Inbox and Environment News: Issue 545

July 3 - 16, 2022: Issue 545

Wanted: Photos Of Flies Feeding On Frogs (For Frog Conservation)

June 21, 2022
Do you have any photos of frogs being bitten by flies? Submit them to our study to help in frog conservation.

By sampling the blood of flies that bite frogs, researchers can determine the (sometimes difficult to spot) frogs in an environment. Common mist frog being fed on by a Sycorax fly. Photo: Jakub Hodáň

UNSW Science and the Australian Museum want your photos of frogs, specifically those being bitten by flies, for a new (and inventive) technique to detect and protect our threatened frog species.

You might not guess it, but biting flies – such as midges and mosquitoes – are excellent tools for science. The blood ‘sampled’ by these parasites contains precious genetic data about the animals they feed on (such as frogs), but first, researchers need to know which parasitic flies are biting which frogs. And this is why they need you to submit your photos.

“Rare frogs can be very hard to find during traditional scientific expeditions,” says PhD student Timothy Cutajar, leading the project. “Species that are rare or cryptic [inconspicuous] can be easily missed, so it turns out the best way to detect some species might be through their parasites.”

The technique is called ‘iDNA’, short for invertebrate-derived DNA, and researchers Mr Cutajar and Dr Jodi Rowley from UNSW Science and the Australian Museum were the first to harness its potential for detecting cryptic or threatened species of frogs.

The team first deployed this technique in 2018 by capturing frog-biting flies in habitats shared with frogs. Not unlike the premise of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, where the DNA of blood-meals past is contained in the bellies of the flies, Mr Cutajar was able to extract the drawn blood (and therefore DNA) and identify the species of amphibian the flies had recently fed on.

These initial trials uncovered the presence of rare frogs that traditional searching methods had missed.

“iDNA has the potential to become a standard frog survey technique,” says Mr Cutajar. “[It could help] in the discovery of new species or even the rediscovery of species thought to be extinct, so I want to continue developing techniques for frog iDNA surveys. However, there is still so much we don’t yet know about how frogs and flies interact.”

In a bid to understand the varieties of parasites that feed on frogs – so Mr Cutajar and colleagues might lure and catch those most informative and prolific species – the team are looking to the public for their frog photos.

“If you’ve photographed frogs in Australia, I’d love for you to closely examine your pictures, looking for any frogs that have flies, midges or mosquitoes sitting on them. If you find flies, midges or mosquitoes in direct contact with frogs in any of your photos, please share them.”

The submitted photos will be analysed for the frog and parasite species they contain, helping inform future iDNA research. Mountain Stream Tree Frog (Litoria barringtonensis) being bitten by Sycorax. Photo: Tim Cutajar/Australian Museum

“We’ll be combing through photographs of frogs submitted through our survey,” says Mr Cutajar, “homing in on the characteristics that make a frog species a likely target for frog-biting flies.

“It’s unlikely that all frogs are equally parasitised. Some frogs have natural insect repellents, while others can swat flies away. The flies themselves can be choosy about the types of sounds they’re attracted to, and probably aren’t evenly abundant everywhere.”

Already the new iDNA technique, championed in herpetology by Mr Cutajar, has shown great promise, and by refining its methodology with data submitted by the public – citizen scientists – our understanding of frog ecology and biodiversity can be broadened yet further.

“The power of collective action can be amazing for science,” says Mr Cutajar, “and with your help, we can kickstart a new era of improved detection, and therefore conservation, of our amazing amphibian diversity.”

Stop It And Swap It This Plastic Free July

July 1, 2022
To mark the beginning of Plastic Free July, the NSW Government is partnering with 17 organisations to help communities around the state stop using single-use plastic.

To mark the beginning of Plastic Free July, the NSW Government is partnering with 17 organisations to help communities around the state stop using single-use plastic.

Minister for Environment James Griffin said the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is delivering funding to community champions to inspire others.

“The NSW Government is on a mission to reduce our reliance on problematic single-use plastics because we need to seriously decrease the amount of plastic entering our environment as litter or landfill,” Mr Griffin said.

"To coincide with Plastic Free July, we’re delivering almost $900,000 in funding support for 17 organisations to educate communities. As we pivot away from single-use plastics, these community partnerships will help drive necessary change.

“Our community partners, such as Surfing NSW, the Men’s Shed Association and Take 3 are will help us by tapping into local networks, ideas and creativity to deliver mass behavior change.”

Organisations partnering with the NSW EPA include the Great Plastic Rescue, which supports businesses with excess lightweight single-use plastic bags by offering a service for collection and reprocessing of that stock.

OzGreen and Green Music Australia will work with music festivals and food vendors to introduce more sustainable ways of doing business.

Education campaigns will also be launched through Girl Guides and Mens’ Sheds across the state.

From 1 June, lightweight single-use plastic bags were banned in NSW. From November, the NSW Government is banning additional single-use items, including plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery, plates, bowls and cotton buds, expanded polystyrene food ware and cups, and rinse-off personal care products containing plastic microbeads.

Single-use plastic items and packaging make up 60 per cent of all litter in NSW. The ban will prevent almost 2.7 billion items of plastic litter from entering the environment in NSW over the next 20 years.

Sustainability partners include:
  • Girl Guides NSW
  • Green Connect
  • Green Music Australia
  • KU Children's Services
  • Meals on Wheels NSW
  • Men’s Shed Association
  • NSW Environment & Zoo Education Centres
  • OzGreen
  • Plastic Free July
  • Southern Cross University
  • Surfing NSW
  • TAFE NSW/Addison Road Community Organisation
  • Take 3
  • The Great Plastic Rescue
  • University of New England
  • University of Newcastle
  • University of Wollongong
For more information about the NSW plastics ban, visit

For ideas on how to stop it and swap it this Plastic Free July, visit

County Road Reserve + Nandi Reserve Finalised Designs: Belrose - Frenchs Forest

June 23, 2022
''During two rounds of engagement as part of the Parks for People program, the community highlighted opportunities to revitalise County Road Reserve and Nandi Reserve Frenchs Forest with new and improved facilities, play and open space in harmony with the bushland setting'', the NSW Department of Planning states.

''A new experience for pedestrian visitors will begin with an improved and safer arrival into the site through Forest Way. For those travelling from further afield, the car park will be upgraded including forty carparks, safety lighting and a drop-off zone.

Visitors will be drawn to a central activity hub with inclusive play and a multi-use hardstand, barbecues and seating, concentrated around a new amenity building which will provide improved facilities for sport with toilets and changerooms, canteen space and a bin store.

Upgrades to the existing sports field will increase durability and functionality including lighting. A gentle slope overlooking the field will be utilised as a natural amphitheatre for spectators and a peaceful place to relax and gather at other times.

In addition to enhancing the functionality and safety of the park, the proposed design integrates the site into its natural setting, regenerating and rehabilitating fauna, providing opportunities for discovery walking trails with bush tucker learning or interpretive signage.''

''Nandi Reserve, a 12.24 ha site in Frenchs Forest, is a unique landscape of established trees and bushland offset by soft rises and soaring rockfaces. Providing habitat for an abundance of flora and fauna, Nandi Reserve is highly valued by the local community.

With input from two rounds of community engagement, the concept design embraces the natural qualities of the site to create a new vision for Nandi Reserve - preserving and strengthening habitat through regeneration and tree planting, while providing a great space for people through a mix of quiet areas for relaxing, nature play, walking and connecting with country.

The site’s undulating contours and existing gentle waterway have provided inspiration for a series of walking trails that would encourage visitors of all abilities to connect and experience nature.

Through a new pedestrian entry on Frenchs Forest Road, visitors will be drawn into the Reserve with raised boardwalks, exercise loops and accessible pathways. Lookouts, rest points and cultural interpretation signage will allow for further immersion.

The Department’s Everyone Can Play guidelines will be incorporated throughout with inclusive nature play elements at key intersections and the existing pocket playground at Nandi Avenue upgraded.

Working closely with environment experts as well as local first nations leaders the bush and creek will be regenerated in harmony with the site’s existing flora and fauna.''

The NSW Department of Planning have announced the final design for the park is now complete and available to view. Development Applications have been lodged and are currently under assessment.

A combined $9 million will be spent at Nandi Reserve at Frenchs Forest and County Road Reserve at Belrose.

Construction for County Road Reserve is expected to commence mid 2022 and be completed by end 2022.

Read the Belrose final concept report (PDF, 4.8MB) at:

Read the Frenchs Forest Nandi Reserve final concept design (PDF, 5.7MB) at:

Sydney Metropolitan Wildlife Services: Possums In Your Roof

Possums in your roof? Please do the right thing 
On the weekend, one of our volunteers noticed a driver pull up, get out of their vehicle, open the boot, remove a trap and attempt to dump a possum on a bush track. Fortunately, our member intervened and saved the beautiful female brushtail and the baby in her pouch from certain death. 

It is illegal to relocate a trapped possum more than 150 metres from the point of capture and substantial penalties apply.  Urbanised possums are highly territorial and do not fare well in unfamiliar bushland. In fact, they may starve to death or be taken by predators.

While Sydney Wildlife Rescue does not provide a service to remove possums from your roof, we do offer this advice:

✅ Call us on (02) 9413 4300 and we will refer you to a reliable and trusted licenced contractor in the Sydney metropolitan area. For a small fee they will remove the possum, seal the entry to your roof and provide a suitable home for the possum - a box for a brushtail or drey for a ringtail.
✅ Do-it-yourself by following this advice from the Department of Planning and Environment: 

❌ Do not under any circumstances relocate a possum more than 150 metres from the capture site.
Thank you for caring and doing the right thing.

Sydney Wildlife photos

Pelicans Heading To The Coast Now: Winter Migrations

If you spot any orange leg band from this season's Pelican mega breeding colony about to disperse to coastal waterways for food, from Lake Brewster and Kieeta Lake, please contact the NSW DPI.
Keep watch if any Pelican comes to rest in both urban and remote location as may require assistance, before arriving on our coasts to drink and feed.
Here's the email just to send any details of orange banded pelican sightings

Whale Beach Clean Up: Sunday July 31

Event by Northern Beaches Clean Up Crew
We're cleaning up Whale Beach and grass area. We'll meet on the grass area on the corner of Surf Road and The Strand. We have clean and washed gloves, bags and buckets. We'll clean up the grass area to try and catch the litter before it hits the lagoon as well as cleaning the beach, trying to remove as much plastic, cigarette butts and rubbish as possible. 

We're a friendly group of people and everyone is welcome to this family friendly event (just leave political, religious and business messages at home so everyone feel welcome). It's a nice community - make some new friends and do a good deed for the planet at the same time. 

Send us an email on or message our social media if you are lost. 

Please invite family and friends and share this event. This is a Covid safe event so everyone must please stay 1.5 meters apart if you are not in the same household. 

We meet at 10am for a briefing. Then we generally clean between 60-90 minutes. After that, we sort and count the rubbish so we can contribute to litter research. We normally finish around 12.30 when we go to lunch together (at own cost). 

Please note, we completely understand if you cannot stay for the whole event. We are just grateful for any help we can get. No booking required. Just show up on the day. 

Barrenjoey Lighthouse Tours

Enjoy a Barrenjoey Lighthouse tour any Sunday afternoon. It stands at Sydney's northern-most point. The views of Broken Bay, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and the mighty Pacific are unforgettable.
When: Tours will run every Sunday from Sunday 15 May 2022 to Sunday 25 June 2023. Tour times: 11am to 11.30am, 12pm to 12.30pm, 1pm to 1.30pm, 2pm to 2.30pm and 3pm to 3.30pm.
Tours will not run on: Christmas Day - Sunday 25 December 2022 or New years Day - Sunday 1 January 2023.
Price: Adult $10 per person. Concession $8 per person. Child $5 per person. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Accompanying adults need to book and pay. 
Bookings: Bookings required. Phone 1300 072 757 or book online at:,54324,54344,54348
Meeting point: Barrenjoey Lighthouse. Give yourself at least 40mins to walk from the carpark to the lighthouse before your tour departs.

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: Warriewood Wetlands Wallaby by Kevin Murray, March 2022.

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.

Sydney Wildlife Rescue: Helpers Needed

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

Varroa Mite Incursion Detected In NSW

The NSW Government is urging beekeepers across the state to safeguard their industry after biosecurity surveillance detected Varroa mite in hives at the Port of Newcastle.

NSW Agriculture Minister Dugald Saunders says swift measures are being taken to contain the disease, which is the most serious pest for honey bees worldwide.

“We have immediately launched an eradication plan which involved setting up a biosecurity zone, containing the infected hives and euthanising the bees,” Mr Saunders said.

“Australia is the only major honey producing country free from Varroa mite and if it has the chance to establish here, it could cost the honey industry more than $70 million a year.

The Biosecurity Zone covers an area within a 50 kilometre radius of the Port of Newcastle. Beekeepers within this zone must not move or tamper with their hives.

They must also notify the NSW Department of Primary Industries with the location of all of their hives.

“Biosecurity is one of my top priorities and beekeepers have been working with the Government through the National Bee Pest Surveillance Program to act as an early warning system,” Mr Saunders said.

“If it weren’t for their diligence in monitoring hives and catch boxes at strategic locations around our ports and airports, this threat may have gone undetected.”

The mites are tiny reddish-brown parasites and are easily identifiable to the naked eye.

If you have bee hives located within the biosecurity zone please notify DPI of their location by calling 1800 084 881 or completing the form on this website:

New Biosecurity Zone Set Up For Varroa Mite

June 28, 2022
Another biosecurity zone has been set up in NSW after varroa mite was discovered in bee hives at three more properties.

Minister for Agriculture Dugald Saunders says the move accounts for an infested premises, which is located outside the existing zones.

“Since Friday, when we established the three tier response areas, and the subsequent state-wide emergency order, we’ve seen a new report at Bulahdelah on the NSW Mid North Coast,” Mr Saunders said.

“This means a new 10km eradication zone, 25km for surveillance and an extended 50km biosecurity zone have been implemented, to rapidly shut down that new incursion and stop further spread.

“Critically, this case is directly linked to a previously identified property, which shows the prompt and efficient response by the Department of Primary Industries is working well.”

The other two new cases identified this morning are located at Newcastle and at Seaham.

“I want to be clear that the expansion of the biosecurity zones is no cause for alarm, but actually shows the surveillance system is doing its job to stay on top of where this parasite is hiding,” Mr Saunders said.

“I would like to encourage all beekeepers, both commercial and recreational, within the new or original impacted areas to please come forward for the good of the industry.

“We know the devastating impacts varroa mite will have on our honey supplies and pollination across the state, if this threat is not stopped.

“The best path forward is to report the locations of potentially impacted hives to aid our response, so we have all the information we need to deal with this as swiftly as possible.”

A total of seven infested premises have now been discovered through contact tracing, including the initial detection at sentinel hives near the Port of Newcastle.

DPI is working closely with industry and will hold a briefing with them on what the eradication process will look like. These next steps will be finalised in the coming days.

The below map shows the active zones.

The red represents the 10km eradication zones around the Port of Newcastle and Bulahdelah, where hives will be euthanised.

The purple shows the 25km surveillance zones, where officials are monitoring and inspecting managed and feral honey bees to limit the extent of these incursions.

And the yellow represents the 50km biosecurity zones and beekeepers within that area must notify the NSW Department of Primary Industries of the locations of their hives.

If you have bee hives located within the 50km biosecurity zone please call 1800 084 881, complete the form on this website: or email

For more information visit:

FCNSW To Pay Another $230,000 Following Seven Convictions This Month

June 29, 2022
Mapping errors in Dampier State Forest near Bodalla, have cost Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW) $230,000 after the Land and Environment Court convicted FCNSW for breaching its approval and carrying out unlawful forestry activities in an exclusion zone.

Mapping errors in Dampier State Forest near Bodalla, have cost Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW) $230,000 after the Land and Environment Court convicted FCNSW for breaching its approval and carrying out unlawful forestry activities in an exclusion zone.

This follows FCNSW’s convictions earlier this month for four breaches at Wild Cattle Creek State Forest and a $15,000 fine for allegedly breaching conditions in South Brooman State Forest. Together, fines and costs from these incidents have cost FCNSW more than $530,000.

In Dampier State Forest, FCNSW failed to mark the boundary of an environmentally sensitive area, a potential bat roost for the Eastern Horseshoe Bat, during logging activities in May 2019.  It was convicted of three offences and fined a total of $230,00 for the breaches.

The Court ordered FCNSW to pay $45,000 of the total penalty to the Australasian Bat Society for research into the impacts of wildfire on a key roost in the area.

EPA Acting Executive Director Regulatory Operations Regional Greg Sheehy said the EPA will continue to hold FCNSW to account for non-compliant activities.

“FCNSW must have the correct procedures in place to ensure all exclusion zones remain untouched.

“Potential subterranean bat roosts in the Dampier State Forest may be critical habitat for various types of subterranean bat living in the forest. While the Eastern Horseshoe Bat is not threatened, the population is thought to have declined over the past few decades in parts of NSW. It’s important they have roosts and areas to forage.

“These activities by FCNSW had the potential to cause harm to any Eastern Horseshoe Bats roosting in the area and the EPA will continue to enforce the law when breaches are found,” Mr Sheehy said.

FCNSW has also been ordered to undertake an audit of its field mapping and marking activities including understanding the level of experience and competency required to comply with the law. Any recommendations arising from the audit around training must be followed.

The Court also ordered FCNSW to pay the EPA’s investigation costs of $8,000.

Prosecutions are one of the tools the EPA uses to achieve the best environmental or human health outcomes. Our regulatory approach includes a wide variety of options. Find out more about them here

Asbestos Dumper To Pay Over $450,000 For Offences In Sydney And Illawarra

June 28, 2022
A serial waste criminal will be forced to pay more than $450,000 after failing to clean-up thousands of tonnes of asbestos waste delivered to properties in Sydney’s north west and the Illawarra.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) prosecuted Christopher Binos in Parramatta and Wollongong Local Courts over the two separate incidents.

In January 2019, an elderly resident of Croom, near Shellharbour, responded to an online ad from Mr Binos who offered to deliver fill and work to pave his driveway – all for free. Over the next month, approximately fifty trucks deposited what is estimated to be more than 1,000 tonnes of asbestos-contaminated soil and building rubble on and alongside the driveway, which is close to a waterway.

In September of the same year, Mr Binos again offered to deliver free fill – this time to a property which includes a home and veterinary clinic in the north-west Sydney suburb of Vineyard. The owner wanted to level a rear paddock and create a horse arena. It is estimated that 2,400 tonnes of asbestos-contaminated fill was dumped on the property.

The EPA issued notices requiring Mr Binos to clean-up the waste. He failed to comply with these notices.

In the meantime, the owners of the Vineyard property have already spent more than $60,000 on remediation works to remove the asbestos.

EPA Executive Director Regulatory Operations Stephen Beaman said the fines totalling more than $450,000 send a strong message to the community that offending of this nature would not be tolerated.

“It’s devastating to see someone attempt to place their financial gain ahead of the wellbeing of the community and the environment,” Mr Beaman said.

“The Court found that Mr Binos acted deliberately – he knew the fill contained asbestos. The Vineyard offence in particular involved a significant degree of planning. That is completely unacceptable behaviour and it demonstrates why the EPA must continue to protect the community from waste criminals.”

“It’s also a timely reminder that if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Free fill may come at no price, but it can have a hefty cost if it is contaminated.”

There are simple steps you can take to ensure you don’t get caught in a scam: check with your local council before accepting fill, use a reputable supplier, ask where the fill has come from, record delivery details, and look out for odd materials in the load.

Prosecutions are just one of the tools the EPA uses to achieve the best environmental or human health outcomes. Our regulatory approach includes a wide variety of options. Find out more about them here 

Breakdown of the offences and penalties

  • Mr Binos convicted of one charge of failing to comply with a clean-up notice contrary to s 91(5) of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act).
  • Mr Binos ordered to:
  • pay a fine of $110,000 (the maximum fine that could be imposed by the local court),
  • have the waste removed and disposed of lawfully within one year, and
  • pay the EPA’s legal costs of $30,000.
Vineyard: Mr Binos convicted of:
  • One charge of unlawful disposal of asbestos waste contrary to s 144AAA of the POEO Act,
  • and one charge of failing to comply with a clean-up notice contrary to s 91(5) of the POEO Act.
Mr Binos ordered to:
  • pay a fine of $110,000 for each offence (total of $220,000),
  • remove any contaminated fill at the property within six months of being released from custody,
  • compensate the landowner for costs incurred in remediation, totalling $61,192.21,
  • and pay the EPA’s legal costs of $30,000.

Boost For Solar Panels Diversion From Landfill

June 27, 2022
More than 12,000 additional tonnes of solar panels and batteries will be diverted from landfill every year thanks to 5 projects receiving a total of $7.4 million in NSW Government funding support.
The funding includes support for the first three solar panels and battery recycling facilities in New South Wales, which are being built in Bankstown, Fairfield and Albury.

Minister for Environment James Griffin said the Circular Solar grants are driving a circular economy for solar panels and large energy storage system batteries.

"This funding is driving a circular economy by helping New South Wales develop new ways of dealing with solar panel and battery storage waste, which is increasingly important as currently installed systems reach the end of their life," Mr Griffin said.

"While the amount of solar panel and battery storage system waste is low at the moment, we want to make sure New South Wales is ahead of the curve with innovative ways of managing this emerging waste stream.

"With this funding, we're supporting the construction of the first 3 recycling facilities for solar panels or batteries in New South Wales, and 2 other projects that will divert more decommissioned solar panels from landfill so they can be reused."

Circular Solar round 2 funding recipients:

  • PV Industries is receiving $2.3 million to scale-up its solar panel recycling technology and build a new solar panel and battery recycling facility in the Bankstown area, which will process up to 8,000 tonnes per year.
  • Tes-Amm Australia is receiving $1.9 million to construct a new lithium-ion battery recycling facility in the Fairfield area, processing up to 800 tonnes per year of lithium-ion batteries from solar panel systems.
  • Scipher Technologies is receiving $1.7 million to construct a solar panel recycling facility in the Albury area, which aims to process up to 2,000 tonnes per annum, with the recovered materials going back into local markets.
  • Blue Tribe is receiving $400,000 to investigate a process to divert serviceable decommissioned solar panels from landfill for reuse in community solar gardens, which has the potential to divert 10,000 tonnes per year of reusable end-of-life solar panels by 2030.
  • The University of New South Wales is receiving $1million to complete research and development activities for a prototype recycling technology that can recover valuable metals, glass, and silicon from solar panels.
A scoping study commissioned by the Department of Planning and Environment forecast that the amount of solar panels and batteries at their end-of-life could reach more than 40,000 tonnes per year by 2035.

For more information visit Circular solar grants program

Environmental Assessment Of Illawarra's Mountain Bike Network Released: Have Your Say

June 20, 2022
The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is progressing plans for a 50-kilometre mountain biking network in the Illawarra, with the Draft Review of Environmental Factors (REF) now on public exhibition.

Kane Weeks from NPWS said the draft REF covers the first stage of the proposed mountain bike network in the Mount Kembla area.

"The draft REF includes environmental, cultural heritage and geotechnical assessments. It identifies the potential impacts of the mountain bike trails and outlines the mitigating measures," said Mr Weeks.

"NPWS supports high quality, sustainable cycling experiences in the Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area and riding is a fantastic way for people of all ages to enjoy the reserve.

"But this needs to be balanced with protecting the unique environmental and cultural values of this dedicated conservation area.

"We have taken the time to get this right. The proposed network outlined in the draft REF caters for different riding levels while also protecting the conservation values and cultural significance of the Escarpment.

Importantly the draft REF also acknowledges that the Illawarra Escarpment, in particular Mount Keira (Djera) and Mount Kembla (Djembla), continue to carry great cultural significance to the Aboriginal community.

The draft Review of Environmental Factors will be on public exhibition for 28 days from 20 June to 18 July 2022.

To view the draft REF and have your say, go to: Illawarra Escarpment Mountain Bike Project

Further information about the proposed network at Balgownie will be provided when the Illawarra Mountain Bike Strategy is finalised. The draft REF for this section of trails will also go on public exhibition later for comment.

The start date for any trail construction is pending approval of the REFs. Trails that do not form part of the final network will be progressively closed and rehabilitated.

Tender Awarded For New Eurobodalla Dam

June 29, 2022
Eurobodalla is one step closer to having a new 3,000 megalitre off-river water storage dam next to the Tuross River, after the tender for construction was awarded to Haslin Construction.

The $130 million water security project is jointly funded with the Australian Government committing $51.2 million through its’s National Water Grid Fund, the NSW Government investing $25.6 million under its Safe and Secure Water Program and Eurobodalla Shire Council contributing $58.2 million.

The dam will be 370 metres long, 39 metres high, 200 metres wide and will be located on a tributary of the Tuross River. It will include a spillway to allow it to release water from heavy rainfall events back into the river.

Work is nearing completion on a new pump station that will transfer up to 26 megalitres of water a day from the Tuross River during times of high flow, along with six megalitres from an existing bore field, into the storage dam.

The new pump station will be finished by September 2022, with the dam expected to be completed before the end of 2024.

Quotes attributable to Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Catherine King:

“This project will significantly increase water for agriculture and town water supply, particularly during droughts and periods of high demand like summer.

“It’s a game-changer, with the project expected to deliver an extra 581 megalitres of water every year for downstream irrigators and beef, dairy and the environment during low river flows.

“It is a great example of the Australian Government supporting a stronger water future for regional NSW by increasing water reliability, boosting primary industry production and helping to drought-proof local communities.”

NSW Minister for Lands and Water Minister Kevin Anderson said; 

“Finalising the dam’s tender process is a major milestone for this critical water infrastructure project, with construction just around the corner.

