Inbox and Environment news: Issue 530

March 13 - 19, 2022: Issue 530

Weeds Strangling Trees At Governor Phillip Park Still Not Cleared; Banksias Now Dying

photo taken this week shows banksias are now submerged in weeds and beginning to die off - visit:  $198,859 Allocated To Council For Weed Control - Governor Phillip Park Misses Out (and other much needed areas) - February 13, 2022

white-faced heron at North Palm Beach, ocean side.


Avalon Beach 100 Years 100 Trees - Branching Out 

Canopy Keepers is back with another 100 native tubestock to give away later this month as Avalon Beach Centenary celebrations continue - but this time the group is branching out to residents across Pittwater. 

CK spokesperson Deb Collins said the group had been delighted with the response to its first offering of 100 trees at the opening of celebrations for the naming of Avalon Beach on December 4, with residents claiming more than 120 young plants. 

“This time we're branching out, spreading the love wider, and inviting new Canopy Keepers from Narrabeen to Palm Beach, from The Basin to Scotland Island to join us in strengthening our precious canopy,” Ms Collins said.  

“Did you know that for canopy trees and wildlife to thrive they need an understorey and ground cover and that eucalypts grow better with wattles nearby ? 

“So whether you have room for a tall, mid storey or ground cover plant, please sign up, then come and meet us on this auspicious autumn day so you can take home a plant to support our canopy.”  

Ms Collins asked those interested to please register online using the link below. The deadline for signing up for a tree is noon on March 12 - although some stock will be available on the day. 

“Then find us at Dunbar Park to collect your tubestock on Saturday March 19 under our own canopy,” she said. 

“We’ll have knowledgeable people on hand to help you with the best choice of tree for your location.” 

Canopy Keepers thanks the Northern Beaches Council for its support of this initiative. 

To sign up in advance for a tree please go to this link: 

To make enquiries please email 

To learn more about Canopy Keepers go to and sign up for our newsletter. 

For general enquires about the March 19 program, please email Ros Marsh at

The Sydney Edible Garden Trail 2022

Costa and the SEGT team (l to r): Laurie Green, Nita Lo, Margaret Mossakowska and Bridget Kennedy

Peek inside some of Sydney’s private backyard fruit and veggie gardens this March, and discover their secrets to living sustainably.

Whether you’re a new or experienced gardener, the best way to learn how to grow juicy fruit and vegetables in your own backyard is to talk to a gardener who’s already doing it. Sydneysiders will have the opportunity to do this over the weekend of 26 & 27 March 2022 when over 50 suburban, community and school gardens will open for the Sydney Edible Garden Trail (SEGT).

Matthew Elphick, one of the garden hosts who participated last year, was inspired to reopen his garden again this year. He’s looking forward to the 2022 trail, saying “It was so wonderful to open last year and have people come through the garden and see how excited they are. You get to see the garden through their eyes, things that you don’t think much about, they find amazing. It’s such a great opportunity to meet like-minded people.” 

With the motto “We don’t just grow food, we grow sustainable communities”, SEGT arranges for gardens to open to the public and allocates profits from ticket sales towards building stronger community and school gardens through a grants program with 8 gardens provided with grants in 2021.

This year the trail is extending to the wider Sydney metropolitan area with many new gardens included. Tickets are now on sale at 

Those in our area listed so far for the 2022 edition of SEGT include:

Newport Community Garden
We are a membership based Community Garden of local neighbours who get together to learn about organic gardening, sustainable living, socialise and have a good time!

NCG has been running for over 8 years and from humble beginnings is now a vibrant, sustainable and inviting space with over 35 garden beds, compost bays, worms farms and native bee hive, green house, water tanks and garden shed.

We grow organic fruits, vegetable and herbs. We cultivate our compost, make our own natural pesticides and grow from seeds saved from our seasonal harvest.

It’s not just hard work, we are very social too and always finish the day with a cuppa and chat with local community members.

In November 2021 Newport Community Garden  were announced as one of fifty SEGT GRANT RECIPIENTS 2021. 

The grant will be used to attract local birdlife and bees by planting some native bush food plants and others native plants.

Newport Community Garden Profile of the Week

“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just on the body, but the soul.” - Alfred Austin

Great reuse of an old boat in the Newport Community Garden

MORE IN The Sydney Edible Garden Trail 2022 Peek inside some of Sydney’s private backyard fruit and veggie gardens this March and discover their secrets to living sustainably: list of local gardens participating so far as part of this years SEGT; March 26-27, 2020

Local Wildlife Rescuers And Carers State That Ongoing Heavy Rains Are Tough For Us But Can Be Tougher For Our Wildlife:

  • Birds and possums can be washed out of trees, or the tree comes down, nests can disintegrate or hollows fill with water
  • Ground dwelling animals can be flooded out of their burrows or hiding places and they need to seek higher ground
  • They are at risk crossing roads as people can't see them and sudden braking causes accidents
  • The food may disappear - insects, seeds and pollens are washed away, nectar is diluted and animals can be starving
  • They are vulnerable in open areas to predators, including our pets
  • They can't dry out and may get hypothermia or pneumonia
  • Animals may seek shelter in your home or garage. 

You can help by:

  • Keeping your pets indoors
  • Assessing for wounds or parasites
  • Putting out towels or shelters like boxes to provide a place to hide
  • Drive to conditions and call a rescue group if you see an animal hit (or do a pouch check or get to a vet if you can stop)
  • If you are concerned take a photo and talk to a rescue group or wildlife carer

There are 2 rescue groups in the Northern Beaches:

Sydney Wildlife: 9413 4300

WIRES: 1300 094 737

Please be patient as there could be a few enquiries regarding the wildlife. 

Generally Sydney Wildlife do not recommend offering food but it may help in some cases. Please ensure you know what they generally eat and any offerings will not make them sick. You can read more on feeding wildlife here 

Information courtesy Ed Laginestra, Sydney Wildlife volunteer. Photo: from Esther Andrews.

Aviaries + Possum Release Sites Needed

Pittwater Online News has interviewed Lynette Millett OAM (WIRES Northern Beaches Branch) needs more bird cages of all sizes for keeping the current huge amount of baby wildlife in care safe or 'homed' while they are healed/allowed to grow bigger to the point where they may be released back into their own home. 

If you have an aviary or large bird cage you are getting rid of or don't need anymore, please email via the link provided above. There is also a pressing need for release sites for brushtail possums - a species that is very territorial and where release into a site already lived in by one possum can result in serious problems and injury. 

If you have a decent backyard and can help out, Lyn and husband Dave can supply you with a simple drey for a nest and food for their first weeks of adjustment.

Australia’s Eucalypt Of The Year Voting Is Open For The 5th Year!

Get ready to witness eco passion because voting for the 2022 Eucalypt of the Year opens today. Celebrating its 5th birthday, the much loved - and highly contested - Eucalypt of the Year award is sure to bring out the competitive spirit in gumtree lovers across the country.

“The 2022 Eucalypt of the Year gives everyone the opportunity to celebrate their own personal favourites with the winning species to be announced on National Eucalypt Day (23 March) by Eucalypt Australia, says Linda Baird, CEO Eucalypt Australia.

“From John Williamson’s ‘Home Among The Gumtrees’ to May Gibbs’ ‘Snugglepot and Cuddlepie’, eucalypts feature in the fabric of Australians’ lives.

“In a time of uncertainty, gum trees provide Australians with a constant in our lives, synonymous with the unique beauty of our country”, says Ms Baird.

National Eucalypt Day is Australia’s biggest annual celebration of eucalypts held every year to celebrate and promote Australia’s eucalypts and what they mean to our lives and hearts.

There are over 900 eucalypt species across the continent – from the towering Mountain Ash of south eastern Australia, to the haunting Ghost Gum of the outback, to the Western Australian Mottlecah aka The Rose of the West with flowers as big as your palm, it will be exciting to see which eucalypt will take out this year’s gong.

People can vote for their favourite eucalypt from a shortlist of 25 species, including our own local Angophora costata, until 20th March on the Eucalypt Australia website:

Asparagus Fern Flowering Now: Dispose Of This Weed To Stop The Spread

While on weeds, one of PIttwater's worst weed is asparagus fern and it's flowering now. Its scent is like Bubble Gum, sickly sweet. You can see the berries developing.
If this is on your land you can you cut off the stems and catch those berries before they turn white then red, that will stop the spread. 
Please wear gloves when doing so as this plant has spikes.
Put the stems plus berries into your green bin.

Photo: courtesy PNHA

$95 Million Clean Technology Funding To Drive Next Wave Of Net Zero Innovation

March 11, 2022

Scientists and start-ups can now apply for three new grant initiatives offering up to $95 million to foster a world-class innovation sector in NSW clean technologies.

Treasurer and Energy Minister Matt Kean said the grants will turbo charge the research, development and commercialisation of innovations needed to ensure New South Wales can achieve net zero by 2050.

'Boosting emerging innovations today will help establish NSW as a global leader in low-emissions products and services over the next decade,' Mr Kean said.

'These grants will support laboratories and entrepreneurs to help new business ideas get traction in both Australia and overseas, and grow the NSW economy.'

The three Clean Technology grant initiatives include:

  • $45 million for infrastructure, such as world-leading innovation facilities, to accelerate research, development and commercialisation of clean technologies
  • $10 million to help equip organisations such as start-ups and entrepreneurs with the necessary skills and resources to succeed commercially
  • $40 million to drive the scaling up of clean technologies that will support the decarbonisation of high emitting and hard to abate sectors.

'We’re partnering with industry and researchers to target three key emissions areas that will drive a clean industrial revolution for future generations,' Mr Kean said.

'They include electrification and energy systems, land and primary industries, and power fuels including hydrogen.'

The Clean Technology Innovation stream is one of three focus areas within the $1.05 billion Net Zero Industry and Innovation Program, which in February was increased by $300 million to $1.05 billion to 2030.

For more information, visit the Clean technology innovation page on the Energy Saver website.

Opportunity To Obtain Water Access Licences

NSW Department of Planning & Environment

The opportunity to purchase water access licences across 55 different water sources within NSW will provide added water security to existing operations, allow additional water for new or expanding business and help improve the economies of regional towns and communities.

Chief Operating Officer, NSW Department of Planning and Environment, Graham Attenborough said the water access licences, which are spread across coastal and Murray-Darling Basin water sources, would be offered through a tender process.

“Interested parties will have the chance to buy access licences in some regulated river, unregulated river and groundwater sources not included in previous controlled allocations,” Mr Attenborough said. “The water offered in this controlled allocation comes from licences that were surrendered to the Minister for various reasons, for example where a licence holder gives up a licence because they no longer need it.”

This new controlled allocation order made on 4 March is the first controlled allocation order made in 2022 and separate from the controlled allocation order for groundwater in October 2021 that is currently being implemented.

A minimum price has been set for shares in each water source. The shares in these water sources will be offered in order of highest to lowest bids at or above the minimum price until all shares are exhausted or all bids are satisfied.

“Tenders for water access licences in previous controlled allocation processes have attracted diverse interest, ranging from various agricultural industries to mining companies,” Mr Attenborough said.

“The release of these shares will provide another opportunity for new or expanding businesses in regional and urban areas to buy water, which is important given that opportunities to buy water through the trading market are limited in many areas of NSW.”

Mr Attenborough continued, saying controlled allocations of groundwater began in 2009 and have continued to allow additional sustainable access to water for urban, regional and rural industries and communities.

This upcoming controlled allocation will also include surface water, providing more opportunities to meet the evolving needs of businesses and communities,” said Mr Attenborough.

The NSW Department of Planning and Environment invites interested parties to register their interest during the registration of interest period, which will run from 18 March to 18 April 2022.

Further information on the process, including details on how to register an expression of interest, can be found on the department’s website at:

The maps are available at:

The registration of interest period opens 18 March 2022 and closes at 5:00 pm on 18 April 2022. Late applications will not be accepted.

For more information visit the registration of interest timeline.

Using War To Call For Acland Coal Mine Expansion A New Low For Project’s Backers

March 8, 2022

Using Russia’s sickening invasion of Ukraine to call for the expansion of the New Acland coal mine is a new low for the project’s supporters, according to Oakey Coal Action Alliance and Lock the Gate Alliance.

If built, the New Acland Stage 3 expansion would destroy some of the best farming country in Queensland, put at risk the production of at least 10 million litres of milk each year from local dairies, and render many farming bores in the district useless.

It would require 3.5 million litres of water each day, resulting in a 47 metre water drawdown impacting over at least 1200 square kilometres of prime agricultural land. 

Oakey Coal Action Alliance secretary Paul King said, “The short-sightedness from the likes of Keith Pitt who want to see this coal mine expansion built is breath-taking, even for politicians.

Mr. King's statement comes in response to a report in the Australian Financial Review where it is stated the Minister has ''slammed Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk for standing in the way of coal mines that could be helping desperate European nations wean themselves off Russian coal at a time of record high prices for Australian fossil fuels.'' and goes on to state Resources Minister Keith Pitt said ''the energy crisis unleashed by Russia’s “unacceptable” invasion of Ukraine should also be a wake-up for financiers who have blackballed Australia’s coal industry ...''

“South East Queensland is only just beginning to recover from record flooding that was almost certainly made worse due to the climate crises, which in turn is driven by humanity’s burning of fossil fuels.

“There has never been a better time to hasten the fair transition towards renewable energy.” Paul King stated

Lock the Gate Alliance Queensland spokesperson Ellie Smith said, “Darling Downs farmers must not be collateral damage in Keith Pitt’s pro-fossil fuel posturing.

“We sincerely hope the Queensland Palaszczuk Government recognises this for what it is - sickening war opportunism from the backers of New Acland.

“The Palaszczuk Government must keep its promise. The mine’s impacts on groundwater still need to be properly assessed and any proposed new conditions should be made public before a mining lease is issued. The independent assessment of this project must be allowed to proceed.

“New Acland coal mine shouldn’t be reopened. This area is amongst the best 1.5% of farmland in the state and it produces milk and beef to feed Australia. 

“We'd like to see Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk protect the local community and reject the groundwater licence and the mining lease, and let locals move on with their lives.”

Assets Of Intergenerational Significance Conservation Action Plans Consultation

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service is seeking your feedback on draft Conservation Action Plans for Assets of Intergenerational Significance. Comments close on 16 March 2022.

To date, 279 site have been declared as Assets of Intergenerational Significance (AIS) across 110 national parks, protecting the key habitat for:
  • 77 threatened plant species, including the previously declared Wollemi pine
  • 30 threatened animal species
  • 6 locally extinct mammals which have been reintroduced to 3 of the feral predator-free fenced areas
  • 1 newly described species, the Wollumbin pouched frog recently discovered in Wollumbin National Park.
An AIS can be any area of exceptional value – environmental or cultural – that warrants special protection including dedicated management measures.

For each AIS, NPWS has a statutory obligation to prepare and implement a concise conservation action plan (CAP) which sets out:
  • the environmental and cultural values of the land
  • key risks to those values
  • management activities to address and mitigate the risks – such as dedicated feral animal control or fire management
  • actions to measure and report on the health and condition of the declared value.
Consultation on draft plans
There are 37 Conservation Action Plans open for public comment until 16 March 2022

Endangered Species Live Alongside Hunter Gas Pipeline: Review Of Project Called  For

March 9, 2022

Environment Minister Sussan Ley needs to give endangered animals along the Queensland-Hunter Gas Pipeline route a fighting chance and haul the project in for the highest assessment possible in light of new evidence, according to Lock the Gate Alliance.

Lock the Gate Alliance recently wrote a letter to Minister Ley, highlighting new evidence showing the presence of the critically endangered Regent Honeyeater, the endangered Booroolong Frog, and the threatened Spotted Tailed Quoll, among others, along the pipeline’s 620km NSW section. 

Worryingly, these species weren’t even considered when a decision was made in late 2008 not to assess the project under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. What’s more, due to the nature of the Act, the now endangered koala, while present along the route, cannot be legally considered because it wasn’t a listed species when the original decision was made.

This week it has been reported that the Minister is re-considering the decision not to assess the project under the Act, and Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods said it was the bare minimum that needed to occur.

She said the same report that recently found evidence of the endangered species also found that if built, the pipeline would severely impact 31 Aboriginal Cultural Heritage sites along its route, and rip up some of the nation’s best cropping country.

“In a fair and just world, a project as destructive as the Hunter Gas Pipeline would never be permitted,” she said.

“Instead, we now find ourselves in a bizarre situation where a project approved 13 years ago, but not yet built, could go ahead without undergoing a thorough environmental assessment.

“With Santos recently receiving approval to build its polluting Narrabri gasfield, the threat of this pipeline being built is real.

“The Morrison Government must reassess the impacts of the Hunter Gas Pipeline, given it was approved 13 years ago and new information has emerged regarding its likely significant impact on iconic and threatened species like the Regent Honeyeater. 

“Relying on an assessment that is now nearly a decade and a half old is a disgrace, and Minister Ley must step up and demand an Environmental Impact Statement is prepared that addresses all the threats the Hunter Gas Pipeline poses."

Federal Listing Of Yellow-Bellied Gliders As Threatened Is Another Reason To End Native Forest Logging In NSW

March 7, 2022

The listing of the yellow-bellied glider in southeast Australia as vulnerable to extinction [1] is another reason to end native forest logging in NSW.  

Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley has listed the iconic species as vulnerable on the advice of the Federal Threatened Species Scientific Committee. 

The listing of the yellow-bellied glider comes just weeks after the minister increase the threatened status of the koalas in NSW and Queensland from “vulnerable” to “endangered”. [2] 

“Thanks to decades of unsustainable logging and land clearing, we have pushed two of our most adorable forests species to the brink of extinction,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said. 

“If we do not end native forest logging and land clearing now, we will lose these species for ever.” 

The committee found the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires, which destroyed more than 5 million hectares of forests, were a key factor that had increased risks to both species, along with land clearing, habitat fragmentation, and climate change.  

The NSW Government is still logging forests that were smashed by the Black Summer bushfires or forests that have become precious refuges for koalas and gliders that fled the flames,” Mr Gambian said. 

The native forest division of the NSW Government’s logging company, Forestry Corporation, lost $20 million last financial year

"Effectively, taxpayers are subsidising the extinction of our koalas and gliders. It’s morally reprehensible.” 

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service says yellow-bellied gliders are an indicator species, and says protecting its habitat will protect a whole host of other species.

"Protection of the Yellow-bellied Glider can provide for conservation of a wider suite of forest values. Large home range requirements, naturally low densities, a sedentary habit and specialised foraging and denning requirements indicate that the species is sensitive to land use practices and management activities. This has led to the Yellow-bellied Glider being identified as a possible indicator or umbrella species for effective management of forest-dependent fauna (Milledge et al. 1991; Kavanagh 1991; Goldingay and Kavanagh 1993; Kavanagh and Bamkin 1995)." [4]  

A yellow-bellied glider. Image credit: Matt Wright


  2. Koalas officially an endangered species in NSW, Queensland - February 2022
  3. Forestry Corp’s annual report for last year shows the native forest division lost $20m. See the table on page 13 of the report.  
  4. See page 10. Approved Recovery Plan Yellow-bellied Glider, NPWS, 2003.  

Secret Natural Resources Commission Review Of Native Forestry Codes Must Be Made Public

The Nature Conservation Council calls on NSW Government to release the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) review of draft private native forestry codes when it reports later this month. 

It was revealed at Budget Estimates on Tuesday March 1st [1] the NRC was reviewing the proposed PNF codes at the centre of the Coalition’s koala wars last year.  It was also revealed the government intends to keep the NRC report secret. 

“The NSW Government must make the NRC review public — the people have a right to know what impact these codes will have on wildlife, carbon stores and water supplies,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said.  

“This week’s UN report warned NSW forests face unprecedented threats from climate change [2] yet these forests also have a significant role to play in slowing and reversing climate change. 

“This makes management of the total forest estate — public and private — a matter of vital public interest.”  

Mr Gambian said the PNF codes would have a significant bearing on Australia’s ability to reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030, as it committed to do at last year’s climate conference, [3] and save koalas from extinction.  

“The public must have confidence the proposed codes do not undermine the $193 million koala strategy the government is about to release,” he said.  

“The people of NSW have a right to know if the new codes will see more koalas killed or fewer. It’s not much more complicated than that. Both scenarios have support within the government, so let’s see who has won.” 

The government also revealed at Budget Estimates: 

  • The area of forest destroyed by private native forestry each year is not recorded.   
  • Less than 1% of properties with PNF plans were inspected by compliance officers in the past year (17 inspections out of 3,735 PNF plans). Those inspections resulted in 21 compliance notices being issued.  

“That’s simply not good enough,” Mr Gambian said. “There are almost 9 million hectares of forest on private land in NSW, about 40 per cent of the total native forest estate. [4] 

“The government clearly needs to boost resources for monitoring and compliance, especially as private native forestry looks set to increase significantly. 

“As the amount of timber available from state forests continues to decline after decades of overharvesting and catastrophic bushfires, the government and industry both appear to be gearing up to intensify operations on private land.  

“We must not repeat the mistakes we have made in public native forests by degrading millions of hectares of private forests with ecologically unsustainable practices. 

“We call on the NSW Government to make the NRC review public when it reports its findings.” 


[1] See page 53, transcript of Budget Estimates hearing (Portfolio Committee No. 7 - Planning and Environment), Tuesday, 1 March 2022. 

[2] Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, IPCC 2022.  

[3] Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration On Forests And Land Use, November 2021

[4] See page 73, transcript of Budget Estimates hearing (Portfolio Committee No. 7 - Planning and Environment), Tuesday, 1 March 2022. 

[5] See page 72, transcript of Budget Estimates hearing (Portfolio Committee No. 7 - Planning and Environment), Tuesday, 1 March 2022.

[5] Timber NSW, Private Native Forestry Review, 2021. 

Federal Government Must Not Reward Illegal Land Clearers With Carbon Credits

The Federal Government must maintain carbon offset rules that exclude regrowth on illegally cleared land and the planting of weed species from the national carbon credit scheme the Nature Conservation Council states.

On March 3rd the government begun a public consultation asking stakeholders whether the exclusion applied to illegal and ecologically degrading processes should remain in place. [1] 

The proposed changes to streamline the ERF scheme’s regulatory framework would remove the need for the Regulations.

The consultation closes March 17, 2022.

“It’s astonishing that the government even thinks this is a reasonable question to ask,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said. 

“It speaks volumes about this government’s values and its approach to climate change and conservation. 

“Energy Minister Angus Taylor must maintain these exclusions — to do otherwise would reward companies and individuals who are illegally clearing land and degrading our natural world. 

"There are already serious questions about the integrity of Australia’s carbon credit scheme. Lifting these exclusions would make it a joke.” 

The proposed amendments to the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Rule 2015 come as the government announced another major change to the carbon market. 

Minister Taylor has announced carbon traders will be allowed to re-sell credits already bought by the Commonwealth, a move that will significantly distort the carbon market and set back Australia’s emission reduction efforts by 112 million tonnes. [2] 

“This reckless market intervention by Mr Taylor undermines the integrity of the carbon market in Australia and will slow the adoption of new emissions reduction measures,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said. 

