltd, and non-executive director, Central West Local Land Services.
  • Director: Ms Joanna Balcomb, a mixed farming operator from Cudal, and Chief Risk Officer for First Choice Credit Union in Orange, with experience as an independent RAA appeals panel member for both bushfires and floods.
“I’d like to thank the outgoing board members for their service to the RAA, offering strength and stability throughout times of hardship, and for the valuable contribution to supporting agriculture in NSW,” Mr Fifield said.

For more information visit the RAA website:

Greater Sydney Water Strategy Open For Feedback

The NSW Government has launched the draft Greater Sydney Water Strategy, an unprecedented 20-year roadmap to providing a safe, secure and sustainable water supply for Sydney, the Illawarra and the Blue Mountains.

Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey said the Strategy, now on public exhibition, will guide water management to 2040 to support economic growth, meet the needs of the growing population and prepare for our changing climate.

“A secure water supply is vital and this plan ensures we are able to support economic growth as we recover from the pandemic and set the foundations for the future,” Mrs Pavey said.

"We need to plan now for how our growing city and region will use water wisely as Sydney’s population is set to grow to 7.1 million by 2041.

“During the most recent drought, our dam levels depleted faster than we’ve experienced since records began – at a rate of 20 per cent per year.

“Thankfully our dams are now full, but we need to act decisively to secure sustainable water for the long-term – by exploring options for new water sources not dependent on rainfall, by conserving more, and by doing more with less.”

Options for consultation in the draft Strategy include:
  • Improving water recycling, leakage management and water efficiency programs, which could result in water savings of up to 49 gigalitres a year by 2040.
  • Extending a water savings program, which has been piloted in over 1000 households and delivered around 20 per cent reduction in water use per household and almost $190 in savings per year for household water bills.
  • Consideration of running the Sydney Desalination Plant full-time to add an extra 20 gigalitres of water per year.
  • Expanding or building new desalination plants to be less dependent on rainfall.
  • Investigating innovations in recycled water to improve sustainability.
  • Making greater use of stormwater and recycled water to cool and green the city and support recreational activities.
The draft Strategy also proposes improvements to the decision making process for water restrictions to better reflect prevailing conditions and forecasting.

“Instead of having inflexible trigger points, decision makers will use a new holistic approach to consider things like rainfall events, inflows to dams and dam depletion rates, water demand and weather forecasts,” Mrs Pavey said.

“The draft Greater Sydney Water Strategy is a critical part of the NSW Government’s plan to grow the NSW economy and I encourage the community and industry to have their say.”

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment will hold public webinars and information sessions during September and October.

The draft Greater Sydney Water Strategy will be on display until November 8, 2021. To read the Strategy and provide feedback visit

Sydney Desalination Plant May 2021. Photo: Catherine Parker (WaterCommsDPIE)

Warragamba Dam Raising Project EIS On Public Exhibition

The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Warragamba Dam Raising Project for flood mitigation is on public exhibition from the 29th of September 2021, for a period of 45 days closing on the 12th of November 2021, during which public submissions will be received.

In May 2017, the NSW Government released the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley Flood Risk Management Strategy – ‘Resilient Valley, Resilient Communities.’  

The strategy is designed specifically for the valley as the most flood-prone region in NSW, if not Australia. It is a long-term plan to minimise significant risks to life and livelihoods; damage to urban and rural property; and, the major dislocation of economic activity from rapid, deep flooding.

It is the framework for the government, councils, businesses and communities to work together to reduce and manage flood risk in the valley.

The strategy recommends that raising Warragamba Dam to create a flood mitigation zone of around 14 metres is the best option to reduce the risks to life, property and community assets posed by floodwaters from the extensive Warragamba River catchment.

While a range of other infrastructure and non-infrastructure outcomes are included in the strategy and must be part of the solution for managing ongoing risk, no other mitigation measures can achieve the same risk reduction as the Warragamba Dam Raising Proposal.

WaterNSW, as owner and operator of the dam, is consulting widely about the effects and benefits of the proposal to inform the environmental assessment, concept design and, subject to all planning approvals, a business case to assist decision-making in 2022 about whether to proceed with these major flood mitigation works.

Visit the project portal and virtual engagement room to review the EIS document, interact with explanatory material, make submissions and register to attend webinars.

Warragamba Dam, NSW. Photo: Maksym Kozlenko

NSW Government Plan To Revitalise Peat Island And Mooney Mooney Released

The NSW Government’s proposal to breathe new life into old assets and open Peat Island to the public, while also revitalising Mooney Mooney with new housing, community facilities and job opportunities, has been released.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Central Coast and Member for Terrigal Adam Crouch said the rezoning proposal is now open for public exhibition on Central Coast Council’s website.

“For over a century Peat Island has been closed off to the public and the NSW Government is working to unlock this under-utilised publicly-owned land in this stunning Hawkesbury River setting,” Mr Crouch said.

Key features of the proposal include:
  • Nearly 270 new homes at Mooney Mooney to deliver more housing supply,
  • Retention of nine unlisted historical buildings on the island, and four on the mainland, to be restored and used for new community and commercial opportunities,
  • New retail and café or restaurant opportunities,
  • Approximately 9.65 hectares of open space, including opportunities for walking and cycling tracks, parklands and recreational facilities,
  • Retention of the chapel and surrounding land for community use, and
  • 10.4 hectares of bushland dedicated as a conservation area.
“The NSW Government has been consulting widely, culminating in this rezoning proposal that strikes a balance between future land uses and achieving the best social and economic outcomes for the Mooney Mooney community.”

Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey said the proposal will provide more than two kilometres of public access to the Hawkesbury River foreshore and Peat Island, opening it up for the first time in 100 years, as well as the opportunity for tourism uses including short-stay tourist accommodation.

“This is an area of great significance to the region, local and Aboriginal communities, and many other stakeholders, including those with links to Peat Island’s institutional past,” Mrs Pavey said.

“Any future uses will recognise and protect the site’s significant Aboriginal and European heritage.”

To ensure everyone has an opportunity to understand the NSW Government’s vision for Peat Island and Mooney Mooney, community information webinars will be held over coming weeks. Details will be available shortly.

Mrs Pavey said in parallel to the broader community engagement on the proposal, the NSW Government would continue to work with the Peat Island/Mooney Mooney Community Reference Group on the future of the area’s community facilities and public spaces.

“At the heart of this will be how the Peat Island chapel precinct at Mooney Mooney can be retained by the community and put to its best possible use,” Mrs Pavey said.

The rezoning proposal will also remain open to feedback from the public until Monday, 20 December 2021.

Grattan on Friday: The weather gets choppy with Joyce and Morrison’s climate contradictions

Michelle GrattanUniversity of Canberra

In the press gallery at Parliament House, there’s a bell that years ago was rung regularly to alert journalists to press conferences and statements. Email has made it an anachronism.

But shortly before 8am on Thursday Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce appeared in the gallery, looking rather agitated, and personally rang the bell.

Joyce was there to lay an ownership claim to the exclusion of a methane reduction pledge from the 2050 net-zero climate plan Scott Morrison announced on Tuesday. “One of the key reasons that the Nationals went in to bat has become so clearly evident today,” Joyce declared.

This followed a report in The Australian, briefed by the office of Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor, rejecting the United States push for a 30% reduction by 2030 of methane emissions (produced by cows burping, gas extraction, and the like).

Taylor apparently had been onto the methane exclusion issue for some time. Later on Thursday Morrison said the government never had any intention of agreeing to the reduction. He also rejected Joyce’s confusing claim there was an agriculture carve out from the climate plan.

Who gets political “branding rights” on the treatment of methane was just the latest pinch point in the fallout from Tuesday’s announcement.

Much doubt has been created by the government’s failure to release the plan’s modelling, which Morrison says will be out in a few weeks – that is, after COP26 is well and truly behind him.

Read more: Morrison's climate plan has 35% 2030 emissions reduction 'projection' but modelling underpinning 2050 target yet to be released

An industry department official told a Senate estimates committee the material was being put into digestible shape.

“As the plan was only finalised on Tuesday, we need to make sure we have written that technical work up. The actual modelling, of course, had been finalised at that point.

"But the write-up of that – we just need to take a little bit of extra time to make sure that it’s written clearly and able to be presented well to the Australian public,” Jo Evans, a deputy secretary in the department, said.

Meanwhile most of the trade-offs the Nationals have received for their reluctant support continue to remain a mystery.

Joyce, who became acting prime minister after Morrison departed on Thursday night for the G20 in Rome followed by COP26 in Glasgow, is likely to announce certain measures while he’s in the spotlight.

But others are to be in the budget update at the end of the year, presented as election commitments, or in next year’s budget if that occurs before the election.

Some of these unknown measures still have to be brought forward as cabinet submissions and go through the formal bureaucratic hoops, including being costed.

That shows how unsatisfactory the process has been – the government had months to deal with net-zero, settling things with the minor Coalition partner and finalising the trade-offs.

More importantly from the Nationals’ standpoint, they’re left exposed as they return to their electorates now parliament has risen for a three-week break. When they meet their constituents, they are not able to produce the suite of benefits they obtained in return for their policy sign-up.

Read more: View from The Hill: Morrison's net-zero plan is built more on politics than detailed policy

For Morrison the 2050 policy is an attempted barnacle-removing process, for both the Glasgow conference and the election. The Nationals, in contrast, see it adding to their barnacles.

The rejection of the requested methane cuts is another indication of the general weakness of the Australian plan. For all the struggle to land it, the plan is a bare minimum and will be seen as such in Glasgow.

Domestically, given the flaws and inadequacies, the plan is not likely to win votes for the government; rather, it is designed to stem the loss of them to Labor and independents in the “leafy” southern seats.

We’ve yet to see Labor’s alternative but one would think independent candidates will still have plenty of scope to stake out ground on the climate issue.

Earlier this week Morrison made some comments that set off speculation he planned a May poll, as opposed to a March-April one.

A May election would give the time for another budget, with the opportunities that brought.

Whether the election is in May or March, Morrison is already in campaign mode.

In this week’s Newspoll, the government is on the back foot, trailing 46-54% on the two-party vote. Regardless, both sides regard the battle as open.

Despite the election being so near, Labor hasn’t broken out of a trot. Albanese’s strategy is to leave the attention on the government and, more generally, to keep Labor a small target in policy terms. On the logic of its wider approach Labor could be expected to be cautious in the policy it issues on climate change, although it is still debating its position, expected to be released before Christmas.

Read more: With Labor gaining in polls, is too much Barnaby Joyce hurting the Coalition?

Albanese has been heavily influenced, negatively, by his predecessor Bill Shorten’s approach before the 2019 election, when Labor put forward an extensive and radical bag of policies.

The big target approach was seen to have scared off voters. Whether the small target will encourage people to vote Labor is hard to judge. The danger for the opposition is that, in the absence of a leader who is a drawcard, many people might be inclined to stick with the status quo.

Without the prospect of much substantive and highly differentiated policy being contested, the seat-by-seat campaigning will be especially significant at this election. Voters think local to a greater extent than they used to.

On Thursday the government introduced controversial legislation to require voters to produce ID at the polling booth. Labor and some in the welfare sector warn this will discourage the disadvantaged, including Indigenous people, from voting. The government says there would be plenty of protections – a range of identification could be used, including a Medicare card, and a person without identification would be allowed to cast a vote, with his or her identity checked later.

Given the widespread demand for identification for all sorts of things in our community, the requirement for ID when voting is not unreasonable. But it seems a solution in search of a problem, because voter fraud hasn’t been a feature of federal elections.

And it reflects distorted priorities that this legislation has been introduced before we see the bill for the long-awaited national integrity commission.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

The ‘97% climate consensus’ is over. Now it’s well above 99% (and the evidence is even stronger than that)

Martin Meissner/AP
Steve TurtonCQUniversity Australia

Despite the overwhelming evidence, it’s still common to see politicians, media commentators or social media users cast doubt on the role of humans in driving climate change.

But this denialism is now almost nonexistent among climate scientists, as a study released this month confirms. US researchers examined the peer-reviewed literature and found more than 99% of climate scientists now endorse the evidence for human-induced climate change.

That’s even higher than the 97% reported by an influential 2013 study, which has become a widely cited statistic by both climate change deniers and those who accept the evidence.

Why has the needle evidently shifted even more firmly in favour of the evidence-based consensus? Or, to put it another way, what happened to the 3% of researchers who rejected the consensus of human caused climate change? Is this change purely because of the growing weight of evidence published over the past few years?

Unpicking The Polls

We must first ask whether the two studies are directly comparable. The answer is yes. The latest study has reexamined the literature published since 2012, and is based on the same methods as the 2013 study, albeit with some important refinements.

Read more: Consensus confirmed: over 90% of climate scientists believe we're causing global warming

Both studies searched the Web of Science database – an independent worldwide repository of scientific paper citations – using the keywords “global climate change” and “global warming”. However, the recent study added “climate change” to the other two keyword searches, because the authors found that most climate-contrarian papers would not have been returned with only the two original terms.

The 2013 study examined 11,944 climate research papers and found almost one-third of them expressed a position on the cause of global warming. Of these 4,014 papers, 97% endorsed the consensus position that humans are the cause, 1% were uncertain, and 2% explicitly rejected it.

2015 review examined 38 climate-contrarian papers published over the preceding decade, and identified a range of methodological flaws and sources of bias.

One of the reviewers commented that “every single one of those analyses had an error – in their assumptions, methodology, or analysis – that, when corrected, brought their results into line with the scientific consensus”.

For example, many of the contrarian papers had “cherrypicked” results that supported their conclusion, while ignoring important context and other data sources that contradicted it. Some of them simply ignored fundamental physics.

The 2015 reviewers also made the important point that “science is never settled and that both mainstream and contrarian papers must be subjected to sustained scrutiny”. This is the cornerstone of the scientific method, and few if any climate scientists would disagree with this statement.

Separating The Human Influence From The Natural

The recently published Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) Synthesis Report, says “it is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land”, and warns that the Paris Agreement goals of 1.5℃ and 2℃ above pre-industrial levels will be exceeded during this century without dramatic emissions reductions.

In reaching this conclusion, it is important to distinguish between changes caused by human activities altering the atmosphere’s chemistry, and climate variability caused by natural factors.

These natural variations include small changes in the Sun’s energy output due to sunspots and solar flares, infrequent volcanic eruptions, and the effects of El Niño weather patterns in the Pacific Ocean.

Graphs of global temperatures
History of global temperature change and causes of recent warming. IPCC

Excluding these natural variations, Earth’s surface temperature was generally stable from about 2,000 to 1,000 years ago. After that, the planet cooled by about 0.3℃ over several centuries, before the advent of fossil fuel-based industrialisation in the 1800s.

One study identified 12 major volcanic eruptions from 100 to 1200 CE, compared with 17 eruptions from 1200 to 1900 CE. Hence, heightened volcanic activity over roughly the past 800 years was associated with a general global cooling before the industrial revolution.

Current rates of global warming are unprecedented in more than 2,000 years and temperatures now exceed the warmest (multi-century) period in more than 100,000 years. Global average surface temperature for the decade from 2011-20 was about 1.1℃ higher than in 1850-1900. Each of the past four decades has been warmer than any preceding decade since 1850, when reliable weather observations began.

Read more: 99.999% certainty humans are driving global warming: new study

Researchers can separate human and natural factors in the modern global temperature record. This involves a process called hindcasting, in which a climate model is run backwards in time to simulate human and natural factors, and then compared with the observed data to see which combination of factors most accurately recreates the real world.

If human factors are removed from the data set and only volcanic and solar factors are included, then global average surface temperatures since 1950 should have remained similar to those over the preceding 100 years. But of course they haven’t.

The evidence, and the scientific consensus on it, are both clearer than ever.The Conversation

Steve Turton, Adjunct Professor of Environmental Geography, CQUniversity Australia

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

Drying land and heating seas: why nature in Australia’s southwest is on the climate frontline

SuppliedAuthor provided
Jatin KalaMurdoch UniversityBelinda RobsonMurdoch UniversityJoe FontaineMurdoch UniversityStephen BeattyMurdoch University, and Thomas WernbergThe University of Western Australia

In a few days world leaders will descend on Glasgow for the United Nations climate change talks. Much depends on it. We know climate change is already happening, and nowhere is the damage more stark than in Australia’s southwest.

The southwest of Western Australia has been identified as a global drying hotspot. Since 1970, winter rainfall has declined up to 20%, river flows have plummeted and heatwaves spanning water and land have intensified.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns this will continue as emissions rise and the climate warms.

Discussion of Australian ecosystems vulnerable to climate change often focuses on the Great Barrier Reef, as well as our rainforests and alpine regions. But for southwest Western Australia, climate change is also an existential threat.

The region’s wildlife and plants are so distinctive and important, it was listed as Australia’s first global biodiversity hotspot. Species include thousands of endemic plant species and animals such as the quokka, numbat and honey possum. Most freshwater species and around 80% of marine species, including 24 shark species, live nowhere else on Earth.

They evolved in isolation over millions of years, walled off from the rest of Australia by desert. But climate heating means this remarkable biological richness is now imperilled – a threat that will only increase unless the world takes action.

Read more: Australia's south west: a hotspot for wildlife and plants that deserves World Heritage status

Banksia in flower
Hooker’s Banksia is an iconic West Australian species. Dr Joe FontaineAuthor provided

Hotter And Drier

Southwest WA runs roughly from Kalbarri to Esperance, and is known for its Mediterranean climate with very hot and dry summers and most rainfall in winter.

But every decade since the 1970s, the region’s summertime maximum temperatures have risen 0.1-0.3℃, and winter rainfall has fallen 10-20 millimetres.

Decadal trends in winter precipitation. Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

And remarkably, a 1℃ increase in the average global temperature over the last century has already more than doubled the days over 40℃ in Perth.

Graph showing temperatures over 40 degrees at Perth Airport
Cumulative number of days over 40° at Perth Airport over 30-year periods between 1910-1939 (historic) and 1989-2018 (current). Author provided

This trend is set to continue. Almost all climate models project a further drop in winter rainfall of up to 30% across most of the southwest by 2100, under a high emissions scenario.

The southwest already has very hot days in summer, thanks to heat brought from the desert’s easterly winds. As climate change worsens, these winds are projected to get more intense, bringing still more heat.

Drying Threatens Wildlife, Wine And Wheat

Annual rainfall in the southwest has fallen by a fifth since 1970. That might not sound dangerous, but the drop means river flows have already fallen by an alarming 70%.

It means many rivers and lakes now dry out through summer and autumn, causing major problems for freshwater biodiversity. For example, the number of invertebrate species in 17 lakes in WA’s wheatbelt fell from over 300 to just over 100 between 1998 and 2011.

The loss of water has even killed off common river invertebrates, such as the endemic Western Darner dragonfly, with most now found only in the last few streams that flow year round. The drying also makes it very hard for animals and birds to find water.