“Haslin Constructions will begin early works in mid-August to upgrade the Eurobodalla Road intersection followed by clearing the site from late August. But the real action starts when the builder gets stuck into building the new storage dam in October.

“Getting shovels in the ground is great news for the South Coast. It is the largest water infrastructure project in Eurobodalla creating new opportunities for businesses and industries and delivering up to 87 indirect and direct jobs in the construction sector and up to 40 quarrying roles, which is a huge boost for the local economy.”

Federal Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories and Member for Eden-Monaro Kristy McBain said;

“It’s fantastic to see this dam one step closer to becoming a reality as it has been a priority for the region for many years.

“I campaigned for the Eurobodalla Southern Water Storage project as Member for Eden- Monaro and prior to that as Deputy Chair of the Canberra Region Joint Organisation.

“Once complete, the new dam will provide better water security for our region, particularly in times of drought and bushfires.

“Adequate water storage is so important to our South Coast communities and I’ve no doubt the increased water capacity will make a huge difference for many decades to come.”

Eurobodalla Shire Council Mayor Mathew Hatcher said; 

“The project showcases the collaborative working relationship Council has with the Australian and NSW governments.

“Our partnership with the Australian and NSW governments has enabled us to push this project over the line, which is a huge win for long-term water security for Eurobodalla.

“We’ve been championing it since 2016 and I am thrilled that we are now getting on with the job of hiring a contractor and delivering the new dam and pump station.

“The project will complement Council’s Deep Creek Dam and water treatment plant in Batemans Bay to provide drought security and bushfire resilience for the whole shire. It will also increase capacity for peak holiday water demand and support population growth.”

Secrets Of Aging Revealed In Largest Study On Longevity; Aging In Reptiles And Amphibians

June 28, 2022
At 190 years old, Jonathan the Seychelles giant tortoise recently made news for being the "oldest living land animal in the world." Although, anecdotal evidence like this exists that some species of turtles and other ectotherms -- or 'cold-blooded' animals -- live a long time, evidence is spotty and mostly focused on animals living in zoos or a few individuals living in the wild. 

Now, an international team of 114 scientists, led by Penn State and Northeastern Illinois University, reports the most comprehensive study of aging and longevity to date comprising data collected in the wild from 107 populations of 77 species of reptiles and amphibians worldwide.

Among their many findings, which they report today (June 23) in the journal Science, the researchers documented for the first time that turtles, crocodilians and salamanders have particularly low aging rates and extended lifespans for their sizes. The team also found that protective phenotypes, such as the hard shells of most turtle species, contribute to slower aging, and in some cases even 'negligible aging' -- or lack of biological aging.

"Anecdotal evidence exists that some reptiles and amphibians age slowly and have long lifespans, but until now no one has actually studied this on a large scale across numerous species in the wild," said David Miller, senior author and associate professor of wildlife population ecology, Penn State. "If we can understand what allows some animals to age more slowly, we can better understand aging in humans, and we can also inform conservation strategies for reptiles and amphibians, many of which are threatened or endangered."

In their study, the researchers applied comparative phylogenetic methods -- which enable investigation of organisms' evolution -- to mark-recapture data -- in which animals are captured, tagged, released back into the wild and observed. Their goal was to analyze variation in ectotherm aging and longevity in the wild compared to endotherms (warm-blooded animals) and explore previous hypotheses related to aging -- including mode of body temperature regulation and presence or absence of protective physical traits.

Miller explained that the 'thermoregulatory mode hypothesis' suggests that ectotherms -- because they require external temperatures to regulate their body temperatures and, therefore, often have lower metabolisms -- age more slowly than endotherms, which internally generate their own heat and have higher metabolisms.

"People tend to think, for example, that mice age quickly because they have high metabolisms, whereas turtles age slowly because they have low metabolisms," said Miller.

The team's findings, however, reveal that ectotherms' aging rates and lifespans range both well above and below the known aging rates for similar-sized endotherms, suggesting that the way an animal regulates its temperature -- cold-blooded versus warm-blooded -- is not necessarily indicative of its aging rate or lifespan.

"We didn't find support for the idea that a lower metabolic rate means ectotherms are aging slower," said Miller. "That relationship was only true for turtles, which suggests that turtles are unique among ectotherms."

The protective phenotypes hypothesis suggests that animals with physical or chemical traits that confer protection -- such as armor, spines, shells or venom -- have slower aging and greater longevity. The team documented that these protective traits do, indeed, enable animals to age more slowly and, in the case of physical protection, live much longer for their size than those without protective phenotypes.

"It could be that their altered morphology with hard shells provides protection and has contributed to the evolution of their life histories, including negligible aging -- or lack of demographic aging -- and exceptional longevity," said Anne Bronikowski, co-senior author and professor of integrative biology, Michigan State.

Beth Reinke, first author and assistant professor of biology, Northeastern Illinois University, further explained, "These various protective mechanisms can reduce animals' mortality rates because they're not getting eaten by other animals. Thus, they're more likely to live longer, and that exerts pressure to age more slowly. We found the biggest support for the protective phenotype hypothesis in turtles. Again, this demonstrates that turtles, as a group, are unique."

Interestingly, the team observed negligible aging in at least one species in each of the ectotherm groups, including in frogs and toads, crocodilians and turtles.

"It sounds dramatic to say that they don't age at all, but basically their likelihood of dying does not change with age once they're past reproduction," said Reinke.

Miller added, "Negligible aging means that if an animal's chance of dying in a year is 1% at age 10, if it is alive at 100 years, it's chance of dying is still 1% (1). By contrast, in adult females in the U.S., the risk of dying in a year is about 1 in 2,500 at age 10 and 1 in 24 at age 80. When a species exhibits negligible senescence (deterioration), aging just doesn't happen."

Reinke noted that the team's novel study was only possible because of the contributions of a large number of collaborators from across the world studying a wide variety of species.

"Being able to bring these authors together who have all done years and years of work studying their individual species is what made it possible for us to get these more reliable estimates of aging rate and longevity that are based on population data instead of just individual animals," she said.

Bronikowski added, "Understanding the comparative landscape of aging across animals can reveal flexible traits that may prove worthy targets for biomedical study related to human aging."

Beth A. Reinke et al. Diverse aging rates in ectothermic tetrapods provide insights for the evolution of aging and longevity. Science, 2022 DOI: 10.1126/science.abm0151

An international team of 114 scientists, led by Penn State and Northeastern Illinois University, reports the most comprehensive study of aging and longevity to date comprising data collected in the wild from 107 populations of 77 species of reptiles and amphibians worldwide. Credit: Mathew Schwartz, Unsplash. All Rights Reserved.

Climate Change Is Making Plants More Vulnerable To Disease; New Research Could Help Them Fight Back

June 29, 2022
When heat waves hit, they don't just take a toll on people -- the plants we depend on for food suffer too. That's because when temperatures get too high, certain plant defenses don't work as well, leaving them more susceptible to attacks from pathogens and insect pests.

Now, scientists say they have identified a specific protein in plant cells that explains why immunity falters as the mercury rises. They've also figured out a way to reverse the loss and bolster plant defenses against the heat.

The findings, appearing June 29 in the journal Nature, were found in a spindly plant with white flowers called Arabidopsis thaliana that is the "lab rat" of plant research. If the same results hold up in crops too, it would be welcome news for food security in a warming world, said Duke University biologist and corresponding author Sheng-Yang He.

Scientists have known for decades that above-normal temperatures suppress a plant's ability to make a defense hormone called salicylic acid, which fires up the plant's immune system and stops invaders before they cause too much damage. But the molecular basis of this immunity meltdown wasn't well understood.

In the mid 2010s, He and his then-graduate student Bethany Huot found that even brief heat waves can have a dramatic effect on hormone defenses in Arabidopsis plants, leaving them more prone to infection by a bacterium called Pseudomonas syringae.

Normally when this pathogen attacks, the levels of salicylic acid in a plant's leaves go up 7-fold to keep bacteria from spreading. But when temperatures rise above 86 degrees for just two days -- not even triple digits -- plants can no longer make enough defence hormone to keep infection from taking hold.

"Plants get a lot more infections at warm temperatures because their level of basal immunity is down," He said. "So we wanted to know, how do plants feel the heat? And can we actually fix it to make plants heat-resilient?"

Around the same time, a different team had found that molecules in plant cells called phytochromes function as internal thermometers, helping plants sense warmer temperatures in the spring and activate growth and flowering.

He and his colleagues wondered: could these same heat-sensing molecules be what's knocking down the immune system when things warm up, and be the key to bringing it back?

To find out, the researchers took normal plants and mutant plants whose phytochromes were always active regardless of temperature, infected them with P. syringae bacteria, and grew them at 73 and 82 degrees to see how they did. But the phytochrome mutants fared exactly like normal plants: they still couldn't make enough salicylic acid when temperatures rose to fend off infections.

Co-first authors Danve Castroverde and Jonghum Kim spent several years doing similar experiments with other gene suspects, and those mutant plants got sick during warm spells too. So they tried a different strategy. Using next-generation sequencing, they compared gene readouts in infected Arabidopsis plants at normal and elevated temperatures. It turned out that many of the genes that were suppressed at elevated temperatures were regulated by the same molecule, a gene called CBP60g.

The CBP60g gene acts like a master switch that controls other genes, so anything that downregulates or "turns off" CBP60g means lots of other genes are turned off, too -- they don't make the proteins that enable a plant cell to build up salicylic acid.

Further experiments revealed that the cellular machinery needed to start reading out the genetic instructions in the CBP60g gene doesn't assemble properly when it gets too hot, and that's why the plant's immune system can't do its job anymore.

The team was able to show that mutant Arabidopsis plants that had their CBP60g gene constantly "switched on" were able to keep their defense hormone levels up and bacteria at bay, even under heat stress.

Next the researchers found a way to engineer heat-resilient plants that turned on the CBP60g master switch only when under attack, and without stunting their growth -- which is critical if the findings are going to help protect plant defenses without negatively impacting crop yields.

The findings could be good news for food supplies made insecure by climate change, He said.

Global warming is making heat waves worse, weakening plants' natural defences. But already, up to 40% of food crops worldwide are lost to pests and diseases each year, costing the global economy some $300 billion.

At the same time, population growth is driving up the world's demand for food. To feed the estimated 10 billion people expected on Earth by 2050, forecasts suggest that food production will need to increase by 60%.

When it comes to future food security, He says the real test will be whether their strategy to protect immunity in Arabidopsis plants works in crops as well.

The team found that elevated temperatures didn't just impair salicylic acid defences in Arabidopsis plants -- it had a similar effect on crop plants such as tomato, rapeseed and rice.

Follow-up experiments to restore CBP60g gene activity in rapeseed thus far are showing the same promising results. In fact, genes with similar DNA sequences are found across plants, He says.

In Arabidopsis, keeping the CPB60g master switch from feeling the heat not only restored genes involved in making salicylic acid, but also protected other defense-related genes against warmer temperatures too.

"We were able to make the whole plant immune system more robust at warm temperatures," He said. "If this is true for crop plants as well, that's a really big deal because then we have a very powerful weapon."

This work was a joint effort between He's team and colleagues at Yale University, the University of California, Berkeley, and Tao Chen Huazhong Agricultural University in China. A patent application has been filed based on this work.

Jong Hum Kim, Christian Danve M. Castroverde, Shuai Huang, Chao Li, Richard Hilleary, Adam Seroka, Reza Sohrabi, Diana Medina-Yerena, Bethany Huot, Jie Wang, Kinya Nomura, Sharon K. Marr, Mary C. Wildermuth, Tao Chen, John D. MacMicking, Sheng Yang He. Increasing the resilience of plant immunity to a warming climate. Nature, 2022; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-022-04902-y

Funding For New Frontiers Exploration Program: For Deposits Of Critical Minerals And High-Tech Metals

June 28, 2022
The NSW Government will invest a further $1.5 million to support explorers to search for new deposits of critical minerals and high-tech metals essential for the manufacture of batteries, electric vehicles and other renewable technologies. 

The NSW Government will invest a further $1.5 million to support explorers to search for new deposits of critical minerals and high-tech metals essential for the manufacture of batteries, electric vehicles and other renewable technologies.  

The funding, which is part of the next round of the New Frontiers Cooperative Drilling Program, will further strengthen the state’s position as a leader in critical minerals and high-tech metals exploration and mining.

Deputy Premier and Minister responsible for Resources Paul Toole said the new program was part of the NSW Government’s commitment to promoting exploration investment and supporting the long-term sustainability of the sector.

“Critical minerals and high-tech metals represent a new frontier for mining in NSW, with the potential to generate thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in investment supporting our regional economies and communities,” Mr Toole said.

“Stimulating exploration will ensure NSW is prepared for surging demand for critical minerals in the future global economy, and now more explorers than ever before can access the funding, with eligibility to be expanded to include exploration geophysics.

“By encouraging exploration, we are improving our understanding of the state's mineral resources to fully realise its economic potential.”

The commitment follows last week’s NSW Government 2022-23 Budget announcement of $130 million for a new Critical Minerals and High-Tech Metals Activation Fund, which will entice mining and processing investment in NSW.

Round Five of New Frontiers comes one year after the previous round and builds on the $8.4 million announced for the program since 2014. It is the first time the program is being run in consecutive years. 

Applications for Round Five of the New Frontiers Exploration Program open on 1 September 2022 and close 31 October 2022. 

Support For Developing Countries To Tackle Environment And Climate Change Challenges: United Nations Ocean Conference

June 25,2022
Ahead of the United Nations Ocean Conference (June 27-July 1, 2022), the Australian Government is joining an international effort to help developing countries tackle urgent environment pressures and reduce the impacts of climate change.

The Global Environment Facility provides critical support for developing countries on climate action, restoration of land, plastic pollution, protection of international waters, the elimination of harmful chemicals, sustainable cities and strengthening biodiversity conservation.

This new commitment of $80 million over four years, builds on Australia’s support for the Facility since its inception over 30 years ago.

It forms part of our $2 billion climate finance package from 2020-2025, a doubling of the 2015-2020 commitment through Australia’s development assistance program.

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator the Hon Penny Wong said

“Climate change is the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific.

“The urgency of climate action for our Pacific family is raised with me everywhere I go.”

Minister for the Environment and Water, the Hon Tanya Plibersek said

“There is no such thing as a healthy environment or healthy oceans without action on climate change. Ambition is our only option.

“The new Australian Government understands the urgency of the environmental challenges facing our planet, and we are committed to being a leader in the global fight to solve them.”

“This includes working closely with our Indo-Pacific neighbours to address the impacts of climate change, reduce marine plastic litter, support the blue economy and manage marine protected areas.”

Killalea Joins The National Park Estate

June 29, 2022
Illawarra's much loved coastal reserve Killalea will become part of the NSW national park estate from 1 July 2022. Environment and Heritage Acting Coordinator General Atticus Fleming said the gazettal of the 260-hectare Killaela Regional Park means that the property will be managed in perpetuity for its environmental, cultural heritage and recreation values.

"The transfer of Killalea to National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) will ensure visitors can continue to enjoy the park, while adding greater protection to its threatened species and cultural heritage," Mr Fleming said.

"The transfer won't create any immediate changes to visitor access, and locals will continue to be able to enjoy the park as they do now.

"Visitors can expect to see new NPWS park entry signs, NPWS vehicles and staff working in the park.

"From August, we will start consultation with local residents, Aboriginal groups and other stakeholders to inform the development of a new plan of management.

"The plan of management will guide the future use of the area and set out how its specific social, cultural and ecological assets will be protected."

Killalea contains 9 endangered ecological communities including littoral rainforest.

It also contains the endangered Illawarra Zieria, a flowering shrub found only in the Illawarra region.

The NPWS thanks the community for their enthusiasm and support for the transfer of Killalea, particularly Shellharbour City Council who have long supported increased protection for the park.

Crown Lands Deputy Secretary Melanie Hawyes said returning Killalea to NPWS is a win for the local community.

"Visitors and the local community have long appreciated the natural beauty of the park, so it is fantastic that it will now be afforded greater protection," said Ms Hawyes.

"By transferring the reserve to National Parks, we are ensuring that it will be managed for its ecological and cultural values and guaranteeing it will be valued and enjoyed by future generations."

Killalea Regional Park Credit: DPE

Big Blue Carbon Boost To Restore Mangroves, Seagrasses And Tidal Marshes

June 30, 2022
The Australian Government will help restore blue carbon ecosystems across Australia, including mangroves, seagrasses, and tidal marshes, by investing $9.5 million to support five new practical restoration projects.

Blue carbon means coastal and marine ecosystems that capture carbon, such as mangroves, seagrasses, and tidal marshes.

Australia is home to about 12 percent of the world’s blue carbon ecosystems. These ecosystems are up to five times better at storing carbon than rainforests.

Blue carbon ecosystems support marine life, contribute to coastal livelihoods, and provide protection from storm surges. But they also absorb carbon from the atmosphere and store it in their soils, roots and plants, which helps deal with climate change.

Blue carbon ecosystems have the added benefit of improving biodiversity and water quality.

The five projects were chosen based on ecosystem variety, scale of restoration, partnerships with local communities and Traditional Owners, as well as the benefits provided to biodiversity, fishing, water quality, and coastal protection.

This announcement follows on from the Australian Government this week endorsing the Joint Declaration on the creation of a Global Coalition for Blue Carbon at the United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal.

Quote attributable to the Minister for the Environment and Water:

“We’re giving Blue Carbon a big boost because it both helps restore some of our most fragile environments and deal with climate change.

“Ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrasses and tidal marshes provide critical breeding grounds for fish, habitats for threatened marine species such as turtles and dugongs, and feeding and staging grounds for migratory birds.

“They also filter water flowing into our oceans and reef systems.

“Backing Blue Carbon is a great investment. It’s a win for the environment, it’s a win for the economy, it’s a win for the climate, and the community.”

Funding recipients and projects:

Funding recipient Project Funding (exc. GST)
Sunshine Coast Regional Council and Partners, Sunshine Coast, Queensland
Blue Carbon Wetland Restoration Project; Restoration of former farming land to coastal wetlands with benefits for carbon sequestration, biodiversity, flood mitigation, recreation and First Nations engagement. - 

Greening Australia, Ingham, Queensland, 
Mungalla Blue Carbon Project; Tidal restoration of former cattle grazing property with benefits for Indigenous heritage, ecotourism, Great Barrier Reef water quality, and bird and marine biodiversity - $1,779,988

The University of Adelaide, Port Gawler, South Australia
Gulf St Vincent Seagrass Restoration Project; Seagrass restoration project with benefits for marine biodiversity, sediment stabilisation, shoreline protection and nutrient processing. - $1,972,500

Southern Regional Natural Resource Management,  Pitt Water-Orielton Lagoon, Tasmania
Demonstrating Outcomes of Blue Carbon Ecosystem Restoration of Temperate Saltmarsh; Cool climate tidal marsh restoration with benefits for coastal resilience, biodiversity, recreational fisheries and tourism. - 

The Nature Conservancy Australia and Partners, Upper Gulf St Vincent, South Australia
South Australian Blue Carbon Ecosystem Restoration Project; Tidal marsh restoration with benefits for biodiversity, social and cultural values. - $2,896,526

Pair Of Orcas Deterring Great White Sharks

June 30, 2022
A pair of Orca (Killer Whales) that have been terrorizing and killing Great White Sharks off the coast of South Africa since 2017 has managed to drive large numbers of the sharks from their natural aggregation site.

A new study, published today in the peer-reviewed African Journal of Marine Science, uses long-term sightings and tagging data to show that the Great Whites have been avoiding certain regions of the Gansbaai coast -- territories which they have dominated over many years -- ever since for fear of being hunted by Orca.

Since 2017 eight Great White Sharks have washed up on shore following an Orca attack. Seven of them had their livers removed, some their hearts too. Their wounds are distinctively made by the same pair of Orcas, who are likely to have killed more (which haven't washed up on shore). It is widely understood that other Orcas are also capable of such attacks.

The findings add further weight to an argument that suggests sharks use their 'flight' sense of fear to trigger a rapid, long-term emigration en masse when their marine predator is nearby.

In this latest research, carried out over five-and-a-half years, 14 sharks have been tracked fleeing the areas when the Orcas are present and visual sightings have dropped dramatically in certain Western Cape Bays. Located approximately 100 km east of Cape Town, Gansbaai was a world-renowned place for spotting this legendary shark, with tourists across the globe visiting and partaking in cage diving.

Reporting on the findings, lead author Alison Towner, a Senior White Shark Biologist, at the Dyer Island Conservation Trust, says: "Initially, following an Orca attack in Gansbaai, individual Great White Sharks did not appear for weeks or months. What we seem to be witnessing though is a large-scale avoidance (rather than a fine-scale) strategy, mirroring what we see used by wild dogs in the Serengeti in Tanzania, in response to increased lion presence. The more the Orcas frequent these sites, the longer the Great White Sharks stay away.

"The research is particularly important, as by determining how large marine predators respond to risk, we can understand the dynamics of coexistence with other predator communities; and these dynamics may also dictate the interactions between competitors or intra-guild predator/prey relationship."

Alison, from Lancashire in the UK, is a PhD candidate at the Rhodes University in Makhanda, Eastern Cape. She lives in Gansbaai and has studied Great White Sharks for the last 15 years, learning about their movement patterns through tagging data. Regularly found on a boat and having witnessed many huge Great White Sharks, she has previously described the area as "simply special, in terms of marine life -- few places compare to this truly diverse and beautiful area."

Prior to these predations on the Great White Sharks, there were only two instances since data collection began in Gansbaai where they were absent for a week or more: one week in 2007, and 3 weeks in 2016.

So, what Alison, and other colleagues at institutions she represents such as Marine Dynamics Academy, have recently witnessed first-hand (by physically retrieving the carcasses of attacked sharks -- as pictured) is this new absence is unprecedented for the area.

And, she explains, it is changing the sea's very ecosystem: "It has triggered the emergence of a new mesopredator to the area, the Bronze Whaler Shark -- which is known to be eaten by the Great White Shark -- and these Bronze Whalers are also being attacked by the Orcas too, who are indicating a level of experience and skill in hunting large sharks.

"However, balance is crucial in marine ecosystems, for example, with no Great White Sharks restricting Cape Fur seal behavior, the seals can predate on critically endangered African Penguins, or compete for the small pelagic fish they eat. That's a top -down impact, we also have 'bottom up' trophic pressures from extensive removal of Abalone, which graze the kelp forests these species are all connected through.

"To put it simply, although this is a hypothesis for now, there is only so much pressure an ecosystem can take, and the impacts of Orcas removing sharks, are likely far wider-reaching."

But, what drew the pair of Orcas, easily recognizable by their distinctive collapsed dorsal fins, to this new territory?

Other, yet-to-be-published data, suggests the Orcas' presence is increasing in coastal regions of South Africa and this pair might be members of a rare shark-eating morphotype, known to hunt at least three shark species as a prime source of nutrition in South Africa.

"This change in both top predators' behavior could," Alison says, "be related to a decline in prey populations, including fishes and sharks, causing changes in their distribution pattern.

"We know that Great White Sharks face their highest targeted mortality in the anti-shark bather protection nets in KwaZulu Natal, they simply cannot afford additional pressure now from Orca, killer whale predation."

What it means for populations of the Great White could be more pronounced and it is "unclear" what the pressure may do, Alison states.

"The Orcas are targeting subadult Great White Sharks, which can further impact an already vulnerable shark population owing to their slow growth and late-maturing life-history strategy. Increased vigilance using citizen science (e.g. fishers' reports, tourism vessels), as well as continued tracking studies, will aid in collecting more information on how these predations may impact the long-term ecological balance in these complex coastal seascapes."

As with all studies, alternative explanations for the findings should be considered. The authors suggest that sea surface temperature can have an impact on the Great White's recent absence, "however, the immediate and abrupt decline in sightings at the beginning of 2017 and the extended and increasing periods of absence cannot be explained" by this.

"Other potential explanations for a decline at Gansbaai," they say, "could be direct fishing of Great White Sharks or the indirect effect of fishery-induced declines in potential prey." However, they state that while this could "potentially contribute to an overall decline in numbers of Great Whites in South Africa, they are unlikely to explain the sudden localized decline."

AV Towner, RGA Watson, AA Kock, Y Papastamatiou, M Sturup, E Gennari, K Baker, T Booth, M Dicken, W Chivell, S Elwen, T Kaschke, D Edwards, MJ Smale. Fear at the top: killer whale predation drives white shark absence at South Africa’s largest aggregation site. African Journal of Marine Science, 2022; 44 (2): 139 DOI: 10.2989/1814232X.2022.2066723

We blew the whistle on Australia’s central climate policy. Here’s what a new federal government probe must fix

Andrew MacintoshAustralian National UniversityDon ButlerAustralian National University, and Megan C EvansUNSW Sydney

Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen is today expected to announce a much anticipated review of Australia’s carbon credit scheme, known as the Emissions Reduction Fund.

In March, we exposed serious integrity issues with the scheme, labelling it a fraud on taxpayers and the environment. We welcome the federal government’s review. Labor has promised a 43% cut in Australia’s emissions by 2030, and a high-integrity carbon credit market is vital to reaching this goal.

The fund was established by the Abbott government in 2014 and is now worth A$4.5 billion. It provides carbon credits to projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For the past decade, it has been the centrepiece of Australia’s climate policy.

In this and subsequent articles, we seek to simplify the issues for the Australian public, the new parliament and whoever is appointed to review the Emissions Reduction Fund.

The Background

We are experts in environmental law, markets and policy. The lead author of this article, Andrew Macintosh, is the former chair of the Emissions Reduction Assurance Committee (ERAC), the government-appointed watchdog that oversees the Emissions Reduction Fund’s methods.

Our analysis suggests up to 80% of credits issued under three of the fund’s most popular emissions reduction methods do not represent genuine emissions cuts that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

Our decision to call the scheme a “fraud” was deliberate and considered. In our view, a process that systematically pays for a service that’s not actually provided is fraudulent.