“This does nothing to reduce emissions or increase carbon sequestration – it is an accounting trick that will enrich carbon traders.” 

“Today’s creative accounting by the Morrison Government is equivalent to almost the entire annual emissions of NSW. [3] 

“If it was worried about carbon traders welching on contracts, the government had many options to enforce those contracts,” Mr Gambian said. 

“Instead, the government has delivered a $2.6 billion windfall to carbon traders, at the expense of the integrity of the market and our emissions reduction goals.”  


[1] Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Rule 2015: proposed amendments to excluded offsets projects 3 March 2022 (link)  

[2] Clean Energy Regulator, The evolving carbon market: transitional arrangements for Emissions Reduction Fund fixed delivery contracts 04 March 2022 (link) and PON Environment page Issue 529; ''Emissions Reduction Fund Contracts Changes''

[3] 2019 emissions from the State Greenhouse Gas Inventory.  

Best Form Of Carbon Capture And Storage Is To Leave It In The Ground Opponents Tell WA Premier: $4 Billion Of Public Money Spent On CCS

March 9, 2022

Lock the Gate Alliance has criticised the WA McGowan Government after it announced it was drafting new laws to promote unproven, money wasting, carbon capture and storage technology for the benefit of greedy oil and gas companies.

“Despite decades of private and $4 billion in public spending on CCS since 2003 in Australia, it has not proven itself up to the task of reducing emissions in any meaningful way,” said Lock the Gate Alliance WA coordinator Claire McKinnon.

“Let’s be clear: CCS doesn’t work. It’s a smokescreen used by fossil fuel companies to justify continuing their polluting, climate wrecking projects.

“There are plans by companies like Theia Energy, and Black Mountain to drill many thousands of fracking wells in the Kimberley - what the industry coldly calls the ‘Canning Basin’. This announcement will encourage these companies further in their quest to industrialise this iconic part of our state. 

“The gas industry’s flagship CCS project in Australia, located right here in WA and owned by Chevron, has completely failed to deliver on its promises. It received Federal Government handouts to the tune of $60M, but has only injected less than a third of its agreed CO2 target.

“The project failed to store any carbon at all for its first 3.5 years of operation, and the Gorgon plant pumped enough CO2 into the atmosphere just in 2017-18 to wipe out the emissions savings from all rooftop solar in Australia combined. 

“CCS also does absolutely nothing to abate the vast amounts of fugitive emissions the gas industry is responsible for.

“It’s irresponsible of the  McGowan Government to consider making it easier for oil and gas companies to pollute by giving even more time and public money to failed carbon capture and storage technology.

“Australia needs to urgently cut emissions right now, not waste more time waiting for this fossil fuel industry pipedream. With the climate crisis leading to more frequent and more severe weather disasters, we don’t have any more time to waste.”

Floodplain Development Manual Update: Feedback Until April 4

The Department of Planning and Environment seeks your feedback on NSW's draft Flood Risk Management Manual package.
The draft Flood Risk Management Manual package updates the 2005 Floodplain Development Manual and a number of the existing technical guides while supporting local councils to make their communities more flood resilient now and into the future.

The draft package takes into account the following:
  • Lessons learned from previous floods and the application of a flood risk management process and manual since 2005.
  • A range of work on managing natural hazards across government, including relevant national and international frameworks, strategies, and best practice guidance.
The draft package also includes:
  • A Flood Risk Management Manual.
  • A range of new flood risk management guides for the Flood Risk Management Toolkit.
Have your say
Have your say by Monday 4 April 2022.

There are two ways you can submit your written feedback, listed below.
Online consultation at: Floodplain Development Manual update

Connecting To Country With Environmental Outcomes: POP Grants Open

March 1, 2022
The NSW Environmental Trust's annual Protecting Our Places (POP) grants are now open. Aboriginal groups or corporations keen to improve the environment by working on Country can apply for grants of up to $80,000 for environmental improvement projects with positive cultural outcomes.

POP empowers Aboriginal groups to develop and share cultural land management practices and supports Indigenous communities to conserve culturally significant environmental landscapes.

Organisations receiving grants will be supported to develop project plans, with grantees invited to take part in project management workshops as part of the program. This hands-on training and support helps to build relationships and skills.

The Environmental Trust aims to increase the amount of culturally significant Aboriginal land protected, restored and managed by local Aboriginal groups, land managers and stakeholders.

The Protecting Our Places grants program began in 2002 and provides a mechanism to deliver NSW Government policy, priorities and outcomes in collaboration with Aboriginal communities.

POP grants can be implemented over 3 years. Learn more about the POP program, access guidelines, eligible organisations and awarded projects.

Grant applications close at 5pm on Friday 8 April 2022.

The Big Switch With Saul Griffith: Electrify Everything!

When: Wed, 23 March 2022; 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM 
'The point is, we don’t have to be perfect to solve climate change. We just need to be electric.' - Saul Griffith

Climate change is a planetary emergency. We have to do something now – but what? Australian visionary Saul Griffith has a plan.

Saul’s new book, ‘The Big Switch’ lays out a detailed blueprint – optimistic but feasible – for fighting climate change while creating millions of new jobs and a healthier environment.

Saul will be in conversation with Barbara Albert from 100% Renewables to explain exactly what it would take to transform our infrastructure, update our grid and adapt our households to an all electric future.

Billionaires may contemplate escaping our worn-out planet on a private rocket ship to Mars, but the rest of us, Griffith says, will stay and fight for the future.

About the speakers

Saul Griffith is a scientist, engineer, inventor and father who wants to leave his kids a better world. The data convinces Saul that it is still rational to have hope.

Saul is the co-founder and chief scientist at Rewiring Australia and Rewiring America, nonprofits dedicated to decarbonising those countries (and the world) by electrifying everything.

Barbara Albert is the Co-CEO 100% Renewables, speaker, podcast host of the Driving Net Profit with Zero Emissions show and award-winning author of Energy Unlimited – Four Steps to 100% Renewable Energy.

She is passionate about business and sustainability and believes that reaching net-zero emissions is achievable and profitable when done right. She believes in the importance of sharing stories of organisations leading in climate action so that others can learn from their experience.

This webinar is proudly run in partnership with six Northern Sydney Councils - Ku-ring-gai Council, Lane Cove Council, Mosman Council, North Sydney Council, City of Ryde and Willoughby Council. Each Council strongly supports renewable energy and electrification as a response to climate change.

The webinar will be run live digitally via the Zoom platform. You will receive a reminder and link to access the session the week before the webinar.

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

Sydney Wildlife Rescue: Helpers Needed

Under-resourced and undermined: as floods hit south-west Sydney, our research shows councils aren’t prepared

Nicky MorrisonWestern Sydney University and Patrick HarrisUNSW Sydney

Thousands of people in south-western Sydney have been ordered to evacuate as extreme rain pummels the region and floodwaters rise rapidly. The downpour is expected to continue for days.

This region, particularly Western Sydney, is no stranger to climate-related disasters. Rain is falling on catchments already sodden from severe floods in March last year. Western Sydney is also vulnerable to extreme heat, and is 8-10℃ hotter than east Sydney during heatwaves.

Local councils are the level of government closest to communities and help determine how well regions withstand disasters like floods. But are councils prepared for the more frequent and intense disasters that climate change brings?

According to our new research on eight Western Sydney councils, the answer is no. We find it’s not easy to deliver action on the ground as these councils try to balance competing priorities in urban development, with limited resources and stretched budgets.

Balancing Responsibilities

When disasters such as floods strike, state and territory governments can declare a state of emergency and create evacuation orders.

But local councils are in a central position to increase community resilience and communicate directly with locals. This includes flood mapping, restricting certain developments near high-risk areas, and making evacuation routes known to residents.

Clearly distinguishing these responsibilities is crucial for Western Sydney, which is one of Australia’s fastest growing regionsand feels the destructive impacts of climate change intensely.

Western Sydney councils are currently dealing with back-to-back disasters in a continual crisis management cycle. At the same time, they’re tasked with pushing forward the NSW government’s housing and infrastructure development targets, which includes building almost 185,000 houses between 2016 and 2036.

Coupled with a lack of staff and funding, do they really have the capacity to cope with all this?

Western Sydney is one of Australia’s fastest growing regions. Shutterstock

What We Found

We analysed 150 local government policies and planning documents, as well as local health district strategies. We also conducted 22 stakeholder interviews across the eight Western Sydney councils.

The good news is each council recognises the importance of addressing climate risk, and demonstrates a strong commitment to implementing sustainability, climate and resilience strategies. While action to mitigate climate change impacts on health and well-being is happening, the strategies are at very early stages.

According to our interviews, there’s a strong desire to do more, and all councils agree emergency preparedness and recovery work must take priority. While a NSW resilience program aims to address this, it doesn’t necessarily align with the unique risks each local community faces.

Acting quickly to move from planning to implementing strategies – such as redesigning buildings to match climate predictions – just isn’t in their capacity. And indeed, councils could not achieve this in time to mitigate the next climate crisis event.

Despite councils receiving money from the NSW government’s disaster assistance funding, they can struggle to pay for recovery from events like flooding. It can take weeks, months, or even years to get local communities back on their feet.

As the councils explained to us, this means already limited funds get pulled away from other work, such as long-term sustainability goals, or simply important day-to-day provisions.

Hawkesbury, Fairfield and Penrith city councils are especially challenged. They experienced the worst flooding in 50 years last March and now face even greater flood alert warnings at Hawkesbury-Nepean River.

State Government Undermines Local Decisions

Despite these difficulties, councils consistently told us that the biggest barrier to delivering sustainable, resilient, climate-ready development across Western Sydney was NSW state planning directives.

In the planning system, state policies override local plans and policies. This means local councils often struggle to implement their own strategies.

The result is that pressure from the state government to build more housing developments can undermine local councils’ policies to, for instance, preserve agricultural land and open spaces – measures that protect against flooding.

Indeed, this year’s floods have once again shown how problematic pro-growth agendas and “development for development’s sake” can be.

The recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes it clear flooding will increase in scale and frequency, and over-development (part of a problem termed “maladaptation”) will exacerbate the damage it inflicts.

So what needs to change? Our research presents a clear roadmap for local and state government agencies to better prepare.

This includes greater leadership and consistency from the state government, more collaboration between councils and in different levels of government, more capacity-building and more targeted funding.

What’s planned and built today must guarantee the safety, health and well-being of existing and new communities. Giving councils proper resources will help more of us survive in an uncertain future.The Conversation

Nicky Morrison, Professor of Planning, Western Sydney University and Patrick Harris, Senior Research Fellow, Deputy Director, CHETRE, UNSW Sydney

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

‘The sad reality is many don’t survive’: how floods affect wildlife, and how you can help them

Euan RitchieDeakin University and Chris J JollyMacquarie University

For over two decades, bull sharks have called a Brisbane golf course home after, it’s believed, a flood washed them into the course’s lake in 1996. Now, after severe floods connected their landlocked home back to the river system, these sharks have gone missing, perhaps attempting to seek larger water bodies.

This bizarre tale is one of many accounts illustrating how Australia’s wildlife respond to flooding. But the sad reality is many don’t survive. Those that do may find their homes destroyed or, like those bull sharks and others, find themselves displaced far from their original homes or suitable habitat.

The RSPCA and other wildlife care organisations have received hundreds of calls to help rescue and care for stranded animals. But the true toll on wildlife will remain unknown, in part because we know surprisingly little about the impacts of floods on wildlife.

Still, as many animals have amazing abilities to survive fire, so too do many possess the means to survive or even profit from floods. After all, Australia’s wildlife has evolved over millions of years to survive in this land of extremes.

How Wildlife Responds To Floods

Floods rapidly turn land habitats into underwater habitats, allowing aquatic animals to venture into places you wouldn’t expect. Flooding during northern Australia’s annual wet season, for example, sees crocodiles occasionally turn up in people’s backyard pools.

Land-dwelling animals typically don’t fare as well in floods. Some may be able to detect imminent inundation and head for higher, drier ground. Others simply don’t have the ability or opportunity to take evasive action in time. This can include animals with dependent young in burrows, such as wombats, platypus and echidnas.

The extent to which flooding affects animals will depend on their ability to sense what’s coming and how they’re able to respond. Unlike humans who must learn to swim, most animals are born with the ability.

Echidnas, for example, have been known to cover large areas of open water, but fast flowing, powerful floods pose a very different proposition.

Animals that can fly – such as many insects, bats and birds – may be able to escape. But their success will also partly depend on the scale and severity of weather systems causing floods.

Many birds, for example, couldn’t get away from the heavy rain and seek shelter, ending up waterlogged. If birds are exhausted and can’t fly, they may suffer from exposure and also be more vulnerable to predators, such as feral cats and foxes.

During floods, age old predator-prey relationships, forged through evolution, can break down. Animals are more focused on self preservation, rather than their next meal. This can result in strange, ceasefire congregations.

For example, a venomous eastern brown snake was filmed being an unintentional life raft for frogs and mice. Likewise, many snakes, lizards and frogs are expert climbers, and will seek safety in trees – with or without company.

Some spiders have ingenious ways of finding safety, including spinning balloon-like webs to initiate wind-driven lift-off: destination dry land. This is what happened when Victoria’s Gippsland region flooded last year.

One of the challenges of extreme events is it can make food hard to find. Some animals – including microbats, pygmy possums, and many reptiles – may reduce their energy requirements by essentially going to “sleep” for extended periods, commonly referred to as torpor. This includes echidnas and Antechinus (insect-eating marsupials), in response to bushfire.

Might they do the same during floods? We really don’t know, and it largely depends on an animal’s physiology. In general, invertebrates, frogs, fish and reptiles are far better at dealing with reduced access to food than birds and mammals.

During floods species will share refuge such as trees. Damian Kelly Photography

What Happens When Floods Recede?

Flooding may provide a bounty for some species. Some predators such as cats, foxes, and birds of prey, may have access to exhausted prey with fewer places to hide. These same predators may scavenge the windfall of dead animals.

Fish, waterbirds, turtles and other aquatic or semi-aquatic life may benefit from an influx of nutrients, increasing foraging opportunities and even stimulating breeding events.

Other wildlife may face harsher realities. Some may become trapped far from their homes. Those that attempt to return home will have to run the gauntlet of different habitats, roads, cats, dogs and foxes, and other threats.

Even if they make it home, will their habitats be the same or destroyed? Fast and large volumes of water can destroy vegetation and other habitat structures (soils, rock piles) in minutes, but they may take many years or decades to return, if ever.

Floodwaters can also carry extremely high levels of pollution, leading to further tragic events such as fish kills and the poisoning of animals throughout food chains.

How Can You Help?

Seeing wildlife in distress is confronting, and many of us may feel compelled to want to rescue animals in floodwaters. However, great caution is required.

Wading into floodwaters can put yourself at significant risk. Currents can be swift. Water can carry submerged and dangerous obstacles, as well as chemicals, sewage and pathogens. And distressed animals may panic when approached, putting them and yourself at further risk.

For example, adult male eastern grey kangaroos regularly exceed 70 kilograms with long, razor sharp claws and toe nails, and powerful arms and legs. They’ve been known to deftly use these tools to drown hostile farm dogs in dams and other water bodies.

So unless you’re a trained wildlife expert or animal carer, we don’t recommend you try to save animals yourself. There is more advice online, such as here and here.

If you’d like to support the care and recovery of wildlife following the floods, a number of organisations are taking donations, including WWF AustraliaWIRES and the RSPCA.

What Does The Future Hold?

While many Australian wildlife species are well adapted to dealing with periodic natural disasters, including floods, we and wildlife will face even more intense events in the future under climate change. Cutting greenhouse gas emissions can lessen this impact.

For common, widespread species such as kangaroos, the loss of individuals to infrequent, albeit severe, events is tragic but overall doesn’t pose a great problem. But if floods, fires and other extreme events become more regular, we could see some populations or species at increased risk of local or even total extinction.

This highlights how Earth’s two existential crises – climate change and biodiversity loss – are inextricably linked. We must combat them swiftly and substantially, together, if we’re to avoid a bleak future.The Conversation

Euan Ritchie, Professor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life & Environmental Sciences, Deakin University and Chris J Jolly, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Macquarie University

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

The east coast rain seems endless. Where on Earth is all the water coming from?

Jason O'Brien/AAP
Chiara HolgateAustralian National UniversityAgus SantosoUNSW Sydney, and Alex Sen GuptaUNSW Sydney

At any one time, Earth’s atmosphere holds only about a week’s worth of rain. But rainfall and floods have devastated Australia’s eastern regions for weeks and more heavy rain is forecast. So where’s all this water coming from?

We recently investigated the physical processes driving rainfall in eastern Australia. By following moisture from the oceans to the land, we worked out exactly how three oceans feed water to the atmosphere, conspiring to deliver deluges of rain similar to what we’re seeing now.

Such research is important. A better understanding of how water moves through the atmosphere is vital to more accurately forecast severe weather and help communities prepare.

The task takes on greater urgency under climate change, when heavy rainfall and other weather extremes are expected to become more frequent and violent.

aerial view of flooded streets and roofs
Rain has hammered Australia’s east coast for weeks. Nearmap

Big Actors Delivering Rain

The past few months in eastern Australia have been very wet, including the rainiest November on record.

Then in February, heavy rain fell on already saturated catchments. In fact, parts of Australia received more than triple the rain expected at this time of year.

So what’s going on?

In the theatre that is Australia’s rainfall, there are some big actors – the so-called climate oscillations. They’re officially known as:

  • El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO): this cycle comprises El Niño and its opposite, La Niña. ENSO involves temperature changes across the tropical Pacific Ocean, affecting weather patterns around the world

  • Southern Annular Mode (SAM): the north-south movement of strong westerly winds over the Southern Ocean

  • Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD): changes in ocean temperatures and winds across the tropical Indian Ocean.

Like swings in a character’s mood, each climate mode has positive, negative and neutral phases. Each affect Australia’s weather in different ways.

ENSO’s negative phase, La Niña, brings wetter conditions to eastern Australia. The IOD’s negative phase, and SAM’s positive phase, can also bring more rain.

woman sits in rain with raincoat and umbrella
Climate oscillations affect Australia’s weather in different ways. Lucas Coch/AAP

Going Back In Time

We studied what happens to the moisture supplying eastern Australian rainfall when these climate drivers are in their wet and dry phases.

We used a sophisticated model to trace moisture backwards in time: from where it fell as rain, back through the atmosphere to where it evaporated from.

We did this for every wet winter and spring day between 1979 and 2013.

This research was part of a broader study into where Australia’s rain comes from, and what changes moisture supply during both drought and heavy rain.

We found most rain that falls on eastern Australia comes from moisture evaporated from a nearby ocean. Typically, rain in eastern Australia comes from the Coral and Tasman seas. This is depicted in the strong blue colours in the figure below.

Eastern Australian rainfall moisture supply.
Sources of moisture for rain falling in eastern Australia. Holgate et al, 2020

But interestingly, some water comes from as far as the Southern and Indian oceans, and some originates from nearby land areas, such as forests, bare soils, lakes and rivers.

Natural processes can alter the typical supply of moisture to the atmosphere, causing either droughts or floods.

Our research shows of all possible combinations of climate oscillations, a La Niña and a positive SAM phase occurring together has the biggest effect on eastern Australian rainfall. That combination is happening right now.

During La Niña, more moisture is transported from the ocean to the atmosphere over land and is more easily converted to rainfall when it arrives.

During the positive SAM, the usual westerly winds shift southward, allowing moisture-laden winds from the east to flow into eastern Australia.

Our research focused on winter and spring. However, we expect the current rainfall is the result of the same combined effect of the two climate oscillations.

The Indian Ocean Dipole is not active at this time of the year. But it was in a weak negative phase last spring, which tends to bring wetter-than-normal conditions.

three boys in wetsuits and boogie boards play in water
Most rain falling on eastern Australia comes from moisture evaporated from a nearby ocean. Jason O'Brien

Looking To Future Floods

Under climate change, extreme La Niña and El Niño events, and weather systems like those causing the current floods, are expected to worsen. So reducing greenhouse gas emissions is crucial.

The current La Niña event is past its peak and is predicted to dissipate in autumn. But because our catchments are so full of water, we still need to be on alert for extreme weather.

The current devastating floods are a sobering lesson for the future. They show the urgent need to understand and predict extreme events, so communities can get ready for them.The Conversation

Chiara Holgate, Hydroclimatologist, Australian National UniversityAgus Santoso, Senior Research Associate, UNSW Sydney, and Alex Sen Gupta, Senior Lecturer, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UNSW Sydney

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

NSW is being hit by a one-two of east coast lows. But aren’t those a winter thing?

Milton SpeerUniversity of Technology Sydney and Lance M LeslieUniversity of Technology Sydney

It was Western Sydney’s turn for a drenching this week, as the region was hit by an east coast low – the infamous storm systems that periodically bring heavy rainfall to the New South Wales coast.

This east coast low was created by the same persistent band of low atmospheric pressure that generated a series of thunderstorms that soaked Brisbane and Lismore during the preceding days, delivering daily rainfall totals greater than 250 millimetres to Southeast Queensland and the NSW Northern Rivers.

The east coast low then formed on Tuesday, dumping more than 100mm of rain on western Sydney and the nearby ranges.

And this low pressure trough isn’t done yet. It’s forecast to create a second east coast low that will develop over the weekend and affect the NSW south coast, bringing rain that could once again extend to the greater Sydney area and also to to the Hunter region.

The remarkable persistence and geographical spread of these rain systems prompts several questions. Why did the first east coast low form, even after so much rain had already fallen on Brisbane and Lismore? Why is a second east coast low poised to form further to the south? And why are these systems, more commonly thought of as a winter phenomenon, happening at the tail end of summer?

How And When Do East Coast Lows Form?

East coast lows typically form one at a time. But it’s not that unusual for a particularly large area of low atmospheric pressure to spawn several of these storm systems, either one after another, or sometimes even simultaneously.

As we’ve already described, the precursor to the formation of an east coast low is typically a low pressure trough, similar to the one that has been positioned near Brisbane and northern NSW for more than a week.

A low pressure trough is an elongated region of low atmospheric pressure, and on Australia’s east they typically run alongside the coast. They are often an indicator of coming clouds, showers or, given enough atmospheric moisture, very heavy showers or thunderstorms.

Combined with the high moisture content in the atmosphere over coastal eastern Australia, due partly to the influence of La Niña this summer, the resulting flood rainfall was focused close to the trough. The fact that the trough has remained almost stationary for an extended period of time has meant continuous rainfall for Southeast Queensland and the NSW Northern Rivers.

Eventually, the low pressure trough moved east on Tuesday and a weak low pressure centre developed well to the east of Brisbane, over the Tasman Sea. As the low pressure centre developed and moved slowly towards the NSW coast on Wednesday, the moist, southeast winds on the southern side of the low concentrated the rain onto the eastern side of the Great Dividing Range, north of Sydney.

The low pressure centre finally weakened on Thursday. But a second east coast low is forecast to form during Sunday near the southern half of the New South Wales coast, resulting in more coastal rain spreading as far north as the Hunter region.

Series of weather charts
Forecast evolution of the second east coast low to hit the NSW in the space of a few days. BOM

Do They Eventually Move On?