Most native freshwater fish in the southwest are now officially considered “threatened”. As river flow falls to a trickle, fish can no longer migrate to spawn, and it’s only a short march from there to extinction. To protect remaining freshwater species we must develop perennial water refuges in places such as farm dams.

Freshwater crayfish - marron - moving through fresh water
Smooth Marron moving as a group in a reservoir. Dr Stephen BeattyAuthor provided

The story on land is also alarming, with intensifying heatwaves and chronic drought. This was particularly dire in 2010/2011, when all ecosystems in the southwest suffered from a deadly drought and heatwave combination.

What does that look like on the ground? Think beetle swarms taking advantage of forest dieback, a sudden die off of endangered Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos, and the deaths of one in five shrubs and trees. Long term, the flowering rates of banksias have declined by 50%, which threatens their survival as well as the honey industry.

For agriculture, the picture is mixed. Aided by innovation and better varieties, wheat yields in the southwest have actually increased since the 1970s, despite the drop in rainfall.

Read more: Saving water in a drying climate: lessons from south-west Australia

But how long can farmers stay ahead of the drying? If global emissions aren’t drastically reduced, droughts in the region will keep getting worse.

Increased heating and drying will also likely threaten Margaret River’s famed wine region, although the state’s northern wine regions will be the first at risk.

Hotter Seas, Destructive Marine Heatwaves

The seas around the southwest are another climate change hotspot, warming faster than 90% of the global ocean since the middle of last century. Ocean temperatures off Perth have risen by an average of 0.1-0.3℃ per decade, and are now almost 1℃ warmer than 40 years ago.

The waters off the southwest are part of the Great Southern Reef, a temperate marine biodiversity hotspot. Many species of seaweeds, seagrasses, invertebrates, reef fish, seabirds and mammals live nowhere else on the planet.

As the waters warm, species move south. Warm-water species move in and cool-water species flee to escape the heat. Once cool-water species reach the southern coast, there’s nowhere colder to go. They can’t survive in the deep sea, and are at risk of going extinct.

Marine heatwave map
Temperature anomalies over land and ocean in March 2011. Scientific ReportsAuthor provided

Marine heatwaves are now striking alongside this long-term warming trend. In 2011, a combination of weak winds, water absorbing the local heat from the air, and an unusually strong flow of the warm Leeuwin Current led to the infamous marine heatwave known as Ningaloo Nino.

Over eight weeks, ocean temperatures soared by more than 5℃ above the long-term maximum. Coral bleached in the state’s north, fish died en masse, 34% of seagrass died in Shark Bay, and kelp forests along 100km of WA’s coast were wiped out.

Following the heatwave came sudden distribution changes for species like sharks, turtles and many reef fish. Little penguins starved to death because their usual food sources were no longer there.

Recreational and commercial fisheries were forced to close to protect ailing stocks. Some of these fisheries have not recovered 10 years later, while others are only now reopening.

This is just the start. Projections suggest the southwest could be in a permanent state of marine heatwave within 20-40 years, compared to the second half of the 20th century.

Comparative pictures of a kelp forest before and after a heatwave
Reef in Kalbarri before (left) and after (right) the 2011 Ningaloo Nino. Dense kelp covered reefs before the heatwave. Afterwards, kelp died and the reefs were covered by sediment and turf algae. Professor Thomas WernbergAuthor provided

Read more: How much do marine heatwaves cost? The economic losses amount to billions and billions of dollars

Adaptation Has Limits

Nature in the southwest cannot adapt to these rapid changes. The only way to stem the damage to nature and humans is to stop greenhouse gas emissions.

Australia must take responsibility for its emissions and show ambition beyond the weak promise of net-zero by 2050, and commit to real 2030 targets consistent with the Paris climate treaty.

Otherwise, we will witness the collapse of one of Australia’s biological treasures in real time.The Conversation

Jatin Kala, Senior Lecturer and ARC DECRA felllow, Murdoch UniversityBelinda Robson, Associate Professor, Murdoch UniversityJoe Fontaine, Lecturer, Environmental and Conservation Science, Murdoch UniversityStephen Beatty, Research Leader (Catchments to Coast), Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Ecosystems, Harry Butler Institute, Murdoch University, and Thomas Wernberg, Professor, The University of Western Australia

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

Fewer than half of Australia’s 150 biggest companies have committed to zero emissions by 2050

Renzo Mori JuniorRMIT University

Corporate Australia has of late become a strong voice for more action on climate change. Earlier this month the Business Council of Australia, which represents the nation’s 100 biggest companies, declared its support for the federal government committing to halving its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and net zero emissions by 2050.

“Business is leading,” says the report arguing this case. “Domestic and international companies are rapidly adopting net zero and ambitious internal decarbonisation targets.”

That report goes on to say that among the top 200 companies listed on the Australian Stock Exchange – the ASX 200 – net-zero commitments in the past year have “more than tripled” to about 50 companies and that this represents about half the ASX200’s total market capitalisation.

Our research on Autralia’s 150 biggest public companies supports the Business Council’s claim that commitments are growing. But there’s still a long way to go in showing evidence of tangible progress.

Based on disclosures made in companies’ 2020 annual reports, our research shows 17 reported having achieved carbon neutrality while 46 have either declared commitment or an intention to achieve net zero emissions.

Of those 46 companies aiming for net zero, 38 declared commitment to achieving net zero by 2050 and 15 of them disclosed their intention to become carbon neutral by 2030. Another eight companies did not set a time frame (which arguably makes the commitment meaningless).

That means just 55 have committed to zero emissions by 2050.


Measuring Sustainable Development Goals

These findings on corporate climate action are part of a broader research project by RMIT University and CPA Australia into action by Australian companies on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This framework of 17 goals was adopted by the United Nations in 2015 to provide a uniform approach to defining and measuring progress on things such as eliminating poverty and discrimination, improving health and well-being, and achieving economic progress without harming the environment.

Graphic showing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals. CC BY-SA

Each of the goals has a set of targets to measure achievement by 2030 (there are a total of 196 targets). On the goal of climate action (SDG13), one of the five targets is to integrate climate change measures into policies, strategies and planning.

The SDGs were originally intended for governments. But business committing and acting on them is fundamental for the transformational investments and new markets needed to promote more sustainable practices.

We have been monitoring the extent of corporate Australia’s commitment to the SDGs since 2018, based on disclosures in their annual reports. In particular we have been interested in evidence these commitments are meaningful, through companies having mechanisms to measure and report on what they have achieved.

Commitments Growing, But KPIs Lacking

The good news is that recognition and disclosure is growing. In 2018 just 56 of the ASX 150 (37%) mentioned the Sustainable Development Goals in their annual reports. In 2019 it was 72 (48%). In 2020 it was 94 (62%).

Statements on commitments, however, are not meaningful unless supported by evidence of actual progress. This requires having a plan to turn a commitment into an achievement, setting key performance indicators (KPIs), measuring success (or failure) and reporting on results.

On these things far less progress has been made. The number of companies aligning their KPIs with SDG targets has increased from two (1.3%) in 2018, to five (3.3%) in 2019, and 14 (9.3%) in 2020.


Including colourful SDG graphics in annual reports and having senior executives making public commitments is one thing. But without reporting on the actual measures to turn a commitment into actual progress, companies can easily be accused of lack of transparency or even green washing.

For corporate Australia to really claim the mantle of leading on climate action, our major companies must also lead in setting clear goals and timelines, defining measurements by which they will rate their success, and being fully transparent in reporting their progress.The Conversation

Renzo Mori Junior, Senior Advisor, Sustainable Development, RMIT University

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

What’s behind News Corp’s new spin on climate change?

Justin Lane/EPA/AAP
Gabi MocattaDeakin University

Australia’s Murdoch-owned tabloid newspapers – including The Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun and Courier Mail – have embarked on a bold new climate change campaign.

This climate rebrand, dubbed “missionzero2050”, is billed by the company as “putting Australia on a path to a net zero future”.

The change has surprised Australian media observers and, no doubt, media consumers given News Corp’s long-held climate denialist stance, which is well documented in public commentary and research.

So why is this happening now? And what does it mean?

What Does The New Campaign Say?

Last Monday, News Corp’s tabloid mastheads began the new campaign with a 16-page wraparound supplement and a splashy online campaign championing the drive to cut climate warming emissions by 2050.

Read more: What is COP26 and why does the fate of Earth, and Australia's prosperity, depend on it?

News Corp must have done its climate communication research. It has assembled a collection of stories using best-practice climate communication techniques: telling a global story with a local face, visualising climate impacts and focusing on solutions, not creating fear.

Crucially, the campaign marks a change from News Corp’s long-held position on climate action. It’s moved from calling decarbonisation too expensive and bad for jobs (it tagged the cost at A$600 billion in 2015), to describing it now as a potential $2.1 trillion economic “windfall”, offering opportunities for 672,000 new jobs.

News Corp And Climate Change

What News Corp does matters, because it has extensive influence in Australia’s media market.

The company’s newspaper, radio, pay TV and online news portfolio gives it significant audience reach and huge political sway. In April, former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull labelled the Murdoch media “the most powerful political actor in Australia”.

Most people derive their understanding of climate change from the media. So News Corp’s audience reach (which included about 100 print and digital mastheads as of early 2021) has given it extensive influence over Australians’ knowledge of and opinions about climate change, profoundly shaping public debate.

Murdoch media outlets have denied the science of climate change and ridiculed climate action for more than a decade.

2013 study by the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism found climate denialist views in a third of Australian media coverage of climate change, and pointed to News Corp outlets as the key reason for this.

Read more: Climate wars, carbon taxes and toppled leaders: the 30-year history of Australia’s climate response, in brief

News Corp’s commentators have described those arguing for climate action as “alarmists” and “loons”, who are prone to “warming hysteria”. They have also said climate concern is a “cult of the elite” and the “effects of global warming have so far proved largely benign”.

Despite this, in 2019, Murdoch declared there were “no climate change deniers” in his company.

Signs Of A Mood Shift

This pivot on climate change was not entirely unexpected.

The company had been signalling a mood shift since early 2020, in the wake of its controversial reporting on the Black Summer bushfires, which saw it accused of downplaying the fires and fuelling misinformation about the cause.

James Murdoch
James Murdoch, pictured in 2015, has become a vocal critic of News Corp’s approach to climate. Sang Tan/AP/AAP

At that time, Rupert Murdoch’s son James expressed his concerns about the “ongoing denial” of climate change at News Corp in the face of “obvious evidence to the contrary”.

He subsequently resigned his position on the company’s board. Early last month, the Nine newspapers flagged an imminent change of stance on climate at News Corp, noting, “Rupert Murdoch’s global media empire has faced growing international condemnation and pressure from advertisers over its editorial stance on climate change”.

The Fine Print

Despite the gloss of missionzero2050 (the newspapers say they are only focusing on “positive stories” about creating “a clean future while having fun and feeling good at the same time”), a deeper analysis shows the campaign has some quite specific agendas, signalling its climate epiphany may be limited.

In the stories that make up the campaign, it is still rolling out business-as-usual narratives like:

  • defending Australia’s emissions as small compared to other countries, especially China (therefore suggesting we do not need to take drastic action)

  • framing renewables as an unreliable source of energy (so not an adequate replacement for fossil fuels)

  • promoting Australia’s coal as cleaner than other countries’ (some of it may be, but the International Energy Agency says the world must start quitting coal now to stay within safer global warming limits)

  • promoting gas as having half the emissions of coal (burning gas does emit less carbon dioxide, but its extraction also causes fugitive emissions of methane, a gas that’s about 30 times more powerful as a heat-trapping greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over 100 years)

  • advocating carbon capture and storage (which is not yet a proven way to reduce emissions from burning fossil fuels)

  • criticising a carbon pollution price (economists widely agree this is the single most effective way to encourage polluters to reduce greenhouse gas emissons).

Read more: Australia's top economists back carbon price, say benefits of net-zero outweigh cost

Surprisingly, the campaign is making a big effort to spruik nuclear power. It states: “our aversion to nuclear energy defies logic” and advocates strongly for an Australian nuclear industry for “national security” purposes as well as energy.

Overall, the missionzero2050 agenda seems to be set on supporting new and existing extractive industries and Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s “gas-led recovery”.

Strangely, the campaign also emphasises “putting Australia first” – although efforts to deal with climate change must be inherently globally focused.

Loud Silences

What’s most perverse, perhaps, about missionzero2050 are the things it does not say or acknowledge. There has been no mention of News Corp’s years of intentionally undermining decarbonisation and helping to topple Australian leaders who advocated for climate action.

Oddly, News Corp has not muzzled its high-profile commentators. Columnist Andrew Bolt was quick to make it known that he thought the campaign was “rubbish”.

Nor has it aligned its advertising with the missionzero2050 message. For example, last Wednesday, the Herald Sun ran a half-page ad placed by the climate “sceptical” Climate Study Group about the “great climate change furphy,” discrediting climate science and advocating for more coal and nuclear power.

What Might It Mean?

The timing of the campaign, just as Morrison negotiates with the Nationals ahead of the COP26 climate conference, is likely to be no coincidence. It seems designed to provide cover for a potential shift on the part of the Coalition towards a mid-century net zero declaration.

Read more: Barnaby Joyce has refused to support doubling Australia's 2030 emissions reduction targets – but we could get there so cheaply and easily

Morrison is also under intense pressure from other world leaders to lift his ambitions on climate. He’ll be expected to bring new plans for emissions cuts to the table in Glasgow.

Some commentators have labelled the Murdoch pivot “greenwashing”. Others have called it a “desperate ploy to rehabilitate the public image of a leading climate villain”.

However perplexing the Murdoch papers’ climate U-turn may seem, at least Morrison will know Australia’s “most powerful political actor” is not likely to campaign against any 2050 net zero declaration.

Given News Corp’s power to subvert the national narrative on climate, that’s important if we want to see the action that’s so long overdue.The Conversation

Gabi Mocatta, Research Fellow in Climate Change Communication, Climate Futures Program, University of Tasmania, and Lecturer in Communication - Journalism, Deakin University

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

Australia’s net-zero plan fails to tackle our biggest contribution to climate change: fossil fuel exports

Jeremy MossUNSW

The Morrison government’s eleventh hour commitment to net zero by 2050 is a monumental failure.

Critics rightly point out the government’s plan involves no increase to Australia’s 2030 climate target, no new funding or policies and few concrete details of how reductions will be achieved – except a heavy reliance on technological solutions not yet invented.

What we do know is not encouraging. The questionable focus on subsidising technologies such as carbon capture and storage seems designed to allow the fossil fuel industry to keep operating for decades to come. There is also no detail on how the promised jobs and economic growth will be achieved, nor any plan to legislate the projected reductions in emissions.

But the most glaring gap is a complete failure to tackle Australia’s biggest contribution to climate change: our coal, gas and oil exports. What’s more, the government’s “technology not taxes” mantra belies the fact taxpayers, not big business, will incur a multi-billion dollar bill for emissions reduction.

No Net-Zero Without Exports

The government’s plan contains no credible strategy to reduce the enormous emissions produced by Australia’s fossil fuel industry, especially the export industry.

Australia’s fossil fuel exports have more than doubled since 2005. We are the world’s largest exporter of metalurgical coal and the third largest exporter of fossil fuels overall.

Read more: Between the lines, Morrison's plan has coal on the way out, with the future bright

The emissions caused by other countries burning Australia’s exported fossil fuels are more than double Australia’s domestic emissions.

Annual domestic greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 were around 494 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. Yet the emissions from exported coal and liquefied natural gas (LNG) alone were 1,073 million tonnes, according to my calculations using standard conversion factors. This is more than the emissions caused by the 2019-2020 bushfires.

For a net-zero plan not to include a strategy to phase out this enormous contribution to climate change is an abrogation of responsibility.

Australia is not responsible for all of the emissions produced by exported fossil fuels – after all other countries consume them. Still, Australia must take a high degree of responsibility given the billions of dollars in subsidies and environmental approvals that allow the industry to exist.

Australia is the world’s third largest fossil fuel exporter. Shutterstock

The supply of cheap, subsidised fossil fuels to global markets significantly worsens climate change, even if not all of the emissions from those exported fuels are Australia’s responsibility.

The government is asking the wrong questions. Instead of asking how it can reduce domestic emissions, it should be asking: what is Australia’s contribution to climate change and how can it be reduced? Given the combined emissions from Australia’s exported fossil fuels and domestic emissions are around 3-4% of global emissions, this must be addressed.

And there is clear evidence Australia’s fossil fuel industry will continue to enjoy strong support.

Read more: Morrison's climate plan has 35% 2030 emissions reduction 'projection' but modelling underpinning 2050 target yet to be released

The net zero plan includes directing the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to fund technologies like carbon capture and storage – the process of capturing carbon emissions from the source and storing in the ground – which will channel more taxpayer dollars into the fossil fuel industry.

The federal government also continues to grant approvals for new fossil fuel developments that will create millions of tonnes of CO₂ equivalent. This includes three new coal mines and a new major gas power plant in Kurri Kurri in the Hunter Valley.

These actions are not consistent with a real commitment to reducing Australia’s contribution to climate change.

Emissions from our exports were far greater than emissions released in the 2019-2020 bushfires. Shutterstock

Technology Via Taxation

The support the fossil fuel industry will receive under the government’s plan also means the government mantra of “technology not taxes” is highly misleading.

The commitment in the government’s new plan to spend A$20 billion of taxpayer money on new technologies is using taxes to pay for climate action. Any subsidy for fossil fuel production, the development of new carbon capture and storage technologies or other low emissions technology, comes from taxation revenue.

There are many policies that would shift the burden of climate action away from taxpayers and onto the companies responsible for the pollution. This includes extracting the full historical social cost of carbon from big polluters or legislating a carbon price.

Read more: Climate wars, carbon taxes and toppled leaders: the 30-year history of Australia’s climate response, in brief

But as we all know, the Coalition scrapped the Gillard government’s carbon price in 2014 and such a policy is now considered political poison.

The bulk of federal tax revenue comes from individual taxpayers. The majority of the big fossil fuel exporters such as Shell or ExxonMobil, which have contributed huge volumes of greenhouse gases, pay little or no corporate tax. And under the Morrison plan they will not have to pay for their pollution.

The Plan Procrastinates On Climate Action

The timing of this plan is also deeply flawed. Even with Australia’s projected (not legislated) emissions reduction of 30-35% by 2030, this still leaves around 70% of the emissions reductions to happen after 2030. Given the urgency of the problem, the proportions ought to be the other way around.

In a briefing note released Monday by the ARC Centre of Excellence, Australian climate scientists say even if global emissions do reach net-zero by mid-century, temperatures are still likely to exceed 2℃ this century if short-term action doesn’t increase.

Read more: If all 2030 climate targets are met, the planet will heat by 2.7℃ this century. That's not OK

Australia’s weak targets are made worse by the fact our per capita emissions at 22 tonnes of CO₂ equivalent are double the OECD average. Australia’s long history of high domestic and exported emissions means we ought to be on top of the list of emission reducers, not at the bottom.