The Clean Energy Regulator (which administers the fund) and the current ERAC reviewed our claims and, earlier this month, dismissed them. We have expressed serious concerns with that review process, which we believe was not transparent and showed a fundamental lack of understanding of the issues.

This week, Bowen said our concerns were “substantial and real” and he took them “very seriously”.

The Conversation contacted the Clean Energy Regulator regarding the authors’ claims. The regulator pointed to its “comprehensive response” to the issues raised and also rejected allegations of fraud. The full statement is included at the end of this article.

man in suit talking at lectern
Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen said the authors’ concerns were ‘substantial and real’. Bianca Di Marchi/AAP

The 3 Biggest Problems

Under the fund, projects that reduce emissions are rewarded with carbon credits. These credits can be sold on the carbon market to entities that want to offset their emissions. Each credit is supposed to represent one tonne of carbon abatement.

Buyers include the federal government (using taxpayer funds) and private entities that are required to, or voluntarily choose to, offset their emissions.

Under the scheme, a range of methods lay out the rules for emissions abatement activities. Concerns have been raised about these methods for years.

Our initial criticism focuses on the scheme’s most popular methods, which account for about 75% of carbon credits issued:

  • human-induced regeneration: projects supposed to regenerate native forests through changes in land management practices, particularly reduced grazing by livestock and feral animals

  • avoided deforestation: projects supposed to protect native forests in western New South Wales that would otherwise be cleared

  • landfill gas: projects supposed to capture and destroy methane emitted from solid waste landfills using a flare or electricity generator.

Our analysis found credits have been issued for emissions reductions that were not real or additional, such as:

  • protecting forests that were never going to be cleared
  • growing trees that were already there
  • growing forests in places that will never sustain them permanently
  • large landfills operating electricity generators that would have operated anyway.
farm scene with trees and crops
Some credits were issued for growing trees that already existed. Shutterstock

In forthcoming articles, we will detail the problems with these methods.

However, at a high level, the issues have arisen because the scheme has focused on maximising the number of carbon credits issued, to put downward pressure on carbon credit prices. This has resulted in attempts to use carbon offsets in inappropriate situations.

A Tricky Policy Lever

Designing high integrity methods for calculating carbon credits is hard because it involves:

  • trying to determine what would happen in the absence of the incentive provided by the carbon credit. For example, would a farmer have cleared a paddock of trees if they weren’t given carbon credits to retain it?

  • activities where it’s not always clear if carbon abatement was the result of human activity or natural variability. For instance, soil carbon levels can be increased by changing land management practices, but can also happen naturally due to rainfall

  • activities where it can be hard to measure the emissions outcome. For example, carbon sequestration in vegetation is often measured using models that can be inaccurate when applied at the project scale

  • dynamic carbon markets with fast-evolving technologies.

These complexities mean mistakes are inevitable; no functional carbon offset scheme can ever get it 100% right. A degree of error must be accepted.

But decisions regarding risk tolerance must consider the consequences of issuing low-integrity credits, including contributing to worsening climate change.

The Dangers Of Sham Credits

The safeguard mechanism places caps on the emissions of major polluters and was originally intended to protect gains achieved through the Emissions Reduction Fund. It applies to about 200 large industrial polluters and requires them to buy carbon credits if their emissions exceed these caps.

When carbon credits used by polluters do not represent real and additional abatement, Australia’s emissions will be higher than they otherwise would be.

To avoid such risks, the legislation governing the Emissions Reduction Fund requires the methods to be “conservative” and supported by “clear and convincing evidence”.

The fund’s main methods do not meet these standards.

Graphic showing one tonne of CO2 = 1 carbon credit
Accurately calculating carbon credits is not as simple as it may appear. Shutterstock

An Open And Transparent Process

Carbon credit schemes are, by nature, complex and involve a high risk of error. To maintain integrity, systems to promote transparency are needed.

This includes requiring administrators to not just expect, but actively seek out errors and move quickly to correct them.

To this end, rules are needed to:

  • force the disclosure of information by the Clean Energy Regulator and ERAC

  • guarantee disinterested third parties the right to be involved in rule-making

  • give anybody the right to seek judicial review of decisions made by the Clean Energy Regulator and ERAC

  • require proponents to move off methods found to contain material errors.

The Emissions Reduction Fund has none of these features and needs urgent reform.

We hope the federal government review will be comprehensive and independent, with the power to compel people to give evidence. Because Australians deserve assurance that our national climate policy operates with the utmost integrity.

The Clean Energy Regulator provided the following statement in response to this article.

The comments made regarding the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) repeat generalised claims that ‘fraud’ is occurring and are rejected. No substantial evidence for claims of fraud has ever been provided. These are serious allegations and the CER is dismayed at the statement that attributes these alleged outcomes to the work done by the CER. We understand that ERAC has the same view.

The claims about lack of additionality and over-crediting are also not new. Prof Macintosh and his colleagues have not engaged with the substance of the ERAC’s comprehensive response papers on human induced regeneration and landfill gas and the CER’s response to the claims on avoided deforestation.

The government has said it will undertake a review of the ERF and details will be announced shortly. We do not wish to pre-empt the scope of the review or its findings. We welcome the review and look forward to engaging substantively with the review process once it commences.The Conversation

Andrew Macintosh, Professor and Director of Research, ANU Law School, Australian National UniversityDon Butler, Professor, Australian National University, and Megan C Evans, Senior Lecturer and ARC DECRA Fellow, UNSW Sydney

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

How technology allows us to reveal secrets of Amazonian biodiversity

Oliver MetcalfManchester Metropolitan University and Liana Chesini RossiUniversity of São Paulo State

Tropical forest covers 12% of the planet’s land surface yet hosts around two thirds of all terrestrial species. Amazonia, which spans the vast Amazon River basin and the Guiana Shield in South America, is the largest extent of remaining tropical forest globally, home to more species of animal than any other terrestrial landscape on the planet.

Spotting wildlife in these dark and dense forests teeming with insects and spiny palms is always challenging. This is because of the very nature of biodiversity in Amazonia, where there is a small number of abundant species, and a greater number of rare species which are difficult to survey adequately.

Understanding what species are present and how they relate to their environment is of fundamental importance for ecology and conservation, providing us with essential information on the impacts of human-made disturbances such as climate change, logging or wood burning. In turn, this can also enable us to pick up on sustainable human activities such as selective logging – the practice of removing one or two trees and leaving the rest intact.

As part of BNP’s Bioclimate project, we are deploying a range of technological fixes like camera traps and passive acoustic monitors to overcome these hurdles and refine our understanding of Amazonian wildlife. These devices beat traditional surveys through their ability to continuously gather data without the need for human interference, allowing animals to go about their business undisturbed.

Tropical forests are often dark environments where observing wildlife can be highly challenging, despite holding a disproportionate amount of the world’s biodiversity. Oliver Metcalf

The Eyes Among The Trees

Camera traps are small devices that are triggered by changes of activity in their vicinity, such as animal movements. They have been essential to our field work in the Tapajos National Forest in Para, North West Brazil, allowing us to investigate whether disturbances such as climate change have impacted upon the presence and behaviour of animals that are in turn necessary to natural processes.

Animals’ dispersal of seeds, which enables forest regeneration, is one of such processes. By eating fruits or carrying nuts, they will typically excrete or drop the seeds elsewhere. Our research has shown that at least 85% of all tree species in our plots have their seeds scattered by animals.

We also know that many of these animals are strongly impacted by disturbance. To better grasp the impact of losing these seed-dispersing species, we need to know which ones spread which plants and how far.

We have attempted to look at this by setting up cameras at the foot of fruit-bearing trees on our study site, revealing which species were eating which fruits and thus carrying seeds across the forest.

The survey resulted in over 30,000 hours of footage, and we were able to ascertain that 5,459 videos contained animals. An impressive total of 152 species of birds and mammals were recorded, including rare records of threatened species such as the vulturine parrot (Pyrilia vulturina).

The videos included incredible insights into animal behaviour, such as an ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) hunting a common opossum (Didelphis marsupialis), a giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) carrying an infant on its back, and even a curious female tufted capuchin monkey (Sapajus apella) that checked out a camera and ended up throwing it to the floor.

Camera traps have provided important insights into the lives of secretive and often nocturnal mammals. Here we see a giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) carrying an infant on its back, an ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) hunting and eating a common opossum (Didelphis marsupialis), and a South American tapir eating fruit. (Source, Liana Chesini Rossi.)
Working with animals is never straightforward. This tufted capuchin (Sapajus apella) took exception to the camera trap and threw it from the tree. (Source, Oliver Metcalf.)

Importantly, we also recorded 48 species eating fruit, including species considered important seed dispersers, such as the South American tapir (Tapirus terrestris) which is able to scatter large seeds over longer distances due to its size.

Our research demonstrated that bird species such as the white-crested guan (Penelope pileata) and mammals like the silvery marmoset (Mico argentatus) and the Amazonian brown brocket deer (Mazama nemorivaga) are frequent consumers of fruits. Many of these species are overhunted in the study region which may lead to cascading impacts for forest regeneration.

Many species are important in dispersing seeds across forests. Camera traps have allowed us to see which species visit fruit-bearing trees. These clips show silvery marmoset (Mico argentatus), white-crested guan (Penelope pileate) and Amazonian brown brocket deer (Mazama nemorivaga) feeding off fruit. (Source, Liana Chesini Rossi.)

Pulsing Forests

Acoustic recorders, on the other hand, are key to compiling inventories of the species-rich bird community. Indeed although birds are rarely seen in dense forest, their vocalisations reveal their presence.

When ornithologists study tropical birds, they are limited by how often they can conduct counts as it is often logistically challenging to return to individual locations. Consequently traditional surveys are often of quite long duration – between 5 and 15 minutes – with only a limited number of repeat counts at each surveyed site. This means that only a small proportion of the time period in which birds are most active – the two hours after sunrise typically known as the dawn chorus – is able to be surveyed.

Yet birds don’t all sing at the same time: a few species prefer to sing very early in the morning, most wait until it is slightly warmer and the sun is fully up, and a few more rise late. By limiting ourselves to a few surveys, it is difficult to cover the full time period and detect all the species present. Moreover, surveys only conducted on a handful of days mean factors such as the weather or the presence of predators on certain days can completely change which species are detected.

Our research found that by setting autonomous acoustic recorders to take 240 very short 15 second recordings totalling one hour of surveying, we could record 50% more species at each site that we surveyed in comparison to four 15-minute surveys that replicated the duration of human surveys. The extra surveys allowed us to spread our survey period across more days, but most importantly across the whole dawn chorus. We found that there was a small group of species which preferred to sing from 15 minutes before sunrise to 15 minutes after, and we were only really likely to detect if them if we had multiple surveys during that period – something only possible with automated recorders.

These more complete surveys allow us to provide better estimates of the species living in these hyperdiverse regions – but also of the ones that vanish when forests are logged or burnt. Thanks to this method, we were able to detect 224 species of bird across 29 locations with a total of just one hour of surveying at each location.

The species present across intact and disturbed forest also confirmed our previous research that showed that undisturbed, primary forests hold unique bird communities that are lost when forests are damaged by selective logging or wildfires.

An audio clip from undisturbed primary forest at 06:55 on 6 August 2018, with 11 species of bird calling, including the grey antwren (Myrmotherula menetriesii) and thrush-like antpitta (Myrmotherula Campanisona), which are usually only found in good quality forest. (Source, Oliver Metcalf).

Acoustic recorders have also allowed us to gather data over long stretches of time, with over 10,000 hours clocked thus far.

However, collecting data on this scale also means it is not viable for a scientist to listen to all of the recordings. Instead, the new field of ecoacoustics has developed statistical techniques to characterise entire soundscapes. These acoustic indices measure variation in amplitude and frequency to give a metric of just how busy or varied each soundscape is. By doing away with the need to identify individual sounds, these can efficiently process large volumes of acoustic data.

We have used acoustic indices to show undisturbed primary forests have unique soundscapes that can be identified with machine-learning techniques. Such data in turn allows us to contrast soundscapes that have been disturbed by phenomena such as fires or logging and make out the species groups which have been the most impacted.

Wildfires cause high tree mortality and open up gaps in the forest canopy. These changes in forest structure lead to a change in species composition and distinctive differences in soundscapes between undisturbed and disturbed forests. Jos Barlow.

To conclude, camera traps and acoustic recorders allows us to have eyes and ears in the forest even when our researchers are not there. As technology develops we will continue to use the latest techniques to understand animal behaviour and ecology better, and how to use that to better value and protect the habitats they live in.

We are particularly looking to develop deep-learning models to identify species, and in some cases to differentiate between individuals of the same species. Images and recorded sounds from automated recorders are opening up new ways of understanding animal abundance and behaviour, providing new insights into the secret world of tropical forest fauna.

The research project “Bioclimate” of which this publication is part was supported by the BNP Paribas Foundation as part of the Climate and Biodiversity Initiative program. It is coordinated by the Rede Amazonia Sustentavel (RAS).The Conversation

Oliver Metcalf, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Manchester Metropolitan University and Liana Chesini Rossi, Invited User, University of São Paulo State

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

Climate change is putting food safety at risk more often, and not just at picnics and parties

Dairy, meats and eggs can get risky when left in warm conditions. Westend61 via Getty Images
Elena N. NaumovaTufts University

Every year, almost 1 in 6 Americans gets a foodborne illness, and about 3,000 people die from it, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates. Picnics and parties where food sits out for hours are a common source, but heat waves and power outages are another silently growing threat.

As global temperatures rise, the risk of foods going bad during blackouts in homes or stores or during transit in hot weather rises with them. Elena Naumova, an epidemiologist and data scientist at Tufts University, explains the risk and what you need to know to stay safe.

What Does Climate Change Have To Do With Foodborne Illness?

The link between foodborne illness and climate change is quite straightforward: The pathogens that cause many foodborne infections are sensitive to temperature. That’s because warm, wet weather conditions stimulate bacterial growth.

Three main factors govern the spread of foodborne illness: 1) the abundance, growth, range and survival of pathogens in crops, livestock and the environment; 2) the transfer of these pathogens to food; and 3) human exposure to the pathogens.

Safety measures like warning labels and product recalls can help slow the spread of harmful bacteria and parasites, but these measures don’t always evolve rapidly enough to keep pace with the changing risk.

One growing problem is that heat waves, wildfires and severe storms are increasingly triggering power outages, which in turn affect food storage and food handling practices in stores, production and distribution sites and homes. A review of federal data in 2022 found that major U.S. power outages linked to severe weather had doubled over the previous two decades. California often experiences smaller-scale outages during heat waves and periods of high wildfire risk.

This can happen on the hottest and, in some areas, most humid days, creating ideal conditions for bacteria to grow.

Salmonella bacteria, in pink, a common cause of foodborne disease, invade a human epithelial cell. NIAID

Which Causes Of Foodborne Illness Are Increasing With The Heat?

Nationwide, many types of foodborne infection peak in warm summer months.

Cyclospora, a tiny parasite that causes intestinal infections and is transmitted through food or water contaminated with feces, often on imported vegetables and fruits, peaks in early June.

The bacteria Campylobacter, a common cause of diarrhea that’s often linked to undercooked meat; Vibrio, linked to eating raw or undercooked shellfish; Salmonella, which causes diarrhea and is linked to animal feces; and STEC, a common type of E. coli, peak in mid-July. And the parasite Cyptosporidium, germ Listeria and bacteria Shigella peak in mid-August.

Many of these infections cause upset stomach, but they can also lead to severe diarrhea, dehydration, vomiting and even longer-term illnesses, such as meningitis and multiple organ failures.

A man stands in front of a dark freezer case packed with pizzas and other frozen meals.
When refrigerators lose power, they can keep foods cool for only so long. This store owner in New York during the 2006 blackout said, ‘I’ll have to throw all this out.’ Chris Hondros/Getty ImagesAuthor provided

In our studies, my colleagues and I have also found that food recalls increase during summer months.

Typically, the U.S. sees about 70 foodborne outbreaks per month, with about two of them resulting in a food recall. In summer, the number of outbreaks can exceed 100 per month, and the number of recall-related outbreaks goes up to six per month, increasing from 3% to 6% of all reported and investigated outbreaks nationwide.

The rate of individual infections can also easily double or triple the annual average during summer months.

Precisely estimating infection numbers is very challenging because the vast majority of foodborne illness outbreaks – an estimated 80% of illnesses and 56% of hospitalizations – are not attributed to known pathogens due to insufficient testing, and many foodborne illnesses are not even reported to the health authorities.

What Types Of Food Should People Worry About?

Watch out for perishable products, including meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs, along with anything labeled as requiring refrigeration. How warm a food item can get before becoming risky varies, so the simplest rule for keeping food safe is to follow food labels and instructions.

The CDC website emphasizes four basic rules to prevent food poisoning at home: clean, separate, cook and chill.

It also offers some guidelines for when the power goes out, starting with keeping refrigerator and freezer doors closed. “A full freezer will keep food safe for 48 hours (24 hours if half-full) without power if you don’t open the door. Your refrigerator will keep food safe for up to four hours without power if you don’t open the door,” it says.

An infographic offers advice also discussed in the article.
Food safety tips. CDC

After four hours without power or a cooling source, the CDC recommends that most meat, dairy, leftovers and cut fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator be thrown out.

Unfortunately, you cannot see, smell or taste many harmful pathogens that cause foodborne illness, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. Rule of thumb: When in doubt, throw it out.

What’s The Best Response If A Person Gets Sick From Food?

If you do get sick, it can be hard to pinpoint the culprit. Harmful bacteria can take anywhere from a few hours to several days to make you sick. And people respond in different ways, so the same food might not make everyone ill.

Check with your doctor if you think you have food poisoning. Get tested so your case will be reported. That helps public health authorities get a better sense of the extent of infections. The full extent of infections is typically vastly underreported.

I recommend checking health department websites, like Washington state’s, for more advice, and check on food recalls during the hot months.The Conversation

Elena N. Naumova, Professor of Epidemiology and Data Science, Tufts University

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

‘Draconian and undemocratic’: why criminalising climate protesters in Australia doesn’t actually work

Robyn GulliverThe University of Queensland

A man who drove through a climate protest blocking the Harbour Tunnel this week has copped a A$469 fine, while multiple members of the activist group were arrested. The protest was among a series of peak hour rallies in Sydney by Blockade Australia, in an effort to stop “the cogs in the machine that is destroying life on earth”.

Disruptive protests like these make an impact. They form the iconic images of social movements that have delivered many of the rights and freedoms we enjoy today.

They attract extensive media coverage that propel issues onto the national agenda. And, despite media coverage to the contrary, research suggests they don’t reduce public support for climate action.

But disruptive protest also consistently generates one negative response: attempts to criminalise it.

Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales have all recently proposed or introduced anti-protest bills targeting environmental and climate activists. This wave of anti-protest legislation has been described as draconian and undemocratic.

Let’s take a look at how these laws suppress environmental protesters – and whether criminalisation actually works.

How Do Governments Criminalise Protest?

The criminalisation of environmental protest in Australia isn’t new.

Tasmania provides a compelling example. The Tasmania Workplaces (Protection from Protestors) Act 2014 sought to fine demonstrators up to $10,000 if they “prevent, hinder, or obstruct the carrying out of a business activity”. Described as a breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, it was subsequently voted down by the Tasmanian Legislative Council.

The bill was resurrected in 2019, but also voted down, an outcome described by the Human Rights Law Centre as a “win for democracy”.

But yet again in 2022, the freedom to protest in Tasmania is under threat. The Police Offences Amendment (Workplace Protection) Bill 2022 proposes fines of up to $21,625 and 18 months jail for peaceful protest.

Activities such as handing out flyers, holding a placard or sharing a petition could fall within the offences.

Heavy police presence is often a feature at Extinction Rebellion blockades. Julian Meehan/Wikimedia CommonsCC BY

Tasmania is not an outlier. After the Port of Botany and Sydney climate blockades in March this year, NSW passed the Roads and Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill 2022.

Almost 40 civil society groups called to scrap the bill, which used vague and broad wording to expand offences with up to two years in jail and a $22,000 fine.

Similarly, the Andrews government in Victoria is introducing the Sustainable Forests Timber Amendment (Timber Harvesting Safety Zones) Bill 2022, which raises penalties on anti-logging protest offences to $21,000 or 12 months imprisonment.

Other Ways Australia Criminalise Protest

Legislation isn’t the only tool in the toolbox of protest criminalisation. The expansion of police and government discretionary powers is also often used. Examples include:

Corporations also use discretionary powers. Adani/Bravus coal mining company reportedly used private investigators to restrict Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners’ access to their ceremonial camp.

It also reportedly bankrupted senior spokesperson Adrian Burragubba in 2019, sued one climate activist for intimidation, conspiracy and breaches of contractsurveilled his family, and is pursuing him for $600 million (now reduced to $17m) in damages.

In statements to the ABC and the Guardian, Adani says it is exercising its rights under the law to be protected from individuals and groups who act “unlawfully”.

Another tool for suppressing protest is the use of “othering” language. This language seeks to stigmatise activists, de-legitimise their concerns and frame them as threats to national security or the economy.

We see it frequently after disruptive protest. For example, ministers have recently described Blockade Australia protesters as “bloody idiots”, who should “get a real job”.

The Queensland Premier has described protesters as “extremists”, who were “dangerous, reckless, irresponsible, selfish and stupid”.

Why Do Governments Feel The Need To Implement Harsher Penalties?

Some politicians have argued that anti-protest laws act as a “deterrent” to disruptive protest. Critics have also argued that government powers are used as a shield to protect corporate interests.

In its new report, for example, the Australian Democracy Network shows how corporations can manipulate government powers to harass and punish opponents through a process called “state capture”.

Non-profit organisations have also demonstrated the powerful influence of the fossil fuel industry, particularly in weakening Australian environmentalists’ protest rights.

But it’s not only civil sector groups and protesters sounding the alarm. Increased repression of our rights to engage in non-violent protest have also been voiced by lawyersscholars and observers such as the United Nations Special Rapporteur.

Does Criminalisation Reduce Protest?

Numerous organisations have highlighted how criminalising protest and silencing charities threaten democratic freedoms that are fundamental to a vibrant, inclusive and innovative society.

But more than that, these strategies don’t appear to work.

Courts have used anti-protest legislation to instead highlight the importance of peaceful protest as a legitimate form of political communication. They have struck down legislationreleased activists from remandoverturned unreasonable bail conditions and reduced excessive fines.

Police, too, have refused to remove cultural custodians from their ceremonial grounds.

And in general, research shows the public does not support repressive protest policing.

Indeed, rates of disruptive protest are escalating, while protesters vow to continue despite the risk.

The majority of Australians support more ambitious climate action. Many agree with Blockade Australia’s statement that “urgent broad-scale change” is necessary to address the climate crisis.

Politicians may be better served by focusing their efforts on this message, rather than attacking the messengers.The Conversation

Robyn Gulliver, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, The University of Queensland

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

U.S. Supreme Court Limits U.S. EPA's Power To Curb Carbon Emissions

On Thursday June 30 2022 the U.S. Supreme Court backed a group of Republican-led U.S. states led by major coal producer West Virginia along with coal companies and coal-friendly industry groups, who asked the justices to limit the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. 

The court's 6-3 ruling constrains the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing coal- and gas-fired power plants under the landmark Clean Air Act anti-pollution law.

Justice Elena Kagan, in dissent, said essentially that the Court is making up new rules that contradict nearly a century of regulatory law. The text of the Clean Air Act, she said, clearly anticipates that the EPA will have to deal with new problems and uses broad language to allow that. The Court majority, she says, "does not have a clue about how to address climate change...yet it appoints itself, instead of congress or the expert agency...the decision-maker on climate policy. I cannot think of many things more frightening."

Justice Elena Kagan was joined by the court's other two liberals.

The decision came on the final day of rulings for the court's current nine-month term and follows on from the same overturning Roe v. Wade on June 24, again with a 6-3 ruling.

The conservative justices overturned a 2021 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that had struck down Republican former President Donald Trump's Affordable Clean Energy rule. That regulation sought to impose limits on a Clean Air Act provision called Section 111 that provides the EPA authority to regulate emissions from existing power plants. Ex-president Trump's rule was meant to supplant Democratic former President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan which mandated major reductions in carbon emissions from the power industry. The Supreme Court in 2016 blocked implementation of Obama's plan, which used Section 111 to spur an electric-generation shift from coal to cleaner energy sources, without ruling on its lawfulness.

Amanda Shafer Berman of law firm Crowell & Moring, a senior environmental attorney in Obama's Justice Department, told Reuters the ruling was "about the best that EPA could have hoped for given the current composition of the court." 

Ms Berman said the EPA can now proceed to issue a new rule that regulates power plant carbon dioxide emissions "albeit in a more limited way than envisioned" under Obama's plan.

Statement By President Joe Biden On Supreme Court Ruling On West Virginia V. EPA

June 30, 2022 (US Date time)
The Supreme Court’s ruling in West Virginia vs. EPA is another devastating decision that aims to take our country backwards. While this decision risks damaging our nation’s ability to keep our air clean and combat climate change, I will not relent in using my lawful authorities to protect public health and tackle the climate crisis.

I have directed my legal team to work with the Department of Justice and affected agencies to review this decision carefully and find ways that we can, under federal law, continue protecting Americans from harmful pollution, including pollution that causes climate change.

Since the Clean Air Act was passed by a bipartisan majority in Congress in 1970, the landmark law has enabled both Democratic and Republican administrations to protect and improve the air we breathe, cutting air pollution by 78 percent even as our economy quadrupled in size. Yet today’s decision sides with special interests that have waged a long-term campaign to strip away our right to breathe clean air.

We cannot and will not ignore the danger to public health and existential threat the climate crisis poses. The science confirms what we all see with our own eyes – the wildfires, droughts, extreme heat, and intense storms are endangering our lives and livelihoods.