These low pressure systems tend to dissipate in a matter of a day or two, unless other nearby atmospheric conditions prolong their survival. At this time of year, they need to be reinforced by cold fronts moving from west to east, immediately to Australia’s south.

Such frontal systems have been absent in recent months, enabling the very moist air to remain in place over most of eastern Australia.

A contrasting sequence of the persistent easterly airflow has been its impact on southwestern Australia. The easterly winds have shed their moisture during their passage over southern Australia. Hence, they reach southwestern Australia as a hot, dry air mass. It’s no coincidence that Perth has just smashed its record for the number of days above 40℃ in a summer.

Is This Normal For This Time Of Year?

East coast lows can form in any month of the year, although they tend to happen mostly in the cooler months of April to September. Some devastating east coast lows have formed during warmer months, including the one that hit the Sydney to Hobart Race in December 1998, claiming six lives and sinking five yachts.

It is hard to assess whether climate change has had an influence on the frequency of warm-season east coast lows. However, rising average sea surface temperatures could conceivably be a contributing factor to any change in their frequency.

For the more common cool-season east coast lows, however, we already know their development has shifted further south and east since the 1990s. This is consistent with the predictions of climate models that global warming will push mid-latitude westerly winds further towards the poles.

As this process continues, those east coast lows that develop in a westerly wind regime are likely to shift further poleward or become less frequent if conditions become less conducive to their formation, as suggested by recent research.

But these ferocious weather systems will nevertheless continue to be a threat to Australia’s east coast. Even if the rain doesn’t make landfall, east coast lows can generate large waves that disrupt otherwise benign sea conditions, such as in January 2021, when three people were tragically killed at Port Kembla.The Conversation

Milton Speer, Visiting Fellow, School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, University of Technology Sydney and Lance M Leslie, Professor, School of Mathematical And Physical Sciences, University of Technology Sydney

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

The floods have killed at least 21 Australians. Adapting to a harsher climate is now a life-or-death matter

Barbara NormanUniversity of Canberra

The devastating floods in Queensland and New South Wales highlight, yet again, Australia’s failure to plan for natural disasters. As we’re seeing now in heartbreaking detail, everyday Australians bear the enormous cost of this inaction.

It’s too soon to say whether the current floods are directly linked to climate change. But we know such disasters are becoming more frequent and severe as the climate heats up.

In 2019, Australia ranked last out of 54 nations on its strategy to cope with climate change.

Australia had a chance to lift its game when it released a new climate resilience and adaptation strategy late last year. But the plan was weak and contained no funding or detailed action.

At the time of writing, the current floods had killed at least 21 people across two states and left many thousands homeless. Sydney suburbs were being evacuated amid warnings of more intense rain.

Governments must urgently invest in measures to help communities cope with extreme weather events. As we’re seeing right now, Australian lives depend on it.

man thrown furniture onto pile amid floodwaters
Natural disasters are becoming more frequent and severe as the climate heats up. Jason O'Brien/AAP

Right Here, Right Now

Last week’s report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was just one in a long line of warnings about the increasing risk of natural disasters as global warming worsens.

Australian governments are well aware of the problem. In fact, the federal government’s new National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy, launched at the Glasgow climate conference in November last year, stated:

As the global temperature rises and other changes to the climate increase, Australia will face more frequent and severe events, such as extreme weather, fires and floods, and slow-onset events, such as changing rainfall patterns, ocean acidification and sea level rise.

The measures it contained were a start – but communities across Australia need much more, right now.

The strategy contained no new budget commitments or specific programs. It also lacked detailed actions on how to help urban and regional communities prepare for the impacts of climate change.

I have extensive experience in the public sector at all levels of government, in areas such as coastal, urban and regional planning, and climate change adaptation.

I also have first-hand experience of natural disasters. In the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires my family lost a much-loved holiday home at Mallacoota in Victoria, which we’d held for four generations. I’ve also worked on the ground helping councils and communities prepare for and recover from disasters.

woman with flooded home and car
Australian governments know the risks of future flooding. Jason O'Brien/AAP

I’m deeply concerned at how badly prepared Australia is for current and future damage from climate change. Australia lacks even the most basic policies and plans, including:

  • no national coastal plan for coastal erosion and inundation

  • no national urban policy for climate-resilient development

  • no national requirement for climate change to be considered in urban and regional land-use plans

  • no funded national support program for urban and regional communities to adapt to current and future climate risk.

Australia was once a leader in climate adaptation. But this momentum has been lost over the past decade, as the climate wars played out in federal parliament.

And last week, it emerged the federal government has spent just a fraction of the A$4.8 billion emergency fund despite the worsening flood crisis.

This does little to reassure the public that our leaders are focused on helping communities recover from and adapt to natural disasters.

boy carries debris from house
The public wants reassurance that our leaders are focused on helping communities cope with natural disasters. Jason O'Brien/AAP

The Plan Australians Deserve

So what must Australia do to get ready for the harsher future that awaits? Over many years, experts from a range of organisations and disciplines have put their minds to this question. These are some measures they’ve called for:

1. An integrated national climate action plan

This would involve funding and programs for state governments, local councils and industry, enabling them to work with communities to prepare for climate change.

2. A national coastal strategy

Coastal communities are especially vulnerable to storms, floods and bushfires which will worsen under climate change. Leading experts last year outlined the need for a climate change plan tailored to these communities. It would include a national agency to coordinate ocean and coastal governance across tiers of government.

3. Review urban planning legislation and city plans

Planning experts and others have called for climate change considered when making everyday decisions about the built environment. This would lead to more sustainable, pleasant and healthy urban and regional communities, as well as minimising disaster risks.

These decisions include where to locate new housing developments, as well as investing in green buildings and water-sensitive urban design.

And we also need to start conversations with communities at risk, such as those on floodplains or in bushfire-prone areas, to prepare city and town plans that incorporate future risks.

4. Stronger links between organisations

Greater cooperation is needed between emergency management, climate scientists and land-use planners, so they can effectively work together to prepare climate-resilient community plans. Better communication is also needed to ensure knowledge is shared and best-practice is maintained.

5. More money for research and community plans

Governments must fund the development of cutting-edge applied research to better understand and map climate risks. In addition, funding is needed for climate-resilient urban development and to support vulnerable communities through long-term adaptation plans.

pool collapsed onto beach after storm
Coastal communities are particularly vulnerable to storms and other extreme weather. David Moir/AAP

Facing Hard Facts

In just a few years, many Australian communities have weathered a series of natural disasters overlaid by the COVID pandemic. They are exhausted, and deserve better.

Crucially, governments must be prepared to lead on emissions reduction to minimise, as much as we can, damage to Earth’s climate.

But we must also face the reality that natural disasters in Australia will get worse. Communities need practical, funded help now to ensure they survive and thrive as the climate warms. The Conversation

Barbara Norman, Professor of Urban & Regional Planning; Chair of the Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience Research Network (CCARRN), University of Canberra

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

Extinction crisis: native mammals are disappearing in Northern Australia, but few people are watching

Noel D PreeceJames Cook University and James FitzsimonsDeakin University

At the time Australia was colonised by Europeans, an estimated 180 mammal species lived in the continent’s northern savannas. The landscape teemed with animals, from microbats to rock-wallabies and northern quolls. Many of these mammals were found nowhere else on Earth.

An unidentified account from the Normanton district of Northwest Queensland, dating back to 1897, told of the abundance:

“There were thousands of millions of those rats (Rattus villosissimus), and as most Gulf identities may remember, after them came a plague of native cats (the Northern Quoll).

These extended from 18 miles west of the Flinders (River) to within 40 miles of Normanton, and they cleaned up all our tucker.”

But tragically, in the years since, many of these mammals have disappeared. Four species have become extinct and nine face the same fate in the next two decades.

And we know relatively little about this homegrown crisis. Monitoring of these species has been lacking for many decades – and as mammal numbers have declined, the knowledge gaps have become worse.

savanna, trees and rock face
Northern Australia’s savanna regions once teemed with mammal life. Shutterstock

A Precipitous Decline

Northern Australia savanna comprises the top half of Queensland and the Northern Territory and the top quarter of Western Australia. It covers 1.9 million square kilometres, or 26% of the Australian landmass.

Species already extinct in Northern Australia are:

  • burrowing bettong
  • Victoria River district nabarlek (possibly extinct)
Black footed Tree Rat
Black-footed tree rat, at risk of extinction.
  • Capricornian rabbit-rat
  • Bramble Cay melomys.

The Northern Australia species identified at risk of becoming extinct within 20 years are:

  • northern hopping-mouse
  • Carpentarian rock-rat
  • black-footed tree rat (Kimberley and Top End)
  • Top End nabarlek
  • Kimberley brush-tailed phascogale
  • brush-tailed rabbit-rat (Kimberley and Top End)
  • northern brush-tailed phascogale
  • Tiwi Islands brush-tail rabbit-rat
  • northern bettong.

Many other mammal species have been added to the endangered list in recent years, including koalas, the northern spotted-tailed quoll and spectacled flying foxes.

So what’s driving the decline? For some animals, we don’t know the exact reasons. But for others they include global warming, pest species, changed fire regimes, grazing by introduced herbivores and diseases.

Monitoring Is Crucial

There’s no doubt some mammal species in Northern Australia are heading towards extinction. But information is limited because monitoring of these populations and their ecosystems is severely lacking.

Monitoring is crucial to species conservation. It enables scientists to protect an animal’s habitat, and understand the rate of decline and what processes are driving it.

Our research found most of Northern Australia lacks monitoring of species or ecosystems.

Monitoring mostly comprises long-term projects in three national parks in the Northern Territory. The trends for mammals across the region must be estimated from these few sites.

More recent monitoring sites have been established in Western Australia’s Kimberley. Very few fauna monitoring programs exist in Queensland savannas.

The lack of monitoring hampers conservation efforts. For example, researchers don’t know the status of the Queensland subspecies of black‐footed tree‐rat because the species is not monitored at all.

Research and monitoring efforts have declined significantly over the past couple of decades. Reasons for this include, but are not limited to:

  • massive reduction in federal environment funding since 2013 and substantial reductions in some state and territory environment funding

  • reduced capacity of government-unded institutions devoted to ecosystem and species research

  • the existence of only two universities in northern Australia with an ecological research focus

  • a reliance on remote sensing and vegetation condition monitoring, which does not detect animal trends.

conservationists rest near vehicle
Monitoring helps conservationists better protect a threatened animal. AUSTRALIAN WILDLIFE CONSERVANCY

The Lesson Of The Bramble Cay Melomys

An avalanche of research shows increasing rates of decline in animal populations and extinctions. Australia has the worst mammal extinction rate of any country.

Yet governments in Australia have largely sat on their heels as the biodiversity crisis worsens.

A Senate committee was in 2018 charged with investigating Australia’s faunal extinctions. It has not yet produced its final report.

In September last year, the federal environment department announced 100 “priority species” would be selected to help focus recovery actions. But more than 1,800 species are listed as threatened in Australia. Prioritising just 100 is unlikely to help the rest.

The lack of threatened species monitoring in Australia creates a policy blindfold that prevents actions vital to preventing extinctions.

Nowhere is this more true than in the case of the Bramble Cay Melomys. The nocturnal rodent was confirmed extinct in 2016 due to flooding of its island home in the Torres Strait, caused by global warming.

The species had previously been acknowledged as one of the rarest mammals on Earth – yet a plan to recover its numbers was never properly implemented.

small rodent in vegetation
The Bramble Cay Melomys was declared extinct in 2016. Queensland Government

A Crisis On Our Watch

Conservation scientists and recovery teams are working across Northern Australia to help species and ecosystems recover. But they need resources, policies and long-term commitment from governments.

Indigenous custodians who work on the land can provide significant skills and resources to save species. If Traditional Owners could combine forces with non‐Indigenous researchers and conservation managers – and with adequate support and incentives – we could make substantial ground.

Indigenous Protected Areas, national parks and private conservation areas provide some protection, but this network needs expansion.

We propose establishing a network of monitoring sites by prioritising particular bioregions – large, geographically distinct areas of land with common characteristics.

Building a network of monitoring sites would not just help prevent extinctions, it would also support livelihoods in remote Northern Australia.

Policies determining research and monitoring investment need to be reset, and new approaches implemented urgently. Crucially, funding must be adequate for the task.

Without these measures, more species will become extinct on our watch.The Conversation

Noel D Preece, Adjunct Asssociate Professor, James Cook University and James Fitzsimons, Adjunct Professor in Environmental Sciences, Deakin University

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

Kelp won’t help: why seaweed may not be a silver bullet for carbon storage after all

John Barry GallagherUniversity of Tasmania

Over the last few years, there’s been a lot of hope placed in seaweed as a way to tackle climate change.

The excitement stemmed from studies suggesting seaweed could be scaled up to capture and store huge quantities of carbon dioxide, taking advantage of rapid growth rates, large areas, and long-term storage in the deep ocean.

At present it’s thought seaweed stores around 175 million tonnes annually of carbon, or 10% of the emissions from all the cars in the world. To many scientists, this suggested the possibility seaweed could join other blue carbon storage in mangroves and wetlands as a vital tool in the fight to stop climate change.

While we’re all ready for some good news on climate, there is nearly always a “but” in science. Our new research has identified a major overlooked issue. Is it significant? Unfortunately, yes. When we accounted for this, our calculations suggest on average seaweed ecosystems may not be a carbon sink after all, but a natural source of carbon.

How Can This Be?

There were good reasons to look to coastal seaweed as an important global carbon sink. Some species can grow as much as 60 centimetres per day. Seaweed covers around 3.4 million square kilometres of our oceans. And when wind and waves break off fronds and pieces of seaweed, some will escape being eaten and instead be whisked out to the deep ocean and deposited.

Once the seaweed is in deep waters or buried in sediments, the carbon it contains is safely locked away for several hundred years. That is to say, the time it takes ocean circulation to drive bottom waters towards the surface.

So what’s the issue?

As the surrounding coastal waters wash through the seaweed canopy, they bring in vast quantities of plankton and other organic material from further out at sea. This provides extra food for filter feeders like sea squirts, shellfish living amongst seaweed, and the bryozoan animals which end up coating many seaweed fronds.

As these creatures consume this extra food supply, they breathe out carbon dioxide additional to that produced by eating seaweed. Individually, the amount is tiny. But on an ecosystem scale, their numbers and ability to filter large amounts of water are enough to skew what researchers call the net ecosystem production – the balance between carbon dioxide inflows and outflows. And not just by a little, but potentially by a lot.

A: The previous seaweed carbon sequestration model, which did not include invertebrate consumption of organic carbon. B: Our model, which includes the additional carbon inputs washing in (S¹ and S₂). Note: Es represents the carbon locked away in long term storage in the deep sea. Diagram modified from our research article.

How did we figure this out? We collated global studies which directly measured or reported the key parts of net ecosystem production, ranging from polar regions to tropical.

Seaweed ecosystems, we found, were natural carbon sources, releasing on average around 20 tonnes per square kilometre every year.

But it could be much higher still. When we included estimates of how much carbon returned to the atmosphere from seaweed washed out towards the deep sea only to decompose or be eaten first, we found seaweed could be a much larger natural source.

We estimate it could be potentially as high as 150 tonnes emitted to the atmosphere per km² every year, in contrast to previous estimates that seaweed absorbs 50 tonnes per km². We must stress this figure has some uncertainty around it, given the difficulty of estimating the quantities involved.

sea squirts on seaweed on a New South Wales beach.
Sea squirts and other filter feeders may change the balance of carbon. Shutterstock

Do We Give Up On Seaweed Carbon Storage?

In short, no. If we lose seaweed, what would replace it? It could be urchin barrens – large rocky outcrops dominated by sea urchins – or smaller seaweed species, or mussel beds. Climate change is already showing us in some places, with giant kelp dying en masse due to marine heatwaves and background warming in Tasmania and being replaced by urchin barrens.

To make a true accounting of what seaweed offers in carbon storage, we need to factor in what any replacement ecosystem would offer.

If a replacement ecosystem is an even greater carbon source or smaller carbon sink than the original seaweed ecosystem, it follows we should maintain or restore existing seaweed ecosystems to reduce further greenhouse gas emissions. However, to date, we have not found sufficient data to test whether all replacement ecosystems are in fact greater or lesser carbon sources.

What does this mean for efforts to tackle climate change? It means we should not look to seaweed as a silver bullet.

Any efforts to quantify seaweed carbon storage and mitigation for the protection, restoration or farming of seaweed must make a full accounting of carbon inputs and output to ensure we are not unwittingly making the problem worse rather than better.

As some carbon trading schemes look to include seaweed, we must not overestimate how good seaweed is at storing carbon.

If we get this wrong, we could see perverse outcomes where industries offset their emissions by funding the preservation or restoration of seaweeds – but in doing so, actually increase their emissions rather than zero them out.The Conversation

John Barry Gallagher, Associate Researcher, University of Tasmania

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

Stunning New-To-Science Fairy Wrasse Is First-Ever Fish Described By A Maldivian Scientist

March 8, 2022

Though there are hundreds of species of fish found off the coast of the Maldives, a mesmerizing new addition is the first-ever to be formally described -- the scientific process an organism goes through to be recognized as a new species -- by a Maldivian researcher. The new-to-science Rose-Veiled Fairy Wrasse (Cirrhilabrus finifenmaa), described today in the journal ZooKeys, is also one of the first species to have its name derived from the local Dhivehi language, 'finifenmaa' meaning 'rose', a nod to both its pink hues and the island nation's national flower. 

Scientists from the California Academy of Sciences, the University of Sydney, the Maldives Marine Research Institute (MMRI), and the Field Museum collaborated on the discovery as part of the Academy's Hope for Reefs initiative aimed at better understanding and protecting coral reefs around the world.

"It has always been foreign scientists who have described species found in the Maldives without much involvement from local scientists, even those that are endemic to the Maldives," says study co-author and Maldives Marine Research Institute biologist Ahmed Najeeb. "This time it is different and getting to be part of something for the first time has been really exciting, especially having the opportunity to work alongside top ichthyologists on such an elegant and beautiful species."

First collected by researchers in the 1990s, C. finifenmaa was originally thought to be the adult version of a different species, Cirrhilabrus rubrisquamis, which had been described based on a single juvenile specimen from the Chagos Archipelago, an island chain 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) south of the Maldives.

In this new study, however, the researchers took a more detailed look at both adults and juveniles of the multi-coloured marvel, measuring and counting various features, such as the color of adult males, the height of each spine supporting the fin on the fish's back and the number of scales found on various body regions. These data, along with genetic analyses, were then compared to the C. rubrisquamis specimen to confirm that C. finifenmaa is indeed a unique species.

Importantly, this revelation greatly reduces the known range of each wrasse, a crucial consideration when setting conservation priorities.

"What we previously thought was one widespread species of fish, is actually two different species, each with a potentially much more restricted distribution," says lead author and University of Sydney doctoral student Yi-Kai Tea. "This exemplifies why describing new species, and taxonomy in general, is important for conservation and biodiversity management."

Despite only just being described, the researchers say that the Rose-Veiled Fairy Wrasse is already being exploited through the aquarium hobbyist trade.

"Though the species is quite abundant and therefore not currently at a high risk of overexploitation, it's still unsettling when a fish is already being commercialized before it even has a scientific name," says senior author and Academy Curator of Ichthyology Luiz Rocha, PhD, who co-directs the Hope for Reefs initiative. "It speaks to how much biodiversity there is still left to be described from coral reef ecosystems."

Last month, Hope for Reefs researchers continued their collaboration with the MMRI by conducting the first surveys of the Maldives' 'twilight zone' reefs -- the virtually unexplored coral ecosystems found between 50- to 150-meters (160- to 500-feet) beneath the ocean's surface -- where they found new records of C. finifenmaa along with at least eight potentially new-to-science species yet to be described.

For the researchers, this kind of international partnership is pivotal to best understand and ensure a regenerative future for the Maldives' coral reefs.

"Nobody knows these waters better than the Maldivian people," Rocha says. "Our research is stronger when it's done in collaboration with local researchers and divers. I'm excited to continue our relationship with MMRI and the Ministry of Fisheries to learn about and protect the island nation's reefs together."

A vibrantly colored Rose-Veiled Fairy Wrasse. This new-to-science Rose-Veiled Fairy Wrasse is the first Maldivian fish to ever be described by a local researcher. (© Yi-Kai Tea)

A Rose-Veiled Fairy Wrasse photographed off the coast of the Maldives. A Rose-Veiled Fairy Wrasse photographed off the coast of the Maldives during a recent Hope for Reefs research expedition. (Luiz Rocha © California Academy of Sciences)

"Collaborating with organizations such as the Academy helps us build our local capacity to expand knowledge in this field. This is just the start and we are already working together on future projects," Najeeb says. "Our partnership will help us better understand the unexplored depths of our marine ecosystems and their inhabitants. The more we understand and the more compelling scientific evidence we can gather, the better we can protect them."

Yi-Kai Tea, Ahmed Najeeb, Joseph Rowlett, Luiz A. Rocha. Cirrhilabrus finifenmaa (Teleostei, Labridae), a new species of fairy wrasse from the Maldives, with comments on the taxonomic identity of C. rubrisquamis and C. wakanda. ZooKeys, 2022; 1088: 65 DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.1088.78139

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: Histories + Notes + 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 Boathouse In Governor Phillip Park  Part Of Our Community For 75 Years: Photos From The Collection Of Russell Walton, Son Of Victor Walton
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 and Palm Beach Views - Winter 2018
Currawong-Mackerel-The Basin A Stroll In Early November 2021 - photos by Selena Griffith
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
Iluka Park, Woorak Park, Pittwater Park, Sand Point Reserve, Snapperman Beach Reserve - Palm Beach: Some History
Ingleside Wildflowers August 2013
Irrawong - Ingleside Escarpment Trail Walk Spring 2020 photos by Joe Mills
Irrawong - Mullet Creek Restoration
Katandra Bushland Sanctuary - Ingleside
Lucinda Park, Palm Beach: Some History + 2022 Pictures
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 -

Port Jackson Shark Egg

The recent rains and storms have brought a lot of rubbish onto our beaches and the estuary beaches - one such item is this Port Jackson shark egg that we spotted on Station Beach at Pittwater.

The Port Jackson shark (Heterodontus portusjacksoni) is a nocturnal, oviparous (egg laying) type of bullhead shark of the family Heterodontidae, found in the coastal region of southern Australia, including the waters off Port Jackson. It has a large, blunt head with prominent forehead ridges and dark brown harness-like markings on a lighter grey-brown body, and can grow up to 1.65 metres (5.5 ft) long. They are the largest in the genus Heterodontus.

The Port Jackson shark is a migratory species, traveling south in the summer and returning north to breed in the winter. It feeds on hard-shelled mollusks, crustaceans, sea urchins, and fish. Identification of this species is very easy due to the pattern of harness-like markings that cross the eyes, run along the back to the first dorsal fin, then cross the side of the body, in addition to the spine in front of both dorsal fins.