The position Australia finds itself in on the eve of the COP26 negotiations could not be more stark. We can either join the ranks of the climate ambitious and come up with a real plan with substantial interim targets. Or, we can join with the likes of Saudi Arabia and delay action further.

But we cannot claim to be taking climate action while simultaneously being one of the world’s largest coal exporters – and pretending it makes no contribution to climate change.The Conversation

Jeremy Moss, Professor of Political Philosophy, UNSW

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

If all 2030 climate targets are met, the planet will heat by 2.7℃ this century. That’s not OK

Andrew KingThe University of Melbourne and Malte MeinshausenThe University of Melbourne

If nations make good on their latest promises to reduce emissions by 2030, the planet will warm by at least 2.7℃ this century, a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has found. This overshoots the crucial internationally agreed temperature rise of 1.5℃.

Released today, just days before the international climate change summit in Glasgow begins, UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report works out the difference between where greenhouse emissions are projected to be in 2030 and where they should be to avoid the worst climate change impacts.

It comes as the Morrison government yesterday officially committed to a target of net-zero emissions by 2050. The government made no changes to its paltry 2030 target to reduce emissions by between 26% and 28% below 2005 levels, but announced that Australia is set to beat this, and reduce emissions by up to 35%.

The UNEP report was conducted before Australia’s new 2050 target was announced, but even with this new pledge, global pledges will undoubtedly still be short of what’s needed.

The report found global targets for net-zero emissions by mid-century could cut another 0.5℃ off global warming. While this is a big improvement, it will still see temperatures rise to 2.2℃ this century. If we don’t close the global emissions gap, what will Australia, and the rest of world, be forced to endure?

Pledges Are Falling Short

As of August 30 (the date the UNEP report reviewed to), 120 countries had made new or updated pledges and announcements to cut emissions.

The US, for example, has set an ambitious new target of reducing emissions by 50-52% below 2005 levels in 2030. Similarly, the European Union will cut carbon emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels.

But the UNEP report shows all these pledges are falling short. It finds we must take an extra 28 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent off annual emissions by 2030, over what’s already promised.

Read more: Morrison's climate plan has 35% 2030 emissions reduction 'projection' but modelling underpinning 2050 target yet to be released

The UNEP also found that while effectively delivering on net-zero targets by mid-century could mitigate the predicted temperature rise, current plans are vague, with many delaying action until after 2030, which is too late. These net-zero targets, including Australia’s, are also based on technologies that don’t exist on a large-scale yet, such as carbon capture and storage.

UNEP’s findings echo a briefing note by Australian climate scientists on Monday, who say even if global emissions reach net-zero by mid-century, there’s still a high chance temperatures will exceed 2℃ this century if we neglect to increase short-term action.

When the UNEP report was conducted, 49 countries plus the EU had pledged a net-zero target, which accounts for a third of the global population and half of global emissions. Eleven of these targets are enshrined in law, which accounts for 12% of global emissions.

Emissions Gap Report 2021/The ConversationCC BY-ND

Did COVID-19 make a difference? While carbon emissions fell by 5-6% in 2020, this was due to widespread lockdowns and other restrictions worldwide, rather than long-lived changes in how society functions.

The report notes that as restrictions ease, emissions are expected to sharply rise again this year to a level only slightly lower than in 2019. To avoid the worst climate change effects, a sustainable year-on-year reduction in carbon emissions is required.

What Does This Mean For Australia?

To date, the world has warmed by about 1.2℃ since pre-industrial levels, and we’re already experiencing significant climate change impacts and worsening extreme weather events.

The western North America heatwave in late June this year saw temperature records and heat-related deaths spike. This event would have been virtually impossible without human-caused greenhouse gas emissions warming the planet.

Similarly, the extreme rainfall that led to recent floods in central Europe which tore through towns in July were very likely enhanced by global warming.

In Australia, we’ve seen our own share of extreme events in recent years that were intensified by climate change, including record hot summers and the devastating bushfires of 2019 and 2020.

Meeting the Paris Agreement and keeping global warming below 2℃ or even 1.5℃ would still lead to continued sea level rise and worsening heatwaves on land and in our oceans.

If we fail to meet the Paris Agreement and warm the world by closer to 3℃ by 2100, then the impacts of climate change worsen considerably.

Read more: Seriously ugly: here's how Australia will look if the world heats by 3°C this century

Warm water coral reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef, are already stressed by frequent bleaching events and might be on the brink already. Most coral reefs would likely not survive sustained 1.5℃ warming, much less likely 2℃ global warming, let alone 3℃ of warming. However, limiting warming to 1.5℃ rather 2℃ makes a huge difference for many other ecosystems.

Historically hot summers, such as the Angry Summer of 2012 and 2013 and the Black Summer of 2019 and 2020, would be cooler than most Australian summers in a 2-3℃ warmer world. Parts of Sydney and Melbourne would likely see 50℃ temperatures during heatwaves.

Corals will not likely survive more than 2℃ global warming. Shutterstock

And at 2-3℃ global warming, most of the continent would experience more short bursts of extreme rainfall that causes flash flooding, Meanwhile, droughts are projected to worsen, especially in the southwest and southeast of the continent.

While Australia would experience major climate change impacts if the world fails to meet the Paris Agreement, the outlook is much worse and more devastating for less wealthy nations. Intensified heatwaves, more extreme rain events and droughts would make life harder for many, as developing nations don’t have the resources to adapt.

A Big Task For COP26

It is imperative we avoid the impacts of climate change that come with a 2 to 3℃ average temperature rise.

To have any chance at meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement, all countries will need to significantly increase their ambition and pledge much greater reductions in carbon emissions in Glasgow.

Wealthy, high-emitting countries should lead the way with stronger pledges, and agree on terms to finance climate mitigation and adaptation in developing countries.

Time is fast running out to avert more dangerous climate changes, and the world cannot afford a missed opportunity at COP26.

Read more: A successful COP26 is essential for Earth's future. Here's what needs to go right The Conversation

Andrew King, ARC DECRA fellow, The University of Melbourne and Malte Meinshausen, A/Prof., School of Earth Sciences, The University of Melbourne

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

Australia’s stumbling, last-minute dash for climate respectability doesn’t negate a decade of abject failure

Lukas Coch/AAP
Lesley HughesMacquarie University and Will SteffenAustralian National University

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is poised to announce Australia will adopt a target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The pledge is long overdue – but the science tells us 2050 is about a decade too late to reach net-zero.

If we want to meet the goals of Paris climate agreement and limit global warming to 1.5℃ this century, what actually matters is the action we take this decade.

No doubt the federal government will expect to be congratulated for finally succumbing to the extraordinary international and community pressure brought in the lead up to the COP26 meeting in Glasgow.

But after eight years without an effective policy to reduce emissions, it’s sadly too little, too late.

Politicians stand in parliament
Then-Prime Minster Tony Abbott and other senior members of the Coalition during a vote to repeal Australia’s carbon price in 2013. Australia has not had a substantial climate policy since. Alan Porritt/AAP

Balancing The Carbon Budget

The carbon budget approach is a useful way to assess whether climate targets are adequate.

Carbon budgets show the amount of carbon dioxide (CO₂) that can be emitted for a given level of global warming. It’s based on the (approximately linear) relationship between the amount of CO₂ emitted from all human sources since the beginning of industrialisation and the increase in global average surface temperature.

Once the carbon budget has been “spent”, or emitted, emissions must be at net-zero to avoid exceeding the corresponding temperature target. In a report released in April, the Climate Council used this approach to estimate Australia’s fair share of the global effort to meet the Paris targets.

To keep global temperatures below 1.5℃, and assuming humans emit CO₂ at the current rate of 43 billion tonnes a year, we have about 2.5 years of emissions still to spend. This pushes out to 5 years at a linear rate of emission reduction, achieving net-zero emissions by 2026.

Using the same logic, we also calculated when the world would exceed the Paris ambition of staying “well below 2℃” of warming, which we assume to be 1.8℃. Our remaining global carbon budget would be spent in about 9.5 years – so by about 2030. This pushes out to 19 years at a linear rate of emission reduction, so net-zero emissions would need to be achieved by about 2040.

Read more: Who's who in Glasgow: 5 countries that could make or break the planet's future under climate change

road leads to coal-fired power plant
Carbon budgets help assess how much CO₂ can be emitted. Shutterstock

Australia’s Fair Share

These calculations relate to the global effort. So what is Australia’s fair contribution? In 2014 the Climate Change Authority, a panel of government-appointed experts, addressed this question.

The Climate Change Authority recommended Australia’s emissions be reduced by between 45% and 65% on 2005 levels by 2030. This approach generously allocated 0.97% of the remaining global carbon budget to Australia even though our population is about 0.33% of the global total.

Applying the same method today to estimate Australia’s share of the remaining carbon budget, we calculate Australia needs to achieve net-zero emissions within 16 years – around 2038 – and reduce emissions by 50% to 75% by 2030.

So any way you cut it, net-zero emissions by 2050 is too late.

And we must not forget, Australia is a wealthy country, with one of the highest per capita emission rates. That means doing our “fair share” should entail emissions reductions greater than the global average.

An emissions target for Australia of 75% below 2005 levels by 2030, and reaching net-zero emissions by 2035, is consistent with global efforts to limit warming to 1.8℃. There’s no doubt achieving a 75% reduction in Australia’s emissions by 2030 would be challenging, but this target is both scientifically robust and ethically responsible.

Read more: Barnaby Joyce has refused to support doubling Australia's 2030 emissions reduction targets – but we could get there so cheaply and easily

solar farm in arid landscape
A 75% reduction in Australia’s emissions by 2030 would be challenging but ethically responsible. Shutterstock

The World Is Watching

COP26 in Glasgow will be a defining moment in the global response to climate change. In the words of COP President-Designate Alok Sharma:

The choices we make in the year ahead will determine whether we unleash a tidal wave of climate catastrophe on generations to come. But the power to hold back that wave rests entirely with us.

More than 100 countries have pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, and the G7, consisting of the world’s largest developed economies, has committed to at least halving its emissions this decade. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that for all the ambition, a United Nations report released last month points to a 16% increase in emissions by 2030 compared to 2010. This would lead to about 2.7℃ warming by 2100.

Adding to the bad news, Australia is the worst-performing of all developed countries when it comes to meaningful climate action.

We ranked dead last in 2021 for action taken to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in the UN Sustainable Development Report. The latest report from the Climate Council also ranks Australia last, compared to 30 other wealthy developed countries, for both climate policy/action, and fossil fuel dependence.

The list of poor rankings could go on, but there’s no doubt Australia is viewed as a global climate pariah.

feet sticking out from fake pile of coal
Australia is the worst-performing of all developed countries when it comes to meaningful climate action. Pictured: Extinction Rebellion protest in Brisbane. Darren England/AAP

Repairing The Damage

To turn this miserable position around, Australia should be going to Glasgow with a far stronger emissions-reduction target for 2030. This should be backed by a national plan to rapidly decarbonise our electricity and transport sectors, absorb more carbon in the landscape and support the transition of communities to new clean industries.

It goes without saying Australia must commit to ending public funding for coal, oil and gas – both their use and extraction. And we must say no to any new fossil fuel developments.

Australia must also make a new commitment to support climate action in developing countries because if poorer nations don’t also make the low-carbon transition, the whole world suffers. As a first step, Australia should follow the United States in doubling its current climate finance contribution, which would bring AUstralia’s contribution to least A$3 billion over 2021-2025.

A week before a major international meeting aimed at saving life on Earth, the Morrison government has apparently seen the light.

Granted, it’s a start. But the new targets are less than the bare minimum required. The government’s last-minute jump on the bandwagon is not quite the Damascene conversion it would have the public believe.

Will Australia’s stumbling, last-minute dash towards climate respectability be well-received in Glasgow? Don’t hold your breath.The Conversation

Lesley Hughes, Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University and Will Steffen, Emeritus Professor, Fenner School of Environment & Society, Australian National University

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

How much do marine heatwaves cost? The economic losses amount to billions and billions of dollars

Alistair HobdayCSIRODan SmaleMarine Biological AssociationKathryn SmithMarine Biological Association, and Thomas WernbergThe University of Western Australia

Marine heatwaves are catastrophic impacts of climate change many of us are already familiar with. But how much do they cost society?

During marine heatwaves, ocean temperatures can become so high that many species become stressed, or die. Critical coastal habitats, such as seagrass meadows, corals and kelp forests, can die out, limiting their natural capacity to store carbon dioxide and disrupting fisheries and tourism.

Until now, we’ve not understood how much society loses during marine heatwaves. This is what our new research, published in Science, sought to find out.

We looked at 34 marine heatwaves worldwide, and found one event in 2016 in southern Chile cost more than US$800 million (A$1.07 billion) in direct losses to aquaculture (cultivating aquatic plants and animals for food). Another heatwave in Shark Bay, Western Australia, resulted in US$3.1 billion (A$4.14 billion) per year in indirect losses, as a result of lost carbon storage when seagrass beds were impacted.

As world leaders prepare to meet for COP26 in Glasgow, they must keep these intensifying marine heatwaves front of mind. They are not only a stress test for the ocean’s ecosystems, but also for millions of people who rely on them – and who are already suffering.

Coral is a ‘foundation’ species. Losing coral means the entire ecosystem is under threat. Shutterstock

Marine Heatwaves Can Strike Anywhere

Marine heatwaves are defined as prolonged periods of very warm surface water temperatures that commonly last for weeks to months. Climate change has caused surface waters to warm at an average rate of 0.15℃ per decade over the past 40 years, leading to longer and more frequent heatwaves. Eight of the ten most severe events ever recorded took place in the past decade alone.

They can occur in any ocean for two reasons: heat entering the ocean via the atmosphere, or via ocean currents that bring warmer waters. When both processes occur together, they lead to heatwaves with even higher temperatures.

Heatwaves lead to major economic losses because they modify the ocean’s “ecosystem services” – the range of benefits healthy marine ecosystems provide to humans.

Read more: Marine heatwaves during winter could have dire impacts on New Zealand fisheries and herald more summer storms

For example, fishers, aquaculturalists, and tourism operators all rely on “foundation” species – such as corals, kelps and seagrasses – because they provide habitat for a range of creatures.

When a marine heatwave destroys a foundation species, like we’ve seen in the recent, back-to-back coral bleaching events in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, then the whole ecosystem suffers, and the knock-on socio-economic consequences can run into billions of dollars.

Coral bleaching can occur as a result of marine heatwaves. Thomas Wernberg
Foundation species such as seagrass, kelp and corals are negatively impacted by marine heatwaves. Thomas Wernberg

Billions Of Dollars Of Damage

Fortunately, extreme events occur rarely in any single location. This, however, means learning about them can be slow.

So to gain insight into these increasingly frequent disasters, we collated information on 34 marine heatwaves across all major ocean basins over the past 25 years. We found most resulted in declines in fish catch, the destruction of kelp forests or seagrass meadows, or led to mass deaths of wildlife.

The longest-lived marine heatwave in the North Pacific, known as “the Blob”, persisted for over one year in 2015 and 2016, and raised average water temperatures along the United States west coast by 2-4℃.

Read more: Five years after largest marine heatwave on record hit northern California coast, many warm–water species have stuck around

It led to declines in fish catch, killed thousands of seabirds and marine mammals, and saw new species move toward the pole where the water was uncharacteristically warm. Harmful algal blooms led to the closure of the Dungess Crab Fishery – a US$97 million (A$130 million) loss for fishers.

Heatwaves also limit ecosystem services relating to carbon sequestration. Seagrass, kelp, coral and other habitat-forming species store carbon dioxide in the same way forests do on land. When they die, this carbon is released.

Seagrass meadows in Shark Bay were wiped out in 2011. Shutterstock

Shark Bay in Western Australia is home to one of the world’s largest seagrass meadows, at 4,000 square kilometres. In 2011, 34% of this seagrass died after a marine heatwave struck, releasing between 2 and 9  billion tonnes of CO₂ into the atmosphere over the following three years. The indirect economic loss from this event was estimated to be US$3.1 billion (A$4.14 billion) per year, based on the ecosystem service value of the seagrass’ capacity to store carbon.

This heatwave also wiped out kelp habitats along 100km of WA’s coast. Abalone, scallop and swimmer crab fisheries were forced to close, and fish species that relied on the kelp declined. Local businesses that supported fishers also lost revenue.

Read more: A marine heatwave has wiped out a swathe of WA's undersea kelp forest

While most impacts have been negative, we did note some short-term positive benefits from dramatically warmer waters. This is mainly due to new species following the warmer water to a region, resulting in more fishing opportunities.

For example, a 2012 marine heatwave in the Gulf of Maine, US, resulted in a US$38 million loss in a lobster fishery. This was due to an unexpected influx of lobsters that created a glut of product, and a rapid drop in the price lobster fishers received for their catches.

However, a second marine heatwave in 2016 saw the same lobster fishery earn an extra US$103 million, as a result of experience gained since the first, which allowed them to capitalise on the higher lobster catch rates.

We Must Learn To Cope

Our research makes conservative estimates – the true costs of marine heatwaves are likely to be much greater, because many socioeconomic effects likely remain unknown and under reported. This is particularly true for regions with limited scientific capacity, and where marine heatwaves have not been widely studied, such as in the Indian Ocean.

Marine tourism businesses can lose income when marine heatwaves degrade coral or kelp habitats. Thomas Wernberg

As with every climate-related threat, reducing greenhouse gases and a commitment to the Paris Agreement is the best, long-term solution. However, given we’ve already seen a 50% increase in marine heatwave days since 1925, we will undoubtedly see heatwaves intensify further, even if the world succeeds in holding average global warming to between 1.5 and 2℃.

So, we must find a way to prepare for more frequent and intense marine heatwaves to cope better when they hit.

Our current efforts are in forecasting extreme events. Currently, scientists who forecast these events can give only less than a week’s notice for when a heatwave is likely to strike.

Read more: We just spent two weeks surveying the Great Barrier Reef. What we saw was an utter tragedy

Hopefully, with enough notice, fishers may relocate or prepare for harvesting new species, aquaculture businesses can harvest early, and conservation managers may prepare for an influx of hungry animals. And perhaps, in future, coral reef managers may to deploy new technologies to shade and cool critical reefs.

Developing responses like these to help us live with marine heatwaves must be supported by awareness of current events. If climate change mitigation is slow and the planet heats beyond the crucial 2℃ temperature rise, adaptation will be even more important.The Conversation

Alistair Hobday, Senior Principal Research Scientist - Oceans and Atmosphere, CSIRODan Smale, Research Fellow in Marine Ecology, Marine Biological AssociationKathryn Smith, Postdoctoral Research Assistant, Marine Biological Association, and Thomas Wernberg, Professor, The University of Western Australia

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

Scott Morrison’s deal with the Nationals must not ignore land stewardship – an attractive, low-hanging fruit

Paul MartinUniversity of New England

The Nationals this week finally agreed to a plan of net-zero emissions by 2050. Farmers say they’ve done much of the heavy lifting on Australia’s emissions reduction and had been calling for a deal that addressed purported inequities of the past.