I will take action. My Administration will continue using lawful executive authority, including the EPA’s legally-upheld authorities, to keep our air clean, protect public health, and tackle the climate crisis. We will work with states and cities to pass and uphold laws that protect their citizens. And we will keep pushing for additional Congressional action, so that Americans can fully seize the economic opportunities, cost-saving benefits, and security of a clean energy future. Together, we will tackle environmental injustice, create good-paying jobs, and lower costs for families building the clean energy economy.

Our fight against climate change must carry forward, and it will. 

Ice world: Antarctica’s riskiest glacier is under assault from below and losing its grip

The front of Thwaites Glacier is a jagged, towering cliff. David Vaughan/British Antarctic Survey
Ted ScambosUniversity of Colorado Boulder

Flying over Antarctica, it’s hard to see what all the fuss is about. Like a gigantic wedding cake, the frosting of snow on top of the world’s largest ice sheet looks smooth and unblemished, beautiful and perfectly white. Little swirls of snow dunes cover the surface.

But as you approach the edge of the ice sheet, a sense of tremendous underlying power emerges. Cracks appear in the surface, sometimes organized like a washboard, and sometimes a complete chaos of spires and ridges, revealing the pale blue crystalline heart of the ice below.

As the plane flies lower, the scale of these breaks steadily grows. These are not just cracks, but canyons large enough to swallow a jetliner, or spires the size of monuments. Cliffs and tears, rips in the white blanket emerge, indicating a force that can toss city blocks of ice around like so many wrecked cars in a pileup. It’s a twisted, torn, wrenched landscape. A sense of movement also emerges, in a way that no ice-free part of the Earth can convey – the entire landscape is in motion, and seemingly not very happy about it.

A view across the ice from an airplane showing many fractures.
Broken ice where Thwaites Glacier heads out to sea. Ted Scambos

Antarctica is a continent comprising several large islands, one of them the size of Australia, all buried under a 10,000-foot-thick layer of ice. The ice holds enough fresh water to raise sea level by nearly 200 feet.

Its glaciers have always been in motion, but beneath the ice, changes are taking place that are having profound effects on the future of the ice sheet – and on the future of coastal communities around the world.

Breaking, Thinning, Melting, Collapsing

Antarctica is where I work. As a polar scientist I’ve visited most areas of the ice sheet in more than 20 trips to the continent, bringing sensors and weather stations, trekking across glaciers, or measuring the speed, thickness and structure of the ice.

Currently, I’m the U.S. coordinating scientist for a major international research effort on Antarctica’s riskiest glacier – more on that in a moment. I have gingerly crossed crevasses, trodden carefully on hard blue windswept ice, and driven for days over the most monotonous landscape you can imagine.

Mountains direct the flow of glaciers toward the sea. 66 North via Unsplash

For most of the past few centuries, the ice sheet has been stable, as far as polar science can tell. Our ability to track how much ice flows out each year, and how much snow falls on top, extends back just a handful of decades, but what we see is an ice sheet that was nearly in balance as recently as the 1980s.

Early on, changes in the ice happened slowly. Icebergs would break away, but the ice was replaced by new outflow. Total snowfall had not changed much in centuries – this we knew from looking at ice cores – and in general the flow of ice and the elevation of the ice sheet seemed so constant that a main goal of early ice research in Antarctica was finding a place, any place, that had changed dramatically.

Deep cracks leaves jagged columns of ice with a layer of snow at the top ready to tip into the sea.
Ice breaks off the front of a glacier in Antarctica. 66 North via Unsplash
A map of the ice sheet showing faster flowing ice at the ice shelves and particularly around the edges of West Antarctica.
A map of Antarctica seen from above, most of it the ice sheet, shows the velocity of the ice flow ice. Thwaites Glacier is on the left. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

But now, as the surrounding air and ocean warm, areas of the Antarctic ice sheet that had been stable for thousands of years are breaking, thinning, melting, or in some cases collapsing in a heap. As these edges of the ice react, they send a powerful reminder: If even a small part of the ice sheet were to completely crumble into the sea, the impact for the world’s coasts would be severe.

Like many geoscientists, I think about how the Earth looks below the part that we can see. For Antarctica, that means thinking about the landscape below the ice. What does the buried continent look like – and how does that rocky basement shape the future of the ice in a warming world?

Visualizing The World Below The Ice

Recent efforts to combine data from hundreds of airplane and ground-based studies have given us a kind of map of the continent below the ice. It reveals two very different landscapes, divided by the Transantarctic Mountains.

In East Antarctica, the part closer to Australia, the continent is rugged and furrowed, with several small mountain ranges. Some of these have alpine valleys, cut by the very first glaciers that formed on Antarctica 30 million years ago, when its climate resembled Alberta’s or Patagonia’s. Most of East Antarctica’s bedrock sits above sea level. This is where the city-size Conger ice shelf collapsed amid an unusually intense heat wave in March 2022.

A view of Antarctica's bedrock beneath the ice today shows islands in the west side and more above-sea bedrock in the east.
Below the ice, recent studies have mapped Antarctica’s bedrock and show much of the west side is below sea level. Bedmap2; Fretwell 2013

In West Antarctica the bedrock is far different, with parts that are far deeper. This area was once the ocean bottom, a region where the continent was stretched and broken into smaller blocks with deep seabed between. Large islands made of volcanic mountain ranges are linked together by the thick blanket of ice. But the ice here is warmer, and moving faster.

As recently as 120,000 years ago, this area was probably an open ocean – and definitely so in the past 2 million years. This is important because our climate today is fast approaching temperatures like those of a few million years ago.

The realization that the West Antarctic ice sheet was gone in the past is the cause of great concern in the global warming era.

Early Stages Of A Large-Scale Retreat

Toward the coast of West Antarctica is a large area of ice called Thwaites Glacier. This is the widest glacier on earth, at 70 miles across, draining an area nearly as large as Idaho.

Satellite data tell us that it is in the early stages of a large-scale retreat. The height of the surface has been dropping by up to 3 feet each year. Huge cracks have formed at the coast, and many large icebergs have been set adrift. The glacier is flowing at over a mile per year, and this speed has nearly doubled in the past three decades.

Two decades of satellite data show the fastest ice loss in the vicinity of the Thwaites Glacier. NASA.
A view across the ice from an airplane showing many fractures.
From above, fractures are evident in the Thwaites Glacier. Ted Scambos

This area was noted early on as a place where the ice could lose its grip on the bedrock. The region was termed the “weak underbelly” of the ice sheet.

Some of the first measurements of the ice depth, using radio echo-sounding, showed that the center of West Antarctica had bedrock up to a mile and a half below sea level. The coastal area was shallower, with a few mountains and some higher ground; but a wide gap between the mountains lay near the coast. This is where Thwaites Glacier meets the sea.

This pattern, with deeper ice piled high near the center of an ice sheet, and shallower but still low bedrock near the coast, is a recipe for disaster – albeit a very slow-moving disaster.

Ice flows under its own weight – something we learned in high school earth science, but give it a thought now. With very tall and very deep ice near Antarctica’s center, a tremendous potential for faster flow exists. By being shallower near the edges, the flow is held back – grinding on the bedrock as it tries to leave, and having a shorter column of ice at the coast squeezing it outward.

An Antarctic glacier flows between mountains. Lines in ice show that it's flowing.
An Antarctic glacier flows toward the sea. Erin Pettit
How warmer water is undermining the glacier.

If the ice were to step back far enough, the retreating front would go from “thin” ice – still nearly 3,000 feet thick – to thicker ice toward the center of the continent. At the retreating edge, the ice would flow faster, because the ice is thicker now. By flowing faster, the glacier pulls down the ice behind it, allowing it to float, causing more retreat. This is what’s known as a positive feedback loop – retreat leading to thicker ice at the front of the glacier, making for faster flow, leading to more retreat.

Warming Water: The Assault From Below

But how would this retreat begin? Until recently, Thwaites had not changed a lot since it was first mapped in the 1940s. Early on, scientists thought a retreat would be a result of warmer air and surface melting. But the cause of the changes at Thwaites seen in satellite data is not so easy to spot from the surface.

Beneath the ice, however, at the point where the ice sheet first lifts off the continent and begins to jut out over the ocean as a floating ice shelf, the cause of the retreat becomes evident. Here, ocean water well above the melting point is eroding the base of the ice, erasing it as an ice cube would disappear bobbing in a glass of water.

An illustration of an ice shelf and glacier with water flowing under the ice shelf and eroding it at the seabed
Warming water is reaching under the ice shelf and eroding it from below. Scambos et al 2017

Water that is capable of melting as much as 50 to 100 feet of ice every year meets the edge of the ice sheet here. This erosion lets the ice flow faster, pushing against the floating ice shelf.

The ice shelf is one of the restraining forces holding the ice sheet back. But pressure from the land ice is slowly breaking this ice plate. Like a board splintering under too much weight, it is developing huge cracks. When it gives way – and mapping of the fractures and speed of flow suggests this is just a few years away – it will be another step that allows the ice to flow faster, feeding the feedback loop.

Up To 10 Feet Of Sea Level Rise

Looking back at the ice-covered continent from our camp this year, it is a sobering view. A huge glacier, flowing toward the coast, and stretching from horizon to horizon, rises up to the middle of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. There is a palpable feeling that the ice is bearing down on the coast.

Ice is still ice – it doesn’t move that fast no matter what is driving it; but this giant area called West Antarctica could soon begin a multicentury decline that would add up to 10 feet to sea level. In the process, the rate of sea level rise would increase severalfold, posing large challenges for people with a stake in coastal cities. Which is pretty much all of us.The Conversation

Ted Scambos, Senior Research Scientist, CIRES, University of Colorado Boulder

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

Drones and DNA tracking: we show how these high-tech tools are helping nature heal

Gontran Isnard/UnsplashCC BY
Jake M RobinsonFlinders UniversityJakki MohrThe University of MontanaMartin BreedFlinders UniversityPeter HarrisonUniversity of Tasmania, and Suzanne MavoaThe University of Melbourne

Technology has undoubtedly contributed to global biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation.

Where forests once stood, artificial lights now illuminate vast urban jungles. Where animals once roamed, huge factories now churn out microchips, computers, and cars. But now, we can also leverage technology to help repair our precious ecosystems.

Here, we discuss our two new research papers published today. They show how drones and genomics (the same technology used to identify COVID strains) can help protect and restore nature.

One paper demonstrates that drones can help safeguard biodiversity and monitor ecosystem restoration activities. They can also help us understand how impacts in one ecosystem may affect another.

Genomics can help identify populations that may be vulnerable to future climate change, and monitor elusive animals such as platypuses, lynx, and newts. Yet, our other paper found ecologists without genomics expertise thought the technology still needed to be tried and tested.

Remote Sensing With Drones

Drones are an increasingly common sight in, for instance, urban parks and weddings. Farmers also use them to assess crop health, and engineers use them to detect damage to bridges and wind turbines.

Drone technology has rapidly advanced over the last decade. Advancements include obstacle avoidance, enhanced flight times, high-definition cameras, and the ability to carry heavier payloads.

But can drones help repair damaged ecosystems? We reviewed the scientific literature from various environmental sectors to explore the existing and emerging uses of drones in restoring degraded ecosystems. The answer, we found, is a resounding “yes”.

We found drones can help map vegetation and collect water, soil, and grassland samples. They can also monitor plant health and wildlife population dynamics. This is essential for understanding whether a restoration intervention is working.

Large grass fire burning
Some drones can help extinguish fires in the wild. Shutterstock

In Australia, for instance, drones have helped researchers identify the habitat requirements for marsupials such as the spotted-tailed quoll and the eastern bettong. Thanks to having the drone’s birds-eye view, researchers and practitioners are gaining a better understanding of what vegetation to restore as well as new approaches to monitor the return of critical habitat.

Famously, drones have recently been used to plant trees by dropping “seed bombs” to help restore forests. While drone-based tree planting has potential, it still requires more research as the survival rate of seedlings is currently poor.

Some researchers have even developed bushfire-fighting drones to protect sensitive ecosystems. This is where one drone detects fire using thermal technology, and another puts it out by dropping fire-extinguishing balls. But controlled wildfires can sometimes be vital to ecosystem restoration, so we can also use drones to drop tiny fireballs, too.

However, there are many pitfalls to consider when using drones. In the wrong hands, drones can be a nuisance and harm wildlife.

Studies have shown flying too close to animals, such as birds and bears can impact their physiology. For example, a 2015 study showed drones flying too close to American black bears caused their heart rates to rise – even for one bear deep in hibernation.

Drone pilots should acquire appropriate licences and follow strict protocols when flying them in sensitive habitats.

Black bear at edge of river
A study found black bears became stressed when drones flew too close. Shutterstock

Genomics: Valuable, Yet Misunderstood

Genomics is a toolkit jam-packed full of innovative ways of looking at DNA, the blueprint of life on Earth. When scientists talk about genomics, they usually refer to modern DNA sequencing technologies or the analysis of vast collections of DNA.

But despite the potential for genomics to improve ecosystem restoration, our recent study showed restoration scholars without genomics experience were concerned genomics was over-hyped.

We interviewed leading experts in different ecology disciplines and found many called for case studies to demonstrate the benefits of genomics in restoration.

But surprisingly, we found restoration genomics literature included over 70 restoration genomics studies, many of which used environmental DNA to monitor ecosystem health. So, plenty of case studies already exist.

Genomics can help choose which seeds of red ironbark trees can withstand the changing climate. John Tann/WikimediaCC BY-SA

In ecosystem restoration, the two most common genomics applications are population genomics and environmental DNA.

Population genomics studies small differences in an organism’s genome to answer questions such as how much genetic variation exists in a population, how related individuals are, or how landscapes change migration patterns.

Linking changes in DNA sequences to historical climates has become central to modern-day nature conservation and restoration. It allows us to understand how resilient animals, plants and microbes are to future climates.

For example, we have used this approach to select robust tree seeds, such as red ironbark (Eucalyptus tricarpa), for woodland restoration plantings across southeast Australia. Using genomics to select the most resilient seeds gives the trees the best chance of surviving in a changing climate.

Scientists can also gain insights into ecosystems and monitor elusive species using the DNA organisms leave behind in environments, such as soil or water.

This environmental DNA data can help track the presence of species — invasive, endangered, or cryptic — and help measure community health and diversity. This includes pollinators such as bees, other animals and plants and our invisible friends, the microbes.

For instance, in the United Kingdom, ecologists currently use environmental DNA to detect the presence of vulnerable amphibians, such as great crested newts.

A water dragon with orange background
Great crested newt populations are declining. Shutterstock

Where To From Here?

Greater uptake of remote sensing and genomics in restoration has clear potential to help improve the monumental task of restoring our degraded ecosystems. Our papers outline ways for restoration ecologists to integrate drones and genomics into their toolboxes.

Given humans have caused substantial degradation to global ecosystems, it makes sense to use the technologies now available to restore wildlife and prevent additional biodiversity loss.The Conversation

Jake M Robinson, Ecologist and Researcher, Flinders UniversityJakki Mohr, Professor of Marketing & Innovation, The University of MontanaMartin Breed, Senior Lecturer in Biology, Flinders UniversityPeter Harrison, Lecturer in Forest Adaptation and Restoration Genetics, University of Tasmania, and Suzanne Mavoa, , The University of Melbourne

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

Research shows tropical cyclones have decreased alongside human-caused global warming – but don’t celebrate yet

Savin ChandFederation University Australia

The annual number of tropical cyclones forming globally decreased by about 13% during the 20th century compared to the 19th, according to research published today in Nature Climate Change.

Tropical cyclones are massive low-pressure systems that form in tropical waters when the underlying environmental conditions are right. These conditions include (but aren’t limited to) sea surface temperature, and variables such as vertical wind shear, which refers to changes in wind speed and direction with altitude.

Tropical cyclones can cause a lot of damage. They often bring extreme rainfall, intense winds and coastal hazards including erosion, destructive waves, storm surges and estuary flooding.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report detailed how human emissions have warmed tropical oceans above pre-industrial levels, with most warming happening since around the middle of the 20th century. Such changes in sea surface temperature are expected to intensify storms.

At the same time, global warming over the 20th century led to a weakening of the underlying atmospheric conditions that affect tropical cyclone formation. And our research now provides evidence for a decrease in the frequency of tropical cyclones coinciding with a rise in human-induced global warming.

Reckoning With A Limited Satellite Record

To figure out whether cyclone frequency has increased or decreased over time, we need a reliable record of cyclones. But establishing this historical context is challenging.

Before the introduction of geostationary weather satellites in the 1960s (which stay stationary in respect to the rotating Earth), records were prone to discontinuity and sampling issues.

Black and white image of beach hit by big winds
Beaches at Bowen, Queensland, were photographed while being hit by a cyclone in 1903. Wikimedia

And although observations improved during the satellite era, changes in satellite technologies and monitoring throughout the first few decades imply global records only became consistently reliable around the 1990s.

So we have a relatively short post-satellite tropical cyclone record. And longer-term weather trends based on a short record can be obscured by natural climate variability. This has led to conflicting assessments of tropical cyclone trends.

Declining Global And Regional Trends

To work around the limits of the tropical cyclone record, our team used the Twentieth Century Reanalysis dataset to reconstruct cyclone numbers to as far back as 1850. This reanalysis project uses detailed metrics to paint a picture of global atmospheric weather conditions since before the use of satellites.

Drawing on a link to the observed weakening of two major atmospheric circulations in the tropics – the Walker and Hadley circulations – our reconstructed record reveals a decrease in the annual number of tropical cyclones since 1850, at both a global and regional scale.

Specifically, the number of storms each year went down by about 13% in the 20th century, compared to the period between 1850 and 1900.

For most tropical cyclone basins (regions where they occur more regularly), including Australia, the decline has accelerated since the 1950s. Importantly, this is when human-induced warming also accelerated.

The only exception to the trend is the North Atlantic basin, where the number of tropical cyclones has increased in recent decades. This may be because the basin is recovering from a decline in numbers during the late 20th century due to aerosol impacts.

But despite this, the annual number of tropical cyclones here is still lower than in pre-industrial times.

It’s A Good Thing, Right?

While our research didn’t look at cyclone activity in the 21st century, our findings complement other studies, which have predicted tropical cyclone frequency will decrease due to global warming.

It may initially seem like good news fewer cyclones are forming now compared to the second half of the 19th century. But it should be noted frequency is only one aspect of risk associated with tropical cyclones.

The geographical distribution of tropical cyclones is shifting. And they’ve been getting more intense in recent decades. In some parts of the world they’re moving closer to coastal areas with growing populations and developments.

These changes – coupled with increasing rain associated with tropical cyclones, and a trend towards hurricanes lasting longer after making landfall – could point to a future where cyclones cause unprecedented damage in tropical regions.

Then again, these other factors weren’t assessed in our study. So we can’t currently make any certain statements regarding future risk.

Moving forward, we hope improvements in climate modelling and data will help us identify how human-induced climate change has affected other metrics, such as cyclone intensity and landfalling activity.The Conversation

Savin Chand, Senior Lecturer, Applied Mathematics and Statistics, Federation University Australia

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

Hear me out – we could use the varroa mite to wipe out feral honey bees, and help Australia’s environment

Patrick O'ConnorUniversity of Adelaide

A tiny parasitic mite that lives on the European honeybee (Apis mellifera) has breached Australia’s border quarantine and been detected in managed bee hives in New South Wales.

This is bad news for Australia’s honey industry, with over 300 hives in Newcastle set to be destroyed and biosecurity zones in place. The potential economic impact to the honey industry is estimated at around A$70 million per year, but the broader impacts to agriculture are not yet known.

This is where much of the dialogue on the impact of varroa mite settling in Australia usually stops. But there’s another way to look at this pest: as an effective biocontrol for feral honeybees in Australia’s natural environment.

Honeybees were introduced to Australia almost 200 years ago and out-compete native pollinators, which may have dire flow-on effects for ecosystems. The varroa mite’s arrival in Australia was only a matter of time – and with better planning, we could benefit from one pest fighting another.

Making Trade-Offs

The varroa mite infests hives, parasitises the bees, and can spread viruses and other pathogens. They mainly feed and breed on honeybee larvae and pupae, causing malformation. If left unmanaged, heavy mite infestation can cause colony collapse in some circumstances.

The mite has spread across the world to colonise almost every known location of European honeybees. It has been kept out of Australia thanks to stringent border quarantine measures, but this tiny mite can easily hitchhike on imports, then establish and spread when it reaches a honeybee colony.

So would Australia benefit more from treating the varroa mite as a pest, or an environmental biocontrol? More research is needed to resolutely answer this question, but let’s look at a the potential trade-offs of either option.

Treating the mite as a pest

Treating the mite as a pest would mean chasing down known outbreaks and destroying hives, beefing up border quarantine measures and supporting the beekeeping industry to tide them over the impact and adjustment period.

Beekeepers can stop the mite in its tracks in managed hives with chemical controls, but this comes at a cost, including some loss of productivity. And a loss of productivity in managed hives can have a knock-on effect on the pollination industry, as beekeepers are paid to take their bees to pollinate crops.

Thirty-five agricultural industries in Australia rely entirely or in part on bee pollination, including almonds, apples and cherries. Indeed, the total contribution of honeybees to Australia’s economy is estimated at $14.2 billion.

The potential consequences for industrial beekeeping and agriculture, and increased costs of production, can have unwelcome effects on food prices.

Treating the mite as a biocontrol

Treating the mite as an environmental biocontrol would mean diverting money for eradication and control measures to help industries live with varroa. This could be by, for instance, increasing the use of native pollinators for Australian agriculture.

It could also involve releasing the mite into feral honeybee hives, where we believe a rapid recovery of native pollinators is needed, such as in areas recovering from bushfires. The varroa mite has little impact on native bees because it’s specific to the Apis genus of the introduced bee, though the usual rules for biocontrol release would need to be followed.

Feral European honeybee populations are recognised as a key threatening process to Australia’s native biodiversity, with impacts felt across the country. Feral bees are abundant and efficient pollinators, and compete with native birds, insects and mammals (such as pygmy possums) for nectar from flowers.

Honeybees avoid, or only partially pollinate, some native plants. This means a high concentration of honeybees could shift the make-up of native vegetation in a region. They also pollinate invasive weeds such as gorselantana and scotch broom, which are particularly expensive to control in the wake of bushfires.

When the varroa mite breached New Zealand, feral honeybees declined by about 90% within a few years. However, there’s limited information about the ecological benefits of this, because the data was not collected while the focus was on agricultural industry impact.

It’s also worth noting that knocking down feral honeybees could also be good for the honeybee industry, as feral honeybees are a recognised competitor with commercial ones.

Making The Best Decision

Questions about trading-off potential agricultural costs for environmental benefits are difficult to answer. This is, in part, because any environmental benefits gained from reducing a widespread threat are usually indirect, such as flow-on effects of increased ecosystem health.

Another reason is because markets are well established for agricultural products and services, but they’re usually missing or only just forming for ecosystem services (such as flood control, water supply and quality, and cultural values).

To calculate the economic benefit of reducing feral honeybees, we first must put a value on the services natural ecosystems provide.

While some steps have been made, progress on implementation has been slow for the last decade. So far, we’ve predominately put values on ecosystem services from discrete natural assets, such as the Great Barrier Reef, which contributed an estimated $6.4 billion in 2015-2016 to Australia’s economy.

In the case of the varroa mite, we have known the potential for opportunities and costs from a likely invasion for more than a decade. But the focus has been on preventing the invasion to protect agriculture, because we’re mostly concerned about the industry’s direct benefits and impacts.

There have been no estimations of the economic benefits of using the mite as an environmental biocontrol to lower feral honeybee populations, even though our New Zealand friends did suggest, in a paper, we prepare ourselves.

We may successfully eradicate the varroa mite’s recent incursion to the relief of agriculture and beekeepers. But given the near inevitability of the mite establishing in Australia, we must invest in better understanding the holistic economics of keeping a potentially very important biocontrol out of the country.The Conversation

Patrick O'Connor, Associate Professor, University of Adelaide

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

Australia can help ensure the biggest mine in PNG’s history won’t leave a toxic legacy

Michael MainAustralian National University

The COVID pandemic slowed mining activity across the Pacific. But as economic activity returns, an Australia-based company is poised to pursue what would be the largest mine in Papua New Guinea’s history.

The vast gold and copper project, known as the Frieda River mine, would also include a hydroelectric plant and a dam with a storage capacity for around 4.6 billion tonnes of mine tailings and waste rock.

The project is awaiting approval by the PNG government. However, locals, conservationists and experts say it could cause catastrophic harm to one of the world’s most important river systems and should not proceed as proposed.

Australia is PNG’s largest development partner. As resource extraction expands across the Pacific, the new Labor government is well placed to help our neighbours ensure mining activity doesn’t harm people or the environment.

man prepares food over fire
The project threatens catastrophic harm to one of the world’s most important river systems, and the people who depend on it. Shutterstock

Remote, Unstable Terrain

The Frieda River mine is proposed by Brisbane-based, Chinese-owned company Pan Aust.

The project centres on the Frieda River copper-gold deposit located in the tropical mountain ranges of northwest PNG.

The river flows into the Sepik River Basin, one of the world’s great river systems. It’s the largest unpolluted freshwater system in New Guinea and among the largest freshwater basins in the Asia-Pacific.

The Frieda River deposit was discovered in the 1960s. It lies in extremely remote terrain, along the Pacific Ring of Fire which is prone to seismic activity.

The mine would produce tailings (or waste materials) containing sulphide, which turns into sulphuric acid when exposed to oxygen. For this reason, the tailings must be permanently covered by water.

The proposed mine’s location, high in the mountains, means a tailings accident could devastate the entire Sepik River Basin.