These sharks are are oviparous, meaning that they lay eggs rather than give live birth to their young. The species has an annual breeding cycle which begins in late August and continues until the middle of November. During this time, the female lays pairs of eggs every 8-17 days. As many as eight pairs can be laid during this period. The eggs mature for 10–11 months before the hatchlings, known as neonates, can break out of the egg capsule. 

Port Jackson shark adults are often seen resting in caves in groups, and prefer to associate with specific sharks based on sex and size. Juvenile Port Jackson sharks, on the other hand, do not appear to be social. A captive study showed that these juveniles did not prefer to spend time next to other sharks, even when they were familiar with each other (i.e. tank mates). Juvenile Port Jackson sharks have unique personality traits, just like humans. Some were bolder than others when exploring a novel environment and they also reacted differently to a stressful situation (in choosing a freeze or flight response).

Juvenile Port Jackson sharks are also capable of learning to associate bubbles, LED lights, or sounds with receiving a food reward, can distinguish different quantities (i.e. count), and can learn by watching what other sharks are doing.

At least in some of these lab experiments males are shyer than females and boldness increases with consecutive trials of the same experiment. In experiments with different music genres, none of the sharks tested learned to discriminate between a jazz and a classical music stimulus.

Port Jackson Sharks are considered harmless to humans, although the teeth, whilst not large or sharp, can give a painful bite. 

Heterodontus portusjacksoni. Photo: Mark Norman, Museums Victoria

Curious Kids: what is the largest penguin that ever lived?

A life reconstruction of one of the largest penguins that ever lived, Kumimanu biceaeIllustration by Mark Witton (used with permission, all other rights reserved)Author provided
Jacob C. BloklandFlinders University

What is the largest penguin that ever lived? – Casey, age 6, Perth

Hi Casey, thanks for this great question!

Today the largest living penguin is the emperor penguin, which lives in Antarctica and is about one metre tall. The appropriately named little penguin is the smallest, standing only about as high as a ruler.

But penguins have swum in Earth’s oceans for more than 62 million years – and they were not always these sizes. Long before humans walked the Earth, some penguins would have stood as tall as a grown-up person.

Emperor penguins
Emperor penguins swim in the waters of Antarctica. Ian Duffy/FlickrCC BY-NC

Diving In

To understand how penguins once got so big, we need to go back to the very first ones.

The closest relatives of penguins today can actually fly through the air. These include petrels and the soaring albatrosses.

Penguins and petrels are close relatives. Ed Dunens/FlickrCC BY-NC

While waddling penguins might seem quite different to these seabirds, they’re quite alike in a number of ways. They share similarities in their skeletons, and both share distant relatives (great, great grandparents going back millions of years) that flew in the air.

Penguins can’t fly in the air anymore. Instead, they “fly” through the water — and doing both well isn’t an option.

For birds, water is a lot harder to fly through than air. But penguins have certain qualities that allow them to do this.

The wings of penguins are flippers. These are great for moving underwater, but not very helpful for flying above it. Their heavy bodies help them dive further and deeper so they can hunt for food. But being heavier makes flying in the air difficult.

While penguins’ distant relatives were small seabirds, over many years they gave up flight to become professional swimmers. The bigger they were, and the stronger their bones, the better they could dive.

Because penguins have heavier and stronger bones than air-flying birds, this means their bones are less likely to break. It also means we are more likely to find them as fossils (what’s left behind from ancient life) long after they die.

In fact, the bones of one kind of giant penguin (Kairuku waewaeroa) were discovered by school children.

Room To Grow

The asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs (except birds!) 66 million years ago gave the distant relatives of penguins the perfect chance to go swimming.

Many of the animals that would have eaten them in the sea were gone, which meant they could go underwater without worrying about being eaten.

The oldest penguin bones we have belonged to birds that lived only a few million years after the asteroid hit, and come from Aotearoa, or New Zealand. These are similar to the bones of today’s penguins, so we think penguins probably stopped flying in the air some time soon after the asteroid event.

Some of these first penguins were enormous. One was the gigantic Kumimanu biceae, which was probably 1.7 metres tall (the same size as many human adults).

Kumimanu may have been one of the largest penguins ever. It probably weighed 100kg, whereas the emperor penguin weighs less than half of that.

Kumimanu biceae, next to a human for scale. G Mayr/Senckenberg Research InstituteCC BY-ND

While many giant penguins lived in the millions of years after Kumimanu, the only penguin that may have been larger was the huge Palaeeudyptes klekowskii, which swam off the coast of Antarctica more than 34 million years ago. This penguin may have been two metres tall and weighed 115kg!.

As for what happened to giant penguins, they vanished about 15 million years ago and no one really knows why. There are still many questions, but with more fossil discoveries, we might find some answers!The Conversation

Kairuku waewaeroa was one of the last giant penguins. Simone Giovanardi (used with permission)CC BY-NC

Jacob C. Blokland, Vertebrate Palaeontology PhD Candidate and Casual Academic, Flinders University

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

COTA CE’s Corner March 2022: Election Time

March 7, 2022
Australia is now only weeks from a Federal Election, and COTA Australia has been working across all parties to push for the best possible policies for older people. The challenges are vast, and many of the differences are substantial, but we should be encouraged by the focus that many of our concerns are receiving. At the same time, we need to maintain caution about commentators misrepresenting the positions of different parties. While it is terrific to have older people getting the attention we deserve, the risk of being used as a political football is real.

As COTA Australia has been developing our policy agenda for the next term of government, some areas are clear. We need a commitment from all parties to implement the recommendations of the Aged Care Royal Commission in a timely fashion. The timetable for implantation matters, and the details are going to be important. There is a real risk of the current process of careful implementation being abandoned, and a slap-dash solution being applied. That would end in tears. Likewise, some of the big issues the government has not responded to need commitments. Aged Care workers need better training, better careers, and better pay, and we need more of them. The Government make clear that  it will support and fund substantial across the board pay rises to be determined by the Fair Work Commission in the current work value case.

Retirement incomes are another policy area often contested at election. Much like in aged care, the theatrics can sometimes be far more damaging than useful. Instead of taking the wise words and insightful findings of the Retirement Income Review, many seem keener on fighting off fantasies. Neither the age pension, nor the family home, is at risk from either of the major parties… but there are ways the system should be improved. For example, paying superannuation during periods of carers’ leave and parental leave would make the system fairer, and future retirements more secure.

Social inclusion, and ensuring people are not excluded because of lack of access to digital technology is a growing issue. Part of the problem is nobody taking responsibility for it. Australia does not have a whole-of-government ageing strategy. We should. This would include digital inclusion policies that ensure offline options are available, and supports are available to older people (and others) who want assistance to participate.

Finally, an issue that has stayed in the “not quite” basket for far too long… dental care. Bad teeth and gums are expensive, but not fixing them is even more expensive. The health of too many older Australians is being damaged by the lack of access to timely, affordable, high quality dental care throughout their lives. Dental health really should be part of Medicare. We will continue to push for major dental health policies from both parties this election year.

Ian Yates AM
Chief Executive
COTA Australia

Dementia Patients Struggle To Cope With Change Because Of Damage To General Intelligence Brain Networks

March 8, 2022
People with dementia struggle to adapt to changes in their environment because of damage to areas of the brain known as 'multiple demand networks', highly-evolved areas of the brain that support general intelligence, say scientists at the University of Cambridge.

There are many different types of dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease and frontotemporal dementia (FTD), which are characterised by the build-up of different toxic proteins in different parts of the brain. This means that the symptoms of dementia vary, and can include problems with memory, speech, behaviour or vision. But one symptom seen across every type of dementia is a difficulty in responding to unexpected situations.

Dr Thomas Cope from the MRC Cognition and Brain Science Unit and Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Cambridge said: "At the heart of all dementias is one core symptom, which is that when things change or go unexpectedly, people find it very difficult. If people are in their own environment and everything is going to plan, then they are OK. But as soon as the kettle's broken or they go somewhere new, they can find it very hard to deal with."

To understand why this happens, Dr Cope and colleagues analysed data from 75 patients, all of whom are affected by one of four types of dementia that affect different areas of the brain. The patients, together with 48 healthy controls, listened to changing sounds while their brain activity was recorded by a magnetoencephalography machine, which measures the tiny magnetic fields produced by electrical currents in the brain. Unlike traditional MRI scanners, these machines allow very precise timing of what is happening in the brain and when. The results of their experiment are published today in the Journal of Neuroscience.

During the scan, the volunteers watched a silent film -- David Attenborough's Planet Earth, but without its soundtrack -- while listening to a series of beeps. The beeps occurred at a steady pattern, but occasionally a beep would be different, for example a higher pitch or different volume.

The team found that the unusual beep triggered two responses in the brain: an immediate response followed by a second response around 200 milliseconds -- a fifth of a second -- a later.

The initial response came from the basic auditory system, recognising that it had heard a beep. This response was the same in the patients and healthy volunteers.

The second response, however, recognised that the beep was unusual. This response was much smaller among the people with dementia than among the healthy volunteers. In other words, in the healthy controls, the brain was better at recognising that something had changed.

The researchers looked at which brain areas activated during the task and how they were connected up, and combined their data with that from MRI scans, which show the structure of the brain. They showed that damage to areas of the brain known as 'multiple demand networks' was associated with a reduction in the later response.

Multiple demand networks, which are found both at the front and rear of the brain, are areas of the brain that do not have a specific task, but instead are involved in general intelligence -- for example problems solving. They are highly evolved, found only in humans, primates and more intelligent animals. It is these networks that allow us to be flexible in our environment.

In the healthy volunteers, the sound is picked up by the auditory system, which relays information to the multiple demand network to be processed and interpreted. The network then 'reports back' to the auditory system, instructing it whether to carry on or to attend to the sound.

"There's a lot of controversy about what exactly multiple demand networks do and how involved they are in our basic perception of the world," said Dr Cope. "There's been an assumption that these intelligence networks work 'above' everything else, doing their own thing and just taking in information. But what we've shown is no, they're fundamental to how we perceive the world.

"That's why we can look at a picture and immediately pick out the faces and immediately pick out the relevant information, whereas somebody with dementia will look at that scene a bit more randomly and won't immediately pick out what's important."

While the research does not point to any treatments that may alleviate the symptom, it reinforces advice given to dementia patients and their families, said Dr Cope.

"The advice I give in my clinics is that you can help people who are affected by dementia by taking a lot more time to signpost changes, flagging to them that you're going to start talking about something different or you're going to do something different. And then repeat yourself more when there's a change, and understand why it's important to be patient as the brain recognises the new situation."

Although their study only looked at patients with dementia, the findings may explain similar phenomena experienced by people living with conditions such as schizophrenia, where brain networks can become disrupted.

The research was funded by the Medical Research Council and National Institute for Health Research, with additional support from Wellcome, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the James S McDonnell Foundation.

Dr Cope is a fellow at Murray Edwards College, Cambridge.

Thomas E. Cope, Laura E. Hughes, Holly N. Phillips, Natalie E. Adams, Amirhossein Jafarian, David Nesbitt, Moataz Assem, Alexandra Woolgar, John Duncan, James B. Rowe. Causal evidence for the multiple demand network in change detection: auditory mismatch magnetoencephalography across focal neurodegenerative diseases. The Journal of Neuroscience, 2022; JN-RM-1622-21 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1622-21.2022

Stealth Nanomedicines Combat Cancer And Cut Toxic Effects Of Chemo

March 10, 2022
Nanomedicines -- typically drugs hidden within nanoscopic fatty membranes ('liposomes') -- have potential to transform chemotherapy treatments, improving drug delivery and reducing toxic side effects for thousands of cancer patients every year.

Now, world first research conducted by the University of South Australia has identified that the frequently used chemotherapy drug (5-FU or Fluorouracil) is 100 per cent more effective at targeting tumours (rather than surrounding tissues) when administered using an optimised liposomal formulation.

Using a minimally invasive sampling technique known as micro-dialysis this is the first time that the biodistribution of 5-FU liposome formulations has been quantified in this way -- something that could not be achieved as effectively using current imaging approaches.

In Australia, about 150,000 new cases of cancer are diagnosed each year. It is a leading cause of death worldwide accounting for nearly 10 million deaths a year (nearly one in six deaths).

Chemotherapy is regularly used to treat many cancers, with 5-FU being an important drug used in treatment. Side effects of this drug can include nausea and vomiting, fatigue, hair loss, diarrhea or constipation, weight fluctuations, frequent infections, and mouth sores.

Lead researcher and co-Director at UniSA's Centre for Pharmaceutical Innovation, Professor Clive Prestidge, says the discovery could change the way chemotherapy is administered, providing a better quality of life for thousands of cancer patients.

"Chemotherapy is regularly administered to treat many different types of cancers, including breast and colon cancers, but one of the major setbacks of 5-FU is that it does not distribute well to tumour issues and can cause high levels of off-target damage," Prof Prestidge says.

"As a result, many patients suffer adverse effects and can get very sick during treatment.

"Liposomal formulations present great opportunities for safer and more effective cancer medications because they prolong the retention of encapsulated drugs and can better target tumours. But optimising them for chemotherapy drugs has always proved challenging.

"Our micro-dialysis approach is the first to quantify how liposomal-specific delivery of 5-FU can reduce tumour growth with fewer toxic side effects, so it has the potential to dramatically transform many cancer treatments and deliver better outcomes for people with cancer."

Wen Wang, Paul Joyce, Kristen Bremmell, Robert Milne, Clive A. Prestidge. Liposomal 5-Fluorouracil Polymer Complexes Facilitate Tumor-Specific Delivery: Pharmaco-Distribution Kinetics Using Microdialysis. Pharmaceutics, 2022; 14 (2): 221 DOI: 10.3390/pharmaceutics14020221

How a makeshift PoW chapel from WWII continues to connect Ukrainians and Britons

Anne/FlickrCC BY-SA
Daniel AdamsonDurham University

On the outside, it is a shabby corrugated iron hut. But 70 years ago, in the aftermath of the Second World War, this small shed in a rural southern corner of Scotland became a place of worship for a group of devout Ukrainian prisoners of war (PoWs). Today it operates as a hub for local community efforts to send aid to refugees fleeing Putin’s invasion, underscoring once more the links between the UK and Ukraine.

The chapel is part of Hallmuir PoW camp, built in 1942 near Lockerbie, to house German and Italian prisoners. During the war years, it was one of hundreds of similar sites which housed enemy servicemen seized across the world.

After peace came in 1945, the German and Italian PoWs were repatriated. Yet Ukrainian troops, mostly captured between 1943 and 1945 whilst serving in the 14th “Galicia” Division of the Waffen-SS, were not so fortunate. Although the the Germans invaded and occupied Ukraine in 1941, the Galicia Division were remodelled as the Ukrainian National Army in March 1945, and by May 1945 more than 8,000 of them found themselves in Allied captivity in Rimini, on Italy’s Adriatic coastline.

Post-war provisions dictated that PoWs who could be deemed Soviet citizens were to be returned to the Soviet Union. However, given the association of these Ukrainian troops with the Nazi regime, near-certain death or hardship awaited them on their return.

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, backed by Pope Pius XII, pleaded for clemency from American and British authorities, arguing the Ukrainian prisoners were “good Catholics and fervent anti-communists”. The Allies yielded, and rebranded the Ukrainian PoWs as “surrendered enemy personnel”, enabling them to avoid Soviet repatriation. Instead they were allowed to choose between resettlement in Canada or the UK.

A corrugated iron roofed hut painted white with a green lawn surrounding it.
The corrugated iron exterior of Hallmuir Chapel. Tiger/WikipediaCC BY

Life In The Camp

By 1947, Hallmuir camp had fallen into disuse. But in May of that year, just over 7,000 Ukrainian captives docked at Glasgow, to be distributed across camps in the UK. Around 450 were transferred to Hallmuir, and the experiences of wartime captivity were soon resurrected. This marked the beginning of a lasting settlement of Ukrainians in the UK.

Occupying 40 accommodation huts, the Ukrainians were deployed by the Ministry of Agriculture to labour on regional farms and in the expansive Galloway forest. Daily life was far from easy, but undoubtedly preferable to the sinister fate which had awaited Ukrainians in the Soviet Union. The prisoners soon began to make an impression on the the camp. They fashioned a garden and orchard, and repurposed one hut into a striking Ukrainian Greek Orthodox chapel.

A statue of the Virgin Mary and child dressed in blue with flowers at her feet.
A statue of the Virgin and child from the Ukrainian chapel. Anne/FlickrCC BY

By 1951, the Hallmuir Ukrainians were permitted to leave captivity. Many opted to remain in the Galloway region, partly captured by the charms of south-west Scotland, and partly due to reluctance to venture back to the Soviet Union. To this day, ancestors of the Ukrainian prisoners are firmly integrated into the local area, and Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, is twinned with Kyiv.

Preserving Hallmuir

Over the past two decades, there have been efforts to preserve Hallmuir for posterity. Now, just five camp buildings remain on the farm site, of which the Ukrainian chapel is the best preserved. It has been the object of restoration efforts, and now closely resembles its appearance as it was in the 1940s.

The Pufkyj family, direct descendants of one of the Ukrainians who settled near Dumfries, have been instrumental in campaigning for heritage status. In 2021, former Ukraine minister of foreign affairs and current ambassador to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko, paid a goodwill visit to Hallmuir.

In terms of conservation, the uncertain future of the Hallmuir site is just one example of the important historical connections that risk being lost. Without a concerted effort to protect marginalised historical sites in the UK, we risk losing the diverse threads which underpin our society.

History is not just a broad sweep of “great men” and grand narratives. We need the lesser known – and neglected – stories of places like Hallmuir to remind us of the humanity and connection that arise from desperate situations. Just a stone’s throw from Hallmuir is Dunscore, the birthplace of Jane Haining, a Scottish missionary who perished at Auschwitz. These are the wartime stories of the humble figures that so often exemplify courage and resilience. Humanity is a universal phenomenon that transcends national borders.

A wooden statue of St Joseph with a blue robe and flowers at his feet.
A statue of St Joseph from Hallmuir Chapel. Anne/FlickrCC BY

In an immediate sense, the Hallmuir story reminds us that the Ukraine crisis is not some distant foreign affair: it is very much our concern, and has direct cultural implications for British society. In previous testing times, Britain offered a new home for Ukrainians displaced by conflict. As a new humanitarian refugee conflict looms, we must insist that this happens again in 2022.

In wider terms, Hallmuir is evidence of the many multicultural influences which continue to shape this country. Today, there is a vibrant Ukrainian community numbering thousands spread across the British Isles. But substitute Ukraine for any other nation, and it is possible to find historical links to most pockets of the UK.

This unassuming chapel hut provides evidence of how historical sites sites are tied to current events. Perhaps history does not repeat itself, but sometimes it echoes. Just as it happened during WWII, the freedom of a sovereign European nation is being threatened by a merciless tyrant. Even the smallest connections from 70 years ago show that we are linked by myriad threads, which strengthen in times of hardship and need.The Conversation

Daniel Adamson, PhD Candidate in History, Durham University

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

New Program Makes Access To Residential Aged Care Volunteers Easier Than Ever

March 9, 2022
The Australian Government has released a new residential aged care facilities (RACFs) program, to help address the decline in volunteer numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The re-engaging volunteers into residential aged care facilities program allows RACFs to nominate themselves for non-clinical support staff.

The program recognises the importance of emotional support, companionship and tackling social isolation in senior Australians. Volunteers can assist in several ways, including:
  • leisure activities (e.g. reading, music)
  • access to and supervision in outdoor spaces or the community
  • physical activity and exercise
  • companionship, conversation and social engagement
  • mobilising support in aid of above activities
  • culturally specific and individually appropriate support
  • administration support (e.g. answering calls, internal message running, restocking of PPE).
To sign up or learn more information about the program, visit our program page.  

To nominate your RACF for the program, fill out the webform.  

Damage To Inner Ear System Predicts Fall Risk Among People With Alzheimer's Disease

March 10, 2022
A Johns Hopkins Medicine study of about 50 people with Alzheimer's disease has added to evidence that damage to the inner ear system that controls balance is a major factor in patients' well-documented higher risk of falling.

Overall, the researchers say, their study found that impairment of the vestibular system was linked to a 50% increase in the risk of falling for patients with Alzheimer's compared with patients who have Alzheimer's and normal vestibular function.

The study, published Feb. 14 in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, is believed to be one of the first to demonstrate the vestibular system as an important contributor to loss of balance and fall risk among the Alzheimer's population. Alzheimer's is a progressive neurological disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions. There is no cure, and although medications and management strategies can temporarily improve symptoms, falls contribute to substantial disability in patients, the investigators say.

"Falls are a major problem in people with Alzheimer's disease, who fall at twice the rate compared with healthy older adults, and this often leads to injury, nursing home placement and early mortality," says senior author Yuri Agrawal, M.D., professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at the Johns Hopkins Medicine University School of Medicine. The new study, she says, was designed to better understand the root causes of the high fall rate and identify specific interventions to reduce it.

For the study, the research team recruited 48 people diagnosed with mild or moderate Alzheimer's who were seen at the Johns Hopkins Memory and Alzheimer's Treatment Center and the Johns Hopkins Alzheimer's Disease Research Center between March 2018 and January 2020. The mean age of participants was 65, and 27 were male. The team examined the link between vestibular impairment and falls in the patient cohort over a two-year period.

Impairment of the vestibular system, which consists of a group of canals and bony structures deep in the inner ear, is a common cause of dizziness, vertigo and balance issues, even in generally healthy people. Impairment causes these issues with higher frequency in older populations, so focusing on this system as a source of risk in patients with Alzheimer's made sense, investigators note.

Specifically, the researchers used devices that can track responses to eye and head movement to stimulate and mirror vestibular function. Subjects who had vestibular function impairment on these tests over time were 50% more likely to fall compared with individuals with normal vestibular function. Agrawal says that loss of vestibular function leads to an increased sway, causing unstable balance which in turn leads to more falls.

"We call the vestibular system the sixth hidden sense because it functions almost at a subconscious level. It's always 'on' and operates normally to keep us oriented as we move through space, sensing what's up and what's down and around us," Agrawal says. "The system automatically feeds that information to the brain as other sensory organs such as the eyes or ears do. But unlike closing one's eyes or plugging one's ears, people cannot wilfully control it. So, when its impaired, people experience vertigo, a disorienting, inability to navigate the world."

Agrawal says most Alzheimer's research has understandably focused on reducing or preventing memory loss and other cognitive impairment, but suggests that additional attention to the vestibular system has the potential to improve the quality of life of people with Alzheimer's.

"Vestibular impairment is treatable with balance exercises performed under the care of a physical therapist," she says. "That could enhance the quality of life for both patients and caregivers."

The research team says a clinical trial is already underway to assess the value of vestibular therapy in preventing falls in Alzheimer's patients.

Kevin Biju, Esther Oh, Paul Rosenberg, Qian-Li Xue, Paul Dash, M. Haroon Burhanullah, Yuri Agrawal. Vestibular Function Predicts Balance and Fall Risk in Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, 2022; 1 DOI: 10.3233/JAD-215366

The Seekers; I'll Never Find Another You

Some Of The World’s Lowest Rates Of Dementia Found In Amazonian Indigenous Groups

March 9, 2022
As scientists around the world seek for solutions for Alzheimer's disease, a new study reveals that two indigenous groups in the Bolivian Amazon have among the lowest rates of dementia in the world.