The terms of the agreement between Morrison and the Nationals have not been formally released. We know it involves five-yearly reviews by the Productivity Commission to assess how regional Australia is faring throughout the transition, cutting red tape for farmers and a new cabinet position for the Nationals.

But so far, there’s no clear indication that the deal includes expanded measures to help farmers restore rural environments. This would be a huge missed opportunity.

Agriculture covers 58% of Australia’s land mass, and restoring farmland is one of the best ways to tackle climate and environmental issues over the long-term. A recent study I was involved in explored how farmers can best be supported to do this.

It found landholders are often forced to rely on unreliable and insufficient funding and support when restoring land. What’s more, no coordinated strategy exists to maximise the value land-stewardship programs might deliver.

It’s unclear what concessions the Nationals secured from Scott Morrison. Mick Tsikas/AAP

Why Farmer Think They’re Owed

Sentiment from farmers that they’re owed compensation for their emissions reduction efforts stems back to the 1990s and early 2000s. It was then, according to the National Farmers Federation, that Queensland and New South Wales farmers became “victims of land clearing legislation that removed their property rights, without compensation”.

The belief is linked to the unique concession Australia won in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Following an extraordinary 1990 spike in land clearing, Australia was allowed to count reduced land-clearing toward its emissions reductions commitments.

Restrictions on land clearing mean more vegetation is retained, leading to carbon dioxide being drawn down from the atmosphere and stored in plants and soil. This limit to land-clearing relieved pressure on other sectors of the economy to reduce carbon emissions.

So it’s understandable the National Party wanted compensation for farmers, and used the net-zero emissions target as a negotiation opportunity. Details of the final deal are expected in coming months.

It would be in everyone’s interest if the measures included ways to boost environmental stewardship of rural areas. This would not only help farmers reduce emissions over the long term, but help improve Australia’s very poor environmental record.

Read more: The Nationals finally agree to a 2050 net-zero target, but the real decisions on Australia's emissions are happening elsewhere

Lone tree in field
Native vegetation cover must be restored across vast tracts of Australia. Shutterstock

Well Designed, Well Funded Programs

Land stewardship involves efforts to enable landowners and others to responsibly manage and protect land and environmental assets.

This year’s federal budget included A$32.1 million for “biodiversity stewardship”, in which farmers who adopt more sustainable practices can earn money on private markets. The funding includes programs to protect existing native vegetation, implement a certification scheme and set up a trading platform.

But as others have noted, the experience of environmental markets and certification schemes to date suggests they won’t effectively encourage farmers to take part.

Farmers often have unreliable or weak cash-flows, due to seasonal conditions, natural disasters, and the nature of commodity markets. More government funding and policy support is needed to promote responsible land management, as well as to enforce rules prohibiting environmentally damaging practices.

study I was recently involved in found current systems to achieve this are inadequate.

Well-designed, well-funded and long-term programs would create a significant win-win for the farming sector and for the environment, and shore up Australia’s credentials internationally. These measures should make it easy and affordable for farmers to:

  • conserve water

  • protect soil

  • avoid manure and chemical runoff, which can contaminate soil and waterways

  • reduce land-clearing

  • support conservation of plants and animals

  • avoid disturbance to habitats

  • minimise chemical use.

Read more: Nature is a public good. A plan to save it using private markets doesn't pass muster

Make It Appealing To Farmers

Any new climate deal for agriculture should focus on removing hurdles to practical land stewardship. Industry-led sustainability initiatives show what’s possible.

Examples include:

  • myBMP, a best practice training management program helping the cotton industry manage land sustainably and reduce water use

  • Sustainawool, a similar example from the wool sector

  • Freshcare Environmental which achieves similar outcomes in horticulture.

But current incentives and support for farmers to participate in programs like these are not strong enough to ensure a large proportion of farmers take part.

We need a national stewardship investment strategy, developed in partnership with industry and involving sufficient long-term government funding.

A New Authority

Payments for environmental services and good stewardship practices often promote good environmental stewardship, but require sufficient investment to work. The National Farmers Federation and KPMG have proposed such a scheme for agriculture.

Our study recommended the creation of an authority to lead the design and initial implementation of a national rural stewardship investment strategy.

It could be created via a successor to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) or a special purpose national and state body. We proposed this new authority should be responsible for initiating a national stewardship funding program within a specified time frame, such as three years.

The authority should be supported by research from the Productivity Commission or a similar body. Crucially, it must consult widely with environmental and primary production stakeholders and First Nations people and ensure they’re involved in design and decision-making processes.

Well-designed stewardship work can create efficiencies. A recent study, for example, devised a feasible plan to restore 30% of native vegetation cover across almost all degraded ecosystems on Australia’s marginal farming land, by spending just A$2 billion a year for about 30 years.

The plan could restore 13 million hectares of degraded land without affecting food production or urban areas, the authors found.

A feasible rural stewardship investment strategy for Australia is essential, possible, and would deliver a much needed win-win for landholders and the planet. It would be a shame for Australian politicians not to harvest such attractive, low-hanging fruit.

Read more: A successful COP26 is essential for Earth's future. Here's what needs to go right The Conversation

Paul Martin, Director, Australian Centre for Agriculture and Law, University of New England

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

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

Avalon Golf Course Bushcare Needs You

We're so short of helpers we've had to cancel for the time being. Meanwhile the weeds will go gangbusters. 
We used to meet on the second Wednesday afternoon of each month. Could you come if we worked on another day or time? say a morning, or on a weekend day? 
Contact Geoff Searl on 0439 292 566 if you'd like to help. He'd love to hear from you. 

We have fun using the Tree Popper, here with our supervisor from Dragonfly Environmental. We can lever out quite big Ochnas, aka Mickey Mouse plant from Africa.  We want to bring back the bush, not let the weeds win!

Ochna or Mickey Mouse plant has yellow flowers in spring, then lots of green berries that turn black when ripe. Seedlings come up in hundreds. Ochna has a very strong taproot but the steady pressure of the Tree Popper lifts the plant out of the ground easily. The alternative control is repeated scraping and painting with Roundup, very slow and time consuming. If you have an Ochna you cant remove, you can enjoy the flowers, then PLEASE prune it so that berries can't develop.

Pittwater Reserves + Others

A History Of The Campaign For Preservation Of The Warriewood Escarpment by David Palmer OAM and Angus Gordon OAM
Angophora Reserve - Angophora Reserve Flowers
Annie Wyatt Reserve - A  Pictorial
Avalon's Village Green: Avalon Park Becomes Dunbar Park - Some History + Toongari Reserve and Catalpa Reserve
Bairne Walking Track Ku-Ring-Gai Chase NP by Kevin Murray
Bangalley Headland  Bangalley Mid Winter
Banksias of Pittwater
Barrenjoey Headland: Spring flowers Barrenjoey Headland after fire
Bayview Baths
Bayview Wetlands
Beeby Park
Bilgola Beach
Botham's Beach
Bungan Beach Bush Care
Careel Bay Saltmarsh plants 
Careel Bay Birds  
Careel Bay Clean Up day
Careel Bay Playing Fields History and Current
Careel Creek 
Careel Creek - If you rebuild it they will come
Centre trail in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park
Chiltern Track- Ingleside by Marita Macrae
Clareville Beach
Clareville/Long Beach Reserve + some History
Coastal Stability Series: Cabbage Tree Bay To Barrenjoey To Observation Point by John Illingsworth, Pittwater Pathways, and Dr. Peter Mitchell OAM
Cowan Track by Kevin Murray
Curl Curl To Freshwater Walk: October 2021 by Kevin Murray and Joe Mills
Currawong State Park Currawong Beach +  Currawong Creek
Deep Creek To Warriewood Walk photos by Joe Mills
Drone Gives A New View On Coastal Stability; Bungan: Bungan Headland To Newport Beach + Bilgola: North Newport Beach To Avalon + Bangalley: Avalon Headland To Palm Beach
Dunbar Park - Some History + Toongari Reserve and Catalpa Reserve
Dundundra Falls Reserve: August 2020 photos by Selena Griffith - Listed in 1935
Elsie Track, Scotland Island
Elvina Track in Late Winter 2019 by Penny Gleen
Elvina Bay Walking Track: Spring 2020 photos by Joe Mills 
Elvina Bay-Lovett Bay Loop Spring 2020 by Kevin Murray and Joe Mills
Fern Creek - Ingleside Escarpment To Warriewood Walk + Some History photos by Joe Mills
Ingleside Wildflowers August 2013
Irrawong - Ingleside Escarpment Trail Walk Spring 2020 photos by Joe Mills
Irrawong - Mullet Creek Restoration
Katandra Bushland Sanctuary - Ingleside
McCarrs Creek
McCarr's Creek to Church Point to Bayview Waterfront Path
McKay Reserve
Mona Vale Beach - A Stroll Along, Spring 2021 by Kevin Murray
Mona Vale Headland, Basin and Beach Restoration
Mount Murray Anderson Walking Track by Kevin Murray and Joe Mills
Mullet Creek
Narrabeen Creek
Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment: Past Notes Present Photos by Margaret Woods
Narrabeen Lagoon State Park
Narrabeen Lagoon State Park Expansion
Narrabeen Rockshelf Aquatic Reserve
Nerang Track, Terrey Hills by Bea Pierce
Newport Bushlink - the Crown of the Hill Linked Reserves
Newport Community Garden - Woolcott Reserve
Newport to Bilgola Bushlink 'From The Crown To The Sea' Paths:  Founded In 1956 - A Tip and Quarry Becomes Green Space For People and Wildlife 
Pittwater spring: waterbirds return to Wetlands
 Pittwater's Lone Rangers - 120 Years of Ku-Ring-Gai Chase and the Men of Flowers Inspired by Eccleston Du Faur 
Pittwater's Parallel Estuary - The Cowan 'Creek
Riddle Reserve, Bayview
Salvation Loop Trail, Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park- Spring 2020 - by Selena Griffith
Stapleton Reserve
Stapleton Park Reserve In Spring 2020: An Urban Ark Of Plants Found Nowhere Else
The Chiltern Track
The Resolute Beach Loop Track At West Head In Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park by Kevin Murray
Towlers Bay Walking Track by Joe Mills
Trafalgar Square, Newport: A 'Commons' Park Dedicated By Private Landholders - The Green Heart Of This Community
Turimetta Beach Reserve by Joe Mills, Bea Pierce and Lesley
Turimetta Beach Reserve: Old & New Images (by Kevin Murray) + Some History
Turimetta Headland
Warriewood Wetlands and Irrawong Reserve
Whale Beach Ocean Reserve: 'The Strand' - Some History On Another Great Protected Pittwater Reserve
Winji Jimmi - Water Maze

These hot days are tough on our wildlife - please put out some water in a shaded location and if you come across an animal that is in distress, dehydrated or injured - please contact your local wildlife rescue group:
Photo: Bronwyn Gould

New Shorebirds WingThing  For Youngsters Available To Download

A Shorebirds WingThing educational brochure for kids (A5) helps children learn about shorebirds, their life and journey. The 2021 revised brochure version was published in February 2021 and is available now. You can download a file copy here.

If you would like a free print copy of this brochure, please send a self-addressed envelope with A$1.10 postage (or larger if you would like it unfolded) affixed to: BirdLife Australia, Shorebird WingThing Request, 2-05Shorebird WingThing/60 Leicester St, Carlton VIC 3053.

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 -

The Force Awakens In A Newborn Star: NASA Image Of The Day

October 26, 2021

This celestial lightsaber does not lie in a galaxy far, far away, but rather inside our home galaxy, the Milky Way. It's inside a turbulent birthing ground for new stars known as the Orion B molecular cloud complex, located 1,350 light-years away.

When stars form within giant clouds of cool molecular hydrogen, some of the surrounding material collapses under gravity to form a rotating, flattened disk encircling the newborn star.

Though planets will later congeal in the disk, at this early stage the protostar is feeding on the disk with a Jabba-like appetite. Gas from the disk rains down onto the protostar and engorges it. Superheated material spills away and is shot outward from the star in opposite directions along an uncluttered escape route — the star’s rotation axis.

Shock fronts develop along the jets and heat the surrounding gas to thousands of degrees Fahrenheit. The jets collide with the surrounding gas and dust and clear vast spaces, like a stream of water ploughing into a hill of sand. The shock fronts form tangled, knotted clumps of nebulosity and are collectively known as Herbig-Haro (HH) objects. The prominent HH object shown in this image is HH 24.

Just to the right of the cloaked star, a couple of bright points are young stars peeking through and showing off their own faint lightsabers — including one that has bored a tunnel through the cloud towards the upper-right side of the picture.

Overall, just a handful of HH jets have been spotted in this region in visible light, and about the same number in the infrared. Hubble’s observations for this image were performed in infrared light, which enabled the telescope to peer through the gas and dust cocooning the newly forming stars and capture a clear view of the HH objects.

These young stellar jets are ideal targets for NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, which will have even greater infrared wavelength vision to see deeper into the dust surrounding newly forming stars.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, in Washington, D.C.

Image Credit: NASA/ESA


Halloween or Hallowe'en (a contraction of "All Hallows' evening"), also known as Allhalloween, All Hallows' Eve, or All Saints' Eve, is a celebration observed in many countries on 31st of October, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows' Day. It begins the observance of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the departed.

One theory holds that many Halloween traditions were influenced by Celtic harvest festivals, particularly the Gaelic festival Samhain, which are believed to have pagan roots; some go further and suggest that Samhain may have been Christianized as All Hallow's Day, along with its eve, by the early Church. Other academics believe Halloween began solely as a Christian holiday, being the vigil of All Hallow's Day. Celebrated in Ireland and Scotland, in the 19th century, Irish and Scottish migrants brought many Halloween customs to North America, and then through American influence, Halloween spread to many other countries by the 21st century.

Halloween activities include trick-or-treating (or the related guising and souling), attending Halloween costume parties, carving pumpkins into jack-o'-lanterns, lighting bonfires, apple bobbing, divination games, playing pranks, visiting haunted attractions, telling scary stories, as well as watching horror films. For some people, the Christian religious observances of All Hallows' Eve, including attending church services and lighting candles on the graves of the dead, remain popular, although for others it is a secular celebration. Some Christians historically abstained from meat on All Hallows' Eve, a tradition reflected in the eating of certain vegetarian foods on this vigil day, including apples, potato pancakes, and soul cakes.

Below run a few decorated houses spotted this week.

Scholarships Open For Vulnerable Youth

Some of the state’s most disadvantaged young people will be supported to achieve their academic aspirations as part of the NSW Government’s Youth Development Scholarships program.

Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services Alister Henskens said applications are now open for the $1,000 scholarships to students in Years 10, 11 and 12 or TAFE equivalent.

“A good education is the foundation for a better future. This program supports disadvantaged students by reducing financial barriers so they may engage in study,” Mr Henskens said.

“It is about giving young people who need support a helping hand. These scholarships will help students achieve their educational dreams.”

The program supports young people living in social housing or on the housing register, students receiving private rental assistance, or those living in supported accommodation or out-of-home care.

The funds can be used to help pay for education-related expenses such as textbooks, IT equipment and internet access.

Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning Sarah Mitchell said more than 3,300 students have been supported by the scholarship program since it was established in 2017.

“Fires, floods and COVID-19 have posed significant social and economic challenges for our communities, and have particularly affected young people,” Ms Mitchell said.

“These grants will help reduce the financial burden for more students so they can focus on their studies.”

The Youth Development Scholarships program is part of Future Directions for Social Housing in NSW, a ten-year plan to drive better outcomes for social housing tenants.

For more information on how to apply, visit Youth Development Scholarships 2022.
Applications will close at 5:00pm, 18 February 2022.

A Day In The Life: General Duties Police - NSW Police Force

Ever wondered what a day in the NSW Police Force might look like?
In the first episode of this series, we jump in the car with Max and Dan for a day out in Sydney's Northern Beaches to see what they get up to.

For more information or to enrol, search 'NSW Police Jobs', call 1800 222 122 or visit our website:

JOIN Ruby “Rockstar” Trew at DROP IN for YOUTH 2021


+ Skate Park Fun - BEST Limbo, Highest Ollie, Board Jump and Trick Jam

OVER $10,000 in CASH - PRIZES - GIVEAWAYS to be WON!



@MONA VALE SKATE PARK, 1604 Pittwater Road, Mona Vale

Saturday, 11 December 2021; 09:30 am- $15 entry online. $20 entry on event day, rego opens 9:30am. Vert Comp kicks off 10:30am.


SKATE VERT COMP Kicks off 10:30am


  • - 6 & Under - Girls and Boys
  • - 8 & Under - Girls and Boys
  • - 12 & Under - Girls and Boys
  • - 16 & Under - Girls and Boys
  • - Open Women’s - All Ages
  • - Open Men’s - All Ages
  • - Masters 45+ - Women's and Men's


Participants can only compete in a single category for the event. Age Group participants are competing for prizes. Entry into the Open category is for anyone who wants to compete for prize money.

Open and Masters participants are competing for ca$h and GLORY!

Skate Park Fun - BEST Limbo, Highest Ollie, Board Jump and Trick Jam competitions are for everyone to have some fun!

Presented by: Avalon Youth Hub - Business Education Network (THE BEN) - Hurley ANZ - Lifeline Northern Beaches - Modest Eyewear Co - Monster Skate Park - Rotaract - Skater HQ

Lifeline Northern Beaches is offering FREE face-to-face counselling at the Avalon Youth Hub for people aged 15-24. Counselling is safe and confidential, and our service is available with or without a referral. For more information, visit To book an appointment, call Lifeline Northern Beaches on 9949 5522 or email

School Sport And HSC Support Offered As Students Return

October 25, 2021
The final stage of the return to school begins today with more than 500,000 students from Years 2 to 11 welcomed back to classrooms across Greater Sydney and remaining regional areas of NSW.

To help students return to normal life and support their studies, restrictions on school sport will be lifted and HSC special consideration extended for students most impacted by the learning from home period.

From Monday, November 1, school sport can resume on site, schools can utilise external sport facilities in line with community sport guidelines, and schools can engage in inter-school sport outside of school hours.

Other restrictions will similarly be reviewed over the next few weeks, with a focus on continuing to ensure the health and safety of children and families as NSW progressively re-opens.

Premier Dominic Perrottet said he was thrilled students were finally all back in the classroom and returning to normal life and praised students, teachers and parents for their patience.

“The majority of students returning today have not been in the classroom since the end of Term 2 and it is fantastic they are back where the best learning happens,” Mr Perrottet said.

“Now that we’ve achieved our goal of returning students to the classroom as quickly and safely as possible, our focus is on helping students settle back in and catch up on their education.