About 430,000 people depend on the Sepik River and nearby forests for their livelihood. The proposal has galvanised massive opposition from both locals and others.

people in boat on grey river
Villagers travelling along PNG’s Fly River which is choked by tailings from the Ok Tedi mine. Author provided

Downplaying The Risks

In 2020, ten independent experts including myself, were commissioned by PNG’s Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights to individually review the project’s “environmental impact statement”. The work was undertaken pro bono.

I’m an experienced gold exploration geologist and environmental scientist. In my review, I found the statement downplayed or obscured the proposal’s extraordinary level of risk.

First, it omitted a report by design engineers that analysed the extreme consequences of dam failure.

Second, the main report failed to mention the dam would need an intensive inspection and maintenance regime “in perpetuity”. In other words, a potentially toxic dam in a remote part of a very poor country requires highly skilled and experienced professionals to maintain it – not just for the 33-year life of the mine, but forever.

Our reports prompted a group of UN Special Rapporteurs to write letters of concern to the governments of PNG, Australia, China and Canada, where companies involved in the joint venture have ties.

The letters said the mine’s development appeared to “disregard the human rights of those affected … given the nature of the project it could undermine the rights of Sepik children to life, health, culture, and a healthy environment, including the rights of unborn generations.”

The Conversation contacted Pan Aust for a response to these claims. In a statement, the company said it was “respectfully engaged in the Government of Papua New Guinea’s approvals process” and as such, it was inappropriate to provide a public comment.

villagers sit in hall
The UN said the mine’s development seemed to disregard the human rights of those affected. Shutterstock

New Safeguards Are Needed

Inadequate consideration of a mine’s social and environmental impact is rife cross the Pacific. And PNG provides many examples of the catastrophes that can result.

Tailings from BHP’s ill-fated Ok-Tedi mine, located in the same mountain range as the proposed Frieda River mine, severely damaged nearby rivers.

And environmental damage from the Panguna copper mine was a key factor in community unrest and the Bougainville civil war.

Recent research into governance of mining in PNG found government agencies were under-resourced, leaving “companies as effectively self-regulating”.

Proponents of mining in PNG frequently cite its contribution to economic development. But for the benefits to be realised, resources must be extracted in a way that is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.

large open cut mine
The Panguna copper mine, which triggered major civil unrest. Ilya Gridneff/AAP

New laws are needed to ensure resource extraction projects in PNG don’t cause long-lasting social and environmental damage. This should include mandatory, transparent and independent reviews of projects.

Australia has extensive experience with environmental regulation of mining projects and can assist in this regard. Such assistance should be delivered in a way that strengthens relations between Australia and PNG, and empowers and equips the smaller nation.

Sustainable development for our Pacific neighbours is in Australia’s strategic interests. Australian companies often benefit significantly from resource extraction in PNG, creating an extra responsibility to ensure better outcomes.The Conversation

Michael Main, Visiting Scholar, Australian National University

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

Coastal gentrification in Puerto Rico is displacing people and damaging mangroves and wetlands

Tourism-driven development is threatening one of Puerto Rico’s greatest draws: its rural coastlines. R9 Studios FL/FlickrCC BY
Carlos G. García-QuijanoUniversity of Rhode Island and Hilda LlorénsUniversity of Rhode Island

As world travel rebounds after two years of COVID-19 shutdowns and restrictions, marketers and the media are promoting Puerto Rico as an accessible hot spot destination for continental U.S. travelers. The commonwealth set a visitor record in 2021, and it is expanding tourism-related development to continue wooing travelers away from more exotic destinations.

Tourism income is central to Puerto Rico’s economy, especially in the wake of heavy damage from Hurricane Maria in 2017. But it comes at a cost: destruction of mangroves, wetlands and other coastal areas. Puerto Rico is no stranger to resort construction, but now widespread small-scale projects to meet demand for rentals on platforms like Airbnb are adding to concerns about coastal gentrification and touristification.

As scholars who study anthropology and coastal communities, we believe it is important to understand what Puerto Rico is losing in the quest for ever-increasing tourist business. For the rural coastal communities where we do our research, habitat is tied to residents’ cultural identity and economic well-being.

For the last two decades, we have documented how many rural Puerto Ricans’ lives are inextricably linked to coastal forests and wetland habitats. These communities often are poor, neglected by the state and disproportionately affected by pollution and noxious industries. Decisions about the future of the coast too often are made without accounting for human impacts.

By law, all beaches on Puerto Rico are public, but many people say construction threatens the island’s natural resources.

Once-Scorned Areas Are Now In Demand

Estuaries and coastal forests are some of Earth’s most biodiverse and productive ecosystems. Millions of people rely on mangroves and coastal wetlands to make a living.

Around the world, these areas are under stress from climate change, tourism and luxury residential development. But these zones weren’t always prized so highly.

In Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the Americas, wetlands historically were seen as undesirable and even dangerous places to live and work. They often were settled by the poor and dispossessed, most notably Afro-descendant people and Indigenous communities, who made livings fishing, foraging, harvesting coconuts, cutting wood and making charcoal.

In the early 20th century, however, tropical coasts started attracting attention from the global leisure class. In 1919, the Vanderbilt Hotel opened in San Juan, followed in 1949 by the massive Caribe Hilton resort – the first Hilton hotel outside the continental U.S., built in partnership with the Puerto Rican government. Many more hotels followed, along with casinos and golf courses.

Today, Puerto Rico’s rural coastal communities have to compete for space and resources against tourism development, gentrification, urbanization, industry and conservation. Often these uses are not compatible with local lifestyles.

For example, people from communities near mangrove forests, like Las Mareas in southern Puerto Rico, are no longer permitted to harvest small amounts of mangrove wood to build traditional fishing boats. At the same time, they see wealthy residents and developers destroying entire tracts of mangrove forest with impunity. Some coastal communities are starting to push back.

Beaches Are For The People

In March 2022, Eliezer Molina, an environmental activist, engineer and 2020 gubernatorial candidate, posted an exposé on YouTube of the illegal cutting and filling of a mangrove shoreline in the Las Mareas neighborhood in Salinas’ Jobos Bay. As Puerto Rico’s second-largest estuary and only Federal Estuarine Reserve, the bay is an important and sensitive habitat for birds, turtles and manatees, and a nursery for many types of fish.

Wealthy Puerto Ricans clandestinely developed this waterfront site for weekend homes. Residents of Las Mareas had been alerting local authorities for well over a decade about destruction of the mangroves, to no avail. Federal authorities and Puerto Rico’s Justice Department are now conducting a criminal investigation of the illegal construction.

Beach homes under construction in a forested area.
Construction at the Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, in Salinas, Puerto Rico, May 3, 2022. Puerto Rico’s Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation into destruction in the ecological reserve. AP Photo/Carlos Giusti

This case led to widespread public outrage about similar instances around the archipelago. Puerto Ricans are condemning local government agencies online and in person for what they describe as incompetence, corruption and a lack of monitoring and oversight.

One hot-button issue is privatization and destruction of the Zona Marítimo Terrestre, or Terrestrial Maritime Zone. This area is legally defined as “Puerto Rico’s coastal space that is bordered by the sea’s ebb and flow” – that is, between the low and high tide or up to the highest point of the surf zone. It includes beaches, mangroves and other coastal wetlands, and is publicly owned.

Protest poster in Spanish on a wall in a small local market
A poster in a seafood market in the village of Pozuelo, Guayama, reads ‘Stop the destruction and privatization of the coasts.’ Hilda LlorensCC BY-ND

Activists are urging Gov. Pedro Pierluisi to declare a comprehensive moratorium on all coastal construction, a demand the governor calls “excessive.” A popular protest slogan, “Las playas son del pueblo!” (“Beaches belong to the people”), aptly summarizes popular feeling.

Overlooked Value

Coastal development generates a lot of money in Puerto Rico, but what is gained by conserving these areas for use by local communities? In research that we carried out in 2010-2013 and 2016-2021, we found that coastal resources provide many benefits for local residents that are not easily replaced.

Our results show that about one-third of households in these communities rely on coastal goods for at least part of their income, while more than two-thirds rely on them as food sources. Local harvesters supply family-owned seafood restaurants with foods such as land crabs, helping to attract economic activity to the coast.

Religious-themed murals commonly illustrate the importance of productive coasts for seaside Puerto Rican communities. Hilda LlorensCC BY-ND

We also found that residents rely more heavily on local coastal foods during times of severe economic stress, such as recessions and natural disasters. In the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and María, for example, many residents in the southern towns of Salinas and Santa Isabel harvested unusually abundant land crabs when it was hard to find other foods. Some even saw this abundance as divine restitution for the suffering the storm inflicted on them.

Local economies in these communities consist mainly of small-scale, community-based transactions that include gifting, bartering and selling. Their social and economic impacts often go unnoticed and are underestimated in official economic accounts, so they aren’t reflected in decisions about coastal development. But as our work shows, coastal ecosystems are ecologically, economically and socially productive places.

In 2010, we asked people living along Puerto Rico’s southern coast: “What would your community look like without access to the mangrove and its bounties?” The owner of a family restaurant, replied: “The answer is easy. Without access to coastal resources, this community would be dead and sad.”The Conversation

Carlos G. García-Quijano, Professor of Anthropology and Marine Affairs, University of Rhode Island and Hilda Lloréns, Associate Professor, Anthropology & Marine Affairs, University of Rhode Island

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

Here’s how to meet Biden’s 2030 climate goals and dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions – with today’s technology

Clean energy and electric vehicles are key to a successful energy transition. NREL
John ReillyMassachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Unprecedented forest fires in the drought-stricken western United States. Tropical storms and rising seas threatening the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. Sizzling heat across large swaths of the country. As climate change unfolds before our eyes, what can the U.S. do to sharply and rapidly reduce its share of the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing it?

The Biden administration has committed to reduce those emissions 50% by 2030 below 2005 levels. That’s a critical first step of a global energy transition that must achieve net-zero emissions by midcentury to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 F) and thereby avert the worst impacts of climate change.

Twenty years ago, I would have regarded the U.S. 2030 pledge as crazy talk. But a new study in the journal Science that I co-authored, which compares results from six independent analyses conducted by academic, industry and nongovernmental organization researchers, lays out a road map to the 50% target that’s both doable and affordable.

So, what’s changed since the early 2000s?

Two EVs being charged in a driveway
Ramping up renewable energy production is crucial for the shift to electric vehicles to pay off. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Back then it seemed that without major policy measures, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions would continue to rise indefinitely. However, inexpensive natural gas and falling costs of solar and wind power, combined with some modest state and federal renewable energy programs, resulted in a more than 20% reduction in annual emissions between 2005 and 2020.

With that reduction under our belts, reaching the 2030 target will require a further reduction of about 37% from current levels. That puts the target closer, but it’s still a bigger drop in 10 years than the U.S. achieved over the past 15 years.

Our study shows that by exploiting declining costs of zero- and low-carbon energy sources in a more aggressive and focused way, the U.S. can meet its target within eight years – all while substantially reducing its dependence on fossil fuels, including high-priced gasoline, and cutting back the air pollution, climate and health impacts resulting from their combustion.

A New Road Map For The US Energy Transition

While there are differences among the six analyses in our study, all find that most of the needed emissions reductions – about 70% to 90% – can come from the electric power and transportation sectors. These can be achieved through a further transition to solar and wind power as costs for those technologies continue to drop.

Solar and wind can’t do it all; we found that natural gas – some of it accompanied by technology that captures the carbon emissions released during its combustion – and nuclear power and hydropower can play supporting roles.

Much of the needed emissions reductions – about 10% to 25% – can be achieved through a rapid transition to electric light-duty vehicles along with additional reductions from freight transportation. Our study shows that electric vehicles, which accounted for about 4% of new car sales in the U.S. in 2021, would need to rise to between 34% and 100% of sales by 2030 to meet that target. That’s a huge jump. But it now appears that battery costs have fallen enough to allow production of EVs at a cost equivalent to that of conventional vehicles. Moreover, EVs are typically cheaper to operate and maintain, further reducing total ownership costs.

While our study finds that most of the needed emission reductions can come from electric power and transportation, other sectors of the economy – including industry, agriculture and buildings – must also shift to low- and zero-carbon energy sources to meet the 2030 goal. The key challenges for these sectors include developing technology to eliminate emissions from energy-intensive processes, such as chemical, iron and steel production, and retrofitting existing homes and businesses with electric heat pumps in a timely manner.

That’s a lot to accomplish in just eight years. It will require an unprecedented buildout of electric power production and transmission capacity, a rapid ramp-up of electric vehicle production and sales, and a nationwide deployment of EV recharging stations.

Climate And Health Benefits

At the same time, by helping to avoid the worst effects of climate change, implementing this road map would reduce the national cost of damage from climate change while encouraging innovation. And significantly reducing air pollution resulting from fossil fuel combustion would also reduce related health costs.

For example, the smog produced by fossil fuel combustion exacerbates asthma and related respiratory diseases, leading to premature deaths. Some of the six analyses we reviewed found that the reduction in premature deaths – which equate to lost productivity and additional health costs – from reduced fine particulates in the air was by itself enough to offset the cost of implementing the U.S. energy transition road map described in the study.

Policy Options

Given the scale and pace of the transformations needed to reach the U.S. 2030 climate target, action must be taken immediately and sustained throughout the decade to succeed. Many states have already made strong commitments and implemented policies to achieve them, but a coordinated national strategy is needed.

The six analyses we reviewed assume different combinations of strategies, including tax incentives, subsidies, regulations and carbon pricing. Each approach has its pluses and minuses, but any successful policy must focus on affordable and equitable solutions and recognize that one size does not fit all. For example, transportation solutions in rural areas will likely differ from those appropriate in dense urban areas, and new construction may sometimes be more cost-effective than retrofitting older buildings.

The Biden administration’s proposed way forward, the Build Back Better plan targeting funding to help communities build resilience to the impacts of climate change and expand clean energy, is stalled in Congress. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking.The Conversation

John Reilly, Co-Director Emeritus of the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, Senior Lecturer Emeritus at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

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

Pittwater Reserves: Histories + Notes + Pictorial Walks

A History Of The Campaign For Preservation Of The Warriewood Escarpment by David Palmer OAM and Angus Gordon OAM
America Bay Track Walk - photos by Joe Mills
An Aquatic June: North Narrabeen - Turimetta - Collaroy photos by Joe Mills 
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 Beach by Barbara Davies
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
Duck Holes: McCarrs Creek by Joe Mills
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
Resolute Track at West Head by Kevin Murray
Resolute Track Stroll by Joe Mills
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
Tranquil Turimetta Beach, April 2022 by Joe Mills
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
Wilshire Park Palm Beach: Some History + Photos From May 2022
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 -

Art Competition To Remember Our ANZACS

June 24, 2022
Students across NSW are encouraged to get creative as the NSW Government together with RSL NSW launches an art competition to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the RSL and Schools Remember ANZAC Commemoration next year.

Minister for Education and Early Learning Sarah Mitchell is encouraging students to speak to their school and submit a design that will feature on the 2023 program and at an exhibition at the Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park.

“The NSW Government and the Department of Education has co-hosted this service with RSL NSW for 70 years, and we want to acknowledge this anniversary with a commemorative program to which the students in New South Wales can contribute,” Ms Mitchell said.

“I invite any student across all three education sectors to participate and have the opportunity to be selected to have their artwork featured on the 2023 service program.”

Minister for Transport and Veterans David Elliott said the annual commemoration at the Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park aims to educate and encourage younger Australians to learn about Australia’s military history, whilst paying respect to the service and sacrifice of servicemen and servicewomen. 

“This art competition is a great way for students in New South Wales to learn about our military history and design an artwork that reflects what it means to them. It could be about a family member who served in World War One, or a symbol of their service to our nation,” Mr Elliott said.

“The annual RSL and Schools Remember ANZAC proceedings are incomparable, as they’re delivered entirely by school students including the Master of Ceremonies, keynote address, readings, and musical accompaniment.”

RSL NSW President Ray James said it was critical for the RSL to work with the Department of Education to ensure school students understood why Australians commemorated the service and sacrifice of those who have served in the Australian Defence Force.

“Commemorating significant moments in our military history is vital to Australia, as a people, a community, and a nation. RSL NSW takes this responsibility incredibly seriously as the custodians of the Anzac spirit. Future generations should never forget that the freedom they enjoy in Australia has been protected by the men and women who served in our armed and allied forces.” Mr James said.

The RSL and Schools Remember ANZAC Commemoration was first held in 1953, co-hosted by RSL NSW and the Department of Education. Over the years the service has expanded to Catholic Schools NSW and the Association of Independent Schools NSW.

16 September 2022: Submissions close

Large Triassic Amphibian Tracks At Northern Sydney Beach

Published June 24, 2022 by Pittwater Pathways

Paul Cronk cracked the jackpot with his latest fossil find. It will soon be subject to intense expert analysis - expect to hear more about it. 

Paracyclotosaurus (meaning "Near Wheeled Lizard") is an extinct genus of temnospondyl amphibian, which would have appeared similar to today's salamander – but much larger, at up to 2.3 metres (7.5 ft) long. It lived in the Middle Triassic period, about 235 million years ago, and fossils have been found in Australia, India, and South Africa.

Although they could live on dry land, Paracyclotosaurus probably spent most of its time in water. They had flattened bodies and elongated heads, almost 60 centimetres (2 ft) long, that vaguely resembled those of modern crocodiles.

The type species P. davidi is only known from one complete specimen recovered from Australia. It was discovered by quarry miners in a brick pit in St. Peters in Sydney, New South Wales. The discovery, made in 1910, was from a large ironstone nodule within Ashfield Shale which contained the nearly complete skeleton. The reconstruction was finished in July 1914, and was initially determined to be closely related to Cyclotosaurus. The original bone of the P. davidi holotype specimen was in very bad condition, but after the bone was removed from the hard ironstone matrix, casts were made from the matrix mold, and a mould was made from those casts. Casts of the original bone show a fair amount of detail.

Paracyclotosaurus davidi - giant temnospondyl from Late Triassic of Australia. Image Creator: Dmitry Bogdanov 

Paracyclotosaurus davidii was named after Sir Edgeworth David, the man who arranged for the British Museum (Natural History) to acquire the specimen.

Word Of The Week: Winter

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

noun; the coldest season of the year, in the northern hemisphere from December to February and in the southern hemisphere from June to August.

adjective; (of fruit) ripening late in the year.

verb; (especially of a bird) spend the winter in a particular place - "birds wintering in the Channel Islands"

From; winter, coldest season of the year, between autumn and spring; the name comes from an old Germanic word that means “time of water” and refers to the rain and snow of winter in middle and high latitudes according to some sources. Others state the English word winter comes from the Proto-Germanic noun *wintru-, whose origin is unclear. Several proposals exist, a commonly mentioned one connecting it to the Proto-Indo-European root *wed- 'water' or a nasal infix variant *wend-

Compare; As an adjective in Old English. The Anglo-Saxons counted years in "winters," as in Old English ænetre "one-year-old;" and wintercearig, which might mean either "winter-sad" or "sad with years." Old Norse Vetrardag, first day of winter, was the Saturday that fell between Oct. 10 and 16. winter (v.) and gheim- Proto-Indo-European root meaning "winter."  It forms all or part of: chimera; chiono-; hiemal; hibernacle; hibernal; hibernate; hibernation; Himalaya.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by:  Sanskrit heman "in winter;" Hittite gimmant-, Armenian jmern, Greek kheima, Latin hiems, Old Church Slavonic zima, Lithuanian žiema "winter;" Greek khion "snow."

Ash Barty's Mindset Coach Ben Crowe On Redefining Success = Learning To Love Yourself: 

The ABC's 7.30 Report with Leigh Sales, ran June 29, 2022- please watch this - there are some great and 100% true messages in this - Ed. xxx

This giant kangaroo once roamed New Guinea – descended from an Australian ancestor that migrated millions of years ago

Illustration by Peter SchoutenAuthor provided
Isaac Alan Robert KerrFlinders University

Long ago, almost up until the end of the last ice age, a peculiar giant kangaroo roamed the mountainous rainforests of New Guinea.

Now, research to be published on Thursday by myself and colleagues suggests this kangaroo was not closely related to modern Australian kangaroos. Rather, it represents a previously unknown type of primitive kangaroo unique to New Guinea.

The Age Of Megafauna

Australia used to be home to all manner of giant animals called megafauna, until most of them went extinct about 40,000 years ago. These megafauna lived alongside animals we now consider characteristic of the Australian bush – kangaroos, koalas, crocodiles and the like – but many were larger species of these.

There were giant wombats called Phascolonus, 2.5-metre-tall short-faced kangaroos, and the 3-tonne Diprotodon optatum (the largest marsupial ever). In fact, some Australian megafaunal species, such as the red kangaroo, emu and cassowary, survive through to the modern day.

The fossil megafauna of New Guinea are considerably less well-studied than those of Australia. But despite being shrouded in mystery, New Guinea’s fossil record has given us hints of fascinating and unusual animals whose evolutionary stories are entwined with Australia’s.

Palaeontologists have done sporadic expeditions and fossil digs in New Guinea, including digs by American and Australian researchers in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.

It was during an archaeological excavation in the early 1970s, led by Mary-Jane Mountain, that two jaws of an extinct giant kangaroo were unearthed. A young researcher (now professor) named Tim Flannery called the species Protemnodon nombe.

The fossils Flannery described are about 20,000–50,000 years old. They come from the Nombe Rockshelter, an archaeological and palaeontological site in the mountains of central Papua New Guinea. This site also delivered fossils of another kangaroo and giant four-legged marsupials called diprotodontids.

An Unexpected Discovery

Flinders University Professor Gavin Prideaux and I recently re-examined the fossils of Protemnodon nombe and found something unexpected. This strange kangaroo was not a species of the genus Protemnodon, which used to live all over Australia, from the Kimberley to Tasmania. It was something a lot more primitive and unknown.

In particular, its unusual molars with curved enamel crests set it apart from all other known kangaroos. We moved the species into a brand new genus unique to New Guinea and (very creatively) renamed it Nombe nombe.

A 3D surface scan of a specimen of Nombe nombe, specifically a fossilised lower jaw from central Papua New Guinea. (Courtesy of Papua New Guinea Museum and Art Gallery, Port Moresby).

Our findings show Nombe may have evolved from an ancient form of kangaroo that migrated into New Guinea from Australia in the late Miocene epoch, some 5–8 million years ago.

In those days, the islands of New Guinea and Australia were connected by a land bridge due to lower sea levels – whereas today they’re separated by the Torres Strait.

This “bridge” allowed early Australian mammals, including megafauna, to migrate to New Guinea’s rainforests. When the Torres Strait flooded again, these animal populations became disconnected from their Australian relatives and evolved separately to suit their tropical and mountainous New Guinean home.

We now consider Nombe to be the descendant of one of these ancient lineages of kangaroos. The squat, muscular animal lived in a diverse mountainous rainforest with thick undergrowth and a closed canopy. It evolved to eat tough leaves from trees and shrubs, which gave it a thick jawbone and strong chewing muscles.

The species is currently only known from two fossil lower jaws. And much more remains to be discovered. Did Nombe hop like modern kangaroos? Why did it go extinct?

As is typical of palaeontology, one discovery inspires an entire host of new questions.

Strange But Familiar Animals

Little of the endemic animal life of New Guinea is known outside of the island, even though it is very strange and very interesting. Very few Australians have much of an idea of what’s there, just over the strait.

When I went to the Papua New Guinea Museum in Port Moresby early in my PhD, I was thrilled by the animals I encountered. There are several living species of large, long-nosed, worm-eating echidna – one of which weighs up to 15 kilograms.

Author Isaac Kerr poses for a photo, holding an Australian giant kangaroo jaw in his left hand
I’m excited to start digging in New Guinea’s rainforests! Author provided

There are also dwarf cassowaries and many different wallaby, tree kangaroo and possum species that don’t exist in Australia – plus many more in the fossil record.

We tend to think of these animals as being uniquely Australian, but they have other intriguing forms in New Guinea.

As an Australian biologist, it’s both odd and exhilarating to see these “Aussie” animals that have expanded into new and weird forms in another landscape.

Excitingly for me and my colleagues, Nombe nombe may breathe some new life into palaeontology in New Guinea. We’re part of a small group of researchers that was recently awarded a grant to undertake three digs at two different sites in eastern and central Papua New Guinea over the next three years.

Working with the curators of the Papua New Guinea Museum and other biologists, we hope to inspire young local biology students to study palaeontology and discover new fossil species. If we’re lucky, there may even be a complete skeleton of Nombe nombe waiting for us.The Conversation

Isaac Alan Robert Kerr, PhD Candidate for Palaeontology, Flinders University

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

Meet 5 remarkably old animals, from a Greenland shark to a featherless, seafaring cockatoo

Benjamin MayneCSIRO

Some animals can live to a startlingly old age, from the famous 392-year-old “Greenland shark” to a 190-year-old tortoise in the Seychelles. Two science studies published last week brings us closer to understanding why some animal species can live for so long – far longer than humans.

The first, published in Science, debunked a few theories on why amphibians and reptiles (such as tortoises) live long lives. It found most reptiles and amphibians have highly variable rates of ageing and that, perhaps counter-intuitively, being coldblooded is not indicative of a long lifespan.

The only exception is turtles, which may fit the hypothesis of having a “protective phenotype”, where physical or chemical traits such as shells or venom enable a species to live longer.

The second study, which I was involved in, discovered the age of the world’s oldest aquarium fish: Granddad the lungfish.

Granddad was sent from Australia to Chicago in 1933 and lived in an aquarium until 2017. Our study measured changes in Granddad’s DNA to calculate his age at death. He was 109 years old.

Finding out how long an animal lives for isn’t easy, especially if they can outlive humans. It is well established that ageing is under genetic control, as the DNA sequence of certain genes can predict potential lifespan.