An international team of researchers found among older Tsimane and Moseten people, only about 1% suffer from dementia. In contrast, 11% of people age 65 and older living in the United States have dementia, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

"Something about the pre-industrial subsistence lifestyle appears to protect older Tsimane and Moseten from dementia," said Margaret Gatz, the lead study author and professor of psychology, gerontology and preventive medicine at the Center for Economic and Social Research at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Researchers used computed tomography (CT) brain scan images, cognitive and neurological assessments and culturally appropriate questionnaires -- facilitated by a local team of trained translators and Bolivian physicians -- to diagnose dementia and cognitive impairment among the Tsimane and Moseten.

The study, published in Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association, found only five cases of dementia among 435 Tsimane people and just one case among 169 Moseten age 60 and over.

In the same over-60 groups, the research team diagnosed about 8% of Tsimane and 10% of Moseten with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is typically marked by early stage memory loss or decline of other cognitive ability, such as language or spatial perception. The study's authors pointed out these rates are more comparable to MCI in high-income countries like the U.S.

Researchers were surprised to find that the study participants found to have dementia or MCI frequently had unusual and prominent calcifications of their intracranial arteries. These study participants frequently displayed parkinsonian symptoms during neurological examinations and cognitive deficits in attention, spatial awareness and executive functioning.

Although calcifications were more common among the cognitively impaired, researchers also observed these vascular calcifications in the CT scans of those without dementia or MCI. They say more research is needed to understand the role of vascular factors as well as infectious and inflammatory disorders -- which are highly prevalent in these populations -- along with other risks for dementia. To this end, the research team is currently returning to all the Tsimane and Moseten villages to revisit those who were previously assessed.

A Tsimane family travels upstream in the local river. (Photo/Courtesy of Michael Gurven, UC Santa Barbara)

Comparing dementia among Tsimane, Moseten and other indigenous peoples
The roughly 17,000 Tsimane remain physically very active throughout their lifespans as they fish, hunt and farm with hand tools and gather food from the forest. The 3,000 Moseten also reside in rural villages and engage in subsistence agricultural work. Unlike the more isolated Tsimane, they live closer to towns and have schools, access to clean water and medical services, and are more likely to be literate.

The study authors compared their results to a systematic review of 15 studies of indigenous populations in Australia, North America, Guam and Brazil. That earlier review found dementia prevalence ranging from 0.5% to 20% among indigenous older adults.

The fact that indigenous populations in other parts of the world have high rates of dementia may be due to a higher amount of contact with -- and adoption of lifestyles of -- their non-indigenous neighbors. They also face greater risks of diabetes, hypertension, alcohol abuse, obesity and cardiovascular disease.

These dementia risk factors are extremely low among the Tsimane and Moseten populations. Prior research published in The Lancet showed the Tsimane people have extraordinarily healthy hearts in older age and the lowest prevalence of coronary atherosclerosis (a disease that shows in the form of fatty deposits inside arteries) of any population known to science. This distinction may be linked to their subsistence lifestyle.

Another study published last year in The Journal of Gerontology -- led by USC assistant professor Andrei Irimia, also a co-author on the new publication -- found that the Tsimane experience less brain atrophy than their American and European peers.

Researchers say in contrast to the Tsimane, lifestyle factors in higher-income countries -- including lack of physical activity and diets rich in sugars and fats -- contribute to heart disease and may also accelerate brain aging.

A race for Alzheimer's disease solutions
Aging is the most important known risk factor for Alzheimer's and other dementias. Converging evidence points to low formal education, midlife hypertension and diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, physical inactivity and -- most recently -- air pollution as the major modifiable risk factors for dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

An aging global population, along with the proliferation of those modifiable risk factors, will lead to a tripling of the number of people with dementia worldwide by 2050, to more than 152 million, according to estimates.

"We're in a race for solutions to the growing prevalence of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias," said Hillard Kaplan, a study co-author and professor of health economics and anthropology at Chapman University who has studied the Tsimane for two decades. "Looking at these diverse populations augments and accelerates our understanding of these diseases and generate new insights."

"By working with populations like the Tsimane and the Moseten, we can get a better understanding of global human variation and what human health was like in different environments before industrialization," said Benjamin Trumble, a study co-author and an associate professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change and the Center for Evolution and Medicine at Arizona State University. "What we do know is the sedentary, urban, industrial life is quite novel when compared with how our ancestors lived for more than 99% of humanity's existence."

Margaret Gatz, Wendy J. Mack, Helena C. Chui, E. Meng Law, Giuseppe Barisano, M. Linda Sutherland, James D. Sutherland, Daniel Eid Rodriguez, Raul Quispe Gutierrez, Juan Copajira Adrian, Jesus Bani Cuata, Amy R. Borenstein, Ellen E. Walters, Andrei Irimia, Christopher J. Rowan, L. Samuel Wann, Adel H. Allam, Randall C. Thompson, Michael I. Miyamoto, David E. Michalik, Daniel K. Cummings, Edmond Seabright, Angela R. Garcia, Paul L. Hooper, Thomas S. Kraft, Caleb E. Finch, Gregory S. Thomas, Jonathan Stieglitz, Benjamin C. Trumble, Michael D. Gurven, Hillard Kaplan. Prevalence of dementia and mild cognitive impairment in indigenous Bolivian forager‐horticulturalists. Alzheimer's & Dementia, 2022; DOI: 10.1002/alz.12626

Even mild COVID can cause brain shrinkage and affect mental function, new study shows

Sarah HellewellCurtin University

Most of what we know about how COVID can affect the brain has come from studies of severe infection. In people with severe COVID, inflammatory cells from outside the brain can enter brain tissue and spread inflammation. There may be changes to blood vessels. Brain cells can even have changes similar to those seen in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

For the first time, a new study has investigated the effects of mild COVID (that is, infection that doesn’t lead to a hospital admission) on the brain. The findings may further explain some of the brain changes contributing to long COVID.

Brain Scans And Tests Show Changes

Many people who have had COVID report feelings of “brain fog”, fatigue and problems with concentration and memory long after their initial symptoms resolve. These problems, collectively referred to as “long COVID”, may last for months even after mild infection.

Long COVID is very common, and may affect more than half of the people who catch COVID, even if they have a mild case.

Scientists collected data as part of the massive UK Biobank database. They looked at brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and tests of brain function in 785 volunteers who were assessed before the pandemic. They then compared this to the same data collected three years later, when about half of those participants had mild COVID infection, and the other half had not caught COVID. This allowed the scientists to determine the specific effects of mild COVID infection on brain structure and function.

The group who had mild COVID an average of five months beforehand had thinning of brain tissue in several brain regions, ranging from 0.2% to around 2% compared to their pre-COVID scan. This is equivalent to between one and six years of normal brain ageing. Affected brain regions included the parahippocampal gyrus (an area related to memory) and the orbitofrontal cortex, which is located at the front of the brain and is important for smell and taste.

The post-COVID group also showed a reduction in overall brain size between their MRI scans that wasn’t seen in the non-COVID group, and had altered connections between different brain regions in the olfactory cortex, an area related to smell.

They performed worse in a test for attention and mental flexibility, a finding that was associated with volume reductions within a part of the cerebellum related to smell and social relationships.

Older woman looks concerned with supportive younger woman standing behind her
Further research is needed to see if COVID affects the brains of younger people in the same way. Shutterstock

Comparing To Other Illnesses

To show these changes were specific to COVID and not just related to having a respiratory illness, the scientists also looked at a group of people who had pneumonia. They did not see the same changes, confirming they are related to COVID.

Decreases in brain volume are common to many brain diseases and disorders associated with degeneration, and have been found in people with mild cognitive impairmentAlzheimer’s diseasedepression and traumatic brain injury, among others.

Problems with memory and attention are also frequent for people with these diseases and disorders, indicating mild COVID infection may accelerate brain degeneration. These changes could explain the reported symptoms of long COVID, such as brain fog.

The study did not look at the mechanisms of mild COVID in the brain. However, the authors suggest this could be due to inflammation, degeneration which spreads through the brain pathways associated with smell, or sensory deprivation due to loss of smell.

The Same For Everyone?

So does this study prove all people who have had mild COVID infections will have these same brain changes and long-term brain degeneration? Not necessarily.

There are several important things we still do not know. This includes whether these brain changes will get worse over time, or whether they will go back to normal or previous levels of function. More research over a long time would help us understand the trajectory of brain changes.

This study also only included people aged 51–81, so we do not know whether these findings are relevant for younger people or children.

The brain changes found in this study were more pronounced in the older participants, so it could be that older people are more susceptible. Another study is needed to determine whether the same brain alterations would occur in younger people, or whether these findings are common only to older people.

There were some differences between the groups before COVID, with smaller volumes of areas deep within the brain. However, these were in different brain areas to those affected after COVID.

The scientists also found slightly reduced scores for brain functions of thinking and remembering in the group that went on to have COVID. This study did not specifically exclude people with degenerative brain conditions such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s diseases, but the scientists do not think these would explain the changes they found.

Effects Of Different Variants And Vaccination Unknown

Because of the nature of the study, information about the strain of COVID people were infected with was not available. So we can’t assume the findings would be the same for people with the now more prevalent Omicron strain.

We also can’t determine the effect vaccination may have in lessening brain changes. Given the timing of the study, it is likely most of the people in the post-COVID group were infected in 2020, so may not have been vaccinated.

This study provides the first important information about brain changes in people with mild COVID infection. Until we have all the information, we should be alert but not alarmed at emerging findings.The Conversation

Sarah Hellewell, Research Fellow, Faculty of Health Sciences, Curtin University, and The Perron Institute for Neurological and Translational Science, Curtin University

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

Heavy Water - Waynes World

published March 7, 2022 by Surfing Visions/ Tim Bonython
After returning home from 3 and half months at Nazare Portugal, 26 hours later i am lucky enough to score a very raw & angry Cape Solander. The East coast of Australia including Sydney has copped so much rain that its turned the ocean into a brown foam that's supposably not good for your health.  This edit will show you the reason why. I spend the morning following Wayne Cleveland plus longtime OURS regulars Jesse Polock & James Adams. Plus local legend Kipp Caddy, Maxime Rayor, Zac Martin and backhand specialists Max McGuigan & Kirk Flintoff. Slab master Dylan Longbottom scores the bomb of the day and also tows his daughter Summa into a couple. They name this spot Cape Fear for a reason. Watch and you will understand why. Enjoy.

Word Of The Week: Worth

Word of the Week returns in 2022 simply to throw some disruption in amongst the 'yeah-nah' mix.

first known usage - pre 12th century
from Old English weorthan, related to Old Frisian wertha, Old High German werth, Old Norse verthr, Gothic wairths.  Archaic; property, wealth. Excellence of character.


1. equivalent in value to the sum or item specified.

2. sufficiently good, important, or interesting to be treated or regarded in the way specified.


1. the level at which someone or something deserves to be valued or rated.

2. the amount that could be achieved or produced in a specified time.

Premier’s Reading Challenge Now Open

The Premier’s Reading Challenge marks its 21st anniversary starting this year, with children encouraged to join the party - by reading lots of books!

The Challenge aims to encourage a love of reading for leisure and pleasure in students, and to enable them to experience quality literature.

First started in 2002, the Challenge has grown in both student participation and completion numbers every year since its inception.

Premier Dominic Perrottet said despite disruptions from COVID-19 in 2021, participation in the Challenge was up almost 3 per cent (440,000 students) with individual books read reaching almost 9 million.

“It’s wonderful to see that the Challenge continues to grow, encouraging generations to enjoy reading,” Mr Perrottet said.

“The challenge encourages students to extend reading beyond the classroom where they can read for pleasure and knowledge.”

Minister for Education and Early Learning Sarah Mitchell said this year’s motto “stories that stay with you” was very suitable following the years we have had.

“Reading is so beneficial for students’ lives, it sharpens their knowledge and strengthens writing and vocabulary – but just as importantly it makes for happier, more creative kids who take that with them into adulthood,” Ms Mitchell said.

“Reading is a gift that unlocks future success for students. I’m excited for this year’s challenge to start.”

New booklist update
The first new booklist update for 2022 is now available, with 230 new titles added for students to read as part of the challenge. 

The Premier’s Reading Challenge begins on Monday, 28 February and is open for student entries until Friday, 19 August. 

Students from government, independent, Catholic and home schools in Kindergarten to Year 10 can participate.

See for the rules of the competition.

Young And Emerging Artists Showcase Talents At MAG&M

Talented young artists from across the Northern Beaches will showcase their work at the Manly Art Gallery & Museum from 25 March until 1 May 2022.

The annual Express Yourself exhibition features the works of over 50 HSC Visual Art students.

Northern Beaches Mayor Michael Regan commended the 2021 cohort of visual art students who produced outstanding works during a very challenging period. 

“We are proud to display these impressive artworks from such talented and resilient young artists at Manly Art Gallery & Museum,” Mayor Regan said.

“Express Yourself features a broad range of expressive artforms that explore contemporary issues such as isolation, gender identity and the environment.

“The exhibition showcases the very best from our high-quality secondary schools, attracts new and younger audiences to our regional gallery and helps to nurture and inspire the next generation of local artists.”

The winners of the $5,000 Theo Batten Bequest Youth Art Award and the $3,000 Manly Art Gallery & Museum Society Youth Art Award will be announced on Friday 25 March. These two awards are granted annually to students featured in the exhibition.

Visitors are encouraged to vote for their favourite artwork in the KALOF People’s Choice Award which is announced at the end of the exhibition period.

Three awards are granted annually to students featured in the exhibition: MAG&M Society Youth Art Award, Theo Batten Bequest Youth Art Award and KALOF People’s Choice Award.

Participating schools:

Barrenjoey High School
Covenant Christian School
Davidson High School
Forest High School
Killarney Heights High School
Mater Maria College
Narrabeen Sports High School
NBSC - Balgowlah Boys Campus
NBSC - Cromer Campus
NBSC - Freshwater Senior Campus
NBSC - Mackellar Girls Campus
NBSC - Manly Selective Campus
Northern Beaches Christian School
Oxford Falls Grammar School
Pittwater High School
St Augustine's College
St Luke's Grammar School
St Paul's Catholic College
Stella Maris Catholic College
The Pittwater House Schools

Exhibition: 25 March - 1 May 2022, 10am - 5pm daily (excluding Mondays)

PUBLIC PROGRAMS:                                                                                                                                             

MAG&M Society preview
Friday 25 March, 9 – 10am
MAG&M Society members are invited to a special preview of Express Yourself 2022.

Teachers' preview
Friday 25 March, 5.30 – 6.30pm
Teachers are invited to a special preview of Express Yourself 2022. Be inspired by the extraordinary creative talent of over 50 young emerging artists from the 20 secondary schools on the Northern Beaches.

Seniors Festival
Tuesday 29 March, 10 – 11am
Enjoy a special guided tour by MAG&M exhibition curator Bronwen Davies, of selected works by HSC Visual Art students from the 20 secondary schools across the Northern Beaches.

GALLERY DETAILS:                                                                       

Manly Art Gallery & Museum
West Esplanade Reserve, Manly NSW 2095
Open Tue – Sun, 10am – 5pm (closed Mondays & Public Holidays)
Free entry
T: 02 9976 1421 
Instagram: magamnsw 

Ocean Film Festival World Tour 2022 

Avalon Friday 25 Mar 6:30pm - TICKETS
39 Old Barrenjoey Rd, Avalon Beach
Designed to mesmerise and enthral, the Ocean Film Festival World Tour showcases a 3 hour celebration of our oceans comprised of sublime footage taken above and below the water’s surface. This unique collection of short films from around the globe document the beauty and power of the ocean, and celebrate the divers, surfers, swimmers and oceanographers who live for the sea’s salt spray; who chase the crests of waves; and who marvel at the mysteries of the big blue.

The films feature captivating cinematography, complete with awe-inspiring underwater scenes and fast-paced wave sequences that have been captured from unbelievable vantage points.
Inspiring and thought-provoking, the Ocean Film Festival World Tour is filled with moving footage, touching interviews and insightful narrations. Each of the festival’s films conveys a deep respect and appreciation for the world’s oceans and the creatures that call them home.
Find out more at and more about this year's movies at:

In the event of a COVID lockdown, this event will be postponed and your tickets will be automatically transferred to the new date. You will receive an email confirming this change. If you can't make the new date you will be offered a refund.
Photo credit: John Kowitz @j.kowitz

Military History Lesson On Offer For Students

Students studying modern history can now apply for a Premier’s Anzac Memorial Scholarship, which will provide opportunities to develop their knowledge and understanding of the history of Australians at war.

Premier Dominic Perrottet said up to 20 selected students would join a two-week study tour to significant historical sites to learn about the service of Australian men and women in the World Wars and other conflicts.

“This offers a unique learning experience that complements the NSW History Syllabus, which enhances and reflects on history studies in the classroom,” Mr Perrottet said.

“I encourage students in Year 10 and 11 with a keen interest in history to apply as this is a hands-on learning opportunity to represent their school and community.”

Minister for Transport and Veterans David Elliott said the 2022 study tour will take place during the Term 3 school holidays (26 September to 7 October) and will visit locations in Sydney, regional NSW and the ACT.

“The tour will be accompanied by a military historian to teach students about our nation’s military past and help them understand the importance of commemoration,” Mr Elliott said.

“This is an especially important tour in 2022, a year that commemorates 80 years since our veterans fought for our freedom during the Second World War.”

One of the 2021 scholars, Ryan Muscat from Marian Catholic College Kenthurst, described the tour as truly incredible.

“It was a once in a lifetime experience, not just because of the fascinating stops but the friendships that I made with my fellow scholars,” Ryan said. “It helped me to better appreciate the breadth and scale of sacrifice that personnel from NSW have made in the defence of Australia and how our state's role continues to evolve.”

Eligible students can apply online by submitting a short personal essay, a letter of recommendation, a parent consent form and a copy of a marked history assignment.

Registrations close on 28 March 2022.

Bruno Mars - Just The Way You Are (2010)

"Just the Way You Are" is the debut solo single by American singer-songwriter Bruno Mars. It is the lead single from his debut studio album, Doo-Wops & Hooligans (2010). The song was written by Mars, Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine, Khalil Walton and Needlz and produced by the former three, under their alias, the Smeezingtons along with Needlz. It was released in the United States to contemporary hit radio on August 10, 2010. The track was released in the United Kingdom on September 19, 2010, as "Just the Way You Are (Amazing)". The song's lyrics compliment a woman's beauty.

The debut single received mixed reviews from music critics, who praised the Smeezingtons' production but dubbed its lyrics as sappy and corny. It won Best Male Pop Vocal Performance at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards. The song peaked at number one on the US Billboard Hot 100, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and in the United Kingdom charts and peaked in the top five in other countries. It was certified thirteen times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), seven times platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) and diamond by Music Canada (MC). "Just the Way You Are" was the best-selling digital single of 2011, selling more than 12.5 million copies, thus joining an elite group of best-selling singles worldwide.

The music video, directed by Ethan Lader, was released on September 8, 2010, and features Peruvian born Australian actress Nathalie Kelley.

Maroon 5 - Moves Like Jagger Ft. Christina Aguilera (Band Edit - 2011)

"Moves Like Jagger" is a song by American band Maroon 5 featuring singer Christina Aguilera. It was released by A&M Octone Records on June 21, 2011, as the fourth and final single from the re-release of the group's third studio album Hands All Over (2010). The song was written by Adam Levine, Ammar Malik, Benny Blanco, and Shellback; the latter two are also the producers. "Moves like Jagger" is a disco and electropop song and is backed by synths and electronic drums. The lyrics refer to a male's ability to impress a love interest with his dance moves, which he compares to those of Mick Jagger, the lead singer of the Rolling Stones.

"Moves like Jagger" was well received by some music critics, who praised the song's chorus. Praise also went to the vocals of Levine and Aguilera, with critics pointing out solid chemistry between the two. Likewise, the song was a commercial success, going on to top the charts in over 18 countries. In the United States, "Moves like Jagger" became the band's second (after 2007's "Makes Me Wonder") and Aguilera's fifth number-one single and is among the best-selling singles of all time. The song also made Aguilera the second female artist to score a number-one hit in the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s, which in turn made her the fourth woman to score number-one singles in three different decades.

The music video was directed by Jonas Åkerlund. The video features old video footage of Jagger and his iconic dance moves. "Moves like Jagger" was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 54th Grammy Awards but lost to "Body and Soul" by Tony Bennett and Amy Winehouse. The song was first performed in June 2011 on an episode of The Voice (where Levine and Aguilera both served as coaches).

Internationally, the song was the ninth-best-selling digital single of 2011 with sales of 7 million copies.[2] After Wham!'s "Last Christmas" finally topped the charts in 2021, "Moves like Jagger" became the UK's biggest-selling single never to top the charts. The song was certified Diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in 2021.[

TAFE NSW Helps Young Newport Student Gain Foothold In Tourism And Events Industry

March 8, 2022
TAFE NSW is helping school leavers kick-start their careers in the travel, events and tourism industry with credit towards their HSC.
According to data released by the Australian Industry and Skills Committee, employment levels in the Events sector are projected to almost double in the next three years - from 25,900 in 2021 to 46,900 by 2025.[2]

Newport local and TAFE NSW Northern Beaches student Esme Sergi finished first in the state in the HSC Tourism, Travel and Events Examination. She studied a Certificate III in Events at TAFE NSW Northern Beaches while completing her HSC at Northern Beaches Secondary College Freshwater Senior Campus. 

“I decided to study this course at TAFE NSW as I was very interested in learning the logistics of an event, and gaining real-world practical skills in tourism and travel as part of my HSC,” Esme said.

“I wanted to learn about the industry, in the hope that it will eventually help me in a future career in events management.”

Esme took on a range of volunteer roles and work experience to understand the concepts involved in working in the industry. Now that she’s finished her HSC, she’s already landed a job working at The Boathouse in wedding events. She’s continuing her studies in 2022 with the Diploma of Event Management at TAFE NSW.

“My experience of studying travel, tourism and events at TAFE NSW during year 11 and 12 was a very positive and enjoyable one. 

“The teachers were all very supportive and knowledgeable, I was able to meet many new friends and I enjoyed learning both in the classroom and through practical work experience opportunities.”  
TAFE NSW Team Leader of Tourism, Travel and Events, Maryanne Metry said Esme’s state-topping result in the HSC was a testament to her commitment to excellence in the tourism and events industries.    
“Esme’s exceptional results in the HSC reflect not just her hard work and dedication, but also the quality, hands-on training TAFE NSW provides students to help them reach their career ambitions and ensure we have a skilled and capable workforce of the future,” Ms Metry said.   
“I have no doubt Esme will go on to be a great ambassador for TAFE NSW and enjoy a successful career in the events industry.” 
TAFE NSW offers over 40 Vocational Education and Training (VET) courses to study as part of the HSC in areas including animal studies, plumbing, automotive, maritime operations, IT, hospitality, and fitness. 
For more information about TAFE NSW VET courses, visit  or phone 131 601.  