“It’s important life gets back to normal as quickly as possible for students, and school sport resuming is a big step towards this goal.”

Schools are also now able to make applications on behalf of HSC students who have experienced severe disruption during the learning-from-home period through the NSW Education Standards Authority’s (NESA) new COVID-19 Special Consideration Program for HSC written exams.

The program is open to students whose learning was significantly compromised for six weeks or more due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning Sarah Mitchell said with students back, the job of helping them recover and excel in their education would begin.

“Of the 512,000 students returning today, more than 180,000 are from former LGA’s of concern, and a number of these students are sitting their HSC this year,” Ms Mitchell said.

NESA’s COVID-19 Special Consideration Program for HSC written exams is designed for those hardest-hit by the pandemic, enabling NESA to take into consideration these unique circumstances while still maintaining a fair and equitable HSC.

Strict safety measures remain in place at all NSW public schools. A recent survey of more than 88,000 parents from 799 schools returning today found 82 per cent of parents were supportive of a return to the classroom and happy with the safety measures in place.

Students Cash In On Financial Literacy Challenge

School students in NSW can now undertake the Treasurer’s Financial Literacy Challenge to understand the costs of real-life financial decisions.

The new challenge, developed in partnership with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), will encourage children to develop positive money habits and increase their financial literacy.

Treasurer Matt Kean said financial literacy was crucial to children’s future success.

“Understanding the cost of purchases will arm students with healthy money habits to achieve their goals now and into the future,” Mr Kean said.

“Students will be able to complete a persuasive writing task – writing a letter to mum or dad convincing them they know how to pay for the costs associated with a pet or a car.”

To complete the challenge, students will learn how to navigate the financial costs of becoming either a pet or car owner. They will consider other factors in addition to initial purchasing costs, such as ongoing costs and unexpected expenses, and the value of proper planning and budgeting.

The challenge activities are online and self-paced, and provide a fun learning activity for students to undertake at home.

Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell said students would use their knowledge of financial costs to develop a savings plan using the Moneysmart savings calculator.

“The activities in the Treasurer’s Financial Literacy Challenge are aligned to the NSW Mathematics and English K-10 syllabus,” Ms Mitchell said.

“As a new dog owner myself, my kids and I know there are a number of upfront and ongoing costs of a new furry family member, and I think students can learn a lot through these real-world scenarios.

“The challenge will help the next generation be as adept with their money as they are with digital devices.”

Students from all schools in Years 5 to 8 can enter the challenge for the remainder of Term 4, and will be issued with a certificate when they have completed the challenge.

The challenge replaces school banking programs, which from 2022 will no longer be run in NSW schools.

Students can find the NSW Treasurer’s Financial Literacy Challenge at:

Opportunity: The Search Begins For The Next Generation Of VFX And Animation Artists

The NSW Government is partnering with leading VFX and animation studios to help launch the careers of emerging filmmakers through the 2022 Screen NSW Animation and VFX Traineeship Program.

The program offers eight traineeships with leading VFX and creative digital studios Animal Logic, Cutting Edge, and Plastic Wax on board in 2022. The traineeships aim to develop career pipelines in NSW’s fast-growing VFX and animation sector.
Minister for the Arts, Don Harwin said the program will support the skills of local talent in digital production as NSW’s film industry continues to grow.
“The NSW Government’s contribution of $160,000 to the Screen NSW Animation and VFX Traineeship Program will fund training and mentoring in a professional industry environment to ensure that NSW continues to develop its world-class VFX industry and talent,” Mr Harwin said.
“The NSW Government continues to invest in the screen production sector, from project development to post-production and visual effects with almost $100 million committed in 2020/21. With all our 2021 trainees securing ongoing work following their traineeships, this program will ensure a pool of talented emerging practitioners for both local and international animations and VFX productions.”
Plastic Wax’s General Manager and Executive Producer, Felix Crawshaw said the company is excited to be participating in this year's program.
“VFX and animation is truly a career you get to create, so we fully understand that this initiative is all about connecting young, talented and creative people with meaningful opportunities. We are eager to meet and inspire the 2022 group,” Mr Crawshaw said.
Animal Logic’s Group Chief Operating Officer, Sharon Taylor said the traineeship will once again benefit emerging artists, practitioners, and participating studios. 
“We were proud to see the 2021 trainees contribute to tasks within their teams, pick-up skills and develop their confidence over the six-month program. Congratulations to this year’s four trainees and we look forward to welcoming the next group in 2022," Ms Taylor said.
Cutting Edge’s Head of Features and Television, Marcus Bolton said the program will help to connect upcoming talent with opportunities in the industry.
“The spirit of this initiative is about connecting opportunities to talent. This year we were proud to find our inaugural trainee Charlie Hart, and now we are excited to open the door for another applicant to get a job at Cutting Edge in 2022. It is exactly what we envisaged the scheme would create,” Mr Bolton said.

Screen NSW will provide subsidies to the three NSW host companies to employ trainees in either a creative or technical field for paid, six-month placements. The placement will provide real working experience in film, television, and interactive projects with host companies.

Applications are now open and will close Monday 29 November.

For information and to apply, visit the Screen NSW website

Image credit: PETER RABBIT and all associated characters ™ & © Frederick Warne & Co Limited. PETER RABBIT ™ 2, the Movie © 2021 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Opportunity: Free Training To Help Hospitality Industry Raise The Bar

Global drinks giant Diageo has enlisted TAFE NSW and the Australian Hotels Association NSW (AHA NSW) to support their ‘Raising the Bar’ COVID-19 response initiative, offering three free online hospitality licensing courses for existing workers and new entrants to the sector.

The three courses: Statement of Attainment in Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA), TAFE Statement in NSW Liquor Licensee, and TAFE Statement in NSW Liquor Licensee (Advanced) are targeted to existing industry members to upskill and to drive more workers to hospitality venues in NSW.

In 2020, Diageo Australia pledged $11.5 million to the Down Under instalment of ‘Raising the Bar’, through iconic Aussie brand Bundaberg Rum. The ‘Raising the Bar’ fund will invest $11.5 million over two years to help venues in Australia adapt and emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis.

Diageo Australia Managing Director Angus McPherson said the fund has already provided thousands of venues across the country with targeted support which includes practical equipment to promote safe indoor and outdoor socialising.

“The first phase of Raising the Bar supported venues with funds for much-needed equipment to re-open, such as hand sanitiser dispensers, temperature scanners and personal protective equipment,” Mr McPherson said.

“We are now excited to offer the industry access to free digital training through TAFE NSW to help our hospitality workers understand complicated legislation and compliance and support their business from the bottom up.”

TAFE NSW Teacher of Tourism and Hospitality Monique Fors said the free courses are delivered online and are available to anyone across the state who wants to learn how to comply and understand NSW liquor laws.

“These courses offer a great opportunity for people to upskill, whether you wish to become a compliant licensee, approved manager, club secretary, or simply require an RSA to secure bar and wait staff roles,” Ms Fors said.

“As the online courses are self-paced, they can be picked up at any time of the day or week, such as in between work shifts.”

AHA NSW CEO John Whelan said offering the industry free training in mandatory areas will ease a little of the economic burden experienced over the last 18 months.

“Support like the ‘Raising the Bar’ initiative is exactly what we need to help our hotels get back on their feet, employing people and contributing to the Australian economy,” Mr Whelan said.

“A large portion of this funding will see training for the next generation of leadership in the hotel sector. It will see managers provided with the same training as licensees and will vastly improve pub operations.”

The free courses are available until 30 June 2022. To enrol or find out more visit


A Tour And History Behind Australia's Most Famous Building, The Sydney Opera House

Canberra In The1920s (Compilation)

published by NFSA
A compilation of footage of Canberra in the 1920s. Includes the proposed site of Parliament House and then shows it under construction. The Sydney and Melbourne buildings in Civic. Panoramas from Mt Ainslie. Footage is from Canberra in the Making (NFSA title: 12980); Australia's Federal Capital Nearing Completion (NFSA title: 384692); Parliament House, Canberra c1925 (NFSA title: 384681); Canberra Scenes c1927 (NFSA title: 14837); Canberra c1929 (NFSA title: 13135)

NESA Media Statement: HSC Major Projects

The NESA COVID-19 Response Committee has extended the COVID Special Consideration Program to most HSC major projects being completed by HSC students across the state.

This means teachers will provide a mark or estimate for their students’ major projects in:
  • Drama
  • Textiles and Design
  • Design and Technology
  • Industrial Technology
  • Visual Arts
Students will need to submit their projects by the published due dates and teachers will have until 22 October to submit marks to NESA.

When providing a mark or estimate, teachers will take into consideration any impact of COVID-19 restrictions on students’ work.

Teacher provided marks will be moderated by NESA to ensure equity across the state.

The decision was made to limit the movement of NESA markers within and beyond Greater Sydney and is in line with Health advice for protecting the health and safety of everyone involved in the HSC exams.

The following major projects (that are submitted online) will continue to be marked online by NESA markers (unless an application for special consideration is made):
  • English Extension 2
  • Music 1 (compositions)
  • Music 2 and Extension (compositions and musicology)
  • Society and Culture Personal Interest Project
The Special Consideration Program is already in place for students completing language oral and performance exams across the state.

For up-to-date advice about the 2021 HSC, visit NESA’s COVID-19 advice.

HSC 2021 Key Dates: - from NESA

Term 4, 2021

Monday 1 November 2021
2022 HSC student entries open.

Tuesday, 9 November 2021
HSC written exams start.

Friday, 26 November 2021
Year 10 grades and Life Skills outcomes to be submitted (via Schools Online).

Monday, 29 November 2021
Last day to notify NESA that a Year 12 student has met the HSC Minimum Standard

After last HSC written examination
HSC Assessment Ranks released to students via Students Online for 4 weeks.

24 January 2022
HSC results released.

HSC Online Help Guide

REMINDER: there's a great Practical Guide for Getting through your HSC by Sydney Uni at:

Stay Healthy - Stay Active: HSC 2021

Stay active, keep connected and look after yourself during the HSC this year! 
Find helpful study tips, self-care resources and guides for students and parents at

Why are birds’ eggs colourful? New research shows it’s linked to the shape of their nests

Kiara L'HerpiniereMacquarie University

Of all the vertebrates on Earth – that is, animals with backbones – birds are the only ones that lay colourful eggs. Scientists are still unsure why, but new research brings us a step closer to finding out.

Although most reptiles lay eggs, and even some mammals (such as the platypus) too, birds are the only backboned animals alive today that can lay colourful and patterned eggs. Author provided

In a study published today in the journal Evolution, my colleagues and I reveal how the colours of songbird eggs diversified alongside the evolution of “open cup” nests, more than 40 million years ago.

Why Are Eggs Colourful?

Scientists are not entirely sure why birds lay such colourful eggs. Current theories fall into two main categories.

The first is that colour helps protect the eggs from environmental factors such as extreme cold or rain. Eggs with darker pigments heat up faster and maintain heat longer than white eggs. Pigments have also been shown to help strengthen thinner eggshells.

Eggshells can show areas of thinning, usually when the female’s diet is lacking calcium. This can often result from the use of pesticides, including DDT, in the wild — as they can dissolve or contaminate otherwise nutritious food such as snail shells.

Females have been shown to deposit pigments in the same spots where a shell is thinner (and more prone to breaking) — a bit like covering it with plaster. This may reinforce the shell and help keep it structurally sound.

We know the pigments are produced in the female’s uterus during the shell’s formation, but it’s still not known how different colours and complex patterns are applied to the shell while the egg is still inside the female.

Read more: Hot as shell: birds in cooler climates lay darker eggs to keep their embryos warm

The second theory is that colour provides a survival advantage, either by camouflaging the eggs from predators or parasites, or by signalling the female’s reproductive fitness to potential partners. More colourful eggs, particularly blue, signify that the mother is healthy and can spare resources for her babies.

How Is The Colour Made?

All the colours we see in bird eggs stem from just two pigments, one brown and the other blue. Different concentrations of these two pigments create the vast range of egg colours we see today.

Some eggs have intricate and delicate patterns. We still don’t know how the female birds apply the pigments to the eggshell in this way. Author provided

Until 2017, scientists believed laying colourful eggs was a trait unique to birds. But as it turns out, the same pigments can be found in fossilised dinosaur eggs too.

Researchers also found a link between dinosaurs’ nesting behaviour and egg colour. Specifically, they discovered dinosaurs that laid their eggs in partially open nests (rather than burying them like crocodiles) had colour in their eggshells.

Nest-Building Through Time

Until about 40 million years ago, songbirds built complex dome-shaped nests with insulated walls and roofs. Over time, however, they evolved the ability to create the open cup nests we see more commonly today.

Birds exhibit fantastic dexterity when building nests. Using only their beaks and feet, they can weave an array of nests ranging from relatively rudimentary designs to substantial, intricately woven structures.

The nests must have enough structural integrity to hold both the eggs and the weight of an incubating parent without being punctured. They must also stay intact while parents move around, hatched chicks start wriggling, and during rainfall and harsh winds.

Now, our research has found a link between eggshell colour and changes in nest construction. Specifically, birds have gone from laying a narrower range of coloured eggs (mainly white or dark brown) in closed dome nests, to a wider variety of colours (white, pink, olive, blue, pink and brown) in cup nests.

The transition to cup nests means the eggs are exposed when the incubating parent leaves to forage. During these foraging bouts, eggs are much more vulnerable to falling outside the temperature range needed to survive.

If they get too cold or hot, the embryos die. They’re also more exposed to passing predators looking for a snack.

Parasitic cuckoos lay their eggs inside other birds’ nests, and match their eggs to those already in the nest. Perhaps colour started playing an essential role in host parents’ evolutionary attempts to thwart the cuckoos?

Back when nests were mostly closed, and eggs hidden, the host wouldn’t have needed to produce colourful eggs to distinguish them from the cuckoo’s. Similarly, cuckoos wouldn’t have needed to match their eggs with the host’s.

Our research found that laying colourful eggs is a flexible trait, and was lost and regained multiple times during songbirds’ evolutionary history. Moreover, birds that evolved to make cup nests lost and regained this trait twice as many times as birds that still make closed nests today.

Read more: Who would win in a fight between an emu and a cassowary? One has a dagger-like claw, the other explosive agility

Onward, Upward

In the 1800s naturalists had a fascination with birds’ eggs, and it became common to own extensive egg collections. The ultimate goal for collectors, other than prestige, was to have as many different species as possible.

Today, collecting specimens is quite understandably illegal. But those old collections do come in handy.

A collection of bird eggs, in various colours and patterns, in a museum tray.
Today, it’s illegal to collect or trade native bird eggs in Australia without a permit. Author provided

For our work, we were able to draw on extensive egg collections donated to museums in Australia. We measured the egg colours of more than 250 different species of Australian songbird, took photographs, and analysed them against their evolutionary histories.

Many of the eggs from museum collections also come with geographical locations. We’re grateful to early naturalists for making extensive notes on where, when and how they collected each clutch.

Moving forward, we want to use this data to investigate how climatic variables interact with egg colour — as well as whether a female’s diet impacts egg colour. Egg-citing stuff!

We would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land from which these eggs were taken, and pay our respects to the Elders, past and present and emerging.The Conversation

Kiara L'Herpiniere, PhD Candidate, Wildlife Biologist, Macquarie University

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

The bryozoan mystery: a new look at an old fossil reveals the origin of these tiny coral-like creatures

Christian SchwarzCC BY-NC
Glenn A BrockMacquarie University and Luke StrotzNorthwest University, Xi'an

Most groups of modern animals had their beginnings more than half a billion years ago in an amazing evolutionary event known as the Cambrian Explosion.

This wasn’t the kind of explosion caused by a bomb or asteroid: we call it an “explosion” because of the huge and rapid increase in the diversity of animals we see in the fossil record during this time.

Read more: Evolution's 'big bang' explained (and it's slower than predicted)

Many familiar features of today’s animals arose in this period. The first eyes and other sensory organs developed, and appendages for swimming and walking also appeared. Tooth-rimmed jaws for predation evolved, as did complex hard parts for protection against predators.

One group of animals, called bryozoans, has until now appeared to be absent from the Cambrian Explosion. In new research, we took a closer look at some old fossils and discovered these tiny coral-like creatures were indeed present during this riotous surge in the variety of animal life on Earth.

Have You Heard Of Bryozoans?

Bryozoans are a distinct group of water-dwelling, filter-feeding animals. Like corals, bryozoans form colonies of tiny individuals. They eat using a crown of fine tentacles called a lophophore to extract tiny food particles from the water.

Bryozoan colonies come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including forms that encrust rocky surfaces, delicate branching structures, and even small jelly-like mounds.

Because the colony is often constructed of a hard material called calcium carbonate (the same material from which seashells are made), bryozoans are easily preserved as fossils. This is why roughly 15,000 species of fossil bryozoans are known to science.

Hidden Origins

Despite all these fossils, the origin of bryozoans has remained a mystery. The group seemingly “bursts” into existence about 480 million years ago (some 50 million years after the Cambrian Explosion), during the Ordovician Period.

Before the Ordovician, there is no record of their existence. This “missing” record led many palaeontologists to speculate that bryozoans first evolved sometime during the Cambrian. But these early forms were probably tiny and delicate, and may not have constructed their colonies of calcium carbonate. This would make them much less likely to be preserved as fossils.

A New Look At Old Fossils

Our research, published today in Nature, reveals bryozoans were indeed present during the Cambrian Explosion. The key to solving the mystery of their origins is a strange, honeycomb-like fossil called Protomelission (the name means “first honeycomb”).

The first specimens of Protomelission were originally described in 1993 from important Cambrian rocks in the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. However, it wasn’t clear from these original specimens that Protomelission was a bryozoan. Then, in 2018, an almost identical specimen was discovered in China.

The early Cambrian bryozoan Protomelission gatehousei from the Flinders Ranges, South Australia. Image a shows a scanning electron microscope image of a colony with individual capsules, called zooids, that held separate individuals of the colony. Images b and c show internal structures from different orientations revealed by microCT. Colours are added to show different structures. Zhang et al./NatureAuthor provided

Using a state-of-the-art technology called micro-computed tomography (MicroCT), we looked inside Protomelission to confirm it is, in fact, a fossil from a bryozoan colony.

MicroCT technology is similar to a CAT scan in a hospital. Using a thin beam of X-rays, we peer inside the fossil in a series of narrow “slices”. We then use a computer to stack the slices together and produce 3D images and videos of tiny objects like Protomelission.

Read more: The science of medical imaging: X-rays and CT scans

Our new images confirmed the fossil lacked the robust calcium carbonate skeleton that most living bryozoans possess. Based on our analyses, we can now say with certainty that bryozoans first appeared during the Cambrian Explosion.