However, environmental pressures – such as getting eaten by a predator or succumbing to disease – can cut life off short, and may explain age differences between closely related species, such as between reptiles in the first study.

Here, I introduce you to five remarkably old animals and the fascinating lives they’ve led.

Granddad The Lungfish

Age: 109 years

Species: Australian lungfish (Neoceratodus forsteri)

Granddad the lungfish, who lived to 109 years old. ©Shedd Aquarium

The world’s oldest lived aquarium fish is Granddad, the Australian lungfish. In our recent study, we used a DNA-based method to determine that Granddad was 109 years old when he died.

He lived a remarkable life. In 1933, Granddad made the 20-day voyage from Australia to the Chicago World’s Fair in the United States, where more than 100 million people visited him in the John G. Shedd Aquarium.

As its name suggests, Australian lungfish have the unique ability to breathe air from a single lung during dry spells, when streams become stagnant or water quality becomes poor.

The species, now endangered, has a deeply ancient lineage. Indeed, the Australian Lungfish is the closest living relative to all land-based “tetrapods” – four-limbed animals including frogs, humans, and even dinosaurs.

To find out Granddad’s age, we used a test that looks at “epigenetic” changes in the DNA, which occur from environmental changes and accumulate over a lifetime.

In fact, our study also identified the sub-population in Queensland Granddad came from. We learned Granddad originally came from the Burnett River, one of three rivers in Queensland home to Australian lungfish.

Cocky Bennett The Cockatoo

Age: 119 years

Species: sulphur-crested cockatoo (Cacatua galerita)

A rare photo of Cocky Bennett, aged 117. Aussie~mobs/Flickr

Another long-lived Australian animal was a sulphur-crested cockatoo named Cocky Bennett, who lived to 119.

Cocky lived at the Sea Breeze Hotel in Blakehurst, New South Wales, and even had a tribute written in the newspaper in 1916 when he died.

According to the tribute, Cocky would often say “one at time gentlemen, please” when other birds harassed him, and “one feather more and I’ll fly”. But due to a disease, Cocky was almost featherless for the last two decades of his exceptionally long life, and had a long, curved and twisted beak.

Prior to ruling the Sea Breeze Hotel, Cocky Bennett is thought to have accompanied a ship captain on his seafaring journeys for 78 years, and reportedly circled the globe seven times.

The Animal Ageing and Longevity Database report a much shorter lifespan for sulphur-crested cockatoos in the wild at 57 years. But in captivity, they can live as long as humans.

This is where researchers need to be careful, as lifespans are often longer for animals in captivity than would naturally occur in the wild.

Jonathan The Tortoise

Age: 190 years

Species: Seychelles giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea hololissa)

Jonathan the Seychelles giant tortoise, at 190, currently holds the record for the oldest living land animal.

It’s estimated he hatched in 1832 in the Seychelles Islands. When he was around 50 years old, Jonathan was transported to St Helena, a remote island in the South Atlantic Ocean, and gifted to the St Helena governor. Jonathan has not only outlived the governor, but has seen 31 different governors hold office.

Photograph of St Helena resident tortoise Jonathan (left) around 1900. WikimediaCC BY-SA

As the new study on reptiles and amphibians hypothesised, tortoises may be long-lived due to their extra protection from their shells. A lack of predators may also play an important role. For example, Galapagos giant tortoises can live to over 100 and are free from any natural predators.

The Greenland Shark

Age: 392 years

Species: Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus)

The species, the Greenland shark, is thought to be the longest-lived animal with a backbone. We know only little about Greenland sharks. But a 2016 study used radiocarbon dating and found one to be 392 years old.

The authors also estimated that Greenland sharks don’t reach sexual maturity until 156 years old.

Living deep in the cold waters of the Arctic and North Atlantic oceans, these iconic sharks are also one of the slowest growing, at a rate of around 1 centimetre per year. Yet, these ocean giants can reach over 5 metres in length.

We know only little about Greenland sharks, including how long they can live for. It’s thought freezing polar waters may play a role in their longevity as it may slow down their metabolism.

Ming The Clam

Age: 507 years

Species: ocean quahog (Arctica islandica)

The left valve of Ming the clam. WikimediaCC BY-SA

The ocean quahog is the world’s longest-lived species, with many reaching over 400 years. As a clam (or marine bivalve mollusk), it’s the only invertebrate on our list. Just like the Greenland shark, this species also lives in the cold waters of the North Atlantic Ocean.

One ocean quahog called “Ming” lived for 507 years. He was named after the Chinese dynasty in power when he was born in 1499, and was discovered off the coast of Iceland. His age was confirmed by counting growth bands on its shell, in the same way you’d count the rings of a tree.

Little is known to why ocean quahogs live for so long but, similar to the Greenland shark, it’s thought the colder waters may have a role in its long lifespan. The Conversation

Benjamin Mayne, Molecular biologist and bioinformatician, CSIRO

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

The literary life of Frank Moorhouse, a giant of Australian letters

Frank Moorhouse (1938-2022). Random House
Julieanne LamondAustralian National University

Frank Moorhouse, who died in Sydney on Sunday, made a significant and multi-faceted contribution to Australia’s literary life.

He was born in 1938 in Nowra, which he described as “a small Australian country town (two weekly newspapers but no public library)”. At the age of 17, he became a cadet journalist at the Sydney Morning Herald. His career as a fiction writer began – as do those of many writers today – by publishing short stories in literary journals: Southerly, Overland and Westerly.

In the 1970s, Moorhouse became known as one of Australia’s foremost experimentalists in fiction, working with discontinuous and fragmented narratives in his short-story collections Futility and Other Animals (1966), The Americans, Baby (1972), and The Electrical Experience (1974).

This was the period that saw Moorhouse join a flourishing community of writers living and working Sydney’s Balmain, including David Williamson, Murray Bail, Peter Carey, Vicki Viidikas, Bob Adamson, and others. Moorhouse claimed that Salman Rushdie was also temporarily part of the gang.

In 1972, with Carmel Kelly and Michael Wilding, Moorhouse co-founded the magazine Tabloid Story, “as a traveling exhibit for the short story”. Its mission was resist established modes of fictional realism, especially those that predominated in Australia.

This resistance included a willingness to write about sex. The Brisbane Vice Squad received complaints about one of the stories Moorhouse published in the first issue of the magazine and subsequently seized all copies from the University of Queensland campus.

Frank Moorhouse signs copies of Cold Light, the third book in his Edith Campbell Berry trilogy, Sydney, November 2011. Mosman LibraryCC BY-SA

Throughout his career Moorhouse wrote explicitly and shamelessly about sex, especially in relation to fluid gender and sexual identities. He described himself as bisexual. He is one of the most high-profile queer Australian writers of his generation, unusual in that he has long written publicly about his sexuality.

Sexuality was one lens for Moorhouse’s longstanding and shifting relationship with Henry Lawson, and The Drover’s Wife in particular. The explicitly satirical take of his 1980 story was eventually replaced by the appreciative and autobiographical approach of The Drover’s Wife: A Celebration of a Great Australian Love Affair (2017). In this late work, Moorhouse speculates about Lawson’s sexuality as a prompt to think back on his own sexual history.

Although he steadfastly espoused the pleasures of the good life, Moorhouse worked to advance the interests of Australian writers. He held positions as union organiser for the Workers Education Association and the Australian Journalists Association. He was president of the Australian Society of Authors from 1981 to 1983.

Moorhouse was also actively involved in campaigns to protect the conditions under which authors worked in Australia. He was the plaintiff in a high-profile court case protecting authors’ copyright (University of NSW v Moorhouse, 1975). He spoke out about the parlous state of financial support for the literary arts in Australia, campaigned against censorship, and published a book-length account of ASIO’s surveillance of Australian citizens.

Moorhouse’s most significant achievement is the “Edith” triology: Grand Days (1993), Dark Palace (2000) and Cold Light (2011). These three novels are the most sustained and successful fictional engagement with the world of politics and international relations in Australian literary history.

“Politics is narrative, a fiction,” Moorhouse wrote in in 1981. The Edith novels dramatise the affective life of politics in heartbreaking detail. Edith Campbell Berry is a wonderfully engaging and flawed protagonist: a young Australian woman who sets her sights on the League of Nations and whose development as a person becomes inextricably bound up with the fortunes of that institution.

The novels trace Edith’s investment in the successes and failures of international cooperation – and her relationship with the gender-fluid diplomat Ambrose Westwood – in a way that enables the reader to understand something of how personal life and political commitment can be intertwined.

The career of Frank Moorhouse was marked by earnestness and experimentation, political commitment and irreverence. His old-school cosmopolitanism saw Grand Days controversially ruled ineligible for the Miles Franklin Award in 1994, on the grounds that it did not meet the criterion that it represented “Australian life”. Its sequel, Dark Palace, went on to win the award in 2000.

Moorhouse produced a huge body of work: autobiographical and journalistic pieces, short stories, collections, nonfiction books and novels. He was made a member of the Order of Australia in 1985 for his services to literature.

In an essay published in Meanjin in 2017, Moorhouse wondered

how a young man from an Australian country town could identify and aspire to belong to a way of life called “literary”?

Moorhouse set the example himself. Over the course of his long career, he changed the nature of Australian writing, worked to improve conditions for authors, and delighted his many readers: a life called “literary” indeed.The Conversation

Julieanne Lamond, Senior Lecturer in English, Australian National University

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

Facial recognition is on the rise – but the law is lagging a long way behind

Mark AndrejevicMonash University and Gavin JD SmithAustralian National University

Private companies and public authorities are quietly using facial recognition systems around Australia.

Despite the growing use of this controversial technology, there is little in the way of specific regulations and guidelines to govern its use.

Spying On Shoppers

We were reminded of this fact recently when consumer advocates at CHOICE revealed that major retailers in Australia are using the technology to identify people claimed to be thieves and troublemakers.

There is no dispute about the goal of reducing harm and theft. But there is also little transparency about how this technology is being used.

CHOICE found that most people have no idea their faces are being scanned and matched to stored images in a database. Nor do they know how these databases are created, how accurate they are, and how secure the data they collect is.

As CHOICE discovered, the notification to customers is inadequate. It comes in the form of small, hard-to-notice signs in some cases. In others, the use of the technology is announced in online notices rarely read by customers.

The companies clearly don’t want to draw attention to their use of the technology or to account for how it is being deployed.

Police Are Eager

Something similar is happening with the use of the technology by Australian police. Police in New South Wales, for example, have embarked on a “low-volume” trial of a nationwide face-recognition database. This trial took place despite the fact that the enabling legislation for the national database has not yet been passed.

In South Australia, controversy over Adelaide’s plans to upgrade its CCTV system with face-recognition capability led the city council to vote not to purchase the necessary software. The council has also asked South Australia Police not to use face-recognition technology until legislation is in place to govern its use.

However, SA Police have indicated an interest in using the technology.

In a public statement, the police described the technology as a potentially useful tool for criminal investigations. The statement also noted:

There is no legislative restriction on the use of facial recognition technology in South Australia for investigations.

A Controversial Tool

Adelaide City Council’s call for regulation is a necessary response to the expanding use of automated facial recognition.

This is a powerful technology that promises to fundamentally change our experience of privacy and anonymity. There is already a large gap between the amount of personal information collected about us every day and our own knowledge of how this information is being used, and facial recognition will only make the gap bigger.

Recent events suggest a reluctance on the part of retail outlets and public authorities alike to publicise their use of the technology.

Although it is seen as a potentially useful tool, it can be a controversial one. A world in which remote cameras can identify and track people as they move through public space seems alarmingly Orwellian.

The technology has also been criticised for being invasive and, in some cases, biased and inaccurate. In the US, for example, people have already been wrongly arrested based on matches made by face-recognition systems.

Public Pushback

There has also been widespread public opposition to the use of the technology in some cities and states in the US, which have gone so far as to impose bans on its use.

Surveys show the Australian public have concerns about the invasiveness of the technology, but that there is also support for its potential use to increase public safety and security.

Facial-recognition technology isn’t going away. It’s likely to become less expensive and more accurate and powerful in the near future. Instead of implementing it piecemeal, under the radar, we need to directly confront both the potential harms and benefits of the technology, and to provide clear rules for its use.

What Would Regulations Look Like?

Last year, then human rights commissioner Ed Santow called for a partial ban on the use of facial-recognition technology. He is now developing model legislation for how it might be regulated in Australia.

Any regulation of the technology will need to consider both the potential benefits of its use and the risks to privacy rights and civic life.

It will also need to consider enforceable standards for its proper use. These could include the right to correct inaccurate information, the need to provide human confirmation for automated forms of identification, and the setting of minimum standards of accuracy.

They could also entail improving public consultation and consent around the use of the technology, and a requirement for the performance of systems to be accountable to an independent authority and to those researching the technology.

As the reach of facial recognition expands, we need more public and parliamentary debate to develop appropriate regulations for governing its use.

If you’re in Adelaide, there will be a public forum on regulating facial recognition technology at the Town Hall tonight (Monday, June 27). Ed Santow and his colleague Lauren Perry will present their model legislation, and they will be joined in discussion by South Australian parliamentarian Tammy Franks and Law Society of South Australia president Justin Stewart-Rattray.The Conversation

Mark Andrejevic, Professor, School of Media, Film, and Journalism, Monash University, Monash University and Gavin JD Smith, Associate Professor in Sociology, Australian National University

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

How Japanese avant-garde ceramicists have tested the limits of clay

Nakashima Harumi, born Ena City, Gifu prefecture, 1950, Struggling forms, c2005, Ena City, Gifu prefecture, porcelain, under and overglaze, 66.0 x 49.0 x 43.0 cm. Collection of Raphy Star
Catherine SpeckUniversity of Adelaide

Review: Pure Form, Art Gallery of South Australia.

Japanese art post the second world war is infinitely fascinating. At a time when the country was under Allied occupation and Japan had paid a high price for the war in the Pacific to end, its artists were revelling in new found freedom.

Some of the most interesting work of this era was from avant-garde ceramicists. Their revolution in clay led to them abandoning the Mingei tradition of Japanese folk craft which included making functional vessels such as tea bowls.

In its place, they redefined themselves as artists, placed a premium on individual expression and, as modernists with a Japanese inflection, began producing abstract sculptural ceramics.

Three generations of artists now work in this style, and their stunning work stretching from the late 1940s to 2021 is the subject of the Art Gallery of South Australia’s exhibition Pure Form. The title underscores the shift in ceramics from function to form.

A Delicate And Refined Aesthetic

In a time of often unnamed craftsmen producing humble ceramic objects for everyday use integral to the Mingei tradition, five Kyoto-based ceramicists were abreast of international trends in avant-garde modernism. They formed a group called Sōdeisha, meaning “crawling through the mud association” in 1948.

There was initially a gradual shift to pure form, as seen in Yamada Hikaru’s Glazed jar with sgraffito (scratched decoration) (1951-52). Its shape still alludes to a functional vessel while its sgraffito linework – a decorative technique of incising into pale slip to reveal the clay beneath – is steeped in Korean ceramics.

Suzuki Osamu, born Kyoto 1926, died Kyoto 2001, Square vase on pedestal foot (Koku yū hōko), c.1950-60, Kyoto, stoneware with overglaze, 23.3 x 13.0 cm. Gift of Norman Sparnon 1988, Art Gallery of New South Wales, © Suzuki Osamu, photo: Felicity Jenkins

Other works in the exhibition reference surrealism, such as Square vase on pedestal foot (1950-60) by Sōdeisha member Suzuki Osamu. There are vases devoid of openings, elongated forms negating function, or, as with second-generation Sōdeisha artist Hayashi Hideyuki’s Walk (c. 1980), a minimal geometric form referencing the human body.

A delicate and refined aesthetic underpins the work on show, such as that of Matsutani Fumio, a third-generation artist whose ceramics balance innovation with tradition, as in his Yellow (Ou) (2021). This is a flamboyant extension of the architecture of the tea bowl, replete with beautiful line work.

Matsutani Fumio, born Ehime prefecture 1975, Yellow (Ou), 2021, Ehime prefecture, stoneware, 43.2 x 52.3 x 28.2 cm. Collection of Raphy Star, © Matsutani Fumio, photo: Grant Hancock

In terms of drama, Moriyama Kanjiro’s metallic glazed Kai (Turn) (2020) takes the honours for simulating movement. Its tower-like form is constructed from individual pieces assembled and fired to make a stunning swirling sculpture.

Installation view: Pure Form: Japanese sculptural ceramics, featuring Kai (Turn) VIII. by Moriyama Kanjiro. Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; photo: Saul Steed

Women’s Ceramic Art And The Broader Diaspora

One of the many strengths of this exhibition is its focus on women of the calibre of Tsuboi Asuka, who was instrumental in establishing the Women’s Association of Ceramic Art in Kyoto in 1957.

Women’s rights came to the fore during the occupation, along with suffrage, and women ceramicists gained visibility.

Tsuboi’s three panel work Untitled (c. 2005) delicately inserts Japanese textile patterns in clay, each panel taking on the movement of cloth swaying in the wind.

Another is Tanaka Yu, whose clever wrapped bundles in clay imitate reality. Her Yellow sculpture in the shape of a furoshiki (c. 2108), looking like a beautifully wrapped object complete with a knotted tie, is informed by the ancient Japanese art of cloth wrapping.

Tanaka Yū, born Ehime prefecture 1989, Yellow sculpture in the shape of a furoshiki, c.2018, Kyoto, stoneware, matte glaze, 46.0 x 54.0 x 38.5 cm. Collection of Raphy Star, © Tanaka Yū, photo: Hazuki Kani

Japanese-trained ceramic sculptors now form a diaspora working outside Japan – one is US-based Kaneko Jun in Nebraska, whose large hand-built forms such as Untitled triangle (dango) (2004), employ abstract design features.

Uranishi Kenji is another emigre, based in Brisbane since 2004. His white glazed objects portray the wondrous world of coral in the Great Barrier Reef.

Balancing Tradition And The New

The porcelain sculpture on show is superb. Matsuda Yuriko’s erotically charged foot, In her shoes (c. 2007), with its tightly curled back toes suggesting sexual pleasure, is a stunning piece.

Matsuda Yuriko, born Ashiya, Hyōgō, 1943. In her shoes, c2007, Oshino, Yamanashi prefecture, porcelain, underglaze blue and overglaze enamels, 33.0 x 31.0 x 16.0 cm (foot),2.0 x 41.0 x 33.0 cm (base). Collection of Raphy Star

Her subject is frequently the female body. Here, the decorative surface evokes the patterning of Meiji ceramics while its subject matter sits squarely in the Japanese tradition of shunga, or erotic imagery. Refreshingly, it comes from the perspective of a woman.

Yet another porcelain piece, Struggling forms (c. 2005) by Nakashima Harumi, looks almost octopus-like, but has only two feet. Its twists echo that of a Möbius strip, it looks disarmingly like an impossible form, but achieves perfect balance. The blue colour of the dot patterning harks back to the Japanese tradition of sometsuke which is underglaze painting in cobalt blue on porcelain or stoneware.

In contrast to referencing tradition, Mishima Kimiyo’s ceramic forms in Box Batter -17 (2017) shows bottles in newspaper wrappings in a roughly opened box, very much of their time. Her interest is the imbalance between the human footprint and nature, seen in the detritus of modern life, newspapers, packaging and soft drink bottles littering the environment.

Mishima Kimiyo, born Osaka, Japan,1932, Box Batter -17,2017, Osaka, stoneware, silk screen prints, 22.0 x 31.0 x 25.0 cm (box), 22.5 x 6.5 cm (bottle, each). Collection of Raphy Star

The Limits Of Clay

This is a must-see exhibition.

Its 100 plus artworks by 65 ceramicists drawn from public and private collections in Australia and Japan, and spanning modern and contemporary work, are dazzling in innovation, skill and aesthetic.

The sculptural leap to pure form in porcelain in Fukami Sueharu’s To the sky (c. 2013), simulates flight itself and leaves viewers elevated by the experience.

Fukami Sueharu, born Kyoto, Kyoto prefecture 1947, To the sky, c.2013, Kyoto , slip cast porcelain, celadon glaze (seihakuji), base: walnut , 31.0 x 88.0 x 24.0 cm. Collection of Raphy Star , © Fukami Sueharu , photo: Grant Hancock

While in the exhibition space, I could hear some, including senior artists, puzzling as to how several of the ceramic objects were actually produced. These ceramicists have indeed tested the limits of clay.

Pure Form is at the Art Gallery of South Australia until November 6.The Conversation

Catherine Speck, Emerita Professor, Art History and Curatorship, University of Adelaide

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

Australia is one of few countries that doesn’t pay session musicians ongoing royalties. Our music industry suffers as a result

Rod DaviesMonash University

Most of the music we listen to is made by session musicians. These guns for hire are experts in their field, much sought after and often bring a unique sound – that extra thing that helps to make the recording what it is.

Whether we’re at home or in our cars, at the gym, the shops, a cafe or a pub, recorded performances form the soundtrack to our lives. This soundtrack includes music made by hired freelance instrumentalists and singers whose contributions are vital to the appeal and quality of those recordings.

While we get to enjoy the end product seemingly free of charge, all music that is broadcast or communicated to a listener is licensed by the owner of that recording and a fee is paid for that licence. Collection agencies such as PPCA collect these licences and disperse royalties to the rights holders of the registered recordings.

Does Australia Value Musicians?

Historically, Australian session musicians have had no economic claim to their recorded performances beyond a basic session fee – an unregulated fee that in real terms, has been going backwards for decades.

While many other countries support the rights of performers to ongoing royalties, Australia is one of a handful of developed economies that does not. This has denied our musicians access to important income streams at home and abroad, placed a limit on our trade with other countries and positioned us as an outlier.

We are seen as a country that does not value musicians the way they are valued elsewhere in the world, a perception that needs to change if we want to provide some incentive for the next generation to keep making music.

So, how did it get to this?

In 1996 the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) drafted the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, which granted performers economic rights for their recorded performances and “equitable remuneration” when these performances were monetised.

Since then, free trade agreements, such as the one between Australia and the United States in 2004, have required that parties sign up to the treaty, which our government did in 2007. Unfortunately, then Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer deliberately excluded Article 15.1 from the agreement, leaving Australian musicians without the same rights as those enjoyed by musicians in other parts of the world.

While many other countries support the rights of performers to ongoing royalties, Australia is one of a handful of developed economies that does not. Shutterstock

For example, in the UK, US, most of Europe, as well as Mexico, Brazil, Canada and Japan, performers are assigned a percentage of the licence revenue.

According to Peter Thoms, board member of the UK collection agency PPL,

[…] in the UK, PPL royalties are split 50/50 with the labels and performers. A featured artist, who will be contracted to the label, gets a bigger performer share but session players also share in this revenue. Players who have been active on many recordings receive significant amounts annually. This helps make session playing as a vocation more viable and is a fair recognition of their contribution.

However, when the same recordings are then broadcast in Australia, these musicians are not entitled to any performance royalties. This has led to countries like the UK reciprocating our approach and no longer paying session musicians or artists on Australian recordings when they are broadcast in the UK.

The Australian Musician Brain Drain

The extra twist is that Australian artists with international appeal are now frequently recording outside Australia to enable them to qualify for European royalties, which are paid on a qualifying territory basis.

As Australia is no longer a qualifying territory there is motivation for Australian artists to record in the UK and elsewhere to ensure they can claim equitable remuneration in the big overseas markets.

The WIPO Treaty aimed to “provide adequate solutions to the questions raised by economic, social, cultural and technological developments”, all of which have evolved enormously since 1996. If Australia is to keep up with these changes, it must stop lagging behind and adopt Article 15.1.

This has the potential to increase productivity in the recording economy, including revenue derived from export, and expand a sector that is currently heavily reliant on live music. Increasing passive income streams would also help to grow and sustain the careers of young musicians and support performers through future crises.

What Can We Do To Fix This Problem?

The current free trade agreement between Australia and the UK provides us with a political opening for this conversation. The agreement calls for a discussion about measures to ensure “adequate” remuneration for performers and producers of recordings. If we truly value our musicians, adequate must be equitable.

All performers, classical and contemporary, as well as record producers should be having this conversation right now, engaging with other stakeholders and raising awareness.

Increasing passive income streams would help to grow and sustain the careers of young musicians. Shutterstock

If the Australian government and recording industry will acknowledge the prevailing conditions for musicians globally and adopt the principle of equitable remuneration, we can begin rebuilding the structures that support payments to performers at home and overseas.

By valuing our musicians more we will add value to the sector, with better economic regulation and new systems connecting all Australian musicians to the larger markets.

So next time you hear music playing, think of the session musicians and producers whose skills helped to make that song a hit - the drummer on X, the trombone player on Y, or the vocalist on that annoying advertisement that’s been running for 20 years – and ask someone close by, why is it that Australian musicians are denied equitable remuneration that exists in so many other parts of the world?The Conversation

Rod Davies, Lecturer in popular music and songwriting, Monash University

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

Flu Vaccination Linked To 40% Reduced Risk Of Alzheimer's Disease

June 2022
People who received at least one influenza vaccine were 40% less likely than their non-vaccinated peers to develop Alzheimer's disease over the course of four years, according to a new study from UTHealth Houston.

Research led by first author Avram S. Bukhbinder, MD, a recent alumnus of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, and senior author Paul. E. Schulz, MD, the Rick McCord Professor in Neurology at McGovern Medical School, compared the risk of Alzheimer's disease incidence between patients with and without prior flu vaccination in a large nationwide sample of U.S. adults aged 65 and older.

An early online version of the paper detailing the findings is available in advance of its publication in the Aug. 2 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

"We found that flu vaccination in older adults reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease for several years. The strength of this protective effect increased with the number of years that a person received an annual flu vaccine -- in other words, the rate of developing Alzheimer's was lowest among those who consistently received the flu vaccine every year," said Bukhbinder, who is still part of Schulz's research team while in his first year of residency with the Division of Child Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital. "Future research should assess whether flu vaccination is also associated with the rate of symptom progression in patients who already have Alzheimer's dementia."