Vitamin D2 and D3: what’s the difference and which should you take?

Vitamin D3 is found in fish, cheese, and eggs. Cegli/Shutterstock
James BrownAston University

Vitamin D is important for maintaining health, as it has many roles in the human body. But there is more than one form of vitamin D, and recent research suggests that these forms may have different effects. So what are the different types of vitamin D, and is one really more beneficial than the other?

Although medical conditions later associated with vitamin D deficiency, such as the bone disease rickets, have been known about since the 17th century, vitamin D itself wasn’t identified until the early 20th century. This discovery led to Adolf Windaus winning the Nobel prize for chemistry in 1928.

The vitamin D family actually includes five molecules, with the two most important being vitamin D2 and D3. These molecules are also known as ergocalciferol and cholecalciferol, respectively. While both of these types of vitamin D contribute to our health, they differ in how we get them.

Dietary vitamin D2 generally comes from plants, particularly mushrooms and yeast, whereas we get vitamin D3 from animal sources, such as oily fish, liver and eggs. Both forms of vitamin D are also available in dietary supplements.

What most people probably don’t know is that most of our vitamin D comes from exposing our skin to sunlight. When our skin is exposed to the sun, ultraviolet rays convert a precursor molecule called 7-dehydrocholesterol into vitamin D3. This important effect of exposure to the sun explains why people living at more extreme latitudes, or people who have darker skin, are more prone to vitamin D deficiency. Melanin, a pigment in the skin, blocks ultraviolet rays from activating 7-dehydrocholesterol, thus limiting D3 production. Wearing clothing or sunscreen has a similar effect.

Man getting some sun rays.
Most of our vitamin D comes from exposing our skin to sunlight. Eggeegg/Shutterstock

Both vitamins D2 and D3 are essentially inactive until they go through two processes in the body. First, the liver changes their chemical structure to form a molecule known as calcidiol. This is the form in which vitamin D is stored in the body. Calcidiol is then further altered in the kidneys to form calcitriol, the active form of the hormone. It is calcitriol that is responsible for the biological actions of vitamin D, including helping bones to form, metabolising calcium and supporting how our immune system works.

Technically, vitamin D isn’t a vitamin at all, but a pro-hormone. This means the body converts it into an active hormone. All hormones have receptors (on bone cells, muscle cells, white blood cells) that they bind to and activate, like a key unlocking a lock. Vitamin D2 has the same affinity for the vitamin D receptor as vitamin D3, meaning neither form is better at binding to its receptor.

Different Effects On The Immune System

recent study found that vitamin D2 and D3 supplementation had different effects on genes important for immune function. These findings are significant, as most previous research has failed to find much difference in the effect of supplementation with either vitamin D2 or D3.

Most of the research published to date has suggested that the main difference between vitamin D2 and D3 supplementation is the effect on circulating vitamin D levels in the bloodstream. Studies have repeatedly shown that vitamin D3 is superior at raising levels of vitamin D in the body. These findings were supported by a recent review of the evidence which found that vitamin D3 supplementation increased vitamin D levels in the body better than vitamin D2. But not all studies agree.

Very few studies support vitamin D2 supplementation being superior to vitamin D3. One trial showed that vitamin D2 was better at treating immune issues in patients who were on steroid therapy. However, other than increasing vitamin D levels in the body, there is not much evidence that vitamin D3 supplements are better than vitamin D2 supplements. One study found that vitamin D3 improved calcium levels more than vitamin D2. But we need more research to provide definitive answers.

So Which Should I Take?

Vitamin D deficiency is now more prevalent than ever, with around a billion people worldwide being vitamin D deficient. It is important that people at risk of vitamin D deficiency – older adults, people living in less sunny climates and people with darker skin – take vitamin D supplements.

Health professionals recommend that most people take 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day, especially in winter. It would appear that vitamin D3 supplements are the superior option for maintaining vitamin D levels, but short exposure of the skin to the sun, even on a cloudy day, will also help you keep healthy vitamin D levels.The Conversation

James Brown, Associate Professor in Biology and Biomedical Science, Aston University

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

You’re not tone deaf and you know more about music than you think

Every rendition of “Happy Birthday” is different. (Shutterstock)
Alexander AlburyConcordia University and Virgina PenhuneConcordia University

Think of the last time you were at a birthday party and the obligatory rendition of “Happy Birthday” began. If you’re like most people, you probably joined in without a second thought. Would you be surprised to know that the version of “Happy Birthday” you’re used to singing might be different every time?

The musical key that “Happy Birthday” is sung in often depends on the note that the person who starts the song chooses to sing first. This starting point determines the key for the rest of the song. We’re still able to recognize the song because the intervals — the differences in pitch between notes — remain the same and the notes just shift up or down depending on where that starting point is.

This act of shifting pitches up or down but preserving the intervals between notes is called transposition and although it may not seem like a simple task, people tend to handle it quite well. In one study, both children and adults easily recognized common songs like “Happy Birthday” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” after they were presented at various keys.

How is it that most people can perform this complex musical task even in the absence of any formal musical training? Even though you may not realize it, you actually have a lot more musical knowledge than you might think.

Pattern Recognition

Where does this knowledge of music come from? You get it from your everyday life without realizing it thanks to a process called statistical learning. This concept suggests that we learn about our environment through passive exposure and that we constantly use this knowledge to interpret the world around us. Statistical learning is how we learn to recognize patterns and can be used to explain complex learning processes like language acquisition. Significantly, this process is almost entirely subconscious — we learn just by being exposed to new information.

In the case of music, we have no shortage of experience to draw from. We hear music constantly, whether intentionally or as a bystander. Riding in a car, standing in an elevator, sitting in a waiting room — we can’t help but be exposed to music. And we gain something from this passive exposure: We become familiar with the patterns and regularities of the music of our culture and we develop an implicit knowledge of music.

This process happens very early on. Eight-month-old babies can recognize patterns in sequences of tones and some studies show that even at three months of age, babies can recognize changes in short melodies. This implicit musical knowledge only grows as we get older and is why most people might not be as musically challenged as they think.

a baby holding a tambourine next to another baby shaking a maraca
Music learning occurs implicitly in babies as young as three months old. (Shutterstock)

In one study, people were recruited to sing in a public park and their performance was compared to that of professional singers. The results showed that the amateur singers’ pitch and timing accuracy was close to that of experts. This aligns with other research showing that people without musical training also perform well on pitch discrimination tasks in which they have to recognize the difference between two tones that vary slightly in pitch.

These results might seem surprising at first, but they are backed by large-scale studies as well. While many people might claim to be tone deaf, some research estimates that the rate of congenital amusia — a condition in which a person is unable to recognize or process musical information — is less than two per cent in the general population.

Cultural Expectations

Our implicit knowledge of music also leads us to develop expectations of how music should sound. That’s why music from other cultures might sound strange at first — it deviates from the expectations you’ve developed based on the music of your own culture.

This is also true across musical genres. Jazz musicians were found to be more accurate at predicting changes in jazz music than classical musicians and non-musicians.

Our expectations are also responsible for generating musical pleasure and the desire to move when listening to music, and have been used as a tool by artists and composers for centuries to elicit stronger emotions.

So although you might not be aware of it, you’re a walking music processing machine. And next time you find yourself singing “Happy Birthday,” you can sing a bit more confidently with your hidden music expertise in mind.The Conversation

Alexander Albury, PhD Candidate, Psychology, Concordia University and Virgina Penhune, Professor, Psychology, Concordia University

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

Bias be gone! Can our unconscious prejudices be overcome?

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Washington DC, 28 August 1963. GettyImages.
Nick HaslamThe University of Melbourne

Bias comes in more flavours than Baskin-Robbins ice cream. Well known biases of gender, race, age, class, weight, and media barely scratch the surface.

Psychologists catalogue numerous biases of hindsight and foresight, attention and memory, reasoning and intuition, as well as a litany of mental illusions, fallacies, neglects, gaps and aversions. There is even the bias blindspot – our mistaken belief we are less biased than others – and the “bias bias”: the tendency to use the concept of bias too freely.

Review: The End of Bias: How We Change Our Minds - Jessica Nordell (Granta)

Behind this proliferation of biases is the fundamental insight that human thinking is fallible. We fall prey to a range of errors that pull and push us away from the ideals of rationality and fairness. If our departures from good thinking and right action stem from these biases and errors, then identifying and remedying them is an urgent task.

Jessica Nordell’s The End of Bias is a powerful expression of the view that bias is at the root of many social divisions and inequalities. Rather than simply making this diagnosis, Nordell presents a strong case that bias can be uprooted. Her book is a bracing review of the state of the science of bias, and especially how its lessons can be applied to promote progressive social change.

Nordell begins her tour de force with an examination of the modern social psychology of prejudice.

Recognising that racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice persist, despite declines in overt bigotry, psychologists have come to the view that many social biases are automatic, unconscious, or habitual. We can sincerely proclaim our commitment to egalitarian values, but still discriminate in our actions and reactions.

The early chapters of The End of Bias explore the psychology of these forms of discrimination, introducing the reader to recent understandings of stereotyping, priming (the automatic triggering of mental associations), and cognition outside awareness. Nordell shows how discrimination can be subtle in nature, but powerful in effect. Its thousand cuts compound over time.

Unacknowledged biases can lead doctors to withhold pain medications from groups stereotyped as overly emotional or unfeeling, one recent study finding that some white medical trainees believe Black people have literally thicker skin than Whites. In the medical context, it can also lead to missed diagnoses and harsh or dismissive treatment decisions.

Unconscious biases can lead police officers to overestimate the physical threat posed by Black suspects and to mistakenly perceive weapons and hostile intent, often with tragic consequences.

Nordell argues that biases in school settings underlie failures to identify minority students as gifted and the unequal use of discipline. Related biases obstruct the hiring of under-represented groups in universities and other organisations, and restrict their progression up the professional ladder.

Changing Hearts And Minds

The End of Bias starts with psychology, but it doesn’t neglect the systemic, institutional, and cultural dimensions of discrimination and inequality. Nordell neither reduces bias down to the individual, nor up to social structure.

She recognises how mental biases and societal practices are mutually reinforcing. Enduring inequalities won’t crumble under the force of a few diversity seminars, but neither will top-down solutions work without changes in hearts and minds.

This stereoscopic focus on individual thinking and broader social systems is clearest in Nordell’s explorations of how bias can be overcome. Her emphasis throughout the book is on real world interventions that work. These programs range from workshops that target individuals, to inter-group contact experiences, such as jigsaw classrooms and integrated sporting contests, to shifts in institutional processes and social norms.

Among the de-biasing interventions Nordell examines are genderless pre-school education, mindfulness training for police officers, role modelling for women in STEM disciplines, and community policing initiatives.

Change can be made by simple tweaks and nudges, but also by wholesale transformations of organisational culture. The repertoire of promising interventions is large and growing, although Nordell acknowledges that the evidence for their efficacy is often limited and some interventions can backfire.

She underscores how consciousness raising is rarely sufficient: if bias is often habitual and automatic, mere awareness and good intentions will not overcome it. Similarly, although our tendency to view one another through the distorting lens of group stereotypes might tempt us to de-emphasise social categories, Nordell argues that this is not a desirable option. Colourblindness is not a realistic aspiration in a world where race matters.


The scope of The End of Bias is international. Nordell’s case studies come from Kosovo, Rwanda and Sweden. But her main point of reference is the USA, and its racial divides in particular. The book explicitly addresses an American audience, though much of its message translates into other contexts.

Nordell’s case for overcoming bias is passionate and frequently persuasive, but it is has its limitations. At times, she overstates the firmness of the evidence on which the science of bias is built.

For example, strong early claims about the predictive power of measures of unconscious bias have faced serious challenges. How we should interpret the meaning of such apparent biases is also under a cloud. Should they be treated as signs of a person’s automatic prejudice or merely as evidence of their exposure to an unequal society?

Similarly, Nordell’s references to “stereotype threat” – people’s impaired performance when they fear they will be judged negatively based on a group stereotype – overlook substantial challenges to the robustness of the phenomenon.

The concept of microaggression, a term coined to describe implicit or unconscious forms of discriminatory behaviour, is explored uncritically, without acknowledging how problematic its definition and use have become, or whether it is a helpful way to understand the undoubted reality of subtle bias.

More generally, we might question whether bias is a sufficiently solid concept to bear the explanatory weight Nordell places on it. What counts as a bias is never defined. It functions as an all-purpose idea that can stretch to cover almost any social phenomenon.

The End of Bias explicitly addresses an American audience. Shutterstock

Indeed, bias has several weaknesses as an account of social inequalities. It implies that biases are grounded in irrationality, when they often reflect real differences in interests, values, and material resources. Such differences cannot be reduced to the mental errors of one side. As work on the “bias bias” reveals, what can superficially appear to be a cognitive error often is not.

Nordell occasionally takes the “bias bias” to extremes. She pictures biases as comprehensive breaks with reality, sometimes describing them in psychiatric terms. She refers to “White psychosis” and writes that “There is, in the privileged mind, ongoing delusion”. Biased individuals, according to Nordell, “do not see a person. They see a person-shaped daydream.”

This view of bias as blindness, madness, fantasy and delusion – not to mention the suggestion that it is confined to some groups or individuals – is an extreme departure from the psychology of bias with which the book begins.

Bias has additional problems as a sovereign concept for understanding social injustice. As systematic tendencies and patterns that appear in the aggregate, biases are often very hard to identify as the causes of specific events, just as it is challenging to identify a known risk factor for a disease as the cause of a particular person’s case. Attributing specific events and outcomes to bias is often done too quickly and confidently. Other factors may be at play.

Biases are usually vulnerable to alternative explanations and confounding factors. There is ongoing debate about the extent to which some race-related biases are at least partially explained by socioeconomic class. Similarly, a significant proportion of the gender wage gap reflects motherhood penalties rather than gender itself.

If these alternative explanations have merit, then some supposed race and gender biases may not be, in fact, primarily about race and gender at all. Such uncertainty about whether apparent biases might be explained by other factors is a significant problem for the bias-first perspective.

Jessica Nordell. Goodreads

The End of Bias makes its case with passion and moral force. At times, its intensity is expressed with an all but religious zeal that may seem foreign to Australian ears. The path to ridding oneself of bias is presented almost as a spiritual quest or conversion, complete with confessions, revelations and purifications.

The historical origins of contemporary American inequalities are described as indelible original sins.

“Perhaps ‘White fragility’ or ‘male fragility’,” Nordell writes, “… is actually a felt connection to an old moral injury, one that could even have been committed by one’s forebears.”

Combined with its polarised analysis of bias as the psychosis of the unenlightened, reminiscent of a world of angels and demons, The End of Bias seems coloured by American religiosity.

It remains a powerful book, regardless. Nordell paints an optimistic picture of our growing capacity to reduce bias. She offers a valuable and lucid introduction to the social psychology of prejudice. Some readers will have their commitment to the fight against bias strengthened, others may baulk at how that fight is framed, but all will be educated.The Conversation

Nick Haslam, Professor of Psychology, The University of Melbourne

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

The book that changed me: how H.H. Finlayson’s The Red Centre helped me see country – and what we have done to it

Terry Trewin/AAP
John WoinarskiCharles Darwin University

In a new series, writers nominate a book that changed their life – or at least their thinking.

Books have been good to me: they have nurtured me, inspired me, taught me about life, helped me when the world seems hard. I love Russian poetry; there are shelves of fiction I enjoy. But here I want to tell of the books that helped shape my thinking about the natural environment.

There were of course many identification (field) guides that gave me the foundational knowledge of the names of plants and animals – the cast of nature. In my boyhood, these were pretty primitive, but indispensable. Guides now are far flasher. They also enticed me to seek the species shown in these books I hadn’t yet encountered, an eternal quest.

But field guides are prosaic fare. I yearned also to understand the environment, to “see” country. I was, and still am, fascinated with the puzzle of it all – how the components of nature fit together, and how the whole functions.

A few books I came across in my youth were revelatory. In Barbara York Main’s Between Wodjil and Tor (1967), the country of south-western Australia comes alive, its nature exquisitely observed, the stories and marvels of its small things – so many spiders leading such strange lives – intricately linked with a broader narrative of the workings of the landscape.

J.A. Baker’s The Peregrine (1967) provides an astonishingly acute reading of nature: the author obsessed with, almost becoming, the birds he stalks – he has succeeded in seeing the world as another species does, privileging his reader to do so also. And the verve of the writing! “We are the killers. We stink of death. We carry it with us. It sticks to us like frost. We cannot tear it away”.

I liked Graham Pizzey’s A Time to Look (1958) for its gentle evocation and appreciation of the wonder of Australian nature and its caring portraits of the lives of birds. In Nightwatchmen of Bush and Plain (1972) David Fleay is a detective, unlocking the dark mystery of owls; almost a lover in the intimacy of his connection with them.

But the most formative book for me was H.H. Finlayson’s 1935 classic The Red Centre. His biography is called A Truly Remarkable Man, and it is a fitting title.

Finlayson photographed in 1936. G.M. Mathews collection, National Library of Australia

Finlayson (1895-1991) lived a life of challenges. Experimenting with explosives at 15 (as one does), he blew off parts of most fingers on his left hand. Evidently unwisely, he persisted on this course and two years later another explosion resulted in the loss of what remained of his left hand, much of his right thumb and the sight in one eye.

A Brilliant, Perceptive Observer

Resolute and resourceful, he spent much of his life, often solitarily, studying wildlife across remote Australia. From the 1920s to the 1950s, these expeditions spanned the cusp of the devastation of the Australian mammal fauna.

Finlayson was the last to collect and record many of these mammal species: he witnessed this loss. But in his many scientific papers, and in The Red Centre, he also foretold it, explained it and mourned it.

Species that are now extinct, such as the Desert rat-kangaroo and Toolache wallaby, come alive in Finlayson’s words. For several species, his notes are all that has been – will ever be – reported of their ecology.

He was a brilliant and perceptive observer, and could portray the form, the behaviour, the fit of an animal to its environment. I can see them still from his words.

A photo by Finlayson of the now extinct Toolache wallaby, considered by many to have been the most beautiful of the kangaroos and wallabies. Author provided

And he wrote beautifully. Musing in The Red Centre on the losses:

It is not so much, however, that species are exterminated by the introduction of stock, though this has happened often enough, but the complex equilibrium which governs long-established floras and faunas is drastically disturbed or even demolished altogether. Some forms are favoured at the expense of others; habits are altered; distribution is modified, and much evidence of the past history of the life of the country slips suddenly into obscurity … The old Australia is passing.

The environment which moulded the most remarkable fauna in the world is beset on all sides by influences which are reducing it to a medley of semi-artificial environments, in which the original plan is lost and the final outcome of which no man may predict.

From more than 80 years ago, these words still haunt; and they still describe the ongoing loss of Australian nature – due to what we have done to this country.

Painting of a Desert rat-kangaroo by John Gould, book illustration from Mammals of Australia. Wikimedia Commons

Finlayson’s ecological understanding was profound. He could read the landscape. He gifts this understanding to the reader of The Red Centre.

Much of my career as an ecologist has been inspired by, and attempts to follow, Finlayson’s capability to see and feel country; and to better appreciate what we may lose, and how imminent such losses can be.

John Woinarksi’s battered copy of The Red Centre. Author provided

Of course, the ecological perceptiveness displayed in The Red Centre and Finlayson’s scientific papers owes much to his long association with and respect for the Indigenous people. Finlayson understood the connections of Indigenous people with country, and in The Red Centre often reveres and celebrates that knowledge and culture.

A present to me from a friend long ago, my copy of The Red Centre is older than me, mostly broken (it has lost its cover), much read. It is worth nothing; it is priceless.

It is a classic of Australian writing on the environment, an exquisite and poignant account of a now-lost nature, an enduring blueprint for understanding our country. I owe a lot to it.The Conversation

John Woinarski, Professor (conservation biology), Charles Darwin University

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

The Godfather at 50: set among the American Mafia of the 40s, Coppola’s film is unmistakably a film of the disillusioned 70s

Paramount Pictures
Daryl SparkesUniversity of Southern Queensland

When it was released 50 years ago, The Godfather won a swag of Oscars and hailed director Francis Ford Coppola as the voice of a new auteur. But timing is, as they say, everything.

The story of an ageing Mafia Don and his family in New York City from 1945 to 1955, The Godfather is a sweeping saga of the trials and tribulations of running a criminal organisation.

There are two timelines that need to be looked at when watching The Godfather: when it was set, and when it was made. They are inextricably linked, yet polar opposites of the moral, cultural and social fabric of the United States.

Post-War Optimism

Coming out of the devastating destruction and loss of life of the second world war, Americans had a newfound sense of optimism that the worst was behind them.

After years of uncertainty and stress, people yearned for a “normality” in the mundane in their suburban houses, family life and nine-to-five job. People believed in governments and traditional institutions to look after their interests and well-being.

New opportunities and an even distribution of wealth created through low post-war unemployment incentivised growth and created “an advanced consumer economy” which drew both legitimate and illegitimate businesses.

Diane Keaton and Al Pacino in The Godfather
Michael (Al Pacino) has experienced life outside of the family, and is optimistic for a different future. Paramount Pictures

With easy money to be made, Mafia groups flourished. This is the world where we find the Corleone family: Italian immigrants who sought a distorted vision of the American Dream through theft, extortion and violence.

Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) wants to continue with the old ways. He is suspicious of this new trade in drugs offered by the Tattaglia crime family. His son Michael (Al Pacino) has experienced life outside of the Mafia world and wants to change the whole structure of the organisation, vowing to make the family legitimate.

What happens next is as much a statement on the character arc of Michael as it is about a statement of when The Godfather was made.

A New War For A New Generation

By 1972, the social and cultural norms had shifted dramatically.

People, especially young people, had grown increasingly suspicious and disenchanted with both government and the institutions that had grown post war. While many saw the second world war as a “moral war”, they did not express the same feelings towards the Vietnam war. Many saw America as the immoral aggressor.

The 1960s had started out as a decade of hope, full of idealism. Young people were not happy with continuing the ways of the past and wanted change. They were leading the charge for the better.

Marlon Brando in The Godfather
The Godfather is as much a story of the lost ideals of the 60s as it is the Mafia families of the 50s. Paramount Pictures

But in the 1970s, it was dawning on the Woodstock generation the values they had fought for were not coming to fruition. The ongoing Vietnam War, the publishing of the Pentagon papers and the unravelling Watergate all added to the disillusionment.

Despite the cries of revolution, the old institutions kept a strong grasp on the mechanisms of society.

This all becomes a metaphor for The Godfather.

Growing Into Pragmatism

The Godfather argues the principles of a generation are often corrupted by the realities of the times.

As with the the lost ideals of the 1960s, Michael is confronted with the pragmatism of running a criminal organisation. The Corleone’s could never be legitimate: the institutions of the past are just too powerful.

Like a big Italian opera, the film sways between personal loyalties, betrayals and consequent ruthless murders.

At the end of it all, Michael – a man of morals who desperately wants to transform the world into something better – falls back down the rabbit hole of the past. He takes over the family “business” and is forced to be more cunning and ruthless than even his father was.

The one figure who stood for light turns out to be the darkest of them all. There will be no change from the past.