A Hidden History Revealed

A reconstruction of what P. gatehousei may have looked like in life, with Cambrian seafloor in the background. Zhifei Zhang / Northwest UniversityAuthor provided

It’s not every day the hidden history of an entire group of animals is revealed by the fossil record! For context, this would be like revealing the early ancestor of every fish, amphibian, reptile, bird and mammal all in one go.

Our discovery pushes back the first appearance of the phylum Bryozoa by about 35 million years, making Protomelission the oldest known bryozoan. Importantly, our results also mean that living in colonies, a rare feature in complex animals, also originated during the Cambrian Explosion.

The bryozoans can now take their place among the incredible evolutionary and ecological events associated with the rise of animal communities.

For more information and resources related to the wonderful phylum Bryozoa please go here.The Conversation

Glenn A Brock, Honorary Professor, Macquarie University and Luke Strotz, Professor, Northwest University, Xi'an

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

Apple’s iPod came out two decades ago and changed how we listen to music. Where are we headed now?

Stuart JamesEdith Cowan University

On October 23, 2001, Apple released the iPod — a portable media player that promised to overshadow the clunky design and low storage capacity of MP3 players introduced in the mid-1990s.

The iPod boasted the ability to “hold 1,000 songs in your pocket”. Its personalised listening format revolutionised the way we consume music. And with more than 400 million units sold since its release, there’s no doubt it was a success.

Yet, two decades later, the digital music landscape continues to rapidly evolve.

Steve Jobs, then-chief executive of Apple, introducing the iPod in 2001.

A Market Success

The iPod expanded listening beyond the constraints of the home stereo system, allowing the user to plug into not only their headphones, but also their car radio, their computer at work, or their hi-fi system at home. It made it easier to entwine these disparate spaces into a single personalised soundtrack throughout the day.

There were several preconditions that led to the iPod’s success. For one, it contributed to the end of an era in which people listened to relatively fixed music collections, such as mixtapes, or albums in their running order. The iPod (and MP3 players more generally) normalised having random collections of individual tracks.

Sony Walkman
It might seem clunky now, but the original iPod was much sleeker than older portable cassette devices such as the Sony Walkman. Shutterstock

Then during the 1990s, an MP3 encoding algorithm developed at the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany allowed unprecedented audio data compression ratios. In simple terms, this made music files much smaller than before, hugely increasing the quantity of music that could be stored on a device.

Then came peer-to-peer file-sharing services such as Napster, Limewire and BitTorrent, released in 1999, 2000 and 2001, respectively. These furthered the democratisation of the internet for the end user (with Napster garnering 80 million users in three years). The result was a fast-changing digital landscape where music piracy ran rife.

The accessibility of music significantly changed the relationship between listener and musician. In 2003, Apple responded to the music piracy crisis by launching its iTunes store, creating an attractive model for copyright-protected content.

Meanwhile, the iPod continued to sell, year after year. It was designed to do one thing, and did it well. But this would change around 2007 with the release of the touchscreen iPhone and Android smartphones.

Read more: Stream weavers: the musicians' dilemma in Spotify's pay-to-play plan

Computer In Your Pocket

The rise of touchscreen smartphones ultimately led to the iPod’s downfall. Interestingly, the music app on the original iPhone was called “iPod”.

The iPod’s functions were essentially reappropriated and absorbed into the iPhone. The iPhone was a flexible and multifunctional device: an iPod, a phone and an internet communicator all in one — a computer in your pocket.

And by making the development tools for their products freely available, Apple and Google allowed third-party developers to create apps for their new platforms in the thousands.

It was a game-changer for the mobile industry. And the future line of tablets, such as Apple’s iPad released in 2010, continued this trend. In 2011, iPhone sales overtook the iPod, and in 2014 the iPod Classic was discontinued.

Unlike the Apple Watch, which serves as a companion to smartphones, single-purpose devices such as the iPod Classic are now seen as antiquated and obsolete.

Music Streaming And The Role Of The Web

As of this year, mobile devices are responsible for 54.8% of web traffic worldwide. And while music piracy still exists, its influence has been significantly reduced by the arrival of streaming services such as Spotify and YouTube.

These platforms have had a profound effect on how we engage with music as active and passive listeners. Spotify supports an online community-based approach to music sharing, with curated playlists.

Based on our listening habits, it uses our activity data and a range of machine-learning techniques to generate automatic recommendations for us. Both Spotify and YouTube have also embraced sponsored content, which boosts the visibility of certain labels and artists.

And while we may want to bypass popular music recommendations — especially to support new generations of musicians who lack visibility — the reality is we’re faced with a quantity of music we can’t possibly contend with. As of February this year, more than 60,000 tracks were being uploaded to Spotify each day.

According to Statista, Spotify had 165 million premium subscribers worldwide as of the second quarter of 2021. Shutterstock

What’s Next?

The experience of listening to music will become increasingly immersive with time, and we’ll only find more ways to seamlessly integrate it into our lives. Some signs of this include:

  • Gen Z’s growing obsession with platforms such as TikTok, which is a huge promotional tool for artists lucky enough to have their track attached to a viral trend

  • new interactive tools for music exploration, such as Radio Garden (which lets you tune into radio stations from across the globe), the Eternal Jukebox for Spotify and Instrudive

  • the use of wearables, such as Bose’s audio sunglasses and bone-conduction headphones, which allow you to listen to music while interacting with the world rather than being closed off, and

  • the surge in virtual music performances during the COVID pandemic, which suggests virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality will become increasingly accepted as spaces for experiencing music performances.

The industry is also increasingly adopting immersive audio. Apple has incorporated Dolby Atmos 3D spatial audio into both its Logic Pro music production software and music on the iTunes store. With spatial audio capabilities, the listener can experience surround sound with the convenience of portable headphones.

As for algorithms, we can assume more sophisticated machine learning will emerge. In the future, it may recommend music based on our feelings. For example, MoodPlay is a music recommendation system that lets users explore music through mood-based filtering.

Some advanced listening devices even adapt to our physiology. The Australian-designed Nura headphones can pick up information about how a specific listener’s ears respond to different sound frequencies. They purport to automatically adjust the sound to perfectly suit that listener.

Such technologies are taking “personalised listening” to a whole new level, and advances in this space are set to continue. If the digital music landscape has changed so rapidly within the past 20 years, we can only assume it will continue to change over the next two decades, too.

Read more: Goodbye iPod Classic The Conversation

Stuart James, Lecturer and Research Scholar in Composition and Music Technology, Edith Cowan University

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

Nearly 500 Ancient Ceremonial Sites Found In Southern Mexico

October 25, 2021
A team of international researchers led by the University of Arizona reported last year that they had uncovered the largest and oldest Maya monument -- Aguada Fénix. That same team has now uncovered nearly 500 smaller ceremonial complexes that are similar in shape and features to Aguada Fénix. The find transforms previous understanding of Mesoamerican civilization origins and the relationship between the Olmec and the Maya people.

The team's findings are detailed in a new paper published in the journal Nature Human Behavior. UArizona anthropology professor Takeshi Inomata is the paper's first author. His UArizona coauthors include anthropology professor Daniela Triadan and Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Lab director Greg Hodgins.

Using data gathered through an airborne laser mapping technique called lidar, the researchers identified 478 complexes in the Mexican states of Tabasco and Veracruz. Lidar penetrates the tree canopy and reflects three-dimensional forms of archaeological features hidden under vegetation. The lidar data was collected by the Mexican governmental organization Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía and covered a 32,800-square-mile area, which is about the same size as the island of Ireland.

Publicly available lidar data allows researchers to study huge areas before they follow up with high-resolution lidar to study sites of interest in greater detail.

"It was unthinkable to study an area this large until a few years ago," Inomata said. "Publicly available lidar is transforming archaeology."

Missing Links?
There's a longstanding debate over whether the Olmec civilization led to the development of the Maya civilization or if the Maya developed independently.

The newly uncovered sites are located in a broad area encompassing the Olmec region and the western Maya lowlands. The complexes were likely constructed between 1100 B.C. and 400 B.C. and were built by diverse groups nearly a millennium before the heyday of the Maya civilization between A.D. 250 and 950.

The researchers found that the complexes share similar features with the earliest centre in the Olmec area, San Lorenzo, which peaked between 1400 and 1100 BC. Aguada Fenix in the Maya area and other related sites began to adopt San Lorenzo's form and formalize it around 1100 BC.

At San Lorenzo, the team also found a previously unrecognized rectangular space.

"The sites are big horizontally but not vertically," Inomata said. "People will be walking on one and won't notice its rectangular space, but we can see it with lidar really nicely."

The researchers' work suggests that San Lorenzo served as a template for later constructions, including Aguada Fénix.

"People always thought San Lorenzo was very unique and different from what came later in terms of site arrangement," Inomata said. "But now we show that San Lorenzo is very similar to Aguada Fénix -- it has a rectangular plaza flanked by edge platforms. Those features become very clear in lidar and are also found at Aguada Fénix, which was built a little bit later. This tells us that San Lorenzo is very important for the beginning of some of these ideas that were later used by the Maya."

Sites Were Likely Ritual Spaces
The sites uncovered by Inomata and his collaborators were likely used as ritual gathering sites, according to the paper. They include large central open spaces where lots of people could gather and participate in rituals.

The researchers also analysed each site's orientation and found that the sites seem to be aligned to the sunrise of a certain date, when possible.

"There are lots of exceptions; for example, not every site has enough space to place the rectangular form in a desired direction, but when they can, they seem to have chosen certain dates," Inomata said.

While it's not clear why the specific dates were chosen, one possibility is that they may be tied to Zenith passage day, which is when the sun passes directly overhead. This occurs on May 10 in the region where the sites were found. This day marks the beginning of the rainy season and the planting of maize. Some groups chose to orient their sites to the directions of the sunrise on days 40, 60, 80 or 100 days before the zenith passage day. This is significant because the later Mesoamerican calendars are based on the number 20.

San Lorenzo, Aguada Fénix and some other sites have 20 edge platforms along the eastern and western sides of the rectangular plaza. Edge platforms are mounds placed along the edges of the large rectangular plazas. They define the shape of the plazas, and each are usually no taller than about 3 feet.

"This means that they were representing cosmological ideas through these ceremonial spaces," Inomata said. "In this space, people gathered according to this ceremonial calendar."

Inomata stressed that this is just the beginning of the team's work.

"There are still lots of unanswered questions," he said.

Researchers wonder what the social organization of the people who built the complexes looked like. San Lorenzo possibly had rulers, which is suggested by sculptures.

"But Aguada Fénix doesn't have those things," Inomata said. "We think that people were still somehow mobile, because they had just begun to use ceramics and lived in ephemeral structures on the ground level. People were in transition to more settled lifeways, and many of those areas probably didn't have much hierarchical organization. But still, they could make this kind of very well-organized center."

Inomata's team and others are still searching for more evidence to explain these differences in social organization.

"Continuing to excavate the sites to find these answers will take much longer," Inomata said, "and will involve many other scholars."

Melina García (front) excavates the central part of Aguada Fenix, the largest and oldest Maya monument ever uncovered. A team of UArizona researchers reported on the discovery in 2020. The team has since uncovered nearly 500 smaller ceremonial complexes that are similar in shape and features to Aguada Fénix.Photo: Takeshi Inomata

Takeshi Inomata, Juan Carlos Fernandez-Diaz, Daniela Triadan, Miguel García Mollinedo, Flory Pinzón, Melina García Hernández, Atasta Flores, Ashley Sharpe, Timothy Beach, Gregory W. L. Hodgins, Juan Javier Durón Díaz, Antonio Guerra Luna, Luis Guerrero Chávez, María de Lourdes Hernández Jiménez, Manuel Moreno Díaz. Origins and spread of formal ceremonial complexes in the Olmec and Maya regions revealed by airborne lidar. Nature Human Behaviour, 2021; DOI: 10.1038/s41562-021-01218-1

A mysterious signal looked like a sign of alien technology — but it turned out to be radio interference

CSIROAuthor provided
Danny C PriceCurtin University

In December last year, the media reported an intriguing signal we at the Breakthrough Listen project found in our radio telescope data. Dubbed BLC1, the signal didn’t appear to be the result of any recognisable astrophysical activity or any familiar Earth-based interference.

The trouble was, we weren’t ready to discuss it. When you’re searching for signs of extraterrestrial life, you want to be very careful about getting it right before you make any announcements. Last year we had only just started secondary verification tests, and there were too many unanswered questions.

Read more: We asked astronomers: are we alone in the Universe? The answer was surprisingly consistent

Today we are ready to report that BLC1 is, sadly, not a signal from intelligent life beyond Earth. Rather, it is radio interference that closely mimics the type of signal we’ve been looking for. Our results are reported in two papers in Nature Astronomy.

Searching For Solar Flares And Signs Of Life

The story of BLC1 starts in April 2019, when Andrew Zic, who at the time was a PhD student at the University of Sydney, began observing the nearby star Proxima Centauri with multiple telescopes to search for flare activity. At 4.22 light years away, Proxima Centauri is our nearest stellar neighbour, but it is too faint to see with the naked eye.

Flares from stars are bursts of energy and hot plasma that may impact (and likely destroy) the atmosphere of any planets in their path. Though the Sun produces flares, they are not strong or frequent enough to disrupt life on Earth. Understanding how and when a star flares teaches us a lot about whether those planets might be suitable for life.

Proxima Centauri hosts an Earth-sized exoplanet called Proxima Centauri b, and Andrew’s observations suggested the planet is buffeted by fierce “space weather”. While bad space weather doesn’t rule out life existing in the Proxima Centauri system, it does mean the planet’s surface is likely to be inhospitable.

Read more: Bad space weather may make life impossible near Proxima Centauri

Still, as our nearest neighbour, Proxima Centauri b remains a compelling target for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (or SETI). Proxima Centauri is one of the only stars we could potentially ever visit in our lifetime.

At the speed of light, a two-way trip would take 8.4 years. We can’t send a spaceship that fast, but there is hope that a tiny camera on a light sail could reach there in 50 years and beam back pictures.

Because of this, we joined forces with Andrew Zic and his collaborators, and used CSIRO’s Parkes telescope (also known as Murriyang in the Wiradjuri language) to run SETI observations in parallel with the flare activity search.

Read more: Observing the universe with a camera traveling near the speed of light

An Intriguing Summer Project

The BLC1 signal. Each panel in the plot is an observation toward Proxima Centauri (‘on source’), or toward a reference source (‘off source’). BLC1 is the yellow drifting line, and is only present when the telescope is pointed at Proxima Centauri. Smith et al., Nature AstronomyAuthor provided

We thought searching these observations would be an excellent project for a summer student. In 2020, Shane Smith, an undergraduate student from Hillsdale College in Michigan, United States, joined the Berkeley SETI Research Experience for Undergraduates program and began sifting through the data. Toward the end of his project, BLC1 popped out.

The Breakthrough Listen team quickly became intrigued by BLC1. However, the burden of proof to claim a detection of life beyond Earth is exceedingly high, so we don’t let ourselves get too excited until we’ve applied every test we can think of. The analysis of BLC1 was spearheaded by Sofia Sheikh, at the time a PhD student at Penn State, who ran an exhaustive set of tests, many of which were new.

There was plenty of evidence pointing toward BLC1 being a genuine sign of extraterrestrial technology (or “technosignature”). BLC1 has many characteristics we expect from a technosignature:

  • we only saw BLC1 when we were looking toward Proxima Centauri, and didn’t see it in when we looked elsewhere (in “off-source” observations). Interfering signals are commonly seen in all directions, as they “leak” into the telescope receiver

  • the signal only occupies one narrow band of frequencies, whereas signals from stars or other astrophysical sources occur over a much wider range

  • the signal slowly drifted in frequency over a 5-hour period. A frequency drift is expected for any transmitter not fixed to Earth’s surface, as its movement relative to us will cause a Doppler effect

  • the BLC1 signal persisted for several hours, making it unlike other interference from artificial satellites or aircraft that we have observed before.

Nevertheless, Sofia’s analysis led us to conclude BLC1 is most likely radio interference from right here on Earth. Sofia was able to show this by searching across the entire frequency range of the Parkes receiver and finding “lookalike” signals, whose characteristics are mathematically related to BLC1.

Unlike BLC1, the lookalikes do appear in off-source observations. As such, BLC1 is guilty by association of being radio interference.

Not The Technosignature We Were Looking For

We don’t know exactly where BLC1 was coming from, or why it wasn’t detected in off-source observations like the lookalike signals. Our best guess is that BLC1 and the lookalikes are generated by a process called intermodulation, where two frequencies mix together to create new interference.

If you’ve listened to blues or rock guitar, you are probably familiar with intermodulation. When a guitar amp is deliberately overdriven (when you turn it up to 11), intermodulation adds a pleasant-sounding distortion to the clean guitar signal. So BLC1 is – perhaps – just an unpleasant distortion from a device with an overdriven radio frequency amplifier.

Read more: Seti: why extraterrestrial intelligence is more likely to be artificial than biological

Regardless of what caused BLC1, it was not the technosignature we were looking for. It did, however, make for an excellent case study, and showed that our detection pipelines are working and picking up unusual signals.

Proxima Centauri is only one of many hundreds of billions of stars in the Milky Way. To search them all, we need to keep our momentum, to continue to improve our tools and verification tests, and to train the next generation of astronomers, like Shane and Sofia, who can continue the search with the next generation of telescopes.The Conversation

Danny C Price, Senior research fellow, Curtin University

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

What makes a good literary hoax? A political point, for starters

Spanish authors (from left), Agustin Martinez, Jorge Diaz and Antonio Mercero, who have been writing bestsellers as Carmen Mola. Quique Garcia/EPA
Camilla NelsonUniversity of Notre Dame Australia and Kerrie DaviesUNSW

Literary hoaxes thrive on exposure. At best, they are politically transgressive. They strip away anything smug, pretentious or hypocritical to reveal an uglier reality underneath.

Hoaxes may use ethically questionable methods. But when they work, they tell us something about the relationship of art to life and politics. It’s the literary equivalent of Banksy shredding an artwork at Sotheby’s as the hammer came down.

If they don’t, then we should question if they deserve to be called a hoax at all.

Recently, hoaxes were in the headlines when three men leapt onto a Barcelona stage to accept a million euro literary prize awarded by the publishing house, Planeta – “unmasking” themselves as the Spanish writer, Carmen Mola in the process. “Mola”, a bestselling crime author, won the Euro prize for La Bestia – The Beast – a thriller about a serial killer stalking Madrid in the midst of a cholera epidemic.

Cue global shock, followed by shrugs from authors, publishers and critics. So far, the fury has centred on who is allowed to write what, and why. However author Margaret Atwood crisply and correctly called the unveiling a “a great publicity stunt”. This hoax was embarrassing and high profile. But it was also unoriginal and apolitical.

The men behind Mola said they were tired of lying. But might claiming a lucrative, prestigious prize – and a bit of ego – also have been a factor in unmasking themselves?