The study -- which comes two years after UTHealth Houston researchers found a possible link between the flu vaccine and reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease -- analyzed a much larger sample than previous research, including 935,887 flu-vaccinated patients and 935,887 non-vaccinated patients.

During four-year follow-up appointments, about 5.1% of flu-vaccinated patients were found to have developed Alzheimer's disease. Meanwhile, 8.5% of non-vaccinated patients had developed Alzheimer's disease during follow-up.

These results underscore the strong protective effect of the flu vaccine against Alzheimer's disease, according to Bukhbinder and Schulz. However, the underlying mechanisms behind this process require further study.

"Since there is evidence that several vaccines may protect from Alzheimer's disease, we are thinking that it isn't a specific effect of the flu vaccine," said Schulz, who is also the Umphrey Family Professor in Neurodegenerative Diseases and director of the Neurocognitive Disorders Center at McGovern Medical School. "Instead, we believe that the immune system is complex, and some alterations, such as pneumonia, may activate it in a way that makes Alzheimer's disease worse. But other things that activate the immune system may do so in a different way -- one that protects from Alzheimer's disease. Clearly, we have more to learn about how the immune system worsens or improves outcomes in this disease."

Alzheimer's disease affects more than 6 million people living in the U.S., with the number of affected individuals growing due to the nation's aging population. Past studies have found a decreased risk of dementia associated with prior exposure to various adulthood vaccinations, including those for tetanus, polio, and herpes, in addition to the flu vaccine and others.

Additionally, as more time passes since the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine and longer follow-up data becomes available, Bukhbinder said it will be worth investigating whether a similar association exists between COVID-19 vaccination and the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Avram S. Bukhbinder, Yaobin Ling, Omar Hasan, Xiaoqian Jiang, Yejin Kim, Kamal N. Phelps, Rosemarie E. Schmandt, Albert Amran, Ryan Coburn, Srivathsan Ramesh, Qian Xiao, Paul E. Schulz. Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease Following Influenza Vaccination: A Claims-Based Cohort Study Using Propensity Score Matching. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, 2022; 1 DOI: 10.3233/JAD-220361

‘It was the beginning of feminism’: how higher education paved the way for the women of Albury-Wodonga

Interviewee Eileen Clark
Portia DilenaLa Trobe University

Regional women are too often forgotten in Australia’s political movements. The “big teal steal” focuses on the independent candidates from Melbourne and Sydney, forgetting that independent Cathy McGowan stole the seat of Indi from the Liberals a decade earlier.

This forgetfulness applies to the Australian women’s movement from the heady 1970s, with the accepted history centring the women who led the movement from the cities.

This neglect of regional women was driven home to me in a series of interviews I conducted with past students of the Albury-Wodonga Study Centre of the Riverina College of Advanced Education (now Charles Sturt University).

The women I interviewed had all been mature-age students of the Study Centre in the 1970s. For all of them, this education offered them a new life.

What stuck out to me in these interviews, was when asked what undertaking study meant to them, many responded “it was the beginning of feminism”.

RCAE Study Centre was located on Townsend Street, Albury. CSU Regional Archives

Women And Education

Women had traditionally missed out on the opportunity for a higher education, held back by cost, society’s expectations on the role of women and, for regional women, distance.

Of the women I interviewed, all had missed out on the opportunity of a further education. Jan left school at 15 and travelled with her husband to Papua New Guinea for his career. Ann worked doing “whatever I could to earn enough money” to solely support her six kids.

Once mothers, further education was seen to be a waste of time and money: they had already fulfilled what feminist Anne Summers called their “‘natural’ vocation”.

Ann recalled that, when she initially enrolled at the Study Centre, she experienced a backlash from her own children who

thought I should have been putting more time into being a mother. All this study business was taking away from what I was expected to do with my life.

The Whitlam Government’s free education initiative removed the financial barrier, yet it was the women’s movement’s critique of gender roles that worked to redefine what possibilities were open to women.

Jan explained:

of course the reason I could go, perhaps this isn’t quite true, but I think it was, was because of the Whitlam free education. It was part of the women’s movement […] and so there was really no obstacle in my way.

Education And Feminism

Opened in 1972, the Study Centre was to help local professionals upskill. The courses were vocationally focused, ran in the evening and located in the centre of town.

These factors attracted large numbers of Albury-Wodonga women as it accommodated their busy roles as mothers and wives. Speaking to the local paper, centre director Geoff Fairhall attributed this influx to “bored housewife syndrome”.

Fairhall said women enrolled were ‘bored housewives’ – it was much more complex than that. CSU Regional Archives: CSU2620-OO-15

Fairhall missed the mark. The women were using the Study Centre to radically alter their lives as women, mirroring feminist principles from the period.

First, they developed a community outside of the family home, not tied to their family or marriage. This provided the space for them to engage in a form of consciousness-raising, as they applied their course material to their lives as women.

Jan recalled a psychology class where the women concluded they already knew much of the material as being “guardians of the health of the family” they had already “picked up on those things”.

Eileen simply stated her studies “helped me to look at my own life in a critical way”.

Second, this education had an impact on their lives as women as they developed an intellectual and economic independence.

Encouraged to undertake further study to stop her from “vegetating” at home, Barb opened her own book-keeping business upon graduation.

Reflecting on her study, Barb argued:

having the degree, it gave me that freedom […] I wasn’t stuck working in a full-time, low-paying job like a lot of women my age were.

The Study Centre is an important place in the history of Australian feminism. CSU Regional Archives: CSU2620-OO-14

Lastly, this challenged the highly gendered public and private spaces of regional Albury-Wodonga: women developed new identities not defined by their role as mother or wife.

Summarised by Ann:

studying and graduating and moving into the workforce as a professional, is miles away from being a housewife! The degree gives the woman a chance to take part in society as a real person rather than just being a mum.

The women of the Study Centre may not have led the 1970s Women’s Liberation movement, but they lived it, and through it their lives changed dramatically. It is important this story becomes part of our national history of feminism.

As Eileen told me:

so it was […] really inspiring, all these women who had lived on the farm for 30 years, now were doing something […] It was the beginning of feminism.The Conversation

Portia Dilena, History PhD Candidate, La Trobe University

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

Centrelink Payment Changes From 1 July 2022

June 30, 2022
Due to indexation, many of the thresholds used to determine payment eligibility and rates will change. Find out how much in this National Seniors overview.

Means tested government payments have rules, which the government uses to determine whether you are eligible and how much you get.

From 1 July 2022, around one million pensioners will benefit from annual increases in the areas, limits, and deeming thresholds that are free from means testing.

This means there will be an increase to the amount of income or assets an Age Pension, Disability Support Pension, or Carer Payment recipient can earn or own before their payment is affected.

How are they changing?
Under the income test you will now be able to earn up to $190 per fortnight (instead of $180) from any income source without affecting your pension payment (not counting the Work Bonus of $300 per fortnight for employment income).

The threshold at which your pension stops under the income test will increase to $2,165.20 per fortnight ($56,295.20 per year) for a single pensioner on 1 July 2022. The income test threshold for couples will also increase to $3,313.60 per fortnight ($86,153.60 per year)

The assets test threshold used to determine when you lose the pension has increased by:
  • $9,500 for a single homeowner
  • $14,000 for a homeowning couple
  • $17,500 for a single non-homeowner
  • $22,000 for a non-homeowning couple.
Deeming rate thresholds used to determine your deemed income from your assets have also increased. Assets up to the threshold attract the lower deeming rate of 0.25% and any above the threshold is deemed to earn a higher 2.25%. From 1 July 2022, the deeming threshold for a single pensioner will be $56,400 (up from $53,600) and for a couples the threshold will be $93,600 (up from $89,000).

While these changes are incremental, they will result in real increases in pension payments. This is especially important given the ongoing rise in living costs.

Some retirees previously on the cusp of receiving a pension but not eligible, may now find they are eligible because of the threshold increases, especially if the value of their assets has declined during the recent falls in the stock market. 

It’s therefore important to check with Centrelink if your circumstances have changed to see if you are eligible for a pension payment and other concessions.

More details on the new payment rates and thresholds are available on the Department of Social Services website.

No Time For Complacency In Battle With COVID-19

Read the opinion piece from Minister Butler on COVID-19
The Hon Mark Butler MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care
It’s hard to believe that just over a year ago New South Wales was going into their devastating Delta lockdown.

This winter, life is pretty much back to normal; workers are going into work, kids are back at school, and parents and kids are shivering through weekend sport.

Without daily press conferences, it’s easy to forget we're still in a global pandemic and that we face very real challenges this winter.

There are currently tens of thousands of new COVID-19 cases reported every day, and thousands of Australians in hospital with the disease. Hundreds of Australians are dying every week.

We also have the significant threat of influenza for the first time in years.

To get through winter, we need to increase third and fourth doses of COVID-19 vaccinations.

The health advice is clear: you are not fully protected against the Omicron variant unless you have at least a third dose of the vaccine. 

New research from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance has found a (third) booster vaccine dose provides 65 per cent greater protection against hospitalisation or death from the Omicron variant, compared to just two doses.

That is why you will see new advertisements from the Government over the next few weeks urging Australians to stay up to date with your vaccinations, especially boosters.

And we need to protect our children. Unlike COVID-19, young children are one of the at-risk groups for influenza.

Almost 60 per cent of people admitted to hospital with a condition associated with the flu have been children under the age of 16.

My message to parents is to protect their kids – particularly those under the age of five – through vaccination.

For people in at-risk population groups, free annual flu shots are available through the Australian Government’s National Immunisation Program. This includes all children aged from six months to under five years, people aged 65 years and older, pregnant women and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from the age of six months.

While vaccination is the best possible defence for COVID-19, there are new oral treatments that can be taken at home which are very effective at preventing serious disease. Our research indicates that the vast bulk of the Australian population are still not aware of these treatments and uptake is low.

These oral antivirals must be taken as soon as possible—right after symptoms appear.

If you’re aged over 65, or over 50 and an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person or if you are immunocompromised, speak to your doctor about whether these new medications are right for you.

Develop a plan in the event you get COVID. If you get a positive test, ring your GP and seek a telehealth appointment immediately.

It’s clear we still have a tough winter ahead of us. Hospitals and the health system are under very real pressure.

But we do have the tools to get through winter safely

With COVID-19 and the flu posing significant threats to the health of the Australian population this winter, the message is clear: get vaccinated.

To parents of young children not yet vaccinated against the flu, make an appointment – today.

If you or a loved one have not had a flu vaccine this year, make an appointment – today.

And if you’re eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine booster and haven’t had it, make a booking – today. It’s safe to have both at the same time.

Mulled wine: how ‘Christmas in a cup’ went from ancient medicine to an Aussie winter warmer

Morag KobezQueensland University of Technology

When the temperature drops in the southern hemisphere, you might like to stave off the chill with a big steaming pot of mulled wine, and fill your home with the comforting aroma of red wine, citrus and spice.

The mention of mulled wine conjures images of winter-wonderland white-Christmas scenes – no matter where in the world you live.

Although mulled wine is a staple of contemporary Christmas celebrations throughout Europe, and the customs and recipes may differ somewhat, the celebratory nature of the warm, spiced (usually) red wine is common to all – as are the ingredients sugar, cinnamon and cloves.

Its long history incorporates both pagan and Christian lore, traverses old and new worlds and established it as a favourite Christmastime beverage, travellers’ tipple of choice and a tonic of sorts in times of convalescence.

Ancient Pagan Paradox

Whether for festivity or fortification, mulled wine has been around for at least 2,000 years.

The ancient Greek version of mulled wine, Ypocras or Hippocras, takes its name from Hippocrates, the Greek physician regarded as the father of medicine. (It is also the name of the apothecary’s bag or sieve used to strain this wine.)

A satyr drinks from a wine glass.
Early versions of mulled wine can be found as far back as Ancient Greece. © The Trustees of the British MuseumCC BY-NC-SA

Wine played an important role in medicine in Greek antiquity. In the only ancient cookery book surviving to our times, De re coquinaria, we see a few versions of spice wine (conditum paradoxum) and wine with honey and pepper.

The latter, known as conditum melizomum viatorum was recommended for travellers: the honey and spices acted as a preservative, allowing the alcohol to accompany travellers on long journeys.

Conditum paradoxium became a prominent feature of the Saturnalia Festival in ancient Rome: the winter solstice celebration of the passing of the shortest day of the year and the rebirth of the Sun.

Conditum paradoxium was a prominent feature of the Roman winter festival, Saturnalia. Uffizi/Wikimedia Commons

By the time of the late-Roman Republic, Saturnalia had grown from a one-day celebration to a week-long festival held each year from December 17 to 23. Consuming the warming wine as part of the celebrations was thought to help ward off winter illness and so became firmly associated with the December celebrations.

Towards the end of the 4th century, this pagan solstice celebration became interwoven with Christianity and the celebration of Christmas Day. By the middle ages, mulled wine had become entrenched as part of the festivities throughout Europe.

Mulling Over The Recipe

According to several medieval cookbooks the most common of the sweet, spiced wines in the late middle-ages were still referred to as hippocras, with the term “mulled wine” coming later.

Just as they do today, ingredients varied depending on the region, but key components were hot red wine blended with sugar and ground spices – usually ginger, cinnamon and pepper and sometimes nutmeg and cloves.

A woman in the snow drinks mulled wine
In Europe, mulled wine is synonymous with winter scenes. Shutterstock

Throughout Europe, mulled wine is synonymous with postcard scenes of snow-capped Alps, après-ski shenanigans, the aroma of roasting chestnuts and Christmas markets.

In Sweden, glogg comes sprinkled with almonds and plump raisins, which have soaked up the wine and taken on the flavour of the spices. It is often served with distinctive raisin-studded saffron buns called Lussekatter.

Bischopswijn (Bishop’s Wine) is the Dutch name, in honour of Saint Nicholas, the bishop celebrated during the Feast of Sinterklaas in early December in the Netherlands.

A man serves mulled wine
Mulled wine is a staple of European Christmas markets. Shutterstock

Italians call it vin hrüle (French for “burnt wine”). In Poland it’s called grzane wino and in Germany it is gluhwein, which both directly translate to mulled wine.

So beloved is gluhwein in Germany, that when popular Christmas markets were cancelled in December 2020 due to COVID restrictions, pop-up gluhwein stalls began appearing in parks and street corners in German cities despite the rules.

It sparked a plea in parliament from then German Chancellor Angela Merkel for citizens to forgo their usual Christmastime tipple to help avoid increased numbers of deaths.

Exorcising The Winter Chill

In France it’s called vin chaud (“hot wine”) and more likely than not to contain star anise. The larger-than-life French writer Colette described vin chaud as “the great exorcist of winter crepuscules [twilight] that fall as early as three o’clock” in an advertisement she wrote for a French wine merchant in the early 20th century.

Rather than a Christmastime tipple, in the first 100 years of Australian settlement, mulled wine was more likely to be administered during times of illness or convalescence rather than times of celebration.

Hands clasp a glass of mulled wine.
It may not be Christmas – but that doesn’t mean you don’t need a winter warmer. Shutterstock

In the 19th and 20th centuries Australian domestic cookbooks commonly included recipes for sick or convalescing patients. Advice about food preparation for “invalids”, “convalescents” or “the sickroom” would commonly take up an entire section of cookbooks. Many of these included recipes for mulled wine.

With nobody under any illusions nowadays that mixing up a large amount of sugar in a hefty pot of red wine is good for anyone’s health, we find other similarly absurd excuses to partake. Christmas in July, anyone?The Conversation

Morag Kobez, Associate lecturer, Queensland University of Technology

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

The iPhone turns 15: a look at the past (and future) of one of the 21st century’s most influential devices

Ismini VasileiouDe Montfort University and Paul Haskell-DowlandEdith Cowan University

It is 15 years since Apple released what’s arguably its flagship device: the iPhone. A decade and a half later, there are few products that have managed to reach a similar level of brand recognition.

Announced to an eager audience in 2007, the iPhone has revolutionised how we communicate and even how we live day to day.

Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone on January 9 2007.

The Large-Screen Revolution

The iPhone was released in the United States in June 2007, and in a further six countries in November.

From the launch of Mac computers in the 1970s to the iPod in 2001, Apple already knew how to engage with its audience – and how to encourage extraordinary levels of hype when launching a product.

Early reviews for the iPhone were almost universally glowing, applauding Apple’s attention to detail and style. The only problem flagged was network connectivity – and this was an issue with slow speeds on phone carrier networks, rather than the device itself.

Consumers’ appreciation of the iPhone’s style was no surprise. It was indicative of an emerging trend towards smartphones with large-format screens (but which still reflected the form of a phone). The Nokia N95 was another such example that hit the market the same year.

A Nokia N95 with its keypad closed.
The 2007 Nokia N95 had a slide-out keypad. Asim18/Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The original iPhone offered wifi, supported 2G EDGE connectivity and had internet download speeds below 500Kbps (compared to multi Mbps speeds today).

It was also limited to 4GB or 8GB models. This might sound pitiful compared to the 1TB options available today, but it’s enough to hold hundreds of songs or videos and was revolutionary at the time.

The Apple Assembly Line

The iPhone 3G was rolled out across the globe in July 2008, with significantly improved data speeds and the addition of the Appple App Store. Even though it offered a mere 500 apps at launch, the app store marked a significant improvement in phone functionality.

And just as users started getting used to 3G, it was superseded by the 3GS about a year later.

This cycle of regularly pushing out new products was critical to Apple’s success. By releasing regular updates (either through whole product iterations, or more minor functionality improvements) Apple managed to secure an enthusiastic audience, eager for new releases each year.

A comparison of iPhone sizes from the iPhone 5S to the iPhone 12
iPhone sizes got noticeably larger from the iPhone 5S release to the iPhone 12. Tboa/Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Also, since older products would often be passed down within families, Apple’s product pipeline helped it establish a multi-generational user base. This pipeline continues to operate today.

New Approaches To Old Ways

The iPhone family has delivered size, speed and storage improvements over its 15-year history. Some of its “new” features weren’t necessarily new to the market, but Apple excelled at delivering them in highly integrated ways that “just worked” (as founder Steve Jobs would say).

“It just works” – Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

In 2013, the iPhone 5S introduced touch ID, which allowed users to unlock their phones with a fingerprint. While this had first been introduced with the Fujitsu F505i back in 2003, Apple delivered a robust implementation of the feature. Of course, it wasn’t long before enterprising individuals learnt how to bypass the mechanism.

The iPhone 8, released in 2017, brought with it the face ID feature. This still had weaknesses, but was at least immune to being unlocked with a photo.

Beyond security, the iPhone series has also produced year-on-year improvements in camera technology. While the original model sported a paltry two-megapixel camera, later models featured multiple lenses, with resolution boosted to 12 megapixels – rivalling many digital cameras on the market.

Wireless charging was introduced with the iPhone 8 (although preceded by Samsung as early as 2011). And the bezel-less design of the iPhone X, released in 2017, built on features found in the Sharp Aquos S2 from the same year.


Nonetheless, the iPhone has not been without problems. The introduction of the iPhone 7 in 2016 saw the removal of the standard 3.5mm headphone socket – and many weren’t happy.

While an adaptor was initially provided for customers to connect their regular headphones, it was only free for about two years. After that it had to be purchased. In 2016 there were indications of a spike in wireless headphone sales. Perhaps somewhat conveniently, Apple launched its AirPods (wireless Bluetooth earbuds) at the same time.

A similar change came in 2020 with the release of the iPhone 12. Arguing consumers had a multitude of spare devices – and perhaps trying to ride on the green re-use agenda – Apple removed chargers from the unboxing experience.

Users still received a charge cable, but it was a USB-C to lightning cable, whereas previous iPhone chargers would have a USB-A socket (the standard USB port).

Apple phone cable
When Apple stopped offering chargers it provided a USB-C to lightning cable, despite older chargers having a USB-A socket. Apple

The justification iPhone users would have a box full of old chargers overlooked the fact that none of them would be likely to support the newer and faster USB-C cable.

So you could use your old USB-A to lightning cable and charger to charge your shiny new phone, but you’d be limited to slower charging speeds.


If the past 15 years are anything to go by, it’s likely the iPhone will continue with annual product releases (as we write this article many will be anticipating the iPhone 14 due later this year).

These models will probably bring improvements in speed, weight, battery life, camera resolution and storage capacity. However, it’s not likely we’ll be seeing many groundbreaking innovations in the next few years.

The latest iPhones are already highly sophisticated mini computers, which means there’s limited scope for fundamental enhancement.

Perhaps the most radical change will be the shift from Apple’s proprietary lightning connection to USB-C charging, thanks to a new European Union directive. And while a common power connector standard is widely considered a positive move, Apple wasn’t convinced:

We believe regulations that impose harmonisation of smartphone chargers would stifle innovation rather than encourage it.

As display technologies evolve, Apple may turn to the clam-shell phone design, with a fully foldable display screen.

Samsung has already brought this to the market. But Apple, in true fashion, will likely wait until the technology (particularly the glass) has evolved to deliver an experience in line with what iPhone users have come to expect.

While we can’t predict what the iPhone will look like in another 15 years (although some have tried), it’s likely the demand for Apple products will still be there, driven by Apple’s strong brand loyalty.The Conversation

Ismini Vasileiou, Associate Professor in Information Systems, De Montfort University and Paul Haskell-Dowland, Professor of Cyber Security Practice, Edith Cowan University

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

DSS Scam Alert

June 27, 2022
The Department of Social Services (DSS) recently received reports that members of the public have been contacted via email by an individual or individuals claiming that there is a “secure message” from DSS. If you receive the below email, please delete it and do not select or open any attachments or links.

DSS officers do not:
  1. contact members of the public seeking personal information, or,
  2. email members of the public without them having contacted DSS.
It is a serious matter to impersonate a Commonwealth public official, and may be considered a criminal offence in some circumstances.

What to do if approached or if you need assistance
If approached in this manner, do not give any personal information. If you are uncomfortable with the nature of the email do not attempt to engage with the individual/individuals.

We encourage you to report incidents of this nature to Scamwatch. You can visit Scamwatch on

If you have already provided information to a caller or are concerned that a crime has been or may be committed, please contact the police or the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Grattan on Friday: Election delivered bonanza of crossbenchers but what impact will they make?

Michelle GrattanUniversity of Canberra

David Pocock, the progressive independent who broke the Liberals’ stranglehold on one of the two ACT Senate seats, wouldn’t have expected to find himself allied with Pauline Hanson before even being sworn in.

But, as they say, politics makes strange bedfellows and the two have already discussed trying to get Anthony Albanese to compromise on his decision to slash crossbench staff numbers.

The staff cut will just be the start of Labor’s search for general savings, culminating in the October budget. Some of those will have the public much more agitated than will trimming politicians’ entitlements.

But Albanese’s action, without prior consultation, has come as a rude shock to the “teal” independents who, together with other new members, arrived at Parliament House this week for their orientation.

The teals have been feted in the media and seen by many voters as part of a new breed of politician. They probably didn’t expect such rough treatment, delivered in a letter from the new PM.

Existing crossbenchers, with years of experience of how politics works, may have been less surprised, but they were also dismayed.

In the last parliament crossbenchers had four extra staff, above those allocated to government and opposition backbenchers. With a much-expanded crossbench, Albanese has brought that back to one extra (two for those in larger electorates).

Apart from expense, he’s arguing fairness with other backbenchers. He’s also saying plans to beef up the parliamentary library will provide more resources for crossbenchers.

The crossbenchers say they don’t have the backup a major party gives its own MPs, and that the library can’t provide the sort of tailored advice a staffer does, let alone be as fast with assistance, or available around the clock.

Crossbench senators make a further case. In a chamber where the government is in a minority, their votes matter more than those of crossbenchers in the lower house, where Labor will have the numbers.

This applies particularly to someone like Pocock who, with the Greens, is expected to assure the government of its majority on various pieces of legislation. (The Greens, treated as a party, haven’t had their staff reduced but the same number will service a total party room that has increased from 10 to 16.)

When he returns from overseas, Albanese will address the complaints. His choice is staying tough (the public wouldn’t care) or buying some crossbench goodwill with a conciliatory gesture.

The staffing dispute has provided immediate controversy but in this new parliament, which first meets July 26, there’ll be more fundamental issues around the crossbenchers.

The crossbench is, of course, diverse. In the lower house, there are Greens, the new teals (obviously individuals in their own right) and other independents, as well as the idiosyncratic Bob Katter, from the deep north.

In the Senate, the crossbench ranges from Greens to the two Hansonites and Ralph Babet, elected from Victoria for the UAP.

The teals have a lot to live up to, after their high-profile campaigns. They are different from many other MPs. They haven’t been political staffers or come up through the rugged internals of parties (although a couple hail from well-known political families). They talk about doing politics differently. But without the balance of power in the House of Representatives, will they be able to drive meaningful changes in how things are done?

And what of policy substance can the lower house teals achieve? They need to demonstrate they’re relevant.

Lacking hard power, they can only operate through influence and advocacy. This is possible, though difficult. For example, in the last parliament independent Helen Haines’ release of a private member’s bill for an integrity commission added to the public pressure. She (and others) will be anxious to have a voice on the issue as the government presses ahead with its legislation.

One problem for the teals is that the Albanese government will address core issues they campaigned on, notably climate change and integrity. It was easy enough for them to rail against the Coalition before the election, but things are more challenging when they are (essentially) aligned with the government on these matters.

They can say Labor should go further (although there mightn’t be mileage in that), and there will be some scope for suggesting amendments to legislation.

Recent history indicates once crossbenchers are elected they dig in, but they aren’t invulnerable (as Kerryn Phelps found in Wentworth). The teals will have to show over the next three years they represent what we might describe as “value for votes”. And if the government delivers on climate, integrity and women’s issues, the teals will need to refresh their own agendas for the 2025 election.