The film’s ending is powerful but pessimistic. Early in the film, Michael tells his then girlfriend Kay (Diane Keating) he is going to change the whole way the organisation operated.

Now, Michael tells his wife Kay “don’t ask me about my business”. He closes the door on her as he takes his father’s chair.

In a way, Coppola was predicting the path of the next generation, and perhaps every young generation.

They all start with good intentions but practicalities often change ideals. The 1980s started as the era of anti-apartheid and Live Aid, but soon changed to “greed is good”. The 1990s started with the fall of the Soviet Union and the confirmed belief in Western Democracy, but resulted in disillusioned grunge.

Will the youth movements of this era have any demonstrable impact in ten years time? Or, like Michael Corleone, will they have been turned by the power and authority of the traditional institutions?

Five decades later, The Godfather still remains an allegorical tale for the passing of power from one generation to the next. But perhaps the greatest lesson from the film is the old adage that unless you learn from the past you are doomed to repeat it. The past often makes an offer you can’t refuse.The Conversation

Daryl Sparkes, Senior Lecturer (Media Studies and Production), University of Southern Queensland

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

Meet the ten-armed325-million-year-old octopus fossil named after President Joe Biden

K Whalen
Tom FletcherUniversity of Leicester

In an ancient shallow bay of what is now Montana, the body of an octopus-like creature the size of a fist was buried on the seafloor. Some 325-328 million years later, a new paper published in Nature Communications provides some interesting insights into this mysterious and ancient cephalopod.

Syllipsimopodi bideni is small (about 12cm in length), has ten arms, suckers, fins, and a triangular pen of hard tissue inside its body for support. It’s a unique find because “squishy” animals tend to degrade quickly after death and therefore rarely make good fossils.

We don’t know when this unusual fossil was discovered, but in 1988 it was donated to the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada. It would sit largely ignored for more than 30 years until American palaeontologists Christopher Whalen and Neil Landman decided to study it.

The researchers have named the species Syllipsimopodi bideni after Joe Biden, the 46th president of the United States. Biden had just been inaugurated when the study was submitted for publication, and the authors wanted to recognise his commitment to science.

Cephalopods are some of the most diverse and fascinating molluscs on our planet. They have conquered every ocean, survived the five biggest extinctions in Earth’s history, and today number around 800 species.

Octopuses and squids are among the most familiar cephalopods, but also in this group are cuttlefishes, nautilus and the extinct belemnites, ammonites and others. Their economic and cultural importance is immense, and their ecological roles are vital for healthy oceans.

An Exceptional Fossil

Ammonites and their relatives are important tools for geologists, who use the unique patterns on their tough coiled shells to identify layers of rock around the world. But the fossil record for cephalopods without shells is a stark contrast, because when these animals die the flesh of their bodies usually rots away, leaving very little, if anything, behind. Sadly, we will probably never know about the vast majority of species that existed, let alone what their relationships were to one another.

Some help has come from genetic studies that have defined two major living groups: the squid relatives and the octopus relatives. But genetic material cannot be extracted from fossils that may be hundreds of millions of years old, so the full story of their evolution has remained unresolved.

Under special chemical and environmental conditions, the soft parts of an animal can be preserved in the rock. The Bear Gulch Limestone fossil site (where this new species was found) is famous for this kind of preservation and provides incredibly rare insights about these animals. This allowed Whalen and Landman to describe important parts of the new species’ anatomy, which give clues about its identity.

An octopus.
It’s difficult to study fossils of cephalopods without a hard shell, like octopuses. Henner Damke/Shutterstock

Vampires From Hell

The authors suggest that Syllipsimopodi bideni’s features make it the oldest member of a group called the vampyropods. This is the group of cephalopods that includes modern octopuses and the “vampire squid”.

While octopuses will be familiar to you, the vampire squid may not. There is a single surviving species, Vampyroteuthis infernalis, whose name means “vampire squid from hell”, despite being more closely related to octopuses.

Vampyroteuthis infernalis lives a quiet life, drifting in deep oceans around the world in waters almost devoid of oxygen and in pitch darkness. It is perhaps unworthy of its fearsome name.

Notably, the vampire “squid” has primitive features in common with this new species Syllipsimopodi bideni, such as ten limbs and a stiff internal shell. No living octopus has either of these.

Until now, it was thought that the vampyropods (octopus relatives) originated in the Triassic period around 240 million years ago. But this new species pushes that back a further 82 million years, which is more time than separates humans from Tyrannosaurus rex.

A Day In The Life

Beyond what this fossil can tell us about cephalopod evolution, the authors also investigated the animal’s ecology. Shaped like a torpedo, the creature probably used jet-propulsion to move through the water (like many living cephalopods), and the rounded fins on either side of its body for stability.

One pair of arms is longer than the others, suggesting they were used to catch prey, while the suckers may have helped it manipulate its food. It is fascinating that while Syllipsimopodi bideni was more closely related to the octopuses, it probably lived in a similar way to true squid today.

While the full picture of cephalopod evolution is still murky, this fossil is a fascinating and exciting new piece of the puzzle.The Conversation

Tom Fletcher, Honorary Research Fellow in Palaeobiology, University of Leicester

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

NSW Residents In Hospital With Japanese Encephalitis

March 7-10, 2022
NSW Health can confirm two people with Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) are currently being treated in hospital and is continuing to urge the public to be vigilant and safeguard themselves against mosquito bites.
Both people are residents of the NSW-Victoria border region – a man from the Corowa area and a child from the Wentworth area in the far south west of NSW. They are both currently being treated in hospitals in Victoria. The man remains in a serious condition in ICU. The child has been discharged from ICU but continues to receive hospital care due to the serious nature of their illness.
On March 9, sadly, NSW Health can confirm a man from the Griffith region who was aged in his 70s died in a Sydney hospital on February 13. Post-mortem testing subsequently found he had contracted the JE virus, which was confirmed today (Wednesday). NSW Health expresses its sincere condolences to his loved ones.
A fourth NSW resident was confirmed to have Japanese encephalitis (JE) on Thursday, March 10.
Several more people in NSW are undergoing further testing for JE, and more cases are expected to be confirmed over the coming days and weeks.
Locally acquired cases of JE have never previously been identified in NSW in animals or humans. Since late February 2022, the JE virus has been confirmed in samples from pig farms in NSW, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia.
JEV is a viral illness spread by mosquitoes. It can infect animals and humans and has been confirmed in samples from a number of pig farms in regional NSW.
The virus cannot be transmitted between humans, and it cannot be caught by eating pork or pig products. Locally acquired cases of JEV have never previously been identified in NSW in animals or humans.
Mosquito control activities are being carried out in the vicinity of farms where pigs are confirmed to have been infected by JEV and NSW Health is arranging vaccination of workers on affected farms.
There is no specific treatment for JEV, which can cause severe neurological illness with headache, convulsions and reduced consciousness in some cases.
Dr Marianne Gale, NSW Health Acting Chief Health Officer, said the best thing people throughout the state can do to protect themselves and their families against JEV is to take steps to avoid mosquito bites.
“We are working closely with the NSW Department of Primary Industries and other states and territories to determine the extent to which the virus is circulating,” Dr Gale said.
‘Unfortunately, our recent wet weather has led to very high mosquito numbers, so we need the community to be particularly vigilant and take steps to avoid mosquito bites.
“We know mosquitoes are most active between dusk and dawn, and we need people planning activities near waterways or where mosquitoes are present to be especially cautious, particularly those in the vicinity of the Murray River and its branches.”
Simple actions you can take to avoid mosquito bites include:

  • Avoid going outdoors during peak mosquito times, especially at dawn and dusk.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants outdoors (reduce skin exposure). Also wear shoes and socks where possible. There are insecticides (e.g. permethrin) available for treating clothing for those spending extended periods outdoors.
  • Apply repellent to all areas of exposed skin, especially those that contain DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus which are the most effective against mosquitoes. The strength of a repellent determines the duration of protection with the higher concentrations providing longer periods of protection. Always check the label for reapplication times.
  • Reapply repellent after swimming. The duration of protection from repellent is also reduced with perspiration, such as during strenuous activity or hot weather so it may need to be reapplied more frequently.
  • Apply the sunscreen first and then apply the repellent. Be aware that DEET-containing repellents may decrease the sun protection factor (SPF) of sunscreens so you may need to re-apply the sunscreen more frequently.
  • For children in particular - most skin repellents are safe for use on children aged three months and older when used according to directions, although some formulations are only recommended for children aged 12 months and older - always check the product. Infants aged less than three months can be protected from mosquitoes by using an infant carrier draped with mosquito netting that is secured along the edges.
  • Be aware of the peak risk times for mosquito bites. Avoid the outdoors or take preventive actions (such as appropriate clothing and skin repellent) between dawn and dusk when most mosquitoes become active, especially close to wetland and bushland areas.
  • If camping, ensure the tent has fly screens to prevent mosquitoes entering.
  • Mosquito coils and other devices that release insecticides can assist reducing mosquito bites but should be used in combination with topical insect repellents.
  • Reduce all water holding containers around the home where mosquitoes could breed. Mosquitoes only need a small amount of liquid to breed.
For further information on mosquito-borne disease and ways to protect yourself go to Vector borne disease resources.
Fact sheets on specific mosquito-borne diseases, including Japanese encephalitis Ross River virus and Barmah Forest virus, are available at Vector borne disease fact sheets.

$69 Million For Japanese Encephalitis Virus (JEV) Response

March 11, 2022: The Hon Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care
The Australian Government will invest $69 million to control the spread of the Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV).

Program initiatives aim to prevent exposure to the disease through vaccination and mosquito management systems, to protect people and animals most at risk during the current outbreak.

A multiportfolio response will implement control and public health measures. Key elements of the control package include:
  • $28.18 million to purchase additional JEV vaccines – to be available from late March and into April
  • $17.5 million to support jurisdictions with mosquito surveillance and control activities
  • $5 million for public health communication to ensure people are aware of risk and how to prevent infection
  • $3.5 million for essential supplies to ensure sustained laboratory capacity and capability to test for JEV in humans
  • $4 million to support enhance surveillance activities, such as modelling, geospatial analysis and conducting a serosurvey to better understand and map areas with higher risk of a JEV outbreak
  • $10 million for DAWE will enable support to state and territory agriculture departments in their response to this emergency including surveillance.
Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, said there were currently 15 confirmed human cases of JEV in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria.

“Sadly, it has been confirmed two people, one in Victoria and one in NSW, have died of JEV and I offer my condolences to their families, friends and community,” Minister Hunt said.

“This package will expand and enhance current mosquito control and surveillance strategies and continue our support to states and territories to limit the number of people and animals who are exposed to JEV.

“The Australian Government will also procure vaccines and distribute equitably to states and territories.

“The Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA), in consultation with the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI), has prioritised people for vaccination with direct exposure or close-proximity to pigs and mosquitos, and those with high-level occupational exposures in the risk areas.

“There are other simple steps we can all take to prevent contact with infected mosquitos, such as using repellent containing picaridin or DEET on all exposed skin, wearing loose fitting clothing when outside, and ensuring that accommodation is properly fitted with mosquito nettings or screens.”

There are two human JEV vaccines available on the Australian market, Imojev (Sanofi-Aventis Australia) and JEspect (Seqirus). 

Imojev is a single dose vaccine which supports broad use and rapid vaccination, however it not suitable for pregnant women or people who are immunocompromised. JEspect, is given in two dose course and is suitable for most people who can’t receive the Imojev vaccine.

State and Territory Public Health units are co-ordinating and implementing the priority vaccination program, with initial vaccinations underway.

Minister for Agriculture and Northern Australia and Deputy Leader of the Nationals, David Littleproud, said mosquito trapping and control is being conducted at all infected piggeries, with movement restrictions in place for properties in Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia.

“JEV is a mosquito-borne viral disease that can cause reproductive losses in pigs and, in some cases, encephalitis in horses,” Minister Littleproud said.

“Commercially produced pork meat or pork products are safe to consume and there are no food safety concerns.

“Our departments are working very closely with their state government counterparts and affected animal industries to ensure a swift and coordinated response.

“We are working with the pig industry to implement appropriate mosquito control measures and trapping and sampling.

“A national surveillance plan is being developed to identify and locate infected mosquitoes, birds, pigs—including feral pigs—horses and humans.

“Anyone who works with pigs or horses should be aware of this disease and protect themselves from being bitten by mosquitos.

“If you suspect an animal is showing signs of the disease, you must report it by contacting your local veterinarian or calling the national Emergency Animal Disease Watch.

“You should also take steps to protect your animals from mosquitoes—for instance, by applying a safe insect repellent and putting a summer rug on horses.”

JEV was declared a Communicable Disease Incident of National Significance on March 4 2022 by the Chief Medical Officer.

For more information about the current human health situation visit:

For more information about the current animal health situation visit:

Landmark Agreement Begins A New Era For Mental Health Care In NSW

March 9, 2022
More than $383 million will be invested into mental health and suicide prevention support and services in New South Wales over the next five years, following the signing of a new bilateral agreement between the Commonwealth and NSW governments.
This agreement and additional funding will ensure NSW residents are guaranteed the essential services they need and deserve.

The funding includes:
  • $121.3 million for universal aftercare services in New South Wales to support individuals following a suicide attempt and / or suicidal crisis.
  • $106.1 million will be invested into headspace to substantially expand and enhance services, ensuring it can reach more young people across the state.
  • $84.5 million to establish 14 new adult Head to Health treatment centres, including five new centres and nine satellite centres across the state.
  • $35.9 million to establish Head to Health Kids Hubs to improve access to multidisciplinary team care for children
  • $15.7 million to improve perinatal mental health screening and enhance capture and reporting of national consistent perinatal mental health data.
  • $14.7 million to ensure all people in New South Wales who are bereaved or impacted by suicide can access postvention support services.
  • $4.9 million to implement a Distress Intervention Trial Program to prevent and reduce suicidal behaviour.
In addition to these initiatives, the Commonwealth and NSW governments will substantially deepen their partnership in the mental health and suicide prevention system, through greater data sharing and evaluation of services, closer integration of referral pathways, and working together on the regional planning and commissioning of services. The bilateral agreement will also build and support the mental health and suicide prevention workforce, including the peer workforce.

NSW will become the first state in the country to commit to ongoing universal aftercare for residents discharged from hospital following a suicide attempt. Two trial sites will also be established in NSW for aftercare services for people who have experienced a suicidal crisis without being admitted to hospital.

Young Australians across NSW will also have better access to mental health services, with headspace receiving a significant boost in funding to substantially expand and enhance services.

By the end of 2026, staffing levels will be increased at 31 headspace services across NSW, and three new centres will be established.

These services will be well integrated with local NSW services to ensure a supportive transition for those experiencing severe and complex mental ill health.

Fourteen new adult Head to Health treatment centres will also be established, including five new centres and nine satellite centres across the state, operating under a ‘no wrong door approach’.

This is in addition to the state’s first Head to Health centre that opened in Penrith late last year and will continue to support Australians in the ‘missing middle’ and those who are too unwell for the general primary care system but not unwell enough to require inpatient hospital services or intensive state-based community care.

Care will be delivered by multidisciplinary teams consisting of psychiatrists, general practitioners, psychologists, alcohol and drug specialists, mental health nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, mental health workers and lived experience workers.

To support children aged 0-12 years, the Morrison and Perrottet Governments will establish four Head to Health Kids mental health and wellbeing centres. These centres will provide multidisciplinary support for infants, children and their parents, and improve early intervention outcomes for children’s mental health.

Other key initiatives include state-wide postvention support for families and carers who have been bereaved by suicide, additional perinatal mental health support for new and expectant parents, and the establishment of two distress intervention trials to reach people in crisis earlier and provide immediate support.

Implementation of these initiatives will be informed by people with a lived experience of mental ill-health and suicide, including their carers and families. This will be important to achieving a mental health and suicide prevention system that is person-centred and consumer focused. 

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt said the agreement will ensure people in NSW will have access to more support, when and where they need it.

“This landmark partnership between the Commonwealth and NSW will have a significant impact on the lives of many Australians across the state, including young Australians and children, who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Minister Hunt said.

NSW Minister for Women, Regional Health and Mental Health said this investment will support the NSW Government’s efforts to work towards its ambitious target of zero suicides.

“From launching the world’s largest suicide prevention training program to opening 20 Safe Havens as places of safety and refuge for those in distress, we’re serious about reducing the heartbreaking impact of suicide in NSW. This landmark agreement with the Commonwealth Government will help us to open more services in regional areas that bear a significant amount of that pain and loss,” Mrs Taylor said.

“I commend the Prime Minister and Ministers Hunt and Coleman for their commitment to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of NSW residents.”

Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, David Coleman, said the bilateral agreement means NSW becomes the first state in Australia to commit to universal aftercare for all residents who are discharged from hospital following a suicide attempt.

“We know the risk of suicide is greatest in the days and weeks following discharge from hospital due to a previous suicide attempt, yet not everyone in this group receives follow up care. These people are amongst our most vulnerable, and through this agreement we are committing to do everything we can to support them.”

The bilateral agreement forms part of the National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Agreement, which has been endorsed in-principle by the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments and is expected to be finalised in the coming weeks.

The National Agreement considers key mental health reports and inquiries including recommendations from the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into Mental Health and the National Suicide Prevention Adviser’s Final Advice. It outlines actions to build a comprehensive, coordinated, consumer focused and compassionate mental health and suicide prevention system to support all Australians. 

The National Agreement will clarify roles and responsibilities; progress improvements in the mental health services available to adults, children and youth; improve data collection, sharing and evaluation; reduce gaps in the system of care; expand and enhance the workforce, including the peer workforce; and work to improve mental health and suicide prevention for all Australians, across a range of settings.

The Commonwealth continues to negotiate similar bilateral arrangements with all other states and territories.

The Morrison Government has invested a historic $2.3 billion in the National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan through the 2020-21 Budget to deliver significant reform of the mental health system and ensure that all Australians have access to high quality, person-centred care as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

This brings the health portfolio expenditure in mental health and suicide prevention services and supports in 2021–22 to a record high of $6.5 billion.

Australians needing support throughout the COVID-19 pandemic can access the Beyond Blue Coronavirus Wellbeing Support Service any time via telephone at 1800 512 348 or online at 

Anyone experiencing distress can also seek immediate advice and support through Lifeline (13 11 14), Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800), or the Government’s digital mental health gateway, Head to Health.

If you are concerned about suicide, living with someone who is considering suicide, or bereaved by suicide, the Suicide Call Back Service is available at 1300 659 467 or

Young Australians needing support can access free services through Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800), their local headspace or online through eheadspace (

National Science Week 2022 Grants Announced: NSW Events List

March 10, 2022
A quantum technology road trip, robotics competitions and an inflatable digestive system ‘poo palace’ are just some of the science projects being supported by the Federal Government’s 2022 National Science Week grants.

The 2022 school theme for National Science Week is ‘Glass: More than meets the eye’ and is based on the UN International Year Of Glass.  National Science Week 2022 will run from 13-21 August. 

Those announced for NSW include:

Science in the Scrub
Western Sydney Parklands Trust
Why do we need to recycle? Where does my food come from? Why is it dangerous for us if coral dies? Who restores habitats and why is it important?

In a series of workshops and activities presented by Sydney’s science community, Science in the Scrub will answer these questions through hands-on experiments, stimulating curiosity in a new generation of scientists. It’s a free, outdoor family and community event, held in the midst of the nature of the Cumberland Plain Woodlands of Western Sydney. 
Project/event locations: NSW & online

Indigenous Science Experience @ Redfern
Macquarie University
What can Aboriginal astronomy tell us about the night sky? How is our native flora used in bush medicine and soap making? How do Indigenous Australians make axes from stone and other artefacts? What can deadly science tell us about seaweed, birdlife, engineering, textiles, and more? What can we learn about sustainable living from 60,000+ years of Indigenous culture?

The Indigenous Science Experience at Redfern is a celebration of Indigenous and Western science, and Indigenous youth and Elder achievements. This four-day event at the Redfern Community Centre will demonstrate the value of traditional and contemporary Indigenous knowledge in science and technology, and the relevance of science to our everyday lives. Indigenous students from National Indigenous Science Education Program (NISEP) partner schools will assist in demonstrating activities.
Project/event location: NSW

Science in the Swamp – Dinosaurs and Superpowers
Centennial Park & Moore Park Trust
Which animals are the fastest, the strongest, have the best vision, or the best hearing? Learn the science of nature’s superpowers, wander the wetlands, try daytime astronomy, ID a frog, meet Centennial Park’s bats, and learn about Indigenous knowledge from Deadly Ed. Science in the Swamp returns to Centennial Parklands for a free, outdoor family and community event celebrating science and providing a range of diverse and exciting hands–on science activities accessible for all ages.
Science in the Swamp is a partnership between Centennial Parklands and a series of science exhibition providers.
Project/event location: NSW

Sea Country Stories
A Farr & J Woodriff
Discover local Sea Country Stories by visual experiences such as sitting in a bark canoe, spearfishing flounder by Moon phases, and using Indigenous astronomy to understand the seasons. Guests will be immersed in virtual experiences (360 videos, drone and virtual reality) that celebrate Australian Indigenous marine science with stories from around the country. Cultural icon and Ngarrindjeri elder Uncle Major Moogy will guide participants in their ocean literacy journey and inspire the next generation of Sea Country custodians.
Project/event location: SA

The Mobile Poo Palace – An inside look at the digestive system
Hunter Medical Research Institute
Follow the food and take a tour of the digestive system in the oversized, inflatable Mobile Poo Palace. Interactive food experiments will inspire and engage students as they learn about digestion, gut health, medical research, the human body, and water treatment.

Touring schools, farmer’s markets and community centres in the Hunter region, this portable giant installation is a series of rooms and tunnels that mimic the journey food takes along the digestive tract, with hands-on experiments and educational experiences along the way.
Project/event location: NSW

Sustainable Fishing for a Big Blue Future
Marine Stewardship Council
Many Australians love seafood or love fishing – how do we make sure we’re not having too much of a good thing? Four Marine Stewardship Council-certified fisheries are drawing on marine science and innovation to play their part in combatting overfishing, reducing bycatch and maintaining healthy aquatic ecosystems. Shoppers can play their part by learning what to look for when buying seafood.

Find out about sustainable fishing from the fishers and marine conservation experts involved with:

  • The Northern Prawn Fishery in Darwin, Northern Territory
  • Goolwa Pipis Fishery in Adelaide, South Australia
  • Geraldton Fishermen’s Co-operative Ltd in Geraldton, Western Australia
  • Mures Tasmania in Hobart, Tasmania
Project/event locations: NSW & online

Gardening below the surface: restoring seagrass with Operation Posidonia
Sydney Institute of Marine Science
The NSW coastline has endangered underwater seagrass meadows badly in need of restoration. Posidonia australis seagrass meadows provide habitat for native aquatic species, improve water quality, help stabilise the seabed, and can capture carbon up to 35 times faster than tropical rainforests.