Margaret Atwood: described the invention of Carmen Nola as a publicity stunt. Jordan Strauss/AP

Pen Name Politics

The Mola hoax infuriated many because the authors, who wrote a trilogy of ultra-violent novels starring a female detective, Inspector Elena Blanco, had generated a backstory that was more than a pseudonym. It was an identity. It was also stereotypically gendered.

Mola, which roughly translates as “Carmen the cool” in English, claimed she was an academic who kept her writing career a secret because she was bashful about the allegedly transgressive subject matter.

“I didn’t want my colleagues at the office, my sisters-in-law or my mother to know that I wrote a book where someone kills a woman by getting larva worms into her skull,” Mola said in an emailed interview. Email and claims of reclusiveness are the modus operandi for managing publicity arrangements for a problematic identity.

Lawyer and former director of the Women’s Institute in Spain, Beatriz Gimeno, tweeted that the authors had propagated the persona of a woman through email interviews for years, for financial gain. Another commenter called it gender bending “catfishing”.

According to Spanish journalist, Maria Ramirez, a Madrid feminist bookstore is now refusing to sell the Mola books on principle that “men don’t take all the space”. Historically female authors have been forced to use male pseudonyms to be published to fight for this space.

Read more: Reclaim Her Name: why we should free Australia's female novelists from their male pseudonyms

Did the authors see themselves as taking a poke at the history of women’s writing or gender oppression? No. They reportedly said they chose the name by chance and for fun and there was no politics associated with their choice of a woman. “Choosing a woman’s name was not a thought out thing, we don’t want to send any message. We could have put R2-D2 on it,” they said.

In Australia, in the 1940s, Dymphna Cusack and Florence James used the male pseudonym, Sydney Wyborne, to win a newspaper competition for an unpublished manuscript. They make an interesting comparison to the Mola case. Sadly, once unmasked, the prize was withdrawn. They didn’t get the money or the publishing contract.

Their book wasn’t published until 1951, under the new name Come in Spinner, by another publisher. According to Cusack, the delay was complicated by obscenity laws at the time, and editors’ resistance to publishing the women under their two real names.

Asking Questions

A true hoax provokes. It questions cultural biases, shatters conventions, leaving fragments for discussion that linger for years, if not centuries.

Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, for instance, is widely credited as the first realist English novel but it was initially read as a “true history” when published in 1719, under Crusoe’s name. The first novel, or one of the first fake memoir hoaxes? This is a conversation that continues.

Fast forward to 2006, when the Australian newspaper launched a “sting” on Australian publishers. The article was titled, “Would a manuscript from the 1973 Nobel laureate pass muster today?” A chapter of Patrick White’s Nobel prize winning novel, The Eye of the Storm, was sent to publishers under a pen name that was an anagram of Patrick White: Wraith Picket. The idea was copied from a similar sting by The Times of London, using writing by V.S. Naipaul.

Furious publishers who rejected White’s manuscript said they were not given enough of the book to make a decision and it was sloppily presented. This simple hoax was in the tradition of the fictional Australian poet from the 1940s Ern Malley. It made a cultural point – much of the book world is driven by rank commercialism and passing fads. An editorial eye is hit and miss.

Less salubrious – and more obvious – are the cultural commentary hoaxes on the saleability of sex romps, from a 1970s satire of the writing of Harold Robbins to a more recent parody of the writing style of 50 Shades of Grey.

Intercultural thefts are a separate matter. They aren’t hoaxes. They are harmful appropriations. Most commonly, such theft is committed by a dominant culture and the victim is the literary heritage of an oppressed minority.

This sorry history includes the so called “Virago Vicar”; an Anglican vicar named Toby Forward who published a collection of stories with the British feminist publishing house Virago under the pseudonym Rahila Khan.

Identity theft involving non-fiction forms or memoir is beyond this category – it belongs in the realm of fake news and “alternative facts”.

One interesting theft that keeps everybody talking – and may well endure – is the case of writer “Jeremiah Terminator Leroy”; a New York based television writer named Laura Albert who adopted the persona of a queer male sex worker from West Virginia, whose novels gave rise to a cult following. Albert convinced her sister-in-law Savannah Knoop to play the part of the reclusive author at book and other celebrity events.

The Mola men’s best defence might be that collaborations are rarely rewarded in the publishing world and they aimed to explode that status quo. But they have made little of this, other than mentioning how they “combined their talents” to write their crime trilogy along with this new novel.

Planeta, meanwhile, are expected to honour both the publishing deal for La Bestia and the lucrative associated TV adaptation of the Blanco trilogy under the Carmen Mola name. Filming starts in January.The Conversation

Camilla Nelson, Associate Professor in Media, University of Notre Dame Australia and Kerrie Davies, Lecturer, School of the Arts & Media, UNSW

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

Transport For NSW Partner With Motional To Lay Foundations For A Driverless Future Robotaxi Service

October 26, 2021
New South Wales is one step closer to autonomous mobility with Transport for NSW launching a plan to investigate driverless rideshare services.

Joost de Kock, Deputy Secretary Customer Strategy and Technology, Transport for NSW said the plan will help lay the foundation to prepare the launch a future robotaxi service, in what would be an Australian-first.

“We need to start thinking about a number of factors such as locations and infrastructure, passenger demand, connections to public transport, and the benefits to local communities,” Mr de Kock said. 

“To help us start that journey, we’re announcing a new partnership with a global leader in driverless technology, Motional

“The partnership will help us better understand how a driverless ride share service could improve the NSW network by providing safer, more accessible, efficient, and affordable mobility options and understanding what needs to be adapted for Australian roads. 

“We’re excited to be working with Motional to start laying the foundation for a driverless future in NSW. Today’s studies may very well shape how our communities move around in years to come.” 

Motional is at the forefront of driverless technology and is behind some of the industry’s largest leaps forward. In Singapore, the company launched the first-ever robotaxi pilot and in Las Vegas, it operates the longest-standing commercial robotaxi in service.

That service has provided more than 100,000 rides with zero at-fault incidents. Earlier this year, Motional also became among the first in the world to operate fully driverless vehicles on public roads, following a robust two-year safety evaluation process.

Gretchen Effgen, Vice President Go To Market and Marketing, Motional said we believe collaboration between our industry and innovative government partners like Transport for NSW is critical to making driverless vehicles a safe, global reality.

“We’re looking forward to working with Transport for NSW to better understand NSW’s transportation infrastructure, mobility needs, and how driverless vehicles can play a positive role,” Mr Effgen said.

“The work we are doing will lay the groundwork to inform important decisions about this technology down the road.” 

Motional- October 26, 2021; The R&D models for our next generation #robotaxis are currently testing in Las Vegas! Look for our #autonomousvehicles the next time you visit the Strip, and follow to learn more about our testing and commitment to #safety.

Rein In Behaviour Around Horses On The Road

October 21, 2021
Drivers are being reminded to brush up on some of the lesser-known road rules when driving near horses as part of an awareness campaign rolling out to keep motorists and riders safe on country roads.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole said it was important to remember that riders and horse-drawn vehicles have the same rights and responsibilities as other drivers, motorcycle riders and cyclists using the road.

“Horses and other livestock aren’t uncommon on roads in the bush, and this campaign reminds everyone to share the road safely,” Mr Toole said.

“Drivers should slow down and allow plenty of room when passing a horse, whether it’s being ridden, led or pulling a vehicle. Horses are easily spooked and can be unpredictable, so don’t use your horn or rev your engine.

“Horses are considered a vehicle on the road, so riders need to obey the road rules, ride on the left-hand side in the same direction as traffic, avoid tight corners or crests and try keep a good line of sight.”

In the last 10 years, there have been nine fatalities involving a ridden horse, while there were 54 casualty crashes involving a riderless horse struck by a vehicle, resulting in the deaths of two people and serious injuries to 15 others.

The Country Women’s Association (CWA) of NSW President Stephanie Stanhope said an incident earlier this year, which saw a rider injured and a horse euthanized after being hit by a vehicle, served as a reminder to keep up to date on road rules.

“We are seeing too many close calls and often these animals are a major part of a rider’s livelihood, so we ask that motorists are respectful when sharing the road with horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles to avoid any unfortunate incidents,” Ms Stanhope said.

“Riders should also be aware of their surroundings, including traffic, pedestrians, road surfaces and changing weather conditions, and, if possible, ride during daylight hours.

“It is also good practice to avoid tight corners or crests and instead ride on roads where motorists have a good line of sight, and the wearing of high visibility or bright-coloured clothing and a helmet that meets Australian standards is strongly recommended.”

For more information, visit

Crowded Pyrmont bridge picture see: ' The Man Who Swings the Bridge', Sunday Times, December 1920! - from the Powerhouse Museum's Tyrell Collection on Flickr.

Urgent Need To Tighten Rules On Use Of 'Surgeon' To Protect Public Safety Warns AMA

October 26, 2021
Four Corners program highlights risks of surgery and need for specialist medical college accreditation. The AMA says the title ‘surgeon’ should be reserved for medical practitioners who have obtained specialist medical college accreditation, and objects to the use of the term ‘cosmetic surgeon’ where a practitioner is not recognised as a surgical specialist.

The AMA says only medical practitioners with a Fellowship from an Australian Medical Council (AMC) accredited specialist medical college, whose training program includes a surgical component relevant to their field of expertise, should be allowed to use the ‘surgeon’ title.

Patients can be misled by the term ‘cosmetic surgeon’ or ‘podiatric surgeon’, believing they are dealing with a medical practitioner who has formal and specific surgical qualifications when in fact they may not.

AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid said the loophole needs to be closed, but action is required from health ministers.

“Many Australians will be shocked to know you can call yourself a cosmetic surgeon without any specific surgical training whatsoever as there’s no restriction on the use of the term ‘surgeon’ by doctors or by other health practitioners,” Dr Khorshid said.

Health ministers have been consulting on reforms to the regulatory scheme governing all health practitioners in Australia since July 2018. They supported restrictions to the use of titles ‘surgeon’ and ‘cosmetic surgeon’ but announced that further consultation would need to occur.

The AMA supports this reform and urges health ministers to finally complete the work they began over three years ago.

“Safe surgery required high levels of training- there are no short cuts. To protect the public, anyone using the term ‘surgeon’ must be a medical practitioner who has had the appropriate qualifications and credentialling that guarantees a minimum level of training and expertise as well as oversight of standards of practice and ethical behaviour.

“Surgery is as successful as it is because of the education and training processes, the regulatory processes, and because Colleges set standards and hold their members to account. That’s why we need to close the loopholes that allow practitioners to call themselves surgeons without necessarily meeting the necessary standards.” Dr Khorshid said.

The AMA supports changing the National Law to make it clear to patients that anyone using the title surgeon can only do so because they are a medical practitioner who has met and continues to meet the standards necessary for Fellowship of the relevant surgical college.

Australia Needs A Strategy To Minimise Climate Change Health Burden

October 25, 2021
by Jesse Hawley, UNSW
Despite being uniquely vulnerable to the hazards of climate change, Australia does not have a national plan to address the health risks it faces, says a national assessment of health and climate change released this week in the Medical Journal of Australia’s 2021 MJA-Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change.

The report, produced by a coalition of Australia’s top universities in collaboration with University of College London, analysed five domains where public health and climate change intersect – from Australia’s exposure and vulnerability, to the planning and resilience for health – concluding that for all we stand to lose, Australia still does not have a national health and climate change plan.

While the report found positive action at the individual, local, state and territory levels, with growing uptake of rooftop solar and electric vehicles and the beginnings of appropriate adaptation planning, this was severely undermined by national policies and actions.

The lead author, Macquarie University’s Associate Professor Paul Beggs, said “a major conclusion of the report is that the continued absence of a national health and climate change adaptation plan is a glaring gap in Australia’s preparedness, and continues to put the health and lives of Australians at risk”.

Such an adaptation plan would perform at least two roles: assessing the nation’s vulnerability to climate change and then developing a plan to manage these consequences. The bulk of such work is conducted by non-government organisations or, in other cases, by state and territory governments. It’s from these sources that a national plan to address climate change and health might be formed.

The paper describes the health risks posed by climate change, including vulnerabilities to heatwaves and extreme heat, diminishing physical and mental health due to reduced sporting activities, cold- and heat-related mortality and increased risk from natural disasters such as flooding, droughts, and bushfires – all of which are disproportionately harmful to Indigenous Australians.

“We already have significant weather extremes,” said co-author Associate Professor Donna Green from UNSW’s Climate Change Research Centre. “When we have droughts or bushfires, we have big ones. Climate change is going to increase these extreme weather events so we can expect longer, more severe periods of fire weather, or more intense heatwaves.”

The legacy of inaction, not just in health but in energy and infrastructure, has left us in a position of notable potential, said A/Prof. Green.

“[Australia] has had such poor policy for so long that now, paradoxically, we are surrounded by many opportunities – like energy-efficiency practices that can be introduced and benefitted from. Yet, in this garden of low-hanging fruit, we’re reaching for nothing.”

And there is another consequence of Australia’s inaction, A/Prof. Green said.

“The longer we leave it to respond to climate change the more people will normalise these changes, even extreme ones, leaving them feeling disempowered.

“Despite recent positive developments at the state level, Australia as a country is already considered an international pariah on the world’s stage. What’s worse is there is no rational reason to keep us here other than vested interests entrenching political inaction and legacy systems. We lose the respect, and reasonably should feel the outrage of all the younger generation of Australians by not taking action at the national level now.”

New Study Suggests That Breastfeeding May Help Prevent Cognitive Decline

October 24, 2021
A new study led by researchers at UCLA Health has found that women over the age of 50 who had breastfed their babies performed better on cognitive tests compared to women who had never breastfed. The findings, published in Evolution, Medicine and Public Health, suggest that breastfeeding may have a positive impact on postmenopausal women's cognitive performance and could have long-term benefits for the mother's brain.

"While many studies have found that breastfeeding improves a child's long-term health and well-being, our study is one of very few that has looked at the long-term health effects for women who had breastfed their babies," said Molly Fox, PhD, lead author of the study and an Assistant Professor in the UCLA Department of Anthropology and the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences. "Our findings, which show superior cognitive performance among women over 50 who had breastfed, suggest that breastfeeding may be 'neuroprotective' later in life."

Cognitive health is critical for wellbeing in aging adults. Yet, when cognition becomes impaired after the age of 50, it can be a strong predictor of Alzheimer's Disease (AD), the leading form of dementia and cause of disability among the elderly -- with women comprising nearly two-thirds of Americans living with the disease.

Many studies also show that phases of a woman's reproductive life-history, such as menstruation, pregnancy, breastfeeding and menopause can be linked to a higher or lower risk for developing various health conditions like depression or breast cancer, yet few studies have examined breastfeeding and its impact on women's long-term cognition. Of those that have, there has been conflicting evidence as to whether breastfeeding might be linked to better cognitive performance or Alzheimer's risk among post-menopausal women.

"What we do know is that there is a positive correlation between breastfeeding and a lower risk of other diseases such as type-2 diabetes and heart disease, and that these conditions are strongly connected to a higher risk for AD," said Helen Lavretsky, MD, the senior author of the study and a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA.

"Because breastfeeding has also been found to help regulate stress, promote infant bonding and lower the risk of post-partum depression, which suggest acute neurocognitive benefits for the mother, we suspected that it could also be associated with long-term superior cognitive performance for the mother as well," added Dr. Fox.

To find out, the researchers analysed data collected from women participating in two cross-sectional randomized controlled 12-week clinical trials at UCLA Health: 1) The "Brain Connectivity and Response to Tai Chi in Geriatric Depression and Cognitive Decline," included depressed participants. 2) The "Reducing Risk for Alzheimer's Disease in High-Risk Women through Yoga or Memory Training that included non-depressed participants with some subjective memory complaints and a risk for heart disease.

Among the two trials, 115 women chose to participate, with 64 identified as depressed and 51 non-depressed. All participants completed a comprehensive battery of psychological tests measuring learning, delayed recall, executive functioning and processing speed. They also answered a questionnaire about their reproductive life-history that included questions about the age they began menstruating, number of complete and incomplete pregnancies, the length of time they breastfed for each child and their age of menopause.

Importantly, none of the participants had been diagnosed with dementia, or other psychiatric diagnoses such as bipolar disorder, alcohol or drug dependence, neurological disorders or had other disabilities preventing their participation or taking any psychoactive medications. There was also no significant difference in age, race, education or other cognitive measures between the depressed and non-depressed participants.

Key findings from the researchers' analysis of the data collected from questionnaires on the women's reproductive history revealed that about 65% of non-depressed women reported having breastfed, compared to 44% of the depressed women. All non-depressed participants reported at least one completed pregnancy compared to 57.8% of the depressed participants.

Results from the cognitive tests also revealed that those who had breastfed, regardless of whether they were depressed or not, performed better in all four of the cognitive tests measuring for learning, delayed recall, executive functioning and processing compared to women who had not breastfed.

Separate analyses of the data for the depressed and non-depressed groups also revealed that all four cognitive domain scores were significantly associated with breastfeeding in the women who were not depressed. But in the women who were depressed, only two of the cognitive domains -- executive functioning and processing speed -- were significantly associated with breastfeeding.

Interestingly, the researchers also found that longer time spent breastfeeding was associated with better cognitive performance. When they added up all the time a woman spent breastfeeding in her life, they found that women who did not breastfeed had significantly lower cognitive scores in three out of four domains compared to women who had breastfed for 1-12 months, and in all four domains compared to the women who had breastfed for more than 12 months. Women who had breastfed the longest had the highest cognitive test scores.

"Future studies will be needed to explore the relationship between women's history of breastfeeding and cognitive performance in larger, more geographically diverse groups of women. It is important to better understand the health implications of breastfeeding for women, given that women today breastfeed less frequently and for shorter time periods than was practiced historically," said Dr. Fox.

Molly Fox, Prabha Siddarth, Hanadi Ajam Oughli, Sarah A Nguyen, Michaela M Milillo, Yesenia Aguilar, Linda Ercoli, Helen Lavretsky. Women who breastfeed exhibit cognitive benefits after age 50. Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health, 2021; DOI: 10.1093/emph/eoab027

Dragging Your Feet? Lack Of Sleep Affects Your Walk

October 26, 2021
Good sleep can be hard to come by. But a new study finds that if you can make up for lost sleep, even for just a few weekend hours, the extra zzz's could help reduce fatigue-induced clumsiness, at least in how you walk.

There's plenty of evidence to show sleep, and how much we get of it, can affect how well we do on cognitive tasks such as solving a math problem, holding a conversation, or even reading this article. Less explored is the question of whether sleep influences the way we walk or carry out other activities that are assumed to be less mentally taxing.

The new study, by researchers at MIT and the University of São Paulo in Brazil, reports that walking -- and specifically, how well we can control our stride, or gait -- can indeed be affected by lack of sleep.

In experiments with student volunteers, the team found that overall, the less sleep students got, the less control they had when walking during a treadmill test. For students who pulled an all-nighter before the test, this gait control plummeted even further.