The government has some interest in teals surviving, because they provide a firewall. They keep seats Labor can’t itself win out of Liberal hands. So it may look to give them a few modest policy wins.

The Greens-Labor relationship will be more potent and scratchy. The two parties are fierce competitors and there’s no love lost.

But Labor will require the Greens (plus one more vote) to get contested legislation through the Senate. The Greens will push for changes. It will likely often be a game of bluff and counter bluff.

The Greens party room is politically diverse – witness the radicalism of Victorian senator Lidia Thorpe who questions the legitimacy of parliament itself – so there could be some robust internal battles.

The Greens say their position on Labor’s climate legislation will be to improve, not to block. The first test will come early, when the government presents a bill to put into law its emissions reduction targets.

Given the Greens can’t get a more ambitious position they would, if they follow their own maxim, support the legislation.

Lastly, Pocock’s position is interesting. He won’t be the only go-to person for the government to obtain that additional Senate vote. Jacqui Lambie and her newly elected Senate colleague would be candidates.

But Pocock will be often in the spotlight. For his part, while reflecting his progressive views, he’ll need to remember he’s sitting in a traditionally Liberal seat. He won largely because the former incumbent, the deeply conservative Zed Seselja, was so unpopular. So if he wants to hold onto his place in the longer term, Pocock might have to perform a balancing act.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Origin Penalised $17 Million For Customer Hardship Breaches

June 29, 2022
Origin Energy Electricity Limited and other Origin related entities (together, Origin) have been ordered by the Federal Court to pay penalties totalling $17 million for failing to comply with their obligations to protect customers experiencing hardship and payment difficulties, in proceedings brought by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER).

This is the largest total penalty ever imposed for breaches of the National Energy Retail Law and Rules.

Origin admitted that the automated processes it put in place in relation to its customers experiencing hardship and payment difficulties resulted in it breaching its hardship obligations on more than 100,000 occasions, over a period of nearly four years between January 2018 and October last year. In total, more than 90,000 customers were affected from four states across New South Wales, ACT, Queensland, and South Australia.

Origin also admitted that its automated processes for dealing with customers experiencing hardship and payment difficulties resulted in it breaching its own hardship policies and the retail rules by
  • unilaterally establishing new customer payment plans if the customer’s previous payment plan had been cancelled for non-payment, while failing to consider a customers’ capacity to pay,
  • increasing a customer’s payment amounts following a review of the customer’s usage, while failing to consider the customers’ capacity to pay, and
  • cancelling customer payment plans where it was unable to discuss with the customer a review of their payment plan, including in circumstances where customers were continuing to make their payments under the existing plans.
AER Chair Clare Savage welcomed the Court’s decision as a clear reminder that automation can be a dangerous substitute for human interaction when it comes to customers experiencing financial hardship who are on payment plans, who each have unique circumstances and experiences that can change over time.

“Applying automated inflexible processes across thousands of customers without considering whether they can actually meet the payments shows a complete disregard of the hardship obligations in the national energy laws, which are designed to protect customers in vulnerable situations,” Ms Savage said.

“When a retailer automates aspects of its hardship program, it needs to ensure it continues to offer individualised and tailored solutions to customers and has regard to a customers’ circumstances as the rules require.

“For many customers, being unable to afford a necessity like electricity is distressing enough. If a customer is not afforded the protections under the laws and rules it may push them closer to debt collection and disconnection, causing even greater distress,” Ms Savage said.

“This record $17 million penalty reflects the seriousness of the breaches by Origin and should send a strong deterrence message to all energy retailers that they must maintain and implement their hardship policies in accordance with the law, to protect customers experiencing financial distress.

“This message is even more important in the current market conditions where customers are facing significant cost of living pressures, including as a result of recent energy price rises,” she said. 

The Court also ordered Origin to pay $200,000 in legal costs and establish a compliance and training program to improve the way it deals with hardship customers and those experiencing financial difficulties.

Origin cooperated with the AER by admitting breaches of the National Energy Retail Law and Rules, making joint submissions with the AER to the Court in respect of penalties and consenting to the other orders made by the Court.

The National Energy Retail Law and Rules impose legal obligations on energy retailers in respect of their treatment of customers experiencing financial difficulties.

The AER’s compliance and enforcement priorities this year have included a specific focus on “effective identification of residential consumers in financial difficulty and offer of payment plans that have regard to the consumer’s capacity to pay.”

Origin’s conduct was first brought to the attention of the AER by the South Australian and New South Wales Energy Ombudsman schemes, which received a number of individual complaints.

Life-Saving Blood Tests For All NSW And ACT Newborns

June 26, 2022
In an Australian first, all NSW and ACT babies will be offered testing for two rare but potentially fatal genetic disorders, thanks to a NSW Government boost of $1.3 million each year.

From 1 July 2022, parents of all new babies in NSW and the ACT will be offered free tests for both Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) and Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) within 48-72 hours of their baby’s birth.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the NSW Government is permanently adding the two tests to the NSW Newborn Screening Program following a successful four-year trial as part of a research pilot program at the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network.

“NSW is leading the way in funding newborn screening to ensure treatments can be provided as early as possible to halt the debilitating, sometimes fatal, impact of these disorders,” Mr Hazzard said.

“The screening tests will be provided to around 100,000 babies each year, saving the lives of up to 13 newborns likely to have these genetic disorders, including 10 from SMA and three from SCID.

“I urge other states and territories to screen newborns for both these genetic disorders as we are doing in NSW to give babies with SMA or SCID the best chance of survival.”

SMA occurs in one in 10,000 births and causes progressive muscle wastage and weakness. It is the leading genetic cause of infant death and, without treatment, newborns have a life expectancy of around nine months.

SCID occurs in one in 40,000 births and results in a weakened immune system. It is usually fatal in a baby’s first year of life due to infection. However, most babies with the disorder (around 94 per cent) will survive if they are provided life-saving stem cell treatment before they are three and a half months old.

“With newborns receiving these tests for SMA and SCID in their first three days, parents can have greater confidence their baby will thrive in their first year of life,” Mr Hazzard said.

For an overview of the panel of tests offered by the NSW Newborn Screening Program, please visit the SCHN website

No More Binge Eating: Signal Pathway In The Brain That Controls Food Intake Discovered

June 28, 2022
A group of researchers has developed an entirely novel approach to treating eating disorders. The scientists showed that a group of nerve cells in the hypothalamus (so-called AgRP, agouti-related peptide neurons) control the release of endogenous lysophospholipids, which in turn control the excitability of nerve cells in the cerebral cortex, which stimulates food intake. In this process, the crucial step of the signalling pathway is controlled by the enzyme autotaxin, which is responsible for the production of lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) in the brain as a modulator of network activity. The administration of autotaxin inhibitors can thereby significantly reduce both excessive food intake after fasting and obesity in animal models. The article 'AgRP neurons control food intake behaviour at cortical synapses via peripherally-derived lysophospholipids' has now appeared in Nature Metabolism.

Eating disorders and especially obesity are one of the most common causes of a variety of diseases in industrialized societies worldwide, especially cardiovascular diseases with permanent disabilities or fatal outcomes such as heart attacks, diabetes, or strokes. The Robert Koch Institute reported in 2021 that 67 per cent of men and 53 percent of women in Germany are overweight. 23 per cent of adults are severely overweight (obese). Attempts to influence eating behaviour with medication have so far proved ineffective. A novel therapy that modulates the excitability of networks that control eating behaviour would be a decisive step towards controlling this widespread obesity.

The research team found an increased rate of obesity and the attendant type II diabetes in people with impaired synaptic LPA signalling. A group led by Professor Johannes Vogt (Faculty of Medicine, University of Cologne), Professor Robert Nitsch (Faculty of Medicine, University of Münster) und Professor Thomas Horvath (Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, USA) has now shown that control of the excitability of neurons in the cerebral cortex by LPA plays an essential role in the control of eating behaviour: AgRP neurons regulate the amount of lysophosphatidylcholine (LPC) in the blood. Through active transport, LPC reaches the brain, where it is converted by the enzyme autotaxin (ATX) into LPA, which is active at the synapse. Synaptic LPA signals stimulate specific networks in the brain, thus leading to increased food intake.

In the mouse model, after a period of fasting an increase in LPC in the blood led to an increase in stimulating LPA in the brain. These mice showed typical food-seeking behaviour. Both could be normalized by administrating autotaxin inhibitors. Obese mice, on the other hand, lost weight when these inhibitors were administered continuously. Johannes Vogt explained: 'We saw a significant reduction in excessive food intake and obesity through gene mutation and pharmacological inhibition of ATX. Our fundamental findings on the LPA-controlled excitability of the brain, which we have worked on for years, therefore also play a central role for eating behaviour.' Robert Nitsch sees the findings as an important step towards new drug development: 'The data show that people with a disturbed synaptic LPA signalling pathway are more likely to be overweight and suffer from type II diabetes. This is a strong indication of a possible therapeutic success of ATX inhibitors, which we are currently developing together with the Hans Knöll Institute in Jena for use in humans.'

These findings on the excitation control of neuronal networks in eating behaviour through lysophospholipids and the new therapeutic possibilities they suggest could in future contribute not only to treating eating disorders, but also neurological and psychiatric illnesses.

Heiko Endle, Guilherme Horta, Bernardo Stutz, Muthuraman Muthuraman, Irmgard Tegeder, Yannick Schreiber, Isabel Faria Snodgrass, Robert Gurke, Zhong-Wu Liu, Matija Sestan-Pesa, Konstantin Radyushkin, Nora Streu, Wei Fan, Jan Baumgart, Yan Li, Florian Kloss, Sergiu Groppa, Nils Opel, Udo Dannlowski, Hans J. Grabe, Frauke Zipp, Bence Rácz, Tamas L. Horvath, Robert Nitsch, Johannes Vogt. AgRP neurons control feeding behaviour at cortical synapses via peripherally derived lysophospholipids. Nature Metabolism, 2022; 4 (6): 683 DOI: 10.1038/s42255-022-00589-7

Ice Age Wolf DNA Reveals Dogs Trace Ancestry To Two Separate Wolf Populations

June 29, 2022
An international group of geneticists and archaeologists, led by the Francis Crick Institute, have found that the ancestry of dogs can be traced to at least two populations of ancient wolves. The work moves us a step closer to uncovering the mystery of where dogs underwent domestication, one of the biggest unanswered questions about human prehistory.

Dogs are known to have originated from the gray wolf, with this domestication occurring during the Ice Age, at least 15,000 years ago. But where this happened, and if it occurred in one single location or in multiple places, is still unknown.

Previous studies using the archaeological record and comparing the DNA of dogs and modern wolves have not found the answer.

In their study, published in Nature today (29 June), the researchers turned to ancient wolf genomes to further understanding of where the first dogs evolved from wolves. They analysed 72 ancient wolf genomes, spanning the last 100,000 years, from Europe, Siberia and North America.

The remains came from previously excavated ancient wolves, with archaeologists from 38 institutions in 16 different countries contributing to the study. The remains included a full, perfectly preserved head from a Siberian wolf that lived 32,000 years ago. Nine different ancient DNA labs then collaborated on generating DNA sequence data from the wolves.

By analysing the genomes, the researchers found that both early and modern dogs are more genetically similar to ancient wolves in Asia than those in Europe, suggesting a domestication somewhere in the east.

However, they also found evidence that two separate populations of wolves contributed DNA to dogs. Early dogs from north-eastern Europe, Siberia and the Americas appear to have a single, shared origin from the eastern source. But early dogs from the Middle East, Africa and southern Europe appear to have some ancestry from another source related to wolves in the Middle East, in addition to the eastern source.

One possible explanation for this dual ancestry is that wolves underwent domestication more than once, with the different populations then mixing together. Another possibility is that domestication happened only once, and that the dual ancestry is due to these early dogs then mixing with wild wolves. It is not currently possible to determine which of these two scenarios occurred.

Anders Bergström, co-first author and post-doctoral researcher in the Ancient Genomics lab at the Crick, says: "Through this project we have greatly increased the number of sequenced ancient wolf genomes, allowing us to create a detailed picture of wolf ancestry over time, including around the time of dog origins."

"By trying to place the dog piece into this picture, we found that dogs derive ancestry from at least two separate wolf populations -- an eastern source that contributed to all dogs and a separate more westerly source, that contributed to some dogs."

The team are continuing the hunt for a close ancient wolf ancestor of dogs, which could reveal more precisely where domestication most likely took place. They are now focusing on genomes from other locations not included in this study, including more southerly regions.

As the 72 ancient wolf genomes spanned around 30,000 generations, it was possible to look back and build a timeline of how wolf DNA has changed, tracing natural selection in action.

For example, they observed that over a period of around 10,000 years, one gene variant went from being very rare to being present in every wolf, and is still present in all wolves and dogs today. The variant affects a gene, IFT88, which is involved in the development of bones in the skull and jaw. It is possible that the spread of this variant could have been driven by a change in the types of prey available during the Ice Age, giving an advantage to wolves with a certain head shape, but the gene could also have other unknown functions in wolves.

Pontus Skoglund, senior author and group leader of the Ancient Genomics lab at the Crick, says: "This is the first time scientists have directly tracked natural selection in a large animal over a time-scale of 100,000 years, seeing evolution play out in real time rather than trying to reconstruct it from DNA today."

"We found several cases where mutations spread to the whole wolf species, which was possible because the species was highly connected over large distances. This connectivity is perhaps a reason why wolves managed to survive the Ice Age while many other large carnivores vanished."

"Similar whole-genome time series from the Ice Age, in humans or other animals, could provide new information about how evolution happens."

Anders Bergström, David W. G. Stanton, Ulrike H. Taron, Laurent Frantz, Mikkel-Holger S. Sinding, Erik Ersmark, Saskia Pfrengle, Molly Cassatt-Johnstone, Ophélie Lebrasseur, Linus Girdland-Flink, Daniel M. Fernandes, Morgane Ollivier, Leo Speidel, Shyam Gopalakrishnan, Michael V. Westbury, Jazmin Ramos-Madrigal, Tatiana R. Feuerborn, Ella Reiter, Joscha Gretzinger, Susanne C. Münzel, Pooja Swali, Nicholas J. Conard, Christian Carøe, James Haile, Anna Linderholm, Semyon Androsov, Ian Barnes, Chris Baumann, Norbert Benecke, Hervé Bocherens, Selina Brace, Ruth F. Carden, Dorothée G. Drucker, Sergey Fedorov, Mihály Gasparik, Mietje Germonpré, Semyon Grigoriev, Pam Groves, Stefan T. Hertwig, Varvara V. Ivanova, Luc Janssens, Richard P. Jennings, Aleksei K. Kasparov, Irina V. Kirillova, Islam Kurmaniyazov, Yaroslav V. Kuzmin, Pavel A. Kosintsev, Martina Lázničková-Galetová, Charlotte Leduc, Pavel Nikolskiy, Marc Nussbaumer, Cóilín O’Drisceoil, Ludovic Orlando, Alan Outram, Elena Y. Pavlova, Angela R. Perri, Małgorzata Pilot, Vladimir V. Pitulko, Valerii V. Plotnikov, Albert V. Protopopov, André Rehazek, Mikhail Sablin, Andaine Seguin-Orlando, Jan Storå, Christian Verjux, Victor F. Zaibert, Grant Zazula, Philippe Crombé, Anders J. Hansen, Eske Willerslev, Jennifer A. Leonard, Anders Götherström, Ron Pinhasi, Verena J. Schuenemann, Michael Hofreiter, M. Thomas P. Gilbert, Beth Shapiro, Greger Larson, Johannes Krause, Love Dalén, Pontus Skoglund. Grey wolf genomic history reveals a dual ancestry of dogs. Nature, 2022; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-022-04824-9

Bacteria's Shapeshifting Behaviour Clue To New Treatments For Urinary Tract Infections

June 28, 2022
Urinary tract infections are both very common and potentially very dangerous. More than half of all Australian women will suffer from a UTI in their lifetime, and nearly one in three women will have an infection requiring treatment with antibiotics before the age of 24.

Around 80 per cent of UTIs are caused by uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC), which is increasingly resistant to antibiotics. E. coli-related death due to antimicrobial resistance is the leading cause of bacterial fatalities worldwide.

Uropathogenic E. coli filaments expressing Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) after exfoliation from bladder cells, captured using epi fluorescence microscopy. Credit: Australian Institute for Microbiology and Infection, UTS

In a bid to aid discovery of new treatment options, researchers at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) are using state-of-the-art microscopy to pinpoint how these bacteria spread and multiply.

Dr Bill Söderström and Associate Professor Iain Duggin, of the Australian Institute for Microbiology and Infection at UTS, said their latest research examined the shapeshifting behaviour of UPEC. During a UTI infection cycle, the bacteria form spaghetti-like filaments hundreds of times their normal lengths before reverting to their original form.

The study, which is published in Nature Communications, used a human bladder cell infection model to generate the filaments, and look at their reversal back to rod shape.

"While we don't fully understand why they do this extreme lifestyle make-over, we know they must revert to their original size before they can reinfect new bladder cells," Dr Söderström said.

"We used advanced microscopy to follow two key cell division proteins and their localisation dynamics during reversal. We found that the normal rules for regulation of cell division in bacteria does not fully apply in filaments," Dr Söderström said.

"By giving the first clues into how the reversal of filamentation is regulated during infection, we may be laying the foundation for identifying new ways to combat UTIs."

Associate Professor Duggin said the long filaments formed by the bacteria appeared to break open the infected human cells, through a previously unknown mechanism called infection-related filamentation (IRF).

"The devastating eruption of these bacteria from the cells of the bladder that they invade probably contributes to the extensive damage and pain experienced during a UTI," Associate Professor Duggin said.

"Our goal is to identify why and how the bacteria do this remarkable feat in the hope of enabling alternative treatments or preventions."

  • Around 50-60 per cent of all women will have a UTI during their lifetime
  • One in four women who have had a UTI will experience another within 12 months
  • Nearly 1 in 3 women will develop a UTI that needs treatment with antibiotics before the age of 24
  • More than one course of antibiotics is often needed due to increased antibiotic resistance in bacteria
  • Urinary tract infections acquired in hospital (eg, through catheters) account for 380,000 extra hospital bed days a year
  • Complicated UTIs have a mortality rate as high as one in three
Bill Söderström, Matthew J. Pittorino, Daniel O. Daley, Iain G. Duggin. Assembly dynamics of FtsZ and DamX during infection-related filamentation and division in uropathogenic E. coli. Nature Communications, 2022; 13 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-31378-1

The Octopus' Brain And The Human Brain Share The Same 'Jumping Genes'

June 2022
The octopus is an exceptional organism with an extremely complex brain and cognitive abilities that are unique among invertebrates. So much so that in some ways it has more in common with vertebrates than with invertebrates. The neural and cognitive complexity of these animals could originate from a molecular analogy with the human brain, as discovered by a research paper recently published in BMC Biology and coordinated by Remo Sanges from SISSA of Trieste and by Graziano Fiorito from Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn of Naples. The research shows that the same 'jumping genes' are active both in the human brain and in the brain of two species, Octopus vulgaris, the common octopus, and Octopus bimaculoides, the Californian octopus. A discovery that could help us understand the secret of the intelligence of these fascinating organisms.

Sequencing the human genome revealed as early as 2001 that over 45% of it is composed by sequences called transposons, so-called 'jumping genes' that, through molecular copy-and-paste or cut-and-paste mechanisms, can 'move' from one point to another of an individual's genome, shuffling or duplicating. In most cases, these mobile elements remain silent: they have no visible effects and have lost their ability to move. Some are inactive because they have, over generations, accumulated mutations; others are intact, but blocked by cellular defense mechanisms. From an evolutionary point of view even these fragments and broken copies of transposons can still be useful, as 'raw matter' that evolution can sculpt.

Among these mobile elements, the most relevant are those belonging to the so-called LINE (Long Interspersed Nuclear Elements) family, found in a hundred copies in the human genome and still potentially active. It has been traditionally though that LINEs' activity was just a vestige of the past, a remnant of the evolutionary processes that involved these mobile elements, but in recent years new evidence emerged showing that their activity is finely regulated in the brain. There are many scientists who believe that LINE transposons are associated with cognitive abilities such as learning and memory: they are particularly active in the hippocampus, the most important structure of our brain for the neural control of learning processes.

The octopus' genome, like ours, is rich in 'jumping genes', most of which are inactive. Focusing on the transposons still capable of copy-and-paste, the researchers identified an element of the LINE family in parts of the brain crucial for the cognitive abilities of these animals. The discovery, the result of the collaboration between Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati, Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn and Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, was made possible thanks to next generation sequencing techniques, which were used to analyze the molecular composition of the genes active in the nervous system of the octopus.

"The discovery of an element of the LINE family, active in the brain of the two octopuses species, is very significant because it adds support to the idea that these elements have a specific function that goes beyond copy-and-paste," explains Remo Sanges, director of the Computational Genomics laboratory at SISSA, who started working at this project when he was a researcher at Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn of Naples. The study, published in BMC Biology, was carried out by an international team with more than twenty researchers from all over the world.

"I literally jumped on the chair when, under the microscope, I saw a very strong signal of activity of this element in the vertical lobe, the structure of the brain which in the octopus is the seat of learning and cognitive abilities, just like the hippocampus in humans," tells Giovanna Ponte from Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn.

According to Giuseppe Petrosino from Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn and Stefano Gustincich from Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia "This similarity between man and octopus that shows the activity of a LINE element in the seat of cognitive abilities could be explained as a fascinating example of convergent evolution, a phenomenon for which, in two genetically distant species, the same molecular process develops independently, in response to similar needs."

"The brain of the octopus is functionally analogous in many of its characteristics to that of mammals," says Graziano Fiorito, director of the Department of Biology and Evolution of Marine Organisms of the Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn. "For this reason, also, the identified LINE element represents a very interesting candidate to study to improve our knowledge on the evolution of intelligence."

Giuseppe Petrosino, Giovanna Ponte, Massimiliano Volpe, Ilaria Zarrella, Federico Ansaloni, Concetta Langella, Giulia Di Cristina, Sara Finaurini, Monia T. Russo, Swaraj Basu, Francesco Musacchia, Filomena Ristoratore, Dinko Pavlinic, Vladimir Benes, Maria I. Ferrante, Caroline Albertin, Oleg Simakov, Stefano Gustincich, Graziano Fiorito, Remo Sanges. Identification of LINE retrotransposons and long non-coding RNAs expressed in the octopus brain. BMC Biology, 2022; 20 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s12915-022-01303-5  Octopus. Credit: © Henner Damke /

Australians are more millennial, multilingual and less religious: what the census reveals

Dean Lewins/AAP
Peter MartinCrawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

Census data to be released Tuesday shows Australia changing rapidly before COVID, gaining an extra one million residents from overseas in the past five years, almost all of them in the three years before borders were closed.

For the first time since the question has been asked in the census, more than half of Australia’s residents (51.5%) report being either born overseas or having an overseas-born parent.

More than one quarter of the one million new arrivals have come from India or Nepal.

The census shows so-called millennials (born between 1981 and 1995) are on the cusp of displacing baby boomers as Australia’s dominant generation.

Although the number of baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1965) has changed little, as a proportion of the population boomers have fallen from 25.4% in 2011 to 21.5%. Millennials have climbed from 20.4% to level pegging at 21.5%.

The changes are reflected in the answer to the question about religion, the only non-compulsory question in the census. Almost 40% of the population identified as having no religion, up from 30% in 2016, and 22% in 2011.

Whereas 47% of millennials identify as having no religion, only 31% of boomers fail to identify with a faith. Nearly 60% of boomers are Christian, compared to 30% of millennials.

The share of the population identifying as Christian has slipped from 52% to 44%. Other religions are growing, but remain small by comparison. Hinduism climbed from 1.9% of the population in 2016 to 2.7%. Islam climbed from 2.6% to 3.2%.

The Five-Yearly Snapshot

Conducted every five years since 1961, and before that less often from 1911, and asking questions of every Australian household, the census provides information about the ways society is changing that couldn’t be obtained in any other way.

In the past five years the number of people who use a language other than English at home has climbed 792,000 to more than 5.6 million. 852,000 Australian residents identify as not speaking English well or at all.

Mandarin remains the most common language other than English used at home, used by 685,300 people, followed by Arabic with 367,200 people.

The Real Value Is In The Detail

The real value of the census is in the locational details. The information released on Tuesday will identify locations with any characteristic that needs particular services, such as the areas with more people who identify as not speaking English well or at all. It will also show which parts of Australia are growing in population and which parts are shrinking.

The broad-brush information released on Monday showed the number of single-parent families had climbed past one million. The information released on Tuesday will identify the suburbs and towns in which they live.

The information released on Monday showed the overall proportion of Australians owning their homes was little changed. The information released on Tuesday will report those proportions by age group and city.

The thank you message for the 2021 census. ABS

New Questions

Two new separate questions in the 2021 census ask about service in defence forces and long-term health conditions.

One quarter of veterans are aged 65-74, reflecting conscription during the Vietnam War.

More than two million Australians suffer long-term mental health conditions; more than two million suffer arthritis; and more than two million suffer asthma.

Tuesday’s figures will offer more detail on the locations of sufferers and details such as their income and occupations, as well as details such as whether those who’ve served in defence were conscripts, serving in Vietnam.

Saved From The Axe

Seven years ago the Australian Bureau of Statistics tried to axe the five-yearly census, making it 10-yearly - as in the United Kingdom and the United States - to save money.

The outcry from planners and researchers who relied on the census resulted in the bureau being given an extra A$250 million to ensure it continued.

Tuesday’s is the first of three census data releases. In October, the bureau will release information about education and employment and travel to work.

Early next year it will release location-specific socio-economic information and estimates of homelessness.The Conversation

Peter Martin, Visiting Fellow, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

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

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.