Experts from Operation Posidonia share the science behind the restoration of these habitats in NSW estuaries through workshops, a field trip and collaborative art projects. Focusing on underwater seagrass meadows found in two of NSW’s most developed coastal areas, the project equips participants with the knowledge and skills to become active citizen scientists in their own communities.
Project/event locations: NSW & online

Pocket Astronomy in Pocket-Sized Towns
Macquarie University
What do towns have that the city lacks? Darker skies and a better view of the Milky Way!

Bright young Macquarie University astronomy and astrophysics students will tour four towns in four days, equipped with a portable planetarium, telescopes and astronomical expertise. Students and university staff will deliver planetarium shows, science outreach talks and evening telescope viewings to these regional communities. Participants will also learn about light pollution, preserving the night sky, and Warrumbungle National Park – Australia’s first ‘Dark Sky Park’.

Each town will receive a telescope as a gift, along with training on their use so that communities can continue to explore the stars.
Project/event location: NSW

Inspiring the MidCoast with eDNA Science
Manning Valley Neighbourhood Services
What and who is lurking in the waters of the Manning River? Community DNA detectives will help scientists find DNA fragments in water samples to help detect fish, crayfish, eels, riverine frogs, rakali, platypus and the threatened Manning River turtle.

Expert university researchers will demonstrate the techniques of eDNA metabarcoding and involve community members in sampling waterways to survey their wildlife. The project will conclude with an interactive webinar and Q&A, where the participants will discuss the results of their surveys with university researchers and environmental practitioners, gaining a hands-on understanding of the natural environment.
Project/event locations: NSW & online

Girl Guides Science Camp
Girl Guides Association of NSW
Girls aged 10 to 17 from the ACT and surrounding area will get together for a Science Camp with researcher role models for fun demonstrations, hands-on workshops, nighttime astronomy, and even a bit of personalised lab-coat decorating.  

Greenlight for Girls (g4g) is an international initiative to inspire girls to pursue their studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The girls who take part in the g4g workshops will do activities that demonstrate the links between science and everyday life. In the process, they’ll meet fellow science-enthusiasts their own age from different schools and backgrounds, build their confidence, and hear stories from women in science role models. 
Project/event location: ACT

Another Antarctica: Envisaging Antarctic Futures
University of Wollongong
Antarctica affects the global climate and climate change is affecting Antarctica. For most people, it’s an alien landscape, but it’s also full of life and a vital barometer for climate change.

Another Antarctica: Envisaging Antarctic Futures is an interactive exhibition that presents Antarctic science, policy and different perspectives in a gallery space. It brings researchers and artists together to imagine potential futures for this important ecosystem. Guests will learn about Antarctic research with a series of interactive presentations and workshops within the gallery. Children and teenagers can also discover Antarctica on their own with hands–on scientific and artistic activities run by scientists and artists.
Project/event location: NSW

Reading Builds Resilience Among At-Risk Kids; New Australian Study

March 8, 2022
As children settle back into a new school year, families are being encouraged to read to their children at home, as new research from the University of South Australia shows that reading aloud can triple a child's resilience at school, particularly for children at-risk.

Focussing on early primary-aged children who had suffered abuse or neglect, the study explored factors that could modify the negative effects of adverse life circumstances, finding that one of the biggest predictors of resilience in both boys and girls in struggling families was being read to at home.

While reading to children at home has long been associated with school readiness and scholastic outcomes, this is the first study that has shown the benefits of reading to mitigate some of the detrimental trajectories of child maltreatment.

In Australia in 2021, nearly 300,000 children aged 0-17years had one or more child protection notifications with 105,000 the subject of an investigation and nearly 50,000 the subject of substantiated abuse or neglect.

The study found that victims of child maltreatment are generally more developmentally vulnerable than their peers at the start of school.

Lead researcher, Professor Leonie Segal says there is an acute need to support these children and their families, before the children start school, with reading being a key factor for success.

"A good start to school is predictive of later outcomes, so it's vital that we not only identify those at risk early on, but also find ways to support children's emotional, social and physical development, before they start school," Prof Segal says.

"Reading out loud can create many positive outcomes for children. As a shared experience between parent and child, it encourages connection, while also directly contributing to child development through exposure to words and stories.

"Children in families that are struggling to create a nurturing environment will especially benefit from reading with a parent or carer, improving their resilience and keeping them developmentally more on track, despite their adversity exposure."

The study analysed data covering 65,083 children who had completed the Early Australian Development Census (AEDC) at 5 to 6 years old, when starting primary school, identifying 3414 high-risk children who had experienced maltreatment.

Boys were found to be developmentally behind girls, particularly those who had been exposed to abuse or neglect.

Prof Segal says the education sector must look at strategies to better support boys in early learning environments.

"Our study found that boys had a much higher risk of being developmentally behind than girls, as did children living in remote or rural areas, and those with a physical, sensory, or learning disability. All these groups need far greater supports," Prof Segal says.

"Paying particular attention to boys, especially those who are victims of child maltreatment is critical. Encouraging parents to read to their boys while valuable, is not enough, the onus is on the education sector to identify other mechanisms to support boys."

"This could include recruiting more male educators into early childhood settings and ensuring learning approaches are sensitive to the specific needs of boys."

"Males currently make up less than five per cent of the early childhood education workforce, with their presence in primary schools also declining. Boosting the gender balance among educators could be an important step to helping boys."

"Understanding which attributes can help young children to be more resilient -- or conversely which factors can put them at greater risk -- can form the basis of interventions for child victims of maltreatment to improve life trajectories."

"Every child deserves the chance for a bright future. We must not overlook those most at risk."

Jason M. Armfield, Lesley-Anne Ey, Carole Zufferey, Emmanuel S. Gnanamanickam, Leonie Segal. Educational strengths and functional resilience at the start of primary school following child maltreatment. Child Abuse & Neglect, 2021; 122: 105301 DOI: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2021.105301

More Alcohol=Less Brain: Association Begins With An Average Of Just One Drink A Day

Even light-to-moderate drinking is associated with harm to the brain, according to a new study. Researchers analysed data from more than 36,000 adults that found a link between drinking and reduced brain volume that begins at an average consumption level of less than one alcohol unit a day -- the equivalent of about half a beer -- and rises with each additional drink.

The research, using a dataset of more than 36,000 adults, revealed that going from one to two drinks a day was linked with changes in the brain equivalent to aging two years. Heavier drinking was associated with an even greater toll. The science on heavy drinking and the brain is clear: The two don't have a healthy relationship. People who drink heavily have alterations in brain structure and size that are associated with cognitive impairments.

But according to a new study, alcohol consumption even at levels most would consider modest -- a few beers or glasses of wine a week -- may also carry risks to the brain. An analysis of data from more than 36,000 adults, led by a team from the University of Pennsylvania, found that light-to-moderate alcohol consumption was associated with reductions in overall brain volume.

The link grew stronger the greater the level of alcohol consumption, the researchers showed. As an example, in 50-year-olds, as average drinking among individuals increases from one alcohol unit (about half a beer) a day to two units (a pint of beer or a glass of wine) there are associated changes in the brain equivalent to aging two years. Going from two to three alcohol units at the same age was like aging three and a half years. The team reported their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

"The fact that we have such a large sample size allows us to find subtle patterns, even between drinking the equivalent of half a beer and one beer a day," says Gideon Nave, a corresponding author on the study and faculty member at Penn's Wharton School. He collaborated with former postdoc and co-corresponding author Remi Daviet, now at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Perelman School of Medicine colleagues Reagan Wetherill -- also a corresponding author on the study -- and Henry Kranzler, as well as other researchers.

"These findings contrast with scientific and governmental guidelines on safe drinking limits," says Kranzler, who directs the Penn Center for Studies of Addiction. "For example, although the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends that women consume an average of no more than one drink per day, recommended limits for men are twice that, an amount that exceeds the consumption level associated in the study with decreased brain volume,"

Ample research has examined the link between drinking and brain health, with ambiguous results. While strong evidence exists that heavy drinking causes changes in brain structure, including strong reductions in gray and white matter across the brain, other studies have suggested that moderate levels of alcohol consumption may not have an impact, or even that light drinking could benefit the brain in older adults.

These earlier investigations, however, lacked the power of large datasets. Probing massive quantities of data for patterns is the specialty of Nave, Daviet, and colleagues, who have conducted previous studies using the UK Biobank, a dataset with genetic and medical information from half a million British middle-aged and older adults. They employed biomedical data from this resource in the current study, specifically looking at brain MRIs from more than 36,000 adults in the Biobank, which can be used to calculate white and gray matter volume in different regions of the brain.

"Having this dataset is like having a microscope or a telescope with a more powerful lens," Nave says. "You get a better resolution and start seeing patterns and associations you couldn't before."

To gain an understanding of possible connections between drinking and the brain, it was critical to control for confounding variables that could cloud the relationship. The team controlled for age, height, handedness, sex, smoking status, socioeconomic status, genetic ancestry, and county of residence. They also corrected the brain-volume data for overall head size.

The volunteer participants in the Biobank had responded to survey questions about their alcohol consumption levels, from complete abstention to an average of four or more alcohol units a day. When the researchers grouped the participants by average-consumption levels, a small but apparent pattern emerged: The gray and white matter volume that might otherwise be predicted by the individual's other characteristics was reduced.

Going from zero to one alcohol units didn't make much of a difference in brain volume, but going from one to two or two to three units a day was associated with reductions in both gray and white matter.

"It's not linear," says Daviet. "It gets worse the more you drink."

Even removing the heavy drinkers from the analyses, the associations remained. The lower brain volume was not localized to any one brain region, the scientists found.

To give a sense of the impact, the researchers compared the reductions in brain size linked with drinking to those that occur with aging. Based on their modeling, each additional alcohol unit consumed per day was reflected in a greater aging effect in the brain. While going from zero to a daily average of one alcohol unit was associated with the equivalent of a half a year of aging, the difference between zero and four drinks was more than 10 years of aging.

In future work, the authors hope to tap the UK Biobank and other large datasets to help answer additional questions related to alcohol use. "This study looked at average consumption, but we're curious whether drinking one beer a day is better than drinking none during the week and then seven on the weekend," Nave says. "There's some evidence that binge drinking is worse for the brain, but we haven't looked closely at that yet."

They'd also like to be able to more definitively pin down causation rather than correlation, which may be possible with new longitudinal biomedical datasets that are following young people as they age.

"We may be able to look at these effects over time and, along with genetics, tease apart causal relationships," Nave says.

And while the researchers underscore that their study looked only at correlations, they say the findings may prompt drinkers to reconsider how much they imbibe.

"There is some evidence that the effect of drinking on the brain is exponential," says Daviet. "So, one additional drink in a day could have more of an impact than any of the previous drinks that day. That means that cutting back on that final drink of the night might have a big effect in terms of brain aging."

In other words, Nave says, "the people who can benefit the most from drinking less are the people who are already drinking the most."

Remi Daviet, Gökhan Aydogan, Kanchana Jagannathan, Nathaniel Spilka, Philipp D. Koellinger, Henry R. Kranzler, Gideon Nave, Reagan R. Wetherill. Associations between alcohol consumption and gray and white matter volumes in the UK Biobank. Nature Communications, 2022; 13 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-28735-5

Physicists Discover Method For Emulating Nonlinear Quantum Electrodynamics In A Laboratory Setting

March 7, 2022
On the big screen, in video games and in our imaginations, lightsabers flare and catch when they clash together. In reality, as in a laser light show, the beams of light go through each other, creating spiderweb patterns. That clashing, or interference, happens only in fiction -- and in places with enormous magnetic and electric fields, which happens in nature only near massive objects such as neutron stars. Here, the strong magnetic or electric field reveals that vacuum isn't truly a void. Instead, here when light beams intersect, they scatter into rainbows.

A weak version of this effect has been observed in modern particle accelerators, but it is completely absent from our daily lives or even normal laboratory environments.

Yuli Lyanda-Geller, professor of physics and astronomy in the College of Science at Purdue University, in collaboration with Aydin Keser and Oleg Sushkov from the University of New South Wales in Australia, discovered that it is possible to produce this effect in a class of novel materials involving bismuth, its solid solutions with antimony and tantalum arsenide.

With this knowledge, the effect can be studied, potentially leading to vastly more sensitive sensors as well as supercapacitors for energy storage that could be turned on and off by a controlled magnetic field.

"Most importantly, one of the deepest quantum mysteries in the universe can be tested and studied in a small laboratory experiment," Lyanda-Geller said. "With these materials, we can study effects of the universe. We can study what happens in neutron stars from our laboratories."

Brief summary of methods
Keser, Lyanda-Geller and Sushkov applied quantum field theory nonperturbative methods used to describe high-energy particles and expanded them to analyze the behavior of so-called Dirac materials, which recently became the focus of interest. They used the expansion to obtain results that go both beyond known high-energy results and the general framework of condensed matter and materials physics. They suggested various experimental configurations with applied electric and magnetic fields and analyzed best materials that would allow them to experimentally study this quantum electrodynamic effect in a nonaccelerator setting.

They subsequently discovered that their results better explained some magnetic phenomena that had been observed and studied in earlier experiments.

U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Sciences; Division of Materials Sciences and Engineering; and the Australian Research Council, Centre of Excellence in Future Low Energy Electronics Technologies

Aydın Cem Keser, Yuli Lyanda-Geller, Oleg P. Sushkov. Nonlinear Quantum Electrodynamics in Dirac Materials. Physical Review Letters, 2022; 128 (6) DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.128.066402

The ‘Equal-Opportunity Jerk’ Defense: Rudeness Can Obfuscate Gender Bias

March 8, 2022
If you're an "equal-opportunity jerk," does that mean you can't also be sexist? New research shows that many people think so -- and consider men to be gender blind when they're rude, condescending, and berating to women and men equally. 

To highlight the common view that men aren't deemed sexist when they're rude to both men and women, researchers asked subjects to share their perceptions of tweets from former President Donald Trump lambasting men and women, fictitious stories of managers' treatment of male and female employees, and surveys of sexist behavior. 

According to the study, being a jerk to men creates "an illusion of impartiality, giving sexist perpetrators plausible deniability." This can lead people to falsely conclude that gender bias doesn't underlie rude behavior, making them less likely to recognize sexism. 

"We found that a man does not seem sexist if he treats everyone -- both men and women -- poorly," said Peter Belmi, associate professor of leadership and organizational behavior at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business and lead author of the study. "This is problematic because sexism and rudeness are not mutually exclusive. Men who are sexist can be -- and often are -- rude toward other men."

The research shows that gender blindness can be exploited to refute accusations of sexism, he added. For example, perpetrators may highlight instances in which they've been rude to men as evidence that they aren't sexist. 

A popular understanding of sexism is discrimination toward women based solely on their sex. Under this definition, a man would not be sexist if he were a jerk to both sexes. The researchers defined sexism more broadly, however, as attitudes, beliefs, or behaviours that reflect, foster, or promote negative or pejorative stereotypes about women.

"Men may believe that rather than 'supporting women,' an alternative solution to creating gender parity is to 'treat everyone horribly,'" Belmi added. 

He emphasized that previous research has focused on gender blindness's benefit in fostering workplace gender diversity and inclusion. The current study highlights the shortcomings of this ideology. 

The researchers conducted a series of studies, using online participants and students from professional schools, to determine whether sexism is tougher to recognize when men express rudeness to other men as well as women. 

A two-part survey of about 1,100 employed men measured their self-reported rudeness toward male and female colleagues at work and their attitudes and beliefs about women. 

Another study asked participants to read tweets written by Trump during his presidency that contained sexist comments about women; some participants also read tweets that berated men. 

Next, the researchers asked participants to read a series of stories, some about managers making sexist comments to female workers and others about managers speaking rudely to male subordinates, too. Participants were also asked to identify whether those managers needed gender-bias and anger-management training. 

In each experiment, participants failed to recognize sexism when the perpetrator was rude or berating to men. However, they identified sexist behavior when only women were treated poorly. In other words, "equal-opportunity jerks" were viewed as gender blind. Also, the more participants perceived an offender being a jerk to other men, the more they diminished the need for gender-bias training. 

"When a sexist manager is rude toward men, it may appear as though he is not sexist," Belmi said. "Thus, women victimized by his behavior will have a more difficult time proving that he is sexist. Rudeness can therefore protect perpetrators."

The findings show that rudeness across genders creates a barrier to addressing sexism. The researchers suggested that future studies should examine whether rudeness can conceal other types of discrimination -- for example, by creating illusions of colour-blindness or authenticity.

"Blatant, unambiguous, and obvious forms of sexist conduct continue to exist," Belmi said. "Our findings suggest that one reason for their persistence is that observers may not recognize that everyday acts of rudeness can serve as a convenient mask for bias against women." 

Peter Belmi, Sora Jun, Gabrielle S. Adams. The “Equal-Opportunity Jerk” Defense: Rudeness Can Obfuscate Gender Bias. Psychological Science, 2022; 095679762110404 DOI: 10.1177/09567976211040495

Global Warming Projected To Increase Health Burden From Hyponatremia

March 8, 2022
Global warming is likely to increase the number of people requiring hospitalization due to critically low sodium levels in the blood, a condition known as hyponatremia. A new study from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden projects that a temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius would increase the burden on hospitals from hyponatremia by almost 14 percent. The findings are published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

"Our study is the first to provide precise estimates of how temperature influences the risk of hyponatremia, findings that could be used to inform healthcare planning for adapting to climate change," says Buster Mannheimer, adjunct senior lecturer at the Department of Clinical Science and Education, Södersjukhuset, Karolinska Institutet and the study's first author.

Climate change is expected to trigger a rise in average global temperatures in the coming decades, resulting in a myriad of heat-related consequences for human health. One of those is hyponatremia, which can occur from a variety of diseases such as heart, renal and liver failure as well as from excessive sweating or fluid intake that dilute the sodium concentration in the blood.

Our bodies need sodium to maintain normal blood pressure, support the function of nerves and muscles and regulate the fluid balance in and around our cells. If blood sodium levels drop, it can lead to nausea, dizziness, muscle cramps, seizures and even coma.

It is well known that hyponatremia cases increase in the summer months. Still, data on temperature thresholds above which risks amplify have been lacking, complicating clinical planning and predictions of health burden in future climate scenarios.

Women and elderly at risk

In the current study, the researchers linked data on Sweden's entire adult population to information on 24-hour mean temperatures over a nine-year period. In that time, more than 11,000 were hospitalized with a principal diagnosis of hyponatremia, most of whom were women with a median age of 76. Average daily temperatures ranged from -10 to 26 degrees Celsius.

The researchers found an almost tenfold increased risk for hospitalization due to hyponatremia on the hottest days compared with the coolest periods. Women and elderly carried the greatest risk, with individuals 80 years or older 15 times more likely to be hospitalized for hyponatremia during heat waves. The incidence of hyponatremia was largely stable from -10 to 10 degrees Celsius but increased rapidly at temperatures above 15.

When the researchers applied the data to a prognostic model forecasting global warming of 1 or 2 degrees Celsius, in line with IPCC climate projections for 2050, they found that hospital admissions due to hyponatremia could be expected to increase by 6.3 percent and 13.9 percent, respectively.

Increased health burden

"We believe these estimates are quite conservative seeing as we didn't account for secondary diagnoses of hyponatremia, extreme weather events or an aging population," says Jonatan Lindh, associate professor at the Department of Laboratory Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, and co-last author of the study. "Without adaptive measures, this suggests that over the next decades rising global temperatures alone will increase the burden of hyponatremia on healthcare systems."

It should be noted that Sweden is in the continental climate zone, with buildings adapted mostly for cold temperatures. Therefore, the thresholds observed in this study may be representative for cool temperate regions only.

The study was partially funded by Cebix incorporated. Two authors report previous consultancy fees from Otsuka Pharma Scandinavia AB, outside the submitted work.

Buster Mannheimer, Alin Sterea-Grossu, Henrik Falhammar, Jan Calissendorff, Jakob Skov, Jonatan D Lindh. Current and future burdens of heat-related hyponatremia - a nationwide register-based study. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2022; DOI: 10.1210/clinem/dgac103

New Species Of Extinct Vampire-Squid-Like Cephalopod Is The First Of Its Kind With 10 Functional Arms

March 8, 2022
New research led by scientists at the American Museum of Natural History and Yale shows that the oldest ancestors of the group of animals that includes octopuses and vampire squids had not eight but 10 arms. The study, which describes a new species of vampyropod based on a 328-million-year-old fossil that had not been previously described, pushes back the age of the group by nearly 82 million years. The details are published today in the journal Nature Communications.

An exceptionally well-preserved vampyropod fossil from the collections of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) that the new study is based on. The fossil was originally discovered in what is now Montana and donated to ROM in 1988. S. Thurston/© AMNH

"This is the first and only known vampyropod to possess 10 functional appendages," said lead author Christopher Whalen, a postdoctoral researcher in the Museum's Division of Paleontology and a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow in Yale's Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences.

Vampyropods are soft-bodied cephalopods typically characterized by eight arms and an internalized chitinous shell or fin supports. Because they lack hard structures, Vampyropoda are not well represented in the fossil record. The new study is based on an exceptionally well-preserved vampyropod fossil from the collections of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). Originally discovered in what is now Montana and donated to ROM in 1988.

Whalen and coauthor Neil Landman, a curator emeritus in the Museum's Division of Paleontology, identified the fossil specimen as a completely new genus and species that dates to about 328 million years old, making it the oldest known vampyropod and extending the fossil record of the group by about 82 million years. In the new study, they also describe its 10 arms -- all with preserved suckers -- corroborating previous scientific arguments that the common ancestor of vampyropods had 10 arms as well.

"The arm count is one of the defining characteristics separating the 10-armed squid and cuttlefish line (Decabrachia) from the eight armed octopus and vampire squid line (Vampyropoda). We have long understood that octopuses achieve the eight arm count through elimination of the two filaments of vampire squid, and that these filaments are vestigial arms," said Whalen. "However, all previously reported fossil vampyropods preserving the appendages only have 8 arms, so this fossil is arguably the first confirmation of the idea that all cephalopods ancestrally possessed ten arms."

Two of the cephalopod's arms appear to have been elongated relative to the other eight arms, and its torpedo-shaped body is reminiscent of today's squids. The fossil was given the name Syllipsimopodi bideni. The genus name is derived from the Greek word "syllípsimos" for "prehensile" and "pódi" for "foot" -- because this is the oldest known cephalopod to develop suckers, allowing the arms, which are modifications of the molluscan foot, to better grasp prey and other objects. The species name is to honor the recently inaugurated (at the time of paper submission) 46th President of the United States, Joseph R. Biden.

"Syllipsimopodi may have filled a niche more similar to extant squids, a midlevel aquatic predator," said Landman. "It is not inconceivable that it might have used its sucker-laden arms to pry small ammonoids out of their shells or ventured more inshore to prey on brachiopods, bivalves, or other shelled marine animals."

Based on the age, characters, and phylogenetic position, the fossil challenges the predominant arguments for vampyropod origins, and the authors propose a new model for coleoid (internally shelled cephalopod) evolution.

Christopher D. Whalen, Neil H. Landman. Fossil coleoid cephalopod from the Mississippian Bear Gulch Lagerstätte sheds light on early vampyropod evolution. Nature Communications, Mar. 8, 2022; DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-28333-5

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.