Interestingly, for those who didn't stay up all night before the test, but who generally had less-than-ideal sleep during the week, those who slept in on weekends performed better than those who didn't.

"Scientifically, it wasn't clear that almost automatic activities like walking would be influenced by lack of sleep," says Hermano Krebs, principal research scientist in MIT's Department of Mechanical Engineering. "We also find that compensating for sleep could be an important strategy. For instance, for those who are chronically sleep-deprived, like shift workers, clinicians, and some military personnel, if they build in regular sleep compensation, they might have better control over their gait."

Krebs and his co-authors, including lead author Arturo Forner-Cordero of the University of São Paulo, have published the study in the journal Scientific Reports.

Brainy influence
The act of walking was once seen as an entirely automatic process, involving very little conscious, cognitive control. Animal experiments with a treadmill suggested that walking appeared to be an automatic process, governed mainly by reflexive, spinal activity, rather than more cognitive processes involving the brain.

"This is the case with quadrupeds, but the idea was more controversial in humans," Krebs says.

Indeed, since those experiments, scientists including Krebs have showed that the act of walking is slightly more involved than once thought. Over the last decade, Krebs has extensively studied gait control and the mechanics of walking, in order to develop strategies and assistive robotics for patients who have suffered strokes and other motion-limiting conditions.

In previous experiments, he has shown, for instance, that healthy subjects can adjust their gait to match subtle changes in visual stimuli, without realizing they are doing so. These results suggested that walking involves some subtle, conscious influence, in addition to more automatic processes.

In 2013, he struck up a collaboration with Forner-Cordero through a grant from the MIT-Brazil MISTI program, and the team began to explore whether more subtle stimuli, such as auditory cues, might influence walking. In these initial experiments, volunteers were asked to walk on a treadmill as researchers played and slowly shifted the frequency of a metronome. The volunteers, without realizing it, matched their steps to the subtly changing beat.

"That suggested the concept of gait being only an automatic process is not a complete story," Krebs says. "There's a lot of influence coming from the brain."

Sleep and walking
Forner-Cordero and Krebs continued to investigate the mechanics of walking and general motor control, mostly enlisting student volunteers in their experiments. Cordero in particular noticed that, toward the end of the semester, when students faced multiple exams and project deadlines, they were more sleep-deprived and happened to do worse in the team's experiments.

"So, we decided to embrace the situation," Forner-Cordero says.

In their new study, the team enlisted students from the University of São Paulo to take part in an experiment focused on the effects of sleep deprivation on gait control.

The students were each given a watch to track their activity over 14 days. This information gave researchers an idea of when and how long students were sleeping and active each day. The students were given no instruction on how much to sleep, so that the researchers could record their natural sleep patterns. On average, each student slept about six hours per day, although some students compensated, catching up on sleep over the two weekends during the 14-day period.

On the evening before the 14th day, one group of students stayed awake all night in the team's sleep lab. This group was designated the Sleep Acute Deprivation group, or SAD. On the morning of the 14th day, all students went to the lab to perform a walking test.

Each student walked on a treadmill set at the same speed, as researchers played a metronome. The students were asked to keep step with the beat, as the researchers slowly and subtly raised and lowered the metronome's speed, without telling the students they were doing so. Cameras captured the students' walking, and specifically, the moment their heel struck the treadmill, compared with the beat of the metronome.

"They had to synchronize their heel strike to the beat, and we found the errors were larger in people with acute sleep deprivation," Forner-Cordero says. "They were off the rhythm, they missed beeps, and were performing in general, worse."

This in itself may not be entirely surprising. But in comparing students who did not pull an all-nighter prior to the test, the researchers found an unexpected difference: The students who did slightly better were those who compensated and got slightly more sleep on the weekends, even when they performed the test at the tail end of the week.

"That's paradoxical," Forner-Cordero says. "Even at the peak of when most people would be tired, this compensating group did better, which we didn't expect."

"The results show that gait is not an automatic process, and that it can be affected by sleep deprivation," Krebs says. "They also suggest strategies for mitigating effects of sleep deprivation. Ideally, everyone should sleep eight hours a night. But if we can't, then we should compensate as much and as regularly as possible."

This research was supported, in part, by the Office of Naval Research Global.

Guilherme S. Umemura, João Pedro Pinho, Jacques Duysens, Hermano Igo Krebs, Arturo Forner-Cordero. Sleep deprivation affects gait control. Scientific Reports, 2021; 11 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-00705-9

New Research Finds Air Pollution Reduces Sperm Counts Through Brain Inflammation

October 25, 2021
Researchers have long known that air pollution can increase the risk of disorders such as obesity, diabetes, and fertility, but they did not know the exact mechanism for how it can lead to these health conditions.

Now, University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) researchers have shown how air pollution reduces sperm count in mice by causing inflammation in the brain.

Scientists already know that the brain has a direct line to the reproductive organs affecting fertility and sperm count under stressful conditions. For example, emotional stress can lead to skipped menstrual periods in women. However, this latest study, published on Sept. 8 in Environmental Health Perspectives, connects the dots on how breathing polluted air can lower fertility.

"Our findings showed that the damage due to air pollution -- at least to the sperm count -- could be remedied by removing a single inflammation marker in the brains of mice, suggesting that we may be able to develop therapies that could prevent or reverse the damaging effects of air pollution on fertility," said lead study author Zhekang Ying, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at UMSOM.

Charles Hong, MD, PhD, the Melvin Sharoky, MD Professor in Medicine and Director of Cardiology Research at UMSOM said, "These findings have wider implications than just fertility, as there are many conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease that can result from brain inflammation due to air pollution."

About 92 percent of the world population lives in areas where the level of fine particles in the air smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter exceed the minimum safety standards set by the World Health Organization. These particles can come from sources such as car exhaust, factory emissions, wildfires, and woodburning stoves.

In past studies, some results have shown that mice exposed to air pollution did not always have inflammation of the testes -- the male sex organs that make sperm -- meaning that some other mechanism was potentially responsible for reduced sperm counts. Knowing the direct link between the brain and the sex organs, the researchers tested whether air pollution increased inflammation in the brain.

For this new study, researchers tested healthy mice and mice bred to lack a marker of inflammation in the brain, called Inhibitor KappaB Kinase 2, or IKK2 for short, specifically located in the brain's neurons. They exposed both healthy and IKK2 mutant mice to filtered air or air pollution and then tested their sperm counts. The mice bred without the IKK2 inflammation marker in their neurons did not have reductions in their sperm counts when exposed to the polluted air, unlike the healthy mice.

Researchers then removed IKK2 from specific neurons to determine more precisely how air pollution was leading to lower sperm counts. They found that one specific kind of neuron typically associated with sleep cycle and obesity was responsible for the reduced sperm count due to air pollution. These neurons typically are found in the hypothalamus, a part of the brain which controls hunger, thirst, and sex drive. The hypothalamus also works with the brain's pituitary gland, which makes hormones that communicate directly with reproductive organs.

"Looking back, it makes perfect sense that the neurons in the hypothalamus are the culprits perpetuating this inflammation response that results in low sperm count, as we know that the hypothalamus is a major pathway link between the brain and the reproductive system," said Dr. Ying.

E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, UM Baltimore, and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean at UMSOM commented, " Environmental pollution is a problem of equity in that some persons who are poor or of color tend to face more severe health-related conditions due to greater exposure. It is important to explore the mechanisms by which pollution affects the body, so we can devise ways to prevent or treat these conditions to eliminate these health disparities."

Lianglin Qiu, Minjie Chen, Xiaoke Wang, Sufang Chen, Zhekang Ying. PM2.5 Exposure of Mice during Spermatogenesis: A Role of Inhibitor κB Kinase 2 in Pro-Opiomelanocortin Neurons. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2021; 129 (9): 097006 DOI: 10.1289/EHP8868

Coffee And The Effects Of Climate Change

October 26, 2021
Whether you prefer notes of berry and citrus or chocolate and nuts, dark roast or light, a good cup of coffee can be a simple pleasure. You probably would notice if some of your morning brew's brightness disappeared, or if the familiar fruity aroma dulled a little. Changes like these might not stem from when the beans were roasted or ground, but from growing conditions.

Coffee is grown on more than 27 million acres across 12.5 million largely smallholder farms in more than 50 countries. Many coffee-producing regions are increasingly experiencing changing climate conditions, whose impact on coffee's taste, aroma, and even dietary quality is as much a concern as yields and sustainability.

A new research review says that coffee quality is vulnerable to shifts in environmental factors associated with climate change. The review, led by researchers from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts and Montana State University, also finds that some current adaptation strategies to combat these effects provide hope for positive outcomes.

"A subpar cup of coffee has economic implications as well as sensory. Factors that influence coffee production have great impacts on buyers' interest, the price of coffee, and ultimately the livelihoods of the farmers who grow it," says Sean Cash, an economist and the Bergstrom Foundation Professor in Global Nutrition at the Friedman School and senior author on the study, published in Frontiers in Plant Science.

"Climate change impacts on crops are already causing economic and political disruption in many parts of the world," he says. "If we can understand the science of these changes, we might help farmers and other stakeholders better manage coffee production in the face of this and future challenges."

In their analysis, the researchers looked at the effects of 10 prevalent environmental factors and management conditions associated with climate change and climate adaptation, respectively, across 73 published articles.

The most consistent trends the team found were that farms at higher altitudes were associated with better coffee flavor and aroma, while too much light exposure was associated with a decrease in coffee quality. A synthesis of the evidence found that coffee quality is also susceptible to changes due to water stress and increased temperatures and carbon dioxide, although more research on these specific factors is needed.

Some current efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change, including shade management to control light exposure, selection and maintenance of climate-resilient wild coffee plants, and pest management, show promise and feasibility, but innovative solutions to support bean growth at all elevations need to be devised, the team says.

"These strategies are giving some hope that coffee quality can be maintained or improved and will ultimately help farmers consider how to design evidence-based interventions to support their farms," says Selena Ahmed, an ethnobotanist in the Food and Health Lab at Montana State University, who earlier was a postdoctoral scholar in the Tufts IRACDA program. "These impacts on crops are important to study in general, not just for coffee. Our food systems support our food security, nutrition and health."

“A subpar cup of coffee has economic implications as well as sensory ones,” says Sean Cash. Photo: Ingimage

Selena Ahmed, Sarah Brinkley, Erin Smith, Ariella Sela, Mitchell Theisen, Cyrena Thibodeau, Teresa Warne, Evan Anderson, Natalie Van Dusen, Peter Giuliano, Kim Elena Ionescu, Sean B. Cash. Climate Change and Coffee Quality: Systematic Review on the Effects of Environmental and Management Variation on Secondary Metabolites and Sensory Attributes of Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora. Frontiers in Plant Science, 2021; 12 DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2021.708013

Researchers Discover A Way To Increase The Effectiveness Of Antibiotics

October 25, 2021
A multi-disciplinary project driven by EMBL Australia researchers at Monash University and Harvard University has found a way to make antibiotics more effective against antibiotic-resistant bacteria -- also known as 'superbugs.

Antimicrobial resistance to superbugs has been evolving and is one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity, according to the World Health Organization.

This new research will provide a pathway to increasing the effectiveness of antibiotics, without clinicians having to resort to risky strategies of giving patients higher doses or relying on the discovery of new types of antibiotics.

During a bacterial infection, the body uses molecules called chemoattractants to recruit neutrophils to the site of the infection. Neutrophils are immune cells with the ability to encapsulate and kill dangerous bacteria, critical to the immune response. Researchers attached a chemoattractant to an antibiotic, enabling them to enhance the recruitment of immune cells and improve their killing ability.

The findings have now been published in Nature Communications.

"When looking at how our immune system can fight bacteria there are two important aspects we look at. The first is our ability to entrap bacterial cells and kill them. The second is the signals -- the chemoattractants -- calling for more neutrophils, white blood cells which lead the immune system's response to resolve infection," said Dr Jennifer Payne, the lead researcher from EMBL Australia and the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute.

The researchers linked a chemoattractant known as formyl peptide to vancomycin, a commonly used antibiotic that binds to the surface of the bacteria, and performed their studies on golden staph infections, one of the more problematic antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

"We've been working on using dual-function antibiotic-chemoattractant 'hybrids', which improve the recruitment of neutrophils and increase the engulfing and killing of the bacteria," said Dr Payne.

"By stimulating our powerful immune system in this way with the immunotherapeutic antibiotic, we've shown in mouse models that the treatment is 2-fold more effective than just using the antibiotic alone at one-fifth lower dose," said Associate Professor Max Cryle, an EMBL Australia Group Leader at the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute.

"This very promising new avenue of research is bringing a lot of potential benefits to the ever-increasing threat of drug-resistant superbugs," said Associate Professor Cryle.

L-R: Monash BDI and EMBL Australia researchers, Dr Jennifer Payne and Associate Professor Max Cryle.

Instrumental to the project was funding from VESKI and Melbourne sister city foundation that took Dr Payne across the world to Boston to learn and carry out microfluidic research learning and collaborating with Associate Professor Daniel Irima, and Dr Felix Ellett, Harvard experts in this field.

"Microfluidics was ground-breaking for this research, as it allowed us to generate an infection-on-a-chip to monitor the recruitment of human immune cells, and observe in real-time how our immunotherapeutic enhances their ability to kill MRSA. Just like what would happen in our body" said Dr Payne,

Partners are being sought to continue this research into clinical trials with the potential of developing a preventative antibiotic strategy in the intensive care environment to protect our most vulnerable.

The work has resulted in a patent covering the immunotherapeutic, with the IP owned by Monash University.

Jennifer A. E. Payne, Julien Tailhades, Felix Ellett, Xenia Kostoulias, Alex J. Fulcher, Ting Fu, Ryan Leung, Stephanie Louch, Amy Tran, Severin A. Weber, Ralf B. Schittenhelm, Graham J. Lieschke, Chengxue Helena Qin, Daniel Irima, Anton Y. Peleg, Max J. Cryle. Antibiotic-chemoattractants enhance neutrophil clearance of Staphylococcus aureus. Nature Communications, 2021; 12 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-26244-5

Super Cool Building Materials Prove Powerful Arsenal Against Climate Change

October 26, 2021: UNSW
New building materials that reduce urban temperatures, and counteract the effects of climate change, will be produced in a research partnership between UNSW Sydney and the University of Sydney.

The so-called super cool roofs, pavements and coatings for buildings reflect rather than absorb solar energy. They can reduce peak temperatures in our cities by up to four degrees, enough to save lives, says Scientia Professor Mattheos (Mat) Santamouris.

“One of the major problems in the built environment is urban overheating, or regional climatic change,” the Anita Lawrence Professor of High-Performance Architecture says. “As our cities heat up, heat-related morbidity and mortality rise.”

In 2020, 593 and 391 people died from heat-related deaths in Melbourne and Sydney respectively, a substantial increase from 289 and 176 in 2007, according to the Australia State of Environment.

Countering the urban heat island effect
Overpopulation and rapid urbanisation are transforming our cities into urban heat islands, Prof. Santamouris says. Human activity – waste heat from industry, cars and air conditioners – drives up city temperatures making them significantly warmer than surrounding areas. This affects more than 500 cities worldwide.

“The way we build [also] increases the temperature of our cities. We’re using [heat-absorbing materials like] asphalt, we’re using concrete,” Prof. Santamouris says.

Super cool roofs and pavements by contrast reduce the energy needed for cooling. This in turn decreases carbon dioxide emissions that increase the magnitude of climate change. This makes our cities more economical, environmentally friendly and liveable, he says.

The new-generation materials were tested as part of a study to reduce temperatures in Australian cities, mainly in the frame of an ARC Discovery Project.

The study found that introducing super cool materials with other heat-mitigating strategies, such as increased greenery and shade, could save around ten lives per year per 100,000 residents.

“Under the sun, [with] 42 degrees ambient temperature, the [super cool] materials’ surface temperature was 25. It’s a natural air condition without expending any energy – super cool materials,” the energy physicist says.

“And all these new technologies and new materials have been developed here in Australia.”

Application of cool material in cities can result in a reduction of peak ambient temperature. Source: Image: Supplied.

Promoting energy economy with government
Prof. Santamouris and his team are partnering with the Department of Industry, Science, Enterprise and Research (DISER) on two projects to promote energy efficiency in the built environment.

The team will provide cost-benefit analyses and scientific documentation on the adoption of cool roofs in Australia, and ways to improve energy efficiency in new and existing commercial buildings, such as office buildings, aged-care facilities, hotels, childcare and shopping centres.

With around 40 percent of the total energy consumption in developed nations attributable to buildings, there is huge potential for impact, Prof. Santamouris says.

“The reduction of energy use and associated greenhouse gas emissions through energy conservation measures is vital to achieving energy and climate goals in the cities,” he says.
Princely project a win for Australian tech and knowledge exchange
Prof. Santamouris is applying his research to reduce temperatures in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s hottest cities. The Royal Commission of Riyadh has engaged his team to develop an all-pervasive heat-mitigation plan, the largest of its kind.

The project recognises Australia’s world-leading research and technology in the field, and delivers significant health, sustainability and economic outcomes. They use computational tools empowered with rich urban datasets to model building performance at the urban scale, identify energy retrofits and inform urban planning.

Extensive aerial monitoring using airplanes and infrared technologies, performed by industry partner National Drones, will map the city’s thermal conditions. While large-scale high-resolution simulations of the city will evaluate different scenarios to decipher optimal strategies.

The project also considers the city’s vegetation, water, ventilation and introducing super cool materials. The team is coordinating similar studies for the cities of Dubai, UAE; Kolkata, India; and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in collaboration with local researchers.

Cool materials were applied in the mitigation case and a reduction of the ambient temperature was observed. Extracted from the project report for Cooling Riyadh. Image: Supplied.

A more equitable energy blueprint
Energy conservation also has a flow-on effect to equity, Prof. Santamouris says. Today 20 percent of the population in developed countries cannot afford to cover their energy needs due to low income and low-quality housing, he says.

“The temperature difference between Eastern and Western Sydney during summer, for example, is up to 10 degrees. In a distance of 60 kilometres, that’s tremendous,” he says.

“This has a tremendous impact on the quality of life of people in Western Sydney. They spend almost 100 percent more energy on cooling. They have much higher mortality rates.”

The less energy we need, the greater the thermal satisfaction of all people, he says. And that is the end goal for him. The most powerful research pivots on pragmatic altruism, he says.

“Research must advance knowledge, help solve existing problems, and cover existing knowledge gaps to better the quality of life,” he says. “It must advance the global good for the improvement of society, to protect the lives of citizens.”

Prof. Santamouris is ranked the top most cited scientist for building and construction globally for 2019 and 2020 in the Meta-Research Innovation Center at Stanford. He and his team are involved with more than 200 large-scale heat-mitigation projects around the world in Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Australia.

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.